The following letter is from Jessica who blogs at The Legacy of Leo for her son Eli. Sadly Eli’s older brother Leo was stillborn and Jessica and her wife are passionate about sharing the honest truth of baby loss, stillbirth, miscarriage and pregnancy after loss on their blog. Jessica’s wife and father-in-law are also fundraising for Tommy’s by riding in Ride London this Sunday. Please read their story and why they are dedicating their efforts to Tommy’s and maybe think about contributing.
Today, is your due date. It wasn’t ever a date we fixated on, as we knew you’d be born before today. Yet, it holds quite a bit of significance – the official date you’d be fully cooked. I’ve often wondered over the past few months, that had your brother lived, when would you have been born. I often think the same for your brother too. It’s an unanswerable question though.
What I do know, is that, today, on the 10th July 2017, you are here with us and it’s wonderful. For so long, I didn’t know what this picture looked like, or what we’d journey through to get to today. But with your wriggling womb legs, and your squeaky noises – you have made your presence known and felt. My only wish for you, would be for your brother to be here, and for him to be practising his best big brother mischief.
I’ve tried to tell you a little bit about your brother, but you may have noticed, it doesn’t really end well yet. I’ll keep working on it, because we want you to know your brother, to remember him and to be able to say his name. You will always be brothers, you see, even though he isn’t here. He is yours, and you are his.
When I was pregnant with you, we fought so hard to get you here. It was so difficult at times. But believe me, when I say, I’d do it all again, for you. I can’t quite believe that it’s been four weeks already since you entered the world, and looked at us for the first time. I can’t believe that we made it, and we are together. You’ve overcome so much (including my incessant poking) and we are so very, very proud of you. I will always hold a bit of guilt for making you arrive early, but you settle my worried brain with just how well you’ve handled your early entrance.
Please know, you and Leo, are two seperate people. We love you both, equally. We don’t expect more from you, just because Leo isn’t here. Nor do we expect you to heal us, or remove the pain that we have from missing your brother – you are your own person, in your own right. It is up to us, to heal us. Not you.
We are working on creating as many memories as possible with you. We want to cherish these early days, and all of the days to come. Each day is a true gift to spend it with you, and whilst we may sneak in a few naps here or there, we will never forget our gratitude that you are part of our days. It feels like you’ve always been here, it’s gone by in a whirlwind, but these days are being savoured, I promise.
We do not know what the future will bring us, but I am looking forward to finding out what beautiful moments we can all create together.
We love you, always.
The following letter was written by Anastacia Ackers to her son Sebastian before he was born and explains to him how his parents finally came up with his name.
Even before we knew you were a boy, your Dad and I began thinking of names. I started a little notebook and each time I heard a name I liked, I jotted it down. Now this list got full pretty quickly and I’m not going to lie, there were some awesome names on there, like Alfie and Harry. I love these names! The problem is, your dad didn’t like them. I’m not talking about a slight dislike to the names here Bump, I’m talking a dislike so severe that he almost shuddered when he heard them.
One evening we were batting names back and forth, and the conversation followed the following format:
Me: (eagerly) How about Luca?
Dad: Absolutely not. (Eagerly) How about Keith?
Dad: Yeah, after Keith Moon!
Me: Absolutely not. We can’t have a baby called Keith
Dad: Ok, how about Jeff?
Dad: Yeah, after Jeff Buckley.
Me: Right, you need to desist with the old man names.
There was a theme emerging here Bump and it was musically shaped!
Now, I liked the idea of naming you after a really talented musician but these names were not ticking any boxes for me. We had numerous conversations like the one above, and there were times I would pray for you to kick or move or do something at the mention of a name as a sign but nope, Bump, you had probably tuned out by this point as the suggestions became even more ridiculous. (Please ask your dad about his plans for your first name to be Thom and your middle name to be Yorke after the singer from Radiohead). Your dad and I simply could not agree, and I honestly thought that we would never find a name we liked.
Then one day, quite unexpectedly your dad turned to me and said:
Dad: How about Sebastian?
Dad: (Tentatively) …Yeah?
Me: I LOVE THE NAME SEBASTIAN!
Dad: You do? Me too!
Cue lots of excitement abounding as we had your name, Sebastian James! I think that I may have momentarily gone into shock/deafened myself screaming as we both truly love this name.
Now Seb, dad will insist that you are named after Sebastian Vettel the Formula One driver, but we both know its because the name appears in two of Shakespeare’s plays. I’ll introduce them to you one day Seb, I think you’ll love them!
Until next time, Bump!
The following letter was written by Alanna Salter to her little boy Theo when he was 9 months old. Alanna and her husband Simon are the creators of Still Parents a retreat for other bereaved parents, in memory of their daughter Isobel Olivia, who was stillborn in June 2015.
today on Monday the 13th of February 2017, you are nine months old.
That might not seem like a long existence but already you have taught me a great deal about myself, what I am capable of, and how to deal with life’s challenges.
Being pregnant with you was the scariest time of my whole life, I was so worried we would lose you. I had to learn how to be scared – every minute of every day – but still carry on with life, go to work, see friends and cook dinner, when all I really wanted to do was hibernate and hope the weeks would pass. I learned how important it is to keep active, to exercise and to always have lovely treats to look forward to! Every Monday, Daddy and I would go and see the doctor for a scan to see how you were doing. Every week we were sure that this would be the week we were told you were either dead or dying. We used to sit in the waiting room feeling sick, with our hearts racing, holding each other’s sweaty hands. I learned that no matter how scared I was, it didn’t have to stop me from doing something, I could be scared and still do whatever it was that was terrifying me, like going back to the maternity hospital or to pregnancy yoga. Often it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, the power of my imagination worse than the reality. Now I can’t imagine being too scared to do anything that’s important to me; I know I can face any fear. You taught me that.
When you were born, you were so small and perfect. New to the world, you had everything to learn. I’ve watched how you’ve grown and changed, how every day you manage something that just yesterday you couldn’t do. I’ve seen that growth doesn’t happen by accident, you work so hard for every ounce of development you achieve. I watch you try to do something tricky, you can’t do it and yet you try again and again, sometimes falling over and getting hurt (when I am too slow to stop you!) and other times frustrating yourself. I think “That baby is crazy, why doesn’t he realise he can’t do it, and give up?” But you are so determined. Every attempt leaves you that tiniest bit stronger – it’s such slow progress it’s imperceptible. But then one day you are strong enough and you manage it. Lifting your head up, rolling over, sitting up, feeding yourself, crawling, these are all skills that didn’t just arrive fully formed, you worked hard for them, day after day. I’ve realised there isn’t really a first time for rolling over, or sitting up or crawling – there are hundreds of attempts that get closer and closer and then evolve in to the realisation of the milestone. I see this is the same for me and the things I want to achieve, the ways I want to grow and change. Instead of thinking of failed attempts and giving up, I need to think of practice, and getting stronger over time until it comes with the ease you now have with rolling and sitting, as if they were things you could always do.
Right now you are trying to walk. All you want to do is stand up and be walked around the room. You are so unsteady and need a lot of support. You keep taking massive steps that unbalance you! It’s hard to imagine how you will ever be able to balance and take those steps on your own. But I know that you will keep trying until you master it and that some day you will be walking and running and jumping as if you were never nine months old and unable to stand unaided. You are my inspiration little one.
You are so good at living in the moment baba. This is mostly a helpful skill to keep. When something unpleasant is over and you are distracted, it is instantly forgotten, the perpetrator immediately forgiven and all is right with the world. It always amazes me how quickly you go from crying to laughing. Your little face that was so sad lights up, and the eyes that were wet with tears are now crinkled with mirth. Something I need to work on is letting hurtful things go, not holding on to resentments, and enjoying the good moments without always feeling a tinge of sadness for what has gone before.
Sometimes though I wish you could understand that your hard times won’t last too long. You hate getting your nappy changed – especially when it’s dirty as it takes a bit longer! You hate having to lie down as you like to be sitting up and seeing what is going on! If you only knew that it would only take a minute or two I think you would find it easier. It makes me think of how the same is true for me. Often when I’m struggling with something hard like feeling sad, or worried or guilty, part of the problem is that I think I might always feel that way. I am trying to think of your nappy changes and that “this too shall pass”. I can cope better with hard things when I stay in the present and remember that I won’t always feel that way. I think of how sometimes you are so cross with being changed that you try to wriggle away, bat your arms and kick your legs! It actually makes the nappy change take longer than if you just lay there still (also it can get poo everywhere!). I think sometimes I fight back with my emotions and can make things worse than if I just accepted them for what they are and dealt with them.
Daddy and I are learning to be playful again. That is something we lost when Isobel was born asleep. Once we thought we might never laugh again, but you are so funny though wee Theo that you make us laugh every single day. We don’t care how silly we look or how awful our singing is, if it makes you laugh we will look like fools! Your little giggle is so infectious and it’s without a doubt my favourite sound in the world.
Already we know you are a very clever boy little monkey. Another thing you are very good at is seeking help. If you can’t do something or get somewhere you want to get, if you’re hurt or upset, you cry out straight away. Now you also know to lift your arms up and yell when you want to be picked up. I don’t know why we lose that skill as we get older. Sometimes I’m so sad or lonely and all I want is to let someone know that I need help, what I should do is cry out straight away like you do, and lift up my arms to the people that I know are there. For some reason I stop myself from doing this, maybe because I don’t want people to think I’m not coping. I think I should take my lead from you and call for help at the first sign of trouble! I love that you are so confident that someone will come when you cry. I hope you always know that I and others will drop everything to help you when you need it, all you need to do is shout.
Daddy and I are not the Mummy and Daddy we would have been to Isobel if she were here. We are different in some bad ways but maybe in some good ways too. We try and appreciate every moment with you little one, even when you are being a little terror or it’s 5am and we still haven’t been to sleep! We know we are so lucky to have you.
We love you so much precious Theo, not just for coming along at a time we were sad and bringing us joy, but for your smiley sweet stubborn snuggley little self.
You are now crying upstairs as Daddy is putting you to bed so I better go and help!!!!
All my love,
P.S you’ve been saying ‘dada’ for months now, I think it’s time to say ‘mama’!
The following letter was written by Sep, a South London based mama to two boys and secondary English teacher. You can read more of her work as well as some beautiful poetry on her blog Dear Stupid Parents
Dear Little Ned,
During my pregnancy with you, I felt so different to when I was carrying your brother: sicker sooner, exhausted from the start all the way to the finish and sore, oh so sore, as though my body wasn’t really made to withstand this again so soon after the first time. Nevertheless, I was so excited to meet you! I kept imagining your toes; tiny and skinny with perfectly formed toenails! And on those days when your arrival seemed to be too far away for me to cope with, I’d think about your toes and how much I’d kiss them when you came earth side. (Which I did by the way and still do – part of me wants to do it forever but another part of me knows that teenage boys are stinky so this particular obsession will likely run its course.)
When you’re expecting a baby whose gender you don’t know – and I really hope if you grow up and dream of this, you’ll get your wish, it’s as close to magic as real life could be – everyone, from family and friends to colleagues to complete strangers, want to have a guess. They look your shape, size, ask how often baby kicks and what cravings you’ve been having and use this information to tell you whether it’s a son or a daughter brewing away in there. It’s well meaning of course but it’s annoying because we, your daddy and me, didn’t care what or who you were, just that you were ours. And even though there is zero science behind these guesses, part of me believed it each time and I’d feel sad that I knew and that the surprise was ruined.
Over the course of those long months, so many people had told me that because of how different I felt during my 9 months with you in my tummy compared to the first time with your brother, you must be a girl – and I let myself be convinced. Even though I genuinely didn’t care, even though when people asked me what I would choose if I could, (another delightful pregnancy conversation!) I always said maybe a girl but probably a boy because two brothers only 18 months apart would hopefully encourage a true, life-long friendship, I was more or less certain you were a girl and that we’d have a daughter, your brother, a sister.
So let’s fast forward to your birthday. You kept us waiting 3 days more than we expected. Well, 8 for me, actually – your brother was 5 days early so naturally, I thought you would be too! I went into labour, went through labour and then you were born. Your daddy and I had told the midwife that we wanted to see for ourselves ‘what’ you were so as soon as you came out, you were passed to me and placed on my chest. Before you landed there though, I couldn’t help but look down to see what there was to be seen and I found out – the first to know, you were my son. As I clutched you to me, your soft tummy on my soft tummy, and watched you root around for your first sip of our milk, I lay still, not quite believing you were here but mostly, not quite believing you were a boy.
I’m embarrassed to say now, but for those first 10 – maybe 15, maybe 100, who knows – minutes, I felt like I’d been robbed; that all those people who told me they’d be “very surprised if it isn’t a girl” had stolen a precious moment from me and from us. That lovely surprise that I wanted wasn’t lovely in the way I imagined. I was less surprised, more shocked, less elated, more confused. When you’re expecting a baby, you build a picture of what that baby’s going to be like and that starts with knowing or in my case, imagining, their gender. I thought you were a girl so I thought of what I’d dress you in, what a feminine version of your brother might look like, what interests of mine you might share. I thought about my relationship with my mummy, your nanny and I imagined ours would be similar; that I’d do your hair before school, that we’d go shopping together and when you’re older, we’d go to the theatre or out for dinner. I imagined a typical mother-daughter relationship but didn’t take them time to think about how all those things might look if you were a boy.
Please don’t misunderstand this, Baby Boy, I wasn’t disappointed when you got here, in fact, more than anyone else in my life – more than any friend, more than your daddy, or your brother – I have a strong, unshakable sense that you were – are – meant to be here with me, like we’ve been brought together by the universe or fate or an extraterrestrial being (!) Perhaps feeling this way is because you’re so definitely you and not the baby girl that I conjured up in my mind.
Getting to know you little by little over the last 6 months has been sheer joy, not least of all because you’re so different to how you brother was when he was a baby and I find it so exciting that you’re different – that being a boy doesn’t mean only one thing or one series of things. Like your brother, you laugh and laugh when I throw you in the air. Unlike your brother, you love to snuggle and being held is perhaps your favourite thing right now! Your brother was crawling at your age but you don’t seem interested in that just yet – you like to watch what’s going on from a safe distance, preferably in mine or your daddy’s arms! It’s exciting to know that as every day and month and year goes by, I’ll get to see more of your personality; you are and will always be like no other person who has ever lived nor ever will. That is perhaps, one of the best things about being you, my poppet, just how special and unique you are.
I’m sorry I felt so odd when I saw you were a boy and I’m sorry I thought that that would mean we wouldn’t be close or that you wouldn’t like snuggles with me – I hope you always like snuggles with me but if you don’t, that’s fine too. I love you so very much just because you’re you – especially because you’re you. As you grow up and make your way through the world, you will probably find that other will people judge you or have certain expectations based on nothing more than a glance – based on your clothes, your hair, the colour of your skin, accent, height, strengths, weaknesses, interests but please remember, always remember my darling boy, that who you are is just fine. Those initial expectations that people might have, will be easily shattered once they get to know you. You are you, that is nothing but beautiful and the people who are worth it will accept that, embrace that and like me, will shine a little brighter all for being by your side.
Your Mummy xxxx