Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Could you please share your name and where in the country you are from?
I’m Laura, mum of five, wife of one, and we live together with our dog Oscar in Lancashire.
Would you mind sharing the moment(s) that your life changed forever?
The pinnacle moment that changed my life forever came in just seven short words just days from my due date with my second son. “I’m sorry but your baby has died.”
Through 35 agonizing hours of labour I had prayed that there had been a mistake, that he would still be born crying, his eyes wide open, that I would wake up from this nightmare, take him home, and live a happy life together. But on the 19th of July, Joseph came silently into the world, completely and utterly perfect, and changed our lives forever.
I can’t imagine that loss! How did that impact you and the people around you?
Naturally, it impacted massively, it turned our world upside down and tore my husband and I to pieces. Whilst we had a two-year-old son to be strong for, it was impossibly hard to carry on as normal, to let go of the life we had dreamt of, and our marriage began to fall apart as grief led us down two very different paths.
By the end of that first year, grief had taken a hold of me and, suffering from severe depression and anorexia, I was committed to a mental institution where, in all honesty, I gave up on life completely.
By the time I was allowed to return back home my husband and I had reached the point of no return and just two years after the loss of our son, and the loss of several more babies to miscarriage, my husband ended our marriage and my family of four became a family of two.
Do you remember any specific dark or brilliant moments on your journey?
The darkest moments on my journey were those early days when I had lost both my son and my husband, when I had to be strong for a four-year-old Lewis, all whilst battling with mental illness and mourning a life I had lost. I did several things during that time which I now regret, I was completely lost, so very desperate, and simply wanted the pain to go away. It breaks my heart to think about those days and how I failed to be a Mummy to my living child.
The brilliant moments came the following year when, after hitting rock bottom I realised I needed to turn things around. I went back to college to retrain in a new career, I checked back into therapy, and I learned to accept that these were the cards I had been dealt and, however unfair it seemed, nothing would ever change that.
Two years later I bumped into an old school friend on a night out, went on our first date, and the following year we married with Lewis by our sides and our newborn daughter in our arms. The following year we welcomed another daughter, and a year later another son.
What have you done to work your way through it all?
I won’t lie, it’s been difficult, even as recently as four years ago I was still battling with anorexia and although I am far healthier these days, I do still struggle with my mental health. That said, I have undergone a great deal of therapy, I have regular CBT sessions and I am honest and open about my struggles.
Blogging gave me a great outlet for my grief and has been an ongoing form of therapy over the last four years. I know that I will always feel the loss of our son, every single day, but I also know that we have to live the life he couldn’t, and he would want us to be happy; I’m sure of it.
I’m guessing you must still think about the life you had planned for before you lost Joseph?
Yes, of course, every moment of every day. On his birthday, at Christmas, on a regular Tuesday, as we sit around the dining table, the Joseph shaped hole in our lives will always be there.
And how do you cope with that?
I think if I allowed it to, it would drive me crazy. The whys and the what ifs are endless, even now twelve years later. I cope with it by opening my eyes to the life we have, the four healthy children I hold in my arms, the supportive husband by my side, and all we have achieved in Joseph’s honour.
That said, I don’t believe a time will ever come when I don’t ask myself who Joseph would have been at twelve, at twenty, at forty. I doubt I will ever stop feeling that sense of loss, that anger at not having him here, and that ache in my heart which never goes away.
What have you learned or how have you changed as a result of your experience?
What haven’t I learned? I feel as though I am a completely different person for all we have been through. I am stronger, I am braver, I am kinder, and I am more grateful for the children I hold in my arms than ever before. I have learned that life is short, that things happen beyond our control, that hearts break and dreams are destroyed but, ultimately, that a life after loss can still be a happy one.
If you met someone going through the same thing as you now, what advice would you give to them?
I would tell them that even though it’s hard to believe right now, you will survive this. It’s all about baby steps, just putting one foot in front of the other and finding a way to keep moving forward. I would say to be honest and open with those around you, to take all the time you need to grieve in whatever way you need to, and to know that, should they need it, there is so much support out there for bereaved parents and those suffering with mental illness.
I would also say to never give up hope. Along with losing Joseph, we lost fifteen babies to miscarriage and I was certain that I would never hold another healthy baby in my arms. Now, surrounded by four beautiful children, I have living proof that miracles do happen and I thank god I never gave up hope of having the family I so desperately wanted.
Thanks so much Laura for your honesty and courage in answering these questions so beautifully. I’m sure Joseph is very proud of his warrior mum.
If you would like to follow Laura’s journey she can be found via her website www.fivelittledoves.com, on Instagram, facebook or twitter.
If you have been affected by the topics covered in today’s interview please visit the following websites for advice and support.