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

 

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

Baby Loss Awareness Week

Some of you who read this blog, know me or just follow me on social media may be aware that my daughter Violet died at the end of September but what you might not realise is that her funeral coincided with baby loss awareness week 2016.  The second anniversary of that is today.

At the start of this week in 2016 we got the news that the coroner was releasing her body so we had to finalise things with the funeral directors and to make arrangements for her funeral, including making decisions like cremation or burial. We decided to bury her because I couldn’t face the idea of my baby being burned. Crazy I know as she was dead already but I still felt as though I was protecting her little body by burying her instead. Then we had to decide where to bury her and to pick a plot.

We decided on southern cemetery as it was close to where we live and there are lots of important and respected people resting there, so I know it seems ridiculous but I felt as though she’d be in good company alongside Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Wilson – if it’s good enough for them then….  I remember us visiting Southern Cemetery and one of their team taking us to show us the baby section of the cemetery. They explained there was only one of these tiny plots left beside the road going through the cemetery. It was a small plot surrounded by other little baby graves and next to it was a communal baby grave shared by many that must have had them all stacked on top of each other as though they were on a supermarket shelf. It made me feel ill and I decided over my own dead body would she be buried here. I asked the cemetery man was there not anywhere else and he said we could have a family burial plot but that would be more expensive. I said “fine she’s not being buried at the side of a road even if I need to put it onto a credit card” and I asked him to show us what they had available. He showed us several plots and one was under a big cherry tree that was opposite the grave of Kirsty Howard, the amazing girl who was so brave and raised so much money for Francis House. I said that one would do. None of the plots were acceptable or perfect because my baby being dead wasn’t acceptable. Our final choice was simply the least offensive and I strangely felt comforted knowing that Kirsty would be her neighbour so hoped being kind and compassionate that she would look after my little girl.

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Violet’s grave

In the middle of Baby Loss Awareness week 2016 I wrote Violet’s eulogy.  I wanted to ensure her send off did her memory justice and that everyone would know exactly who she was and would understand why we loved her as much as we did.  We selected her favourite songs for her funeral, a close friend agreed to give the service for us and we thought about what she would like. I know she was only 15 months old but she had very strong opinions and preferences on things. She loved balloons so we asked everyone to bring a balloon to her service and, as she liked to make people smile, we arranged for all the balloons to be collected then taken to the children’s hospital and her nursery.  We set up her fund in this week too for Alder Hey hospital’s cardiac surgery fund and asked people to donate to it.

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A photo my brother took behind him in the chapel at Violet’s service.  So many people cared & some were stood outside

The day of her funeral, the 14thOctober, was the penultimate day of baby loss week 2016. I remember it was a crisp autumn day with blue skies and sunshine, even though there had been bad weather forecast we only had high winds that day. I went through the day in a bit of a trance almost as though I was an outsider looking in and I carried the angel bear that I had been sent the day before. I cuddled and sobbed into the bear throughout the service. The bear was a gift from an amazing little charity called Heart to Heart UK that also gifts bravery bears to children undergoing heart surgery.  Their gift really helped me.

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My angel bear

The day after Violet’s funeral was the last day of baby loss awareness week and all around the world people lit candles at 7pm creating a wave of light in memory of all the babies lost. We lit a candle in our empty quiet house full of sympathy flowers and cards then we cried some more and had a drink.

I decided to write about our week in 2016 because sometimes you don’t think about what parents have to go through logistically just after their baby dies. You almost forget that they have to make important decisions during this most horrendous time.  Decisions about choosing a funeral director and whether to bury or cremate? What to do for a service? Whether to ask people to donate to charity and if so which one? All these things would be difficult enough if your child hadn’t just died but they have. The world as you know it has just ended. The most important person in your world has gone and you have to make these decisions.

So please join in with celebrating the end of child loss awareness week by lighting a candle at 7pm on Monday to join the wave of light but also have a drink with us as we mark the end of the anniversary of probably one of the most difficult weeks of our lives.

 

Thinking of our lost babies Violet and Arthur this week but about our darling daughter today.  The day we laid her to rest with music, balloons and colour just how she would have wanted.

Love

Sarah x

 

 

I used to love September

This is now the worst month for me.

It never used to be this way. I used to love September. It was always one of my favourite months.

The starting back at school with a new year of classes. I was such a geek I couldn’t wait. New pencil cases, stationary, new uniform and shiny new shoes always excited me.

Then there was the turning of the leaves and the beautiful autumnal colours. The amazing sunsets as the weather starts to cool. The wearing of cosy clothes – knee length boots, fleeces, jeans, jumpers & fluffy socks. Open fires, comfort food, hot toddies and bubble baths. Watching the rain from inside a warm house and listening to the wind whistle round the chimney.

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Autumn sunset in Manchester city centre on border of Salford

In the last ten years I’ve enjoyed spending time in Cyprus where it’s like a second spring with all flowers having another annual bloom so colourful and cheerful.

However all of this changed in September 2016 when my precious daughter died and in the following September my son Arthur was born sleeping too.

All of a sudden the changing colours of the autumnal leaves began to represent death to me. The darker nights and chilly weather no longer cosy but depressing and miserable. The pouring rain represents the tears I now shed at this time of year and the wind howls in pain for my lost babies.

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Autumn colours in Chorlton

 

I can’t face visiting my cheerful uplifting place either in the Cypriot sunshine with colourful flowers and amazing views as last time I was there I was with my daughter, but maybe I will visit again in the next few years.

This year in order to attempt to focus on something else, something much more positive, I decided to organise the Violet ball in memory of my beautiful daughter on 29th September, a few days after the second anniversary of her death, to raise money for Alder Hey hospital’s cardiac surgery fund. I hope those of you who are able to join us do so and that we all see the month of sad September out with a bang.

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Click here for details of ball.

Thanks for reading x

What a difference a year makes?

Today is the official birthday of our baby boy Arthur George who was born sleeping at 22 weeks of pregnancy.  Legally he doesn’t exist as he has no birth certificate or death certificate as he didn’t draw breath.  If he had he would technically have been alive.

He was a termination for medical reasons known as TMR and it was the hardest decision myself and my husband have ever had to make (read more about it in this earlier post) but we knew it was the right one to make as he wouldn’t have survived to full term passing anyway around 30 weeks so we felt it was the kindest decision.  We still wondered and worried as to whether we were right.

We were still grieving the loss of Violet and then felt as though we were burying our last little bit of hope when we said goodbye to her brother.  We entered a period of darkness even darker than we could imagine and felt our little flicker of hope we had extinguish completely when we were informed there was a 50/50 chance of future seriously ill babies like Arthur.  A few months later we got the surprise news of another pregnancy.  A pregnancy fraught with worry, stress and anguish as we wondered if once again the light we thought we could see at the end of the dark tunnel was in fact yet another high speed train set to derail us once again.

Now exactly a year to the day we held and said goodbye to our little son I’m holding another 5 week old little daughter, Aurora.

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Aurora at 3 weeks old.

We named her Aurora as it means “Goddess of the Dawn” and “Light”.  We thought this was beautiful and had special resonance for us as we now can start to see daylight again through the fog.

Happy birthday to our little rainbow Arthur George who taught us to dream and hope again after the loss of our first precious daughter Violet.

He also made us more determined to change more babies lives by raising more money for Violet’s cardiac surgery fund at Alder Hey Hospital and we set a date for the Violet Ball at the end of this month, 29th September at Radisson Edwardian hotel in Manchester you can get more information here.  There are tickets still available and we are looking for raffle prizes too so if you can help please get in touch.

Love and thanks

Sarah xx

 

Anniversaries of loss

Anniversaries after loss are always really hard for all those family & friends who were close to the loved one.

Talking from experience it really does help when others remember our cherished one on this day and when they commemorate their memory in some way, it reassures us that their legacy will live on.

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Our worst fear is that our much loved child, brother, sister, mum, dad, family member or friend is forgotten so today take the time, observe the silence at 2.30pm today, light a candle, say a prayer or just give a thought to all those who lost their lives in the Manchester bomb last year and know by doing that you are fulfilling the wish of their families and friends in that they are not forgotten.

We will not forget them. Bee strong everyone. 💜🐝

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