The other day I realised that I have spent the last five May’s with one of my baby’s. I have either been pregnant (for 3 of them including my 40th birthday) and the second one I was organising my first baby girl’s first birthday party. This was the first May bank holiday for 3 years that I have been able to have a glass of vino and weirdly enough I am thinking about a second daughter’s first birthday party (this time in July rather than June).
Last year in 2018 we were living in the middle of a building site, I was heavily pregnant and we were going through a very hot summer. I spent most of it in the shade with an electric fan and my feet in cold water.
The year before that, 2017, I was in the very early stages of pregnancy with Arthur and suffered tummy upsets for a fair few months. It was also my 40th birthday so my hubby threw me a bbq party where we disguised appletiser as Prosecco, as we hadn’t announced our news to anyone. Despite my tummy upsets, we had hope for the future and it ended up being the only May I would spend with my little boy. Our slither of hope was smashed when September rolled around and we had to say goodbye to Arthur (read about it here).
May 2016 was one of my happiest times as Violet was doing well and was nearly a year old. She was about to be a flower girl at my cousins wedding and she’d gotten a princess dress that she loved. We were planning her birthday party that was a joint belated wedding reception too. We made so many very happy memories that summer before the horrendous September came along. I was lucky enough to spend two May’s with Violet.
May 2015 I remember being heavily pregnant with Violet having so much hope for the future. Despite getting negative news about Violet’s heart we were convinced we were in the right specialist hands and thinking positively we told ourselves everything would be ok. Violet survived in 2015, and that was the main thing, all thanks to Alder hey children’s hospital. I remember it rained a lot in May but then we had hot weather as soon as I went into hospital in the June typical!
Not about Theresa May
Anyway I just wanted to write an article that wasn’t about the other May and one that highlights how vastly different one year can be from another. I would like for those of you struggling to get pregnant or to get a rainbow or just to cope with grief to recognise how different one year can be from the last. I hope it gives some strength and encourages people to remember happier times too. Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.
This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week and I have to be honest that I’ve struggled with what exactly to write. Although I am a mother and sometimes have struggled with mental health, I’m not what you would call a “normal” mother but then I guess no one is truly “normal”. So for the last day of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week here is my story of motherhood.
I have friends who have struggled with post-natal depression. I know friends whose mother’s have had it 40 years ago when it was dismissed as minor and called the “baby blues”. The difficulty I have is that motherhood for me has been a real rollercoaster. The struggle for me is writing about my own experience without seeming to diminish anyone else’s experience of post-natal depression. I have had friends tell me that they feel they can no longer share their tales of depression or worries as they think they seem minor compared to what I have been through. They have said that actually I make them feel worse about themselves because they should be happy when they compare their lives to mine. Well that doesn’t make me feel guilty, bad or worse at all for sharing!
So apologies in advance if my story of Motherhood makes any of you out there feel worse about your own situations. I don’t want to diminish anyone but hope that by sharing my story some of you who feel alone might feel less so.
I have never had a “normal” motherhood experience. I have not known what it is like to go into a baby scan at 20 weeks full of excitement and to come out elated with happy news afterwards. Our first baby Violet was diagnosed with a heart condition at her 20-week scan. Second baby Arthur was diagnosed with a serious brain condition at his 20-week scan resulting in a TFMR at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Third baby Aurora luckily had clear baby scans all the way through pregnancy but we never entered a scan room full of excitement or even left elated afterwards. More we left smiling with relief that we hadn’t yet had any bad news. Those were my three motherhood beginnings already a little different from the majority of mothers out there. You can read more about stress with a rainbow pregnancy here.
When Violet was born we had a natural induced labour as that was deemed the safest for her but she ended up being undiagnosed breach so I had a breach birth naturally with no pain relief. I am still having counselling for that experience alone, never mind the on going medical treatment because of the wounds I sustained. Violet was also transferred to Alder Hey hospital shortly after birth without me and at 4 days old she had open-heart surgery. It had only a 30% chance of success but she survived and the operation was a 100% fix.
It was, at that point, the most stressful time of our lives and we were relieved it was over. We finally took a 2-week-old baby home from hospital with serious health needs. She needed specialist round the clock care, whilst her heart and rib cage healed up. You can read more about Violet here. Despite her start she was a healthy little girl who had mild developmental problems because of her surgery and also issues eating solid food. We found that a challenge and extremely frustrating. However she was extremely clever, musical and a happy little soul considering her start in life. She was a joy to be around and made everyone who met her happy. This summarises my first year of motherhood started off extremely stressful and finished happy.
The loss of Violet
My second year of motherhood wasn’t anywhere near as good as my first! Violet got sick and was admitted to Manchester Children’s Hospital. We sat by her bed for weeks where she finally died, suddenly from a rare form of pneumonia aged 15 months. We had to wait nearly 2 years to find out why she died, as the autopsy was inconclusive. We had to endure a coroners inquest too. You can read more on this here.
First rainbow baby
My third year of motherhood I think was possibly the most challenging as this year we enjoyed a second pregnancy. Until the fateful 20 week scan and then, whilst still grieving the loss of our beloved daughter, we lost our son Arthur too. You can read about it here.
Second rainbow baby
My fourth year of motherhood is still in full swing and I have to say it is by far the best yet as we have our gorgeous rainbow baby Aurora. Named after the goddess of the dawn she has brought light back into our darkness. She certainly does this as she’s a bright, cheerful, smiley little girl.
People looking at our social media feed might be forgiven for thinking our lives are pure happiness now but as anyone who has suffered child loss will know they aren’t. The happy days are still tinged with sadness, as to what should be and what we are missing.
For example the other day I was “subjected” to a conversation by other mothers talking about how lovely it is that their three year olds and their babies play together. They interact now all the time. Well that’s what we should have Violet as a big sister playing with her younger siblings. Instead Aurora will probably grow up alone. Having grown up with a brother and sister that thought alone makes me want to cry. My siblings are still close to me and we remain an important part of each other’s lives.
I still have regular counselling to help me to try to deal with everything as I have horrendous nightmares on a regular basis. Sometimes extreme anxiety and times when I feel sad. I also have PTSD (read more here) caused by my first birth experience, my daughter having open-heart surgery and also from watching her die. I am told all this is “normal” for a grieving parent but it does draw parallels with how other mums say they feel who have post-natal depression. Whilst I don’t know what it is like to have a relatively normal experience of motherhood and still feel depressed, I do understand and have lived through all these feelings on a fairly regular basis.
I feel that lots of health visitors also need more training and guidance for how to deal with mothers who perhaps are slightly more fragile mentally than others. This is in light of a recent experience I had with a health visitor who reduced me from a confident mum of a rainbow baby to a crying anxious mess in the space of one baby weigh in session.
I also feel that more support should also be given to fathers as often they have no support at all, especially after the loss of a child or after they have witnessed a horrendous birth. They can suffer PTSD too.
Sending all mothers (and fathers) out there lots of love as parenthood can be tough whether it is simply sleepless nights. Or sitting by a sick child in a hospital bed or crying at a graveside. At the end of the day everything is relative to your previous experiences too. I thought the toughest thing I had to endure was watching my child sick in hospital that was until they died. Motherhood can be beautiful and wonderful but it can also be extremely cruel.
Now I’m no longer pregnant oh my word work and social events are a million times easier. Yes at a networking event, not looking pregnant, eventually someone will ask if you have kids but they won’t use the topic or babies as their opening line or icebreaker.
When you’re at a networking event, obviously pregnant, people you’ve just met will use the fact you’re carrying a baby as their ice breaker and ask you about it, which if you hadn’t lost children in the past and were enjoying a relatively worry free pregnancy then that might be lovely. However when you’re on your third pregnancy having lost your first child and then lost a second at 22 weeks gestation it’s a topic you don’t really want to chat to a total stranger about.
I avoided events
Lots of work contacts now I’m out and about again after baby have asked recently why they didn’t see me at lots of networking events, launch events, industry gatherings, conferences etc while I was pregnant and this is the main reason why. Yes sometimes I was genuinely busy or grieving but other times I really couldn’t face the fact I knew that strangers would ask me about my pregnancy with a big beaming smile on their faces. Clearly wrongly assuming I’m pregnant and so want to chat babies.
Knowing I’d have to answer the following questions over and over to at least three different people at events filled me with dread:
“How far gone are you?” “Oh so not long now. What’s your due date?”
Then either – “Oh I think you’ll be earlier than that as you’re huge much bigger than you should be” thanks for that I actually have more fluid than normal but I didn’t want to really tell you a total stranger that personal information.
“Oh really but you’re so small. Have you had a sizing scan?” Yes I have actually I’m having scans every two weeks at the Tommy’s clinic but again I don’t really want to go into this with a complete stranger. “Oh what’s the Tommy’s clinic you say?”…
I’ve seriously had both of these opposing size comments at the same event!
Or they ask…
“Is it your first baby?” No my third.
“Oh you’ll be an expert then. Glutton for punishment bet you’ll have your hands full then. What other kids do you have?
Are they excited about their new sibling?” Ah no they aren’t alive unfortunately now that kills a networking event.
Or they say…
“Do you know what you’re having? Is that what you wanted? Are you excited about it?”
“Looking forward to the birth then?” “Baby will definitely take you by surprise by being really early.” Thanks for that I’m having a planned C Section so I hope not but again I don’t really want to go into that with a total stranger.
So folks next time you’re at a social event or networking for business and you see a pregnant lady perhaps instead you’d like to simply pay her a compliment and not think you can use her pregnancy as an icebreaker to ask personal questions or as an excuse to fondle her stomach unnecessarily. Yes strangers seem to think your stomach is suddenly fair game for a good old fondle!
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.
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.
Leonardo Di Vinci
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. 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.
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. 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 and 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. 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. We were also told 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.
Tommy’s is a charity
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.
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.
Why is grief harder for a TFMR?
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?
Thank you Arthur
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.
Grief is like being Ship wrecked
“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.
At the start
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
You may remember a post I wrote a few months back now about how I tried to not worry about my pregnancy by deliberately creating other things to do or organize in my life in order to stay busy. One of these was an extension and house renovation project.
Extension and house renovation
This two storey extension project began back in April and comprised of two new bathrooms, a new kitchen, full house rewire and new central heating with new radiators. Getting rid of a very narrow galley kitchen and extending the back of the house to create open plan living with a large kitchen dining space. We would also get a new bedroom upstairs so we’d have more room for visiting family and friends to stay with us.
Our old boiler was ripped out in April so we lived in our house for 4 months with no heating or hot water and for the most part had no rear wall either just chipboard. Thankfully we still had an old electric shower so that was the sole source of our hot water other than from a kettle. A temporary kitchen was set up in our lounge and dining room. We had our oven, washing machine and dryer and sink all in the one room with all our downstairs furniture. Our fridge freezer had to be moved into the hallway next to the front door. It was a combination of camping and being in an episode of Steptoe and Son.
Other things to worry about
Thankfully it did work in taking my mind off worrying about the baby for a lot of the time as instead I worried about the mess and chaos. I concerned myself with ordering the relevant materials needed in time and designing the kitchens and bathrooms. We also boxed and bagged our belongings so they could be stored in the loft as the rewire and new radiators meant all of the floorboards being ripped up. Then was the day-to-day dealing with the dust, mess and noise from builders.
I remember the midwives and specialists telling me I should try to have lie ins and naps to help with fatigue caused by my pregnancy and the hole in my heart (see this earlier blog post for more details on this). I just laughed when they suggested it, explaining the builders arrived at 7am everyday and you try sleeping at lunchtime when there is hammering, drilling etc.
Building work later than due date
Unfortunately our building work also ran over schedule and our baby Aurora arrived ahead of time by a few weeks. So it did mean we had to get alternative accommodation when we first came out of hospital. Thanks to an AirBNB stay and then some amazing next-door neighbour’s, who leant us their house while they were on holiday, the baby avoided most of the noise and dust.
Now the hard work begins
So now we are slowly decorating, unpacking and sorting out our new-finished house bit by bit. It isn’t easy with a newborn baby but we are so happy with our new kitchen space. We can fit more than one person in there at once, and the bathrooms are exactly what we wanted. Despite the craziness and my doubts half way in we’re pleased we went ahead with it in the end.
So far we have almost finished the kitchen space. We went for a navy blue kitchen with copper accessories and a white mistral worktop, which is a solid acrylic that can emulate marble. It is stain proof so much more durable, with a baby and a clumsy mummy we felt that was essential. The pendant lights were from Wayfair.
The stools I adore and they are from Cox and Cox. Whatever you do though if your health visitor says they love them and want to know where you got them from, don’t tell them to just google Cox. That caused a lot of laughs when the hubby overheard!
New lounge area
The seating area of our new downstairs extension will eventually have a new sofa. But for the meantime with the budget blown we have created a little lounge space with Ikea Poang chairs, stools and rocking chair. Added into this is a gorgeous rug from Dunelm, a sheepskin rug for cosiness, an original Moroccan silver lamp purchased in Marrakesh in January and some silk cushions that I’ve had for about 20 years. The best buy is probably the faux fur stool I purchased today from Aldi for only £14.95 but looks more expensive don’t you think?
I love being quite eclectic with my décor so there’s a real mix of new buys from the high street, old vintage things like the silk cushions I have had for years and hand me downs. The lovely chunky wooden coffee tables were from my mum. I like to get the odd piece from our travels hence the lamp from Morocco we saw in January. I also got bright coloured fabric from there that I will swap into that room for the summer, when we can then open both sets of bi-fold doors across the back of the house.
Have you bought any lovely things for your home from your travels? And if so please share your finds as I’d love to see them?
This project has really helped to take my mind off things and it continues to be a passion of mine, although I’m miss impatient so want to finish it all at once when it will be a long term project over the next few years as we have an entire house to decorate and dress.
Please share some of your favourite home photos.
Speak soon, love
Always Violet Skies
P.s. please ignore the state of our garden we will look at that next year! lol
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
When I was pregnant I remember strangers would tell me “oh your life will change once the baby comes”. “You’ve no idea of the impact it’ll have & how much you will grow as a person”. Well they were totally right as no one prepares you for the shock of parenthood but what people don’t realise is the really extreme sport form of parenthood is caring for a sick or recovering child or baby now that has a real impact. Not to mention the loss of one but that’s another change entirely and I wouldn’t describe that as growth at all, that’s more like having an amputation but I’m not talking about that now.
It feels strange to us to have a “normal” healthy newborn, as with Violet we had to give her specialist care because she was recovering from open heart surgery. So in her early years we couldn’t lift her under her arms, couldn’t wind her over the shoulder, she couldn’t do “tummy time” and we couldn’t touch or rub her chest or tummy at all because of her chest wound and broken rib cage. Anyone who’s ever had broken ribs will understand the pain she would have been in during the first 8 weeks while they healed not to mention all the surrounding muscle tissue including her heart. For a good while we also couldn’t bathe her either bless her.
Last time with Violet as a newborn all her energy from milk consumption in the first few months went towards healing her ribs, heart and muscles from heart surgery so she didn’t really grow or gain weight at all in her first few months of life. In fact she couldn’t even be plotted on the normal growth chart until she was about 6 months old!
This time round despite us feeding Aurora less than we did Violet she is piling on the pounds, rapidly jumping up the growth chart percentiles as a result every health professional so far that has weighed aurora has exclaimed how well we’re doing as new parents, whereas with her sister we were frowned at, interrogated about our feeding skills & had to keep meticulous written feeding records we could show them as “evidence”. Violet fed every 45 minutes for weeks & Aurora feeds every 1-1.5hrs & sometimes at now 4 weeks old she can go a whole 2.5hrs between feeds but we’ve not had to keep records for Aurora.
You’ve no idea how much reassurance growth and weight gain gives you as a new parent. Assurance that despite the tears, occasional vomiting and lack of sleep you’re doing exactly the right thing. With Violet half the time we were made to feel as though we were failing, as she didn’t follow any “normal” growth trajectory, whereas this time the same (if not less) effort is getting us much better results on the growth chart.
We now realise how brilliant we actually were with Violet in looking after her complex care needs and managing to look after her well, despite everything being 10 times harder for us, than we now know it is for those with a healthy newborn baby.
Immediately after Aurora’s birth the midwife asked Daddy to change the first dirty nappies, that some of you will know contain the challenge of Meconium deposits, (for any novices out there that’s sticky black, tar like poo) and she exclaimed “oh this will be an experience for you” but it was super easy for him compared to when he changed Violets leaning into an incubator carefully cleaning around the various wires and tubes that were keeping her alive. So not that I want to jinx anything but it seems as though Violet really did grow and develop us in even more ways than we care to realise. Hats off to other parents of challenging or poorly babies as we now realise again just how many medals and pats on the back you deserve! You are truly amazing and don’t be disheartened if your baby isn’t jumping up the growth charts. Don’t let health visitors & others make you feel you’re not doing a good enough job, as caring for a sick or recovering baby is a challenge beyond extreme so don’t allow them to compare your super hero baby to other “normal” healthy ones. And those other new parents whose healthy babies are climbing the growth charts like our Aurora is you’re not too bad either! Keep up the good work & remember not all growth is easily measured.
To those bereaved parents there are no words and I’m sorry you’re reading this, as I completely understand that when you hear people talking about the tiredness & stress of parenting you know you’d happily agree to anything to get your baby back. I have been there. Big hugs,