Yesterday was the funeral of our daughter.
It started by the two of use viewing her body, which was so much harder than I expected it to be. She looked so different, so very much a body rather than the little girl who left us. Although it was difficult, and there were tears aplenty, I am glad we saw her one last time, if only for the sense of closure.
The funeral itself was lovely, and it was nice to see so many of our friends and family in attendance, most of whom had to travel a fair distance in order to be there. Some of them we hadn't seen for years, as we'd lost touch with people with all the trouble of the past few years; so it was nice to reconnect, albeit under circumstances that we wouldn't have wished for.
Lorraine wrote a eulogy for our daughter, which I thought I would share here.
To our dear family and friends,
I just wanted to say a huge thank you on behalf of Simon and I for the outpouring of love and support you've given us over the last year, throughout my pregnancy and especially over the last few months of Amelia's short life. I can honestly say that we have been overwhelmed by all the caring messages we have received, and knowing that so many people were sending their thoughts and prayers to us and our little Puddle has given us such strength.
It means all the more to us as so few of you got the opportunity to meet her, and yet she touched the hearts of so many.
I tried to write a eulogy at the weekend, but found the thought of even trying to read it out too much to bare, but I wanted you to leave today feeling like you knew her just a little.
So here are a few words about our little Amelia Iris Forster.
First of all, nothing can prepare you for being a parent of a baby in intensive care. After months of carrying this wonderfully active baby, kicking and squirming and keeping us awake at night, we were introduced to our baby girl for the first time and she was utterly still from the medication, with tubes and wires all over her. We couldn't hold her or touch her, only look at her through the incubator. But she was so beautiful, and outwardly looked so perfect, and we loved her so much.
I can't go into all the day to day details of our life with Amelia. Before her surgery it was mostly sitting watching her sleep, asking the nurses what that monitor meant, or what that medication did....We told her every day how proud we were of her and how much we loved her, Simon would make up silly stories and I would sing to her. While I was pregnant with her, I would sing "Lets go fly a kite" or "Secret love" and she would kick me, so I sang them to her at the hospital, and we saw her foot move for the first time. I sung her those songs every day and at first, that's when she would twitch her fingers or wiggle her toes, and later when she was off the medication, they would sooth her and she would drift off to sleep listening to them.
After about a week, we were told we could hold her hand. I think I cried when I felt her little fingers slowly respond to my touch and curl gently around my finger, and I swear I could feel the warmth of that first touch for hours after. Again, once she was off the drugs that kept her paralysed, her grip was so strong, and she would squeeze so hard, and we'd make sure we were holding her hand if the nurses or doctors were doing any treatments. She also had quite a good grip with her toes, and Simon said she had monkey feet. We held her hands a lot, sometimes we couldn't do a lot more.
We got our first "cuddle" when she was 17 days old, a military operation of getting her out of the incubator without upsetting her tubes and onto a pillow, first on my lap, and then on Simon's. Having her on my lap that first time was so special; it felt like up until that point I'd been a spectator rather than a Mum, and I was so nervous. We only got to hold her like that a handful of times, each time I felt like I could burst with happiness at getting to hold our little girl.
The first time she opened her eyes, oh my word, how beautiful her eyes were! I think I must have said "Hello, I'm your Mummy and this is your Daddy" to her a hundred times that day! We never got tired of looking into her beautiful eyes. We’d stand either side of her cot and she’d look at one of us out the corner of her eye, then at the other as we spoke to her, and then, because the closest thing for her to focus on was her ventilation tubes, she would go cross-eyed staring at that! Millie couldn’t make a sound so we never heard her cry, but she seemed to express so much through her eyes. I know it probably sounds silly, as she was just a baby, but sometimes those eyes looked so old and so wise, but then she would go cross-eyed again and the innocence would be back. I stopped wearing blue very quickly after she opened her eyes so she wouldn’t mistake me for one of the nurses because we noticed that she had an extra special glare just for them!
There weren’t a lot of ways we could comfort her, or gauge what made her happy, but one thing we know she liked was licking and sucking on a wet cotton bud. With the ventilation tube, her lips and tongue could get very dry and one of the nurses told us we could rub a damp cotton bud over her lips-her tongue flicked out and she would lick away at it furiously, and if you took it away her little nose would wrinkle and her eyes screw up in a silent cry, but as soon as you gave her back the cotton bud, she’d relax again. For the few days that she was incubated via her nose, the cotton bud made way for a dummy. She didn’t quite get the hang of sucking on her dummy, but she gave it a good try.
Oh, and those days when for the first time we saw her whole face without the hat that held the tube in place-we hardly recognised her! Her nose was hidden under a mound of sticky plaster, but we got to see her ears, her mouth, her lopsided smile, and her hair! Such lovely, soft brown hair, far more than I had when I was a baby. That night I got to give Millie her first hair wash, and realised that we hadn’t bought her a hair brush, so that night she had sticky-up fluffy hair. The next day I bought her a brush, and we came back from lunch to find the nurse had given her a more slick hairdo.
We were reading Alice in Wonderland to her, though in the lowered lights and the warmth of the ward, it was as much a bedside story for me as it was for her and I’d quite often stifle a yawn mid sentence. We found a copy of The Nursery Alice and showed her the pictures while reading it, though as far as picture books go, she was far more taken by the bright colours in “Dinosaurs love Pants” that her Aunty Emma gave her for Christmas. But when the physiotherapist suggested we get her a toy she could grip to strengthen her fingers, it was a little white rabbit with long velvety ears that instantly seemed like the right gift, and the way she clung to those ears, I think we were right.
I could go on about all the medical procedures, and what happened with the surgery, or what was found out by that scan, this blood test or that X-ray, but that would only tell you about her physical condition, not the little person that she was. Yes, she was born with a very serious condition, she had a unique anatomy, and in the end, she was very, very poorly. But she was so beautiful, so extremely special and so brave. She made us laugh and smile, she loved music, she loved cotton buds, she loved her bunny and she loved us. And we loved her so very very much, and we will do forever. We may be unquestionably sad that she’s gone, and it was the hardest thing in the world letting her go, but we were so fortunate to have had her in our lives and to have loved her, and I hope that through reading these inadequate words that you have come to fall in love with her too.