Sunday, 26 October 2014

Do you believe in life after loss?


On the afternoon of the day that I was told my son had no heartbeat, a doctor reassured me that I could have more children. "We know you can carry to full term" he said "you've done it before." At that moment, it was difficult to hear his words and impossible to think beyond the inevitability of giving birth to a baby who would be stillborn.

He was right, though, and I have been lucky enough to have another baby.

After a year of grieving, I conceived. After post mortem test results, physical rehabilitation, support groups and bereavement counselling, I was given hope. After the anxious wait of an emotionally challenging and physically demanding third pregnancy, I have a second daughter.

Do you believe in life after loss?
I do.

Friday, 10 October 2014

I'm a big sister

My husband and I are tremendously proud of how well our elder daughter has coped with the transition from only child to big sister. Our hope was that we could prepare and support her through the change so that she would understand what would be happening and that we love her very much.

From very early in the pregnancy, we were as open and honest with her as we could be. She took me by surprise one day when, apropos of nothing, she asked me "Mummy, are you sure there isn't a baby in your tummy?" I was only 10 weeks pregnant at the time. How she 'knew' something was going on, I don't know! We told her about the baby after the 12-week dating scan, at the same time as we told close family.

Throughout the pregnancy, my daughter was very protective of me. She wanted to keep me in close sight at all times and spend time at home. She asked a few questions about why baby Monty died and whether or not it would happen again but, for the most part, my daughter wanted to know about what the baby was doing inside my tummy. We re-read the books we had bought during my last pregnancy (book review in this post) and encouraged her to touch the bump when I could feel the baby moving.

My daughter understood my physical aches and pains. I explained about my divarication and how it meant that I couldn't lift things or bend over or get down onto the floor to play. She tried to help me with household chores and, towards the end of the third trimester, would do up my shoes for me because I couldn't reach! Although, at one point, she said "After this baby is born, I think we will stop making babies." When I asked why, she said that we should let my tummy get better and then I could play again and be more fun!

Since her sister was born, my daughter has been proud and helpful. She was overawed at meeting her for the first time, when my husband brought her to visit us in the hospital. The baby had a present waiting for her sister - a fluffy teddy bear with a T-shirt which reads "I'm the big sister". She has wanted to show off her sister to her friends, family and neighbours. She likes to choose which clothes the baby will wear each day and to help give her a bath. She doesn't like it when the baby cries!

I am pleased that she has displayed such love and affection for her little sister. I believe that this is because we have tried to keep as much of her routine as normal as possible in amongst all the upheaval. Bedtime and the bath-and-bed routine have stayed in place; she has gone to nursery/ school; and she has kept up her extra-curricular activities. We have also tried to listen to her wants and needs and to keep her feeling loved and secure. My husband and I try to find some time each day to spend one-to-one with our elder daughter, even if she just wants to snuggle up on the sofa and watch TV.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Guest post: Snipchat

This is a guest post written by my husband:

Kate and I have been together for as long as we haven't; we met on the first day at university in October 1996, halfway through our lives so far. For the past eighteen years, Kate has either been on the pill, attempting to conceive, pregnant or recovering from childbirth.

After having our three babies, we don't want any more children. The loss of Monty meant that the last pregnancy was particularly stressful and exhausting, despite the increased medical attention we received. While our rational scientific brains knew losing this baby was unlikely, it was impossible to stop worrying about it, impossible to imagine how we'd survive if the worst were to happen again.

We're older, tireder and in generally worse condition. Kate's abdominal muscles have taken a battering, coping without sleep is harder, and the thought of starting again again with another newborn is not appealing at all.

We are a partnership of equals. We both work, both cook, both take care of the children. Until now, though, the burden of contraception has fallen on Kate. I'm redressing this balance by having a vasectomy.

My wife has given so much to this family, putting us above her health, career and peace of mind. She is loved by us all for it, and it's time she had a break. No pills, no injections, no coil, no tube tying.

A vasectomy is a simple and straightforward procedure, done in minutes. We're certain this is the right thing to do. The common argument against it is that it's permanent, and you “never know” what might happen in the future. I'm fully aware of that and I'm fine with it. I consider our family complete and permanent.

Our lives have been in limbo for the past few years, with no real plans for the future other than to wait for the next pregnancy. We're done with that. Our children mean more to us than we could ever have imagined, and the next chapter of our family's story starts now, with the certainty that our daughters are at the centre, growing into the bright, independent young women we know they can be. We can plan for the future again. It's liberating.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

How I met your father

It is 18 years since I first met the man who would become my husband and your father. I have known him for half my life and almost all of my adulthood. I knew that going to university would be a life-changing experience, I just didn't realise how.

Freshers Week, October 1996, University of Bath: I met him on the first day of university, at an orientation session for first-year students enrolling onto the BSc in biochemistry. We were supposed to go straight from our induction session to a freshers' event in a different location. I wasn't sure where I was going, so I turned to the person sitting next to me and asked if he knew. He did. We walked together and have been walking side-by-side ever since.


Was it love at first sight? There was definitely a spark of attraction, something about him that caught my attention. Within a week of that first encounter, we were friends. We became lab partners and shared text books. He doodled on my lecture notes. After a month, we went on a double-date with one of my housemates and a girl from the molecular and cellular biology course. Their romance didn't work out; ours did.

After a year, we moved in together, albeit with mutual friends. We undertook our sandwich-year placements in the same places. In 1999, we spent six months living and studying in Melbourne, Australia. Being away from our friends and families for half a year solidified our relationship and, on the cusp of a new millennium, we got engaged.

We married in 2001. A low-key wedding with close family and friends, on a shoestring budget and a focus on building our future. At that point, we had no thoughts of children or home-ownership - we were fresh graduates with two student loans, one income and a PhD stipend.

Eighteen years since we first met, we have each other and a stronger bond than I could ever have imagined. We have a lovely home, two beautiful daughters and memories of the son we lost. We have been through a lot together but there have been many more ups than downs.


That's the story of how I met your father. Whether by chance or by fate, I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Remember

October seems to be the new Lent, with campaigns for people to give up smoking and drinking alcohol for 31 days. It is also Baby Loss Awareness Month.

This year, the Wave of Light will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 15th October, at the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week. We will be lighting a candle in memory of Monty.

There is also a project called Capture Your Grief, which encourages people to take and share images along a set of themes as a way of healing themselves and expressing the grief they feel after the loss of a baby or child. I'm not a great photographer so I don't know how much I will participate in this project but I want to give it a go.

Today's theme is "Sunrise". I took this photo to capture the watery, Autumn daylight filtering through the leaves and branches of the tree outside my bedroom window. In the first few days and weeks after Monty was born, I would lie in bed, looking out at this tree and feeling the subtle warmth of Autumn sunshine. It was very calming and grounded me in the midst of my grief.