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Parenting After Loss

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

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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Letters To The Other Chair

To my boys…

I often wonder how I would have coped if I had needed to parent other children when Orla died.  How would I have managed my own grief alongside theirs?  How would I have explained what had happened to their sibling? Although it may sound strange, I sometimes feel lucky that I had the opportunity to completely immerse myself in those early weeks and months; with no one else depending on me, I had the freedom to just be with my grief.  Yet so many bereaved parents have other children to protect and support at a time when they too need the same.

 

In this letter to her sons, Lucie articulates her experiences beautifully.  I am sure that the intensity of love and protection in parenting after loss will resonate with many.

 

“I’m Lucie a nearly 40 year old mum of five.  Beau was our fourth child, our fourth boy and he was stillborn in June 2016. I pine for him every day and I don’t think that will ever change.
We had our rainbow, Seraphina Hope, our only daughter in August 2017. We call her our little heart healer as she’s helping to heal us all.

 

I’m married to my soulmate and we live a happy, simple but boring life surrounded by our family and friends.
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Mental health and wellbeing, Parenting

And then she was one

And just like that, she was one.
 
Except, when I really think about it, it wasn’t ‘just like that’ at all.  The first year of parenting after loss has been a complete rollercoaster; a Big Dipper, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and one that I have desperately wanted to escape at times.  Because, despite what I had hoped, having a take home baby did not fix everything. It did not take away my pain.  It just made the hardest job in the world that much more complicated.
 
Parenting a live baby has changed me.  I am not the person I once was, and at the same time, I have come to accept that I am not parent I thought I would be.  It has shattered my sense of self and I am slowly piecing the shards back together and getting to know the cracks that exist in between them.  Some of those crevices have been deep, dark and quite unnerving to expose myself to, whilst others have acted as a prism and shone the full spectrum of colours.
 
I thought that when Orla died that I was well and truly broken, but looking back, I had just built up an even stronger wall than I had before.  My own emotions have always scared me and I have run from them; finding solutions or ways in which to numb the pain.  Working harder.  Finding another project.  I would bounce from one thing to another as a way of blocking out what was really troubling me, because I feared that my emotions would destroy me.  I couldn’t trust that anyone else could hold them; the terror that they would either become overwhelmed by them or would reject me was paralysing.  So, I denied that they existed and continued to build my armour of strategies, that enabled me to run away from pain. Continue Reading

Loss, Mental health and wellbeing

Somewhere over the rainbow….PND sadly still exists

I’m not sure where you even start with a post such as this; it’s hard to know whether there even is a beginning, and I certainly haven’t reached the end yet, so I guess it’s a case of starting from where I am now.
 
I have been experiencing postnatal depression.
 
If I’m honest, these are the most challenging, the most shaming and gut wrenching words I have written since Orla died.  They are possibly more riddled with shame because I feel terrified of being judged, blamed and seen as selfish, weak and inferior.  When your baby dies, you know that many people will feel sad for you.  Of course, you fear that there will be a multitude of other thoughts and emotions, but overall, you know that people will feel sadness and regret.  When it comes to mental health however, you can never be so sure.
 
And when this occurs in the context of parenting a rainbow, the fear of being viewed as ungrateful and unworthy is paralysing.  Which in itself becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of self-loathing and inadequacy.
 
After Orla died, I became a ‘doer’.  I got up every day, I showered, I cleaned the house – I even cooked (damn you Gusto for signing up a vulnerable heavily pregnant woman who thought she’d spend the first weeks of maternity leave cooking nutritious meals!).  I made keepsakes to treasure memories of Orla, I wrote and set up a blog and we planned our fundraising trip to America.  Three months after Orla died, we flew to Canada.  Two weeks later I feel pregnant.  We spent the first trimester of my pregnancy travelling down the East Coast of the US and then Canada, and when we returned to the UK three months later, I went back to work for five months.  I did yoga, I completed a mindfulness course, I saw friends.  I was coping so well. Continue Reading