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Love

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

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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