Sometimes it seems an age since I found my little man, William dead in his crib. And yet when I am reminded by something, I can recall it as if it were yesterday.
It was the 7th February 1986, an unremarkable day and an evening like many other. I was determined to get ahead of the game, washing was done, bottles sterilised and ready for the next day.
William had other plans! He had woken up as he had wet up the front of his Babygro. So, following a clean-up and change of clothes, he sat on a swivel chair propped up with two cushions listening to Elton John on our music player. He had just learned to smile and the room would light up with his adorable dimpled grin.
He had also recently started to recognise me when he woke up. You know the feeling; the depth of love and the sense that you had been a part of making this amazing little person?
I put him back in his crib on his tummy (which was what we were told to do…as so many of our parents had done to us). As it was so cold, it had been snowing, his Babygro which had an attached hood, covered his head to keep him warm. Shortly thereafter, his dad, also William but known as Billy, came home from work and being tired, he went straight to bed.
Later that evening, I had an unsettling, uncomfortable feeling. About an hour after I had put William down, I was drying up and making plans to go to bed myself. I dropped a pan lid onto the kitchen floor and it made such a din, it rolled around like a cymbal. Whilst I was stupidly busy signalling with my finger for the the pan lid to be quiet, I looked over at the crib to see if I had woken him up. He didn’t move.
I knew deep down in that split second that I was going to go over to the crib and find my baby boy dead. I poked him and still nothing. I was in a nightmare and wanted to wake up. I shouted at Billy to get up, I screamed at him to get an ambulance, William had stopped breathing. His reaction was an agonising scream. I knew there was nothing to be done but attempted CPR to no avail. Billy held the baby whilst I made the 999 call.
The police, ambulance and GP all arrived, questions were asked and utter chaos ensued. It was shortly into the early hours of the 8th February.
Following investigations, I was told that when I had found him he was still warm, that he had likely died when I was in the same room. How that guilt has haunted me for years.
Although initially, Billy and I were strong in our grief, the pain of needing and wanting to hold the baby again was overwhelming, and like many other couples in this situation, we dealt with our grief in our separate ways and slowly and very sadly, drifted apart.
Billy went onto marry again and had two beautiful daughters. And me? I was told some years later that I was unlikely to ever get pregnant again. But in 2004, on my 39th birthday with my partner of three years, we discovered we were going to have a baby. Our happiness was not to last, as at just 18 weeks, the baby’s heart stopped and I miscarried. We called him Daniel.
So you see, part of me envies those who go on to have more children after losing a child to cot death. I often hear of how they live their future through their other living children. After William died and then losing Daniel, my future seemed to die with them. I appreciate I was lucky enough to have experienced pregnancy at all, sadly even that is impossible for some. I spent time with my job working in and around the local Maternity unit and shared some of the most heartbreaking and then the most joyous of times.
William would have been 32 years old in November 2017. I will always wonder with a smile and so often with watery eyes, what I would have worn as the Mother of the Groom, would he have got married at all, I hope at the very least, that he would be happy.
Williams Dad Billy, died some years ago now, having never really come to terms with his grief. I miss them both but believe they will be there to meet me when it’s my turn, and that will make that journey all the more bearable.
I know that as a result of losing my boys, I will never be a biological grandparent but, through my stepchildren, I hope at least to fulfill that ‘Grandma’, ‘Gan Gan’, ‘Nanny’ role sometime in the future.
Because of William I became involved with The Lullaby Trust as an active befriender for many years. Now of course I do the Southsea Westie Walk. It is my way of having fun and raising funds to ensure that befriending is available to any family member who has been affected by this tragic event. Money is also used for vital research.
I hope that that one day, not too far away, that cot death will be a thing of the past. I hope that in my lifetime I can celebrate the news that will prevent this heart-breaking occurrence from ever happening to another family, ever again! Then I can proudly say that my boy didn’t die needlessly but he was, in fact, a pioneer.
Find out more information about organising a Miles in Memory walk here.