Dear baby…

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Dear baby…

Dear baby,

We’ve been so scared, your Mummy and Daddy. Last year was sad for us and you have been so very precious from the moment we found out about you.

Every milestone has felt like a huge achievement – you’re already the thing we’re most proud of and the most valuable thing in our lives. Mummy is a big worrier anyway, and she’s lost sleep, cried, refused to get excited (don’t be offended please, Mummy was just trying to be brave). She’s been the opposite of her normal self – so pessimistic and cautious. But now, halfway through your stay in Mummy’s tummy, we’re slowly letting ourselves smile and mean it. We’re talking about names, thinking about what we need to buy for you, how to decorate your room. You’ve become a part of us – you’ll make our family of two (plus Archer, your fur sibling), a family of three.

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But there are a couple of things you need to remember to help Mummy and Daddy be brave:

  1. Keep growing – get big and strong and ready for this big bad world you’re joining. Stay healthy and safe in there.
  2. Take care of Mummy – your kicks and roly-polys are already starting to provide reassurance to Mummy. It’s your way of saying ‘Hi there guys!’ and it’s  brilliant.
  3. You are not a rainbow baby – some people might talk about you as if you are. You are not. We will always be a little bit sad about what happened before you took root and decided to make Mummy your home. But it has nothing to do with you. From the moment we first saw that little nugget on the screen all those months ago, you started a whole new chapter for Mummy and Daddy, and we love you for it. Your job is not to fix us, your job is to simply be wonderful, beautiful you.

We can’t wait to meet you, to get to know you. We know we’ll be tired and grumpy and that it’s going to be hard work getting used to you, but you’re going to be worth every second.

All our love, already and always,

Mummy and Daddy xxx

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The invisible patient

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The invisible patient

To the woman who grabbed her children closer to her and stared at him as he spoke too loudly in the coffee shop…I’m sad for you.

To the people who have shoved past us in the supermarket or shopping centre despite his obvious mobility limitations…I hope you’re always agile and active.

To the GP who talks about him, in front of him. Describing him like a test tube subject or experimental case study…he can hear you.

To the visitors who dwindled when he didn’t ‘get better’…we understand. It’s hard, he’s hard work but I promise that you’re missing out on laughter, joy and entertainment. You’ll always be welcome if you change your minds.

To the nurse who spoke directly to him, who asked his name, explained her treatment and demonstrated patience, kindness and humour on a busy night at an out of hours walk-in centre…thank you.

To the doctor who came out of his consultation room to meet him halfway up the corridor. Who shook his hand, waited as he got muddled with his responses and made sure to get to the bottom of all of his issues (breaking the rules about ‘one issue per visit’)…thank you.

To the carer who challenges him, who doesn’t spoonfeed him and mollycoddle him, who gives him the time and patience required to force him into action…thank you.

To the man at the supermarket who refused my offer to go ahead of us as we shuffled painfully slowly in on a busy day, telling us ‘you go first mate, I’m in no rush don’t you worry’…thank you.

To our family and friends, for the funny texts on the hardest days, for the paperwork, the doctor visits, the lifts, the Christmas gifts, the moving crew, the furniture, the understanding, the patience and the overwhelming love…thank you.

To our dad, some days (like today) drive us mad. You don’t mean to, you just require a lot more energy and patience than you ever did before. You get tired and forgetful, we get tired and grumpy, we snap and you (somehow) end up being the one to say sorry. You have a beautiful heart, a cheeky sense of humour and so much love for your friends and family. You’re doing better than you’ll ever know, and even when you’re driving us round the bend…thank you.

Things my dad has taught me

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Things my dad has taught me

So I’ve talked in the past about what we’ve learned along the way since my dad’s accident. But recently I’ve realised how much my dad himself has taught (and continues to teach) me. I thought I’d share a few of them, because after a bad meeting, or a traffic jam, or a family argument; it can feel like the end of the world but my dad has changed the way I look at life.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

The amount of times I’ve visited my dad after a busy and stressful day, only to walk out an hour later calm and smiling and wondering what my problem was. The things that were driving me to distraction suddenly didn’t seem important when faced with his daily struggles to even remember when to eat, or to turn the lights on when it gets dark.

  1. Keep laughing

From the moment he got his speech back, my dad has continued to be silly. I’ve said before that he’s always been silly – and one of my biggest fears was that he’d lose this sense of fun. Thankfully it’s remained, and has been the source of a series of Facebook posts like the following:

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  1. Be compassionate

My dad has every reason to be a grumpy, selfish, inconsiderate old bugger. But he’s the opposite. He notices when I’m tired. Asks what’s up if I’m quiet. Tells me to send love/congratulations/best wishes (insert greeting here) to various family members when I tell him their news. He asks how my mum is, my sister, my brother, his friends and listens when I give him updates about them. He reminds me to look outside my bubble. No matter how hard things are, it’s not OK to forget about other people.

  1. Be honest

Due to his condition, my dad doesn’t have as many inhibitions anymore. That means that sometimes, what’s in his head comes out of his mouth. Often, he realises as soon as it’s been vocalised that it was inappropriate or rude, but not before. Now, I know that it’s socially polite to frame your criticism constructively, to smile and hold the door for someone even if they do shove past you without a backwards glance; or to sit out a boring conversation in order to avoid offence. I’m not suggesting we all start spewing out exactly what’s on our minds all the time – it would be chaos and we’d cause hurt.

However, wouldn’t it be great if we could just take a leaf out of my dad’s book – just to now and then stand up when someone is only talking about themselves and walk off without a word?! To tell someone they’re being loud and it’s bothering you.

  1. Forgive

OK, so maybe in his case it’s more often than not that he doesn’t remember, rather than that he forgives. But my dad doesn’t hold grudges. And when I do have to tell him off, or I snap because frankly, I’m human and sometimes my patience wears thin; he forgives me instantly. He’s the one who apologises – he gives me a hug – reaches over to touch my arm to get my attention and says he loves me. Nothing matters enough to overshadow our precious time together. I wish I could be more like him and remember what really matters in our brief time on this planet with the people we love.

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Hiding my light

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Hiding my light

So 15 October was the day when people all over the world lit candles to create a wave of light – it’s part of baby and pregnancy loss awareness week. Obviously this is a cause close to my heart, an incredibly worthy cause and one that needs more people to talk about it. However, I didn’t join the wave, no candles were deliberately lit for this cause in my house, and here’s why.

In the last 6 months (yes our first miscarriage was 6 months ago in November) the miscarriages have defined who I am. How I feel. What people say to and around me. My reaction to my friends, to TV, to songs, to films. My relationship with my husband. My friendships. My health. There have been some positive lessons learned – friendships have been cemented by the love, support and normality that’s surrounded us. Me and my husband know for certain we can weather anything – because we’ve been through more in our 2 year marriage that most couples cope with in a decade. I know for certain I’m ready to be a mother – because I’ve grieved the loss of my unborn children and everything they could have been. As I’ve talked about previously, we’ve also learned some hard lessons – we’ve been disappointed by people. But it’s made us tougher, more resilient, better at saying no to those people.

My point is, the last 6 months have either been spent pregnant or grieving. That’s not to say the grieving has stopped. I still have my moments, and I’ll never forget our pain. But on Saturday 15 October, the weekend before my birthday, I wanted a weekend about me. The Hilary I used to be – laughing til I cry. Acting like a wally. Enjoying all the cheesiness and tackiness life has to offer. So I planned a birthday day out to Dreamland in Margate – the birthplace of tack and cheesiness. I went on fairground rides with friends all day, drank prosecco, came home for a takeaway with friends. Played Cards Against Humanity. It felt really nice. It did me and my husband the world of good. We felt like, even if just for 24 hours, we were back in the game. Part of the gang again – there were no kid gloves or eggshells allowed.

After an extra couple of days off and some brilliant time with my husband where he spoiled me, I feel genuinely relaxed for the first time in a very long time. I’ve got some kind of peace. I’ve been reading the ‘7 days, 7 stories’ Tommy’s stories that appeared on my newsfeed and acknowledging that this experience is happening around the world and talking about it and addressing the pain is a positive move. One of my very favourite couples in the world announced their pregnancy and while it still hurt that the universe had been so unfair to us, that was quickly overshadowed with genuine joy. Other people deserve happiness and a family. Resenting the people we love will only add to the things we’ve lost. It’s a pointless exercise that will eat away at us and prevent our (and their) happiness.

We now occasionally let a ‘when’ creep into conversations about our future family, not just ‘ifs’. It doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten. It doesn’t mean it’ll change anything when the time comes again – we still need to be cynical and prepared for the worst and we’re still healing.

But for the first time in half a year, we feel like us again. Defined by the things and the people we love, not by our pain.

Celebrating soulmates

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Celebrating soulmates

It’s a popular notion that a soulmate has to be something romantic. And often it is, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Additionally, I don’t think we have just one soulmate, I think we have a few.

The Ancient Greeks got this, I reckon that’s why they had 6 words for love. It’s ‘philia’ or deep friendship that I’m talking about here.philiaWhat is a soulmate?

For me, a soulmate, for whom you feel ‘philia’, is someone who just gets you. With them there’s no judgement.

Wherever you are with them it’s a safe haven – what’s said to a soulmate stays with a soulmate.

You can rant and rave your heart out about your colleagues/family/in-laws and they know you just need to rant. They don’t judge you or call you names for it, they let you vent. You can act weird and while they might call you out on it, they accept your weirdness (some of them might even out-weird you).

Their advice is honest, frank and fair. It isn’t always what you want to hear but it doesn’t hurt to hear it. They deliver it with compassion, understanding and often a good dollop of humour.

Even on the days when you feel like nothing can make things better,

your time with them is like the tightest bear hug.

You leave feeling like a weight has lifted, life makes more sense and you can face another day.

My soulmates

For me, my husband is absolutely one of my soulmates but that’s not based on our romantic connection, it’s based on our friendship and mutual respect and understanding. He tells me when I’m headed down the wrong path. He backs me up when I’ve been wronged and helps me respond with dignity (instead of like a crazy banshee); and he supports my dreams and aspirations. With him,

I’ve never felt small, or insignificant, or worthless. I’ve just felt loved.

These are the reasons why he’s my soulmate. (Throw in the fact that I fancy the pants off him, that I love him beyond ‘philia’, and that he’s the only person I want to see when I wake up and when I fall asleep; et voila, one husband!)

Read through the things I’ve said about my husband above (before the husband-specific stuff)  –  I bet the people who spring to mind aren’t necessarily romantic partners or interests.

This year has really highlighted to me who my soulmates are. They’re people whom I feel completely comfortable around. People who have never been the root of any anxiety attack or worry. People who tell me it like it is, but with kindness; leaving me safe in the knowledge that they’re not going away to talk about me or hurt me. They’ve watched me cry, listened, understood when my pain has made me unreasonable but gently steered me away from saying anything to hurt my loved ones or myself. They’ve talked me through my options and helped me heal myself.

It’s like going to the GP but without the 10 minute appointment limit and cold stethoscope.

Instead they’ve just helped me uncover the answers I already had.

I guess my point is this – when you’re hurting, or confused, or need a sounding board; remember the incredible resource you have in your soulmates. Don’t take for granted how valuable they are and don’t think that just because you’re in a long term relationship, you can only rely on your partner. If you’re fortunate enough to have an awesome partner AND one or two incredible soulmates, you’ve got all you need.

The things we have learned…

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The things we have learned…

 

I don’t want this blog to become solely about our miscarriages and subsequent journey to parenthood (fingers crossed, touch wood, wish on a star, do some kind of baby version of a rain dance). But for now, that’s kind of our life.

So in a slightly more philosophical (and hopefully less sad vein) here are a few things I’ve learned from our journey so far

You’re not alone

The pain and the sadness and the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s your body in pain and your mouth they’re putting tablets in, and your veins they’re sticking needles in; can mean you feel incredibly lonely. Even the best partners in the world (and mine is awesome) can’t take that Eeyore style black cloud of isolation from you completely. I just want to tell you that you’re not on your own.

I was overwhelmed by the messages I received after we published our first heartbreaking post. Women I haven’t spoken to in up to 13 years were messaging me to let me know they’d been through it. It was like a post-battle debrief where we shared our war stories, talked about our wounds and scars, and gave each other hope to get back out there and keep fighting. These women are warriors, and my new heroes. A great blog to read is Charlie O’Brien’s, who is now a parent but had her own challenges getting there.

People will disappoint you…

Sadly, some people in your life will disappoint you. They’ll ask tactless and painful questions, throw clichés at you, ignore that anything has happened or (worst of all) try to be part of your pain, never understanding that you’re not suffering it willingly and it’s not theirs to ‘own’. It’s easy to lose your rag but remember that however it comes out, very few (if any) of these people intend to hurt you. Their words are well intended and come from kind places. Nonetheless, if they get too much, take a break and a deep breath and do what’s right for you and your partner.

…But they’ll surprise you too

The smallest and silliest things will pick you up on your worst days. My aunt, uncle and cousins sent a giant bag of M&S chocolate which arrived a day or so after getting back from holiday (and crashing even further back down to earth). The chocolate itself (while yummy) wasn’t a magic cure, but the reminder that so many friends and family were thinking of us and doing what they could to care for us made a whole world of difference.

Give yourself a break

You’ll have a string of good days and then, out of nowhere, you’ll have a day when the tears/anger return with a vengeance. From what I gather, this is normal. Your brain will take time to process the loss you’ve suffered and while healing does begin relatively quickly, it’s not an immediate outcome. In the meantime, don’t be too hard on yourself. If, like me, you’re used to giving 110% in everything you do, drop down to 80% instead. Everyone else will still think you’re doing a great job, and you’ll give yourself a bit more energy and thinking space.

You can still be you

Guilt is a terrible thing. It eats away at us at the worst times. My inner monologue over the last couple of months is not a show I’d buy tickets to – it goes along the lines of “It’s my fault”, “I’m broken”, “He should leave me”, “I just laughed – what must people think?”, “I got drunk last night. I don’t deserve to be a parent anyway”.

Unfortunately there isn’t an off switch for this guilt, but you can try to counter it with more positive thoughts and behaviours. Getting back to ‘normal’ life is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. Go out with your friends, laugh with your partner, smile when your pet does something weird and funny. And Stop. Feeling. Guilty. Like so many things, your loss was out of your control. You won’t forget it but you can move on – worrying about the whys and wherefores won’t do anything except cause more hurt and distress at this point.

Don’t put life on hold

My biggest challenge as we move into what I’ve affectionately named ‘phase two’ of our recovery, is living our life without planning around a hypothetical pregnancy. The thing is, whether this month, next month, in a year or in two; the world knows we’re ‘trying’ now (urrrgh, hate that phrase). That means that every night out when I don’t drink, every event we leave early because I’m tired, every baggy top I wear (!) starts the rumour mill. And it reflects on your own feelings too – “What to do for that birthday/Christmas/catch up with friends?” “Maybe we shouldn’t plan the all day drinks – what if we’re pregnant?” “Let’s not book that holiday, I might be pregnant”.

You know what? That’s an impossible way to live. Do what you and your partner want to do. Book your holidays (that’s what insurance is for), plan your nights out (you can always change / move plans) and live for the now. Who knows what’s happening tomorrow.

Fight the good fight

And finally, fight the right fight for you. For us, after ‘only’ two losses, that’s meant giving up battling healthcare professionals, and instead using our energy to take care of ourselves. For others, regardless of their experience, fighting is what helps them survive it all. You have to do what you both feel is right. Don’t be led by doctors who tell you no, or by family who push you to keep battling on. Fall back on your experience, your feelings as a couple, and do what you need to heal and find your smiles again.

In the meantime, here’s a song that’s struck a chord with me in the last couple of months (click on the pic below).

x-ambassadors-lyrics

Love and laughter

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Love and laughter

So it’s been three weeks since our awful hospital stay. 23 days since the ultrasound room, 21 days since the day of pain and loss. 24 days since I last remember feeling genuinely happy and hopeful. Since the weekend that broke our hearts and stole our hopes and dreams. During that three weeks there have been a lot of tears, a lot of ‘what if’s, and a lot of politely smiling while people fumble through inappropriate question asking and platitudes. But in the last few days, something miraculous happened.

Drying the tears

You see, today, it’s been exactly 5 days since I last cried. And more than that, over the most recent weekend, me and my husband laughed, we took the mickey out of each other, and we felt…..’normal’. Neither of us is naive, we know that there will still be bad days – the next pregnancy announcement amongst our friends and family, the due dates of our lost babies, and (when it’s time) the next pregnancy for us. But for now, we’re starting to heal.

A slow process

Don’t get me wrong, the happy you might see for a day, an hour or a minute is not as it used to be. There’s still a permanent dull ache in my heart that doesn’t go away. For my husband, he’s angry that it can’t just happen for us as easily as it seems to for our friends and family. No matter what’s in our future, we’ve both fundamentally changed and nothing will erase these experiences from our hearts and minds.

Every single conversation brings up a momentary ‘what if’ that hurts. Some mornings I feel like my very biological make-up has changed and I’m now made of lead or stone. Everything is just so heavy. There are random moments – in the office, at home, with friends – when an emotional wave washes over me out of nowhere, and it feels like my heart physically sinks into my boots.

I still ask questions out of the blue of my husband “We’re going to be OK aren’t we?” or “I just want us to have a baby – what if we can’t?”. I’m the woman out of comedy sketches, desperate to hold my own little one. Only it’s not so funny anymore. But this sadness doesn’t keep me in bed anymore. It doesn’t immediately generate tears. I acknowledge the ache and the heaviness, and force myself up and out into the world.

Take care of you

I just wanted people to know that it does get better. Life going on feels like the worst thing in the world when you’re in that ultrasound room, receiving that heart shattering news. You just want everything to stop – the whole world to acknowledge the immense pain you’re suddenly feeling. But actually, when the world keeps turning and you realise you have a life to return to, it’s a positive thing. It’s healthy, and necessary, and like it or not, just what you need.

Just be careful with yourself. You’re understandably fragile and no matter how many good days you have (and you will), you still need to listen to your body and your heart. If you feel like telling someone at work what’s happened so that they stop asking about your ‘lovely tan and holiday’, do it. Their awkwardness is their problem. You lost a child. If you get home from work and need to go straight to sleep because just ‘being ‘has exhausted you, curl up and do just that. If you have one too many glasses of wine with your best friends and suddenly realise your miscarriage is all you’ve rambled on about for an hour, don’t feel guilty. Your friends love you and understand that they have a vital role in your recovery.

You’re grieving, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’ve suffered a huge physical and emotional loss. Take care of yourself and your partner and you’ll suddenly realise you laughed today. And it’ll get better.