Goodbye my princess
A bout of flu killed my toddler at Christmas
As my daughter Sophie blew out the three candles on her birthday cake I clapped and cheered. It was 12 December 2014.
How had my baby grown up so quickly?
With pink and blue birthday balloons up, Christmas on its way and a house full of children, I couldn’t be happier.
‘Shall we let her open the presents now?’ my partner Simon, 38, grinned.
Simon wasn’t Sophie’s dad, but he loved her to bits.
Tearing at the paper, Sophie squealed with delight at the pushchair we’d bought her.
‘Thank you, Mummy,’ she said as I hugged her tightly.
My little princess.
Suddenly, Sophie’s big sister Chloe, then 5, grabbed her hand. ‘Let’s play!’ she beamed. I felt so lucky. My girls were my world.
Four days later, though, Sophie was under the weather with flu-like symptoms of a high temperature and headache. She couldn’t even keep down Calpol.
At 8pm, I put her to bed and hoped sleep would help.
But, checking on her at 9.30pm, Sophie didn’t stir.
‘Simon!’ I screamed. ‘She’s not breathing.’
As Simon tried to resuscitate her, I stood watching, frozen in shock. ‘I think she’s died!’ I said. Suddenly, Chloe, who shared the room, woke up.
‘What’s wrong?’ she panicked, sobbing. ‘I want to hug Sophie.’
Instead I scooped her into my arms, and took her downstairs, away from the horror that was unfolding. She was so scared. And so was I. The paramedics arrived, and, for 45 minutes they tried their best to resuscitate Sophie.
‘Please, God…’ I prayed silently.
But Sophie needed to be rushed to hospital.
There, I hoped we’d have a miracle.
But then I heard the words, ‘We’re so sorry...’ I sobbed, disbelievingly, as doctors explained Sophie had been suffering from the flu.
She’d vomited in her sleep, then died after inhaling it.
My baby was gone.
Arriving home without Sophie felt like a surreal nightmare.
Her pink and blue party balloons still hung on the walls, birthday cake was left uneaten.
‘How did this happen?’ I said to Simon, incredulous.
Just days before, our girl had been so full of life.
The house was too full of sad memories, so we moved to be closer to my family in Macclesfield. Christmas was just days away, but I wanted to crawl into bed and never come out again.
‘We have to focus on Chloe,’ Simon said.
I was too upset to explain it to her, so my sister told her that Sophie was now living with the angels.
Chloe was confused and grieving, too.
We did our best to give her a good Christmas. But Sophie’s absence was overwhelming.
Finally, an autopsy confirmed that Sophie had died from flu and related
Checking on her at 9.30pm, Sophie didn’t stir…
And I’d thought she just had the sniffles…
In 2014, the flu vaccine wasn’t offered to young children. I only wish it had been. Sophie was buried at the end of January.
The church in Macclesfield was packed to celebrate her short life.
‘I’m not sure I can do this,’ I told Simon before the funeral.
‘We have to say our goodbyes,’ he said.
He was right. But seeing the tiny, pink coffin, covered in stickers of dinosaurs, felt like a punch to the gut.
And when the song Let It Go, from Frozen played, my emotions overcame me.
It was her favourite song. I could hear her giggling away in my head.
How would I ever begin to let her go?
Over those next weeks, the world felt a dark, bleak place.
I clung to Simon. And, just five weeks after Sophie’s funeral, I discovered I was pregnant.
Simon and I were thrilled to be having our first child together. It gave us something good to focus on. But as my belly grew, I found myself remembering how excited I’d been carrying Sophie. I missed her so much… In September 2015, our little boy Toby was born – a gorgeous, giggling miracle, amidst all the awful heartache.
We’re now living in Knutsford, taking one day at a time.
Although I’m learning to live with the pain of losing my child, it’ll always be with me.
I have Toby, now 2, and Chloe, 8, to consider. And they’re both so excited about Christmas this year.
On what would’ve been Sophie’s 6th birthday, we’ll have a family meal and remember her especially. At Christmas, we visit her grave, too, tell her we love her.
I’ll also make sure the kids and I get a flu jab this year. Some people say there are risks, but if it stops one mum enduring the heartache I have, it’s worth it.
My beautiful girl should be looking forward to celebrating her sixth Christmas.
Instead she’s with the angels.
I’ll make sure the kids and I get a flu jab this year