When Freddie died, he was in my arms, the only time I got to hold him like that with no wires attached. We were tucked up in a bed, with the sun pouring in through the window, peacefully on our own, just the three of us. We didn’t have long, he lasted very little time once his oxygen was removed, and it was a gentle end. I had time to look at him, looking like an ordinary baby, sleeping (it seemed) in my arms. It was easy to forget that actually he was giving up, easy enough just to look and drink him in, suddenly so very ordinary and right. There is a picture of me holding him, sadly after he’d died (I wish I had thought to take one before but I just wanted everyone away quickly) and we look so right together. My face isn’t the ravaged-tear-stained-stressed one from the night before. I look very close to happy, very close to someone admiring their newborn son.
We left quite soon after; once he’d gone he stopped feeling like a baby quite quickly and I didn’t feel the need to look at him for hours. In fact, to do so felt ‘wrong’ and strangely voyeuristic. I might have, had we not had the girls, but we knew they were expecting the news and felt we needed to be with them. I forgot, for a while, that he felt like he let us go and I forgot I hadn’t needed to carry on being there. I couldn’t tell you how long it was now that we were in that room. It felt like minutes but I think probably it was a good while. He died at 9.15; I think perhaps we were home by 11. I don’t know how long it took for him to die. I forgot afterwards that he has seemed so ‘gone’ so quickly and regretted it. I tore myself in shreds to think of him cold and alone but I never went back to see him again.
In the last little while before he died, I promised him we would do better, that we would live life for him. It was hard to remember that too, just to start with. But I think we’re doing better now. The girls are busy, we’re spending time with friends, we’re working on the business, we’re getting out. This weekend I gardened and ignored my computer as much as I could. We’ve drawn together and played together and written together and read together and watched things. Doctor Who ended and that was a shock because we watched the first of those when we popped home from hospital for a while. A whole series has come and gone with a desperately alive Freddie at the beginning and absolutely no Freddie at the end.
I’ve biked. I’ve been counting up miles with an oddly euphemistic “I’ve biked X miles since we came home from hospital” like I can say that and not notice I came home from hospital without Freddie, like it is somehow better that “since Freddie died”. Today i got to 145 miles. Some achievement I think. I’m a bit fitter, a little browner, absolutely no lighter. My body is in rebellion and I don’t really know why.
But the biking feels good. And the living feels okay. Sometimes I think “how can I be laughing when my son is dead?” but then, even in the moments when the black humour spikes out, or the rage spikes out, I know that I don’t want to be depressed or sad or angry or cruel in his name. It would seem terribly disrespectful to him. I want to be better for him, not worse. Thinner too would be nice.
Tomorrow it will be 11 weeks since he died. I’m trying to look forward. I’m trying to not wallow. I’m trying not to beat myself with sticks. I’m trying, extremely, extremely hard, to live.
It’s astonishing how much energy it requires.