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Browsing Tag

Bereavement

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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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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Mental health and wellbeing

Dear Orla: Two hundred and sixty-five letters of love

“There is something very sensual about a letter.
The physical contact of pen to paper, the time set aside to form thoughts,
the folding of the paper into the envelope, licking it closed, addressing it, a chosen stamp, and then the release of the letter to the mailbox—are all acts of tenderness.  Once opened, a connection is made. We are not alone in the world.”

—Tempest Williams (1991, p. 84)

Monday saw us write our two hundred and sixty fifth letter to Orla.  Although not necessarily a significant number, it is one that marks a countdown of 100 days until her first birthday and that this is now into double instead of triple figures.  It marks two hundred and sixty-five days since the day that she was born; the day that we officially became parents and met the most precious and beautiful little girl we had ever seen.  Two hundred and sixty-five days of breathing, surviving and navigating life without Orla; of being bereaved parents and finding a way of parenting without our child.  Developing an identity that acknowledges the gravity of what we have lived through, and continue to live through, whilst also looking to develop a narrative of hope, optimism and meaning. Continue Reading

Pregnancy after loss

Walking the terrifying cliff edge of pregnancy after loss

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As I edge ever closer to the third trimester, I feel just about ready to write something more about pregnancy after loss.  Although I have written smaller pieces via Instagram, there has been something of a block between that and getting something more thorough and robust onto paper.  I could put it down to being busy; returning from the States, announcing this pregnancy to family and friends, going back to work and then our first Christmas without Orla.  But in reality, I think that there has been something bigger stopping me.  My own mind.
 
It’s as though I fear that if I commit anything more substantial in writing, that this will be the end.  That somehow I will cause everything to come crashing down around me.  ‘Magical thinking’ in psychology speak.  Except that the outcome would be anything but magical.
 
I can without a doubt say that these last few months have been the hardest of my life.  The pain of losing Orla has remained as an ongoing hum, ever present, always occupying space in my heart and head.  One that intensifies at times, just as I feel it always will.  I found that once the initial horror sinks in after loss, the numbness wears off and the despair hits, you become acutely aware that the worst thing that you could have imagined has happened.  You can no longer fear it, since you are living it.  You cling onto life with your fingertips and grapple and grasp to find something, anything, that will give you a shred of hope that things will be okay.  You go to the darkest places of your mind and soul and you wonder if you will survive.  And you do, one day at a time.  In many ways, I felt that I had already faced the worst, and therefore if I could still wake up and put one foot in front of the other, I would somehow be okay. Continue Reading

Pregnancy after loss

Pregnancy after loss at Christmas

* This was a guest post written for Tommy’s for their Christmas 2016 series of articles
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This Christmas isn’t as we hoped it would be.  We had anticipated having a seven-month-old baby that we could dress in various festive themed outfits and having a tree full of decorations proudly declaring ‘baby’s first Christmas’.  I look back at this time last year, around 18 weeks pregnant and how we kept exclaiming how different everything would be this year.  And it is.  But sadly, for all the wrong reasons.
Everyone always says that the first Christmas after loss is hard.   Christmas is a time of cheer, of celebration and happiness. But what if your heart doesn’t match this ideal? From early autumn, we are surrounded by advertised images of perfect families, engaging in activities full of cheer.  The expectation is to join in with the festive spirit and not be The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Yet how can I pretend to be full of the joys of the season when my soul feels so heavy?
This year has the added joy and challenge of ‘pregnancy after loss at Christmas’, which is not quite the same as ‘pregnancy before loss at Christmas’; and I can remember the latter so vividly since it was just one year ago. Last year there were lots of conversations about how different next Christmas would be, how special, how I should make the most of getting presents just for me since this would be the last year it would happen. Yet now all I really want for Christmas is for Orla to have lived – and for this baby to make it safely into the world. Continue Reading