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Andrea Slater-Smith

Andrea Slater-Smith

Johannesburg, South Africa

Andrea Slater-Smith didn't want children. And then Hudson came along. And now she's a mother with no child who wants to help others like her feel hope again.

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About the author

Andrea Slater-Smith didn't want children. And then Hudson came along. And now she's a mother with no child who wants to help others like her feel hope again.

Andrea has always loved the written word - reading the bible to her mum as soon as she could string a sentence, writing short stories as a child, growing up to edit a monthly magazine and then moving into the world of PR.

She has written many short stories across the span on her life but this is her first real attempt at being an author.

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I can see the Thestrals

A book about infant death and perks of the semi-life

Once upon a time, I had a baby... and then he died. I am not alone. I am one of many. I hope this book helps someone feel hope again.

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Biography & Memoir Dealing with infant death
50,000 words
50% complete
0 publishers interested

Synopsis

On May 17, 2013, at around 01h30 in the morning, our four month and 3 day old son, Hudson, woke us up and died. We were arguing about his breathing, we needed to do something but we were both so sleepy and stressed out that we couldn’t see that clearly enough. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The alarm that monitored his heart beat screamed so loud and so suddenly – almost to say “it’s too late, you idiots, it’s too late to argue about whether or not to take your baby to the hospital. He’s gone!”

This story is about me, mostly. When I found out I was pregnant, I started a blog and I carried on blogging through my baby’s death as a means to get everything that was inside of me out into an ether. Any ether. I didn’t care.

Today, four years later, I’m upright. I didn’t slit my wrists in the bath. I didn’t disappear from society. I didn’t lose my job and become a bum. 

Now, like Harry and Luna, I can see the thestrals - I have seen death, taken his hand, begged him not to take my soul. But he did. My son is gone. 

If you’re reading this, you’re either a recently bereaved parent or a well meaning friend of a recently bereaved parent and you’re trying to find a way to make sense of it all. 

There are so many books out there written specifically for you, the mother, or father, of a dead child and this club we’re a part of is expensive cos they’re not cheap.  That's fine, people need to make a living, the problem is, they’re also not bloody useful. I read several after my Hudson died. Not one included the words: Fuck you! Fuck you, universe. Fuck you, god. Fuck you, whoever’s in charge of this fuck show. Fuck you, whoever’s running a voodoo doll of my life – I was never a bad enough person to warrant this. Never!

So, now there is at least one. And you’re reading it. I’m not going to congratulate you. Nobody wants to be part of this club with no name. Nobody wants to have to buy a book about this. It’s nonsense. It’s wrong. But it happens.

And if you get one thing out of reading this book, I hope it’s the peace you need so desperately now of knowing that this pain won’t crush your chest, your throat or your soul forever. Losing a child is not something you can fix but you will find peace and, gods willing, you will know hope again.

Outline

Author's Note

The darkness - my baby died, now what?: He woke me up and died. It was always a risk as he was born with a critical congenital heart defect but absolutely nothing in this world prepares you for losing your child. There was a lot of darkness here. People feel this everywhere, every day but when you're in the thick of it, there is only you and a gigantic, all encompassing, choking black cloud of pain.

The moment: This was the point I realised I was not going to have my prayers answered. I was not going to wake up from the nightmare of people's nightmares. My son was still dead. And I wasn't. And I wasn't going to be anytime soon either. It was either move or live a half life for a very long time. 

How to deal with your grieving friend and other short stories: Advice and guidance from a grieving mother for well meaning souls who want to "be there" for other grieving mothers (or fathers, lest we forget). What not to say? Safety zones. Avoid! Avoid! Avoid! and other short stories.

Audience

This book is for grieving mothers and fathers and the people in their lives who only want to help them feel better. These people are never going to be healed. They are never going to be whole again. With the loss of their child, they have lost a part of themselves. They are broken into thousands of bits and pieces and as they slowly reconnect they are realising they are never going to be who they were before their hearts were truly broken for the first time in their entire lives. Some of these people feel a hopelessness that is almost impossible to describe and absolutely impossible to empathise with unless you have been there. 

This book is for the WTF'ers. The people who can't understand how it is that they are waking up every morning or how it is that they can smile again or how it is that their wish to follow their little one off this mortal coil has not been fulfilled yet.

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Opening chapter: 

On May 17, 2013, at around 13h30 in the morning, our four month and 3 day old son, Hudson, woke us up and died. We were arguing about his breathing, we needed to do something but we were both so sleepy and stressed out that we couldn’t see that clearly enough. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The alarm that monitored his heart beat screamed so loud and so suddenly – almost to say “it’s too late, you idiots, it’s too late to argue about whether or not to take your baby to the hospital. He’s gone!



This story is about me, mostly. When I found out I was pregnant, I started a blog and I carried on blogging through my baby’s death as a means to get everything that was inside of me out into an ether. Any ether. I didn’t care.


Today, four years later, I’m upright. I didn’t slit my wrists in the bath. I didn’t disappear from society. I didn’t lose my job and become a bum. My heart didn’t physically break, although I often wished it would, and so many people have said I should write this all down so I can help other mothers that I thought, why not.

If you’re reading this, you’re either a recently bereaved parent or a well meaning friend of a recently bereaved parent and you’re trying to find a way to make sense of it all. 

There are so many books out there written specifically for you, the mother or father of a dead child and this club we’re a part of is expensive cos they’re not cheap. Problem is, they’re also not bloody useful sometimes either. I read several after my Hudson died. Not one included the words: Fuck you! Fuck you, universe. Fuck you, god. Fuck you, whoever’s in charge of this fuck show. Fuck you, whoever’s running a voodoo doll of my life – I was never a bad enough person to warrant this. Never!

So, now there is at least one. And you’re reading it. I’m not going to congratulate you. Nobody wants to be part of this club with no name. Nobody wants to have to buy a book about this. It’s nonsense. It’s wrong. But it happens.


And if you get one thing out of reading this book, I hope it’s the peace you need so desperately now of knowing that this pain won’t crush your chest, your throat or your soul forever. You will find peace and, gods willing, you will know hope again.






Best chapter - It's been two weeks...

It’s two weeks today since I last held my son.

I have no real learnings for you. I couldn’t write a book on anyone’s grief but my own. I can tell you it still feels surreal. I still wake up wondering why he’s so quiet. I still feel the universe was unforgivingly unfair on both Hudson and us. And I still miss holding him close to my chest. I can also tell you that we haven’t touched his things, except to smell them and rub them against our faces. We haven’t even discarded the milk we’d prepared so diligently the night before he died.

It’s hard. I can go all day feeling drier than the Sahara and then I feel the longing and the emptiness in our home or I look at one of his photos, remember the time I took it and the flood of tears comes.

The only thing that doesn’t go away, even momentarily, is the pain. It’s physical and real and on-going. Unending.

I won’t write much more today. It feels disloyal to his memory still. Everything feels disloyal to his memory. Eating without interruption. Watching a TV show in its entirety. Taking a walk outside without his baby monitor. The guilt is all consuming. We’re alive and he’s not.

However, I did promise a few mothers that I’d share my eulogy with them and it was the only thing I wanted to get right on the day we bid him a public farewell, so here it is.

“I sat alone this morning, the day before we sent your body away, and listened for you. I tried as hard as I could to see you. And in the quiet noise that is nature, I felt my own heart skip a beat as it has done several times a week since you were born… I drew in a sharp breath and remembered… That this is where you live now.

I’ve woken up before the sun every day since Friday. My intentions always become very clear to anyone paying attention. I would hate the sun. I would hate it with every ounce of my being because it refuses to mourn. Because every time the sun comes up it means another day I have to live without my son.

Every day I’ve begged whoever’s in charge to take me back, just to last week Wednesday or Thursday so I could stop it. But, most hatefully, it will not be.

Every day I’ve asked that I be taken instead and every day ends and I’m still here.

Every day I’ve blamed myself for letting my beautiful son die.

Every day I get up from the couch where I sleep, I go into the room where he woke us at 01h30 on Friday morning to make sure we were there for him when his little heart gave up and I weep as I realise anew that nothing we did changed anything.

Every day I rise and I am as cold to my bones as his soft skin was the last time I kissed his face and all I want to be is as cold as the winter that has truly arrived since the day he died.

But, no matter how hard I try to hate everything in this world, it doesn’t last.

I realise the sun is actually Hudson. I realise that he will not allow me to hate for much longer. I know that he will turn my anger into calm. My grief into smiles as I remember him. I know this is a long journey and I won’t be the person he needs me to be today but I also know as the sun hits my shoulders that he will be there to comfort me  until I can be the person he knows me to be.

He mourned with me on Saturday and Sunday and the sun was hidden behind a blanket of miserable grey clouds and rain (as my friend Axel posted in a private message to me: “The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”) but now Hudson warms me. He reminds me that he’s here still.

That everything he went through in his life was mapped out long before he entered my body and became a part of me that would never leave. That he chose his path. He chose Nick and me. He chose his faulty heart. He chose the difficult and trying life that he lived and he chose his death.

Before Hudson, I realise now, I was a shell of a person. I would say I was selfish and wanted what I wanted in life and had no room for the bigness of children. But it was a lie. I was just empty and didn’t know any better.

I was walking along looking for somebody and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. He forced his way into my life and, in doing so, saved me from myself. I fell truly in love for the first time in my life. Hudson turned me into something. He turned me into love. He filled me. He completed me. He made me count.

You are all here because you knew Hudson in one way or another. So I’m not going to go into the surgery and hospital stays and rubbish doctors or even tell you the funny stories of the nurses who poked fun at his fake crying. You’ve all followed his journey through pictures and updates, you’ve all fallen in love with him vicariously because, even from a distance, it was simply impossible not to adore this kid.

What you might not know though is that no matter how hard things got. No matter how many times I thought I couldn’t put my son through another day in the hospital. No matter how meatily the guilt swelled up inside me as I watched them poking his skin in search of veins. There was never a day in his life that my son didn’t smile broadly and gummily and his dad and me. That he didn’t stare deeply into my eyes with eyes as big as his face – eyes that enveloped me entirely with one glance and showed, with such beautiful honesty, his instant and surging love for his mom. Eyes that told me exactly what he needed at any given point of the day.

He was happy and giddy and shy and full to the brim with love. He was a personality and proud of it. He had a sense of humour and a physical wit that would put me to shame. He held his head up high almost from birth. He spoke his first word. He laughed as his father and I touched his little tummy.

Even his last day with us was one filled with gums and fistfuls of grabbed hair as he hugged me tightly and snuggled his little face tiredly into my neck.

But one of the most important things I’ll remember about my son was his impact. When he was born, I said he was going to be famous. When we found out he’d have to undergo surgery, I said he was going to be big and important. I told him he had no choice but to make it through and that I was expecting nothing but success. And he was and still is all of these things.

Because of Hudson, people are hugging their children a little tighter at night.

Because of Hudson, one mother might ask her doctor to perform the check on her unborn son for CHDs and, in doing so, save her child.

Because of Hudson, Nick is a father, the proudest, most attentive, doting father I have ever known or could ever have hoped for.

And, because of Hudson, and only because of Hudson, I am now a person of substance. I am Hudson’s mother, and this is always going to be bigger than anything I ever wanted to be.”



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