My husband Andy and I didn’t make many preparations for our sixth baby's birth. We decided not to sort out the baby equipment or the clothes we had packed away from previous children. We didn’t walk up and down the baby aisles of the shops, arm-in-arm, with secret smiles on our faces. We didn’t toss tiny clothes and attractive toys into our shopping trolley. No one would have known we were expecting a baby except for my pregnant shape.

We did however choose a name for our child. And I packed a hospital bag for myself with the usual toiletries, pyjamas and coming home clothes. I put it by the front door, ready for the big day. I was all prepared. But I wasn’t. Who can be prepared for the birth of a baby who is going to die?

Then about a week before our baby was due, I changed my mind about the baby clothes, and hunted out a few from our storage room after all. My mother-in-law watched with sad eyes as I washed a few tiny outfits. Did she think I was setting myself up for even more sorrow? I hung the clothes on the line and they flapped in the breeze, announcing to the world we were about to give birth.

“The clothes are ‘just in case’,” I told myself. “Just in case our baby does live after all.” 

When I went into labour, we left home with the two bags, mine and the 'just in case' one. When we arrived at the hospital Andy grabbed my bag. We left the baby clothes in the car. Perhaps I didn’t want anyone to know how much I hoped.

A day or so later, we returned home with both bags. We had no baby. Thomas was in the morgue.

I threw the baby clothes into the cupboard where I couldn’t see them and I cried. It was many months before I was able to unpack that bag and look at those tiny suits and socks and singlets. I smoothed them out and thought, “If only…”

Would it have been easier if I’d listened to my head and not my heart, and not washed and packed those tiny outfits? The doctors had said my baby wouldn't live. I know they wanted me to face this fact. So why didn't I? Why did I take those clothes to the hospital with me?

I didn't want to picture my child dead in my arms, before I'd even seen him, his body cold and still. I didn't want to imagine the tears that would run down my face and the pain that would grip my heart. I had done that so many times already. 

Instead I wanted to feel the secret joy and excitement that wells up inside every mother, as she imagines meeting her baby for the first time. I wanted to pretend I was a 'normal' pregnant mother. I wanted to dream just a little in order to get through the birth. Those clothes were my symbol of hope.

My baby might have lived. God could have saved him.

I had to take those clothes just in case.

Image:Washing baby clothes in preparation for the new arrival! by Elin B, CC BY 2.0

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  1. Sue, I sometimes think how loved Thomas would be feeling as you write these posts and visit his grave. He's a real person, after all. So, how would he have felt if you had just given up without hoping? It seems to me that all babies deserve to have that loving preparation, no matter what their prognosis is.

    It's so sad that you had to put the clothes away unused but I wonder if it might have been worse to know that Thomas wasn't greeted with the same care as his brothers and sisters. Knowing how much you love Thomas, it doesn't surprise that you did this for him.

    Hugs and kisses xxx

    1. Vicky,

      Thank you for your beautiful comment. I guess Thomas does know how much I hoped he'd live. He knows I was excited at the thought of seeing him after 9 months of pregnancy. It was a strange feeling: I wanted to see him and hold him, but I knew to do that, he'd have to leave the safety of the womb and risk death.

      Will I still be writing about Thomas when I am an old woman? That is quite a thought!

      Thank you for your love. I love you!

  2. It might have been easier not to hope, but I don't think you really regret hoping, do you.

    1. Kellie,

      You are so right. I didn't give up hope until the doctors stopped treatment on the second day after Thomas' birth. I couldn't give up until I knew there was absolutely no hope. I wanted to long and dream and imagine bringing him home. Thank you for your comment!

  3. How beautiful are your words. I can feel your pain and loss. Thank you for sharing your heart, Sue...I'm so very sorry.


    1. Chris,

      You can feel my pain and loss? Thank you! I guess that's what we try to do when we write our stories: share our feelings. Thank you for your kindness in reading my sad story. God bless!

  4. You touched my heart. I think we all have to have hope and what you did is normal for any expecting mother. Thomas is one of the luckiest little boys around because of your love for him. Hugs to you and all your kiddos!

    1. Emmlyjane,

      Welcome to my blog! You said, "what you did is normal for any expecting mother." You hit the nail on the head! I was an expectant mother with all those normal longings... I do love Thomas so very much! Thank you for the hugs. You are very kind and sensitive. I will be over to visit your blog soon!

  5. This post brought me to tears with a smile. I know that might not make sense, but I can so feel your love for Thomas, as I always do when I read of him. I think of what an unselfish act on your part, to prepare for the day when he had to leave the safety of your womb. You didn't give in and abandon him, leaving him to face the world unclothed. You were going to make things ready for him even if the preparations would result in hurt for you. You were thinking more of him than of yourself. God bless you. What a wonderful mother you are.

    1. Nancy,

      "You didn't give in and abandon him, leaving him to face the world unclothed." Thank you for these words. Clothes are so important, aren't they? We dress our children with such love and attention.

      I remember a mother at our grief support group who told us she buried her daughter unclothed. I was just so distressed by this. We'd bought Thomas an exquisite baptismal gown. It was expensive and some people might have said, "But it's only going to decay in the earth," but I think Thomas realised the importance of that gown. Actually, the lady who sold me the dress wouldn't take the full price for it once she heard it was for a burial. Wasn't that a loving thing to do?

      I don't know about being wonderful, Nancy. When Thomas died I remember thinking, "God must really think I need to change a lot. He's teaching me the hard way because I am a desperate case!" Well, I have certainly learnt a lot since Thomas died. Still learning!


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