Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sometimes I feel like I can't even sing

I have lost count of the number of times I've been told that I look well, but appearances can be deceiving. There is inner turmoil that many people could not imagine or understand.

The past few weeks, I have been close to tears and not for any particular reason I can fathom. I think it's just another stage of grief but it's frustrating: perhaps I haven't made as much progress as I'd thought?

I have been told that, with time, the pain will become less raw and I will have days where every conscious thought isn't about Monty; that I will feel guilty when I realise a whole day has passed without making a note of his existence and passing. I'm not there yet. I'm not even close. I live his loss every day. I dream about it at night. He is with me at all times - sometimes I think I can feel him near me but I'm unable to grasp hold.

I feel incredibly tired. The weight of suppressed emotion is wearing me down. I fall to sleep easily at night but often wake in the early hours from dreams filled with anxiety. It takes ages to drift off again...

It is eight months since I found out my son had died. Eight months since I heard those words: "There's something we need to tell you about your baby..." Eight months since the scream ripped out from my core. Eight months since the silence of the hospital room swallowed me up whilst inside my head the voices were shouting "Do something!" Eight months since the doctor 'phoned my husband to ask him to come to the hospital and eight months since I told him that our baby had no heartbeat and would be stillborn.

It is eight months since my life fell apart.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Royal mascot

I don't normally read the newspapers but I happened to flick through a tabloid at the weekend. I found three opinion pieces all relating to the royal baby and the Duchess of Cambridge's decision about who should be present at the birth of her baby.

For my first baby, I wanted only my husband to be with me. I remember saying to him, when I was in my third trimester, "I know I can do this but only if you are there too". He very much wanted to be there and even wanted to 'catch' our daughter as she was delivered (although in the end, I had a vice-like grip on his arm and he didn't think it would be appropriate to ask me to let go)!

My second baby's birth was different, not least because we knew our son had died. I had planned to have only my husband present but my mother said she wanted to be there too, so I consented. I didn't really think about it - I was still reeling from the news that my baby would be stillborn. My husband didn't leave my side, even though I gave him permission to step outside if he needed to. Mum made herself busy with practical stuff, like getting snacks and drinks for us all and mopping my brow with a damp flannel.

I'm not sure what I would do next time, or if there will be a next time. I would expect my husband to be with me and I guess it would be nice if it was just the two of us. My husband has been my rock and I can't thank him enough for the role he played in helping me deliver our babies. It was important for me to have by my side someone who makes me feel safe, who loves and cares for me, and who has my best interests at heart.

It makes no difference to me who is present at the royal baby's birth but I'm sure the Duchess has thought carefully about who she wants to have supporting her. I hope that all goes well for her during labour and that she gets a few hours of private 'new mum' time with her baby, husband and close family before the media announce the birth and print pictures of the new arrival for all the world to see.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The noise you don't make when you're eating soup

My daughter was praised at nursery for having good manners. I was pleased to hear this, as it's something we've been working on for a while: in particular, remembering to say 'please' and 'thank you'. She was commended for sitting nicely to eat her lunch and asking politely for second (and third) helpings of pudding!

"Good manners are appreciated as much as bad manners are abhorred."
Bryant H McGill

Good manners were drummed into me when I was a child. My parents and grandparents placed an emphasis on them. "What's the magic word?" was the response if my sister and I forgot to say 'please'. We had to wait for a break in adult conversation and say 'excuse me' if we wanted to speak when the grown-ups were talking. We had to sit quietly at the table until everyone had finished dinner before we could get down and go off to play.

As a parent, I too place an emphasis on manners and expect my daughter to be polite. Since she has been able to speak, we have tried to set a good example and encourage her to ask for things nicely. We practice in everyday situations - at home and out and about. It seems the hard work is starting to pay off.

"Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup." 
Bennett Cerf

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Paper Dolls

Inspired by our latest favourite book ("The Paper Dolls" by Julia Donaldson), Daddy and Daughter made some paper dolls of their own.

I cut a piece of A4 paper in half lengthways and then made a concertina. (I was aiming to get a string of four dolls from each piece but I only managed three.) We rummaged around in the craft drawer for some eye stickers, leftover yarn, glue, felt pens and decorative stickers:

The challenge was set - Daddy and Daughter to each decorate their own strong of paper dolls. Stickers for the best to be awarded by Mummy.

Here are the results:

Can you guess who made each string?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Monty, this seems strange to me...

I promised myself I wouldn't think about all the what-ifs and should-haves but I can't help myself.

You should be 6 months old by now. We should be embarking on your weaning journey. I should be getting used to a little more sleep and starting to enjoy watching your personality develop. You should be sitting up unsupported and able to hold things with a fist-grip. Perhaps you'd have a tooth or two? You should definitely be able to smile and laugh at me and Daddy and your big sister. I should still be at home, not back at work.

But things didn't work out, did they? Despite my best efforts, nature got in the way.

I think back to this time last year. I was 14 weeks pregnant. I had tried hard to conceive you, wanted you so much and was so happy to be expecting you. You were still our secret, although a few people suspected we had news to break! Your EDD was 12/12/12, which would have been a cool birthdate!

I miss you so much. It has only been seven months but it seems like a lifetime ago that you were with me. Sometimes, I wonder if you were ever here at all.

I want the world to know about you, yet don't feel the need to talk about you with everyone I meet. I understand now why bereaved parents don't tend to talk openly about stillbirth - it's the look in other people's eyes, the delayed "Oh, I'm sorry" to which I usually quietly reply "It's OK". But it's not OK. It's far from OK. It's terrible.

I don't want other families to go through this experience but I know that they will. Every day in the UK, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. How can we stop this from happening? No-one could have stopped it from happening to you.

I will never get over losing you. My heart is forever broken.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Why? Why? Why?

It's official: my daughter has entered the 'why phase'.


Because she's three years old and has to know the answer to everything.


Because it's important to understand the curious world in which we live... and she wants to test my knowledge (and patience).


Because the world is big and interesting and sometimes scary and three-year-olds really need to know more about it.


Because they do but, you know, sometimes, there isn't a 'why' question for everything.


Because there isn't. Sometimes things are just the way they are.


I need a cup of tea.


Because my brain hurts from answering all the 'why' questions.


Shall we do stickers?



(Puts kettle on)

Anniversary post

This blog has been active for one year now. How things have changed since I created the blog and wrote my first post about my life as mummy:

I'm still a working mummy (although I have reduced my hours) and my daughter has just turned 3. I am mummy to two babies but I have only one child.

There has been a change of tone in my posts since Monty died. I suppose this is inevitable but I don't intend for my life or my blog to be defined by his stillbirth. So, I try to write about positive family experiences at least as often as I write about my bereavement journey.

People say that 'time heals' and 'life goes on' but I don't think that's quite right. It's more that life continues around you; eventually, you find a way to participate again. I'll never 'move on' from losing Monty but I can move slowly towards my 'new normal'.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Cake: to have or to eat?

I know I can't have it all and I don't really want to but, every now and then, frustrations bubble up about having to make the choice between being a mummy and pursuing my career. Being mummy always wins.

I'm well-educated: I spent seven years at university. My first graduate job gave me a salary comparable to my peers and was appropriate for someone with my level of qualification. Over the following couple of years, I made a few sideways moves to gain broader experience and then I got promoted.

However, since my daughter was born, I have made little or no progress up the career ladder. In fact, I consider myself to have taken a half a step backwards. I changed to a new employer and, although the salary is similar to what I was on before, the hierarchy is different so I'm effectively at a lower grade. I also opted to work part-time - initially 4 days per week, now three - and I recently relinquished all responsibility for managing staff.

Every step of the way, I have made my decisions for all the right reasons and I don't regret (m)any of them. I'm glad I took a full year of maternity leave with my daughter and I needed 5 months to recover from Monty's stillbirth. However, I feel like I'm in retrograde. I also feel conflicted: I like working and I don't want to be a full-time SAHM but if I want to continue working part-time and close to home, which I do, promotions will have to wait because the higher-paid roles tend to require more hours and include more travelling.

It may seem that I'm dissatisfied with my lot but I'm not. I enjoy my job and am very lucky to have an understanding and supportive employer, which provides opportunities for flexible working. I have a good work-life balance that works for me and my family. It's just that, if I think about it too much, I get a little frustrated sometimes - it is only too easy to look at my child-free and/or male peers to see where I could be if I hadn't slowed down to start a family.

But then I look at my daughter and I know that I'd rather be at home with her a couple of days a week than at work full-time. I'd rather be able to attend sports days and parents' evenings than not. I'd rather be the one picking her up at the nursery/school gate than paying a nanny to do it for me. Being mummy always wins :-)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

because it's June

Did you know that, every day in the UK, 17 babies will be stillborn or die shortly after birth? I didn't, until it happened to my son.

The bereavement group in Bristol has been very supportive. I have only attended four group sessions so far but the befrienders there have empathy and provide good advice. Everyone there has lost a baby and so there is a shared understanding of the pain, grief and anxiety that comes from such devastating loss. People come and go but I always feel welcome. There is tea and biscuits and tissues.

June is SANDS Awareness Month. I want to give something back, so I will be doing my bit to raise awareness this month. I can't run a marathon or abseil down a building but I can knit. So, as well as telling people about stillbirth, I am knitting teddy bears (like the ones pictured below). The money I make from their sale will be donated to Bristol SANDS. It's not much but it's my personal way of saying thank you.