Tag Archives: Family

A muddle of emotions

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A muddle of emotions

I feel like this should be an official collective term, like a gaggle of geese or a murder of crows. Official or not, a muddle of emotions is how we’ve been feeling lately.

Our muddle is partly fuelled by hormones, tiredness and huge life changes coming our way. But it’s also fuelled by other people. People who unwisely don’t heed the previously mentioned hormones. Here are some silly/ignorant/just plain mean things that people say/do which have made us even more muddley.

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Ignorant things people say

Perhaps it’s because of our previous experience. Maybe for those beautiful, happy pregnancy announcements which don’t follow a loss of some kind, people aren’t so stupid. For us, most people were kind, thoughtful, and understanding that we weren’t dancing on the ceiling. But one or two were just gobsmackingly heartless (whether intentional or not).

One person genuinely asked ‘Is it real this time?’…I know. There are no words (well, there are but I won’t repeat them on this public forum).

Mistaking cautious excitement for full-steam ahead spotlight time

Here’s the thing. I’m a talker. I love being social within my own little groups. But generally, I’m an introvert. Time at home in our bubble is vital to my energy levels, ability to function, and avoidance of grouchy, snappy comebacks at people. This is something I’ve learnt to embrace as I’ve got older. We are much better at turning down invitations when we know we need to. Our time at home is as protected (if not more so) as remembering key family birthdays. And that’s what makes our situation difficult.

At 24 weeks, we’re now cautiously excited. We’ve bought stuff for the nursery, I’ve bought maternity clothes. I have a rapidly expanding football shaped bump that won’t be ignored, and a teeny tiny kung-fu artist to remind me they’re growing inside me. We’re happy to talk about the baby. But that doesn’t mean we’re comfortable with discussing every last aspect of it just yet, or rolling out the parade and party poppers. We need to take the lead. Some days we’re over the moon. Others we want to quietly get through without a panic attack.

It’s ours to celebrate

Now that we’ve reached this cautiously optimistic stage of pregnancy, we’re proud of it. It feels like a huge achievement that we’ve made it this far, after our experience last year. That means I proudly wear the ‘baby on board’ badge on my coat, even though I don’t do the daily London commute. It means that when we’re asked how far along we are, what our due date is, whether we’ve found out the sex; it would be nice to answer for ourselves before overenthusiastic family and friends jump in for us. I completely get that family and friends are excited too. But please, after everything, let us have this for us. This baby is ours, ours to celebrate when we’re ready, ours to protect and ours to get used to.

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A thank you

I want to finish this by saying that I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I completely understand that a lot of what I’ve ranted about above comes only from a place of love and excitement by those we love. We love you all too, and we’re so grateful we have you all.

We just need you to understand that (like all first time parents) we’re a little overwhelmed. And when you top that off with our anxiety, our utter disbelief that this is actually happening, and our introvert personalities; well, you’ve got a pretty muddled couple of people.

To those who have somehow seen through the muddle, the ones who’ve discovered the perfect balance of excitement for us, and space for us to breathe. The ones who’ve remembered the painful milestones related to last year, referenced them with a simple ‘I love you’, and let us move on. The ones who’ve given us plain facts and honest truths when I’ve asked daft pregnancy questions; and who have quietly drip-fed baby clothes, nursery paraphernalia, and recommendations at a pace we can manage. Thank you for accepting us as we are, muddle and all.golden-letters-thank-you-design_1095-240

 

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.

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).

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Heartbeats and hopes

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Heartbeats and hopes

“We’re very sorry but we can’t find a heartbeat”, 9 words that will ironically, stop your own heart for the briefest of moments. I can say this with certainty, because it’s happened to us twice now. In only four short months we’ve lost two babies. And yes, I’m aware that biologically they weren’t babies – one was no more than a cluster of cells, the other was a ‘foetus’ – the ugliest of words to describe something so incredibly beautiful.

But to us they were our children, our first children, and now the children we’ll never get to name, to tease, to watch grow up, to tell off and to lose sleep over. From now onwards, my medical notes will say ‘Two pregnancies, no babies’. They’re the reason we’ll never get excited about a future pregnancy, and the explanation behind the inherent change to our naturally hopeful and happy personalities to cautious, cynical and bitter ones instead.

I’ve ummed and aahed over whether to share this publicly – it’s incredibly personal, and laying our hearts and personal pain out there for all to read is a big decision. But as a couple who has now suffered through the pain of 2 miscarriages and found that the only balm are the testimonies and case studies of others who’ve felt the same, it seemed important to share our story.

Number one

The first time was early – some bleeding at home, a fruitless trip to A&E where I was told to go home and see what happened, an early scan to confirm my body had done its job by itself and got rid of our first baby. We were sad, we woke up in the night and held each other but we bounced back – not everyone knew. We could survive the ignorant and unwitting enquiries about when we’d have a family because we still believed we would.

Number two

The pain of number two is still raw – it was only a week or two ago, but the situation was horrendous. Following our first experience, we paid for an early private scan at 8 weeks. All was good, the heartbeat was strong – we got photos of our little blob and told only some immediate family and very close friends. The consultant assured us that after hearing a heartbeat at 8 weeks, the risk of miscarriage was only 2%. We should try to stop worrying. And we did, we let the hope creep back in. We were still careful but we booked our 12 week scan, I attended my first midwife appointment.

The 12 week scan rolled around. Nervous and desperate for the reassurance we both needed, we walked into the room to meet our sonographer. After muttering under his breath that “It’s too small” “Hang on, no, very small”, I knew something was wrong. “I’m very sorry, there’s no heartbeat” he said with very little sympathy or emotion. The screen showed measurements at 8 weeks 3 days – only 3 days after our first scan. Neither of us spoke, made a noise, cried. We just stared and nodded. So inherently British, I’m even pretty sure I said thank you. He called a colleague to confirm, took us to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) and a kind nurse took us to the quiet room to discuss our options.

Unwanted options

None of the options was ‘preferable’ – I’m not a clinician so I won’t go into details, but they’re essentially surgery, tablets (at hospital or home), or let nature take her course. Due to fly on a much needed holiday the next day, and given that in four weeks my body had failed to do its job so far, we ruled out the natural option. Our fragile hearts and minds just couldn’t sit around, go to work, smile and get on with life knowing we were waiting for the pain and an end to it all. I’ve never had surgery, never had an anaesthetic so we ruled that out too. Tablets it was, and taking the course in hospital throughout a day seemed the most efficient and safe way to do it. We rang our friends, postponed our holiday and told them to go on without us. We rebooked flights for a couple of days later hoping all went to plan.

I’m not sharing everything here, but it was a day (and overnight stay) filled with pain, tears and blood. A day I’m certain I couldn’t have survived without my husband to hold my hands as contractions took over, to wipe my tears, kiss my forehead and tell me I was amazing, and he was so proud of me. And my mum, who spent the entire day rubbing my back, hugging me and telling me it was OK to be angry, to sob, and insisting I ask for pain relief when I was trying to be brave. Both were struggling to watch me in so much physical and emotional pain and obviously, my husband was experiencing the same loss I was; but between them they provided the strength and love I needed.

Looking forward

This isn’t an advice post – if you’re going through this right now, I am so so sorry for you. Every experience will be different so I’m no expert – just don’t do it alone, accept help and hugs and don’t try to be brave. You need to grieve and feel everything  to move on when you’re ready.

For us, we’re stronger than ever. Our silver lining is that this didn’t tear us apart, it made us more sure of our love and partnership. The nights when I’ve woken him up sobbing he hasn’t shushed me and made me go back to sleep. He’s hugged me, turned the lamp on and put Family Guy on the TV because he knows I need distraction, and that sleep isn’t coming.

We haven’t lost all hope – two miscarriages are sadly quite common and the NHS don’t investigate why until a couple has 3 miscarriages. We’re hoping we don’t reach that number, but for now, ours is not to reason why. We need to heal. We still hope to add an extra number to our little family but if we don’t, we know we’ll survive.

When we’re ready we’ll try again but I need those we love to understand that it won’t be congratulations and excitement – we don’t need advice to stay positive because frankly, it ain’t gonna happen. We are going to need to stay cautious and cynical. It’s the only way we’ll survive this again. Please accept that and leave us be until we can let ourselves believe it’s really going to happen.

Without wanting to sound like a really miserable awards ceremony, thank you to everyone who sent messages, personal stories to give us hope, and flowers, chocolates, prayers and love. To our friends we (eventually) joined on holiday, thank you for reminding us it’s OK to smile – we didn’t need to sit at home wearing black and wondering where we went wrong. Your love, easy company and laughter has been a huge part of our initial recovery and we’re massively grateful for all of you.

There are no words to thank my mum – thank you isn’t big enough. I love you – it was an awful experience but I’m incredibly glad I had you by my side.

To my husband, I’m sorry we haven’t got our happy ending. I’m sorry our short marriage so far has been so incredibly difficult. Thank you for being so brave and strong, for suffering with me and talking and listening. Thank you for opening up, for taking care of me, and letting me take care of you. We’ll get there, and if we don’t, we will always have each other.