Saturday, 30 March 2013

It's been a long cold lonely winter

Like most people, I'm well and truly fed up of the cold weather now. The equinox has passed and, in my mind, we really should be starting to see some temperatures in the double figures! For the past four or five days, we have had light flurries of snow. My hands are dry and sore - no amount of moisturiser seems to help. My lips are chapped too. One sunny day, I tried going without a vest - big mistake!

I was looking forward to bunkering down this Winter with my newborn: venturing out only to take my daughter to nursery. I was going to make the house a cosy, warm solace where my baby and I could get to know each other before emerging into the world in Spring. It didn't turn out that way.

The first snow fell the morning after Monty was stillborn in early November. I hate November anyway - too many sad memories. Fireworks pop and bang for at least a week, intruding into my thoughts. An annual reminder of those I have loved and lost. I hardly did anything in November. We tried to keep our daughter's routine as normal as possible. We sorted out all the administration for Monty. We wrote the order of service and attended his funeral. We had visitors, cards, flowers but not the joyful ones we had been hoping for. I had my postnatal checks.

December wasn't much better although we did have a couple of nice events. The Festival of Light went well on Monty's due date and we spent Christmas with family (but I wasn't really in the mood).

January and early February, I was preoccupied with getting the results of the post mortem and postnatal tests. I started attending SANDS meetings and bobbed up and down on an emotional rollercoaster. A friend said I looked very sad. My sadness rubbed off onto my daughter. We were melancholy but kept going through the motions of our weekly routine.

It's been a long, cold, lonely Winter but I'm hoping that Spring is just around the corner. The mornings and evenings are getting lighter. The sun has come out today and it does feel a little warmer. It feels like years since it's been here.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Finding me, no?

"People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering."
St Augustine

Bereavement has forced me to think about myself and take a look at my life. I am so lucky to have my husband and daughter, a loving family and supportive friends.

These past five months, I have wrangled with the rawest emotions and found latent inner strength.

I am making changes: taking time for my family and for myself; thinking closer to home. I am taking a step back from life's fast-lane for a sedate drive along a country road. I wonder what I will discover along the way?

I am determined not to pass myself by.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Hold that thought

My daughter has asked me twice this week "Is the baby is your tummy now?"

The first time, we were messing around, playing boats. We had put the sofa cushions on the floor and were rocking and reeling to 'Row the Boat'. She lifted up my T-shirt, poked at my navel and posed the question. The second time, we were in the car on our way to the optician. It was a question shouted from the backseat whilst I was driving; part of the toddler monologue that forms the new soundtrack to every journey we make.

We have been told that young children take longer to process grief and that it's normal for them to ask questions for months or years after the death of a family member or pet. Perhaps my daughter is still just trying to work out what happened to her brother? Or perhaps babies are on her mind because we met up with a friend and her toddler and 7-week-old baby?

It was lovely to catch up with my friend and her girls. We went on maternity leave a few weeks apart, so I hadn't seen her since the beginning of October. The two older girls played nicely together whilst we chatted and the baby slept. After the baby had woken and had some milk, my friend very kindly asked me if I'd like to hold her. I said yes, although I was a bit nervous about how I'd feel.

I needn't have worried - it was fine. In fact, it was better than fine. It was nice to hold a tiny baby again. It felt comfortable. Maybe, one day, I'll hold another of my own...

My daughter saw me holding the baby and came over to have a look. She asked questions about the baby. We practised saying her name, confirmed that she likes milk and sleeping, and described the babygro she was wearing. The conversation probably reminded my daughter of her big sister book.

That's probably why she's wondering if there will be a baby in mummy's tummy again.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Back to life, back to reality

This morning, I left the house like a 'normal' adult. I did my hair, put on make-up and wore nice clothes. I carried a grown-up handbag, with only things for me in it! Not the rucksack/change-bag with 'big girl pants' and wet wipes - oh no! I joined the commuter traffic. Armed with a fitness note from the doctor, I went to the office to speak to my HR Advisor - I'm going back to work after Easter!

Having been at home for nearly five months now, I need to start pushing myself a bit further towards my 'new normal'. Returning to work will be the next step along this path.

Work has always been important to me. I like contributing to the family finances and having control over my own money. I spent a long time in education; I like using my brain and learning new things. I like putting my skills and experience into practise. I'm looking forward to picking up where I left off and developing myself and nurturing my career.

It's going to be different, though. I'm not returning to the job I left - that job no longer exists. Instead, I'm going back to a new role, in a new team, with a new manager and new colleagues. I think this will be good. I'm also reducing my hours. After a phased return, I'll be doing three days a week instead of four for at least the first six months.

I feel daunted and excited. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it all goes okay...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Backseat Bingo

For our car journey down to Brixham, which took approximately 2 hours, I made an I-spy game for us all to play.

The rules were simple: spot the items on the bingo card and be rewarded with a chocolate button!

The game took longer than I anticipated. My daughter wanted to concentrate on one item at a time. For example, the windmill had to be spotted (and chocolate button munched) before we could move on to spotting a bus. The only thing we didn't manage to spot on our journey was an aeroplane, which was a shame, really, as we passed near two airports!

We all enjoyed the game and I think I'll definitely try it again for our next long car journey when we head north to visit my in-laws.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sea and sand and ice cream too!

My parents took my sister and I to Brixham when we were little. I was too young to remember it properly but I know that the outdoor swimming pool was very cold and I didn't like it in Kent's Cavern.

Approximately 30 years later, we returned with our families.

We visited Paignton Zoo, boarded the Golden Hind, went swimming (indoors!), ate ice cream on the harbour and travelled on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway. The kids had a great time, played nicely together and shared their toys. The elder two cousins enjoyed sharing a bedroom, although we did have to separate them on the first night because they were too excited to sleep!

We spent all our pocket money on fridge magnet souvenirs.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mothering Sunday

I've never really celebrated Mothers' Day, although this year I did send a card to my mum. I have been treated to the longest lie-in I can remember and had banana muffins made for me by my husband and daughter. However, there is someone missing - my beautiful son.

So, to all the mummies who don't have their babies with them: I hope you manage to get through the day.


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Nappy ending...

Hoorah! We have now passed two weeks with my daughter wearing big girl pants during the day! No daytime nappies for the past 15 days! There have been a couple of accidents (mostly at nursery - perhaps there are too many distractions there?). A lot of stickers have been awarded and the contents of the reward bag have been earned on several occasions. Only two objectives remain uncompleted but she is very close to achieving both.

My daughter is confident now to use the potty and the toilet. She can reliably tell us when she needs to go and she understands and can perform the toilet routine: wee, wipe, wash.

We have made a few trips out of the house with no nappy and they have largely been successful. The change bag now contains: travel potty; two pairs of pants; one change of clothes; and some wet wipes.

A long way off will be night-time toilet training. I don't think we'll be ready for that for a while. I'm not too bothered, I think my daughter has done remarkably well to pick up daytime dryness so quickly and seems happy enough to continue wearing a pull-up nappy to bed for the time-being.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Missing Monty

This morning, my daughter brought a book into the bathroom when I was in the shower. "Mummy, read the names" she said.

I promised I would read it with her when I got out of the shower, dried and dressed. I kept my promise.

Snuggled up, comfy on my bed together, she handed me the book. "Mummy, read the names" she said again.

I looked at the cover: "What's Inside Your Tummy, Mummy?"

We hadn't read this book in months...

I asked her what the book was called. "All about how babies grow in mummies' tummies" she said "but Monty isn't in your tummy - he died in the picture."

I read the book. She asked me to read it twice more. I did. We looked at the pictures. We practised saying some of the words: 'umbilical cord', 'embryo', 'size of a pumpkin!'.

I said that I felt sad that Monty had died and she didn't have her brother to play with. She said she was sad too.

I asked if she would like it if mummy and daddy tried again to give her a brother or sister. She said yes. I said "We'll see..."

Then we came downstairs and she took the photo from the windowsill. "This is baby Monty" she said "and this is the bear. I want it." I got the bear, originally bought as a toy for him but subsequently given to her as a 'big sister present from her brother'. She put the bear and photo next to each other on a chair.

Then we made Mothers' Day cards for Granny and Grandma.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Be kind to yourself

"Be kind to yourself": a phrase that I have heard a hundred times since Monty died. It is a piece of advice I'd really like to accept but how to put it into practise?

I have stepped down from the role of Assistant Section Leader at Fascinating Rhythm and I won't be doing any sing-outs until the Summer. I've also decided not to go to LABBS Convention in October. We are learning half a dozen new songs at chorus at the moment and, instead of trying to do them simultaneously (as I would have before), I'm going to concentrate on them one at a time. Singing is my hobby and a major part of my social life. I want to continue it but I also want to enjoy it. I think that pushing myself too hard will take the fun out.

I've decided to devote the Spring and Summer to having fun with my family. I'm looking forward to warm, sunny days playing in the park with my daughter and relaxed evenings with a chilled glass or two of Pinot Grigio next to the chiminea in the garden with my husband after she has gone to bed.

We have booked a short break with my sister and her family, and a holiday for just the three of us. I'm looking forward to both. To relaxing, playing and spending time together. Hopefully, the weather will be good.

After more than three years of being careful about my diet (due to trying to conceive, being pregnant and breastfeeding) I'm going to let myself enjoy food and drink for a few months. Bring on the cured meats, the seafood, the soft cheeses and the delicious wines!

I have taken up Pilates and am trying to concentrate on my physical fitness as well as making a good physical and emotional recovery from my bereavement. Exercise will help me to feel better and, hopefully, look better!

Does all this count as being kind to myself? It feels quite selfish in a lot of ways but perhaps that is what I need?

The months before Monty died I was so busy just 'getting on with life'. I look back and realise I was on a hamster-wheel: rushing about; going to work; taking my daughter to/from nursery; cooking, meal-planning and grocery shopping; taking my daughter to extracurricular activities; squeezing in playdates and catch-ups with mummy friends; rehearsing for Convention. I didn't really stop and take the time to enjoy myself. That is what I'm trying to redress.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Learning: a thing or two...

I just read an article posing the question "where will the royal baby go to university?". The child has not yet been born and will not reach university age until 2031! I'm not sure this is a question that needs to be answered now.

However, it has got me thinking about my daughter's educational prospects:

She will reach her third birthday in May, so I have to apply for her primary school place by the end of this year. She will be one of the younger children in her class, starting school at the tender age of four-and-a-quarter. There are four schools within walking distance of our house, one of which is independent. As you can only nominate three schools on the application form, the decision of which schools to apply for is pretty much made for us. The tricky bit is choosing an order of preference, as they have similar Ofsted ratings and I know parents with children at all three. I'll have to find out the dates of their open days and go along for a good look round!

In preparation for starting school, I'm planning to use the 15-hours Government-funded pre-school provision that she will qualify for in September to send my daughter to nursery/preschool on five mornings a week, topping-up to full days on the days that I work. I think it will be good for her to get used to getting up and ready quickly in the mornings and to going to 'school' five days a week. It might also give me flexibility to get chores done around the house, pick up some extra hours at work, or have some 'me time' (surely, not!).

Given that it seems such a long time until she starts primary school (although I'm sure it will come around very quickly), I can't really begin to think about my daughter's secondary or tertiary education! I have started saving, though. We opened a Child Trust Fund shortly after she was born and have been depositing money that she will be able to access after her 18th birthday. Perhaps she will use it to help afford the costs of a university place? Perhaps she will take a 'gap year' and go travelling? Perhaps she will use it as a deposit for her first home or to start a business? In fifteen years' time, I guess we'll find out!