Mothering after loss

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This week has been a really challenging one for me because my baby has been properly poorly for the first time.  Yes we’ve had teething pain, the odd tummy bug and reflux issues but this time she has a very nasty cold bug that’s affected her chest too.

Now you might be thinking having to look after a sick baby is hard for any mother or parent and yes it is but when you’ve previously had a baby get sick and then die it makes the experience all the more stressful.  Especially when your other baby died of lung problems and now your new baby is choking and coughing in her sleep.

The doctor has said it’s just a cold so you’d think just give the child some calpol and vapour rub and get on with it.

Well just getting on with it is easier said than done. My hubby was also away so I was flying solo too (hats off to all those single parents out there you deserve medals!).

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Poorly little girl but check out that fabulous curl!

The reality was that I didn’t get any sleep at all. Part of the night she was awake distressed after coughing and wanting cuddles. The rest of the night she slept in fits and starts repeatedly coughing and choking in her sleep. Cue mummy leaping out of bed every time, sprinting across the room to lift her head and rub her back trying to ensure she didn’t breathe any phlegm back into her lungs.

Of course I also put a folded blanket under her mattress to ensure she was tilted to help with congested breathing, a tip we learnt from caring for her sister.

The following day aurora was still not herself so whilst most mummy’s might have tried to nap whilst baby did. I held her propped up while she slept so preventing her from choking on any phlegm and ensuring when she did cough that she definitely coughed or vomited outwards. Her sister they think breathed vomit into her lungs so this is now our worst nightmare for Aurora.

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After a loooong 24 hours of hardly any sleep and at last she sleeps!

You might wonder why I’m even taking the time to tell you all this and whilst I don’t want to over share or make anyone feel sorry for me. I’m thankful for my baby and don’t want to complain but lots of people think once you finally get your rainbow baby then that’s it job done. Well it’s only just begun really.

The stress and worry now Aurora is ill is unbearable as when I do manage sleep I get flashbacks of her sister, Violet, in hospital and immediately after she died.

Most parents will stress and worry about their babies for their entire lives, that bit isn’t a new phenomena, but I guess most believe their child dying won’t happen to them. These things always happen to other people. Well when the unthinkable has happened to you already then you’re more likely to worry that it will happen again.

I’ve seen what hell looks like and I’ve experienced unspeakable pain.  I have sat by the side of a hospital bed for days and nights on end.  I have had to hold my screaming baby down while she is tortured by doctors with needles and tubes all trying to do their jobs.  I’ve stifled back my own crying and sobs so as not to distress my poorly child.  I’ve told my crying child that all of this is to make them better and lied that they will be ok.  I’ve begged and pleaded with emergency intensive care teams not to give up on resuscitation but nothing is worse than the nightmare of your baby actually dying.

You can’t un-see or forget your dead baby’s face. How their cold lifeless body felt? How clammy the skin? How soulless their eyes? Almost like a doll has been made of them. They don’t seem real somehow.  I can tell you that hell is watching your child in pain, being tortured and then them die.  Then you have to arrange their funeral before somehow going on with your life.

I never ever want to go back there again thank you.  If to ensure that doesn’t happen it takes staying awake to check Aurora throughout the night then so be it.  If I have to hold her while she sleeps then I will do.  Anything I need to do I will do it.

I also keep having to repeat the same mantra over and over in my head.

“This is a different baby. A different person. She isn’t the same. ”

To all those parents out there with rainbow babies or those caring for children who are sick my hat goes off to you too.  Sometimes it’s tough being a parent.

Big love

Sarah – Violet Skies

Have you read these other posts about Rainbow babies?

When you finally get your rainbow what then?

Distraction number 1

Luck, God or just random shit

Pregnancy after loss & now PTSD

When you’re experiencing pregnancy after loss you expect to be stressed throughout the entire 9 months, so every scan becomes a milestone and you count down until the next scan or check happens. It has actually believe it or not become easier as time has gone on because the more positive scans and checks you have slowly the better you start to feel too.

What you don’t expect only 2 weeks before D Day, which for me is C day really, is to suddenly start getting horrendous nightmares that stop you sleeping.

I spoke to my GP about it and she said oh that’s post traumatic stress disorder because you’ve had two extremely stressful birth experiences previously so the closer you get to your c section date the worse these might get not to mention the stress and grief from losing two previous children.

Great just when I thought I’d nearly done it and we were finally on the home stretch my subconscious seems to want to remind me of the nightmares I have had previously.

WARNING anyone who is pregnant stop reading now as you don’t want to read this part, if you’re squeamish too or eating at the moment (don’t worry there are no photos)!

In my first birth experience I was induced to give birth to Violet at 37 weeks of pregnancy, because they said it’d be less stressful for her, given we knew she had a heart condition and the crash team would be on standby to whisk her straight to the neonatal unit.  Unfortunately I wasn’t offered any positioning scan to check her head was definitely engaged and all the various midwives and consultants that examined me told me she was in a perfect position. We were induced on the 14th June 3 times in total and she was finally born the night of the 15th. Both of us nearly died, as it turned out she was undiagnosed breech and no one realised until her bottom appeared instead of her head. She was classic breach too so like a resting frog or a roast chicken with legs tucked either side and because of that her legs wedged her into my pelvis so she was stuck for over 10 minutes. They eventually had to use brute force to yank her legs out then tear her out of me quite literally. The afterbirth shot out with her like a pressure cork across the room along with nearly 2 litres of my blood. Violet wasn’t breathing when she came out so they had to resuscitate her before taking her to the neonatal unit and they had to take me into the operating theatre to repair the third degree tears caused.  Oh and did I say I was given no pain relief either, despite requesting some repeatedly for well over a day?  I now know the excruciating pain I had felt too for over a day was her toe nails and knees scraping along my insides on her way out.

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Decided to insert a happy photo of me & Violet – it makes me smile!

My second birth experience wasn’t any better as this time I had to deliver Arthur sleeping at 22 weeks and we had had to make the difficult decision to terminate him due to severe medical reasons a few days earlier. Apparently I was told it would be much easier physically than birthing a larger full term baby and as he wasn’t alive I could have maximum pain relief.  I opted for diamorphine injections so got my first one when contractions began and could have another 4 hours later. So 4 hours later happened and, as they were preparing to give me more pain relief, I starting birthing him so they couldn’t continue. It was explained to me that it’d be easy to push him out as he was so small and then all they’d do is give a little tug on the umbilical cord, once he was out, then the placenta would come away easily. So my poor tiny sleeping baby came out and then they gave a little tug but the cord snapped, so I started haemorrhaging, they hit all the alarms and the crash team rushed in. I still had no more pain relief but was told to take deep breaths while a consultant put his hand inside my womb (yes my actual womb meaning my cervix had to open the width of a normal sized baby’s head!) and he manually scraped the placenta out. Then another consultant had to do the same to check they got it all. In the meantime I’d lost a litre and a half of blood. Over the next week I found myself in and out of hospital with infections of my womb, extremely low iron and blood pressure. Not to mention dealing with the grief of having delivered my dead son, almost a year after we buried my daughter too.

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Here’s another happy photo – I actually hate my frizzy hair/no make up in this shot but her facial expression is perfection.

Today I achieved the first step to get over my PTSD as we had a tour of the labour ward and operating theatres in the hospital.  It was the first time I had been back on that particular ward/area since having Violet and I broke down into tears, as I was taken right back to just over 3 years ago.  I was proud I did it and hopefully now it will be easier for me to go back there again in a few weeks time.  Fingers crossed I will be much less stressed.

So there you have it the main reason behind my PTSD and the reason why this time they are giving me a Caesarean section so just hoping this one goes smoothly because I bloody deserve it (excuse the pun & the language!).

The amusing thing is that after I had Violet the National Childbirth Trust contacted me to ask would I consider becoming a volunteer to talk to expectant mothers about my natural birth experience! I said I didn’t think that’d be a good idea, as they would have nightmares, not realising at the time that it would be me having them.

Not many people talk about PTSD from childbirth experience so I wanted to share in the hope others come forward or feel less alone.  I know the vast majority of people have relatively straightforward birth experiences and I don’t want to scare anyone but no one really supports those that go through horrendous ones, so I felt I should share my stories in the hope others feel they can share theirs.

I have now been offered help in dealing with my PTSD but the treatment isn’t advised when you’re pregnant so they will work with me on it in a few months.

Thanks for the love

Sarah x

Grief, Anxiety and Confidence

Unless people have been through something similar themselves, they don’t really understand that when you’re grieving, yes you go through waves of sadness, anger and frustration at the world but there’s a huge element of anxiety too.

The anxiety affects every aspect of your life. Almost as though because the worst thing ever actually did happen, then what’s to say something else bad isn’t possible too. This heightened sense of danger makes you nervous and afraid of things that previously you wouldn’t have been concerned about.

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Slipping on ice (photo credit: U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Like this week the road outside our house was very icy and there was a time I wouldn’t have cared but I was reluctant to go outside, as I know how accident-prone I am and so the thought of falling and injuring myself was too scary to contemplate.

I find myself constantly trying to avoid risk, whereas as an entrepreneur for many years, risk and calculated odds was something I excelled in. I could easily identify what to take a chance on and what to avoid based on pure instinct. I no longer trust my own instincts.

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Violet the morning of day she died playing happily with her balloon.  Trying to bash me with it!

The morning my little girl died the hospital said she was doing really well and I could see with my own eyes she was better than she had been for weeks. We were all so very happy. I messaged everyone with photos showing how well she was doing; I thanked every single God that she had turned a corner. That evening she died suddenly and I realised that my eyes and instincts could lie. Also that medical specialists don’t know everything and that deeply affects everything else in your life and makes me question it all. All of a sudden is “green” really green?

Not only do I question my instincts more but I also worry about things I never used to. I constantly question everything…

Am I doing a good job for my client? (even when they give me positive feedback!) Am I still a nice person?  Have I turned bitter because of losing my child? Have I offended someone somehow because they didn’t phone me back?  Does xxx still like me? What if xxx is just trying to be kind because they feel sorry for me?  Have I made that person uncomfortable with my honesty? Did xxx feel awkward because I brought up a story about my daughter and they didn’t know how to react?  Am I any good at my job? Can I even write? Do I actually know what I’m doing?  Does anyone care about what I think? What if I burst into tears how embarrassing?  What if no one wants to speak to me as they think I’ll be miserable & I’ll depress them because bad things always happen to me? Maybe xxxx is avoiding seeing me because she thinks her baby/pregnancy/kids will upset me?  Perhaps xxxx doesn’t want to have to deal with any negativity as she’s all about positive thinking & I have issues? xxxx clearly doesn’t speak to me anymore or contact me because I make them sad or feel awkward? What if I drive other friends away in the same way? Am I acting odd in social situations?  Am I stuttering? what if…what about…Why did that bad thing happen was it because of me?

These constant niggles and questions I now ask myself all the time and they started when Violet died and they aren’t going away.  They increased even more after Arthur died as he gave us so much hope for the future and then our world became doomed once again. These thoughts now chip chip chip away at my confidence in every area of my life, so some days I almost feel like I shouldn’t even bother. I find it a real challenge to drive myself onwards, often having to give myself evidence as to why certain things aren’t true and why things aren’t the case.

I’m seeing a great counsellor, finally (as I have been through a few, some who I made cry & others that ended up being aggressive with me but that’s a post for the future!), who is trying to help me to work through these issues.  You don’t usually hear people talk about confidence and anxiety when they’re grieving but I’m learning now that it is far more common than you think.  Quite a few people I have spoken to who have lost a loved one have said that it has also really affected their self-confidence.

Thank you to you all for your patience with me and for helping me to believe in myself again!

Love, Sarah x