Jamie, 10 Years Later

Posted: January 6, 2010 in Jamie 10 Years Later
Tags: , , ,

There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway

A song that they sing when they take to the sea

A song that they sing of their home in the sky

Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep

But singing works just fine for me…

Rock-a-bye sweet baby James.

(James Taylor)

This is a difficult one.  Usually I have some idea of how I will begin a post, yet for three days now I have sat at this laptop alternately staring into space and reliving the emotions of  ten years ago, or having a cry, getting up again to make more coffee and finding some spot on the floor that needs wiping.  There have been many spots.

As a family, we celebrate Jamie’s birthday every year.  Before his siblings were born, we used to throw a little house party for friends and family, drink champagne and release helium balloons into the sky.  We were always determined never to let the evening become maudlin, but invariably there would be some tears as we watched the balloons race up to the clouds and wished him “Happy Birthday”.  Sadness and longing do not have cut-off dates after all.

For the first few years, on this day, the Drummer and I would open up Jamie’s memory case; tenderly stroking the lock of his hair, putting the knitted matinee jacket and bonnet he wore to our faces and inhaling deeply, looking through the many photographs and remembrances.  As each year passed, however, the act of opening the case became more difficult.  The overwhelming, intense weight of the daily grief which had eased over time, made the step back into that dark, lost place, even for the briefest of minutes, something neither of us could continue to do.  The case has lain, unopened in the attic, for six years now and even today, ten years later, it will remain closed.

Instead, we shall have pizza and chocolate cake with a candle, which Jamie’s brother and sister will blow out together.  We will sing ‘Happy Birthday!’ and celebrate the short time that we had together.  There will be vases of beautiful, white lisianthus (Jamie’s flower), in every room and come 9.06 p.m., (Jamie’s time of birth), the house will be ablaze with candlelight.

We will tell the children the story about the night that their big brother was born; how Daddy slept on a mattress, on the floor of Mama’s hospital room, with Jamie tucked safely in his arms all night; how we brought Jamie home from the hospital with us and showed him the Christmas tree.  We will tell them the story of Jamie’s beautiful Memorial Service, with its music and poetry and of being surrounded by a sea of love and support from family and friends.  We will try our best to make sure that they are never afraid to talk about death, but accept it as a part of life.

Several weeks after Jamie died, I wrote a short piece describing the period between his birth and death.  I wanted to make sure that I would never forget a moment of those precious two hours.  Yesterday, I dusted off the pages and read what was written ten years ago.  I wasn’t sure whether to add the essay to this post as it is so personal, but the Drummer used his persuasion powers.  He reminded me that parents who are currently going through, or who will face, a similar situation, may find comfort reading about those who have had the same experience.

The best counseling I received after Jamie’s death was online, via an old GeoCities, Infant Loss chat room.  Thanks to a group of women, mostly in the US and Canada, whose babies had died from the same rare syndrome, I managed to regain some semblance of sanity.  Out of this group, Michelle and Dolores went on to create a wonderful support website, which has helped many mothers and fathers around the world to cope with the loss of their little ones.  These two ladies are among the true heroines of our time.

Apart from a couple of style and grammatical errors, I haven’t changed anything of Jamie’s Epiphany essay.  By the same token, I should probably mention that in the intervening ten years, any lingering religious beliefs I held at that time have slowly dissipated.  For two years after my son’s death, I searched for tokens everywhere to prove that he existed in some other essence: a white feather on the ground, two white butterflies dancing in the garden, a piece of white fluff wafting by my cheek.  I begged nightly for a sign to show he was still near me and was a heartbeat away from consulting a psychic.  The mania eventually settled, but it wasn’t until I began to read more scientific argument about the existence or non-existence of religious entities, that I was able, finally, to let go.

But I still like the ancient stories…


January 6th, 2000.  Epiphany

9.06 p.m.  The midwife placed the baby boy in my arms.  He was warm and damp; brand new.  A mass of thick, black hair atop his tiny head, lay matted in damp curls.  The remains of white vernix which had protected him in my womb, formed marbled patterns about his neck and ears; milky-rough against the soft, pink skin.  Little hands, crisscrossed by miniscule grooves and closed into tight fists, were already those of his father.  Leaning close, we were enveloped by his scent; the fresh, early lemon grove fragrance of a warm Mediterranean morning. In a brief space of reverie, we touched, inhaled, gazed.

“Kiss the baby quickly”, ordered the obstetrician as he bent to take Jamie from my chest.  I touched my husband’s arm: “Go with him”.

A paediatrician and several medical interns circled the emergency unit in the opposite corner of the delivery room.  Propped up against several hard pillows in the narrow bed, I strained to see what was going on, but unable to see what tests were being performed on my son, I eventually lay back and closed my eyes.  It had been an exhausting forty-nine hour labour.

Expectation attracts.  Throughout the latter weeks of the pregnancy, I was a magnet for women young and old, enthusiastically dispensing advice.  Are first time mothers so conspicuous?  The pain would be worth every minute, I was counseled, once the baby was lain, fussing and mewling like a blind kitten, onto my breast.

“How lovely to be expecting a Millenium Baby!”

I gradually learned how to develop a Mona Lisa countenance throughout these exchanges and avoided the eyes of women rummaging through racks of tiny, pastel coloured clothes.  But as December drew near, the lure of shop windows festively dressed in little red and white outfits, bootees and bonnets, was irresistible.  I loved walking among the hordes of busy mothers shopping for their children’s Yuletide clothing; this was a club I had long yearned to join.

Pretence, however, like a morning’s make-up, eventually wears thin.  A simple song, some nostalgic remembrance of a happy Christmas past, frequently sent me stumbling out of those brightly lit emporiums; spilling eyes and burning cheeks a bitter reminder of my outside status within the motherly league.  Come Easter and Summer, these dutiful women would search for a new batch of seasonal garments for their little ones, but I would not be among them.  My heavy, nine month expectation was approaching the end with the need for just one simple, little outfit.  The one in which my newborn would be buried.

Gently ruffling my hair, my husband sat down in the chair beside the bed, with Jamie securely in his arms.  He looked at me and shook his head.  His cheeks were runnels of charcoal gray, their natural hue altered by days of worry and grief; the good-humoured sparkle all drained from his dark, brown eyes.  Jamie was wrapped tightly in the coarse, green receiving blanket supplied by the hospital; I reached out to take my son.

“Did he make any movement?”

“He tried to take a breath, his chest heaved a little.”

“He’s so warm.”

The paediatrician walked over to our bedside to officially confirm the fate of our baby.  A routine scan at 30 weeks gestation had shown that Jamie’s kidneys had failed to form; a condition known as Potter’s Syndrome.  As a result, he was incapable of producing the amniotic fluid in the womb needed for the development of his lungs.  This fatal, domino effect meant that our little boy would never breathe independently outside my body.  I was his life as he had become mine.

Joyful defining moments of our lives: A true love, wedding day, first home, can therefore, in one evening’s interval, be overwhelmingly replaced by the cruelest defining moment: Loss.

“His heart is still beating, you’ll be able to feel it best through the fontanelle.  We’ll leave you alone now.”

The obstetrician, paediatrician, midwives, nurses and interns departed our delivery suite.  We watched in silence, as the large hands of the black and white clock on the opposite wall spun another minute of Jamie’s life.

10.00 p.m.  Our son was almost one hour old.  I wondered what was the minutest measurement of time one could employ to manipulate the length of a life.  I wondered how the worth of a fleeting existence is measured.

We bathed and dressed Jamie; explored – nervously, wondrously – the territory of our new son.  We read, sang, rocked, laughed, whispered and wept, as the universe contracted, becoming only us three.

11.00 p.m.  Jamie’s pulse weakened, until finally, the little hollow on the top of his head ceased its movement.  Although his elfin body had lain motionless in our arms from the moment he made his appearance, his presence had filled the room.  Now he was all around us.

The sixth of January.  Epiphany.  Christian tradition has it, that on this day in ancient times, the feast we now call Christmas was celebrated as Theophany: the Revelation of God.  That on this day, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar arrived, tired and dusty, in Bethlehem to witness the infant Jesus as the Divine Revelation.  That on this same day, the man Jesus stood in the cooling waters of the river Jordan with his friend John; the heavens ruptured and the voice of God revealed, “This is my beloved Son”.

That on this day, humanity is born again to new life.


Happy 10th Birthday, Jamie.  xxxx

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility:whose texture

compels me with the color of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

(e.e. cummings)


For more information on Potter’s Syndrome or simply to connect, please visit the website:


  1. rockmother says:

    In my experience grief sends you a bit bonkers. I lost my best friend and nursed her to the end. I still miss her every day and haven’t quite seen her as other things but genuinely believed I have felt her hold my hand or can see things I can see (occasionally). I then went through a ridiculous phase of anxiety thinking I was going to die and felt very anxious travelling anywhere away from my son or home. It was really hard and involuntary. I am glad you posted your piece about Jamie and it is beautiful. I posted up my diaries of nursing my friend to her passing which I felt a bit divided about (as her family didn’t know) until I got many comments from people who had had a relative go through the same horrible very rare and mainly untreatable brain cancer. My accounts helped them as yours has helped me in a way. Thank you and Happy Birthday Jamie x

    • deegeefee says:

      I think grief sends you a LOT bonkers, but a kind of different bonkers so that you are able to see where your other bonkers is going wrong…if you get my drift. Feck. Yes, it does send you in all kinds of directions and it takes some time to find the one you think will be the most steady. Watching your best buddy die from cancer and nursing her through, takes a special kind of love. Not sure I could do that, babe, big respect. Any chance of reading your diaries? Could you tweet me the link?
      And thank you for reading and responding and just knowing. It means a lot. xx

  2. fourstar says:

    The lump in my throat appears to be stopping me from typing particularly well so, as a father, I’ll just stop by to wish a Happy Birthday to your Jamie.

  3. suellewellyn says:

    That is so beautiful. Was somewhat lost for words when these of Tennyson’s came to mind.

    But oh for the touch of a vanished hand,
    and the sound of a voice that is still.

    Happy Birthday Jamie and big hugs to your mum and dad xxx

  4. Dearest Dee. I have just read this & am bawling my eyes out. My 1st grandchild, Harper, died at 2 days old nearly 6 years ago. So poignant your story about your little Jamie. Sophi my daughter like you, was so bereft. I didn’t feel I could help her as I had not lost a child. I wrote several poems at the time. Would you like to see them?
    So beautiful of you to share such heart break. Thank you.

  5. Only just realised you wrote a blog, and so clicked on the link and this was the first thing I saw. I was thinking about Cheltenham and the ponies and what I would put my fivers on; now I am thinking about life and death and love and grief and all the big things. This is so intensely moving and quite beautifully written. I think of your little fella. It has made me cry. Very lovely and brave of you to share it with your readers, and I am so glad you did.

  6. sue (@downypeanut) says:

    Just stopped by to wish your little Jamie Happy Birthday. Much love xxx

  7. […] last time I wrote for you was on your tenth birthday. It was, I think, a much sadder time, brought about by the passage of a generation and a need to […]

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