Losing a partner, especially when they are young and healthy, is devastating. But dealing with the shock and grief when you also have a young baby depends on the support and love of those around you.
They stopped travelling after five years when Danielle became pregnant, and settled in South Wales. Danielle and Marcus had decided very early on that they wanted children, but after 13 years they had assumed it would never happen. Danielle miscarried, but that heartbreak was lessened when she became pregnant with Isaac.
They moved into their new home a few months before he was born.
“Marcus was just amazing,” Danielle says. “Having a C-section meant I couldn’t do an awful lot. Because of my age, I was 42 when I had Isaac, you have to be a little bit more careful.”
Then, after seven months, tragedy struck.
Danielle left Marcus looking after Isaac while she went to the dentist.
“I can remember getting out of the car when I got home and hearing Isaac screaming,” she recalls.
He didn’t have a big cry and never had had. So it was a really big shock to hear him crying so loudly. I walked into the house and Isaac was still in his baby walker, wedged in the doorway. I knew something was drastically wrong.
“I opened the bathroom door and Marcus was lying on the floor. I knew in my heart of hearts there was nothing I could do, but I still did everything the lady said to do on the phone. If I hadn’t I would always have thought ‘what if I’d have tried?’ But I knew.”
Marcus had died of a brain hemorrhage. He was 40 years old.
“We stayed at Marcus’ parents for three months before we came home. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to do anything,” Danielle says. “I’m not very good at asking for help. There were times I would sit there thinking ‘I could really do with somebody to help me now’. But picking up the phone was not one of my strengths.”
“It was Susie, my health visitor, who mentioned Home-Start to me. It is one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Home-Start Carmarthen-Llanelli visited Danielle and Isaac and matched them with a volunteer called Vickie.
“Vickie was just amazing,” recalls Danielle, “so calming and so honest and real. She had six children of her own so she had lots of experience. She was somebody to talk to. We did get on very well and I did feel as though I could be really honest with how I felt. I couldn’t talk to Marcus’s mum about it because obviously she had her own grief and, bless my dad, he bore the brunt of my anger”
Vickie also helped Danielle with practical jobs around the home like turning the mattress or going into the loft, tasks that Danielle was too fearful to do on her own because she worried about Isaac should anything happen to her.
As well as the emotional and practical support, Vickie helped Danielle with something very important. She helped her to play with Isaac again.
“When Marcus was around it tended to be him that did a lot of the playing with him. And I was more than happy to sit and watch that happen. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Vickie was amazing with getting down on his level and just making inventive play, his imagination now is amazing. She reminded me how to play and taught him how to play.”
After a year, Erica from Home-Start Carmarthen-Llanelli told Danielle they thought she no longer needed their help.
“She said ‘we’re holding you back from making stronger relationships with other people’. And she was right,” says Danielle. “Instead of relying on the people I was getting to know I was relying on my Home-Start volunteer.”
Now, five years later, Danielle has signed up to be a Home-Start volunteer herself, and is taking part in Home-Start Carmarthen-Llanelli’s training programme.
“I would love to do for somebody else what I feel has been done for me. I really want to give back. Home-Start certainly made my journey easier and more bearable.”