We Have Four Children, But Hold Only Three
Updated: Apr 4, 2021
Photo by Victoria Hulmes
We have this photo on a wall at home. It was taken by my wonderful midwife Laura, who is still in my life today. In it, my husband and I are holding our twin boys Jack and George. It was the first and last time we were all together as a family of four. Jack was stillborn at full-term, and seven years later, I still don't think the shock has left us.
George is now a football enthusiast and a beautiful child. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t ache for his twin brother.
I had a perfect pregnancy. It was tough carrying twins but their growth remained on-track and they developed normally.
I had a scan two days before my planned c-section and that’s when our world fell apart.
There he was on the screen—still.
“I am so sorry. Your baby has no heartbeat.”
It was a bad dream wasn’t it? Surely? As nurses and doctors blustered around me preparing for my now emergency c-section I was numb, and not because of the local anesthetic. I remember seeing my husband in the corner of the room. He was on the phone talking in what seemed like slow-motion, to our parents. He kept saying "we lost a baby, we lost a baby."
But we hadn’t, had we? Really?
We stayed in the hospital for a week after we lost Jack. The stress of what had happened meant I was struggling to breastfed George and neither of us were ready to go home. The team supported us during the dark days and held us together during the darker nights.
I couldn’t bring myself to hold Jack – I was scared I’d never let go.
My husband, brother-in-law and in-laws all cuddled him and said their goodbyes but I just couldn’t. It was too much. It would make losing him real. On the last day of our stay my consultant sat on my bed, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You have to say goodbye Victoria, you will have a lifetime of memories with George but only a glimmer of time to make memories with Jack.”
So that was it. We had a naming ceremony and I rocked him and we sobbed until we had no tears left to cry. Then we went home with one baby instead of two.
I don’t remember much about the year after his death. I smiled and laughed and socialized and showed off our new baby, our little twinless twin, but I was on autopilot. I kept trying to reverse time. I felt as though I would be able to go back to a midwife appointment and she would hand over Jack because there had been some hideous mix up.
I do remember a heartbreaking comment we got quite regularly when people learned our story though.
“At least you have George.”
As though Jack’s life didn’t really matter. I quickly figured out that so many just didn’t know what to say and I got that, but those five words ripped through my chest every single time they were uttered. We are seven years into our journey now and have two more children. As a little tribe of five (six if you include the dog) my husband and I are a million miles away from the broken parents looking into the lens. Through the love, support, patience and generosity of friends and family we got through the bleakness and found our new ‘normal.’ Baby loss sends ripples through a whole family. Much attention is given to the mum–and rightly so—but I felt for my husband. He had to be strong for me. He picked me up and glued me back together when I thought I was completely broken. And he continues to do so. While dealing with his son’s death he had to be the strong one because I couldn’t see which way was up. To the daddies who are exhausted with grief and worry over their partner’s wellbeing: To your family you are a superhero. To the mummies: You are stronger than you could ever imagine. You will get through this, but buckle up, it’s a never-ending journey. To the friends and family of grief-stricken loved-ones: Your love and patience is always enough. We will always have four children, but can only hold three. My heart will always hurt for Jack but I know that he is with us every day.
Even though he’s gone, he is still here—in our hearts, our souls. He is bouncing on the trampoline, he is sliding down the stairs, and he is dancing in our hall.
He is with us.
Thank you Victoria Hulmes of @Mummy0Kids1 for sharing your story. Shared with permission. We know that losing a child is the most heartbreaking thing a parent can experience. Empty Cradle, Broken Heart is a beautiful resource to help grieving parents through their darkest days.
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