Saturday, 27 October 2012

How my life has changed in motherhood

I can vaguely remember life before motherhood and to be honest I am a very different person now. Motherhood really has changed me.

I remember discovering I was pregnant with William and what a whirlwind that was. I remember worrying myself about every single niggle and pain wondering what was happening to my body! I felt strange watching my belly grow bigger and bigger after years of trying to keep it flat I was watching with wonder as it grew and grew. Feeling the horror when I first discovered my stretch marks and how many came to follow those first few. The nervousness and the excitement of those final weeks waiting for labour to come along. I think as a first time mum it is all new and exciting and it does overtake your life a bit, especially when you've not got much else going on around you!

I remember the day we went into hospital to have William. I was so unsure of what to expect, but after a long, drawn out labour, we were whisked to theatre for a forceps delivery and little William had his cord around his neck, so was a bit of an odd colour. He also needed a bit of resuscitation but was soon shown to me, my little boy. Bless him. Then the most amazing feeling of contentment and love and adoration consumes you as you gaze at their beautiful face. I know everyone feels this way about their own baby, but he was beautiful. I remember him opening his dark eyes to peer at us and just feeling so emotional, happy and elated. I remember being so proud to show him to my mum when we were taken back to our room, and when my dad saw him for the first time, and we told him we had called him William Lawrence (William after my great grandad, on both sides coincidentally and Lawrence after my Dad). He burst into tears and it was something I will never forget. I remember the drive home from the hospital the next day, we drove so slowly as we had such precious cargo on board.

But then as I was breastfeeding William, I felt as though my own life was now put on hold. I felt like I always needed to be close by incase he needed a feed. Breastfeeding William was something I had felt so so passionate about. I had wanted the very best for my new baby, and what could be better for your baby than mummy's own special milk made just for him. We had been taught all about the benefits of breastfeeding and to be honest, I didn't give it a second thought. That was what I was going to do. I am always one to think "if you're going to do something, do it 100% or don't bother" and I initally found breastfeeding very hard work. William wouldn't latch properly and he seemed to be constantly hungry. It turned out that William had tongue tie and needed to see a specialist to give it a snip, but it was quickly fixed and he began to feed well.

You can ask anyone who visited me in the first few weeks, I was not myself. I didn't want to see anyone. I felt horrible due to gaining so much weight, not having any money to sort out my hair or buy new clothes, I was tired and irritable from a serious lack of sleep and on top of that I didn't want to allow anyone else to look after William as he was my precious baby and I didn't want to let him out of my sight.

This wonderful vision of motherhood you have when you are first pregnant is nothing like the reality. You envisage lovely sunny days with nice strolls with your pram, the lovely baby smell, buying new outfits, you know what I mean. The reality is very different: colicky baby, screaming all night, no sleep, bags under your eyes, no energy, no money to buy those new outfits for the baby and not feeling much like taking the baby out incase you see someone you know and you look so hideous. It makes me smile now to listen to first time mums spilling out their hopes for their babies, we have all done it. We think that we have all the answers to baby/child problems, and the reality is you will do anything that makes your life easier or quieter. I know, as I have done it myself, watching badly behaved children in shops or restaurants thinking "my children will never do that because I will do this" but when it is actually your children you will feel very different. Nothing can prepare you for having your own, I did a bit of nannying in Australia and helped my auntie when I was just a kid, take care of my cousins when they were babies, I thought I knew it all... how wrong I was!

I was finding motherhood exhausting, challenging and relentless. I loved my baby but I was finding everything very hard. It was during a routine health visitor appointment that we were discussing an upcoming visit from some family members who were to be staying in our house, that I burst into tears and realised I was finding it all too much. She felt I might be suffering from postnatal depression and she started to help me find a way out a dark time.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy motherhood because I do, it is such a rewarding job. I love watching William learn something new and seeing him grow into a proper little boy. It is wonderful but exhausting. Now I can see the joy that motherhood brings, the lessons it teaches and the happiness your children bring to so many. The immense sense of pride when you see them learn and achieve, and how content you feel watching them sleep.

But, given the difficult labour and the postnatal depression, it is no surprise really that when I discovered I was having Harry I went into a bit of a meltdown. Things had started to find a bit of normality and I was beginning to feel a bit more like myself. We had gotten pregnant very quickly and when I started to imagine myself with a newborn AND a crazy, active toddler I started to suffer with anxiety. I started to get panic attacks quite regular and had my health visitor come and try to put things into perspective.

Can you imagine the guilt I now feel that I was worrying myself about how my life would be with two children. There I was wondering how I would struggle to manage life with two children and yet now I am struggling to manage life without one of them. I would say things like "two? what am I thinking", others would say "you will have your hands full" and I honestly used to feel so panicked and really not prepared for life with two children. Now it makes me feel physically sick to recall those feelings, as obviously I would give anything to have my Harry here now with my William, playing together nicely.

This week I met with a friend who has two children: one the same age as William and one the same age that Harry would be. It was interesting to see her manage with ease and show me that all my worry was for nothing and that life with two children is a challenge, and even more tiring and consuming but it is something that can be done and enjoyed.  I thought I would find it hard to see a baby who is the age Harry should be, but it wasn't. I had been worrying myself about seeing babies and how I might feel, but in actual fact I feel that I am at a place on my "journey" where I have accepted what has happened and now I feel like these little babies are all precious in their own way, and they aren't Harry or reminders that Harry is not here. They are little lives of their own making people smile and I could actually enjoy watching her and spending time with her.

It was seeing her that made me consider how I would have coped with two, and all the little things that I have missed out on as a second time mother. How different my life would be if I had Harry with me. But at the same time it made me realise how my life has changed because I don't have Harry with me. All the interesting, wonderful and kind people that I have met because of my loss, and all the new variety and responsibilites in my life that have come about because I have lost Harry and wouldn't have done otherwise. So I must feel grateful as all these changes and new experiences are little gifts from Harry, my life is very different and while I obviously still miss Harry I am glad that while I don't have him here with me every day, his name is going on to give little gifts in their own little ways.

Additional note:

This week I have lost a very sweet, kind and beautiful friend of mine. Very sadly and very suddenly she passed away, only months after having her first baby. Here I am months on, mourning the loss of my baby, and now a baby is mourning the loss of her mother. The exact flip side to my experience.
I have been thinking so much about that little baby and how her life must have changed. Her mother was a huge part of her life and now she has gone, it must be so confusing.
My thoughts are with her family at the moment and I hope Kate's spirit can rest in peace.

You will be missed xxxxxx look after Harry for me, hun xxx

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Taking Me Back

I think that in life, there are many times that you want to shut away and not think about too often. But sometimes there are things that transport you right back to those moments, sometimes without warning.

Yesterday when I wrote my blog I was transported back to the difficult times in our relationship and felt all those angry feelings again, but unnecessarily because those times were in the past and have been discussed, dealt with and we have moved on. On reflection, I probably shouldn't have gone into as much detail as I did, as dragging it all up again doesn't really help anyone and doesn't make Harry's Dad feel great either. So forgive me, I should have engaged my brain before letting my fingers type out my very personal tales... It is funny how when I was writing it, I felt like I was back in that time all over again.

The same thing happened this week when I heard the very sad news that a friend of a friend gave birth to her little boy, and sadly he was born asleep. How awful to know that someone else is now experiencing that sharp, horrible pain that I did on that very sad day. I felt like I should get in touch with this mother and wrote her a letter as I was writing it I was remembering the feelings and emotions I felt on those very early days and it was strange to re-experience them again. I was taken back to the hospital room, remembering looking out of the window at the people coming and going in the car park, wondering what on earth has just happened.... I remember a nurse coming into my room offering cups of tea and asking when I was due or if I knew what I was having and feeling very strange.... not knowing how to respond to that question as I had given birth and it not turned out the way we had all planned. The first of many awkward moments.

I remember having to start making funeral arrangements and wanting the best for our little boy. I remembered sitting at the computer with my mum playing music and trying to decide what was right. Strangely, this evening I was caught off guard when Strictly Come Dancing played one of those songs "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Immediately, I was transported back to the church. Stood there in the doorway, clutching onto Harry's Dad's arm, as he was carrying Harry in his tiny white casket. As the song played, I was there in the church, slowly walking down the aisle bringing our son into the church where William was christened, but instead we were there to say our goodbyes. Seeing my family in floods of tears and knowing nothing anyone could do would make it better.

When I visited the neonatal unit and were discussing improvements to palliative care on the ward, we talked about taking footprints and handprints. When we talked about this, I was transported back to being in my hospital bed, high on morphine, in this surreal experience of seeing my newborn hooked up to all this equipment and having nurses help my husband and my mum paint Harry's hands and feet to make keepsakes. I was, at that time, clinging on to the 50% chance that Harry would be ok and couldn't understand why we were doing this as Harry was going to be fine and pull through. The nurses also gave us a beautiful blue knitted bag that they put his name tags and a tiny piece of his hair in. These things I have kept in a special box, of my tiny treasures from Harry's short time. I have also kept the babygro he was dressed in when we held him for the one and only time and the smell on this piece of clothing takes me back to seeing him so peaceful in the funeral parlour.

All these times are so painful so it is no wonder my brain has shut these memories away, but I try to smile through the tears as while it hurts, they are my few precious memories of my little boy and are things I want to hold onto forever.

Friday, 19 October 2012

"You need to work on your marriage"...

When I went into hospital to be induced after my waters breaking days before, Harry's Dad was very keen for me to give birth quickly as it was the beginning of the Euro football tournament. Obviously I couldn't care less, I was just so excited that today was the day I would be meeting my baby, and as I knew how long it took to have William (I was in hospital for 3 days before he arrived!) I wasn't holding out any hope that Harry's Dad would be watching the opening game holding his baby!

Harry's Dad and I have a bit of a funny relationship. We have known each other for many years through various friends as he went to college with a bunch of people I house-shared with when I was a teenager. We knew of each other but didn't really KNOW each other, and were friends on FaceBook etc. I was living in London and just coming out of a long term relationship when I started to chat with Harry's Dad on FaceBook chat now and again as his status updates were always really amusing. Anyway, I was planning a visit to Devon and decided to meet up and we were texting about that for a while. Then he announced he had some annual leave to use up from work and that he would come and visit me in London for the evening. We met up, had some dinner and drinks and had a really great night together and spent the next day wondering around Greenwich. I always felt very comfortable around him and we always felt like we could be completely honest with each other.

Everything happened very fast, suddenly I was leaving London to move back home to Devon, we were moving in together, getting a puppy and then before we knew it we were engaged! He asked me to marry him at a lovely picnic on a sunny day on Dartmoor. We had planned a fabulous destination wedding in the Dominican Republic and in the very same week that it was booked and paid for, I got a positive pregnancy test and discovered our little William was on his way. Obviously, it was a shock, especially as I had been informed by my consultant that I "would never conceive naturally".

In the coming months, we moved to a bigger house and Harry's Dad began working away. I had to quit my job as I was unbelievably sick with the pregnancy and as I was temping it became impossible for me to keep my job open as I just couldn't ever make it in to the office. Things became hard. The honeymoon period had well and truly ended. Harry's Dad was either working away, or out playing football when he was home. I was home alone, unable to drive and with no money, waiting for the arrival of our first baby. I became a bit of a hermit. I lost all my self esteem and confidence, gained a tonne of weight and stayed indoors most of the time. I missed my London lifestyle and my friends, and resented Harry's Dad for going out drinking, and spending lots of time with his friends and leaving me at home by myself. He began misbehaving and things were really as bad as they could get.

After Christmas had passed, I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to get married before the baby came along, so that we were a "proper family" and maybe that would change the behaviour of Harry's Dad. As things were so tight financially, we planned a very small, low key wedding for just close family and a few friends and I was really unsure if Harry's Dad was going to turn up as I honestly felt he didn't want this path. He surprised me, and was there, and we were married. It was a happy day but it wasn't the big day I had always planned, I was an absolute elephant being nearly 8 months pregnant and Harry's Dad was hungover from the night before....!

Anyway, William came along and made the world a very happy place. I felt closer to Harry's Dad as we had the bond of a new little life, who we loved so very much. But, things began to get difficult again when he went back to work, William had horrendous colic, and I was breastfeeding him so there was very little he could do to help with my sleepless nights. I still couldn't drive and felt very housebound, so just before I knew the long weeks away were about to start I decided we would move house again, closer to my nan and to a place where everything was within walking distance. Life became much happier. I had my little boy and I was near to my nan and we were able to do things and see people rather than just the same four walls.

Things between Harry's Dad and I were strained as we rarely spent time together and he was still going out drinking and acting like a teenager. I had learnt to accept how he was, how he would speak to me and make me feel rubbish for not working and not contributing to the household finances, and also that in terms of housework, nothing was shared and I was responsible for everything as well as William.

I was very pleased to pass my driving test and I thought it would be a good idea if I went back to work, to feel as though I was contributing and also to get out of the house and be someone other than William's mummy. After many tearful occassions, I found a fantastic new nursery for William that I felt confident leaving him at. I got a job in a ladies clothes shop in the little town we live in and enjoyed spending two or three days a week being me again. Things between us started to pick up, I felt my confidence returning and our life seemed to be much happier. We decided to try for another baby to give William a sibling and we got caught very quickly. My work were less than impressed that I was pregnant so soon after starting and after some rather strained conversations I decided it was not worth the grief to stay working there.

Anyway, the months seemed to fly by and Harry's Dad and I had our ups and downs. We had a wonderful first family holiday to Spain and things were really great while we were away. Then we came back, things returned to normal and we were arguing again. Mothers Day was a disaster. It had not been planned on the part of Harry's Dad and he had spent the little bit of money we had on a stag do he had planned (for the weekend before I was due to give birth). I was given a lovely card that William had made me at nursery but there was no thoughtful card or gift from my husband, and off he went, and took the car to play football, leaving me and William at home on our own. Luckily I managed to spend the day with my mum as she knew how upset I was and it wasn't so bad after all.

As we got closer to the due date, I started to have pregnancy problems. I was in a lot of pain or very uncomfortable most of the time, I was bleeding and losing fluid on a regular basis and had to make several visits to the labour ward for checks. I always wanted to make sure that the baby was ok but I think Harry's Dad felt like I was putting it on, most of the time.

I will never forget my birthday. I was in so much discomfort, I was crying. I had a lovely day with my good friend who visited from London and my family came over for cake and cards. No present from Harry's Dad, but the promise of a meal at the restaurant where we had our wedding reception. Sadly things were too painful for me to go out for a meal so it was cancelled and then the next day my waters broke.

I had always felt like our relationship was held together for William and if it hadn't have been for him, then I am not sure that our relationship would have made it this long.

Anyway, you know the story of Harry's birth and for the first time in a really long time, I saw some emotion on Harry's Dad's face. I felt so sad that not only was I enduring this hideous experience but he was too. I wanted to protect him. The day we spent with Harry bought us so close and we were able to speak openly and cry together and hold each other. He helped me with my wheelchair that I needed due to my c-section and was very kind and very caring. A side that I had not seen in him for so long.

When we were staying at my parents house and planning Harry's funeral, I felt closer than ever. Like a real team. Things between us were great.

Over the coming weeks life got back into it's old routine of him leaving for work early and me spending the days with William. We became distant. We stopped talking. The arguments started again. Trying to conceive again put us under more strain. My patience with him was wearing thin. I was getting agitated by his laziness and his moods.

It wasn't until one of my counsellors raised the question of how our relationship was going that I said that he was annoying me a lot, and he had said to me "nothing I do is ever good enough". My counsellor said "you need to work on your marriage" I was shocked by her honesty. "Such a high percentage of couples split after the loss of a baby. You don't want to be in that percentage do you?" and I really, truly didn't. And I felt like I wanted to fight for our marriage and not let it go to the rocks. Harry's Dad was working night shifts and I went upstairs and hugged him and said that I don't want to get divorced so we have a lot of work to do!

I have to remember that whilst I can talk about what happened, he doesn't want to or doesn't feel he can. But he still feels the way I do. He has still lost his son, that he loved, as much as I did. The thing that bought us closer will also drive us apart if we let it. So making time to talk and to spend quality time together is so important.

Things are definitely getting better now we are both making a conscious effort to be more thoughtful, and caring, and trying to share responsibilities. To act as a team/united front on decisions or difficult scenarios. And to try to remember what it was that bought us together in the first place.

Because there was a time when I felt like he really was the best thing ever... and deep down, I still do.

Love you Hammy xx

I would like to add a note at the end of this blog as it seems to be causing some controversy.
This is an account from MY perspective. This blog is written as an account from my side of the story.

If it seems as though this is a personal attack on Harry's Dad, then it is not. It is how my marriage has been, for me. So if that is upsetting for you, then perhaps you should try being me. The whole point of this blog is to highlight the "grief journey" and one of the points on this journey is that you need to work at your relationships. And as ours was not perfect to begin with, I felt it important to highlight that fact.

I will add, however, that as ever things are never one sided. I will admit that along the way I have been snappy and had to become a bit of a nag or slightly controlling, but I can hold my hands up and say that I am prepared to address that. As I wrote above, we are working TOGETHER to get things back on track and we BOTH have work to do to make our marriage work.

And just to confirm, I love my husband. He has his moments, but I have written above that I want to work at this and not to let it go. If I didn't, things would be very different right now.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


So yesterday was International Baby Loss Awareness & Remembrance Day It was a funny day for me.

I spent a lot of the day thinking about Harry, but also about the babies of the mothers who have also lost, that I have come to meet since losing Harry. I was thinking about their tiny lives, some that had barely lived outside of their mother's wombs and some that were born asleep. I was thinking about how sad it is that they didn't get to experience some of life's joys and precious moments, how they will never feel the love of their families and how they have missed out on such a lot. This is something I am currently struggling with on my "grief journey". As I mentioned in my previous entry, I have accepted "my loss" - what I am finding very hard to accept is Harry's loss, and I think that is something I will struggle with for quite some time, as it is something very deep.

 I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and I have questioned why on earth this has happened to me? What kind of lesson am I being taught by losing my son? And what kind of lesson did Harry have to learn from this tragedy? I spoke about this, today, with my counsellor. She put this into a wonderful perspective for me, that I wanted to share with you. She said "what if during Harry's time with you in your womb, he learnt everything he needed to, as he was already pretty perfect?" I like that. I like to think that Harry experienced what he needed to from us while he was still growing and that he can now watch from afar, until he is ready to return in whatever way he will.

 I was thinking yesterday about Harry and about his short time with us and remembering those precious few hours that we spent together, and was thinking about all the other mother's that go through "baby loss" as I met with my consultant obstetrician, I asked him how many babies are lost each year, and to give me some kind of perspective he said he was one of eight consultants at that hospital, and he sees probably one a week (we are talking about pregnancy loss and neonatal deaths here). Wow. That is 52 a year just seeing my consultant, that's not counting the other seven consultants, or any of the other mothers losing their babies that are not under consultant care. And there was me thinking it was only me who knew what baby loss felt like. How wrong I was. So when I lit my candles last night, I lit a big candle for my darling boy, and twenty little candles in rememberance of all those babies - and that is an awful lot of angel babies, and grieving families. It makes me a bit sad that baby loss is such a taboo subject, and I feel like there are probably a lot of ignorant people who will close their eyes to my blog and to my FaceBook posts about it, but I hope that in some way, by my discussing Harry and my loss, that it might become more acceptable to discuss openly, as one would discuss the loss of say a grandparent or parent.

 It isn't just on days like yesterday, when we set aside days of rememberance, that I am reminded of my loss. I was recently reminded when I least expected to, whilst combing my hair. How cruel nature is... I found clumps and clumps of my hair falling out. This, apparently, is hormonal and happens in the months after giving birth as your hormones adjust to no longer carrying a baby. This happened when I had William, and I found bald patches! Lovely. I have actually got a lot of new hair growing around my hairline and seeing the hair falling out was another reminder that I had given birth, but had no baby here to make these dreadful circumstances bearable. Obviously, I have my scar to remind me of this loss too and sometimes get a rather nasty sharp pain in it, just as another cruel dig, and also many, many stretch marks across my stomach. How nice.

 I also receive lots of emails from companies telling me what Harry should be doing at this time in his life. What a wonderful reminder when I check my inbox! "What your 15 week old should be doing!" .... no, he isn't doing those things, thank you - I was constantly emailling these companies to unsubscribe to these kind reminders but sadly my requests fall on deaf ears so I have learnt to turn a blind eye to these and just select the delete option.

 I had my six monthly check up with the dentist this week, and as I am still under a maternity certificate (up to 12 months after giving birth you receive free dental care) I was signing the forms and the lady asked me to complete my baby's date of birth. Ugh, a blow to the stomach. I filled it in, holding back the tears that once again I had been caught off guard.

 I have just got home from a meeting at the hospital regarding Harry's Trust where I met with the senior matron on the neonatal ward to discuss how the money the Trust has raised will be spent, and returning to the ward was a very strange one. The last time I was there was when I was saying goodbye to the little man. Pressing the security buzzer to be granted access was a weird feeling of dread, nausea and intrigue. Half of me kind of expected to walk down the corridor to see Harry there on the unit, hooked up to all the monitors. "Don't be so ridiculous" I had to keep telling myself. "You have said goodbye, and you have buried him, he is not here on the unit". But I actually think that he was... For the very first time since losing Harry, today I felt his presence. Like he was with me. And now, when I think about him, I feel like he is giving me a hug around my shoulders. Strange, but very lovely.

 Thank you for finding me Harry, I feel much better knowing your spirit is with me, at last. xxx

Monday, 8 October 2012


Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves.
Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.

Taken from the 5 Stages of Grief (Kubler-Ross)

So this is where I am in my "journey" right now. I hate what has happened and it still makes me very sad, but I have "accepted" this as a reality now, and that it is something that will never change.

I have accepted that in the past four months since losing Harry I have experienced all the stages of grief, at many levels, but I have now accepted that my Harry has gone. And that what I need to do now, and try to make my life better and the lives of my family, and also for Harry to not have died in vain, and to have a great deal of good come out of his very short life.

As most of you know, Harry's Trust has been my lifeline. Working on the many events we have held or have coming up, has kept my mind busy and focussed and all the while raising lots of money to help other families in our situation. I have now set up a group, that I am liaising with the hospital about, to support local mothers who lose their babies. I found it very hard to discover that 5 - 10 babies die each year in Exeter's neonatal ward, and found myself asking how on earth I came to be part of that very small number. Anyway, I want to be there to help other mother's on the ward at this crucial time, but after the Saying Goodbye service, I also want to support those suffering stillbirths and miscarriages, as, when all is said and done, we have all lost a child, that was so wanted and so loved. No matter what stage in our journey, we have all felt that sadness. I have enrolled myself on a counselling course so that I might be able to support others encountering a sad stage in their life, and also a reiki course to allow me to "heal" those people who need healing.

So, yes, my life has changed dramatically. I have changed. I think I am more confident, more able to talk about things I wouldn't have usually wanted to discuss openly, I am stronger and I feel more focussed. All that being said, I have to remember that not everyone else is at the same stage in their journey in their loss of Harry. For example, my Mum was shocked when I told her I thought I had now accepted what had happened, she felt a long way off. She always tells me how I have changed since losing Harry and that she believes I can now achieve anything I set my mind to. I hope that she can now see that she too can do whatever she choses, and can feel that Harry has given her that inner strength and that she should believe in herself a bit more. Harry's Dad also said he doesn't feel close to accepting what has happened, as he feels there are still a lot of unanwered questions. Whilst I agree, a lot remains "open", while we await the report from the hospital investigation, I don't think that should prevent your own personal journey. I will feel a variety of emotions when I read that report, however the report is not going to ever change what happened to our little boy, and probably isn't going to change much for our lives - but hopefully will change a lot for the lives of other people dealing with that hospital, as they will take a lot of learning points from our case.

I still feel the sadness though, and as today marks four months on from the day that Harry was bought into the world for his short stay with us, it has been another hard day. It has been a day of reflecting on the past four months, and reliving that fateful day. But now I can accept what happened - I am unable to change what happened to us, or to Harry, and while that saddens me, it is the reality and of course I miss him terribly, but now we have to look to the future, and try and improve experiences for parents going forward and focus on making our lives stronger and happier.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I'm not going to steal your baby!!

Back in March, where I live, I was overjoyed to have a really miserable late-middle aged American couple move out of our row of four townhouses, I was even more excited to find a couple around our age moving in who were also expecting!

I spoke to the lady and she told me that she was due in May and I told her I was due on 1st July. We were both excited to be new mummys together and we would speak most days about how we were getting on and how uncomfortable we were both getting.
May came and when I didn't see her I would check to see if her husband's work van was around or if her car had been away from their drive for any length of time, wondering if they had gone to have their baby yet.

When my waters broke on 6th June and I was then booking my induction, I was amazed that I might be having our baby before they had theirs.
In actual fact, we both had our babies that weekend, she had a little girl and I had my Harry. Obviously, my baby was not to come home with us, but their baby was completely healthy and happy, and they were able to bring their baby home straight away.

Since coming home, I have spoken very briefly to her husband to ask how they are getting on, and he diverted the conversation towards William and talked about his watering can. I tried to make conversation with her, but she, like her husband, diverted the conversation towards William and made comments about his "beautiful hair". But several times, I would come home in the car and park up, only to see her stop her conversation with a neighbour, run inside the house and close the door.

I was worried for a while that perhaps they didn't know we had lost our baby, as neither one of them had raised the issue or said they were sorry for our loss or ask how we were doing... But they must know as they haven't seen me with a pram or carrying a newborn, but after speaking with a few neighbours, they do know... We have decided they feel awkward for the situation.
I want to fix this, as it is incredibly awkward for me too. I don't want for anyone to feel weird or odd, after all, it didn't happen to them.

I haven't yet seen their baby, but there have been several times that I have been out in the garden and heard their baby crying and it felt like I had been stabbed in the chest. I can bear it now, and I know from speaking to a neighbour that their baby has colic and reflux, like William did, so I understand how much hard work that can be.

Today, I was in the kitchen, folding some laundry by my kitchen window and looked out to see this lady pushing her pram up the path outside my window. We made eye contact, I smiled and waved... She walked on.... What do I do?
I spoke to Harry's Dad about this. He said "perhaps they feel strange, you know, they probably watched Eastenders and worry that you might "do a Ronnie" and want to steal their baby!"

Are they mental? Is that really what people think? I don't have my baby (that I gave birth to, and grew in my womb for 9 months) so I am going to steal yours (that I did not give birth to or have any hormonal attachment or similarity to).... Really? No. That is most certainly not the case.

Yes, I find it hard seeing new babies, and yes I am not in a place where I am going to be ready to hold anyone's new born, but that is not because I think I might want to steal their baby! Haha. Good Lord... I think I will have to be the "bigger person" and try and approach the situation, but have no idea how, or what to do if she shuts the door the second she sees me... Awkward!


For all the angel babies...

When I lost my little boy I felt completely alone in my grief. I knew that others were feeling sad about Harry's passing but I felt as though no one truly understood the pain I was suffering. I had heard before about women who had lost babies at 12 weeks, 16 weeks and even 22 weeks and felt so sad for their loss. I had even heard of ladies who had stopped feeling their babies move, only to find that their babies were to be born sleeping. I had never heard of anyone giving birth to their baby, and having their babies die so soon after birth, especially when their baby was a healthy one throughout the duration of their pregnancy.

Then I began my counselling. I see two counsellors. One at the hospital, that I see once a month, and the local bereavement counsellor who comes to my house about once a week. They made me realise that sadly this does happen more frequently than we all realise, and until it happens to you, you cannot understand how many people have suffered this immense pain. My counsellors have also helped me to understand the stages of grief, and through understanding these stages I can accept how I am feeling as normal, and experience the grief rather than question it. They have also given me really useful ways to work through these stages and I feel that I have them to thank for a lot of the strength I have now.

They have also helped me to understand that grief comes from a series of "losses". In my case, I have lost my son so quickly after I met him, but I have also lost a brother for William, I have lost those days of them playing together, our long walks as a family, I have lost those happy moments sharing my baby with my family and friends, I have lost the buying of beautiful baby clothes and I have lost the cuddles, and the cooing and the little smiles. It is every time I realise one of these "losses" that I experience the pain... sometimes, it is just the pain. Sometimes, it comes with anger that things didn't turn out differently, sometimes it comes with complete and utter sadness, sometimes it comes with the feeling that I want to try and get him back somehow (as crazy as that sounds, but that went on for a long time) and now I am at a place where I have accepted the sad fact that he has gone and that he is happy living with the angels, looking over me and William.

However, I never gave any consideration to those women who had lost their babies "in utero". They still feel those losses. For when a women discovers she is pregnant, it is a real rush of emotion. Excitement, for the baby to arrive; joy, for the fact you are creating a new life; a litte bit of fear, for the unknown and the changes that are to come.... But as a pregnant woman, you spend a lot of time planning. Names, prams, car seats, nursery decor, clothing, nappies, breastfeeding or bottles, how would you like to give birth, etc. You also spend a lot of time dreaming and hoping for what being a mother to this baby will be like (and most of the time, the reality is very different to those dreams!! Sorry guys, I am a realist!). When those ladies miscarry or discover their baby has died, they lose all those hopes and dreams as well, and most of the time hospitals and doctors are not very well equipped on dealing with these emotions and most often women are sent away to "get over it".

As a bereaved parent, and as I am not afraid to say that I have also lost babies prior to Harry both in early pregnancy, I know how it feels to be told that "your HCG levels are dropping and you are miscarrying" and just to be sent home, or after saying that hideous goodbye to be sent back (one day post c-section) to our room ON THE MATERNITY WARD along with all the other heavily pregnant women and mothers with their newborns. There is something missing along these lines and I want to make some changes for these women. If you have experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage I would love to hear from you about your experience, and the care you received so I can understand how others have got on and try and make a support group to help those not feel so isolated or neglected at such a crucial stage.

Anyway, I digress, it was mentioned to me by a very dear friend, that there was a service happening in Exeter Cathedral for families who had lost their babies, at whatever stage - pregnancy or neonatal deaths, run by a wonderful charity called Saying Goodbye. At first, I was unsure if it would be for me, but I had a read on their website and on their FaceBook page and it seemed to be something that I thought might be quite useful for me at this stage of my journey. I asked my mum and my nan to come along, as I didn't think it would be something Harry's Dad would have enjoyed as he is not one to show those kind of emotions in public.

We went along (running late, naturally) and I was surprised to see how many people were in the church. It hit me then. It isn't just you who feels this way.

The service contained some beautiful poems, reading and hymns, all remembering those babies who have died. It felt like a place where I was "allowed" to feel my pain and to cry, freely. It touched me to see the other couples there, being together through their grief, and I had felt guilty for thinking that Jamie wouldn't have enjoyed it, as perhaps he may have done, although he would never admit it!

The most touching part of the service for me was during a beautiful song sung by a children's choir, whose voices quite frankly were those of angels, there were handbells passed around the congregation, giving everyone a chance to mark each baby that was now in heaven, each ring of the bell marked one little life. I felt completely overwhelmed hearing these bells ringing, and thinking of all those little babies in heaven, watching down on their grieving parents. Some parents were ringing their bells 6, 7, 8 times, and one seemed like about 20. Wow. What strong people, I thought. Everybody in that church had their own story and I had been thinking that it was only me.

I want to share a poem from the service, and I hope that any mummys out their who have lost a baby at whatever stage, can find something in this poem, as I have.

I thought of you and closed my eyes
And prayed to God today,
I asked, "What makes a mother?"
And I know I heard him say:
A mother has a baby,
This we know is true
But, God, can you be a mother
When your baby's not with you?
Yes, you can, he replied
With confidence in his voice,
I gave women many babies,
When they leave it is not their choice.
Some I send for a lifetime,
And others for the day,
And some I send to feel your womb,
But there's no need to stay.
I just don't understand this God,
I want my baby here.
He took a breath,
and cleared his throat,
And then I saw a tear.
I wish I could show you,
What your child is doing Here.....
If you could see your child smile
With other children and say
"We go to earth to learn our lessons
of love, and life and fear,
but my mommy loved me so much
I got to come straight here"
I feel so lucky to have a Mom who had so much love for me
I learned my lesssons very quickly,
My Mommy set me free.
I miss my Mommy oh so much
But I visit her each day,
When she goes to sleep
On her pillow is where I lay.
I stroke her hair and kiss her cheek,
And whisper in her ear,
"Mommy, please don't be sad today,
I'm your baby and I am here".
So you see my dear sweet one,
Your children are okay.
Your babies are here in my home,
And this is where they'll stay.
They'll wait for you with Me,
Until your lessons are through.
And on the day that you come home,
They'll be at the gates waiting for you.
So now you see
What makes a Mother,
It's the feeling in your heart,
It's the love you had so much of
Right from the very start.