What Mother’s Day Really Means

I discovered last year that, whilst Mothering Sunday as a concept in the UK came from an 16th century English religious tradition (read my original post here), the more widely known Mother’s Day was founded in America in 1907 by a lady called Anna Jarvis. Anna wanted to do something to honour her mother who had lost 7 babies.  This original version of Mother’s Day, that rapidly became the commercial juggernaut it is today, was in fact created to remember and honour a grieving mother.

Anna wanted to create a day where people could honour and reach out to grieving mothers to actually recognise their pain and suffering in a day of remembrance. Rather than society continuing to ignore and pretend that babies don’t die and thus grieving mothers don’t exist, they would be one day a year when people are kind to them. She wanted to change things for those grieving mothers everywhere to help them to feel less alone and less isolated.

It took only a few years before this day, that was associated with deep emotions and grieving mothers, was hijacked by commercial organisations in the US that saw it as an opportunity to sell gifts and greetings cards to all mothers. It was then that the commercial money making Mother’s Day as we currently know it was born.

Now it is with deep irony that those women who are suffering the grief of losing a child or perhaps not being able to conceive one are no longer recognised by this day, instead they often feel even more isolated and upset by the commercialisation and celebration of motherhood. A motherhood they are grieving the loss of and maybe struggling to come to terms with not having.

WHAT MOTHER’S DAY REALLY MEANS
WHAT MOTHER’S DAY REALLY MEANS Me with my angel baby Violet in Cyprus. Violet Skies.

Someone said to me the first Mother’s Day after Violet died that I wasn’t to let the day upset me, as she was sure I would no doubt become a mum again in the future. I was devastated and not strong enough to reply that I will always be a mother, however it’s just my child is no longer here with us. I still think like a mother, feel like a mother and to a certain extent act like a mother because deep down I am one!

This year I have my rainbow baby Aurora so some strangers may say “oh you’re a mum again congratulations” but actually I became a mum in 2015 and even though you can’t see all of them. I am in fact a mum of three.

Happy Mother's Day What Mother's Day Really Means. Mother’s Day was founded in America in 1907 by a lady called Anna Jarvis, who wanted to do something to honour her mother who had lost 7 babies.
Happy Mother’s Day. My rainbow baby Aurora loving life & living up to her name.

Anyway to all those grieving mums out there please remember this day was created exactly for women like us, who have to deal with the pain of losing or not having their babies with them every day, so don’t let other people make that pain worse or commercial organisations make you feel bad, as they’re just doing it to make money.

To all the mother’s out there who have living babies please remember why this day was created. That it is for grieving mothers, who are exactly like you, but who through no fault of their own unfortunately lost their children. Please do us grieving mothers or “wish we were mothers” all a favour, celebrate Mother’s Day and your wonderful children, hug them close, love them and appreciate all the little moments, remembering that some of us aren’t as lucky. You are blessed not because of the gifts of flowers, chocolates and handmade cards but because of the little people you have in your lives that others would happily give anything to have.

If you have a friend or family member who’s suffered child loss maybe use this weekend as a reason to go out of your way to reach out to them. Send them a message, drop off some flowers or invite them for a coffee just be nice people and remember this weekend is really for them. I’m sure Anna will be smiling down if she sees people embracing the day as she intended. Spread the love.

Big love & hugs, Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

Have you read some of my other posts –

Lonely -about how isolating child loss can be & what to do about it or to help

Why grief is like being shipwrecked

New Year Learning and Growth

The Challenge of Pregnancy when it’s a rainbow baby

Tommy’s Angels

A few weeks ago we were invited into St Mary’s hospital for a pleasant reason for a change.  We were one of 180 sets of parents to be invited to attend Tommy’s the Baby Charity’s afternoon tea party for all the rainbow babies born in their care in 2018.

The parents and families (some siblings came along too) and 180 little rainbow babies all born in 2018 gathered together for the first time to celebrate life. It was so magical seeing all the people that had been helped by the charity.

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Tommy’s Afternoon tea party for 2018 Rainbow Babies

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the charity it was set up to initially help those who had suffered stillbirth and multiple miscarriages.  The charity spearheads research into the conditions and looks at preventative measures to try to safeguard pregnancy ensuring a healthy outcome for mother and baby.

This weekend I visited the Leonardo Di Vinci exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and highly recommend it, as it is amazing.  I always knew Leonardo was a genius but I discovered in this exhibition that his work actually led to changing the perception of how babies develop in the womb and he was the one that figured out that the umbilical cord feeds them too.  He also discovered that the heart circulates blood around the body in the 1480’s and looked at how it feeds the main organs.

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Leonardo’s study of human anatomy and specifically the circulatory system

Without Leonardo we wouldn’t have had the foundation for midwifery and then institutions like Tommy’s.  What is a surprise I found is how little we have actually progressed since his discovery in the 1500s as the questions as to why babies die or why women miscarry are still needing to be answered today and those answers are being discovered thanks to Tommy’s.

Tommy’s Manchester clinic offered me careful monitoring during my pregnancy with Aurora, after our 20 week scan, to closely keep an eye on her but also to help me to manage my stress levels too. The aim is for those child loss victims, who have lost several babies, to get reassurance that any issues or changes can be spotted by regular scans.  They also checked things like blood flow through the umbilical cord, that the placenta was working ok, checked the Aurora’s growth, fluid levels in the womb and in my case, because of my broken heart, the blood supply into the womb too.

All of these checks helped to give me peace of mind during what was an extremely stressful and worrying time.  I lived life while I was pregnant from one milestone to the next so each 3 weeks until my next scan was a mini countdown and we celebrated after each one gave us positive news.  Although it still didn’t make me worry less as of course we had been told previously by experts during Arthur’s pregnancy in early scans that things were ok and also by Violet’s cardiologist that her heart was ok “nothing to worry about” and then it contributed to her death.  So to say I was skeptical about what “experts” told me was an understatement but you know what?  The Tommy’s experts or as I like to call them Angels were right!

So the afternoon tea enabled the midwives, who had taken good care of us, and the head of the Tommy’s clinic Doctor Alex to finally meet Aurora in the flesh.  The last time they had seen her she was on a black and white screen during ultra sound scans.  It was great for then to finally get to hold and meet her. To find out that the little hyperactive baby on their screens was a fidget in real life too.

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Aurora with one of our “Tommy’s Angels”

Tommy’s also have places in the Manchester 10k so if any of you out there would like to run for them and raise some money to help others like us then we would be very grateful you can get more information to register here.

Unfortunately with my poor heart health we’re not in a position to be able to take part so we have pledged to raise funds for them after we hit our Alder Hey fund target in some other way instead.  Would you come to a tea party in the summer perhaps and help us to thank our Tommy’s angels?

Also make sure you visit the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition more details click here.

Love

Sarah xx

When Mother Nature has other ideas

For those of you who regularly read my blog or follow me on social media you may know that I have been waiting for the news about my heart since before Christmas (see this blog post if you need a catch up).  Anyway that decision was supposed to be discussed with me this week, when I was due to see my cardiologist about my MRI scan results from last year.

My hospital appointment was on Wednesday, the morning after the night the snow came that caused gridlock across the north west, and meant my cardiologist was one of the many people unable to get into work that day, so, alas again, I am still awaiting news as to what the future holds for my heart and for me.

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Wednesday morning 6am

Initially I felt really frustrated that I still don’t know what will happen and all because of a bit of snow! Then I remembered that this isn’t the first time Mother Nature has put a spanner in the works for me and, in the grand scheme of things, this time I feel a bit of snow is quite a minor one.

Previous Mother Nature surprises have included nightmares such as my first child Violet being born with a heart disorder that was 100% fixed thanks to medical science then only to die from an extremely rare lung disease.  Then I am diagnosed with a heart disorder too, that it seems I was born with.

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Violet’s butterfly in our garden reflecting the warm lighting from inside the house

My second baby was given the all clear as healthy at his 16 week scan to be told at the 20 week scan that his brain hadn’t formed correctly so we’d need a TFMR.  During both of these births medical procedures went wrong and I nearly died.   Then I was told the issues both babies had were probably genetic, inherited from me and after tests it turns out the faulty gene is so extremely rare they can’t identify it as yet (of course it bloody is!).

Then Mother Nature pleasantly surprised us with my third pregnancy, which we weren’t expecting as it was immediately after losing Arthur, and this time it went smoothly producing the beautiful Aurora.  Perhaps she felt she owed me one!

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Aurora watching the snow – her first.

So Mother Nature continually surprises us on a frequent basis so I really don’t know why a bit of snow causing gridlock, on the one day I really wanted to be able to see a consultant, shocked me at all.  I should be getting used to this by now.

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Our neighbours snow covered garden so pretty

I need to remember to a certain extent to “ride the wave” or “go with the flow”, when forces beyond my control come into play and balls everything up.  It really is like the shipwreck analogy of grief, I’ve been clinging to the “I’ll find out about my heart on Wednesday” piece of wood to stay afloat and buoyant for the last month only for it to suddenly disintegrate plunging me under the icy waves once again.  Anyway now I’ve clambered onto the “meh so what” Irish whiskey keg barrel and seem to have recovered again!

All I can say is that if a higher power does exist they certainly have a very dark sense of humour with the twists and turns they deliver to me on a regular basis.

I’m just hoping I get to see my cardiologist soon and that he says I can have a keyhole procedure in the not too distant future.

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Good job the snow is so pretty.  Can you spot the birds?

Hope none of you were adversely affected by the snow and scuppered by our good old Mother Nature.  Keep warm.

Big love

Sarah x

Planning travels and adventure

One thing I find a coping mechanism for my grief is to plan travel and adventures as I feel it gives us something to look forward to and a different focus for the future.  So this weekend I’m spending a little time planning our travels for the first half of the year, which also include two family weddings on opposite sides of the earth!

I’m often asked how we can consider travelling to the other side of the world with an 8-month-old baby well we have done it before with Violet when she was just 7 months old.  I can highly recommend you travel with your baby’s while they are little, as even though they won’t remember the trip believe me the new experiences they will have and people they will meet will shape their personalities.  You can like us take lots of photos to show them when they are older too.

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Violet with one of the many friends she made travelling

If like us you unfortunately lose your baby at 15 months old then at least you will have more happy rich memories of them from travelling and spending more time together as a family. Priceless!

Anyway for those of you who might be considering taking my advice and travelling with your little ones here’s a blog post I wrote a few years ago after our first long haul trip with a baby Violet to New Zealand.  I hope it inspires you to travel more in 2019!

Ten Top tips for flying with a baby

After travelling over 22,000 miles from UK to New Zealand and back via Singapore and Bali with a 7-month-old baby Violet in 2016 we now have some top tips for anyone flying with a baby.

Request a bassinet – If your airline is long haul then you should be able to request a bassinet for your baby which will mean you will need bulkhead seats so make sure you select these when checking in and choosing seats online.  A bassinet will prove useful not just for when your baby sleeps but they can be propped up to play with toys too.

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Violet sleeping on the way to New Zealand in 2016

Outfit change – it goes without saying that you will have spare outfits for baby but make sure you have extra clothes for yourself in your hand luggage as there’s nothing worse than having to sit covered in baby vomit for the entire of take off/landing plus then 30 minutes of turbulence because the seat belt seat is still on.

Easily removable clothing – sleep suits and onesies we’d recommend for flying plus a zip up fleece or dressing gown anything snuggly and easy to remove.  Layers and press studs are your friends.

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Violet in her fleece & onesie watching the Snoopy film on the way home from Singapore

Hats – we’d recommend packing a cotton hat for your baby as airline air conditioning can be fierce and surprisingly the vents seem to be above the bulk head seating so right near the bassinet.

Mini-change bag – if you’re on a long haul flight then a smaller change bag will be handier we bought one that was a mat that folded out with room for 2 nappies, wipes and change of clothing.  It fitted into the seat pocket so saved time and easy to grab in a rush.

Extra muslin cloths – take the large ones as these are multi-functional serving as dribble wipers, blankets if baby gets chilly, a stand in change mat, sunshade or a scarf for mummy!

Lounge access – If you are flying long haul and transferring on your journey then it might be worth investing in the use of an airport lounge as this can make a big difference when it comes to heating milk, food and changing your baby in a relaxed environment.  Often lounge access isn’t too pricey either if you book in advance.

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Violet just chilling on the reception desk in Singapore

On-board dining – Some cabin crew will have the good sense to ask you, if you’re travelling with another adult, if you’d like your meals to be staggered so you both get to eat by swapping baby duties.  This is a great idea and why not ask if this is possible when you board the plane.

Hand sanitising gel or spray – these no water needed hand sanitisers are a god send when you are on an airplane and its difficult to access a toilet to clean up before food.

Toys, toys and lots of toys!  Again it goes without saying but the more you have for your little one to do the better. We had a set of toys and books easily accessible for on board the first plane and another set in our other carry on so we could swap them over for the second connecting flight so she wouldn’t get bored.

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Violet sitting playing with toys in the bassinet while I eat breakfast!

Finally I advise you to relax – yes it sounds ridiculous to say this when you’re flying with a baby, possibly feeling totally stressed out like all evil eyes are on you the passenger from hell, but try your hardest to also make the journey as relaxing and as enjoyable for yourself, as your baby will pick up on your vibes so smile and see it as an adventure.  Experience it through their eyes so the journey is exciting and new!

Happy flying! x

Grief is like being Ship wrecked

This time of year we find a little tricky because this is the week our baby Arthur was due to be born, and although we marked his official first birthday and day he died in September, I still feel a little tug that says we should be having a first birthday party for him in early January.

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Our little boy Arthur

Grieving for Arthur I find harder and more complicated than I do for Violet as the situation is much more complex:

  • We never knew Arthur not properly. Yes I felt him move and kick inside me (a lot) but we never got to met him alive.
  • We were the ones who decided to end his life prematurely based on medical facts and delivered him early sleeping. The hardest decision we’ve ever made.
  • The bittersweet this is that if we hadn’t decided to lose Arthur when we did then we wouldn’t have had Aurora and she wouldn’t be here today. So that is hard to swallow – how can you feel sad about someone who led to the creation of someone else?

Anyway I saw my counselor this week and she said we should thank Arthur for giving us Aurora so tonight we will toast our little boy.  She also passed me a really lovely article that was taken from a guy called GSnow’s Reddit account.  Some of the original isn’t really relevant to child loss so I have edited it somewhat and also added some of my own words but you can read the full piece he wrote here.

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The Bay of Kotor

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating for me luckily it was my husband and we clung to each other. Some of my family and friends also floated nearby providing sustenance for us to carry on. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, seeing another young family similar to yours on the street, the sound of a baby crying. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or a family gathering. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Occasionally the wave can come from no where and totally overwhelm you but again you rise up, gasp and breathe again.

The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.”

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Sunset over Auckland

I started to write and plan this article before I read the sad news today about local BBC newsreader Dianne Oxberry who sadly passed away.  I have lots of friends who were her friends and everyone who met her spoke fondly of her, so this article is dedicated to her friends and family.  May you ride the storm of grief and find some lovely memories from the beautiful ship to cling to.  If you know those close to her please help them to stay afloat.  Do this through kindness and compassion.

Big love and hugs, Sarah x

Barcelona beach break?

I never thought of Barcelona having beaches before. Yes I knew of a beach resort outside the city called Sitges but in the two times I have visited the city of Barcelona I never realised they also had beautiful sandy beaches.

My hubby was invited to attend a conference in the city for work and so I decided that baby and me would tag along for a few days to get some much needed vitamin D.

His conference was on the outskirts of the city centre in a residential area close to the port and opposite the museum of natural history. It was also virtually on the beach.

The weather in early December was 18 or 19 degrees which if you’re Mediterranean is Baltic but for a British person that’s summer! As most Spaniards thought it was cold the beaches and yes there are more than one were virtually empty on what we’d class in England as a gloriously sunny day.  They also have beaches that are well kitted out with showers, toilets & play equipment so great for families.

The plus point of Barcelona over a more traditional beach place in Spain such as the Costa del Sol or one of the islands is the fact it’s Barcelona! So you have lovely beaches but in the evening you have all the delights of a big cosmopolitan city and if you’re bored of the beach you can look around the sights of the city.

Having been to Barcelona a few times before I’d been around the city to the usual tourist places like Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and the Park Guell – Gaudi’s fantastical Park but even though I’d seen the Basilica de la Sagrada Família from the outside I’d never been in as the queues were always hours long. The beauty of visiting in December is there were no queues for any of the big tourist attractions- brilliant!

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I think it’s fair to say the cathedral blew us away once we got into it. I can only describe it as Star Wars like as it was so other worldly but the stand out thing for me were the stain glass windows that had Picasso style artwork in their design and a unique blend of colours and shades that perfectly made use of the light coming into the building. I would love to spend a full day in the cathedral watching how the windows react to the different light in the day. So beautiful I highly recommend a visit and to think at the moment it isn’t even finished.

After visiting this extremely famous Goudi place of worship we then went and visited another more ancient place.  The original Barcelona Cathedral, or Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, to give it its official name, in the Gothic quarter, again a place I hadn’t visited before because the queues were far too long. This one was built in the 13thand 14thcenturies.  We lit 10 candles here to remember Violet, Arthur, my Nan, friend Alethea and other friends who are going through a bad time. Amazing architecture and a huge achievement when you think when it was built without modern day technology; the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia will probably take as long to be built (currently scheduled for completion in 2026) and the builders now have every bit of technology.

Aurora loved both buildings and gazed amazed at the beautiful ceilings and windows.  It was so peaceful and although I’m not religious I love the calming atmosphere in these buildings as though they have absorbed the love they have witnessed over the years.

I also need to mention how amazing Jet2 are when travelling with babies. The cabin crew were brilliant helping us with bags onto the plane and then taking baby for cuddles while we got our luggage into the overhead lockers.  They were 100% better than when I’ve flown with EasyJet and Ryanair who I’ve listed in order of horrendousness with Ryanair being the worst offender.

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Aurora enjoying her first flight experience

In short I’d highly endorse a winter sun break to Barcelona so get looking at those Jet2 flight deals now.

Happy flying

Love Sarah x

Tis the season to be jolly

Well not for lots of people it isn’t. People who are alone, homeless, financially struggling, have mental health issues or who have lost someone dear to them it’s often a time of year they dread.

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Violet’s one and only Christmas morning

For us we face another Christmas without our little girl who’d be an excitable 3 year old this year and our little boy for whom it’d be a first Christmas. My husband will experience another year without his beloved father who died just before becoming a grandpa, a role we know he’d have excelled at. This year however, unlike the last two years, will be bittersweet for us as we now have our gorgeous little rainbow baby Aurora who will be 5 months old.

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Violet in her Christmas jumper and matching trousers!

The first year after we lost Violet we actually couldn’t face Christmas at all so a lovely friends parents’ leant us their holiday home in the Caribbean and my mum treated us to flights so we could escape the whole season for 2 weeks. We were very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family that could afford to help us escape in this way. I know others often aren’t as lucky and may choose to escape through shutting the world out at home. Or maybe their escape is immersing themselves in other people and going through the motions of Christmas, perhaps if they have other children then they have no choice.

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Me with Violet this time 3 years ago.  Photo taken by the amazing @hollygoeslightly

Last Christmas we spent with family who happened to also be going through a hard time, albeit for a different reason, as we wanted to do what families should do and be there for one another. Although we did escape for New Years and what should have been our Arthur’s due date, as we couldn’t face that so we booked cheap flights and headed off to Morocco.

This year will be the first year we don’t escape Christmas or New Years, instead we are inviting family to spend it with us. We will wake up with an excitable 4 year old niece on Christmas morning and it will be a first Christmas for our littlest nephew as well as our daughter. The fact that we can help to make it a magical day for my niece and nephew, I think will help us to get through it.

What’s sad is this year the kind family who helped us to escape that first Christmas have just suffered a devastating loss themselves so this festive time will now be especially hard for them. Our hearts go out to them this year.

Our motto is that if you are able to celebrate Christmas this year then embrace your family or loved ones. Make the most of every second because you have no idea what the future holds. Also if you can help to make someone else’s Christmas better or easier this year then do it. Whether you donate to a local food bank, drop Christmas presents into a charity looking after disadvantaged children or just invite your elderly neighbours round for Christmas dinner, nothing says Christmas like looking after those who are suffering by easing their pain or helping them to also have a nice experience, even if for one day only.

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Me & Violet with my brother & sister with their little ones 3 years ago

I can’t wait to hear all your lovely stories of goodwill and sharing. I’ve heard lots already, as I’m blessed with lots of amazingly kind people in my life. So far there are tales of people stocking food banks with so much food they can feed many families over the 3 days of Christmas. Those who fundraise and collect donations for presents for underprivileged children. Some have collected blankets for the homeless.  Keep up the good work. They say money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around well I say the same can be said for kindness.

Sending big hugs to you all and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming stories.

Love

Sarah x

When you finally get your rainbow baby what then…

Most people I meet now, after they’ve recoiled from the shock of hearing I’m a mother of three but only one child is alive, say things like “oh third time lucky then” or “at least it’s all worked out in the end”  Urmmm no it clearly hasn’t all worked out in the end has it? Has my daughter Violet suddenly sprung back to life?

When I was pregnant with Aurora people could understand why I might have been anxious and there’s even a term for it PAL or pregnancy after loss but once your rainbow baby is here then people assume that’s it and you must be feeling better now. The grief over child loss must be over now you have another baby surely? You can move on and avoid dwelling in the past.

Well unfortunately it’s not that simple you see, yes I may have another living baby now but I still had two other children before her and just like those with more than one child, when you have a new one you don’t throw your old one away and forget about them do you? Or you shouldn’t.  If you do then social services rightly get involved. So why should it be different for angel babies? Why forget about them? How can we forget about them?

I don’t blame people who think I must have moved on though, as suddenly they see me out and about with my new baby actually smiling and resembling someone who’s happy. I guess I am happy fleetingly which is an improvement but it’s now as though I’m on a permanent roller coaster. Aurora smiles or babbles at me equals on a high then she looks at me in a certain way & I see her sister Violet in her equals unimaginable high & then immediate low.

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I still get side swiped daily by emotions but different ones from before. Seeing a mother cooing over a baby no longer makes me want to cry for the loss of Arthur although I admit seeing mums with little boys gives me a pang of pain. Now it happens when I see parents of multiple children walking with them all to the park. Brother and sisters playing and arguing together. Family lifestyle photo shoots of the whole family looking happy together in autumnal leaves (yes I do live in Chorlton! Lol). Even at Halloween cute sibling photos of older ones taking their toddler brother or sister trick or treating for the first time pour salt onto my wound.

Autumn photoshoot - Ian Scott Photography
Credit ianscottphotography.co.uk

I find myself trying to imagine what Violet would look like now aged 3.5 and what she’d think of her little sister. How would they interact? When Aurora is bigger what arguments would they have about minor things? I find it hard to imagine and to think of Violet as anything more than a baby, almost toddler. I find that upsetting too. Her sister will never know her. I can’t imagine life without my sister so now I feel a new level of grief for Aurora for the big sister she will never know or experience.

The hallway of family photos we have where the sisters may sit side by side in different frames but never actually occupy the same one. There will be photos of Aurora getting older, fingers crossed, next to the same photos of her big sister who will eternally be a toddler.  That will be a concept I’m sure Aurora when she’s older will struggle to get her head around, how can a baby be her big sister?

Family photoshoot - Manchester Photography courses
Family photoshoot – credit Manchester Photography courses

I wonder what Violet would have been like today and what she’d have thought of her baby sister?  Do you ever wonder what if?  I do every moment of every day.

Love Sarah x

A Magical Woodland

When I heard about this magical woodland event I was excited to attend with my family, including my 4-year-old niece and baby nephew too.  I hoped it would live up to expectations and we weren’t disappointed.

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Some of the girls in my family

The lighting was breathtaking with different themes in various areas of the woodland. Special LED effects, changing colours, laser lights and hanging orbs made the park a sensory experience.  The musical choice made it feel as though you were entering a Harry Potter-esque world so felt truly magical as we entered the wood.

Several paths wound their way through different sensory experiences to a central campfire area where you could purchase marshmallows on sticks to toast around the fire and there were a few food stalls there too selling hotdogs, mulled wine and sweets.  The gooey toasted marshmallows certainly went down well with my niece Evelyn.

One of the highlights in the woodland was the Aqua Rhythm water fountain.   Jets of water danced to along to music and a laser light show accompanied it.  Evelyn and other children stood transfixed in front of it for quite some time.  My baby nephew, 8 months old, watched it from his pram wide eyed so this proved a sensory hit for babies too.

Just beyond the “Heart of the Woodland” there was an owl marquee so children can find out about and see owls up close, including a Little Owl that proved a hit with Evelyn who wanted to take it home.

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It was also a fun educational experience as there were some great interactive puzzles and games for children and adults alike interspersed around the woodland.   The favourite for Evelyn was a game that distorted your voice and she spent quite some time making various bodily sounds through it finding it hilarious when it returned the noise with added depth!

There was a flamboyant chap in a flashing top hat that my niece described as “clearly a magician”, who introduced himself as a physicist so she was close!  He demonstrated to us the concept of a sonic boom using a giant sized Newton’s Cradle style pendulum, that was lit up so as the balls swung they lit up the sky around them.  The sonic boom you could hear rumble throughout the woodland.  It was an amazingly fun way to introduce children to scientific concepts, it made me think they need to invest in one of these giant Newton’s cradles at the Concorde visitors centre to explain more clearly this concept to children.

The rainforest area had dry ice that emulated mist and bird/insect sound effects to accompany the lighting that transitioned into different colours.  I found this area to be the most relaxing in the woodland, whereas my niece said she found it spooky and when there was a load rumble from the sonic boom she jumped out of her skin, proving this is also a great experience to bring your kids to for Halloween!

We were fortunate to have really beautiful autumn weather, it was pretty mild and dry which was good as we had two prams with us that if it had been wet we would have struggled to push round the site, so if you go when it is wet or after heavy rain I’d suggest taking a baby carrier instead as there are a few hills to maneuver too.

We had planned to spend an hour there but ended up spending just over two hours, as there really was so much to experience we lost all track of time.  It proved a great way to tire out little and big ones, as it was excellent exercise walking them up and down hills. Evelyn also ran off to climb on tree trunks and play with the interactive games too.

We had a wonderful time in the woodland it really was magical and my niece didn’t want to leave. We would highly recommend visiting before the experience finishes.

For more information and tickets which start from £12.50 click here

Luck, God or just random shit?

I don’t know if I believe in luck.  I stopped believing in God as a teenager when I saw the suffering in the world and learnt more about science and history.  I then liked to believe in everything being made from energy and read a lot of books like “The Secret” that talked about putting positive energy out there to get the same back.  Similar to Karma in what comes around goes around.

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I still have a fondness for churches.  Here’s Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

The energy, karma and positivity mantra was the way I always lived my life.  Some people believe in God but I have liked to believe in the ancient energy of mother earth, not in a chanting naked around Stonehenge way, but the idea that we’re all made of energy always seemed more scientific and therefore believable.

Violet came along and we were told at her 20-week scan about her heart defect and that it was bad luck.  She was an undiagnosed breach baby and I had her naturally afterwards we were again told “oh you had very bad luck there”.  Then Violet got her heart fixed by surgeons at Alder Hey hospital and all the time we channeled positive energy.  Other family members and friends prayed for her in a multitude of different faiths.

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The Priory in Cartmel a stunningly beautiful place

Her surgery was a permanent fix.  People told us how lucky she and we were that she survived but we thanked science and the talented people at Alder Hey.  We continued to think in a positive way and raised funds from our belated wedding reception for Ronald McDonald House to thank them for their support of us in providing accommodation when Violet was in hospital.

Then when Violet got sick again being admitted into Manchester Children’s Hospital we continued to channel positivity and friends/family prayed again for her.  After just over a week she seemed to turn a corner, we rejoiced and thanked everyone, mother earth, God, everyone’s prayers were answered…but then she suddenly died.  When we got her post mortem results, and then over 18 months later an inquest verdict, to be told she was just very unlucky and she died from something so extremely rare that no one could believe it.

We then got pregnant again with Arthur our rainbow and were told at his 20-week scan that he had irreparable brain damage and once again told that we were just very unlucky again.

Now if I was to believe in karma both of these things should have been lucky instead. I’m the person that buys food for random homeless people and sometimes helps them even further, for example I bought a homeless guy a sleeping bag in winter when he was sat sobbing because someone beat up and robbed him.  Over the years I have raised thousands for charity.  I’ve also only ever had rescue animals and do the middle class thing of sponsoring a child in Africa, so whilst I don’t do this as a quid pro quo or usually tell people whenever I do something kind, I should have a lot of good karma saved up right there. So I think the loss of my two children shows this karma thing is pure nonsense as for luck well….

As for God…I know lots of people who have lost children and are comforted by their faith. I on the other hand can’t believe in anyone or anything that can cause that kind of pain for anyone.  The pain my child suffered in hospital in the weeks before she died, and that of other children suffering in hospital too, means if there is a God then he is a cruel unkind one, so why worship him/her?   I actually in a way admire those child loss survivors who do still believe, as they’re certainly stronger in their faith than I am.

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We still light candles for our babies when we travel just in case – here’s the inside of St Ann’s Church in Manchester the epicentre of the city

I still try to think positively, as it helps me to cope day to day but I do it more because I think that Violet wouldn’t want me to be upset or negative and me being miserable and negative isn’t going to bring Violet and Arthur back. I also now have the adorable Aurora to care for so need to be the best version of me for her sake.

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An autumnal walk in the park with colds and coughs hoping the fresh air does us good

I believe kindness, compassion and good manners aren’t exclusive to those who are religious and my experiences over the last few years have shown me that often these qualities can be missing just as easily from a religious person as they can be present in an atheist.  I like to treat people with kindness and respect regardless of who they are. Blame my mother for this one as she clearly raised us well.

So to summarize I’m not sure what I believe anymore and maybe as one of my extremely clever friends said, “perhaps life is just a lot of random shit that just happens and if you survive then you either learn to deal with it or you don’t end of”. Not quite as eloquent as Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates” but I can really identify with my friends version.  If religion is how you learn to deal with life’s challenges then good on you, it’s certainly better than turning to addiction or not coping at all.  Each to their own and I think child loss survivors need to push on anyway they can.

How do you cope with things or spur yourself to carry on beyond what you used to believe was your limit?