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Tommy's Mum's Voice Award 2017

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I am proud and overwhelmed to share that I have been shortlisted for Tommy’s Mum’s Voice Award 2017.  This is an award that celebrates mums who have spoken out about their own pregnancy experiences, and in doing so have helped and given hope and support to others.  I am honoured to have been shortlisted alongside some other incredible mums who have helped me immensely through 2016 and who are all are worthy of winning. I feel so lucky to know them and their babies, and to be able to call them friends.
I have spoken out about losing Orla, my experience of stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy and pregnancy after loss, the impact that this has on myself and Andy and how we are learning to navigate life after loss and survive our heartbreak – all in the hope that it will make a difference in some way.  There is so little that I can do for Orla now that she is gone, but the love I have for her drives me to do anything I can to keep her memory alive, and to try and help others. It is something that I hope would make her, and our future children, proud.
I have openly shared things that I would never have done before, in the anticipation that I can do my little bit towards breaking the silence that I feel exists around pregnancy and child loss.  I believe talking is the thing that can make a difference.  My passion for improving mental health support for parents has leaked from my work life into my personal one (or rather, crashed into it), and being on the other side of services has meant that I have been given a new and very different perspective. For me, this makes this nomination all the more meaningful. Continue Reading

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The complexities of announcing a pregnancy after loss

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After losing Orla, there was initially an overwhelming innate need to be pregnant again, to grow a baby that we would bring home and pour our overflowing love into.  However, it also felt terrifying – the thought of starting again, knowing what we know now.  That not all babies make it.  Then came the fear that stopped us from actually trying as well as the shock and numbness that meant that days and weeks passed without us really understanding how.  As medically advised, we duly waited a few months and I did what I could to get myself physically and mentally ready.  Whatever that actually means, since I think that no one can ever by fully prepared for pregnancy after loss.
 
When the positive test was actually in front of us, I think we were in complete shock and disbelief.  I didn’t anticipate how many confusing and conflicting emotions would come with pregnancy after loss: the renewed waves of grief, the guilt, the isolation, the extreme anxiety.  The sudden reality that another baby was beginning its own journey in the place that Orla had grown only months before bought both comfort and sadness.  I wondered if this was more significant when you lose your first child – this sense of a sacred space that has only been known by you and your firstborn.  I felt an increased sense of guilt that I hadn’t been able to keep Orla alive and that I was now hoping that I would be able to do so with her younger sibling.  And then an overwhelming fear that my body would fail and we would lose yet another baby. Continue Reading

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I didn’t know that I was allowed to feel sad

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I am aware that I haven’t ever written about my first loss, yet I have found my mind contemplating this a lot over the last few weeks.  Long days of driving alone have allowed my mind to meander through a number of events and as it is Baby Loss Awareness Week, it felt right to write something now.  I’m also aware that I haven’t read many accounts of ectopic pregnancies before, which is interesting seeing as this is the outcome for 1/100 pregnancies.  Not all end in the way that mind did, as some are caught earlier and can be managed less invasively.  But for me, I was suddenly made aware of the many dangers, some life threatening, that women can face on their journey to motherhood.
 
It was a Monday morning when I started bleeding.  We had been trying for a baby for four months and I had just finished my period the week before; no baby this month.  I called the GP in a bit of a panic as I was feeling unwell and shocked by the heavy unexpected flow.  She was blunt and to the point – ‘the last time someone described these symptoms to me, they were pregnant’.  I responded by asking if this meant that I would be miscarrying and she curtly replied that this was ‘a possible theory’ and that I should come in and see her that evening. Continue Reading

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Please be gentle with the heart of a bereaved mother

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Please be gentle with the heart of a bereaved mother
 
Your happy birth or pregnancy news or beautiful family photos may be a painful reminder of everything she has lost.  Her response may be sadness or overwhelming pain.  It may be intense anxiety or possibly even panic; a fear of how she will be able to cope as your belly swells, or your baby grows.  A need to run and hide.
 
It can trigger a renewed sense of grief and be a stark reminder of everything she has lost.  She may feel guilt and shame that she was not able to bring her baby home.  She may again question herself, her abilities and whether she did something wrong.  Did she miss a sign or eat the wrong food?  She may wonder if she has done something to deserve her fate when others are able to avoid such suffering.  If she is a bad person.  Or worse – a bad mother.
 
It may be hard for her to say how she feels, through fear of being judged as bitter or selfish.  This only adds to the guilt and shame she may feel.  She may congratulate you with enthusiasm or glassed over eyes, attend baby showers and birthdays, like your photos; but know that her fragile heart is potentially shattered that bit more each time.  She may instead avoid, make excuses not to attend but find it hard to put into words why.  Please don’t take this personally or criticise, but instead recognise and name for her that you understand that this might be difficult.  Spare her of this additional burden. Continue Reading

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Cycling For Orla – Our Story

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Everything about this trip is for Orla and because of Orla.  If it wasn’t for her then we wouldn’t be here, and although it is tragic circumstances that have led us to this trip, it feels like a gift in so many ways.  We made a pledge early on that we couldn’t just go back to normal – that our old life no longer held the same meaning that it used to.  We wanted to do something to give back to a charity that helped us and we wanted to speak out and share our story, as hearing those bravely shared by others was undoubtedly the thing that enabled us to survive those early days.
 
Although a keen cyclist, Andy has needed to commit himself to 12 weeks of intense training to undertake this huge challenge – almost 2000 miles from Vancouver to the Mexican border in San Diego.  This is alongside working fulltime and all of the other chaos that comes with losing your child; planning funerals, returning the buggy, simultaneously registering the birth and death of your baby and helping to keep your wife from falling apart.  As I struggle to ride a bike at the best of times, but also recovering from nine months of pregnancy and giving birth, I have committed to helping plan the trip, to support Andy physically and mentally, to share our story and to promote awareness, in the hope that we can raise as much money as possible for the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity (SANDS). Continue Reading