When Nic asked me to contribute to her blog I was really touched and honoured and I had no hesitation in taking part. Having watched Nic write about her inner most thoughts and feelings during the month of October, it felt really natural to write about how it feels from an auntie’s perspective to lose my precious nephew, Freddie.
Freddie, as he is now known, spent most of Nic’s pregnancy known to me as ‘Ickle Ricole’. It was only on the day I got to meet Freddie that his name was revealed so for most of this blog I will be referring to him as ‘Ickle Ricole’.
So when did my journey with Ickle Ricole begin? Well I had the amazing fortune to find out I was going to be an auntie twice!! The first time was on the night James Arthur won the X Factor. I had invited Nic and Rik round for dinner and it is fair to say that a few cocktails were consumed that evening. As the taxi drew up, Rik went outside and Nic grabbed me in my hallway and in a slightly tipsy state revealed that she was a day or so late and that she was possibly pregnant. I remember jumping up and down in my hallway absolutely elated and then going into complete panic mode that I had just spent the whole night supplying her with alcohol!
The next morning I was just beside myself and Nic realised what she had revealed and tried to put me off the scent. I remember feeling absolutely gutted that it was not the case, so when Nic revealed on Boxing Day at Mum’s that she was in fact pregnant, well it was double elation. Secretly I still consider the first time I found out in my hallway and I will treasure that memory forever!
Knowing that I was going to be an auntie filled me with so much pride and adulation. Having never been a mum myself, or lucky enough to be gifted the title of a godmother, I just could not wait to be the best auntie ever. However, despite my complete and utter joy for my sister and my brother-in-law there was a part of me, if I am brutally honest, that was incredibly jealous.
For the first time in my life I was not going to be the first for something. I had been the first-born, to go to school and university, to get a job, to get married etc., but Nic was going be the first to give my parents the most truly extraordinary gift of being a grandparent. For months I silently struggled with these thoughts whilst Nic was expecting and I remember so vividly sitting in the hospital room on the day Nic and Rik lost Freddie feeling so guilty that I had ever had these thoughts.
After we found out Ickle Ricole was a boy, I think I was most looking forward to watching him grow, laugh, throw funny tantrums or to say a kid’s favourite word “why?” a million times, but most of all bake cakes with him. As a boy he probably would have absolutely hated it but I could not wait to have him stand at the cooker and teach him, like my Grannie taught me, how much fun you could have baking in the kitchen.
It evoked so many memories for me and I just could not wait to throw mini sports day competitions in mum’s garden and present him with little cups and trophies like our Grannie did with us or teach him how to get all arty and crafty and watch him take back to his mummy and daddy everything he had made with his auntie Chellebelle (as I am known) and seeing their faces. I could not wait for my fridge to be covered in Ickle Ricole’s drawings, to hear him say auntie for the first time and to have my heart melt in two.
On my 40th birthday I remember my friends saying that Ickle Ricole was going to be utterly spoilt by his auntie and true to form I bought so many things for the little guy. I loved my ‘pretend’ shopping trip with my sister where we pretended we were buying gifts for my friend who was expecting but actually it was for my her! Two gifts really stand out as the most precious to me now and that is a little navy blue t-shirt I had bought him for 0-three months old which said ‘My Auntie Rocks’. I could not wait to see him wearing it….
My other special gift to Freddie was that I had started a coin collection for him. Rik loves collecting things and I thought I would buy Freddie a silver coin for every birthday, among other presents of course, that he could keep or trade in when he was 18 or 21 and buy a watch. I had bought five silver coins initially and was going to present them to Nic and Rik for his Christening or Baptism. However, when we lost Freddie I remember wondering what I was going to do with these. They have since kept one coin in his memory box and I have returned the other four and the money will go towards his plaque.
My journey without Freddie begins on 16th August. I was at work and my mum came to collect me from the office and take me to the hospital. I do not think I will ever forget the look on my mum’s face. I actually thought something had happened to Nic and I remember saying “is Nic ok?” and she said “yes” and then me asking “is the baby ok?” and mum collapsing in my arms saying “no, he’s died in her tummy”. I just remember standing in the foyer at work with a thousand things going round my head and going into practical mode thinking I need to lock up and get the car…..how can this be true….they must have made a mistake….what do I do with mum….what do I say to Nic and Rik.
We drove up to the hospital after getting completely lost as I was not thinking straight and I just remember seeing Nic and Rik’s faces as we opened the door and realising that their world and our world had just changed forever. It was like the innocence of life had just been wiped from their faces. I remember wanting them to rip open Nic and get him out and tell us they had made a terrible mistake and that he was okay. I remember just sitting staring out of the window thinking if there is a God how could he take my nephew, hours before he was born, and how could he do this to my beautiful sister and her husband.
Later that same day I got the complete honour to meet my nephew Freddie Leigh Bromley. I remember driving to the hospital like a crazy person, and with my dodgy knee, running through the hospital as fast as I could to get to meet him. I just could not wait to see what my sister and brother-in-law had created and I was not disappointed. He was utterly gorgeous. He had the cutest button nose and squidgy cheeks and I will never forget his huge feet. He was perfect.
I remember my eyes playing tricks with me and I kept thinking I had seen him move or his tummy move but sadly that was not the case. I was so honoured that Nic and Rik let us share that hour with him as it made him real. We had watched Nic’s tummy grow for nine months and during all that time wondered what he would look like, so to see him in person was a dream come true.
Leaving Freddie and my sister that night was the worst experience of my life. I remember driving home with tears streaming down my face and thumping the steering wheel with my fist so many times I could barely move my hand the next day. I was howling in the car “why, why, why?” Bizarrely the words I had longed Freddie to ask me as a child I now was shouting out about him. I will never understand how something so perfect and adorable could be taken so cruelly from my sister and Rik a day before his due date. I do not think I will ever comprehend this.
For several days after Freddie was born one of the things that struck me the most was that I could not say his name, I could write his name but I could not say it. I remember reading on the internet and hearing from family and friends that I had to learn to say his name as it was so important to give Freddie an identity and out of respect to Nic and Rik. Eventually it became easier but I really struggled at first but if I can give anyone any advice it would be to learn to say their name and say it out loud and proud. Freddie is part of the family and I say his name probably every day in different conversations at work, with friends or when speaking to the family and it does help.
There is not a day that has gone by since that I have not thought about Freddie and wondered what I could have done differently. Should I have insisted Nic saw a doctor when I thought her bump was shrinking two weeks before she gave birth? I know it would not bring him back but I never stop wondering if I could have spotted something.
I know I am still riding the wave of grief and some days are better than others. I find during the week I am usually fine as I just bury myself in work or designing cakes, but come Friday evenings I usually hit a low point and light the candle at 10.27pm when he was born and say howdy to Freddie. For someone who adored children I am struggling seeing babies, especially ones born around the time of Freddie. I am sure this will ease with time, but children are a daily reminder that someone very special is missing and not with us and that there is a hole where Freddie should be.
So if I had the chance to say something to Freddie I think I would tell him that I wish he had met his mummy and daddy because they are two of the most remarkable people I have ever known. What gives me comfort is that I know he will have heard their voices for nine months and probably told them to shut up a few times by kicking his mummy in the tummy. I just wish I could tell him how much I love him and how much I wish with all my heart he could be with us.
Freddie has touched so many hearts and I have been amazed at how many secret stories of grief have been revealed to our family over the past few months. Life will never be the same without Freddie and he will never be replaced. I just hope one day all our hearts will be lifted with the news that Freddie will have a little brother or sister and they will get to read all about him and see what hope and joy Freddie Leigh Bromley brought to all our lives for the short time he was with us.
Written by Freddie’s auntie Michelle Arundale