Seven weeks together, and then cot death took my son from me
Laurie Woodruff had just seven precious weeks with her son Arthur before he died.
Arthur died of natural causes due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but for months after his death Laurie blamed herself.
“Arthur was born by emergency c-section when I was about 37 weeks pregnant,” says the 27 year old.
“He was tiny weighing only 5lb 3oz but we were let home after about five days in hospital. He was such a lovely baby. He was just starting to smile and show some personality when he died.
“It was just so amazing, I loved being a mum and he was the most beautiful little boy, I just wanted to stare at him the whole time.
“I was breast-feeding him and I fell asleep with him in the bed with me. He liked being close. When I woke up he was cold it was the most horrible thing.”
An autopsy revealed Arthur died of natural causes but Laurie says for a long time she blamed herself.
“You go over and over it in your mind, thinking whether it was your fault. You just feel so guilty.”
The autopsy did find that there were risk factors for cot death - Arthur wasn’t laid on his back and he wasn’t in his own bed.
“I would do things differently but at the time you just do your best. He hated being in his own cot, he always liked to be close.”
Although Laurie was a trained psychotherapist she said she struggled to deal with her grief.
“I didn’t cope at all at firs. It was so difficult. There were days when I just didn’t want to live and then days when I was just so angry. I was just horrible to everyone, my mum was a saint and I don’t know how she put up with me.”
Arthur died in February 2015 and for nearly a year Laurie refused to change a thing in Arthur’s room.
“I don’t know if it was denial or the fact that I just couldn’t face it. My family kept saying I needed to sort his things out but I just couldn’t. I didn’t really know that much about grief, but eventually I realised I needed help although it took me a long time to eventually reach out for help.”
Laurie went to see a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist to try to help her come to terms with what had happened.
“It really helped talking it all through with someone. Getting help was the best thing I could have done as there were times when I just couldn’t see the point of carrying on after what had happened. I loved Arthur so much and loved being a mum I just couldn’t see the point.”
After getting help and support and also reading a book about letting possessions go, Laurie says she was able to eventually sort through Arthur’s things.
“Keeping Arthur’s clothes, his cot, his toys... It had seemed the right thing to do. But eventually I realised they were holding me back from truly moving forwards. Every time I held them, I felt overwhelming sadness and loss. Eventually I saw that letting them go didn’t mean I was saying his existence wasn’t important. Clearing them from the house was so hard; I insisted on doing most of it alone, But afterwards I felt so much better.
“I gave most things to charity and I found that thinking about other children and parents, all benefitting from Arthur’s things, helped too.”
“It sounds strange but something so simple as giving some of his things to charity and turning his room into my office really helped me with my grief. I have kept a few keepsakes but most of his things went to charity which felt like something really positive.
“I also started to feel a lot more positive. I started to realise that if I could come through losing Arthur I could pretty much deal with anything. In a strange way his death gave me the confidence to move on with my life and take the risks I had always been too scared to do in the past.”
Laurie, from Sheffield, says Arthur’s death has also brought the family closer. She had split up with Arthur’s dad before he was born, but they are now back together again.
She now has two business her psychotherapy business lauriearthur.co.uk and a Tidy Minds a business she has set up with house doctor Chloe Darker, inspired by how she felt after clearing out Arthur’s room.
“There is a huge psychological side to decluttering. I was a huge hoarder but just getting rid of things has really helped clear my mind and I feel so much better, I want to pass this on to other people.”
Laurie decided to talk through her experience to tie in with baby Loss Awareness week.
Dr Clea Harmer, chief executive of Charity Sands, said: “Baby Loss Awareness Week is chance for bereaved families to unite in remembering their precious babies which we hope will help them feel less isolated and alone.
“It’s fundamental that we raise awareness of the issues surrounding baby loss and infant death and push for changes in practice across the UK.”
Two MPs were today leading a debate in Parliament
Conservatives Antoinette Sandbach and Will Quince both lost babies. They hope talking about the issue will help stop other parents from “suffering in silence”.
As for Laurie she now wants to help others who have gone through a similar thing.
“I learned how to overcome huge trauma and transform myself emotionally.”
Having trained as a psychotherapist after watching her dad struggle with schizophrenia, Laurie focuses on helping others take control of their lives and achieve their goals. She is also offering a free Grief Recovery session to parents who have lost a baby.
“I feel strong enough to do that now,” she says. “I know what it is like to be where they are and to come through the other side.