CheltenhamMaman HQ interviews Pea
The beautiful woman in front of me to the untrained eye is young, fashion forward and carefree. Her locks are the most vibrant shade of lilac and her skin is quite honestly flawless. Depending on which one of her Instagram pictures you stumbled upon you might be forgiven for thinking she was just a young girl enjoying the prime of her life foot loose and fancy free.
But you’d be wrong. Look a little closer through the Instastory of this remarkable young woman and you will see a tale that will quite possibly break your heart. Nicola Redshaw, aka Pea, is quite simply an inspiration to women everywhere. She has faced the darkness that all mothers dread and slowly but surely she is emerging from the other side. Pea has kindly agreed to share her story with the Mamans de Cheltenham in the hope that it will leave us better able to support our friends and family should they ever be unlucky enough to experience something similar.
CMHQ: Hi Pea. Thanks so much for this interview. How did your lovely nickname come about?
Pea: Pea feels more like my name than my real name to be honest! I was teeny tiny when I was born, metaphorically the size of a pea. I’m still teeny tiny now even though I’m all grown up, so it’s been a lifelong nickname and I’m rather fond of it.
CMHQ: So this time a year ago you were in a very different place. You were expecting a baby. Did you know he was going to be a baby boy?
Pea: We decided to wait until the day to find out, we don’t like to open our gifts before Christmas Day! Happy surprises are few and far between in life, and the guessing was a lot of fun. Boy or girl, I couldn’t care less, a healthy baby was the end goal and the memory of Dean announcing ‘It’s a boy!’ as our son arrived into this world is one of my happiest, most precious memories.
CMHQ: But on the day he was born things all changed. Can you explain to us how your baby became so ill so quickly?
Pea: Winter was born seemingly healthy, he was pink and crying. Both my pregnancy and labour were trouble free, and there was never any concern or sign that he was poorly. He was placed on my chest and we felt that overwhelming rush of love that you experience in that special moment. He opened his eyes and gripped our fingers, it was a moment of pure bliss.
I will never forget the moment that he stopped breathing. He had been with us for half an hour, but it felt like just a few minutes. The midwife took him out my arms and he was suddenly so limp and lifeless. The emergency buzzer sounded and medical staff poured into the delivery room where they eventually managed to resuscitate him. We just sat there in shock until we were told that he would most likely not survive, and he was rushed away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
It wasn’t until 3 hours later, after heartbreaking phone calls to family, that we were able to see him again. The staff worked endlessly to give him a chance at life, and he was transferred to Leicester the next day where it was thought he could be cared for with greater chance at survival. We watched as the ambulance team took him away and we travelled up with family after I was discharged. Our son fought so hard to stay with us, but we arrived at Leicester Hospital just in time to say goodbye, and it was as Dean held him for the first time, that our son became an angel.
CMHQ: You named him Winter Wolfe. It’s such a beautiful name, how did you come to choose it?
Pea: It’s funny really because there was never any real reason for us to choose that name, we just liked it. We had a few other names that we considered but Winter and Wolfe were both names that we liked, so we just put them together. Since we lost Winter, I’m so incredibly thankful that we chose such a vibrant and unique name, I see the word Winter written everywhere and anytime I see anything with a snowflake or a wolf it’s a perfect reminder of our son, just like he’s popped up to say hello. There’s even two children’s books we have found since Winter died titled ‘The Winter Wolf’, and one is a beautiful story all about a Daddy wolf who mourns the loss of his wolf son and wishes so desperately to see him one more time until one day his wish is granted.
CMHQ: The immediate days and weeks after Winter died must seem like a blur. When someone close to you goes through something so very sad it’s so difficult to know what to say, or what to do to help them. You’ve been there, tell us what to do in this situation.
Pea: Everyone is different, every story is different and everyone deals with a tragedy like this in a different way, so I can only talk from my own personal experience.
I would suggest firstly that you reach out to the parents. People are often so afraid of intruding or saying the wrong thing, but grieving a baby can be terribly lonely without support. Let them take the lead. If they want to talk about their baby then listen, if they don’t, then listen. We were so grateful to receive cards, flowers and momentos of our son because it verified his existence, he was here and he was important. There is a saying that goes ‘People don’t mention your baby’s name because they are afraid it will upset you, but they don’t realise that never hearing their name is your greatest fear’. We want Winter to be remembered, and I love it when people tell me they have planted something in his memory, or lit a candle at a church on holiday with him in mind.
If you’re not sure what to say, then say just that, say ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say, I’m thinking of you and your family’. Losing your baby is overwhelmingly painful, and there are few words that can be of comfort. Personally I was grateful for any words, and although sometimes people may not say ‘the right thing’ I focused on the intention rather than the delivery. But I would suggest steering clear of phrases like ‘everything happens for a reason’ ‘at least you know you can have more babies’ or ‘be positive and look to the future’. Remember that even a positive outlook requires a process of grieving.
People so often focus on the Mother, so don’t forget Dad is grieving too, as well as extended family. I have been advised by fellow angel mothers that if the baby was stillborn, then its comforting to know that they fell asleep to the lullaby of their mothers heartbeat, that they didn’t suffer, that they were untainted by the outside world. For me, I was grateful that I could share Winters eye colour. It was always nice to hear ‘what did he look like, how heavy was he?’ I found comfort in the thought that Winter wasn’t made for this often brutal world, he was just made to be inside his mummy. All he knew was love from the beginning of his life to the very end, and that I was with him as he entered this world and I was with him as he left it.
Don’t try and compare it to your own different tragedy. Let them own their grief and their journey. As someone who has experienced both neonatal death and more recently, a miscarriage, I can confirm that they are different experiences. Both heartbreaking, but worlds apart in pain.
If you are due a baby or have a little one around the time your friends baby dies, then this is a huge hurdle. I struggled with this, but I was open about my feelings. It is easy to feel jealous, and of course then, I felt ashamed. After all, jealousy is ugly and no one wants to admit to feeling that way. But it’s quite natural and can be overcome. Talk to your friend, be approachable, say that you know it could feel difficult for them, understand that they may feel a loss of connection with you, and don’t confuse their sadness at losing their baby for sadness that you are having yours. When my friend had her first baby 4 months after I lost Winter, I was afraid to even see a photograph for fear that my heart would break, and the first time I held her baby boy I cried. But I was lucky, she is an understanding friend, gentle and open, and although it is still often emotional, I am so happy to watch her become a mother now.
I would also say to you to be there for the long run. It’s a new sad story, people are instantly there for you, and then, quite rightly, life continues. But infant loss is a never ending grief. That doesn’t mean it is always sad, but there will be first birthdays, first steps, first day of nursery, first day of school. It is a deep and intense aching that is animalistic and instinctive, to bare a child and lose them is a lifelong journey. Breaking down in tears at an 8 month or 8 year anniversary doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t coping, it just means they love their baby and they miss them. Be patient with them, be gentle with them, wrap them up in love.
CMHQ: So now, 9 months after Winter passed away, how are you bearing up?
Pea: When people ask me how I am doing I say ‘I’m doing my best’. It’s a cliché, but grief is certainly a rollercoaster. I can wake up feeling thankful for the day, miss him terribly at lunchtime, feel lucky to have met him at teatime and cry myself to sleep at bedtime. But I accept any feelings that I encounter and honour my grief as much as possible. Having Winter certainly changed my life for the better, despite losing him. I think most mothers to angels would agree that they would go though all the heartbreak and pain again just to have that moment with their child, and I prefer that he existed and died to him never existing at all.
Winter only lived for one day. Just one little day. And it’s funny, because a day passes us by and we think nothing of it. We count down the days, we wish our days away. But Winter’s whole entire lifetime was just one day. I wake up in the morning and I think ‘I have a little lifetime today, let’s make the most of it’. Even if I’m just washing the pots, I think ‘How lucky I am to be alive today, providing clean plates so we can eat’. Winter taught me that every moment of every day is precious, even if we are working or cleaning, we are lucky to be alive. We don’t have to jump around all day saying ‘wow I’m alive everything is amazing!’ But we also don’t have to waste our time with complaining or discontent. His life ended suddenly after just one day, and he taught me that we never truly know when OUR life will end, we really don’t. And that’s not a depressing lesson, its enlightening and it motivates me to make my life meaningful and to make sure I leave this world better than how I found it, just like Winter did for me.
CMHQ: How do you most like to remember and reconnect with your little boy?
Pea: I love to sit in his room and talk to him. I suppose it’s a little strange really, because he never actually came home with us, but we had the room decorated and ready, and we have filled his cot with teddies that we were given in his memory. I rock in the chair where I imagined feeding my baby, and I look through this giant book we have filled with his all his photographs. The house is filled with his pictures and momentos. His birthdate is on my keyring, his face is in my purse, his name is on my bag and his hand and footprints are by my bed, he’s literally everywhere.
We had our amazing photographer friend take photos at Winters funeral and we have them in a book that I love to look through. It may have seemed like an unusual request at the time, but I love to see all the people who came to say goodbye to him and I treasure those photographs because every moment counts when you don’t have many. I love to post little insights on my Instagram, I feel like I’m sharing a piece of Winter love with the Instagram community and I’ve found endless support on there.
We have his name on a memorial petal at our local SANDS memorial garden which sits in a beautiful woodland spot. We take flowers down there most weeks and we say hello to all the other babies on the memorial too. Mostly I remember and connect just by thinking about him and saying his name, by talking about him, by telling him out loud that I love him and wishing him goodnight.
CMHQ: And the future?
Pea: I will always and forever talk openly about my son. His life is the greatest gift to me and it would be selfish to not share it. So I will keep writing about him, perhaps begin a blog… maybe one day a book? Haha, who knows!
We will continue to raise money for the neonatal ward that fought to save him. Without their hard work and dedication, we wouldn’t have had that precious day with our son and there is nothing I can ever do to thank them enough for that. Since we began fundraising in November, around three weeks after Winter died, we have raised over £13,000 for Derby NICU. That amount has come from so many different sources, with friends and family taking part in the aptly named ‘Winter Wolf Run’, enterprise fundraising by the children at the school I work at, to the design and production of a limited edition clothing line in Winters name on sale at Eversew Beautiful. And we don’t plan to stop, we will raise money for this amazing cause forever. You really have no idea how much local hospitals rely on the goodwill of fundraising until you see it for yourself.
CMHQ: How can the Mamans de Cheltenham support you and the work of the amazing staff at Derby Neonatal Unit.
Pea: By publishing this interview! By posting on social networking! By spreading the word and sharing Winters story and his justgiving page. We often live in our little bubble of life, and when I was pregnant with Winter, I lived in the biggest bubble ever. I was pregnant and I was going to have a baby. Losing him never crossed my mind, stillbirths were from the Victorian era, and infant loss was a third world problem. I’ve been tossed into the ugly reality that many pregnancies end in heartache and there are thousands of stories just like ours. We don’t need to be afraid that all pregnancies end in sadness, but we can be prepared for the worst, and units like our local NICU are doing just that. They save lives just as they begin, they give new life a fighting chance, and anything that we can do to help with that seems like a really bloody good idea to me.
CMHQ: Thanks Pea. The Mothers of Cheltenham and in fact the Mothers throughout the UK are right there alongside you, we’ll prop you up whenever you need a support. You are one of us and always will be.
Nicola Redshaw aka Pea can be followed on Instagram. She’s also JUST started her own blog One Day of Winter. If you’ve enjoyed reading this interview and would like to donate to Derby NICU via Winter’s Justgiving page please do so here.
CheltenhamMaman is proud to make Derby NICU our Charity of the Month for August in memory of little Winter Wolfe. For more information on this worthy charity visit our Charity of the Month page. 10% of all CM income received in August will be donated.