How Do You Share Your Newborn’s Death On Social Media?

A Winter's Tale: Teacher Pea Gaskin, 31, and her husband, Dean, a retail manager from Derby, were faced with this devastating reality when their infant son, Winter Wolfe, died in their arms just 30 minutes after his birth

newborn baby

by Grazia |

The pictures around our house tell a heart-breaking story, but it’s one we never want to forget. We’ve framed the photos I posted on social media during my pregnancy with Winter to keep the memory of our baby alive.

In our hallway is the picture I shared to announce we were going to be parents. Dean and I look elated and his hands are wrapped around my tummy. Up the staircase, there are the scans and various shots of my bump as it grew bigger and bigger. Then on the landing, there I am, on the day I felt Winter’s first kick.

But the photograph of him in our bedroom is reserved just for us. It’s a picture of Winter after he’d passed away, the day before his funeral. It was the first time we’d seen his beautiful little face properly without it being covered in tubes and plasters. We keep that one next to our bed; it's the face we wake up to each morning.

winter wolfe
©instagram

@life_of_pea

We couldn’t believe our luck when I got pregnant in January 2015. We’ve been together nine years but had only just started trying for a baby. I blogged about it every day, sharing shots of the cute wallpaper and clothes we were buying and posting time-lapse montages of the nursery being built. I wanted to document the special transition of moving from a two to a three, and it was a great way to connect with other mothers-to-be due around a similar time.

A few nights before I went into labour, we got the Moses basket ready and washed and folded Winter’s clothes, putting the things he’d grow into when he was older out of the way. As my stomach swelled and we bought the final few bits, I wrote a blog post called ‘Everything but the baby’. The irony of my words hang insufferably in cyberspace now.

My waters broke on October 22nd and I excitedly announced on social media that he was on his way. Twenty-two tiring hours later, my little boy was cradled in my arms. There were no complications with the birth and we wept with joy when doctors declared him healthy. Dean and I were in a state of euphoric exhaustion.

We hadn’t wanted to know the sex but had already decided on Winter for a name whether he was a boy or a girl. We agreed Wolfe made a strong middle name with an almost legendary feel to it. For half an hour he lay peacefully on my chest and we watched in awe as he inhaled and exhaled, catching the occasional glimpse of his beautiful dark, brown eyes while his tiny hand clutched my finger.

It was magical but, had I known how precious those 30 minutes would be, I’d have made a mental note of every sigh, every hand squeeze and every blink. It pains me to admit that tiredness from my labour means that precious half an hour is now blurry in my memory.

A nurse came over and took Winter away to weigh him but as she lifted him off my chest his body went limp. She couldn’t disguise the look of panic on her face and quickly called for assistance. Within seconds the room was full of doctors and nurses crowding around him, I couldn’t even see him anymore. Dean and I simply froze with fear.

It was my only chance to be strong for Winter and be his mum.

My heart was pounding but I tried to focus on what was happening and made out the words a nurse was saying, ‘We need you to know your baby might die’. I stopped breathing and the room started to spin. I could hear Dean next to me repeating, ‘I can’t bear it, we’ve just had him,' while I tried to process what was going on.

I rang my parents and said, ‘We’ve had a boy and called him Winter’ but before they could shriek with excitement I added, ‘We’ve been told he might die, get here quick.’ They rushed to the hospital in time to hear doctors deliver the world-shattering news that it would be impossible for Winter to survive and there was nothing more they could do.

They explained that fluid on his lungs from the womb hadn’t drained when he was born. He’d struggled to breathe and suffered severe brain damage. From that moment on, I was a spectator to someone else’s nightmare. Whenever the news sank in, I’d collapse in a heap of heartache and howl in sadness at the pain.

winter wolfe
©instagram

@life_of_pea

Doctors took him off the life support machine so we could hold him while he died. We have so many photographs of him and in some I’ve actually got a smile on my face. I think it was because I knew I had to make the most of the little time I had with him. I knew it was my only chance to be strong for Winter and be his mum.

He died in Dean’s arms a few hours later and we felt the last little beats of his heart. I couldn’t bring myself to leave that room because it was the only place he’d lived. Our families came to meet him and we changed him into an outfit with little wolf ears on it which we’d packed for our announcement photo. Then we kissed his tiny head goodbye.

Dean’s parents drove us home and offered to pack away our baby things but we wanted to keep them out so it didn’t feel like we were hiding from the truth. Almost immediately I shared our sad news online; I’d spent the last nine months talking about him and didn’t want to stop just because he hadn’t survived.

I blogged about his death and the 30 minutes when we’d held him, about his funeral and collecting his ashes and about the special things Dean and I did each month to mark his monthly anniversaries. The more I posted, the more my online following grew - now my blog has been read over 20,000 times. I’ve become part of the online infant loss community, a place that - thanks to the ever growing reach of social media - probably didn’t exist even five years ago. There, I’ve discovered a sea of people desperately trying to make sense of the emotions they battle in this thick swamp of grief. I don’t post for pity, I do it because I have a very special connection with these women now and their support helps enormously.

In August, Dean and I got married on a beach in Sri Lanka to mark what would have been Winter’s 10-month birthday. We used his ashes to make our wedding rings so he can be with us forever. With every baby I see I am reminded that Winter has a lifetime of missed opportunities. For the rest of my life I will track his age, I will see children around me that are growing at the same pace, and with every milestone I will miss my boy and wonder how his first steps and first day at school would have played out had he just been given the gift of life. I’ve had two miscarriages this year but the online community has given me the strength to keep hopeful for the future. I was afraid that the passage of time would eventually pull him further away from me. But in fact, sharing our Winter’s tale makes me feel closer to him than ever.

Blob/ Pea has raised £20,000 for Friends of the Baby Unit at Derby hospital where Winter died. To donate visit justgiving.com/winterwolfe. Read Pea's blog at onedayofwinter.com, and follow her @life_of_pea

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