My authentic self?

A fellow blogger recently launched her own hashtag challenge #julyyourway and the first day was entitled “your authentic self”. I realised I no longer knew exactly who I was anymore and decided I needed to write this post in case some of you loss mums or parents are the same.

Who am I?

I don’t actually recognise myself anymore. I can tell you all about the old me in great detail as I spent 39 years with her.

The old me

The old me was strong, determined, unwavering and a great calculated risk taker.  Her instincts about people and situations were nearly always right. The type of person you could drop into a room of total strangers and she’d be fine chatting to them making friends pretty quickly. If someone told her she couldn’t do something she’d make it her mission to prove them wrong.  One of life’s dreamers believing in positive thinking and that with the right mindset you can achieve anything. Always working towards a vision of the future and undertaking the next challenge. Underneath the confidence she genuinely cared about all those she met, worked with and spent time with. It took me a long time to get to know, appreciate and love the old me.

The original me pre babies – happy go lucky (most of the time)

Where did she go?

What happened you might ask that would fundamentally change your personality permanently well like most new mums four years ago I lost myself a little after the birth of Violet.  All new mums will relate to the fact that usually you immediately become more risk adverse as your instincts to protect kick in and your self-confidence takes a knock too as your body shape changes. However most mums will tell you that maybe a year or two later they rediscover themselves again building up that old confidence. Their core self is fundamentally unchanged.

That happened to me too.  I was starting to rediscover the old me again in September 2016 then the unthinkable happened.

Mummy me in NZ with Aurora

Child loss

When you lose a child they say your world changes, life is completely altered and things will never be the same again. 

The air is completely knocked out of you but what you don’t realise is with the air goes your personality, as you knew it.  All your hopes and dreams, your confidence, trust in yourself and others, All the things you’ve literally spent a lifetime developing, building & honing are wiped away in a moment. All the negative things cling on such as self-doubt, negativity, criticism, depression but the good things…

Me 1.0

The old me was confident, fun and had a wicked sense of humour.  She was lovely to her core because she genuinely believed there was more love in the world than bad.  She truly believed in positivity and only saw the good in people. She believed in what her gut or core instinct told her about people and situations.  She actually believed that eventually life will come good and that good things happen to good people.  Work hard try your best and believe in others then good things will happen.  She always looked for the silver lining in every black cloud. It never failed her until the day her daughter died.

Try a reboot

At first you think these stronger qualities are still there just diminished like they were post-child birth. Just like when you’ve had set backs or heartbreak in the past? Like a hard drive that just needs a reboot. You try to do that to reboot yourself by trying similar things you’ve done in the past to recover like rest, holidays and seeing loved ones.  Over and over you try in vain to recover.  Eventually you discover that these qualities aren’t dormant any more.  They aren’t still there to be rebooted they’ve been completely wiped out. It’s like you’ve had a computer virus in your brain that’s wiped out the useful things leaving only that photo of you from a beach holiday 10 years ago that you didn’t even like and the only email messages that have been retained are spam ones about PPI.

A reboot for us often involves travel but we’ve been round the world again and still no sign of the old me

Memories

You have a vague memory of the old you but it’s hard to imagine now you were ever that person.  I can only explain it by saying that it’s as though I’m viewing an old movie about someone else. I miss her. I’d spent years trying to learn to love myself, to be confident in my own skin. This confident me enabled me to be very good at what I did career wise, especially as I was able to juggle twice as much work as anyone else and easily did 16 hour days regularly. I was a caring considerate person who loved life and loved having fun. I really did work hard play hard and excelled at it.

A shell

Now that person is gone. Yes physically I look the same. I still have the same cognitive abilities (sleep deprivation affected maybe but I can still ace an IQ test or two). I even the same memories but I feel as though I’m looking in at someone else.  I miss the old me but after over 2 years of trying to get her back I’ve realised that she’s “left the building” never to return. I’ve accepted that I need to build up these qualities in myself from the beginning again, to build the new me. 

I still look like the old me just with a few more lines and wrinkles (and bags from no sleep!)

Still a central core

I’d forgotten how I used to be really strong.  There’s a central core of that original strength left that’s hardened up, so much that it takes a lot for me to cry now but every so often a bit of it crumbles. This core is still surrounded by kindness and compassion just not the huge volume I used to have. This has been coloured by grief and the realisation that really bad things can happen to good people.  Karma doesn’t exist and positive thinking will only get you so far.  

The new me comes with a great deal of darkness the old me didn’t have. This has shaped my sense of humour so it is very dark now. I don’t trust my own gut instincts anymore, as these have been proven wrong twice with the very worst results. I also no longer trust others especially those in the medical profession where I now take what they tell me with a pinch of salt.

Imagination

Luckily over the last 2 years that I have been hitting reboot I have seen some of my wacky creativity come back and my ability to speak to total strangers on some days now is almost as good as it was. Although I find it extremely hard to tolerate fools and I seem to have become even less diplomatic than before so I can be quite honest and frank now.  This is of course a work in progress.  Some things like confidence and speaking to strangers just takes practise and stepping out of your comfort zone.  That’s at least one good outcome in that I don’t really have a comfort zone rather a numb achy uncomfortable zone.

Version 2.0: Post child loss

Unfortunately unlike computer software I don’t think “version 2.0: after child loss” will be an upgrade on the one before. Hopefully I’ll eventually be able to patch over some of the holes and maybe even rebuild a few of the qualities the old me had that were great. It will take time though as it took 38 years of hard work to develop the old me.  

Feel free to check in with me again at age 79 and we can see if the old me has returned just a wrinklier version.

On the positive side it has changed my outlook on life instead of planning for and looking to the future I try to live in the present. To enjoy the here and now making the most of every moment as I understand just how short life is.

Do you ever feel you have changed? Is it for the better or worse?

Thanks for reading

Big love,

Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

You might enjoy these other blog posts –

My story

Meeting an old friend

Four years a mother

The founder of #julyyourway is blogger Holly Goes Lightly join in on instagram!

Ten Top tips for flying with a baby

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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. Then doing the same trip again with an 8-month-old baby Aurora this time taking in Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong too 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. Noise cancelling headphones are a great idea if your baby wakes easily (as modelled by Aurora in earlier photo!).

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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. Make sure you have extra clothes for yourself in your hand luggage near your feet. 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.

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. 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 & baby carrier

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!

Pack a small sling or baby carrier in your carry on luggage as they are handy for airport transfers. Disembarking down plane steps safely especially if they are slippy without having to worry about holding a wriggly baby is priceless. Also they are helpful if your airline fails to deliver your stroller to the gate as promised.

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. 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 and 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. Then another set in our other carry on so we could swap them over for the second connecting flight so she wouldn’t get bored. The toys you can clip to a pram are best as you can attach them to the bassinet or airline seat belt so they don’t get lost under airline seats.

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

Relax

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. Try your hardest to also make the journey as relaxing and as enjoyable for yourself. 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!

Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

You might enjoy these other posts too –

A weekend in Switzerland

A Barcelona beach break

Top tips for keeping baby cool in the heat

10 Top tips to keep baby cool in the heat of summer

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A few days ago I visited Prague with my 11 month old rainbow baby. Ordinarily I wouldn’t go away in the heat of the summer as we prefer to holiday in autumn, winter or spring but hubby was on a conference for work so rather than staying home alone with baby for a week I opted to go over too.

Unfortunately we chose the hottest summer days on record for the Czech Republic for our visit which was stifling especially when lots of places there didn’t have air conditioning. Keeping baby cool was a challenge so I thought I’d share my top tips in case they’re useful for the rest of you.

Ice cubes for play time

If you’re out and about it can be hard to both entertain and keep an active baby cool. My top tip for this is to order a glass of ice cubes whenever you stop for a drink or food then baby can play and suck the ice. Having fun and cooling down at the same time.

Ice cubes the perfect baby toy to keep them cool on hot summer days – Aurora in Prague

Chew toys in fridge

If your baby like mine is teething then keep their teething toys in the fridge over night then they will be nice and cold for chewing in the daytime. A cool bag is a good investment for when you’re travelling as you can not only use it to store food and drink but also teething toys and cloths (see my next tip!).

Top Tips for keeping baby cool - Aurora chewing a chilled octopus teething toy
Top Tips for keeping baby cool – Aurora chewing a chilled octopus teething toy

Cold damp muslin cloths

If you’re heading out into hot weather I find chilling damp muslin cloths to take out with you can help to keep baby cool in their buggy. I even wrapped some ice cubes in the cloths and popped two either side of baby in her push chair when I had to venture out in 37 degree heat.

Large muslin cloths are a great investment to take out underneath the pram as when I needed to cool baby down rinsing one under cool water then placing over baby’s legs can help to cool them quickly.

Pram with sun shield factor 50+

It’s worth when you invest in a pram or buggy for travel that you get one that has sun protection built into the sun shade. Ours has factor 50 in the canopy of it which comes in really handy when we travel abroad as we then know even it we can’t find shade baby can sit in the buggy and will be protected from the sun.

Violet modelling the pram with built in sun canopy SPF50

Sun shade for snoozing

Another top investment tip is to buy a Snooze shade cover that is SPF 50 that will stretch over a buggy, pram or car set to protect baby safely while they sleep. The one we have folds down into a small pouch you can pop under the pram or into a change bag easily for travel.

Lots of people mistakenly cover their prams with muslin cloths or blankets to shade their babies but inadvertently increase the temperature raising it to dangerous levels that could cause death. Please for the sake of £20 invest in a proper shade cover.

Aurora modelling the snooze shade in her car seat in Barcelona

Home made fruit juice lollies

If you’re at home in the heat then you can make fruit and vegetable lollies easily for baby. You can even use ice cube trays for this. If your baby is refusing food because of the heat then this is a great way to encourage them to eat something.

Keep wet wipes in the fridge

This is an easy top tip that when I thought of it I couldn’t believe I hadn’t down it before. A cold wet wipe can be the perfect way to easily cool your baby down after time in the heat again you can keep these in a cool bag when you go out too.

Pop up play tents

A pop up sun tent with SPF50 is a great investment for play time on the beach or even in your garden at home. They fold flat so can easily be popped into a suit case.

Example sun tent from Amazon.co.uk £23 well worth the investment for days at the beach

Paddling pool DIY

If you’re travelling and baby is hot sometimes you dream of having their paddling pool from home. Recreate this easily in the sink of where you’re staying or even buy a cheap bucket or washing up bowl from a local store you can use as a little paddling pool to cool them down.

Ice cubes in front of a fan

At night without air conditioning it can be hard to keep baby cool. If you have a fan pointed towards them anyway then place a bowl or ice cubes in front of it so the air is chilled before it reaches baby. Or even place the bowl below the open window the breeze is come from. Home made air conditioning!

It goes without saying that sun protection is always a must for baby as are sun hats and protective clothing where best.

Happy travelling and keep cool guys!

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

You might enjoy these other posts too –

A weekend in Switzerland

A Barcelona beach break

Top tips for flying long haul with baby

Planning travels and adventure

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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!

Round the world with a baby

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

Memories

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.

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.

20160221_102115
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!

Love Sarah x

Always Violet Skies

You might enjoy these blog posts too –

More of a mother – does a natural birth make you more of a mother?

Somewhere after the rainbow – what happens if you lose your rainbow?

Beach break in Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona beach break?

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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.

Why we were there

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.

Weather

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.

Culture in Barcelona

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. Even though I’d seen the Basilica de la Sagrada Família from the outside I’d never been in. 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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Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

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. 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.

Barcelona Cathedral

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. Located in the Gothic quarter it was 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 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.

Jet2 great with babies!

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

Luck, God or just random shit?

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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

Energy and Karma

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 is born

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.

Violet sick again

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.

Arthur

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.

Karma is fake

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

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

Positive thinking

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

Kindness and compassion

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?

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

I used to love September

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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

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

Travel – A few days in Switzerland

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I’m not a stranger to travelling alone having worked as a PR for travel clients I have travelled all over the world on my own so when a friend who was working in Switzerland invited me over for the weekend I jumped at the chance.

Basil and Zurich

I got a cheap flight to Basil from Manchester and then got the train to meet my friend in Zurich.  I’d been to Zurich before as I used to have a Swiss client but I had only actually experienced it in torrential rain looking grey and miserable.  It was great to see the place flooded in bright sunshine and we walked around the beautiful old town and by the river.  It was stunning.

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Villa Honegg hotel spa

Early the following morning we got the first of many train journeys to visit one of the world’s best spas inside Villa Honegg Hotel in Ennetburgen.

It truly was one of the most breathtaking spas I have been to with a giant outdoor hot pool that looked out over the Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne.  It helped that we had glorious sunshine and a cool breeze that came down from the snow capped mountains.  The spa is sat on the side of a hill that was surrounded by farmland lower down and flower filled meadows in front of it.  Inside the spa there was an indoor spa pool and sauna facilities too.

The hotel had a restaurant that overlooked the spa with an outside terraced area so we ate lunch there with again stunning mountain views before we departed for the train station once again to continue our journey this time several hours travel to Interlaken.

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Airbnb in Interlaken

Interlaken can be described as the tourist centre of Switzerland with coach loads of Chinese, Korean and American tourists arriving into the town in order to explore the nearby sights.  We even noticed they have a Hooters bar to satisfy our friends from across the pond. The town offered a vast choice of accommodation including high end hotels and back packing hostels.  We decided to book an AirBNB apartment as we were only staying for one night – would be arriving late and leaving early the next morning.  The split level studio apartment was to a contemporary loft design, owned by the artists running the nearby modern art gallery, and was practical and functional with what we needed for a one night stay.

Jung Frau

The following morning we headed again by train to climb Jung Frau the highest mountain in Europe.  We stopped off in Grindelwald a very stunning Alpine town half way to Jung Frau that sounded like it belonged in a Harry Potter book.  It is used as a base for hikers and skiing enthusiasts.  It was breathtaking surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  I could happily come back here to stay for a few days and enjoy the mountain air. Apparently this was the place Heidi was filmed.

Grindelwald

We only stayed in Grindelwald for a quick coffee and then continued our journey up Jung Frau by train on the highest train line and ultimately train station in Europe.  The sun was still shining so when we hit the snowy surrounds I was relieved to have my sunglasses.  This was the most scenic train journey I have ever been on, absolutely stunning views from every direction and we climbed so high our ears reacted as they do on a plane. Once we reached Jungfrau station we then had to continue on foot to the Sphinx observatory, the highest point in Europe and it was truly spectacular.  My friend even stripped off her layers as the suns reflection on the deep snow was so warming.  Some of you James Bond fans may recognize the setting here as it was featured in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Lauterbrunnen

On our way back down the mountain we stopped off in Lauterbrunnen another pretty village this time it is one with stunning waterfalls where we enjoyed some dinner and chatted to some Australian tourists (yes they get everywhere!) before heading back on the train to Zurich via Lucerne.

Cham on Lake Zug

The following day I enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Villa Villette in Cham on the banks of Lake Zug before catching the train back to the airport for my flight home.

Switzerland Travel tips

Flights – I flew to Basil from Manchester with Easyjet however the trains are so efficient in Switzerland that it could be cheaper to research travel into various different airports.

Train – I recommend you purchase a Swiss rail pass if you plan to travel around as we did as this as it is the most cost effective way to travel.

Luggage – there are inexpensive luggage lockers in most train stations in Switzerland so you can leave items as you travel to collect as you pass through the main hub stations to collect on way back.

Accommodation – there’s a wide choice of accommodation in Switzerland but if like us you simply need a bed for the night then take a look at sites such as AirBNB that can be more cost effective saving more money to spend on 5 class spas!

Happy travels!

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

Surviving after Child Loss

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Whilst I was sat on a train heading to Glasgow earlier this week I decided to write a few blog posts touching on subjects people have been curious about.

How do you cope with losing a child?

People often ask me about how we coped with losing Violet and about the techniques we employed to try to help ourselves get through this time.

Force yourself to do things

We tried to remember what we enjoyed about life when our daughter was still with us. We focused on making ourselves do these things even though we didn’t want to and certainly didn’t have the motivation.

It all began with us still going on a mini-break to the Lake District only a few weeks after she had died.  A break we had already planned and paid for when our daughter was still alive.  That trip was an extremely hard one for us and we only stayed there for the bare minimum of time. 

We also had lunch at L’Enclume that I had arranged as a belated birthday surprise for my hubby months earlier.  We just went through the motions and returned home early on the final day as we felt lost.

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Cartmel, Lake District

What did you enjoy before?

The things we had enjoyed doing as a family trio were travel. Violet was a true jetsetter and travelled more in her short life then many adults do in theirs. We also liked dining out in new places. 

Admittedly the fondness for dining out was more mine and my hubby’s as Violet disliked food although she did enjoy people watching.  She was always good as gold too preferring to use high chairs to rest her books on for reading. She often got praised by staff for how clean and well behaved she was.    

I work in travel and hospitality PR so my work has always channeled my passion but I felt as though this love had disappeared with Violet.

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Violet watching the Snoopy film on the flight to New Zealand at 7 months old

After the initial Lake District trip we continued to make sure we planned and booked other things in advance. Then we had less chance of being able to back out and change our minds at the last minute.  Don’t get me wrong there were quite a few dinner reservations we made and then couldn’t be bothered going to. Or arrangements with friends we had to back out of as we simply couldn’t face it.

Remember to mark anniversaries

We jointly decided that we should focus on ensuring, despite our misery, that we booked restaurants or mini-breaks for anniversaries and birthdays.  We encouraged each other to make an effort to keep the reservation. We often found that only one of us would wobble and want to back out of plans.  So we worked as a team to persuade each other knowing that it was for the best in the long run.

Book things in advance

We planned trips to places we had already wanted to visit but only for a few days at a time. We knew a big trip would be too much for us.  Places like Florence in Italy for Valentine’s day. Bilbao in Spain to visit the Guggenheim. Montenegro to escape for Violet’s anniversary. Morocco to escape Arthur’s due date etc.

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Sunset in Bilbao, Spain

Slowly but surely after nearly 2 years I can now talk again about travel being a passion of mine without instantly feeling guilty about it. Now I realise that this was also a passion of my daughters and something she would still relish if she was alive today.  I also embraced a new hobby for photography, especially landscape and architecture.  All the photos in this blog are mine.

Always a work in progress

I’ve not yet gotten there with the dining out thing. I’m still fond of food and work in hospitality however we don’t dine out as a couple anywhere near as much as we used to.   I know in time we will and this will be easier too. 

To the “friend” that said to us after Violet died “well at least you can now travel whenever you like and dine out whenever you like”. Well we did travel and dine whenever we liked with Violet. She loved it and we can nearly do this again without pangs of guilt and imagining what she’d have thought of it/been like in these places. Every day is tough.  It’s not as easy as “at least you don’t have to arrange a babysitter” that we’re constantly told by people.

Hang in there with everything in life some things take practice.

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

The real American meaning of Mother’s Day

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I recently discovered through joining an online support group called the Tigerlily Trust that, whilst Mothering Sunday as a concept in UK came from an 16th century English tradition of annually honouring your mother in church the more widely known Mother’s Day was founded in America. In 1907 a lady called Anna Jarvis, wanted to do something to honour her mother who had lost 7 babies.  This original version of Mother’s Day was created to remember and honour her grieving mother.

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The original Mother’s Day

Anna wanted to create a day where people could honour and treat grieving mothers. To actually recognise their pain and suffering in a day of remembrance. 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. They saw it as an opportunity to sell gifts and greetings cards to all mothers. It was then that the Mother’s Day as we currently know it was born.

Ironic

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.

Once a mother always a mother

Someone said to me, the first Mother’s Day, after Violet died that I wasn’t to let the day upset me. 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!

Me & Violet in Cyprus
Me & Violet on holiday in Cyprus she was 10 months old

Grieving mums

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.

Message for all

To all the mother’s out there who have their babies please remember that this day was created for grieving mothers. Mothers who are exactly like you, 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. Remember 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.

Big love, Sarah x