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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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Letters To The Other Chair

To the sister who has recently become a mother…

In the early months after Miles was born I was given the opportunity to write a letter for @from_the_other_chair’s incredible blog. It could be to anyone, about anything; so I decided to write to my sister. So Sophie this is for you. 

Not a week goes past where someone doesn’t comment to me that it must be so hard being surrounded by so many babies. I don’t deny that sometimes it really is – they can ignite our grief, make our arms physically ache a little more than they already do, stir up all sorts of emotions and a kind of jealousy that feels very foreign to me. Why isn’t my baby here too? It just doesn’t make sense and doesn’t feel fair at all. 

But for me personally they provide a source of comfort, love and immense joy at the very same time. I have so much love to give and I feel so blessed that I have two perfect nieces in my life to be on the receiving end of this. With every encounter my heart grows a little bigger and a little stronger. 

I know from speaking to other bereaved parents that this isn’t always the case, with some losing family or friendships due to them finding it too difficult to be around new babies – and this I can completely empathise with. I read something today that stated ‘when a stimulus triggers extreme feelings of pain or anxiety this is in fact a result of trauma, NOT jealousy’ and the trauma caused by the death of your child can take years to overcome. I can completely see how the trauma and grief for your own baby can overpower every other emotion you would normally feel and make it impossible at times to be happy for anyone else.

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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear me…

If you could go back to the old you, what would you say?  What words of wisdom and compassion would you try to impart?  What snippet of the future would you dare to share?  With any loss, there is a ‘before’ you and an ‘after’ you. They are both the same and undeniably different.  There are secondary losses to navigate but with time you may learn to notice some gains. Some shards of light in the rubble. Old you may not believe this could be true.  But the seed of hope is a powerful one.

In this poignant letter to her past self, Emma Hartley shares the things she wishes she could have told herself when she received the devastating news of her daughter Eilys’ terminal diagnosis. You can find Emma on Instagram at @hashtag_emma

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Dear Me after we got our daughters terminal diagnosis,

I know that you feel like the weight of this diagnosis is going to crush you. I know that you have no idea how to begin to process the things that you have just heard. I know that you were expecting the worst but I also know that you really weren’t expecting the worst at all. The mind plays funny tricks on you in situations like this. 

I know that your brain will struggle to process a terminal diagnosis. How could it be true? Eilys is so full of life, so happy and so present. But then if you look a bit closer, you can see it. She stopped hitting milestones; she is 6 months old and she can’t support her head very well any more, she barely moves her legs and she has never sat up or rolled. The battle inside your head will keep striking painful blows but it will get easier. You will eventually come to terms with it. It will just take time. And don’t feel bad that you aren’t accepting things, you are just protecting yourself and that is fine. You will keep doing it. You won’t see her deteriorate because you will always try to put a positive spin on it. You will know deep down but at the same time you won’t allow yourself to dwell on it.

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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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