A letter to Katy on her 18th Birthday.

Dearest Katy,

I thought I would write you a letter tonight. Tomorrow should be your 18thbirthday and tonight I feel quite “lost”. It’s hard to gather my thoughts for some reason so I thought if I wrote them down perhaps they would flow easier. I have been told in the past that my blog entries have helped others to understand their own pain and experiences so if I can do that again tonight then maybe the ache in my heart and the stinging of my eyes will ease.

If you were still here we’d be celebrating right now. Maybe we would have gone to New York! (That’s what Charley wants to do for her 18th) Maybe we would be in the middle of a family party surrounded by relatives from far and near and all of your friends. We would be so happy. We would be having so much fun! You would be having your first (legal) alcoholic drink! I would have made sure it was an amazing cocktail. I also would have made that party so incredibly special for you, full of surprises and fun, without doubt I would also be totally embarrassing you with baby pictures. However, that is not how it is right now.

Firstly, I am alone. Charley is away and Scarlet is with your dad. As I type and look to my left, I see two huge carrier bags that contain two massive helium filled balloons. I just had a flash back to that time we messed around with the helium balloons and you were laughing so much you almost wet yourself. Anyway. One of the balloons is a star shaped “Happy Birthday” balloon. I did wonder when I bought it if that was entirely appropriate actually. It isn’t a “happy” birthday is it! Yet I still wanted to buy it. The other balloon is a huge message board that I could write on. The girl in the shop put me under pressure to write on it there and then. I wanted to come home and think about it, choose my words carefully. She said the words might smudge unless I wrote it before she inflated it. I had to think quickly on my feet. There was a queue. Nothing about today is what I expected. I chose to write “Happy 18th birthday to our beautiful Katy Holmes. Always loved, never forgotten. Love you always, Mummy, Daddy, Charley and Scarlet xxxx”. It seemed strange writing such childlike words on a balloon for your 18th. In my heart though you are still 10 years old. That beautiful little blonde girl with an infectious smile and the kindest, purest heart. At last the tears I have kept away all day today are starting to fall. I need to cry.

I have been thinking today about the day you were born. It was a scorching hot bank holiday weekend and Preston North End were due to play at home on the Monday. I was two weeks overdue and had gone in to be induced, which by the way was bloody horrible. Your dad was frustrated because he wanted to watch the footy so we were hoping you would arrive before then. The hospital was stifling and the nurses wouldn’t open any windows because of germs. My contractions started on the Friday but by Saturday morning you still hadn’t arrived. That’s when they burst my waters for me with what looked like a huge knitting needle. Now there’s a pain I have never forgotten! Nanna had been visiting for two weeks because she wanted to be there when you were born. I was her first grandchild and you were my first child. It was supposed to be so special. Nanna had left though because she was due at a wedding in Holland. You were supposed to be a week old by now! By Saturday afternoon I was in full on labour so I was wheeled down to the delivery ward.

Your dad was making me laugh. He sat down reading a magazine and it was making me so mad. He kept singing these daft songs and I wanted to knock him out. Each time I laughed the contractions grew stronger. Suddenly the midwife walked in and announced my cousins were waiting outside! This puzzled me. I didn’t have any cousins up here?! Your dad went to see and came back assuring me that they were my cousins. By now my legs were in stirrups! I don’t know what the hell the nurse expected me to do! The epidural had just kicked in and I was enjoying the gas and air (I couldn’t feel anything actually but the gas and air felt great so I blagged it). In the end I shouted at the nurse “well why don’t you just bring them in here and introduce us properly then because it isn’t like I’m busy or anything!!” My cousins decided it wasn’t the best time to see me and went off to Blackpool for the day. An hour later, after 18 hours of labour and a forceps delivery, you had arrived weighing 7lb 10oz. The emotions were so powerful. Your dad was over the moon, kept cuddling you and chatting to you. I found this more difficult to do. The delivery had been quite traumatic and I was struggling to bond with you. I was crying. It was easy to mistake those tears for happiness but the truth was I was traumatised. Later on that night my cousins returned. Their names were Kay and John and they were my mums cousins! I’d never heard of them but they were so lovely to me, they had brought me flowers on behalf of nanna. That day not only did I meet my first born child but I met the best friend I ever had, Kay and I became inseparable. She took on the motherly role that was missing from my life. With Kays help I was able to overcome the trauma of the birth and fall helplessly, total and utterly head over heels in love, with you.

As you grew into a toddler I was fascinated with how I was influencing you to learn about the world. In fact, I was that interested that I embarked on a childcare course so that I could understand more about this incredible process. You were so clever, so bright, so much fun and a little beauty. When you were around two years old I fell pregnant with Charley. You were over the moon. When Charley was born I remember watching you holding your dads hand walking down the ward towards me and you suddenly seemed so grown up! You ran into my arms and couldn’t wait to hug and kiss your new baby sister. My life was now complete. I was so excited about the future ahead.

It always fascinated me how different you and Charley were to each other. You were a real lady. You were particular about your outfits. You were so kind and caring about everything in life. You held yourself well and would sit upright with your legs crossed. Charley was a little monkey. She was always singing, dancing, wiggling her bottom and she would fling her arms around your waist and you’d be laughing having to drag her around as you walked. I can see that so clearly now as I type. You two adored each other. You were more than sisters, you were best friends. One Summer when you were 10 years old, your last one actually, I remember feeling deeply concerned about how I was going to prepare you for a cruel adult world. You were just too nice and I wanted you to keep that innocence. I chatted with Kay. I was very emotional and I said I was scared about what troubles may lay ahead with life in general and how could I protect you from them. Kay said she totally understood this. She knew you as well as I did. She got it. Kay told me there was nothing I could do except be there at every step of the way. It was only months later that you were diagnosed.

I have relived that moment so many times but I am not going there right now. Knowing you were going to die filled me with incredible guilt. I was terrified that I had some how brought this on you because I had said I didn’t know how to prepare you for adulthood! In the privacy of my own home I cried so many tears in the corner of the room. I rocked back and forth and begged God so hard to forgive me and to let you live. Scarlet was born in the midst of it all. I never told you you were going to die, your head was full of excitement for the new baby. I was convinced I was going to find someone that could cure you. I searched the world over with the help of the media and found the only doctor brave enough to try but even he said no. I never gave up though. Not until 24 hours before you died. Only then could I actually see myself that it was too late. I could feel it in my heart. That was when I sat down with you and your dad and never left your side. I hope to God you knew we were there. We never moved. We played your Disney CD on repeat. At 1am you slipped away. At that moment right there, all our lives changed forever.

So, fast forward 7 years. Life couldn’t be any more different for us all. We are now members of a club we never asked to join. I find myself in situations quite often where I am asked how many children I have and I can never figure out whether to say 2 or 3. If I say 3 it usually leads on to questions about what schools you all go to, how old you all are and so on. That has proved awkward. Likewise so has saying 2. I end up getting upset because I said 2 when I wanted to say 3. That part just doesn’t get any easier.

People are naturally inquisitive and are desperate to ask questions about the whole “Katy thing” but they seem to dance around the subject. I don’t suppose they would feel right just coming out and asking “so, what is like?”.I find that people tend to chat away about my family and their family and when I mention you that’s when they say “well I didn’t like to mention her in case it upset you but……”. People are always happy to hear me talk about you though. I still include you in my daily conversations as I do Charley and Scarlet too! I don’t care if this upsets anyone or not. You are one of my 3 children and you are loved as much as they are. I will never stop talking about you just as I don’t stop talking about them.

I have made some questionable decisions over the past 4 years that I am sure you have watched and wondered about. Since losing you I have a genuine conflict over living life to its fullest because it is short and being extra cautious because it is short. I have made snap decisions telling myself that life must be enjoyed because it is a privilege taken from you. Sometime these have worked out well and other times they haven’t. I have also taken time over some decisions to ensure that I get things right but then I find myself wondering just how much time I need before I know it is right! I have been judged many times by haters and I have also been carried through the hardest times by the most amazing people. I wonder how other people would have dealt with losing not only their child but their mother 8 weeks later…..on Mother’s Day? I think i have done ok. It could have all been so much worse. Our charity work continues to be one of our best decisions. We have invested over £1.1M towards paediatric brain tumour research now and that is all in your memory. We were blessed to have the most amazing team of people around us. That is such a proud moment.

Charley and Scarlet are such wonderful young ladies. You would be so proud of them both. I know that you watch over them because I talk to you every day and ask you to. Thank you for showing me the little signs that you do that you are still here. Thank you for giving me the wisdom to make better choices and for guiding me through life when I have felt like giving up. Thank you for looking out for me, your dad and all your brothers and sisters. You and Auntie Kay are together up there now so I know you are being well taken care of. Thank you for helping me though a recent difficulty where I have felt bullied and intimidated and giving me the patience and the strength to continue forwards. This still continues. Thank you for sending us all happiness when we most need it and love when we are lonely. I only hope you can feel the love I have in my heart for you, Charley and Scarlet. Right now my heart is pounding as I glance up at the clock and realise it is almost your birthday.

Katy, I am only human. I get things wrong and I get things right. Throughout your life this was the case. I would give anything to be able to go back in time and not tell you off when I did. I wish I had had more patience and understanding. I wish I hadn’t been so sharp at times. I wish I could have been the mum for you that I had always wanted for myself. I wish I had hugged you more, held your hand more, been less irritated with things. I wish I had left the housework, worked less hours, booked the days out. I wish I had let you spend your birthday and Christmas money instead of making you bank it. I wish so many things. I was lucky enough though to be given the chance to tell you just how proud I was of you and how much I loved you before it was too late. I know, without doubt, that you knew that.

You are there and I am here. I cannot see you but I can feel you. I cannot hold you but I feel you holding me sometimes. I always talk to you and I always hear you. We were joined by a chord when you were born, now that invisible chord binds us together even now. I cannot celebrate your birthday with you but I can celebrate it with everyone else. The public are amazing and have been throughout. Please watch over those who are celebrating for you. I promise to try and live life the way I have always wanted to live it, free from fear, intimidation and domination. Life is too short to tolerate that from anyone. Please allow me to believe in the good things that are happening instead of questionning them, i just know we have an excellent chance of happines ahead now. I also promise to ensure that the girls are happy, however that manifests itself.

I have spoken from the heart, I have probably waffled on. I don’t care though. I just needed to say what I was thinking. Katy always remember how much we all love you. I will take your flowers up tomorrow and place your balloons beside you. I will still be awake at midnight, torturing myself because that’s what a mother does. Tomorrow we will all be thinking about you. Please watch over Charley in France on her school trip, she will need you more than me. I hope you have a way to celebrate your birthday up there. Walk beside us always. In the words of Charley Holmes: “I love you. I miss you, I wish I could see you again”.

Love always,

Mum xxx

P.S You would love my hair now, it is long and red just as you had always wanted it to be :-)