On the day that Grace was due her jabs she fell asleep while I breastfed her on our bed. As she was getting her vaccines that day I thought I’d let her get more sleep, so I left her upstairs whilst I got her brother Robert’s breakfast ready.
It was the one and only time we changed her sleep routine. We would usually bring her with us to sleep in the same room we were in but this time I didn’t want to disturb her.
Something was bothering me and so when I went back upstairs to check on her my worst fears were coming true. I found she had rolled over onto her face and wasn’t breathing. I picked her up, she was all floppy, and ran downstairs. I began resuscitating her myself whilst waiting for the ambulance.
Our neighbours got home as the emergency services arrived and looked after Robert for us. Everything that could have been done to save her was attempted, but despite having all the specialist care in two hospitals none of it could change the eventual outcome.
On the 7th June 2016, Grace died.
Originally there was some confusion regarding the cause of her death. We were first informed Grace had tested positive for pertussis (whooping cough) but that was a serious admin error. We were then told she had died of SIDS and eventually after receiving the results of the post mortem we were able to talk through the results with a specialist and ask them the questions that we had.
The first line of the post-mortem read: ‘Grace was a well grown well cared for baby’. It is so hard to know she died of SIDS as she was perfectly healthy otherwise.
Going through this admin error was awful. At first we had an answer, some explanation for why Grace was gone but then suddenly that reason was taken away from us. It felt like we began the whole grieving process twice. We received a formal letter of apology but I just wanted to know they would change their system so it could never happen to other parents.
I’m thankful that my husband was at home with me that day. I’m needle-phobic and needed his support to get through Grace’s immunisations otherwise I would have been on my own that day. We also had a close group of friends with children of similar ages in the village and we attended the village church where the congregation were extremely supportive.
One day not long after Grace’s death, my husband Barry had to go back to work. I felt like I had no one and I felt like I was going crazy. I took Robert out to try and find someone, anyone I knew but my neighbours weren’t home. I didn’t know where to turn. I then called The Lullaby Trust helpline and someone kindly put me in touch with a Befriender. I remember verbally throwing out every emotion down the phone and telling the whole horrid story. She listened and said a little bit about her own circumstance – I remember her baby only being a few days old but not much more. In that moment I really needed someone and someone was there.
Unfortunately the fear of it happening again never fully goes away and I often worry about our two year old Matthew.
Grace would have been 3 and turning 4 in March 2020. Since losing Grace we have moved home to Cornwall where I grew up and have my family and close friends nearby. Every year we go to Chapel Porth Beach come rain or shine on her birthday and heaven day. We write in the sand and wait for the waves to wash our message away. We’re a Christian family and firmly believe we will all be together again. We light candles and say prayers on those dates too.
The day I found her is always a difficult day and it’s hard not to go over the whole experience in my head always regretting not doing something differently. For at least six months after her death I would play out the whole scenario in my mind and kept wondering – what if I’d gone to her sooner or kept resuscitating her after the paramedics arrived. I couldn’t sleep at night, and sometimes phrases would come to me which I would write down. I never realised these words would form a poem that I would then be able to read at Grace’s funeral. My poem to Grace is written on our wall at home and we will always have pictures of Grace up around the house, she will always be at the heart of our family
Grace, you were only here for ten short weeks,
I’ll never get to hear you speak,
I loved you right from the very start,
You’ll live forever within my heart.
Your perfect face touched with an Angels’ kiss,
An infectious smile no one could resist.
The feel of your delicate hand in mine
Your beautiful coos, so divine.
My arms feel suddenly empty now
My heart longs for you and aches somehow,
You occupy my every thought
Such sunshine in our lives you brought.
I saw in you my whole life,
I dreamt of seeing you become a wife,
A mother of children who look like you,
All this and more I grieve for you.
A wardrobe full of clothes you’ll never wear,
All we have of you now are your hand and foot prints and lock of hair,
Memories we’ll cherish of family days together,
You’ll live within our hearts forever.
And without you now we must learn to live,
Every day we must learn to forgive,
I question how life can be so unfair,
By your side we said our prayers blessing you into Gods own care.
We lay down together as you slipped away,
Although I prayed that you could stay,
I can’t believe the words you’ve gone,
We feel numb and empty, everything suddenly feels wrong.
The world moves on around us,
Whilst we are frozen in time,
Sitting there in disbelief,
Were you once mine?
I ask for you to stay with me and you send a dandelion Angel for me to see,
Still with you, still there,
Mummy I know how much you care.
I will love you from heaven now and watch over you from above
For in my little short life you gave to me all I ever knew was love
If you have experienced infant loss and want to share your story, click here.