When Mother Nature has other ideas

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

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

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Wednesday morning 6am

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

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

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

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

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

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Aurora watching the snow – her first.

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

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Our neighbours snow covered garden so pretty

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

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

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

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

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

Big love

Sarah x

Blue Monday?  I have a blue kitchen..

There’s been lots of talk this week about people having a “blue Monday” or a “blue week” as apparently people are skint from Christmas/New Year/Sale shopping and have fallen off the wagon when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  Well if those are your major problems in life to be upset over well boo f*cking hoo or at least that’s what I want to say to people.

Of course I don’t wish to belittle anyone who is genuinely suffering from depression, as it is an awful illness but those people who are sad because of minor issues like the weather I just want to grab and violently shake.

I wake up and every day is a blue Monday, as the first thing I think of when I open my eyes in the morning, like most parents, is my children.  I’m then slapped in the face by reality and the fact only one of them is alive.  My little girl Aurora makes me smile despite the blue start and proves there is always a little sunshine in the darkness if you focus on the light no matter how hard that can be.   I’m so used to feeling “blue” that it has become just another part of me.

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The face that makes me smile every morning

On the positive side because of this sadness within me other things going wrong seem to just be absorbed into the same abyss that’s already there, so I don’t feel anymore sad but exactly the same as I did before.  For example our washing machine just gave up the ghost and a few years ago it’d have meant maximum stress about the cost but we simply ordered a new one on our credit card, to be paid for later all sorted.  Minimum drama and less fuss as my mum says “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

So to those of you who think you have issues this week then….

You’ve put on a few pounds since Christmas and the diet you started on the 1stJanuary you’ve given up on already, so now you’re depressed.  Think yourself lucky at least you’re not living on the streets homeless and hungry.  At least you’re healthy too and not in hospital battling some horrendous disease or sat beside a loved one who is.

The weather is a bit grey and miserable so it’s making you feel down.  Well you do live in the UK and it is winter so get over it or look to emigrate.  Change your situation. Remember also that grey and miserable can be pretty too just change your perspective and wear bright colours to compensate.

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Look for the sunshine through the grey clouds

So you spent too much money over Christmas and New Year so you feel a little down.  Why not start a side line business connected to a hobby or dig out some things you don’t want any more and sell them?  Basically stop moping and get moving.  Do something about it and change things.  You have the power!  (Now I sound like He-man I do apologise)  Websites like Ebay have always been popular but also look at selling things through sites and apps such as Depop and Facebook marketplace.  If you’re really struggling then get advice from the Citizens advice bureau they can give impartial advice on debt and other issues.

Given up on whatever New Year’s resolutions you started?  If they involved spending money on gym membership, then cancel it and donate the cash to charity, think of the actual good you can do with it instead. The time you’d have spent in the gym you can spend volunteering at a homeless shelter, local dogs home (that’d be great free exercise!) or visiting elderly people? Think of the good you can do for others instead of focussing inwards on how bad you feel personally. Stop being selfish and think of other people instead.  I can honestly tell you that you will start to feel much much better just try it!

You can easily find volunteering opportunities in your community via sites like the Do it Trust

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Grey can sometimes be quite beautiful even in winter

Chin up; keep going and soon it’ll be springtime.

Big love,

Sarah x

 

 

Planning travels and adventure

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

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

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Violet with one of the many friends she made travelling

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

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

Ten Top tips for flying with a baby

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

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

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Violet sleeping on the way to New Zealand in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Violet just chilling on the reception desk in Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

Happy flying! x

 

New Year learning and growth

Starting a New Year can give people much needed motivation to make changes in their lives and lots of people look to make resolutions for what they will do differently this year.  This “new start” can be extra stressful and upsetting for those who have experienced child loss or indeed perhaps the loss of a different close loved one too.

The New Year marks another milestone in your personal journey of loss.  Another year without them.  Another year where you are a year older but they won’t age at all.  Another year where you won’t hear them laugh, celebrate a birthday or just hold them again.  Our loved ones are frozen in time and the changing year reminds us that the rest of the world is moving on without them.

The last 2 New Year’s were extremely difficult for us as the one thing we wanted to be able to change – to bring our children back – we just couldn’t do.  The year before that we also found difficult in a different way because that was the year I nearly died in childbirth and Violet had open-heart surgery at the time we thought that was our toughest year but we had no idea what was to come!

How can you possibly have New Year’s resolutions when the one thing you want to change you simply can’t change or control ever?  Instead I learnt to focus on looking at what I had learned in the past year and what if anything I could grow from.  Was there anything positive I could build upon and develop for the following year?  It really helped me to recognise the negative and bad things but also to then try to move away from them to focus on the good.  To build on those instead.

So here in public for the first time are the things I have learnt from the last 3 years forgive the brevity with summaries as otherwise it’d be a novel…

2015 – Key experiences were getting married, father-in-law dying suddenly, difficult child-birth (both nearly died, spent weeks in hospital & Violet had open heart surgery to save her at 4 days old)

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Violet in Alder Hey awaiting heart surgery at 2 days old

What I learnt…

  • Sometimes positive thinking can help to get you through.
  • Small can be very mighty indeed.
  • Science is amazing.
  • Even the cleverest most experienced people make mistakes.
  • Always trust your instincts.
  • Children’s heart surgeons really can be miracle workers and are near to God’s. I worship one called Mr Prem and still do.
  • Alder Hey hospital is amazing.
  • Ronald McDonald house charity is amazing.
  • I am very lucky to have such a close family – brother and sister the best in the world
  • My mum is a legend.
  • I made the right decision marrying my soul mate who turned out to be the best father and husband ever.
  • I have fantastic friends.

2016- Key experiences were travelling the world with an infant, belated celebration of our marriage and then daughter dying suddenly at 15 months.

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Violet watching the Snoopy film on Singapore Airlines on way back from Bali

What I learnt…

  • Always give back to those who have helped you – we raised £1,000 for Ronald McDonald at our wedding reception.
  • Travelling with a baby is amazing everyone should do it, although only visit places where you can drink the tap water until your child is old enough to know not to swallow water in showers or bath.
  • Your life can change in a heartbeat.
  • I would willingly give my life to save my child but I wasn’t given that choice.
  • There’s nothing more precious than family.
  • Sometimes doctors & specialists don’t have all the answers
  • All the positive thinking and prayers in the world sometimes can’t help you.
  • You only know your true friends when your world ends.
  • Child loss is a pain like nothing else.
  • You think you knew pain and misery before but you were wrong oh so very wrong.
  • My husband is the most amazing person in the world.
  • Focusing on helping others can help you to relieve your own pain.
  • Setting up fundraising can help you to try to take back some kind of control.
  • Knowledge really is power. It’s very hard not knowing all the answers or information or why’s
  • Some friends go out of their way to support you they are worth their weight in gold & others crumble by the wayside.
  • Family is everything.
  • Time is the most valuable commodity there is so make the most of every day.
  • Love never dies

2017 – Key experiences were a rainbow pregnancy, loss of our son through TMR, being told I probably have a genetic defect; having a hole in my heart diagnosed & then a second surprise rainbow pregnancy at the end of the year.

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Arthur

What I learnt…

  • You should value your health more than anything.
  • Never count your chickens before they’ve hatched or celebrate your baby before it is born.
  • Hope can come in many forms.
  • Child Bereavement UK are amazing.
  • Rainbows can reappear as fast as they disappear.
  • A dog can bring you so much joy and unconditional love when you really need it.
  • Child loss changes you as a person and that change is a permanent one for better or worse.
  • The old me died and was buried with my daughter in September 2016 no amount of trying will bring her back.
  • You have to put loved ones before everything else but not before your own health.
  • Kindness is everything.
  • Just because a baby is small doesn’t make it any easier to birth.
  • Saying goodbye to a baby you never really knew and that gave you so much hope for the future is very hard.  Choosing to say goodbye early is even harder.
  • Distractions are invaluable.
  • Sometimes you can’t understand or fight genetics
  • You can try hard to plan things but often nature finds a way to surprise you
  • Pregnancy is stressful but even more so when you’ve experienced child loss
  • You are not alone others out there have experienced the same thing
  • Always stand up for those who are unable to fight.
  • Always do the right thing for you and other people even if it is the hardest choice

2018 – Key experiences were a successful rainbow pregnancy, finally answers in inquest from the coroner about Violet’s death, birth of our third child a baby girl, a house renovation/extension, the first Violet ball for charity & my Nan passing.

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Me and a tiny Aurora

What I learnt…

  • Seize control of what you can control and smile and breathe with those things you can’t.
  • If you feel part of your life is uncontrollable then begin a new project or task you can control.
  • What will be will be
  • Go with the flow those hippies knew something
  • Tommy’s baby charity is amazing.
  • Stand up and fight for those who cannot
  • Sometimes the best decision isn’t the easiest
  • Helping to advise and support others who are also suffering in a similar way can help yourself too
  • Sharing is caring
  • Sometimes there are no answers or explanations as to why
  • Sometimes all you need as a listening ear and some chocolate
  • Caesarean sections aren’t the easy childbirth option but it was the best option for me
  • Breast isn’t always best when your baby has other ideas. Alive and feeding is best no matter how they are fed.
  • Being a mum of three when you only have one child to hold and nurse is hard.
  • Tiredness has a whole new meaning when you’re the mum of a new-born and have experienced child loss too
  • Being a new mum is difficult. Being a new mum who has watched her first child die and had to feel her second one die inside her is near impossible stress wise but at least I finally have a child who is alive and healthy
  • To live a long, happy, healthy life is the best we can ask for. I hope I’m as lucky as my Nan who was in her nineties.

You can see here clearly that when unimaginably stressful events happen in a year the number of “learnings” or developments increase, so try to remember this if only once a year.  There is something constructive that comes from the most upsetting and distressing of situations if you really look closely.  Remember and recognise what an achievement it is to be a survivor and what you have been through.

It is also possible to squeeze out a tiny bit of happiness from it all too.  As the legend that is JK Rowling wrote for Dumbledore ““Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”  So flick that switch or light that flame even if it is on a very tiny candle your baby or babies will thank you.

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Light that flame

If you only take one thing away from this and repeat it as a mantra in the mirror every morning throughout January it should be this…”You are amazing”.

Love Sarah x

When you finally get your rainbow baby what then…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Sarah x

I used to love September

This is now the worst month for me.

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

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

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

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Autumn sunset in Manchester city centre on border of Salford

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

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

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

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Autumn colours in Chorlton

 

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

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

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Click here for details of ball.

Thanks for reading x

Emotional

Relieved, ungrateful, confusing, complicated, devastating, exciting, ecstatic, elated, happy, sad, angry…

Emotional is probably the only constant state at the moment, as with the majority of new mums, never mind those who have gone through child loss. I’m facing a wave of different emotions everyday but unlike most new mums mine include sadness, feeling angry, confused (how can you feel immense pain & pleasure at same time) & devastated that my older children aren’t here too.  I am a mother of three not one.

The midwife service would ordinarily have signed me and baby off by now and passed our care onto the health visitors but given the extreme circumstances (loss of two children) they are keeping a close eye on me alongside the health visitors, which is nice in a way, as it is a total contradiction to the care we had 3 years ago where we were forgotten about for the first few weeks after we left hospital. We complained at the time to Manchester’s NHS trust and it resulted in a full restructure of procedures for new mum care in Greater Manchester, hopefully meaning high risk babies that have undergone surgery shortly after birth won’t now fall down the cracks as we did.

In a way this is probably also now the reason why both departments are now OTT with our care.

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Me (tired & make up free but happy) with Aurora

 

Midwives and health visitors ask me how I’m doing then look at me carefully to observe my facial expressions & body language to see when I say that “I’m ok” if I’m being honest. They all looked surprised when I explained after Aurora was born healthy that for the first time in 9 months a lot of my anxiety and worry had lifted. I actually felt a huge sense of relief and was also in slight shock that at last the ordeal of waiting and wondering was over. She was finally here and was healthy. Sometimes it still feels surreal so I have to pinch myself to check I’m not just dreaming and other times I still find myself because of sleep deprivation accidentally calling Aurora Violet as though my brain has regressed in time.  Although I’m led to believe this also happens often when you have multiple children who are alive too.

Anyway got to dash baby waking for a feed…thanks for reading.

Love Sarah 😘 x

 

 

 

 

More of a mother? 

For years I have heard close friends and family talk about how they feel like fraudulent mummies because they had caesarean sections instead of natural births.

Other friends have spoken about the pressure to have done natural child birth, without pain relief, as though the more natural, painful and traumatic your experience the bigger your entitlement to a “super mummy” badge.

Super mother

I felt I needed to write this blog post about the pure bullshit (yes that’s the language I’m choosing to use) of this whole belief system.  I’m someone who has now become a mother as a result of the most painful natural birth, I’ve delivered a sleeping baby early naturally and I’ve also had an elective Caesarean section too.  I can say from experience that all of these make me equally a mother and each of these experiences posed their own challenges, unique type of pain and suffering (both during and afterwards, both emotional and physical pain).

My “natural” birth was undiagnosed breach during which I had no pain relief and both myself and my daughter nearly died. Now this experience, to some women I’ve spoken to at various baby groups, is lauded as making me a “super woman” and 3 years ago in the baby class tales of who had had the worst birth experience meant I usually “won” that one hands down.

I remember one woman at a baby group proudly stating she also had a breach birth naturally and when offered a C-section instead opted for a no pain relief natural experience and said she was proud she’d done it. What utter nonsense? As someone who has experienced it and without pain relief, I can hand on heart say I really wish I hadn’t have been through it at all.

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Baby Aurora a few hours old last week

Yes it is important for women to be able to have a choice in the birth process and for them to be able to have a say in their experience but at the end of the day the priority must always be the health of mother and her baby or babies so whatever is best for the patients should be what happens. For women to then wear their “experience” as a badge of honour, that they can use to bash other mums with (as if new mums don’t already have enough to feel guilty about!) is I think total and complete bollocks.

I’ve had people say to me, that they wish they’d have had the birth experience I had, instead of the C-section they actually did have, and as someone whose physical wounds and emotional ones still haven’t healed from my original birth trauma, I’ve had to say “ermmm no you really don’t want to have experienced what I did”.

So why is a C-section seen as the easy option or the cheats way? As someone who has now also experienced a Caesarean section with my latest pregnancy (actually last week!) I can say it’s certainly not the super easy and pain free alternative that it is lauded as.   Those women I was in hospital with who had natural births are already out and about with their babies in slings, pushing them in prams and lifting car seats into their cars to take baby for a drive.  I can’t do any of that yet because of the wound that still needs to heal across my tummy and I’m limited to what I can lift, stretch to reach and physically do.  I’m also on strong painkillers for the pain following the major operation, as that is what a Caesarean section is, a major operation!  Natural childbirth might be more painful at the time of birth but post birth C-section pain and discomfort wins hands down unless you of course have complications such as tears, prolapse, piles, etc.

Women at baby groups talk about their natural birth experiences in the same way we probably chatted about hunting trips and warfare as cave people. The stories seem to become more elaborate and embellished as they are repeated with some women seeming to get pleasure from reliving all the horrendous little details wanting to out shock or out gore the person before.  There seems to be an element of competition about the whole thing trying to see who has had the worst experience.

If women talk about their experiences with such great delight then why aren’t the genuine battle scars, including C-section scars, stretch marks & saggy boobs also celebrated by society and why are women made to feel bad about them? Should they not be championed as battle scars and showcased alongside the tales of woe?

Why are some women also made to feel bad for having C-sections by men too? Some men when I was pregnant and they heard I was having a planned c section actually joked “too posh to push hey?” With even women giving each other a hard time over childbirth what hope do we have for men to then react appropriately?

Do you feel bad about your childbirth experience?  Have others made you feel guilty about it?  Have you decided to change things with any future children?

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Tiny hands

I feel we have a long way to go when discussing childbirth but it is about time we simply celebrate motherhood no matter how our babies arrived into the world and we should celebrate all types of motherhood too, including those whose babies don’t quite go or arrive as planned.   It’s important to talk about child loss too and alternative experiences.

Love

Sarah x

AvMA a virtually unknown charity

Most people have never heard of an amazing charity called AvMA – Action Against Medical Accidents, probably because until the worst happens you have no need to seek them out.

We were introduced to this organisation by the Manchester coroners office, when we were first informed that there would be an inquest into our daughter Violet’s death at Manchester Children’s hospital.

The coroners team said it was highly likely that the Manchester NHS trust would employ their own barrister for the hearing, when it finally happened, and that they wanted us to feel supported, as though someone is on our side. They said they didn’t want us to be bullied by the trust’s representatives and that an organisation called AvMA might be able to help.

You may now ask “well what about legal aid?” It turns out that no matter what your financial situation in this circumstance legal aid is not available for an inquest hearing.  Can you imagine the additional heartbreak and stress for anyone who is grieving a loved one and believes their death might be because of negligence or an accident but has no free legal support?  We were quoted upwards of £1000 by several solicitors to pay for legal advice and support for the inquest.

You may ask “what about no win no fee” though but this also isn’t available for a coroner’s inquest as this hearing looks solely to find the cause of death not to apportion blame or result in any type of compensation.  In order to get a pay out you would have to have a separate legal proceeding in front of a judge rather than a coroner and this would be after the inquest and is a separate legal action entirely.

AvMA provides free independent advice and support to people affected by medical accidents (lapses in patient safety) through a specialist helpline, written casework and inquest support services. They can put patients in contact with accredited clinical negligence solicitors if appropriate. They also work in partnership with health professionals, the NHS, government departments, lawyers and, most of all, patients to improve patient safety and justice.

For us it meant having a trained barrister examine all the documents associated with Violet’s death and care whilst in Manchester Children’s hospital. This proved invaluable to us as she requested certain things we hadn’t noticed were missing, such as when we asked for a copy of Violet’s medical records the hospital hadn’t included any of her X Ray results, of which there were many. We then had time to request them ahead of the hearing.

Violet in Children's hospital MCR
Violet in hospital watching TV

Judy, the barrister that volunteered her services to us, was amazing. We had a conference call with her a few weeks before the inquest and were pleased to see that she’d pulled together a list of her main concerns that all tallied with ours. She had done extensive research, including combing through not just the post mortem report but also the medical reports and all of Violets notes (that we couldn’t bring ourselves to sift through again). She also consulted various medical professionals she knew to get their advice on things.

At the inquest itself both Julia the representative from AvMA and Judy our barrister were amazingly supportive. Judy asked all the questions we wanted and cross examined some of the witnesses, the various specialists and consultants responsible for Violets care while she was in the hospital. We passed Judy notes from the table behind with any additional questions that came to us while they were giving evidence, and before the coroner had finished with a witness, Judy always double checked with us that there was nothing else we needed to ask.

I was originally instructed by the coroner to read out the police statement I had given immediately after Violet died and Judy said she could ask for me to be excused from doing this because I was heavily pregnant and the additional stress it would cause.  We didn’t even realise this was an option and the coroner said he would admit the statement to the records as a printed document instead.  This saved me having to undergo further emotional distress on the day.

Violet on 26th Sept 2016
Violet playing with her balloon the morning of the day she died

Ultimately the inquest couldn’t bring Violet back and we got some answers but not really the resolution we wanted. However I’m not certain we would have received these same answers if we hadn’t have had AvMA and Judy helping us. It was a traumatic day with lots of tears, so I doubt we would have had the strength or wherewithal to ask so many questions ourselves. Their help and support at what was an extremely vulnerable time for us proved to be priceless.

Judy and AvMA only invoiced us for their expenses, which totalled less than £200, including travel costs from London and an overnight stay, so when you consider the thousands a barrister would normally charge this was a bargain. We’ve since given a larger donation to the charity too, so we can help them to help someone else like us who find themselves in an impossibly heart wrenching situation.

AvMA operate as a charity offering support to parents and families like us whose loved ones have died or been seriously injured because of what might have been a medical accident.  This will be the hardest most traumatic time in their lives and as a result they are certainly in need of support, especially around something that could result in answers, justice and in the case of proven negligence, when someone is seriously injured, later on a possible future financial payout too, that could make the difference to quality of life.

I know this charity isn’t as attractive or as immediately heart tugging as a animal, Children’s charity or a cancer cause but rest assured they can make a huge difference to people’s lives at a time when there world has just ended.  When they are already struggling to deal with the grief and shock of losing someone, in our case our 15 month old daughter.

You never think this type of thing will happen to you. That one day your perfect little life bubble could burst and you lose a child or someone close to you but if this happens then you certainly need legal support from someone like AvMA as life at this time is overwhelming and devastating enough without adding a looming inquest to the list.

If you can afford to donate to this amazing charity, even if a small one, then please do so as you could help someone like us who has said goodbye to their child. If you’re a legal professional and would like to donate time or expertise to work with the charity to help someone like us then please do take a closer look as we’re so grateful to Judy for giving up her time and expertise to help us.

Judy explained to us that she understood a little of what we had gone through with Violet, as her daughter had been premature so she had spent lots of time with her in hospital and luckily she was healthy now but she knows how scary it can be to be a parent of a sick child.  She said she can’t begin to imagine then losing them and then the stress of the coroner deciding to launch an inquest into what happened too.  After reading our case she felt compelled to help us.  A truly wonderful lady and we will be eternally grateful to her for her help and compassion.

Here’s a link about AvMA please take a look and consider giving them some support if you can

Thank you

Sarah, Pat & Angel Violet xxx

Pregnancy talk

I’m now heavily pregnant so that means that strangers and anyone I meet can tell instantly that I am with child, which is fine I’m happy to talk about it.  The difficulty comes when they ask if it is my first pregnancy and I have a policy of always telling the truth so when I say it is my third.  I get comments like “wow you’ve got your hands full then”, “you must really know what you’re doing”, “you’re a glutton for punishment” and “are your other two excited about their little brother or sister”.

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A photo I took of a mother with her two children paddling in the sea in Morocco

Often I let them make a comment and then I move the conversation on without having to tell them that neither of this baby’s siblings are alive.  Occasionally the person I’m talking to will bring the conversation back around again by asking what my existing two children are? Are they boys or girls?  Then I have to explain that they were one of each but unfortunately they are no longer with us and that yes I’m sure they would have been excited to have a little brother or sister.

They then usually ask me what happened to my first two children and I tell them honestly or they nervously say “I’m so sorry” to which I answer “it’s ok” when clearly it isn’t then the conversation moves on.

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People often tell me “oh hopefully this one will be third time lucky then” and I know this comes from a very good place filled with love. I know we were very unlucky to have had the situation with Arthur but I don’t feel we were unlucky to have had Violet.  I know we were extremely fortunate to have known such a special little person if only for 15 months.  We were very unlucky to have lost her but would happily repeat the time over again and again in the style of Groundhog day if we could – well maybe not the very last 6 hours!

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Here’s Violet having a showdown of attitude with her bigger cousin Evelyn.  Sometimes I wonder what she’d have been like as a sister.

It makes being pregnant bittersweet and we are simply hoping this time to have a stress free birth experience too, as with Violet bless her we certainly had a lot of drama.