The Night She Died

I have never talked much about the night she died

The night our baby daughter died

I have never talked much about how I found her

Perhaps because of the feeling of guilt

She was beneath her blanket when I found her

The wrong way round in her cot

I have been told so many times

That is was not my fault

But it never stops me wondering

If really it is

I may not have killed her

But I did not stop her dying

Baby Tilda had a full autopsy

It ruled out suffocation and overheating

It did not say that this was an accidental death

It stated clearly in black and white

That Matilda Mae Henley died from SIDS

I will never ever forget that day

The day the coronor called

The coronor called.

Cause of Death.

For Miss Matilda Mae.

Age 9 months.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The death of a seemingly healthy baby in its sleep, due to an apparent spontaneous cessation of breathing.

I remember the relief that day

That our baby had not died because of something we had done

But now I am back to wondering if maybe she did

Though people assure me

And reassure me

That coronors are not allowed to lie

I am sure I will be asking for questions

Until the day I die.

me and my girl

I will never forget the night she died

Finding my daughter



But still warm

I screamed for David

He knew from the sound that something was wrong

He came and did what I could not

Which was spring to action

And start doing mouth to mouth

It was hopeless

She was gone

But that is what you do

Your instincts take over

You do what feels most natural to do

You try to save your daughter

The ambulance was called

My mother was there

Thank goodness she remembered where we lived

Because in that moment I had no clue

I called David’s Mum

I think I did

Though I have no recollection of dialling the number

And I screamed the words, ‘She’s dead!’

I think it was an answer phone at first

Or perhaps David’s sister Clare?

In all the screaming

The coming and going

Of police and ambulance crews




Esther and William did not wake up

They were not disturbed

We were not allowed to see them

The police checked on them whenever we asked

But we were not allowed in to their room

The medics tried to save her

There were needles and bags



They truly tried all they could

I was in a hundred worlds of pain

Asking over and over ‘Is she dead?’

David and I clung to each other




My Mum was there

It must have been awful for her

I have not yet found the strength to put myself in her shoes

I know she has nightmares still

We all do

Crippling excruciating nightmares

Mum asked the medics to give me something

A sedative? I don’t know

David and I said no

That was not the right thing to do

I needed to be there for Tilda

For David

Esther and William if they woke

David’s parents took us down stairs

Where we waited in the lounge

For the declaration we knew was coming

Our baby girl was dead

A blog post that I read some time after

Confirmed what in my heart I always knew

The medics knew Tilda was dead on arrival

But they had to do what they had to do

For themselves

For protocol

And to remove any doubt from our minds

That everything that could be done had been tried

The medics worked tirelessly with Tilda

The police were so caring and kind

When it was time to take Tilda to the hospital

They invited me to travel in the ambulance with Tilda

I tried

I really tried

I got into the ambulance

But I could not stay

The pain, the burning in my heart

This was not my baby girl

It was, of course, her body

But my daughter was not there

The police offered to drive us in their car

So this is what we did

Driving slowly

Dazed, confused

Behind the ambulance

To walk into the hospital with our little girl

One of the officers drove David’s Mum to the hospital too

So that she was with us and able to take us home

We seemed to be at the hospital for hours

But it was not very long at all

The poor policeman who was with us

Sat with tears and hurt in his eyes

He was a daddy too

It was not a nice night at work for him

He was wonderful with us

And I will never forget the compassion and pain in his eyes

We were allowed to see Tilda one last time

They had laid her out in a Moses basket

She did not look right

She did not look real

Her soul, her spirit were no longer there

But it did not stop me wasting those precious moments

In begging her to wake up

Please Tilda, wake up

I am begging you Baby Tilda, please wake up

Of course she did not

She could not

But I could not believe it

Accept it

That our baby girl was dead

I screamed and I cried

And I begged

Until our time was up and we had to leave

And all too soon we were leaving the hospital

And leaving our baby girl behind

We drove home in Granny’s car

As our baby was wheeled to the mortuary

The physical pain cannot be described

There are just no words

There were no words when we got home

We asked our parents to leave

We wanted to be alone

The two of us

The four of us

No longer the five of us

Somehow we had to find words

We had to find the words to tell Esther and William

That their baby sister had died

We did not sleep that night

It was morning really

And it was not long at all before Esther and William were awake

No one had told us what to do

No one had told us what to say

We had asked everyone to leave

But we knew

As soon as Esther and William were up we knew

We could not do this on our own

We called David’s parents and they knew

They knew we could not do this on our own

And as soon as we wished it

They were there

The Henley’s surrounded us

And for two weeks they carried us

As we struggled to find the words

To make our two and a half year old twins comprehend

What we could not

That our baby daughter

Their baby sister

Had died

I have never talked much about the night she died

The night our baby daughter died

I have never talked much about how I found her

Perhaps because of the feeling of guilt

Perhaps because I cannot remember the details very well

Perhaps because I cannot bear to

Perhaps I do not want to

Perhaps I want to remember the days she lived

Not the night she died

My girl and me

45 thoughts on “The Night She Died

  1. Lovely Jennie – I don’t know you, but I couldn’t leave this post unanswered.

    You are a brave, brave lady in so many ways, and you have our utmost admiration.

    Thinking of you so much at the moment, Chloe xx

  2. Jennie I almost could not read this, but I did because it must have taken a lot from you to be able to write this. Utterly heart breaking, like something out of a horror or a nightmare.
    “We drove home in Granny’s car As our baby was wheeled to the mortuary” – I just can’t imagine the pain and anguish you must have been in. I wish this wasn’t so. xxx

  3. I have followed your web site for ages all I can say is inspirational I have tried many of your messy play ideas thank you. Sending you and your family big hugs xxxxx

  4. You are so very very brave to write this and allow us all to read it. It’s just so heartbreaking and I hope one day the pain will start to ease.

    Sending love and hugs xxx

  5. My stomach churned and flipped whilst reading this. I cannot bear to begin to try and imagine how completely horrifying this was for you all. It is every parents’ worst nightmare.
    You are so brave to open up about it all, it is so important to raise awareness. I heard about your angel when it happened, through a mutual friend of ours, and I’m local to you and saw posters for fundraiser you had at Beale Park. I have only recently joined the blogging/twitter world and am glad I can finally pass on my sad condolences on losing your stunningly beautiful girl. She looks so smiley and happy in all your photos, I hope you can take some small comfort in knowing that she will never know pain or sadness, and that you made her short life a happy one. I’m so so sorry for you terrible, irreplaceable loss xxxxx

  6. Dear dear Jennie,
    That is the most heartbreaking post. Your heart must be broken into pieces forever. It doesn’t make any sense why this happened to you and no words from me can make anything better. I am so sorry Jennie. I don’t know why this has happened. I am so sorry x

  7. This post left me feeling breathless with pain for you Jennie.

    It hurts so much to read this, let alone live this nightmare.
    Sending so much love, you write beautifully and gracefully.

    Tilda will be so proud of her Mummy xxxxxxx

  8. Jennie, this post made me feel breathless and so upset reading it, but I wanted to get to the end and leave you a comment because I think you are so incredibly brave for writing it. The words don’t seem real, like something out of a nightmare, yet you have had to endure them. The most unthinkable thing that can happen to a parent. I am so so so so very sorry. xx

  9. I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through this horror, that your daughter was stolen from you with such injustice and that, while our lives go on in a way that must very often feel like more stabs in your already broken heart, your own life has also irremediably been stolen from you. This is all so unfair x

  10. Love and peace to you all. I hope it helps to write, so many of us would do anything to stop your suffering if only we could. Your writing shows such grace and strength. Jx

  11. The gut-wrenching pain of reading this, it’s literally left me breathless. To have actually lived through it and to re-live it in writing this post… unbearable. There are no words to express how tragic your loss is, how much heartbreak you are forced to endure… unimaginable and so very very unfair xxx

  12. I don’t know what to write, words just don’t seem enough.
    I’m thinking of you as I always do everyday & beautiful Matilda Mae x

  13. I don’t know what to say Jennie but I couldn’t read this and not say anything. It’s such a painful post to read but I can only imagine how much more painful it was to write. You are so very brave to do it. It’s so so unfair that you had to go through this pain and horror.

  14. Such a heartbreaking post which must have been almost impossible to write and relive such a traumatic time.
    Truly beautiful photographs.
    Love always,

  15. Oh Jennie…. Oh Jennie… I can’t bear it, that you lived through this. I couldn’t bear to read this but I did, because I need to know. How can I be any kind of friend to you if I don’t know? Thank you for sharing. It’s a new level of brave and I think an amazing sign that you now feel able to start to go there a little. I wonder if the counselling is helping you to start to entertain covering these memories in more detail or if it’s just the right time? You are the bravest human being I know, truly. I feel sick to my stomach that this can happen in our Universe. It shouldn’t be. Can’t describe how I highly I think of you that you can not just live through this but create so much of worth and so much that’s positive in the months after. You’re quite simply unbelievable and you deserve all the support and admiration and love that comes your way. x x x x x x x x x x x x

  16. As a mummy and a police officer who attends such devastating tragedies this post has touched me beyond words. I can not imagine the pain you have been through. I’m so sorry xxx

  17. Jennie I dont know really what to say but i could not leave without saying something on such a heartbreaking post. All i cn say is i am so very sorry you are such a brave family and such a brave lady thinking of you always , much love claire xxx

  18. I cannot put into words how reading this post makes me feel. Heart broken is not nearly strong enough. The horror you faced that night is incomprehensible to all but those who’ve known it. I read through tears and I would give anything to turn back the clock for you and your loved ones. You have been so so brave to write your story down xxx

  19. Even imagining this is so frightening and heartbreaking – just terrible that you experienced this. I am glad you are having some counselling as you must be so traumatised by finding her, quite apart from the grief of losing her. Be gentle with yourself xx

  20. I am so sorry for the loss that your whole family has experienced.
    I really, really hope that the 4 of you have some very happy times to look forward to and that you are also able to look back fondly amidst all of the heartbreak and hurt you must all be feeling.
    All my love. Xx

  21. Am so heartbroken for you. I simply cannot imagine how awful that night must have been. You are such a brave person doing all that you do with the loss of Matilda, Sending all my love, and thinking of you all. Xxx

  22. I’ve now read this five times over and still don’t have the words to say how sorry I am or describe how deeply your writing and Tilda’s life have touched my soul. I wish you love and strength Jennie. X

  23. It is such an awful thing to happen! I am grateful that you had such wonderful people around to hold you up in those horror-filled hours and days, even if they could not do anything but be there and hold your hands, show compassion.

  24. Hi Jennie, I have read your blog in pain as I went through the same – the surreal horror and panic of realising your baby has died, and dealing with everything, from hospitals to mortuary and the worst, having to tell others, in my case, having to tell my husband. I know that one of the reasons I am still in so much pain over a year later is because I have a huge sense of guilt, babys don’t just die?? I have asked my paediatrician several times if it was my fault, what could I have done? And more recently how do I know he’s not lying to me? In the end my husband told me, ‘there’s only so many times he can tell you it’s not your fault, he’s only human.’ It wasn’t our fault Jennie, you are a wonderful wonderful mum x

  25. It has taken me a while to read this post as I knew it would be hard, and it was. Of course nowhere near as hard as your pain. You know i am here for you as much as I can be xxx

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