Yep, gonna do it, because it happens and it happens all the time, and it’s important that people know, and know that it gets manageable and even gets ok.
I’m a mum. “WHERE HAVE YOU LEFT YOUR BABY?!” I hear you cry. Well, he’s cremated and his ashes are scattered in meanwood park (not actually sure that’s legal, but I did it anyway).
Jarvis Donovan Bolton was born “sleeping” at 23 weeks on September 16th, 2013. They say born “sleeping” which I actually find a bit creepy.
4 days before, I went for my anomaly scan with mum. Ridden with excitement and nerves because I so wanted a girl. When the lady told me it was a boy, I admit I cried. I probably wanted a girl so much because the father of my baby wanted nothing to do with it, or me, and so I thought I’d have a better bond with a girl. In hindsight; I couldn’t care less what gender child I have, as long as it’s healthy.
A few minutes into the scan, she looked worried and called for someone else to come in. The rest is a bit of a blur to be honest. We were immediately taken to a specialist unit and taken to The Room. The Room is what I now know to be the place where they tell you harrowing news, and they have bereavement brochures, and soft tissues and nice pictures on the wall.
That day we waited in the hospital all day. We met a number of different specialists who wanted to do tests before telling us of our fate. Then we went home to wait the news.
Mum stayed with me for the following few days. The worst days I’ve ever had – my mind was a complete mess. I didn’t know the extent of Jarvis’ illnesses and didn’t know what I was going to have to do, as a single parent. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t sleep. I spent a lot of time lying awake in bed with mum; comforted by her presence and just being there to lay awake with me.
Thursday. Katherine came over and us 3 waited for the phone call. The longest day of my life. I think it was about 4pm when we got the call. Jarvis was very unwell. Like, really unwell. So very, very poorly. I dropped to the floor; you know, like the cliche in a movie. Genuinely, it was all I could do. I felt the life literally leave me, I couldn’t move, speak, anything. All I felt was extreme loss. I remember Katherine just bursting into tears and holding me, and my mum on the phone to the specialist trying to hold it together. Fuck, it was so sad.
What I couldn’t believe was that I couldn’t just be put to sleep, or given a C Section. I couldn’t believe they actually wanted me to give birth. How is that allowed?
However, giving birth was a very special part of the healing process and I’m so glad I did it.
LGI has a wonderful suite specifically for women giving birth to stillborns. I had a large room, with a bath, and a bed for my mum to stay with me. The midwives were actually incredible. I had no idea what to expect and they just sat with me, held my hand and made sure I was given as much morphine in my ass as I wanted.
Mum stayed the whole time, but I must admit; I don’t remember much because I was completely off my face. Apparently when the specialist came in I started talking to her about sheep. Yep. In your darkest hour, talk about sheep.
I slept well that night. I had a lot of drugs running through my veins.
The next day at 5am I went into labour. It wasn’t nice, but it was part of the process. I had a lot of baths – mainly because I was shivering so much. I was also very sick, and very wobbly. Again, mum was there, the midwife stayed with me even after her shift had ended because she didn’t want to leave me.
Then, at 11am, it happened. I remember the feeling so well because there is literally nothing like it. I cried the whole time, as did mum. She shielded me from it all, and then Jarvis was wrapped up and passed to me. Still. So very still. So very tiny and beautiful.
I held him for a while; just staring at him and his perfect little face. I remember thinking that he didn’t look poorly and were they sure?! Were they sure he was dead? He looked so perfect!!! They gave me as much time as I needed and then I handed him back over to the midwives and he was taken away.
My dad came to see me, and he took us home. I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me for bleeding on his new car seat, but shit happens.
The next days/weeks are a blur. I watched a shit load of Greys Anatomy (9 seasons to be exact).
We went to collect his ashes, and then we had his funeral – all paid for and arranged by the wonderful NHS.
It was beautiful.
Then when I felt ready a few weeks later, mum and I went to my favourite place in meanwood park, by the bridge. We lit a candle and scattered his ashes. I’d romanticised the whole thing; expecting his ashes to blow blissfully downstream, but no. I clumsily dropped the whole lot and they stuck to the mud of the stream. We laughed. It’s good to laugh.
The candle didn’t go out.
My priest – Father Michael, who sadly passed away last year, was wonderful. My dad experienced this part with me – coming with me to his house to have cake and tea by the aga with his 2 lab retriever dogs while we discussed afterlife and ghosts.
Father Michael put on a special service for Jarvis at Headingley Church, which my neighbour very kindly came with me to. Thanks Steve.
It took a long time to heal. A long time. But, as crazy as it sounds, it was the making of me. It really was.
Before I go, I want to talk about the box. The box you get from the hospital in exchange for your dead baby. The box is blue (gender specific) and contains horrible photos of your baby in unnatural positions. It contains a birth certificate, with their footprints which is lovely. They also give you a blanket, and a teddy bear. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but WTF am I going to do with a baby blanket and a teddy bear? I sound awful, I’m sorry.
Huge thanks to the incredible midwives at LGI. And our NHS for making it as stress free as possible for me.
And mostly thank you to my wonderful family and friends.
RIP little Jarvis dude.