NATALIE’S STORY APPEARED IN ‘TAKE A BREAK’. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RAISE AWARENESS OF CHILD SAFETY BY SHARING YOUR STORY PLEASE GET IN TOUCH.
Pacing along the nursing home’s corridors, I passed my supervisor Karen.
‘Look at you,’ she chirped. ‘You’re glowing!’
It was Autumn 2010 and the latest in a series of strange comments. Days before I’d gagged at the smell of my boyfriend’s mum’s cooking and she was convinced I was pregnant.
‘Don’t be silly!’ I snapped back.
Sure, I’d gone off certain foods and was feeling sick, but it was just a bug.
The reason I was convinced was because I had polycystic ovary syndrome. I was diagnosed aged 13 and told I’d need help in order to fall pregnant.
Me and Kelvin, 23, had been together for four years and the topic of kids had come up. We just planned on tackling the issue when the time was right.
But then, after weeks of comments, I returned home from work to find Michelle, Kelvin’s mum, holding a pregnancy test.
‘Are you crazy?’ I laughed.
I grabbed the test and made my way upstairs to take it. This’ll keep them quiet, I thought.
It must have been an hour later when I waltzed into the bathroom and, in the corner of my eye, spotted the two blue lines. I started to scream.
‘What’s happened?’ Michelle panicked, running into the room.
‘I …It …’ I mumbled.
No words would come out so I just gave her the test.
‘You ARE pregnant!’ she shouted, pulling me in for a tight hug.
After regaining my voice, I called my mum, Jane, 49.
‘You’re having me on,’ she said. ‘You can’t fall pregnant.’
I took a picture of the test and sent it to her but, like me, she still wasn’t convinced.
While waiting to break the news to Kelvin, who was at work, me and Michelle went to the doctors.
‘There’s definitely something there,’ the doctor confirmed after feeling my stomach.
Michelle was giddy with excitement, and so was Kelvin when he found out, but for me it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until my first scan that the news sank in.
Besides morning sickness, pregnancy was problem free. And on 18th July 2011 Harley Loake was born. It was the happiest day of my life.
The following month, me, Kelvin and Harley moved out of his parents’ into our own home. Here, we enjoyed watching Harley develop.
At five months old Harley started smiling. We all called him ‘the smiler’ – he’d smile at everyone and everything.
Harley was always by my side, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But on 12th June 2012 my life was torn apart.
Every day I’d visit my sister Sam, 23. Harley would giggle and play with her little girl, Alexis, five. They were the best of friends.
I was getting ready to go – taking clothes out of Harley’s chest of drawers to pack – when Harley crawled over and handed me a jumper.
‘Is that what you want to wear?’ I asked.
I took the jumper off him and added it to his bag on the bed. Seconds later, Harley said ‘mum’.
I glanced over to see him standing against the drawers, the bottom two drawers open. Harley started to smile and bounce up and down. That’s when it happened.
In a split-second, an old, 32-inch TV that had been sitting on top of the drawers lost its balance and toppled forward.
I watched in horror as it crashed down on top of Harley, pinning him to the floor.
Without thinking, I threw the TV to the side and scooped Harley into my arms.
There was a moment of relief when Harley glanced at his daddy, who’d woken up and come charging into the room, and then me. But then his eyes closed and his head flopped backwards.
‘Harley? Harley!’ I repeated through sobs.
I couldn’t see any signs of injury, but knew it was serious.
Kelvin ran downstairs, out of the house and started banging on the neighbour’s door. I followed, not knowing what to do. I just stared at Harley, willing him to wake up.
One of our neighbours knew first aid and put Harley in the recovery position while we waited for an ambulance.
The next minute I was at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Harley’s being whisked into resuscitation. I sat close by, hopeless, as a swarm of doctors and nurses surrounded my baby. After half an hour a nurse came over.
She said: ‘Could you come and hold Harley’s hand? He needs his mum.’
I crept over and gasped at the sight of Harley. Tubes snaked all over his body. I grabbed Harley’s hand.
‘Do you want to hold him while he passes away?’ a different nurse asked.
The words hit me like a sledgehammer. Passes away?
I collapsed to the floor, sobbing. Moments later I was sat on a sofa with Harley in my arms. He looked so peaceful. I was still holding him when the nurse apologised and said he’d gone.
Harley was pronounced dead at 9.18am. He was just 10 months old.
It was a horrible nightmare, one I was desperate to wake up from. But that moment never came.
It wasn’t long people my stepdad, 49-year-old Mick, arrived.
Still holding Harley, I sobbed to him: ‘I’m really sorry. I’m Harley’s mum. I’m meant to protect him.’
And then I heard Kelvin. I passed Harley to Mick, wiped my tears away, and went over. He was carrying a bag full of Harley’s clothes and toys.
‘Is he in there? Crawling about?’ he asked, hopeful.
My stomach flipped.
‘No,’ I said. ‘He’s not going to be crawling.’
‘Has he gone into intensive care or something, then?’
‘Harley’s lost his life,’ I said.
Kelvin tried to run away, run from what’d happened. But I held on to him.
We went to see Harley together. Then, a little later, it was just me and Harley again. Two police officers arrived after that.
‘I’m very sorry,’ one started. ‘But we need to ask you a few questions.’
I re-played the scene, bit by bit, pausing to control my cries. Half-way through one of the officers got a phone call.
‘Forensics have been to your house,’ he said after putting the phone down. ‘They know it’s a terrible accident.’
The police officers stood up then.
‘We’ll take you home when you’re ready. We’ll be right outside,’ one said.
Nurses advised me to go home, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t say goodbye just yet. It wasn’t until I was given a lock of Harley’s hair that I finally did. At least then I had a piece of him with me.
I went back to my mum’s and was met by a huge hug off my little brother, Nathan, now 19. We also had to break the news to my other sisters, Vicky, 11, and Shannon, 17.
For days I was numb. I tried to go back to my house but everything I saw – the sofa, the TV – was a reminder of what happened.
Two days after passing, Harley was taken to the funeral home and I visited every day.
It was a couple weeks before we found out the cause of Harley’s death. The TV had hit the right side of his chest, causing the right ventricle of his heart to split open and fill with blood. I was speechless. My poor Harley.
On the 2nd July 2012, nearly 200 people gathered for Harley’s funeral. It was overwhelming. After, we all wrote messages on blue helium balloons and released them into the sky, to Harley.
A couple of days later, still at my mum’s house, mum came running into the living room.
‘Everyone get outside,’ she demanded.
Me and my siblings all gathered at the front, wondering what was happening.
‘Look up in the sky,’ she said.
I couldn’t see anything at first, but then there it was – a blue balloon hovering above the house.
‘Oh my God!’ I said.
The balloon floated around for a few seconds before drifting away. I don’t know if it was some sort of sign, but I’d like to think so.
Life was still hard, though. I didn’t like talking about Harley at first. It didn’t help that everyone asked how he died, even complete strangers on Facebook.
Me and Kelvin drifted, too. What happened ripped us apart.
In the September there was an inquest into Harley’s death. They could tell he was clean and well looked after. The verdict was accidental death.
It made me feel a little better about myself. But it took a while to get used to life without Harley always smiling by my side.
I did things without thinking, like ordering a Happy Meal for him in McDonalds. I burst into tears when I realised. Slowly, though, life has gotten easier. I can talk about Harley now.
In memory of him, we release blue balloons into the sky on his birthday, at Christmas and on the anniversary of his passing.
My niece Alexis is helping to keep his memory alive, too. On bonfire night she pointed at fireworks going off above my mum’s house.
‘Look!’ she said. ‘Harley’s making them light!’
I’m in a new relationship now and getting back on track.
We’ve just started raising money for Harley’s headstone and I know just the word I want to use – smiler.
I’m determined to lead a happy life now in memory of my happy son. And that smile of his will never be forgotten.