I sit here today, missing Harry.
It is 5 weeks and 2 days since we said goodbye to our little boy Harry, aged just 26 hours. 26 hours that will be etched into my memory forever.
It feels like so much longer ago that I held my little man in my arms, away from the machines that had been keeping him alive, for the first time being able to cradle him and see his face away from the tubes and breathing equipment. My darling boy. The baby I had spent nine months waiting to meet, preparing to care for and nuture, and desperately wanting to love. I held him for just 25 minutes in his short time with us, before he passed away.
I did not cry hysterically or "lose it", during those 26 hours, I was focussed on learning about what had happened to our son, and what the doctors were doing or planning to do. Obviously I shed tears but I wanted to keep a clear mind for making decisions and trying to mentally "bank" every precious moment with our boy.
Harry was born by an emergency c-section, after realising I had been bleeding during the labour. Who knows how long I was bleeding for, I had an epidural so I couldn't feel the loss and it was a complete shock when I saw the blood down my legs.
When he was born, it seemed like an eternity before the doctors came to tell my husband and I what was happening with our son, while I was being sewn up after the c-section. We had no idea to the extent that things would unfold. Our first son, William, was born with his cord around his neck and needed to be resuscitated but cried out after just a few minutes. We thought that the same thing was happening with Harry, but we did not realise how serious things were when we were kept waiting.
When the doctor came to tell us that "your son is very poorly" we really did not know what to expect, all we knew was that Harry had lost a lot of blood and been without oxygen for a fairly long period of time. We had no idea why or what even this meant for him, we just had to wait.
It turned out that somehow the umbilical cord and placenta had a vein that had been bleeding when my waters broke, and this had caused considerable "trauma" to little Harry and that he needed a lot of help.
Meeting him was so hard. A mother prepares herself for meeting the baby she has been carrying for nine months, thinking of smiles, and happy tears, cuddles and kisses. A beautiful moment. Meeting Harry was so different. My beautiful son, an exact replica of William as a newborn, was hooked up to breathing equipment, having blood transfusions, receiving pain relief, having his brain activity monitored and being fed a sugar solution. This is not what I had pictured.
I think I truly believed that Harry could have pulled through, and always looked for the positive in what the doctors were saying. I even envisaged being a mother to a severely disabled, braindamaged child, because all I wanted was my baby.
I went back to our room after the midwife was concerned for my own health, she requested I have at least an hours rest. How can you rest when you know your baby is so poorly? How can you leave his side, even for a few moments? They assured us this was ok, and we were soon awoken by the doctor, telling us that Harry needed to spend time with us as he was rapidly deteriorating.
The next few hours, we spent at Harry's side. We had the pastor come and baptise Harry on the ward. I will never forget reading his name out in the service, knowing that this was such an important moment for us all. My parents came to the hospital and the nurses helped us to take prints of Harry's feet and hands, which I will cherish forever.
It was so distressing seeing the blood coming from Harry's tummy button, and his mouth and nose. The nurses couldn't tell us where it was coming from for sure, but the doctors told us he was having problems clotting his blood and so it just kept coming.
The doctors took blood tests and said for us to get some rest and they would come and get us if anything changed or when the results came back. The doctor came to us about an hour later and said the results were looking positive, but in reality Harry's condition was rapidly deteriorating and that they were running out of options for treating him. They were contacting hospitals around the country trying new procedures and treatments, all in the hope of prolonging little Harry's time with us.
It came to the time when my husband and I had some decisions to make. The doctors and nurses who were coming back on to shift were surprised that little Harry hadn't passed already. This was a shock to us. Learning that Harry's liver and kidneys were shutting down, and his blood just wasn't clotting, along with the fact the Harry's brain damage was so severe, that he would never walk, would always be fed through a tube, would always need assistance breathing and would never talk, hear or see. We knew what we had to do, and the doctors agreed. The last thing we wanted was for Harry to die, alone, on the machines and never having been held by his parents.
We went back to our room and washed and dressed in some clean clothes and came back to the ward to say goodbye to our little man, just 25 hours after his birth. The short trip back to the ward was a heavy one, and it honestly felt like we were going to war or something. We were united in our decision and it is one we will never regret, but it was still the most terrible thing to do.
Little Harry was dressed in the baby-gro that his brother had worn 2 years before him, and was handed to us for a cuddle. My husband held him first as I was petrified about how I would feel holding our son knowing this was the first and last time. Those 25 minutes were so precious. The doctor and nurse took some photos of us and let us say goodbye but you could see the life leaving him and it wasn't long before they couldn't pick up a heartbeat.
Our parents came to say goodbye to Harry and have a cuddle before we left him with the doctors and then I went into shock. The baby I had carried for 9 months, who I had suffered morning sickness with, who I had felt wriggle around, who I had felt contractions in labour for, who had been born and loved, was now gone. This isn't meant to happen, I kept thinking.... a mother shouldn't have to say goodbye to her baby. But I had.