Dear Cooper – It’s Father’s Day

Lets talk stillbirth

Dear Cooper

You were not the baby we were expecting. You definitely were not the baby we wanted. We were dying to become parents BUT we had no idea that you’d be the one to die first. You never got to take your first breath, open your eyes or wake me up at night. Our hearts were once beating together and now mine beats slightly-broken, alone.

I tell people that I had a rough start to motherhood, but what I omit to mention is that your Dad had a tough start to fatherhood too. In someways the toughest, because he found out you had died on Father’s Day. Luckily for us, your birthday and Father’s Day are not always the same day {because Father’s Day moves each year}, but every now and then they line up, like this year.

It’s your Happy 10th Birthday. Gee whiz, I catch myself wondering what you would look and be like. Maybe you would have been good at running and soccer like your little brother or clever and funny like your first sister. Your littlest sisters love dancing and music and are still showing us their talents, but I am pretty sure you would have been a nice combination of them all. We hope you like the balloons we send you each birthday. Balloons in our house mean birthdays. It is because of you that we also make such a fuss of the Balloon Fairy on your brother and sister’s birthdays too; and it’s the reason there is a heart balloon in my Love Wednesday logo.

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This year of course there is 10. You better count them because your siblings really rumble with them before we send them off. They might be the only kids in the world that will giggle and beam smiles of absolute joy if they accidentally let a helium balloon go at The Canberra Show. It’s not even close to littering the atmosphere for them. They’ll say they are sending love directly to you. I am probably the only Mum on the planet that’s not cross that the $17 foil balloon that they have been busting my chops to buy, is also “no longer with us”.

stillbirth

When I was in labor, I knew you had died. They told me at the hospital when I went for a checkup. Your Dadda and I went for an unscheduled visit because I was starting to worry about your lack of movements. I wasn’t really worried because we had such a good pregnancy. We were quite the team you and I. But as time went on, I got moodier, my belly button re-appeared {you turned it inside out by the time you were 12 weeks} and I knew I needed a check to settle my nerves. The poor Dr who just happened to be on the sonography shift that day, actually cried when he looked me in the eyes and said that you had died. I think his sadness for the words I was about to hear made the truth all the more heavy, but I loved that even though he had just met me, he was so genuinely sorry for our loss.

It’s strange to have life and death happen inside you. And I am sad for you {and me} that you never made it to the outside. I’ll forever wonder WHY. The autopsy only showed that you were a healthy little boy. The only way I can break the WHY cycle is to remind myself that even if I did know, it wouldn’t bring you back or fix our broken hearts.

The gifts your life has brought us are huge and never ending. While in labor the midwife came and tapped my leg and said “Don’t worry love, this time next year you will be back having another one”.ย  I wanted to punch her in the face for two reasons:

  1. Because labor; and
  2. A year felt sooooo long away when all I have wanted for soooo long was a baby and to become a mummy.

BUT you know what? She was dead set right. One year and 2 days later, I gave birth to your sister. This meant I could stop grieving the “loss of motherhood” and separate my feelings out. It is now much easier to grieve the loss of YOU, my precious little first born.

Your sister’s birth was smooth in comparison {it was still efffing hard – but text book}, thanks to you paving the way. Your birth was my first and as every mother can relate, it’s such rude a shock that nothing really prepares you for. You might not know this, but because you had died, your head was easier to push out. This is because the skull bones are able to overlap on a brain that isn’t functioning. Your soft head was still much bigger than a tampon, so of course it HUURT, but we got there. Seeing your face for the first time was as amazing as ever. You were so stinkin’ cute and I only know now, that all my kids would come out looking the same.ย  Your Daddy and I have this shake and bake recipe thing going on :)

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We called your sister “Bridie” which means STRONG. We needed her to be tough. After meeting more people who have had a similar story to ours, I keep noticing that often the baby that comes after a stillborn, is of the opposite sex. I am not sure if you sent us a girl on purpose, but thanks for telling Bridie we would be a good place for her to come. I guiltily think that I wouldn’t have her, if I had you. It would have been physically impossible time-wise to have had you both. Talk about sliding doors?! I don’t think we would have had so many kids if we had you either. No baby should be born with a job, but you sure did change your Dad and I for the better. And there was no way I was going to prevent babies that I ached for, for so long.

Okay so please don’t answer this because it will freak me out if it’s not you, but sometimes at night or during the day when I am home alone, the battery operated toys start playing their music, what seems to be on their own. I am pretty sure it’s you coming for a play…. and I smile. It keeps me calm and connected thinking that it is you. I am not sure how I would feel about other people visiting…. but I know one of my besties {Alana} also thinks it’s you when you go for a play at their house these days too.

Today being Father’s Day means I am pretty distracted by making your Dad feel special and spending time with both your Grandpa’s. But after sending your balloons I will take some time to cry and wipe snot all over the best teddy bear we own. He is just the right size and holds your ashes in his belly. I asked the lovely people at the Teddy Bear Shop to cut him open, remove half the fluff and place your brick of ashes inside.ย  I am SO glad we came up with this idea. It means your brother and sisters can hug you too and you are not so precious that you can’t be held. You’re also portable and have moved house with us twice now. And the best reason about keeping you inside Cooper Bear is that every mother that comes home without a baby from the maternity ward, needs to fill her empty arms with something to hold.

cooper bear

If someone had told me ten years ago, that I would be happily married {still to your Dad} and be a proud mother to 4 beautiful, alive children, I would have spat at them; for giving me such a false and unrealistic hope. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at just how wonderful my life is. People would say things like “time will help”. But actually time was one of the things I constantly felt mad about. All I had was your dates, the time it took to grow you, birth you, the amount of time between each unsuccessful menstrual cycle, other babies being born {constantly} that would benchmark more times. I was so angry at time. I really believe I am in a great place now – not because of time, but because what I have done with the time.

Cooper I am writing this note to you for me. And for another Mummy who has lost her beautiful baby too. The world can seem so cruel sometimes. I know you have made me a better, stronger, more thoughtful and compassionate person; and for that I am forever grateful. I wish everyone could delve into the layers of themselves to see more of who they are, but without having to go through the tragedy part.

I hope heaven is filled with pink grapefruits sprinkled with sugar because that is all you ever wanted. I will always treasure the moments we shared together.

You will always be my first, and I love you.

mama

Comments

  1. says

    Oh Jen, I am sitting here typing to you with tears streaming down my face for your loss and also for my Mum who lost my little brother and had a still birth. It is beautiful what you do with the balloons. I can’t believe that midwife! Jen, a hug for you and your strength to write this. xxx I am off to squeeze my two sleeping babies.

  2. Vicki @ Boiled Eggs & Soldiers says

    Jenny I have been saving this to read in a quiet moment. What an amazing women you are, this is such a beautifully written heartfelt letter I really don’t have the words to express adequately acknowledgement of your pain & grief. I’m sure Cooper is so proud that you are his Mama & I love how you celebrate his special moments with balloons and that is is so present with you all. Sending light & love xx

    • says

      Thank you Vicki. I could write a whole Dear Cooper series. I have so much more to say. Thank you for reading in your quiet moment. I have felt guilty about those that read it during swimming lessons and the likes! xoxoxo

  3. says

    Happy birthday to precious Cooper, your words are beautiful and I know he would be proud to have such a loving, brave and special Mummy. Our twins are also in heaven and although it’s now been 4 1/2 years since we met them and said goodbye, ‘time’ still makes me angry and sad as those milestones and dates just keep on rolling by and it’s so hard not to think about the ‘what if’. It’s only been the last two years that I’ve been strong enough to ‘celebrate’ Amber and Riley’s birthday and I think the idea of releasing balloons is really lovely and a special way for our two boys to also get involved. Sending lots of love to you and your family xx

    • says

      Oh Lauren my eyes are filled with fat tears as I reply to you. Such beautiful names you gave your babies. I feel comforted that I am not the only one that hated time and wanted to stab anybody who told me how much of a help time would be. Your kids will love sending the balloons. And I always have a lot of balloons {a balloon fairy in fact} visit my alive kids on their birthdays too so they can feel the connection between birthdays and people and why we celebrate the milestones. The gifts from Amber and Riley will keep coming. I am 10 years down the track and even writing this post and connecting with you {and many others this week}, is yet another gift I never knew would come. Thank you for sharing your babies on here. I know others have read your comment and are sending you love like I am. xoxox

  4. says

    Jen this is just beautiful…so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with the world, I’m sure there will be many people who will relate and feel much better reading it. Although I’m sorry you are in a position to be able to write it.

    I absolutely love your tradition, and Cooper bear. Hugs to you xxx

  5. says

    Thank you for sharing your story in such an honest way. I am confident it will help so many other people who have experienced the loss of their baby. I think the idea of the teddy bear so Cooper’s siblings can hug him is wonderful. Happy 10th birthday Cooper.

    • says

      I am so glad he is in a bear too. It makes it so much easier with my other kids. And really what do you do with ashes? It’s such a tricky position to be in to have ashes around because I knew we were moving and so leaving them was just not an option for us. I hope this post has given a few people some ideas, if not for them, for someone they know that might be hurting xo.

  6. says

    Jenny this is so heartbreakingly beautiful. It was touching to hear your story in person and again to see it written down. I’m so glad you found the strength to write this. It’s such a special story and it’s lovely to hear about Cooper. I bet he’s so proud of you and the way you’ve coped with such an awful start to motherhood. I love how you remember him each year and I bet he loves seeing all the balloons. xxxxxx

    • says

      Thank you Loz. Sorry you’re a another pregnant person reading which makes me feel uneasy. Its not what you want to read when you are busy making the best thing ever. Sending your girl-bump hugs right now! xoxoxoxo

    • says

      Oh Veronica you just reminded me of something really important! Saying “I don’t know what to say….” is so completely perfect. Some people say nothing because they don’t know what to say. But to someone who’s grieving, the silence is awful. Saying “I am not sure what to say or do” is really actually comforting. Thank you for prompting me to share that bit because someone reading might be more inclined to reach out to someone hurting next time. Thank you so much for getting in touch and reading this! AND nice stepping by the way, I think we were head to head this morning ๐Ÿ˜‰ xoxo

      • says

        I’m so glad you said that Jen because I wanted you to know I had read your post and been moved by it.

        I’ll have to sneak a peek at matchup and see where we are up to….a bit of friendly competition lol !!!

  7. Lara says

    This was really beautiful to read, Jen. You are exceptionally brave to articulate your feelings so openly. I lost a little girl at 22 weeks… I never talked about her, mentioned her, celebrated her or even gave her the name I had already picked out when we found out she was arriving. I left her memory in the darkest place in my mind, hoping that one day it would be gone. Reading your story inspires me to celebrate her memory, even if it means opening that painful chapter.
    One day, when her brother is old enough I’m going to tell him about her – and perhaps we can do something to remember her memory together just like you do for Cooper. I like to think that all our babies who never made it into our arms with their hearts beating are together up there catching balloons. ๐Ÿ’™
    Keep up the good work, and thanks. X

    • says

      Lara next time I am sending balloons {or we lose one at the Show} I will be sure to say a prayer for your baby girl. It is never too late to name her or start a tradition. My only advice is to keep your tradition low key so that it can be maintained easy enough. I am glad I didn’t go too crazy on the honoring because the upkeep may have become a little crippling in itself. If people don’t understand why all of a sudden you are honoring her or saying her name out loud…… either send them my way or leave it at that “they don’t understand”. And that’s ok. Its not for them. And again I have goosebumps! You had a baby girl, and she sent you her baby brother…. so often the flip of sexes. I have tears in my eyes writing this. Thank you for your note xo

  8. says

    Oh Jen – thank you so much for writing this and sharing it with all of us. It’s really beautiful and full of love and warmth. You’re making my heart just burst for my little boy too. I’m so sorry you went through this. I know someone (if not many) will benefit from reading this.

    • says

      I am such a “get my feelings out there” kind of girl. I really don’t keep much bottled up. I hope you’re right and someone is reading this and knows I care. You’ve made me happy that you have been thinking about my boy today xo

  9. says

    Oh Jen. Your words made me cry too. So sad yet so wonderful that you and your family mourn Cooper’s loss but have so much joy. Happy 10th birthday to Cooper and to you. xx

  10. Nadia says

    I don’t have the words I want to say, just tears running down my cheeks after reading such a beautiful piece of writing about your forever missed son, Cooper. Thank you for putting this on your blog, for all of the others who have been through this or know someone who has.
    My now 4 year old was born with the cord around his neck, not breathing and had to be resuscitated. I am thankful every day that we only had three fearful minutes of him not breathing and that he is ok.
    I am so sorry that Cooper isn’t here with you but the way you ensure he is never forgotten and is part of your family’s life is beautiful.

    • says

      Nadia I can’t imagine how you felt in those moments where your son was not breathing. That is not the scenario you plan for the moment you give birth. I am so so so so thankful too that he is ok and made it through too. Sometimes we have to stop and think about how vulnerable we really are. Thank you for reading my story today and sharing yours xoxox

  11. Nubia says

    Beautifully written. You seriously are just, Wow!! Big hugs for you.
    ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ

  12. Diana Icasate says

    Jen, you made me cry. A lot. I remember thinking all those years back how desperately unfair it was for you to lose Cooper. At the time I had my boy, now 10 and couldn’t imagine life without him. You wore your beautiful brave smile to work each day and I often wondered how it must have been for you. Thanks for sharing your story this way. You are amazing. I really believe your baby boy is watching over you and feeling the love of your household from above. Keep living life with your other 4 babies and husband exactly as you are and he will live on alongside you. I really believe that as I see you do too. Big hugs xxoo

    • says

      Thank you Diana. Going back to work was one of the hardest things for me. You know when you are pregnant and you can see things on the work calendar but you write off in your mind because you know you are not going to be there…. and then I WAS there for them :( But you and the crew were amazing to me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I am collecting your big hugs with both arms! xox

  13. EP says

    As a hormonal pregnant woman I probably shouldn’t have read this, purely because of the crazy preggo hormone factor, my pillow is soaked in tears. Thank you for sharing such a personal and lovely letter. I think Cooper is very lucky to have such a loving and caring Mumma as you are to him, I’m sure he is loving those balloons (and I’m hoping he catches all the other stray ones floating up there too)! Xx

    • says

      Oh Emma I hate the thought of pregnant people reading this. I don’t like talking about it with pregnant people either as it is the last thing you want to be reading :( But as you see my story has a happy ending and I have had lots of awesome pregnancies since. I am sending your baby lots of love right now xoxo

      • Emma says

        Oh please don’t worry, anything with a slight emotion including my daughters books, cartoons has me bawling at the moment, even the taste of a crappy coffee when I really need a good one! It’s a beautiful letter and such a wonderful way to keep your boy apart of your life, albeit in spirit. I just know any time I see a runaway balloon I will think of him now. Thank you for the positive vibes, much appreciated. xx

        P.S – I am with you, the toys going off when you are on your own, it’s totally him letting you know he’s OK and up to mischief – typical boy style!

      • EP says

        Oh please don’t worry, anything with a slight emotion to it, including my daughters books, cartoons and EVEN the taste of a crappy coffee has me bawling in a heartbeat at the moment. It is a beautiful story showing how your boy is still very much apart of your life, albeit in spirit. I just know now that any time I see a runaway balloon in the sky I will think of him. Thank you for the positive baby vibes. xx

        P.S That is totally him playing with the toys in the house, letting you know he is OK. A typical boy right there, getting up to mischief!

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