The baby I pictured in life and death: Bruce Goodison filmed his daughter's birth, and photography brought solace after she died in her cot
Friday 09 September 1994
Camilla was born on 13 June 1989, and I filmed the birth. We had desperately wanted a daughter, and when she arrived Helen kept saying, 'Bruce, it's a girl, it's a girl.' I was overjoyed, and I can remember thinking at the time, 'This is what life is for, to give life.' I felt complete.
Camilla was perfect. The doctor said that of all the children he had seen, she was the most healthy and responsive. We had no reason to believe that anything would go wrong.
It was a beautiful sunny day. I had gone into town to arrange a holiday and stopped to chat with a friend, who also had a baby, about our kids. I felt really content. On my return home, a policeman came rushing towards me. As I opened the door, I could see Helen in the back room, sobbing. The policeman said: 'Did you know your daughter had died?'
I went to Helen and clung to her. She kept apologising to me, sobbing: 'It's my fault.' She'd found Camilla dead in her cot a couple of hours before. Arlo, her four-year-old son, had witnessed the whole thing.
My reaction was to be practical; to comfort Helen, to make calls, and to arrange the funeral. I found it more helpful to look after everyone else than to look after myself.
I was reluctant to go to the Chapel of Rest where Camilla was lying, but I decided that I should take the children - they needed to understand. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths advised me that it would help me to grieve if I took photos. All I could do was take pictures. I couldn't cry, not even when Asher and Arlo prodded Camilla and put their heads to her chest to check if she was still breathing.
I found the funeral devastating. It just looked so stupid, this little fluffy pink coffin disappearing behind the curtains. I knew that was the last thing, the last time I would ever see her, and I broke down. The most upsetting thing is that there are no ashes left from a new-born baby, because the bones are not properly formed. I had nothing, other than the pictures that I had taken.
The day after the funeral, I tried to remove Camilla's things from the house. The most difficult thing for me was to dismantle the cot, the place where she had died. At the time, I thought that it would be in Helen's interest to eradicate all memory of Camilla's existence. In retrospect, I was doing it for myself.
I felt robbed. I was bitter, frustrated and angry that there was absolutely no reason for my baby's death. I suffered a terrible sense of guilt and a feeling that this was some kind of retribution.
Two years after Camilla died, we had another baby. Lauren was born with Down's Syndrome. She is three now, and a lovely little girl, but I'm frightened to get too close. I know she could die prematurely. Maybe it's selfish, but I'm trying to protect myself.
Helen and I have since split up. We have been through so much together, but from the start we wanted different things from the relationship. She needed a family man, and I wanted a career.
I'm trying to restore Camilla as a person and a memory. When I think of her, I see her growing up. There are many things that trigger the memory, and I've stopped trying to suppress the feelings. I chose the music for the funeral, by Beethoven, and now and then, when I'm by myself, I listen to it. It reminds me of how I grieved for her then, and I can grieve once more.
Interview by Anna Welstand
Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, 071-235 0965, or 071-235 1721 (24-hour helpline)
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