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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear time…

Time is so often revered as the healer of all things; ‘it takes time’; ‘all in good time’. Yet in life after loss it can be cruel and confusing.  We wish for it to turn back so that we can in some way re-write history.  We wish for it to stand still for fear that moving away from our loved ones will destroy the precious few memories we have.  We wish for it to speed forwards, to a time when we may smile spontaneously and sing out loud again.

In this letter to Time, Jess @the_maeve_effect perfectly captures the complexity of our relationship with the one thing in life we cannot change.

Jess became both a mother and a bereaved mother in April 2013, when her first baby, Maeve died during an induced labour. She has since survived two further pregnancies, both fraught with worries, but worth every anxious second to bring Maeve’s siblings home. Since losing Maeve, Jess has found solace in writing, and healing in the power of finding words to capture her struggles with life after loss. She hopes that by sharing her grief journey, she might be able to offer some comfort to other grieving souls, as she has found such great support within the inspiring community of warrior parents. Jess lives in Ayrshire, Scotland, where life is a beautifully chaotic and complicated ride of parenting all three of her children.

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Letters To The Other Chair

To the mum who is struggling to adjust…

The transition to motherhood is something that is difficult to put into words. It is greater than the shift in role and identity and shines a spotlight on every part of you that you thought you once knew. The feelings are intense and often contradictory. And even when you are surrounded by people, it can be a lonely and confusing time. But if you too are struggling with the adjustment to this new role and identity, you are not alone, and as Emma captures in her letter, there is help and there is hope.

Emma Cottam is owner of Isabella and Us., editor and creator of the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and mummy to Isabella. This letter is written from personal experience of the past year of becoming a mum, her struggles with the transition and diagnosis with PND.

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To the mum who is struggling to adjust,

I’ve been there. When my daughter Isabella was born last December, just 9 days before Christmas Day I struggled to adjust to my new ‘role’. I struggled on for 5 long months without asking for any help; I struggled alone with the thoughts racing around my mind. Thoughts that my daughter didn’t need me, thoughts that I wasn’t a good enough mother, thoughts that my husband no longer loved me because he now had my daughter and didn’t need me anymore. I was embarrassed for feeling like I didn’t want to be a mum anymore and feeling guilty for feeling that way after I had longed for a baby. I spent months just going through the motions, never feeling fully present, not enjoying anything. 

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Letters To The Other Chair

To those who go {un}noticed…

Loss can bring so many people into your lives; individuals you had no idea existed; professions that you had never needed before; whole networks that seek to make the worst days of your life that bit more manageable.  It may be part of their job to help the bereaved, but to the bereaved what they do is so much more than just a job.  And In this letter, Lindsey from @elsiesmoon captures her experience perfectly

“We are Elsie’s Mummy & Daddy, Lindsey & Chris.  Elsie was born on 3rd August 2018, with a super speedy, drama-queen entrance into the world. Much to Mummy & Daddy’s surprise, she had a full head of long fluffy, black hair – the ginger and bald genes were nowhere to be seen! Elsie fought hard for 17 hours, she did us so proud. Her short little life has made lasting memories for everyone who met her and made a huge impact on those who loved her already.

During the worst time of our lives, we had the honour of meeting some of the most incredible people. Our letter goes out to those who probably think they did nothing to help, but in fact are those who helped the most.”

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Dear those who go {un}noticed,

To the midwife on duty the night Elsie was born. Thank you for cleaning me and helping me get dressed. Thank you for finding us another room where we couldn’t hear babies crying. Thank you for making us endless amounts of tea and toast, and not being upset when they were left untouched.

To the friend that was awake at 4am when I needed someone more than ever. Thank you for reading to my messages that probably made no sense. Thank you for staying awake with me. 

To the neo natal consultant that took care of Elsie. Thank you for doing everything you could for her. Thank you for sitting with us and explaining everything so we could (try to) understand. Thank you for being so helpful, considerate and such a lovely person. We trusted you from the minute we met you and knew you’d do everything you could for Elsie.

To the hospital vicar. Thank you for blessing Elsie. Thank you for calling her a queen, and treating her just the same as any other baby. Thank you for making us smile through our tears at one of our darkest times.

To the funeral home ladies. Thank you for letting us cry. Thank you for looking after Elsie as if she was your own, for bathing and dressing her too. Thank you for listening to every detail of what we wanted for our daughter, and making the day no one should ever have to do so much easier than we could have hoped for.

To the church vicar. Thank you for making time for us, and always remembering Elsie. Thank you for the most beautiful of services for our little lady, we are so grateful for this day.

To Elsie’s ‘nearly birth’ midwife. Thank you for taking control and making us feel safe that night. Thank you for coming back the following day, meeting Elsie and being there for us. Thank you for taking us under your wing, for giving us information, for helping us through the tough times, for allowing us to moan and to cry, and for loving Elsie nearly as much as we do. Thank you for totally “getting it”. Thank you for being our rock.

To the neo natal consultant at Elsie’s inquest. Thank you for asking her name. Thank you for continuously checking we were ok. Thank you for remembering us and Elsie, and thank you for trusting us to share your story too. 

To those that are there for us. Thank you for not being scared of, and also just knowing what to say. Thank you for distracting us when needed, but also knowing this is a daily struggle of ours that will never go away. Thank you for listening to us cry, laughing with us, letting us rant, and continuously checking in on us. Thank you for bringing us food, walking the dogs with us and most of all, talking about Elsie.

You may all feel your actions were not noticed, your words were not heard or “you were just doing your job”. To us, it was so much more than that. 

You all made the hardest of times, just that little bit easier. You took away a fraction of the pain. You held us when we needed it. And for that, we are eternally grateful. 

Our hearts are full of so much love for you all. Keep being amazing humans, the world needs more people like you.

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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear Ours…

In a world where 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss and 1 in 8 couples experience fertility struggles, it still amazes me how little we speak of these things.  Behind each #TTC hashtag there is a person or couple trying desperately to start their much wanted family and the pain, love and hope you see in those squares is palpable.

Given it can be so hard to talk about these things openly, social media gives the gift of anonymity; the ability to find a community that will give you overwhelming support without needing to talk to those you don’t feel ready to.  There is work to do to help bring these conversations into our everyday language, but until then, it is incredible that people have a place to go and people to connect with.  We no longer have to feel alone and isolated.

@journeyto_our_dream is one of these wonderful accounts which documents a couple’s journey towards parenthood and this beautiful letter captures one stage of this.  

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Dear Ours,

I don’t know where to begin. We have been on such a tough journey and we haven’t even met or seen you yet! It has been three and half years, I don’t like to count but I cannot help it. It sounds so odd and wrong saying this but I cannot wait to feel you, just to know that you are tucked up in the little home that my magical body can create for you, for nine whole months. 

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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear NHS…

Dear NHS,

It’s not you, it’s me. Or at least I thought it was for a long time. The inability to get everything done within the working week; constantly worrying about the never shrinking to do list. I thought it was all about me and my failings – and given my vulnerability to feeling this way, I just worked harder. And harder. Until things changed. 

Major life events have a way of doing this to you. They tip everything on its head and force you re-evaluate. Becoming a parent, losing a child and parenting so soon after loss – they all made my skin paper thin. They left me feeling all the things that overworking had locked away. They helped me to see what I could and could not do. And more importantly they showed me that my well-being mattered too.

I love my career. It is something that defines me as a person.  In fact, I’ve dedicated so much of my life to training and working in psychology, that I don’t know who I am without it. The NHS has played the biggest part of this: almost fifteen and a half years, seven Mental Health Trusts, twelve placements / jobs all over the country and many, many clients. I’ve worked with adults, with children, in secure forensic wards and prison, in the community and in people’s homes. I started before the major salary restructures, before the recent years of austerity and I have seen services cut, cut and cut again, with staff being asked to do more and more with less. Or, worse still, learning to say no and close the doors to those who need it most.

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