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Memories

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

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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

Mental health and wellbeing

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints

“The real essence of your distinctive footprints may least be felt in your presence and much more in your absence”
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Andy and I like to travel, although I’m more of a novice.  Andy has visited over 80 countries and taken on many weird and wonderful adventures.  A year after we met, changes in work circumstances meant that we both left our jobs and travelled for 7 months through Africa and South America together.  Andy pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do things that I never thought I could – and although at the time I often cursed him for it, I was always grateful afterwards.

We have found a shared love of seeing animals in their own habitats; mountain gorillas in Uganda, The Big Five in the Serengeti, sharks in South Africa.  We have stargazed in the Atacama desert and walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  We have visited witch doctors in remote African villages.  And when we found out that we were pregnant, we started to dream of taking our child to these places.  To give them the opportunity to see the beauty of the world through an unfiltered lens.  We discussed our desire for them to see animals in the wild rather than at the zoo and for them to learn to understand and appreciate diversity and other cultures.
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