I once read an article about a mother who lost twin babies. She was sent home from hospital with a scrap of paper towel with the words ‘twin one’ and twin two’ and their birth weights. That was it. Nothing else. The scrap of paper was all she and her husband had to remind them of their babies. This was about 25 years ago. Thankfully things have moved on since then.
Creating and holding onto memories for a stillborn baby is one of the most important parts of the grieving and healing process. As the parents of a child which was never able to take its first breath, make that first step, utter a first word, experience the first day of school, the few memories we have are treasured and extremely precious.
Of course I have the memories stored away in my mind, but we also have a memory box filled with various things which all relate to Ewan. Things that are tangible that we can take out and look at. I knew quite early on that I wanted to buy a special keepsafe. A beautiful box to keep everything in. An online search eventually took me to Reads Creations, a company making personalised wooden memory boxes. They had just what we wanted. And here it is.
We usually keep it in our wardrobe so it is neatly tucked away but easily accessible. One day I took it out and left it for a couple of days. Dylan took a shine to it and enjoying sitting on it. I managed to take what is one of my favourite but also most poignant photographs. When he is older he will understand the significance.
So what keepsafes do we have? Probably too many to mention so I’ll pick out a few for now.
We received an overwhelming number of cards from family, friends and colleagues and struggled to find places to put them in the house. There were so many kind words and even those which said ‘I don’t know what to say’ still meant so much. Occasionally I will get them out and have a read through some of them. The photograph of my favourite cards is at the top – the pandas. It wasn’t even a bereavement card. It didn’t have any words, just a simple picture. Adam and I thought it summed up how we felt.
I still have cards to add to the box now. One of my dear friends sends me a card every year on Ewan’s birthday. She keeps his memory alive by recognising that he should have a card to celebrate like everybody else.
This necklace holds a particularly strong memories for me. I was wearing it the day I went into hospital to find out his heart had stopped. I can visualise myself now, sat in a chair playing with it. I wore it again when I went to give birth and then to his funeral. I carried on wearing it for a while but started to worry I would lose it, so now have it tucked away for safe keeping.
Another dear friend gave me this cross-stitch a couple of months later. I can remember she gave it to me in what seemed to be a bit of an apologetic, ‘I hope you like it’ kind of way. I was so touched that she had gone to the effort of making something like this for us. It was incredibly thoughtful.
We have quite a few photographs. Obviously all his scan photographs are there, including one taken at the scan taken which determined he had died. I always feel a little bit funny about that one. Especially as I didn’t know it existed for a few months until my consultant handed it to me when I was pregnant with Dylan. We have all the photographs we took of him in the hospital. These are in a little album. They are mainly ones taken with our camera but some from the midwife too.
There is plenty more I could show you, but maybe for another day.
It’s at this point that I really want to acknowledge and thanks SANDS for their contribution to our memory box. If it wasn’t for the work SANDS did, particularly in the early days of the charity, then we wouldn’t have the memories we have now. It upsets me to think of the mother of twins in the article. Families left hospital with nothing and weren’t encourage to create their own memories. Instead it they were encouraged to forget and move on. SANDS worked hard to train professionals to make them realise that the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality didn’t work. Acting is though losing a baby never happened wasn’t going to help parents, instead it made it worse. By allowing parents to take photographs and hold their babies, it helped their grieving process enormously.
So for this I am eternally grateful.
Our memory box will also be a painful reminder of the loss of Baby Ewan, but it is also a source of comfort. A reminder of our support network and all the wonderful people who helped us through some dark and difficult times. It is a reminder that Ewan was loved and still is. And most importantly that his memory lives on.