During the few days leading up to Frankie’s funeral I can only describe them as being in “limbo land”. I can’t even put into words how I felt, except that I was there but not there, living but not living, present but not present, sleeping but not sleeping. I felt totally disconnected to the world and yet I had to be connected somehow, as there was much to do and organise for Frankie’s funeral.
I rested all day on December 1st at home on the sofa as even though I wasn’t feeling as sore and as bruised as I thought I would I had still only had Frankie a couple of days before. Physically I was already bouncing back – I was in most of my pre-pregnancy clothes and I didn’t look as if I’d been pregnant, but I knew I had been. I missed my bump, I kept looking down expecting to see it but instead it was gone and I looked pretty much exactly as I did before I knew I was expecting Frankie. And I missed being pregnant.
Emotionally it was a very different story. I missed Frankie so much and couldn’t believe he had been taken away from me. I cried loads and kept looking at all the things in his room, wishing that everything that happened was all a bad dream. And yet, strangely, I knew I had to be brave even though it was the last thing I felt like doing.
I had a check up from one of the community midwife’s on December 1st who came out to the house. She said I was healing very well and doing well physically, but she would organise for a health visitor to come out and review how I was doing emotionally. Then I went for a check up at my GP a day or two later and I was put on antibiotics in case of any infection. I can’t fault how I was being looked after and what everyone was doing for me.
My husband and I hadn’t even been married a year and we were already very close, but losing Frankie seemed to bring us even closer together. We could have gone completely the other way, blamed each other somehow and shut each other out, but instead we did the opposite. We spent every second that we could together, holding each other, crying together, talking about Frankie and what we could do to keep his memory and legacy alive. He’d already done so much to raise awareness for cleft lip and palate, had been in the Worcester News and had his own Facebook page and Twitter feed as well as this blog. As a result of his diagnosis of cleft lip and palate all the sonographers at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital had had additional training to help them deliver news of this kind to other parents, which was exactly the result my husband and I wanted. We didn’t want to punish anyone, we just wanted to help and ensure that other parents weren’t told in the same way that we were.
However it was a different story with my parents. They were absolutely devastated and my Mum seemed to be the stronger one out of the two of them. I have never seen my Dad so upset and bereft and it broke my heart. Being an only child I knew how much having a grandchild meant to them, and how much they were looking forward to Frankie’s arrival. Now I was faced with in particular my Dad who kept pacing up and down and who didn’t seem to know what to do or how to handle it, and I didn’t know either as I’d never seen him like that. Mum seemed to talk about it more, but my Dad didn’t seem to know how to. So I was worried about them as well as my husband, and coupled with feeling so emotionally wrecked myself it was a wonder I managed to carry on, but carry on I did and I continued to be brave and face the world.
The outpouring of messages, emails, comments, cards, flowers and support continued and I was so grateful for every single thing we received, all the support we had was absolutely immense. It seemed that Frankie had touched the hearts of many , my husband did some more work on his tribute website www.frankie.russellventura.co.uk and we were surprised to find through Google Analytics that people had visited the site from countries all over the world. We took great comfort in all of this and through all the support we received and were overwhelmed by the love and compassion we received.
On Monday 2nd December we had a full day of things we had to do, which included going back to the hospital to register Frankie’s death as stillborn. I could have developed a phobia about going back to the hospital, and I really didn’t want to do it, but again I knew that I had to be brave. We also had to see Rev’d David Southall to finalise the order of service for Frankie’s funeral with him, and see my husband’s father who was taken into the hospital the day before after he had a fall in his flat. So it seemed that my time at the hospital was not over yet, and I had to face going back there.
Registering Frankie’s death as stillborn was hell. We saw a lovely lady registrar called Ros at the hospital but we could hardly answer many of her questions without having to think about the answers. In particular when asked the date we got married my husband replied, “Oh that’s an easy one” but then we proceeded to get the year wrong, then the date wrong – we just couldn’t think straight. God knows what she must have thought, but we got there in the end and then walked out with a piece of paper that no parent s ever want to receive – a death certificate stating that Frankie was stillborn.
Still, one slight bit of comfort we took from it was that he was born, he did exist and he had his own identity, personality and name even though he didn’t make it into this world. And we had to continue to raise awareness of cleft lip/palate and stillbirth in his memory. He wouldn’t have wantd us to mope.
We finalised the order of service with Rev’d David Southall, again it was something I really didn’t want to have to do. In fact I didn’t want to do any of it, all I wanted was to have my son in my arms and take him home.
Frankie’s obituary also appeared in the Worcester News on Tuesday 3rd December. As he had been named after my Dad I was worried that people would think it was my Dad who had died, but I’m glad it was published and it again added to Frankie having his own little identity. I burst into tears when I saw it though, something that was a frequent occurrence for me.
Once everything had been finalised we just killed time until Frankie’s funeral. I pottered around the house, packed away my maternity clothes in the chest of drawers in Frankie’s room which was really upsetting, I worked on Frankie’s tribute website with my husband and prepared everything I needed to do for Frankie’s funeral.
We decided that after he was cremated we wanted him to come home and be in his room with us, and until that happened, we knew we wouldn’t feel at all settled.