Much-loved babies were remembered at a special memorial service at St George’s Hospital on Sunday.
The annual service is organised by the neonatal unit with the chaplaincy and funded by the unit’s charity, First Touch.
I ventured down to London and the Northern Line (a three hour round trip) in honour of my Hugo. St George’s is where my son was born, lived the 35 days of his life, and died. While there are some bittersweet memories, it will always be a special place to me.
Attending the service didn’t feel as nerve-wracking as last year’s did. There are a couple of reasons: I am in a different place emotionally, and the chapel is literally in a different place too. The old chapel held so many devastating memories of the times I would sit there sobbing and feeling rather hypocritical as I prayed for a miracle because I am not usually religious.
At the service I read an abridged version of the poem I wrote in honour of Hugo and all other babies who didn’t make it home.
This is for the babies who did not make it home.
The babies who fought with every scrap of their tiny being.
The babies who showed the grown ups what real strength and courage is like.
The babies who fought and fought until they could fight no more.
The babies who live on in our hearts and our minds, rather than in our arms.
The babies who do not get to play, go to the park, the seaside, to school.
The babies who do not get to grow up.
They are precious, every one.
They will never be forgotten.
This is for their mummies and daddies.
We lived in such hope.
Thinking, hoping, praying.
This will be an amazing story to marvel over when your baby is bigger.
But the news gets worse.
You hear the news no parent ever wants to hear.
You have to say goodbye.
Your heart is broken.
You do not take your baby home.
You did not know it was possible to feel such pain, such sorrow, such emptiness.
All your hope has gone.
All you have are memories, photographs, videos.
Treasured, every one.
They remind you of how beautiful your baby was.
Life can be cruel, life can be heartless.
Life can take our much-loved babies away from us.
We are irrevocably changed.
We celebrate our babies’ short lives. We makes sure they are always remembered, never forgotten.
We try to make the best of our lives.
We do our best to honour the life so cruelly denied to our babies.
It is the least we can do for them after they fought so hard.
After they showed us what true love means.
Eyes down, focused on the words I managed to read it without crying.
Consultant Laura read the names of the babies who died – so many broken-hearted parents. I am heartened to know that the doctors who care for our babies really do care for them, that they too are upset when a baby dies, and that they remember them.
Parents were invited to light a candle in memory of their babies.
The little gifts, provided by fundraising by a fellow bereaved mum First Touch ambassador were lovely. A star-shaped candle holder was very apt! As an empty-armed mother I particularly appreciated the gesture because it made me feel as though I am still special, that I did not fail.
The event gave me a chance to catch up with some very special people who work with and in association with the unit. Two of the chaplains; the family-centered care coordinator; my favourite of Hugo’s consultants. These people helped Martin and I both during Hugo’s life and since, and are a connection to our son because they all met our son and were with us during that very strange time.
I also had a lovely chat with Sarah, director of First Touch (I have got to know Sarah and Louise, the charity’s coordinator, since getting involved as an ambassador). She gave me this lovely star necklace that she had made.
I also dropped off a box of Little Miss books kindly donated by my friend Carla’s children in Hugo’s memory for other mummies and daddies to read to their babies, and a copy of The Mother of All Mothers (which includes Hugo’s name on the tribute page) for the bereavement book library.