Remembering James

Benn and Sarah lost their beautiful little boy at just 3 days old. This is Benn’s story.

Benn Lockyer family photo

My first son, James William Lockyer was born on Wednesday, 27 September 2017. His pregnancy was normal, and we were constantly told how “perfectly healthy” he was.

But during labour our midwife was unable to find James’ heartbeat.

I waited anxiously in the hallway as Sarah was rushed to theatre so that James could be born as quickly as possible via c-section.

When I was finally able to see James, he was being set up on ventilators and I was quickly taken back to see Sarah and tell her the news.

We had just 3 days with James before he passed on the morning of Saturday, 30 September.

The coroner’s report would later inform us that during labour a blood clot formed in James’ umbilical cord, cutting off his oxygen supply.

In the time it took to get James out to safety, the lack of oxygen caused what the doctors at the time referred to as a ‘severe and permanent brain injury’.

This injury, medically called Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy (HIE), would be what would claim his life after only 3 short days.

The support received from Red Nose has helped me find ways to live with my grief, accept that it will be ongoing and fluctuating, and acknowledge that it is okay to not be okay.

We attended group support sessions for several months after losing James, which we found extremely helpful.

When we fell pregnant with our second child, we moved to the Pregnancy after Loss group and then started with private counselling sessions which are still ongoing.

Sarah’s parents visited the Red Nose grandparents support group for several months after James’ passing, which helped them in dealing with their grief too.

Red Nose have helped us connect with other families who have had similar experiences. It has helped us find ways to honour James and keep his memory alive.

Whoever said grief is like a never-ending emotional rollercoaster was correct.

I’d be lying if I said I remember my whole journey up to this point. Days, and even weeks, have just disappeared behind me.

There was a lot of numbness at the start as I worked on accepting that James was no longer here. I searched for things we could have done different that may have somehow led to his death, sure that this must have been our fault in some capacity.

Counselling helped a lot at this part of my journey, and slowly Sarah and I began to accept that what happened was beyond our control, and so we shifted our focus to finding ways to help celebrate James.

In March 2018, Sarah and I ran a fundraiser in memory of James and to raise money for Red Nose.

The event was held in a local park and between the cash donations, sausage sizzle, raffle, bake stalls, face painting and jumping castle, we managed to raise over $10,000.

Each year we also attend the Red Nose Remembrance Service to honour and remember his short life.

After James we have had two more children, Ella Marie and Jack James Lockyer.

They have certainly made this journey easier, as their smiles are a great reason to get out of bed every morning, however watching them grow up is a constant reminder of everything we will always have missed with James.

What would have made him laugh?

Who would he have looked like?

What would be his favourite book, or song?

With all 3 children so close together in age, it is always on our minds as to what our family would have looked like had James survived.

James is still very much a part of our everyday lives, and we do many things to keep it that way.

  • We have photos of James around the house, workplace and on our phone backgrounds, just as we do for our other children
  • His photo, or bear, is always included in family photos
  • We light a candle for him each night, which sits alongside his photo
  • Sarah and I have necklaces which have his handprint, footprint and birthdate on them
  • We have a shelf in the house which has James’ ashes, photos of him, and gifts that people have bought us to help honour his memory
  • Every year on James’ birthday and Christmas we buy him a Hot Wheels car and invite friends and family to do the same. It’s a way for us to keep him involved in the two events, and offers friends and family an easy way to help be a part of that too
  • I have a tattoo on my arm in memory of James, and Sarah has a ring which she wears in his memory
  • Each year on his birthday we celebrate him by having a picnic with family and friends, where we release balloons in his honour
  • We dedicate the 27th of each month to James and where possible, have a picnic for him or do something else that feels special
  • In the leadup to Red Nose day each year we run a fundraising campaign selling chocolates (however this has been postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19)

Some of the best days I have are those where someone has talked about James, whether just saying that they were thinking about him, or asking details about his story.

Yes, I will almost always cry when I talk about him, but that’s because I still love him and miss him and that will never change.

I don’t feel bad about the tears and don’t feel like it’s a sign to end the conversation. I just remember it’s because there is a part of my heart that belongs to James.

Red Nose Day helps us share our experience and connect with other grieving families. It helps raise awareness to the risks of infant loss, and hopefully reduces the stigma surrounding speaking about the death of children.

If you know someone who has lost a child, don’t ever be afraid of talking to them about their loss.

Like all grieving parents, all we want is for our son to be remembered.

Red Nose Grief and Loss 24/7 Support Line 1300 308 307.