Sleeping like a baby?

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Sleeping like a baby what an ironic phrase considering most babies I know hardly sleep anyway I thought I’d write a little post about when you move your baby into their own room.

Moving baby into their own room

This is something most new parents worry about and then once they do it most say how much both they and their baby’s sleep improves.  This was certainly the case with our first baby Violet.  She actually started sleeping through occasionally once she was in her own bedroom away from daddy’s snoring.

A sleeping Aurora who prefers to be cuddled as she sleeps - Violet Skies
A sleeping Aurora our sleeping beauty in name only – Violet Skies

Well now as a parent of loss I can tell you this is extremely difficult and no now she’s in her own room I don’t sleep better in fact my sleep is worse. 

Monitors

Number one I’d like to say to those people marketing webcams and tablets as being “just as good as a baby monitor”. They are no good for a parent of loss. The fact they repeatedly pause to reset or reload is a nightmare for a mother who subconsciously listens to her baby breathing through the monitor while she sleeps. When it stops to reload my subconscious triggers me to wake with a jolt. My brain telling me my baby has stopped breathing. This happened 10 times during the first night she spent in her own room. Add into that the three times she actually woke up too then I think I got approximately an hours sleep.

This amazing first night triggered the purchase of a proper baby monitor through amazon via same day delivery so night number two was better. Just a shame baby then had a cold so awoke 6 or 7 times in the night and awoke to start her day at 5am.

Here’s hoping it gets easier as we’re very tired parents but you know I don’t like to complain. I know I’d rather zero sleep than zero baby as I’d give anything to have my first baby Violet back.

A sleeping Aurora who prefers to be cuddled as she sleeps - Violet Skies
A sleeping Aurora who prefers to be cuddled as she sleeps – Violet Skies

Anxiety

My counsellor tells me it’s normal for a mother to be anxious and all mums have anxiety, to some extent. It’s just that most haven’t then experienced the worst scenario ever playing out in front of them.  Most mums when someone tells them the odds of something happening to their child are really slim they can rationalise. They can’t then turn round to say well those odds have happened to me in the past.  Unfortunately my experiences now compound my natural mummy anxiety especially at night.

How did you get on with moving your baby to their own room? When did you do it?

Love Sarah x

Always Violet Skies

You might also find the following posts interesting –

When you get your rainbow what then?

Mothering after loss

Making over Motherhood

Making over Motherhood

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This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week and I have to be honest that I’ve struggled with what exactly to write. Although I am a mother and sometimes have struggled with mental health, I’m not what you would call a “normal” mother but then I guess no one is truly “normal”.  So for the last day of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week here is my story of motherhood.

Me with rainbow baby Aurora in Mangawhai New Zealand - Violet Skies
Me with rainbow baby Aurora in Mangawhai New Zealand – Violet Skies

Post-natal depression

I have friends who have struggled with post-natal depression. I know friends whose mother’s have had it 40 years ago when it was dismissed as minor and called the “baby blues”. The difficulty I have is that motherhood for me has been a real rollercoaster.  The struggle for me is writing about my own experience without seeming to diminish anyone else’s experience of post-natal depression.  I have had friends tell me that they feel they can no longer share their tales of depression or worries as they think they seem minor compared to what I have been through. They have said that actually I make them feel worse about themselves because they should be happy when they compare their lives to mine.  Well that doesn’t make me feel guilty, bad or worse at all for sharing!

So apologies in advance if my story of Motherhood makes any of you out there feel worse about your own situations. I don’t want to diminish anyone but hope that by sharing my story some of you who feel alone might feel less so.  

Normal motherhood

I have never had a “normal” motherhood experience.  I have not known what it is like to go into a baby scan at 20 weeks full of excitement and to come out elated with happy news afterwards.  Our first baby Violet was diagnosed with a heart condition at her 20-week scan.  Second baby Arthur was diagnosed with a serious brain condition at his 20-week scan resulting in a TFMR at 22 weeks of pregnancy.  Third baby Aurora luckily had clear baby scans all the way through pregnancy but we never entered a scan room full of excitement or even left elated afterwards. More we left smiling with relief that we hadn’t yet had any bad news.  Those were my three motherhood beginnings already a little different from the majority of mothers out there. You can read more about stress with a rainbow pregnancy here.

Violet’s birth

When Violet was born we had a natural induced labour as that was deemed the safest for her but she ended up being undiagnosed breach so I had a breach birth naturally with no pain relief.  I am still having counselling for that experience alone, never mind the on going medical treatment because of the wounds I sustained.  Violet was also transferred to Alder Hey hospital shortly after birth without me and at 4 days old she had open-heart surgery. It had only a 30% chance of success but she survived and the operation was a 100% fix.   

It was, at that point, the most stressful time of our lives and we were relieved it was over. We finally took a 2-week-old baby home from hospital with serious health needs. She needed specialist round the clock care, whilst her heart and rib cage healed up.  You can read more about Violet here. Despite her start she was a healthy little girl who had mild developmental problems because of her surgery and also issues eating solid food. We found that a challenge and extremely frustrating.  However she was extremely clever, musical and a happy little soul considering her start in life.  She was a joy to be around and made everyone who met her happy.  This summarises my first year of motherhood started off extremely stressful and finished happy.

WHAT MOTHER’S DAY REALLY MEANS
Me with my angel baby Violet in Cyprus. Violet Skies.

The loss of Violet

My second year of motherhood wasn’t anywhere near as good as my first!  Violet got sick and was admitted to Manchester Children’s Hospital. We sat by her bed for weeks where she finally died, suddenly from a rare form of pneumonia aged 15 months.  We had to wait nearly 2 years to find out why she died, as the autopsy was inconclusive. We had to endure a coroners inquest too.  You can read more on this here.

First rainbow baby

My third year of motherhood I think was possibly the most challenging as this year we enjoyed a second pregnancy. Until the fateful 20 week scan and then, whilst still grieving the loss of our beloved daughter, we lost our son Arthur too.  You can read about it here.

36 weeks pregnant with Aurora at my friends wedding. Violet Skies.
36 weeks pregnant with Aurora at my friends wedding. Violet Skies.

Second rainbow baby

My fourth year of motherhood is still in full swing and I have to say it is by far the best yet as we have our gorgeous rainbow baby Aurora. Named after the goddess of the dawn she has brought light back into our darkness. She certainly does this as she’s a bright, cheerful, smiley little girl.  

People looking at our social media feed might be forgiven for thinking our lives are pure happiness now but as anyone who has suffered child loss will know they aren’t.  The happy days are still tinged with sadness, as to what should be and what we are missing. 

For example the other day I was “subjected” to a conversation by other mothers talking about how lovely it is that their three year olds and their babies play together. They interact now all the time. Well that’s what we should have Violet as a big sister playing with her younger siblings. Instead Aurora will probably grow up alone.  Having grown up with a brother and sister that thought alone makes me want to cry. My siblings are still close to me and we remain an important part of each other’s lives.

Brother & sister – Violet & Aurora’s gorgeous cousins

Counselling

I still have regular counselling to help me to try to deal with everything as I have horrendous nightmares on a regular basis. Sometimes extreme anxiety and times when I feel sad.  I also have PTSD (read more here) caused by my first birth experience, my daughter having open-heart surgery and also from watching her die. I am told all this is “normal” for a grieving parent but it does draw parallels with how other mums say they feel who have post-natal depression. Whilst I don’t know what it is like to have a relatively normal experience of motherhood and still feel depressed, I do understand and have lived through all these feelings on a fairly regular basis.

Support needed

I feel that lots of health visitors also need more training and guidance for how to deal with mothers who perhaps are slightly more fragile mentally than others.  This is in light of a recent experience I had with a health visitor who reduced me from a confident mum of a rainbow baby to a crying anxious mess in the space of one baby weigh in session.

I also feel that more support should also be given to fathers as often they have no support at all, especially after the loss of a child or after they have witnessed a horrendous birth.  They can suffer PTSD too.

Sending all mothers (and fathers) out there lots of love as parenthood can be tough whether it is simply sleepless nights. Or sitting by a sick child in a hospital bed or crying at a graveside.  At the end of the day everything is relative to your previous experiences too.  I thought the toughest thing I had to endure was watching my child sick in hospital that was until they died. Motherhood can be beautiful and wonderful but it can also be extremely cruel. 

Big love,

Always Violet Skies x

You might enjoy these blog posts –

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?

Mothering after loss

Guilt when a mother of loss

Growth

When I was pregnant I remember strangers would tell me “oh your life will change once the baby comes”. “You’ve no idea of the impact it’ll have & how much you will grow as a person”.  Well they were totally right as no one prepares you for the shock of parenthood but what people don’t realise is the really extreme sport form of parenthood is caring for a sick or recovering child or baby now that has a real impact. Not to mention the loss of one but that’s another change entirely and I wouldn’t describe that as growth at all, that’s more like having an amputation but I’m not talking about that now.

It feels strange to us to have a “normal” healthy newborn, as with Violet we had to give her specialist care because she was recovering from open heart surgery. So in her early years we couldn’t lift her under her arms, couldn’t wind her over the shoulder, she couldn’t do “tummy time” and we couldn’t touch or rub her chest or tummy at all because of her chest wound and broken rib cage. Anyone who’s ever had broken ribs will understand the pain she would have been in during the first 8 weeks while they healed not to mention all the surrounding muscle tissue including her heart. For a good while we also couldn’t bathe her either bless her.

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Winding Aurora over the shoulder

Last time with Violet as a newborn all her energy from milk consumption in the first few months went towards healing her ribs, heart and muscles from heart surgery so she didn’t really grow or gain weight at all in her first few months of life. In fact she couldn’t even be plotted on the normal growth chart until she was about 6 months old!

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A teeny tiny Violet in Alder Hey Hospital

This time round despite us feeding Aurora less than we did Violet she is piling on the pounds, rapidly jumping up the growth chart percentiles as a result every health professional so far that has weighed aurora has exclaimed how well we’re doing as new parents, whereas with her sister we were frowned at, interrogated about our feeding skills & had to keep meticulous written feeding records we could show them as “evidence”.  Violet fed every 45 minutes for weeks & Aurora feeds every 1-1.5hrs & sometimes at now 4 weeks old she can go a whole 2.5hrs between feeds but we’ve not had to keep records for Aurora.

You’ve no idea how much reassurance growth and weight gain gives you as a new parent. Assurance that despite the tears, occasional vomiting and lack of sleep you’re doing exactly the right thing. With Violet half the time we were made to feel as though we were failing, as she didn’t follow any “normal” growth trajectory, whereas this time the same (if not less) effort is getting us much better results on the growth chart.

We now realise how brilliant we actually were with Violet in looking after her complex care needs and managing to look after her well, despite everything being 10 times harder for us, than we now know it is for those with a healthy newborn baby.

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Violet at a week old still at Alder Hey Hospital after open heart surgery

Immediately after Aurora’s birth the midwife asked Daddy to change the first dirty nappies, that some of you will know contain the challenge of Meconium deposits, (for any novices out there that’s sticky black, tar like poo) and she exclaimed “oh this will be an experience for you” but it was super easy for him compared to when he changed Violets leaning into an incubator carefully cleaning around the various wires and tubes that were keeping her alive. So not that I want to jinx anything but it seems as though Violet really did grow and develop us in even more ways than we care to realise. Hats off to other parents of challenging or poorly babies as we now realise again just how many medals and pats on the back you deserve! You are truly amazing and don’t be disheartened if your baby isn’t jumping up the growth charts. Don’t let health visitors & others make you feel you’re not doing a good enough job, as caring for a sick or recovering baby is a challenge beyond extreme so don’t allow them to compare your super hero baby to other “normal” healthy ones.  And those other new parents whose healthy babies are climbing the growth charts like our Aurora is you’re not too bad either! Keep up the good work & remember not all growth is easily measured.

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Aurora at a week old enjoying the sunshine outside

To those bereaved parents there are no words and I’m sorry you’re reading this, as I completely understand that when you hear people talking about the tiredness & stress of parenting you know you’d happily agree to anything to get your baby back. I have been there. Big hugs,

Love Sarah 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

Tantrums and wishes

Lots of mums and dads dread going out to the shops or to restaurants with their children in case they throw a tantrum or cry, creating a scene in front of others.  I know this as I used to be one of these women, although thankfully Violet was pretty easy going most of the time, preferring to people watch or read books.

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Tantrums

As a parent if your baby cries or throws a tantrum you look around to see other people staring over and you imagine them tutting thinking you’re a bad mother. Or that you are doing something wrong.  Often you don’t get to finish your lunch and you have to ask the wait staff to wrap it up to take it home with you, that you promise yourself you will eat just as soon as baby/toddler goes down for a nap. You’re so busy though you never do get round to eating it.

I remember cringing when my baby projectile vomited everywhere in a cafe.  I was mortified.  Now I’d take that any day of the week!

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Annoyed?

Now I know, if the other people looking over at you are anything like me today, then they will be looking over not in annoyance or pity but longingly. Wishing they were sat there with a child that was crying, throwing food all over the restaurant or indeed creating a scene screaming, rolling around on the floor.  I’d happily change places, rather than be sat there having a quiet peaceful lunch on my own or chatting with a friend.

Never imagine you know what someone else is thinking.  You have no idea what they think or indeed what they have been through so next time your baby makes a scene smile at those looking over and I bet like me they will smile back or even help to distract your little one, snapping them out of it.

Love Sarah x