Monthly Archives: September 2015

Loss is loss, whenever it happens

Angel

When Ewan, our angel, died, a lot of people shared their own experiences of loss with us. Either their own, or that of friends and/or family. A lot of people, particularly those who had experienced a miscarriage, said that they thought that a stillbirth in late pregnancy must have been much harder.

About 18 months after losing Ewan, I met another local couple who had recently lost their baby. At the time we were both interested in setting up a local Sands support group. We shared our personal stories. Their baby had been born with various physical complications and died at about 3-4 days old. When I told them about Ewan’s stillbirth, the girl commented that our experience must have been much worse. Her reasoning was that at least they were able to spend a few days with their child.

I remember disagreeing with her. She had gone full-term and left work to go on maternity leave. They had the nursery ready and when she went into labour, were fully expecting to bring a healthy baby back to the house a few days later. I had only gone to 32 weeks and hadn’t finished work. We hadn’t decorated a nursery (partly because we were moving house). We also knew that when we went into hospital, we wouldn’t be bringing our baby home.

There is obviously something within us, or most of us, where we look at our own situation and maybe think how it could have been worse. Kind of looking on the bright side in a way. I know that I did that a lot. And still do. Ok, losing a baby so late on was bloody awful. One of the most horrendous things that could ever happen. But I am incredibly thankful for those 32 wonderful weeks. Adam and I were full of excitement and anticipation. We were nervous, as most first time parents are. I can remember the scans. I remember his first kick and the many more that followed. Talking about names. Booking NCT classes.

I have never experienced an early miscarriage but I have some friends who have. I have heard people say the words ‘it’s only a miscarriage’ or ‘she was only 8 weeks’. Seriously? There is no only about the loss of any baby. Whenever it occurs. I really do feel for those who have experienced miscarriage, because it is so often kept under wraps and not discussed. With early miscarriages, a lot of people wouldn’t have announced the pregnancy in the first place. So they often suffer in silence. An ex-work colleague of mine who has also started blogging, recently wrote a thought provoking post about it. It was only after her eldest boy was born, and through similar groups we joined on Facebook that I was aware of her losses.

What I am trying to say, in a roundabout and not very eloquent way, is that grief and loss is not a competition. No one person can hold the monopoly. Any loss is agonising. Just because someone loses a baby at 8 weeks, shouldn’t mean that it can be any less painful that losing a baby in the second or third trimester. I imagine it is a different type of pain and grief, but at the end of it all, there is still ache and longing. Loss is loss.

Did you know that 9th – 15th October is Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK? A number of different charities work together to promote awareness and give parents, families and friends the opportunity to commemorate their babies lives. It is also an opportunity to talk more openly about baby loss. If you are interested in more information, visit the dedicated website. Ribbon pins are available from the Sands online shop. The week finishes each year on October 15th with the global ‘Wave of Light’. People all over the world will be lighting candles in memory of their babies. If you will be taking part, I would love to know.

Written in memory of all the angels who were taken too soon.

#babyloss #breakthesilence

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I’m sorry for lying

2 Rainbows, dreamy

How many children do you have?

A simple question. Or is it?

It’s a question I dread because most of the time I lie. I say that I have two children.

I don’t. I have three.

So why do I lie?

The vast majority of people who ask the question have only just met me. They have seen me with one of my children and politely enquire whether there is another. It could be a work contact who knows I have been on maternity leave. They may have known me a while, but maybe not personally. Most people who ask probably didn’t know me before January 2011. Because that is when my firstborn was stillborn.

I lie because lying is easier than telling the truth. If I tell people I have two children, two boys, it is a safe answer. They nod, smile, maybe ask their names, enquire if they are good or not. It may spark a conversation in which we might swap stories, compare notes. It is easy.

But every time I lie, I feel a pang of guilt. I feel as though I am cheating. That I am denying Ewan’s existence. Deep down I know that I am not. I do talk about him to friends and family. I write about him in this blog. But somehow I can’t help thinking I am taking the easy way out.

What would happen if I told the truth? I have a fair idea. I would tell them I have three children, three boys. ‘Oh really’, they would say and possibly follow it with a ‘that must be a handful’. They would most likely enquire of their ages. And that is when it would get awkward. Well one is 3 ½, one is 7 months. And one was stillborn.

Under most circumstances that would be a real conversation stopper. Come on, be honest. What would you say?

So rather than deal with the likely discomfort and embarrassment, I lie.

Occasionally I tell the truth. Not often, but occasionally. And I think I do this because I believe the person I am talking to will understand. I believe that they won’t fidget or look at the floor. That they will respond in a way that won’t make me feel the need to apologise or hurriedly gloss over it. I don’t mean to criticise those I don’t initially tell. It’s just the best way I have of explaining it.

Reading other forums and social networks on the topic of stillbirth and baby loss, I know there are other parents out there who don’t take the easy route. They tell it how it is. And to those, I raise my hat.

I know my reasons for doing it. I’m kind of ok with it. I think. I guess. But I still feel pain. And I still feel guilt.

So to Ewan, this is my apology. I am sorry. I don’t mean to act as though you never existed. I hope you understand.

#MySundayPhoto – Summer in Scotland

So here we are on holiday. Packing our bags for Scotland in September was challenging. 4 seasons springs to mind! We’ve been here a full day and to be fair the weather hasn’t been too bad. It was sunny when we arrived and only rained a little bit this afternoon. It just so happened to be when I took this photo!

I love it though. We were sat on a wooden boat, overlooking the sea and taking a make believe journey to a pirates cove. Just Dylan and me huddled up together (oh and two plastic sharks, Timmy the turtle and his new Pterodactyl!). Who needs sun?

Summer in Scotland

OneDad3Girls

Running for Ewan

gnr-largeI am making a bold statement. Now. In print.

Next year I am going to do the Great North Run.

There, I said it. I’ll have to do it now. Who’s going to join me?

GNR05

In 2005 with my buddy Ruth

I’ve run it before, but not for a long time. The first time was in 2003. I ran with a friend. We both ran to mend our respective broken hearts at the time! We chose the British Red Cross as our charity.

In 2005 I ran with another couple of friends (no broken hearts this time) for Colitis and Crohn’s UK. In 2007, I ran again with a different friend and Adam as well, although he was miles ahead of us. Instead we plodded along and talked about her impending relationship break up and new fella (it kept us going for a good 6 miles). That time we ran for Asthma UK, a condition Adam has had since he was very young.

GNR07

2007 – beaten by a Stormtrooper!

 

So it will be 9 years since last taking the journey up to Newcastle. I’ve been inspired by a friend who ran on Sunday. She had a baby in January, just a few weeks before me. I was super impressed that she managed to get fit enough in 7 months to run a half marathon (I have so far managed a 5k Parkrun!).

You might remember I wrote a post about it. She chose to run for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) having read my blog and it made me so happy that the time I spent writing had a little bit of effect on someone.

So I’m going to run for Sands, a cause very close to my heart. Adam and I have done a lot of fundraising over the past 5 years and I want to carry it on.

I’m going to run for my angel, Ewan.

Get yourself signed up. If you go to the Great North Run website you can sign up for their reminder service so you will get an email when the ballot opens. My first aim is to get a place through the ballot. If I am unsuccessful, then hopefully I will get a place through Sands. Whatever happens, I am running.

So, does anyone out there want to join me? Join #TeamSands for #TeamEwan!

Come on, you know you want to.

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Much more than a turtle. The story of a special toy!

Timmy at the Washington Monument

Does your child have a special comforter? A toy, dummy, blanket? You know, the thing they take EVERYWHERE. To the shops, to nursery, to the park, to bed. They drag (sometimes literally) wherever they go. It is the thing they need to get them to sleep. They turn to it when they are tired. It comforts them when they fall, or are upset. It gets their unconditional love. They are priceless, for all the reasons I have just mentioned. But they are also the millstone around the neck of every parent. More so when it is a specific toy or blanket that the child has taken a shine to. One that is now worn and faded. Falling apart from endless stroking, suckling and general wear and tear. For each parent lives in constant fear that the comforter will one day get lost.

When I was little I had a yellow blanket. It had been handmade by my great auntie Margaret. I used drag mine around, sleep with it. Or and I used to suck it! My mum eventually had to cut it into four pieces so she had a rotation of spare, clean blankets instead of one, manky smelling rag. Eventually they disintegrated when I was about six or seven.

Dylan, our eldest rainbow, has one. Timmy the Turtle. Timmy is well known around these parts. He is a regular companion when we go out and about and tends to make an appearance in most photographs. Dylan took a shine to Timmy when he was about 15 months old and despite now being 3 and a half, Dylan shows no sign of cutting ties with him.

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Timmy got lost last summer. On my watch too! I went to pick Dylan up from nursery. I remember collecting Timmy from the nursery staff (he was kept in a special cupboard with all the other special toys). At bedtime, Adam popped his head out of Dylan’s door and shouted down for Timmy. Usually a common occurrence. My brain started racing, scanning for the last memory of Timmy. I couldn’t remember seeing him since nursery. I frantically searched the house, the car…. nothing! I ran upstairs and Adam could tell by the wild panic in my eyes that Timmy was nowhere. I can’t remember the tale he spun Dylan, I think it was something along the lines of Timmy having a bath. Whatever it was, it worked for the time being and he managed to get Dylan to sleep with some extra soothing. I ducked out of the house, and drove back to nursery and then to the supermarket where we had stopped off on the way home. Again I drew a blank. In desperation I sent a message on Facebook to the nursery owner. Could she have a look when they opened up first thing in the morning and let us know if we had dropped him in the playground or if he had been handed in? Bless her she actually drove down to nursery that night to see if she could find anything. Still nothing!

We never found the original Timmy. Adam had initially bought him (of course he is a ‘he’ and not an ‘it’) from Alton Towers so it wasn’t a quick jaunt back to the shop. Luckily he found a replacement though the power of the Internet. We paid extra for next day delivery (money was absolutely no object) and we managed to spin lie upon lie to keep Dylan from uncovering the truth. There were a couple of hairy (and upset) times, in the interim, but brand new New Timmy arrived soon enough, all spick and span. Dylan looked slightly suspicious. We made a big song and dance about how clean he looked after his long bath and just about managed to get away with it. I think Dylan was so happy to have him back, he didn’t care.

photo 3 IMG_2900

Fast forward to yesterday. I took the boys to the park and of course Timmy came with us. Dylan was giving Timmy his usual tough love. Throwing him down the slide and from the top of the climbing frame. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve said ‘poor Timmy’ over the last couple of years because of the rough treatment he gets. When we got home, Adam was back from work so I nipped out to the supermarket. The second I stepped back through the door, Dylan appeared at the top of the stairs (we live in a townhouse) and said ‘Mummy, where’s Timmy’ with just a hint of concern in his voice. My heart pumped that little bit faster. Not again, surely not! We went through the house, looking under the sofa, outside, in the bedrooms. No Timmy! I donned my trainers and ran down to the park. More frantic searching. Another call into the local supermarket where we had stopped off. No luck. Walking back, I sent Adam a text with the bad news and said I didn’t want to come home. We had just about managed to get through it last time, but it was obvious he was lost this time and we couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes again. My mouth was dry. I felt sick. Dylan didn’t see me at first, but then clocked me and looked expectantly.

I was just about to deliver the bad news, when I saw a flash of dark green in Jude’s ball pool. There he was buried under a tonne of brightly coloured balls.

I was too relieved and delighted to be cross. We dodged another bullet! Timmy was alive and kicking and we all lived to fight another day. Dylan went to bed happy … with Timmy.

I spent last night on the internet searching for microchips for toys. They don’t exist … yet. An idea for Dragon’s Den maybe?

Do you have any similar toy horror stories? It can’t just be me.

photo photo (2) IMG_0592

My Life As A Mummy
Mami 2 Five

Save Syria’s Children – The Innocence of Youth, The Ugliness of War

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In May of last year in the days before blogging, I wrote the following post on my Facebook page.

#100Happy Days – Day 16. A more thoughtful post as today I am just happy to be alive, have my family with me, a place to live and live in a free, democratic society. I went to a talk today about the conflict in Syria and felt ashamed I previously haven’t engaged in what is happening. I listened to an educated Syrian woman talk about how it used to be the 3rd safest country in the world and they accepted more refugees than anywhere else. Now there are more Syrian refugees than any other nation. ONE THIRD of the nation has fled or are in refugee camps. HALF of those who have remained are in need of aid. Everytime the phone rings she expects news of the death of a relative/friend. I am not usually political but this really shocked me. So today I am just happy to walk down the street without fear of a suicide bomb or sniper shot.

Through my job I had attended a conference around concerns of extremism in young Muslim students and how they might be persuaded to go to Syria to fight. To put everything into context, they gave a potted history of the crisis in Syria and the problems they were facing in 2014. Things have clearly got much, much worse.

Last week, shocking pictures hit the front pages of all the UK daily newspapers. Some people thought it was too much to show a 3 year old boy, Aylan Kurdi, drowned on the beach. I, along with many other people, shed a tear when I saw it. Sadness for Aylan and his family (his brother and mother also drowned), but also because many people had the same thought

‘That could have been my child’

And re-reading my Facebook post from last year, it so very easily could. Can you really believe now that Syria was one of the safest countries in the world?

Whilst there has been some negativity to the photos last week, this has been overshadowed (I think) by a huge overwhelming positive public response. The blogging community, which I have very recently become a part of, quickly rallied round to show the power of social networking. A Facebook group ‘Save Syria’s Children Charity Challenge’ was set up and a poignant video made up of black & white images was produced to highlight that it very possibly could have been any of our children. The hashtag #savesyriaschildren quickly became the number one trend on Twitter over the weekend and parent bloggers wrote post after post to spread the same simple message – Save Syria’s Children.

I was away all weekend so have only now had the chance to sit down and write. I may only influence one or two people, I may annoy a few people. I don’t really care. I am sat here looking at the Save the Children website and at the top it says ‘No Child Born To Die’. And that is the motivation behind writing this. Whatever your political or religious beliefs, remember that message.

If you haven’t seen it already, please also take a look at this video produced by Save the Children.

To donate £5, text SYRIA to 70008

Or donate online via Save the Children

There is a great website called Help for Syria which gives further background to the conflict and some ideas how you can help. Also here is a really good article published yesterday by the Independent with some practical ideas. My Facebook timeline also has people posting about local charities and organisations set up to collect clothing to send to the refugee camps. Look to see if there is anything local to you.

I will leave you with a quick story that the speaker at the conference I attended last year told us. I barely kept it together then, and still get upset when I think about it now. She said that she had been talking to a friend in Syria who have overheard her children talking one day. One turned to the other and said ‘Tomorrow, if we don’t get shot, shall we go and buy some sweets’.

The innocence of youth, trapped in the ugliness of war.

My rainbows are held close, more than ever.

#SaveSyriasChildren

Gingerbread Ninjas

Watching Bake Off I thought I would share mine and Dylan’s baking spectacular earlier this week. Plus in the spirit of my last post, it’s good if I attempt not to make you all cry at everything I write!

baking 1 Seeing as the sun failed to make an appearance on Bank Holiday Monday, I attempted to keep Dylan entertained with some activity in the kitchen. Please don’t get any illusions that we do this on a regular basis – I wish we did, but I a) don’t have the patience b) am supposedly still trying to lose my baby weight (not doing well on that front at the moment) and c) the washing up it creates is IMMENSE!

Discovering syrup!

Discovering syrup!

But I put all that aside and we baked a mountain of gingerbread. Although I love cooking, I don’t bake quite as much and it was the first time I have attempted gingerbread. I turned to my faithful source – the BBC website – which usually never fails and found a simple enough recipe. A quick walk to the shop for some missing ingredients and we were good to go.

 

baking 3

I was sure I had a gingerbread man cutter, but after sorting through my baking cupboard, I found a huge selection of different shapes, but no traditional ‘man’ shape. I did however find 3 different shaped ninjas! A Christmas present from a friend based on my nickname. Gingerbread Ninjas it was then. Dylan called them the jumping man and the running man!I hope you enjoy all the fab photos I took of my wee man. He was a brilliant helper. Sometimes he can get a bit bored and wanders off half way through an activity, but he stuck with this to the end. He helped with the measuring, mixing, rolling, cutting and of course the eating.

baking 4 baking 5

We have just about finished them off (with the help of daddy, some friends, grandma and grandad … and their dog!). The diet starts again next week!

The gingerbread mountain!

The gingerbread mountain!

Have you done any cooking or baking recently?

      The Freerange Family

A Scottish Love Affair

Later this month we are off up to Scotland with the boys for a week. Adam and I LOVE Scotland. In our 10 years together we’ve been countless times either camping, renting cottages or staying with friends, and there is still so much for us to explore. Even though, relatively speaking, it is only a small country, I feel as though we could have 20 different holidays in 20 different locations and there still be plenty more to see. I want to list some of the highlights of my experiences with you, and share why it is such a special place to us.

West Coast

Loch ness

Me & Nessie

This has to be my favourite region. The scenery is simply breath-taking. It feels like a real effort to go to the Highlands and Islands and so the locals are really welcoming. You could drive for 10 miles and count the number of cars you see coming the other way on one hand. It is so incredibly remote despite being part of the ‘overcrowded’ British Isles.

The one downside is the amount of time it takes to get there. Even though we live in the North of England, it is still a good 7 hour drive. When Dylan went as a baby he got fed up with the long drives, even though we took breaks every couple of hours and built in an overnight stop each way. When they get a bit older though, we’ll definitely start to explore again. I’d love to take in a trip going from Skye to the islands of Lewis, Harris and Barra.

Mull

Tobermory 2

Adam and Dylan in Tobermory

Dylan’s first journey north of the border was to Mull for a week when he was 8 months old. We were able to explore the island mainly with Dylan in the Baby Bjorn carrier (so much so that he refused to go back in his pram after the holiday was over!!). There are beautiful beaches, islands, walks and hills.

I love the photographs below I have taken of Iona (a tiny island off Mull). When I posted them on my Facebook page, some people thought we were in the Caribbean (ok maybe not with the cardies!).

Iona         Me and D

PrawnsThis picture was taken on Ulva, another small island off Mull. We explored the island with after taking a tiny passenger ferry across. The prawns were caught about 20 metres offshore. It was  one of the simplest, yet most delicious meals I’ve tasted.

Skye

Skye

The view from our cottage in Uig, Skye

This was a particularly poignant journey, in more ways than one. We booked a short break to coincide with Ewan’s due date. I know about only 4% of babies actually arrive on their due date, but I couldn’t bear to be sat in the house, drumming my fingers and thinking of what might be. We decided to get away to take our minds off it. I don’t think it is uncommon for families similarly affected by stillbirth in a similar way to do this.

Sunset Skye

Sunset over the Outer Hebrides

Our cottage was in the far north of the island, near a small village called Uig. It was March, so the weather was cold and bleak, with some snow still on the ground. But it was beautiful. My photographs don’t do it justice. During the daytime we explored the island, battered by the wind, rain and (some) sun, energised by the fresh sea and mountain air. I wanted to do lots of walking, but remember getting frustrated at being tired. Although how many people go hiking 8 weeks after giving birth?? Not many. At night we watched the sunset over the Outer Hebrides and then battered down the hatches in our little cottage.

Glen Coe

Glen coe pink coat

Snow covered Glen Coe

clachaig band

The Clachaig Inn

Wow – What a spectacular place. It’s pretty impossible to get to the highlands without going through Glen Coe so we have driven through a few times and it never fails to impress. It is often described as one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. We once stopped a night at the Red Squirrel campsite. It was a bit of a miserable drizzly night and we almost had an early night after our long drive and a bland pasta tea cooked on the camping stove. Instead we decided to head on up the road to the Clachaig Inn for a drink. There was a band playing covers and the place was full to bursting. I’m pretty sure sweat was trickling down the walls! It’s hard to describe but it was possibly one of the most unplanned and random, but best nights out ever!

The Small Isles

Eigg Rum  Eigg

Camusdarach overlooks the beautiful Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna (great names!). We spent 3 nights at a campsite next to the beach. I would sit at sunrise and sunset each night trying to capture as many photographs of the islands as possible. We took a trip to Eigg one day and attempted to scale the Sgurr (the distinct hump shape). Unfortunately we never made it to the top. We were surrounded by swirling mist and at the point when we couldn’t see more than a metre in front of us and with a sheer drop into the Irish Sea below, we turned back!

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

I am so lucky to have visited Edinburgh on numerous occasions with friends and family. One of my brothers used to live nearby and a good friend married a Scotsman and ‘emigrated’ here so we have seen it from the perspective of locals as well as tourists. I have been to the Fringe festival and spent a memorable New Years Eve there. It was also the location of my first (and only so far) marathon! Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities. It is beautiful, easy to navigate and walk around. There is so much to see and do. Again after plenty of visits I could still go back time and time again. Hopefully we will take the boys soon. I’d love to take them to Edinburgh Zoo to see the Giant Panda (and maybe a baby or two!).

 

This list is by no means endless, and there are lots of wonderful places I haven’t included. I’m sure I will get round to sharing some of our experiences from Dumfries and Galloway after our holiday, an area I haven’t really explored since a family trip when I was 4 years old!

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my Scottish Love Affair. Are you a Scottish fan? Please share your favourite places. If not, have I converted you?

    

 

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