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Letters To The Other Chair

To the family and friends…

Knowing how to support a family member who has lost a child whilst also navigating your own grief is such a difficult task. A bereaved parent may not be able to tell you what they need, so you are left fumbling and trying to work out what may help them in their darkest hours and beyond.

In this letter to other family members, Michelle captures what she has learnt from losing her nephew Conor.  Her honesty in what has helped her personally as well as what she does to ensure that Conor remains in her heart and mind is just beautiful.

You can find Michelle on Instagram at @michellewilson66

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To the Aunties, Uncles, Grandparents, Cousins and friends who support their loved ones,

My nephew Conor died before he got a chance to meet his amazing mum and dad. I hold very dear to me things….1. that I spoke to Conor in my sister’s tummy, he heard my voice and 2. that I saw him the day my inspirational sister gave birth to her precious son who she knew had already died.  I have been there for my sister and husband throughout these sad years. We are in different countries, but we are in touch every day, even if it’s just a message to say hi.

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Letters To The Other Chair

To the mum who knows why…

I have spoken a lot recently about the “Tell Me Why” campaign that Tommy’s have launched; a campaign to help fight for answers when a baby dies.  However, for many people, there is a known reason – and tragically for a number of these families, this could have been prevented.

In her letter, Alison talks about her experience of losing her son Sebastian due to medical malpractice. Whilst the pain of loss is universal, realising that your child has died due to errors made by others is complex.  There are many layers to unpick and understand, which can make grief all the more challenging.  Alison, articulates this beautifully here and you can read more about Sebby on Instagram @thankyousebby

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To the Mum who just found out her baby died due to medical malpractice,

This makes it both easier and harder. 

There is a relief in hearing your son died because of another’s actions. That is OK. You don’t need to feel guilty about it. You feel that relief because it means your secret fear that you killed your child is not true. 

It doesn’t mean that fear won’t still lurk in the background. It will tell you that you should have known they weren’t doing their jobs properly; it will tell you that you should have had a home birth; it will tell you that you should have gone into labour a day later and had a different medical team. But it does mean that when you cannot trust your own head and heart and the feeling that you are to blame is overwhelming that you can revert back to the medical report; you can revert back to the consultant with whom you had a debrief; you can revert back to the Coroner who all said that your son died because of them and not because of you. That will help you take a breath. 

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Letters To The Other Chair

To my rainbow babies…

Frankie is a mother of three; two in her arms and one in her heart.  She is the author of the beautiful picture book ‘These Precious Little People’ which helps to support children who have lost siblings during pregnancy or soon after birth.  In this stunningly raw letter, Frankie describes her journey to parenthood and the intense and mixed emotions that come with parenting after loss.

You can find Frankie on Instagram at @notyetoutofthewoods as well as @thesepreciouslittlepeople where you can find out how to purchase her book. Frankie is also a finalist in the Author Blogger category at the 2019 Butterfly Awards. Follow her page to find out how to vote for her when voting opens.

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To my rainbow babies,

When we first found out we were pregnant with you, it was, quite honestly, as well as a truly joyous moment, a relief. It meant that my body still worked – I could still get pregnant. That was all it meant at that moment. Just one box, ticked. Only approx 250+ anxious days to go. I don’t think it will ever be possible to explain to you the fear, the at times on-the-edge-of-your-seat terror, that I experienced during my pregnancies with you. Sure, your dad was scared too, but I was the one carrying you, our oh-so-precious cargo. I had already failed once in this task. And that failure is ultimately what is leading me to write you this letter. It is not an impossibility that you two and your sister could all be here had she lived, but I suspect it is unlikely, and that is something I will never quite be able to wrap my head around. I am greedy, I want all three of you here growing up with us, despite the fact that, pre-children, your dad and I only ever discussed wanting two babies, and I don’t think we would have planned to space them so closely apart if we hadn’t had such fear instilled in us that it was quite possibly now or never. 

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Loss

Stillbirth is Still Birth

Today I am on a podcast called Birth Stories, where I share my account of Orla’s birth.  Whilst I have shared aspects of our story previously, talking about it is pretty different to writing about it.  There is an element of reliving the experience in more detail when you say it out loud (and for this reason, I do appreciate that it may not be right for everyone to listen – follow your own instinct on this one, but know that I do approach it sensitively).

I’ll be honest that when I was first asked to be a guest on this podcast, I was a bit hesitant – would people want to hear me talk more about Orla and her arrival into the world?  Knowing that she died is one thing, but really connecting to the reality of what it means to birth a baby who is no longer alive is something very different. When birth and death collide so forcefully, we want to turn our heads the other way.  We do not want to face it – I certainly didn’t – because it is intolerable.  The ending of a life before it has even really begun.

I have asked myself many times since recording it, what is my purpose and intention in doing this and sharing our birth story?  Why did I say yes, particularly at a time when I am trying to share less on social media?  And I guess it really comes down to wanting to help people understand the reality of stillbirth.  That it is still birth.  That, however you birth your baby, you birthed your baby,and this story deserves to be told and to be heard.

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Mental health and wellbeing

From The Other Chair

It’s been such a long time since I’ve blogged, that I feel a little unsure of where to start. 2019 has been a year of huge change both professionally and personally, leaving little to no time to nurture my little corner of the internet. Start-up life is inevitably a rollercoaster of emotions and a huge pull on your time (more than I ever anticipated).  But I am so glad we took the plunge despite the long days and late nights.  It has always been about trying to make work workfor us as a family, and whilst at times the balance can feel a little off kilter, I think this is all part of building your own enterprise.

For the first time since we lost Orla, I am also well and truly back in the therapist’s chair. As a senior psychologist and manager in the NHS, most of my role involved indirect clinical work, so my time providing therapy was limited and precious. You use just as many, if not more, clinical skills in these roles, but therapy is indeed a very unique experience.  And right now, I am doing lots of, which feels really good.

Throughout recent months though, I have been experiencing a growing sense of internal unease about my life online and that in the real world. When Orla died, setting up the blog was in some ways an act of ‘screw you universe!’ – the rules of extreme privacy within the profession that had occupied all of my twenties and half of my thirties suddenly became meaningless. I needed people to know what had happened, to validate my experience and to desperately find a community of support that I didn’t have in real life. I couldn’t really reconcile with what this meant for my career because in those early weeks and months, I honestly didn’t see how I would ever be able to return to work. 

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