Janet and her husband, Peter, have been involved with BFO-SW in various ways over the years since their infant son, Ryan, died thirty-two years ago this month. They regularly participated in grief support groups, volunteered their time supporting events, and served on the Board of Directors throughout the 1990’s.

Janet recently shared a tender reflection piece, Holding You, written in honour of their son Ryan, and of her ongoing experience as his mother. She has given us permission to share with you, our BFO-SW community, as we recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

“I realize that, upon reflection, before there can be the birth of a child, there is the birthing of a Mother. Our relationship was deeply intimate and started well before the day of his birth – September 2, 1990. This is a look into the heart of the story of Ryan – his birth, his life, his death, and all the time since then.”

Holding You

by Janet Frood

Holding you – at first as the dream of a child who would anoint me as mother.

Holding you – in the first days of quiet knowing you were a germinating soul deep inside my womb.

Holding you – in my thoughts and words as I wrote my first “Letter to Baby”. Somehow, I knew that I needed to have a record of you before you were born. In retrospect, I’m so grateful that I captured my feelings in these love letters as is extended your beingness beyond birth and death.

Holding you – as my belly grew and your life force took shape. Your emergent self took over my body and invaded my heart with every breath I took.

Holding you – as I dreamed of birthing five black puppies. I’ve never checked the symbolism of this. You lived five weeks – maybe that’s it.

Holding you – for dear life as I spoke my final words of gratitude and love at my father’s celebration of life. You and he are forever intertwined in my mind.

Holding you – as I learned that your heart was not fully formed. My heart sunk; panic flared. It’s at that time our world began to swirl and shake. All I heard was “We can fix it”.

Holding you – as we were told that you would likely be a Down syndrome baby. Your heart and other indicators showed a pattern that predicted this.

Holding you – as I tried to hold on to me and not be swept away. The innocence and dreamy quality of being a first-time pregnant Mom was being sucked away by clinical talk and projections of what might be.

Holding you – as a huge needle entered my body to take amniotic fluid for genetic testing. The goal was to determine if you had Down syndrome. My heart was ready to love you and my head needed to know so I could be ready to parent your special needs.

Holding you – as my body cramped and swelled; infection had taken over. We were only 29 weeks, yet my body had to expel you to get rid of the uterine infection. This was not the dream nor the plan. I was not mentally prepared for you to come early. Everything was in fast motion, nonstop, no control. I was literally swept off my feet.

Holding you – in my gaze once you were born and then they swept you away. It was hours before I really got to see and touch you. It was days before I could hold you in my arms.

Holding you – as my breasts swelled with milk yet I couldn’t feed you. A breast pump became my companion as I pumped for you and made daily milk runs to the hospital. I felt like Elsie the cow yet was proud to have a purpose and could provide for you.

Holding you – as I witnessed one of the truly sweet moments of you nestled in your father’s arms. He so big and you so little. This is a moment that is forever etched in my mind.

Holding you – my first time, in a rocking chair. We sat quietly and I could hardly breathe. The moment so precious I wanted time to stop.

Holding you – in my arms length reach as I stroked your head through an incubator opening. The tactile connection one of the very few things I could do for you.

Holding you – the day we had you baptized because there seemed little hope. It was a moment of ceremony and blessings so you would be protected and forever held. This was when everything started to turn from medical to magical. The planned actions veiled in mystical references indicating that no one thought you would survive.

Holding you – the day when you signaled there was no more will nor way to live. That day, I really held you, off all monitors, out of the unit. My greatest wish to just rock you in a quiet room with no buzzers or alarms. I held you like a normal mother does. In those quiet moments you gently slipped away after a gentle, whispered sigh.

Holding you – I uttered these words “I hope Dad is waiting for Ryan” as it was my only solace knowing that you would leave my arms to go to him in the world beyond.

Holding you – as a doctor said, “He’s with the Lord now”.

Holding you – as I handed you over to a nurse, our final goodbye. My arms and heart never felt emptier.

Holding you – as my body was still wired to care for you. Milk came with relentless persistence.  I continued to pump milk and then pour it down the drain. Every. Single. Time. My. Heart. Broke.

Holding you – in the stories we shared as people gathered to hold us in their arms and surround us with love.

Holding you – as we celebrated your short life. We would never have known the impact that you had then, as it was all too raw and fresh, yet looking back, I now understand the mark you have made beyond our lives.

Holding you – so many nights when I couldn’t sleep, and I felt like you were still inside my womb, occupying space. Many times, my body was shrouded in tingles, and I was convinced you were visiting me.

Holding you – in my heart learning that a broken heart feels acutely and has the capacity to heal, slowly and tenderly.

Holding you – in letters I continued to write as our communication was not meant to be done. I had so much more to give voice to that I could not shut down.

Holding you – after all this time, I thought I was holding you and the truth is you’ve been holding me. Your presence is always with me. You are my guide, my mentor, my teacher…and most importantly my beloved first son.

Janet Frood & Peter Hawke