Lonely

There’s a lot out there about new mums being lonely and how as a new mum you can suddenly feel lonely as your world changes overnight when your new baby is born. People talk about how important it is to make new friends and to build support networks so you don’t feel isolated. I’ve been there and get why some mums feel that way so can champion the importance of joining groups or courses to meet other new parents perhaps NCT classes or pregnancy yoga (as long as you’re not a rainbow mum read my earlier post about my experience with this here) before the birth or a baby class afterwards.

Lonely walk through the cemetery

What no one really talks about though is how lonely it is when your baby or child dies. As a mum of a living baby yes it might be lonely but you only have to go into a cafe or shop or walk down the street with a pram before someone stops to talk to you, to coo and fuss over your baby. It’s more than acceptable in society to be a new parent and to have a baby. If anything society celebrates it as this great achievement, which it isn’t, and miracle, which it is. But what happens if your child or baby dies? What then?

Well I can say from experience that society ostracises you. The support networks you had as a new or expectant mum suddenly disappear and aren’t there anymore. You can’t go along to a mother and baby group minus a baby can you?  Or a post-pregnancy yoga session when that baby didn’t survive even though perhaps you’re more in need of that session than others. Well why can’t you? Because society makes you feel like an outcast. You should be able to attend these groups and classes but you’re made to feel unwelcome.  I phoned one yoga school after I lost my rainbow baby Arthur at 22 weeks (read about it my experience with Arthur here) and asked could I switch my paid for maternity yoga sessions to a post-pregnancy class but she advised that it wouldn’t be suitable for me and gave me a refund instead. All of a sudden your mummy membership has been revoked. You aren’t welcome anymore. Suddenly you’re pushed out to the fringes of society.

Suddenly you’re in a cafe all alone without the need for a baby bottle

When my daughter Violet was alive I was celebrated by that same society, who exclaimed, “Oh you’re doing such a good and thankless tiring job as a Mummy”, “wow you’re a working mummy too” and even though motherhood is stressful at least it is acceptable.

Then your child dies and you’re pushed out, ignored and no one knows what to say or do with you anymore, so it is easier for him or her to simply ignore you or your situation. It is as though your mummy label has fallen off, when in fact you are still a mummy but just not of a living child. You’ve had the sleepless nights and are still having them just now they are because of your tears not a baby’s. 

Even the darkest night will end and you will remember those friends who were there

No one wants to invite you out anymore. Well we don’t want to risk upsetting you, they may say, if we talk about our children. Suddenly if you do see any of your old friends by accident they deliberately avoid talking about their children and mentioning yours for this reason, when actually having only discussed parenting and each other’s children for the past year or more that line of discussion might actually be a great comfort and more the “normal” you’ve been used to.  It is actually lovely for someone to mention your child’s name as it shows they still remember them and that their memory lives on, as one of the fears a grieving parent has is that their child will be forgotten.

“If you see somebody that is hurting, don’t look away”. Lady Gaga

A few years before I became a mother I was a singleton for years and I was subject to a different kind of societal taboo.  I actually found myself longing to be in that outcast group again as it was more familiar to me!

So what to do about it?

If you’re the parent of loss then don’t feel alone there’s a huge community of us out there who can relate to what you’re going through. There are some links on my site here and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends to invite them out for coffee/lunch even if you don’t feel like it you’ll feel better for it as often they just don’t know what you need so tell them.

Remember just to be kind when dealing with those who are grieving

If you’re a friend or family member of someone who has suffered loss please do the following-

  1. Ask – People used to ask me what they could do for me & sometimes I knew but often I didn’t know or couldn’t think about what I needed. So instead perhaps say I’d really like to be here for you. Would you like to come out for lunch with me or would you prefer me to drop some food round to you? Do you fancy a walk & a coffee somewhere or the cinema or I can pop round to you? By giving them choices it makes it easier for them to say what they’d prefer.  Multiple-choice questions are always easier.
  2. Listen- when you do see them just listen and give them a hug if appropriate. Feel free to say – “I can’t imagine what you’re going through” or if you’ve suffered child loss yourself then “I’ve been there I’m so sorry I understand what you’re going through” (please note: don’t say this if the closest loss you’ve suffered is losing a pet, as hard as that to you is it really isn’t comparable to losing a child nor is saying everyone has bad times then comparing it to money worries or a sick parent). Don’t say “at least he/she didn’t suffer”, “it wasn’t meant to be” or “at least you’re young enough to have another”. Remember silence is golden.
  3. Timing – The period leading up to & straight after the funeral is when lots of people will be fussing over the grieving parents but that will end one or two weeks afterwards, then everyone outside the family will go back to their normal lives as if nothing happened. Contact your friend then, as this is when the loneliness begins. Good friends of mine dropped in food, insisted on cooking for us in our home & dropped in alcohol. One bought us a voucher card for a meal out that encouraged us to leave the house.   Others sent flowers to show they were thinking of us if they lived far away. Remember even something small like a card or text message can make them feel less alone.

Love & hope

Sarah – Violet-Skies

My rainbow baby Aurora on Valentine’s Day – proof the sun does shine again

Have you read these other posts about child loss?

Meeting an old friend

Tommy’s Angels

When mother nature has other ideas

Grief is like being shipwrecked

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

Violet’s third birthday

Last week was a hard week for us as it was our daughter’s third birthday and along with the happy memories we also had memories of her difficult birth, where both of us nearly died, and the memory of her having heart surgery too.

Violet at Alder Hey
When she was at Alder Hey in intensive care, when we couldn’t hold her she held our fingers & later on in her life she took comfort from holding hands.

This time three years ago she spent her first 10 days in various NICU wards, at St Mary’s hospital first before she was transferred to Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. In Liverpool she had open-heart surgery at just 4 days old.  We had to sign a million legal forms and contracts saying we knew the odds were stacked against her.  That we knew she might not survive and return alive from the operating theatre.   And that if she did there was a chance of brain damage; disabilities and the heart problem might not be “fixed”.  We also knew her chance of survival without the operation was nil and she was only alive because of the additional hormones and support she was being given.

I still remember the day she went off to the operating theatre that morning was only the second time I had actually held my daughter in the four days since her birth. The first time being the day after she was born just before she left St Mary’s Hospital in an ambulance for Alder Hey, with her daddy in a taxi in hot pursuit, as we didn’t want her to be alone without at least one of us.  I had to remain in St Mary’s because of all the injuries I sustained during labour and as soon as I could be discharged to head over to Liverpool I was.

Me & Violet at Alder Hey
The second time I held her just before her heart operation

The days before her operation and the hours before it we spent time talking to her about what we were going to do together once she was out of the hospital.  We chatted about all the different people she would meet, describing friends and family members to her in detail.  We spoke about all the places we would take her to including New Zealand to see her Uncle Tom, Cyprus to see her Aunty Mel and Bali for mummy & daddy’s honeymoon.  We chatted about her Grandma and Nanna.  Said she would learn to swim.  We basically described to her then the life she ended up having crammed into a 15-month period.  I wish I had have mentioned university and her own children to her then perhaps she’d have stayed around for longer!

Me & Violet in Cyprus
Violet in Cyprus in April 2016

When they took her down to the operating theatre I couldn’t watch, as I knew I would end up screaming and it would distress Violet, so instead I collapsed onto the floor of the nearby family room sobbing.  Her brave daddy on the other hand walked her down to the operating theatre, talking calming to her the whole time reassuring her, reminding her how much she was loved and how strong she was, that she could do this.

Violet & daddy in Alder Hey
The bond between father & daughter was strong from day one

Then commenced the longest 8 hours of our life as we hung around the hospital waiting for a phone call and finally received it saying she was out and still alive! We were so relieved and our hearts sank when we returned to the NICU ward to be told that the specialist team wanted to speak to us before we saw her.  We thought oh no this is where we get told something bad has happened but we were told the opposite that the surgeon thought it was an 100% success and she wouldn’t need any other operations on that part of her heart again ever.  You know what we discovered he was 100% right too, as her post mortem showed his operation was a permanent fix.   This is the reason we are fundraising in her name for Alder Hey so superstar surgeons can continue to work their magic on baby’s that are told they only have a slim chance of survival.

Last week these memories all felt like it was someone else’s story, as though it was a different life and it played in my mind like a feature length film.

The thing I found hardest was the realization that ordinarily I would have spent the weekend before her birthday preparing for it by buying her gifts, cards and organizing a birthday party for her.  Then the night before I’d have been putting an excited little girl to bed and wrapping her presents to set up for the morning.

Violet opening birthday presents
Here she’s opening first birthday presents & getting excited about bows!

This year instead of planning her party the weekend before I focused on doing some planning for the Violet Ball to be held in her memory on 29thSeptember to raise money for Alder Hey to thank them for saving her life at 4 days old.  Instead of wrapping her presents the night before her birthday we decided to make up little “Random act of kindness” parcels containing little packets of sweets, including Parma Violets, and then on her birthday we distributed them all around the area where we live.  Including taking some to her nursery, leaving some on the benches near the playgrounds in the local parks where she loved the swings, left some near the mural on Beech Road that has a violet coloured balloon in her memory, some elsewhere on Beech Road near to where she attended Babel Baby classes and we placed some on benches in the cemetery close to her grave after we took her birthday balloons.

The challenge now will be deciding what we do next year for her fourth birthday? Please let us know your ideas as all will be considered.

Thanks for reading

Love

Sarah xx

Life isn’t fair

Life isn't fair

This is my mantra for today.  We all go through phases in our life were we feel we haven’t been dealt a fair hand and especially when you look at social media to see all the happy photos of people enjoying life.  A life when looking through the rose tinted glasses of instagram and facebook often looks happier than yours.  You do have to remember that these channels often give a different view of the world and most of these people often have their own internal issues and difficulties.

I always like to remember that the cliche of “there’s always someone that’s worse off than you” is very true.  You only need to switch on the news to see those who are much worse off.  Be thankful for what we do have; if only for the roof over our heads, the food in our stomachs, wonderful friends and family.  Think positively!

Love, Sarah x