Wednesday 12 April 2023

The Days After Louis

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

We left the hospital on the 22nd July 2020 without baby Louis. 

Leaving him there in the hospital was perhaps the hardest part of all of this. I had just delivered my baby and now I was leaving with empty arms. Heading home to an empty flat for a full nights sleep that I desperately needed, but also a sleep that should have been disturbed with newborn baby cries and feeds into the twilight hours. 

We had spent the entire day drinking Louis in and memorising the curves of his face. Now it was the evening and it was time to leave him. My Mum drove me home, the feeling of guilt growing with every step I took away from the cold cot, away from the bereavement room, away from the hospital.

As I got into the car and we put miles between Louis and the hospital, I really believed that would be the last time I ever saw him...

The evening was spent eating pizza with Leo at my parents house, and thinking of words to write a Facebook post to announce the arrival and departure of my Louis Christopher to my immediate world. The tears fell silently down my cheeks with each sentence I composed, and they fell even harder when the comments from friends and family started pouring in after learning that despite all the fighting of the last 8 and a bit months, there wasn't to be a happy ending.

Eventually Leo and I returned home to the flat, the flat that never felt like home. I don't recall arriving back or even putting the key in the door. I don't remember getting into bed, I don't remember sleep coming and I don't remember waking up the following morning. 

All I do know is that the next morning, I knew I needed to be back at the hospital. I needed to see Louis again. I couldn't stop thinking about him being all alone in the hospital morgue. My Mum and sister came with me, and we spent a second afternoon in the bereavement room at Worcester Hospital. 

I had brought along a swaddle blanket that I had bought for Louis. It was what he was supposed to spend his first nights fast asleep and dreaming in…I spent time wrapping him up and making him cosy. I found it ironic that I was putting all of these warm aids on him, when ultimately the biggest concern was making sure he was cool enough through this heatwave. 

I asked the midwife for some baby wipes, Louis was still as he had been born. I hadn't thought about cleaning him the previous day, while he was alive I didn't dare move, and once he was gone cleaning him didn't even cross my mind.

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

Now my natural instinct was to clean him up. I wanted to see who the baby boy was under the dried blood, I very gently wiped him all over, his face and his hair, revealing his beautiful face as it was meant to be appreciated. Watching his real features appear as the dirt lifted away made me feel like I was finally getting to be a Mum to him, even if it was just for a short time.

Simply cleaning Louis up changed his whole face, it revealed his blonde locks and from certain angles you could almost convince yourself that he was just sleeping. 

By 16:30 we had spent another summer's afternoon within the confined walls of the hospital, stealing every moment that we could. I already knew that I would be back again the following day (July 23rd 2020).

I tucked Louis back up into his blanket and back into his cold cot, and I knew that this wouldn't be his resting place for the night. After I left he would be moved back to the morgue where he would be entirely on his own again. 

Leaving that afternoon was just as hard as it was that first day, and I spent that night going back and forth over bringing him back home with us... 

Suddenly I knew I had to bring Louis home. I needed my baby home for however long I could.

It was a strange realisation, I had gone over and over this while I was pregnant and for a long time I always was going to bring him home. Somewhere along the way, that plan changed. I think out of concern for Leo and how it may effect him. I had a chat with Leo and asked what he thought about bringing Louis home, he jumped at the opportunity. Leo had taken everything the last few days had presented in his stride, and now he just wanted to bring his baby brother home. 

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

The 23rd July dawned, and I knew that today I was heading back to the hospital to discuss bringing Louis out of the hospital and back with us to the flat. My bereavement midwife was amazing, as she had been ever since I met her on the run up to my delivery. Straight away she started making all of the arrangements for us to take Louis out of the hospital and transport him in our car back to our modest 4 walls.

We were provided with a cold cot and a police reference number just in case we were pulled over on our journey, and had to explain why we had a deceased baby in our company. Something that I really hadn't considered in all of the thoughts I had had over getting Louis from the hospital back to our home. 

We loaded the cold cot into the car and then we brought Louis out, it all felt very cloak and dagger. It didn't feel like we should be seen, we didn't want to upset anyone else. Louis was placed in the cold cot on the back seat with me, he didn't need a car seat, he didn't even need restraining with a seat belt.

I remember that my Mum was driving, and I remember leaving the hospital for the last time, but I don't remember arriving back at the flat or how we transported Louis from the car and into the flat. From that day, Louis was with us.

Leo had been staying in my room since his dad left at 28 weeks pregnant, my little comfort blanket. This meant that we could set Louis up in Leo's room with his cold cot. We could take Louis out of the cold cot as often as we liked and there was something extremely comforting about having him there with us. 

We were in the midst of a heat wave so I was very worried about how this may affect him, the cot had come with a set of instructions of what we could expect, but we were also advised that we may have to take ice packs from the freezer and put them around him to ensure that he was kept cool enough.

Leo and I would stay up watching television and bring Louis for cuddles on the sofa. It felt completely normal and Leo adored this time with his brother. He got the snuggles and I got the snaps I had always dreamed of having, of my two beautiful boys together. 

A good friend of mine very kindly offered to take some photos of Louis for us, I jumped at the chance. We had some shots taken by a charity when we were in hospital, but I wanted something that I could have my own personal spin on now I had cleaned him up and we were home. We had these new photos taken and I am so pleased that we did. They highlight a time of immense sadness, but also a moment in time that was fleeting and would soon only be in our memories.

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

Having this time at home allowed family members and friends to come and meet Louis who wouldn't have ever had the chance to meet him otherwise. Some kept coming back to see us, no one seemed to be worried about meeting him. The most un-natural thing had happened in losing Louis, but having him close to us in the days after his passing and the run up to the funeral was the most natural thing in the world.

On July 24th Taylor Swift released her surprise album, Folklore. This became the soundtrack to Louis being at home. To this day when I hear it playing it takes me right back to being in that flat with Louis and Leo. After everything 2020 had thrown at us, I felt like this album was written for me.

I kept busy in those days, covid and lockdown were still raging on outside the confines of the flat but I had reached a point where covid was the last thing in the world I was worried about. The hospital had very kindly taken casts of Louis's feet with a set I had purchased, and I couldn't wait to get them painted up and framed. When I wasn't painting I was writing bits for the funeral and making plans for our final goodbye all while Folklore played continuously in the background.

I began walking again and exercising a few days post birth, I knew I had to get those endorphins flowing for my own sanity. Walking and Folklore became my therapy as I walked and took in the words, as I began to process all that had come to pass.

Being left how I was left is something I still struggle with. A lockdown, a pregnancy, a baby with a prognosis not compatible with life, another woman, an affair, the lies, the hurt, the mourning of my family, the mourning of Louis. All the milestones that ultimately made me face the rest of my pregnancy alone, the birth without the one person who should have fought fiercely to be by my side. Instead after Louis arrival and departure, I was in the bereavement room all alone. 

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

When I wasn't walking I was organising,  I had a wonderful funeral director who was already an acquaintance of mine through work, and I knew that as soon as we got on the phone together we were going to get along just perfectly. We discussed the dates that were available for Louis's funeral and how I wanted it to look. I always thought I would opt for a burial, but actually when the time came I chose cremation. 

I didn't want Louis to be anywhere I wasn't, I knew that I could keep his ashes with me for the rest of time, and perhaps at some point place him in a ring. This was something I was looking at while I was still pregnant, I think I always knew what was going to come to pass despite the blind hope burning.

Louis was due on my birthday, August 8th, and as we were now well on our way into August we decided to have Louis's funeral on August 7th 2020. The day before my birthday. We kept Louis at home with us until July 28th after having him home for 6 days.

I made the decision to take him to the funeral directors when the heat wave persisted and I was just incredibly worried about how this would affect Louis body. Just before 5pm I wrapped Louis up for one final time, I stood and took a photo in front of the mirror just to remember how he looked in my arms and then we got in the car to drove him the short distance to the funeral directors.

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

I knew I was leaving my baby boy in safe hands at the funeral directors, and I was invited to pop in to see Louis whenever I wanted to. I did do that a few times over the days that followed. We chose Lous's casket, a beautiful wooden coffin, the smallest I have ever seen. The next time I saw Louis he was placed carefully inside.

With Louis safe from the heat at the funeral directors, it was back home to the confines of the flat to continue planning his final goodbye.

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