Monthly Archives: January 2016

Another Place

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I don’t need Facebook or Timehop to tell me what I was doing 5 years ago today. Adam and I went to Crosby Beach in Liverpool for the day. I’m not 100% sure what prompted us to go as it was the first time we had visited it together. It was a beautiful (but cold) sunny day and we wanted to get out and blow away the cobwebs. Get some fresh air and feel the sun on our faces.

In the car on the way, I received a text message from one of my close friends. She told me of the arrival of their third baby, William. I couldn’t help but well up. I was so happy for her, but it just brought back those memories of what could have been. It was hard, probably because it was our first experience of someone we knew welcoming a baby into the world, after our baby was no longer with us. Because it is William’s 5th birthday today, that is how I remember.

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Anyone who has been to Crosby will know that there is a permanent art installation by Anthony Gormley called Another Place. There are 100 cast iron figures embedded into the sand, looking out to sea. It really is an impressive sight, made even better on a crisp, clear day January with the low afternoon sun.

I wanted to share our day out, partly because it is a day where I have some good memories. I love to look back on the photographs. During a difficult time it feels like the day represented the first shoots of recovery. A day where we decided that we needed to participate in the world rather than existing in our own little bubble. It did us the world of good to get out there. I wonder now if we chose Crosby knowing the likelihood of seeing someone we knew would be very slim (it is over 50 miles from where we live). We could attempt to start socialising again, but with a bit of added protection too in that we probably wouldn’t have to talk about our loss.

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We returned a couple of years later with Dylan. He hadn’t long been walking and absolutely loved running up and down the sands (paying very little attention to the statues). Just writing this now makes me want to go again, this time with Jude. Maybe we’ll go in half term if (fingers crossed) we get a nice day. I won’t ever be able to go without thinking about our first visit. But we can continue to create some good memories there with our rainbows, all the time our angel watching over us.

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Five Years

The 17th January comes to a close. For a lot of people across the UK, today has been significant because they were able to enjoy the first real snowfall of the winter.

For Adam and I, it will always be a significant day because carries with it an important anniversary. It is a day were we remember what happened to us back in 2011. Five years ago.

Our lives started down a very different path to the one we have been cruising happily along for some time. We had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of our firstborn. Instead, he was born sleeping. Five years ago.

Every year we aim to celebrate. It gives us a positive focus. It was a bit difficult the first year as we had a five day old Dylan to look after. My mum and dad babysat for an hour or so (making it the first time I had left him) whilst Adam and I went to visit Ewan’s grave. The second year, we both took the day off work and kept Dylan off nursery. We spent the day together and went out for a lovely meal.

The third year followed a similar path. Again we booked the day off to be together as a family. However something slightly bizarre happened. My friend sent me a message to ask if I had checked the results of the local weekly hospice lottery. I had a monthly Direct Debit going out and in about 5 years of taking part had probably won about £25. I didn’t make a habit of checking it regularly.

I looked. I had won the first prize! A random draw, I won the jackpot on Ewan’s third birthday. Surely that’s more than a coincidence? I don’t know why, it just felt as though Ewan was watching over us. And sent us a gift to make us smile on his special day. It felt appropriate to make a donation back to the Hospice and also to Sands.

Last year, I had just finished work the day before for my maternity leave. We had another dusting of snow and took Dylan to the cemetery with his new gardening kit. I took these wonderful photos. He helped us to clear the snow from the grave and arrange the flowers.

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IMG_8663Dylan and I went to the pantomime this afternoon with family. Afterwards Adam collected us with Jude (who was a bit too young for the theatre), and together we all went to visit Ewan. It was getting pretty cold but we wrapped up and picked our way through the snow. Dylan is starting to get quite inquisitive and I wondered if he would start to ask more searching questions. I haven’t yet worked out how we are going to talk to him about his older brother. I’m not sure he is old enough to understand quite yet. Anyway he was quite happy to make holes in the snow with his pick! Jude was just happy to be held.

We went for tea afterwards. Jude who has been fussy with food recently ate his body weight in mashed potato, veggies and turkey and they both enjoyed time together in the play area. I just loved watching them.

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Today hasn’t felt just quite as difficult as previous years. Is this time being a healer? Is it because I now have double trouble to run around after? Yes to both to a certain degree, but I also think that writing this blog for the past 6 months has helped by giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings about Ewan, about the difficult times, but also the joy that both he and his brothers have given us.

So all it remains for my to say now is Happy Birthday Ewan. We miss you incredibly and there is a part of us that will always be with you. You will always be loved and never forgotten.

A Kind Stranger

Today I went to work. And in some ways it was just like any other day. For the past three years, I’ve made sure I’ve been in work on the 14th January. For the simple reason that I want to keep my mind occupied. I don’t really want to dwell on the events of five years ago.

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2 day old Dylan

Four years ago today I was in hospital with Dylan who was then just two days old. I was on a ward with three other women (and babies). We had all arrived at different times and with intermittent crying babies and visitors, checkups from midwives and drawn curtains, we hadn’t really talked much.

Although I was struggling to feed my newborn, I was still ecstatically happy, But there was also a cloud hanging over me. At about 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, I spoke to one of my best friends on the phone. We had exchanged texts since Dylan’s arrival but it was the first time we had spoken. I told her the gory details of my induced labour (painful but quick!) and gushed about how beautiful Dylan was. And then burst into tears. It was hormones mixed with grief. It was the first anniversary of the day I found out Ewan had died. We talked for a while and she comforted me. Eventually we ended the conversation and there I was, in my cubicle alone with my sleeping baby.

The curtain drew back and the lady in the opposite cubicle came in, sat down on my bed and gave me a huge hug. I clearly hadn’t stifled my sobs well enough and she came to see if I was ok. I can’t verbalise how grateful I was to her for that hug and just the kindness she showed me in that moment. It was just what I needed. I don’t know if she had any idea of how much I needed that hug. We talked a bit and after a while she went back to tend to her baby. She left later on that day and of course, never saw her again.

I caught my mind wandering today. As I walked into work I recalled what I had been doing on that morning and what I was wearing. I looked at my watch occasionally and couldn’t help but think back to what I would have been doing at the same time. And at 4pm I thought ‘by now I knew’. So whilst my brain can’t shut out the events of 14th January 2011, I try also to remember my positive memories of 2012 and of every year since.

Tip: If you are ever feeling a bit wobbly, don’t listen to ‘Bridge Over You’ by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir. I had it plugged into my ears as I walked into work. I absolutely love it (and the fact that it kept Justin Bieber from getting number 1 at Christmas), but it’s a guaranteed tear jerker! And as I’ve written about before, I’m a huge fan of the NHS. I’m just hoping it was still dark enough so that anyone driving past didn’t notice me!

All the above aside, it has been a good day. I came home and had tea made for me and a wrestle and tickle with my rainbows before bathtime and bed. I tried to get a decent photo of them both to share my wonderful view with you all, but as usual failed to get them looking in the same direction.

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Our first Rainbow

January brings with it a mixture of emotions in our household. It is a significant month for two reasons. We celebrate the birthday of our second son but mourn the death of our first.

I want to write a bit about my pregnancy with Dylan and his birth, and how Ewan’s death affected us during this time. Essentially this is the story of my first rainbow pregnancy.

It was a strange feeling when Ewan died. I knew that in essence I was a mother, but it didn’t feel like it. I felt cheated because I didn’t have a baby in my arms. So, although I was grieving, I knew very quickly that I wanted to try for another baby. It was an awful feeling. I remember the first time I mentioned it to Adam. I felt as though I was cheating on Ewan. That I was being disloyal. That in some ways I was saying that he didn’t mean a lot to us if we were willing to try again so soon. I knew deep down that wasn’t the case, but I still had conflicting voices in my head trying to convince me otherwise.

Adam was on the same wavelength as me. But he was also sensible enough to say how important it was for me to be physically and mentally well.

About eight weeks after Ewan died we had an appointment with a consultant. We were told that they couldn’t find any reason for the stillbirth. We hadn’t opted for a post-mortem (more about that another day) but still had blood tests and other results. Essentially this meant that there was nothing to stop us from going ahead and trying for another baby. The consultant echoed Adam’s thoughts about being ready. I didn’t want to wait any longer. I thought I was ready, and looking back, I still think I was.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. Taking the pregnancy test was a completely different experience to when I found out I was pregnant first time around. The excitement just wasn’t quite there. Even though I was happy and it was what I wanted, the carefree joy wasn’t forthcoming. I remember coming downstairs to show Adam. We hugged and asked each other if we were ok, but the smiles were muted. We had lost our innocence and knew that the next nine months potentially could be anything but plain sailing.

We kind of carried on with normal life and especially in the early weeks didn’t really talk about our situation. We were kind to ourselves and in between working had a break in Germany and then a bit later on, a holiday in Scotland. We didn’t want to get too excited or think about what could be. We were still in the mindset of thinking about what should have been.

Our GP referred us to a consultant at the local hospital. We were able to see her quite early on, at about 8 weeks I think. She explained how I would be cared for and would have additional monitoring to be on the safe side.

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8 week Dylan – so tiny you can barely see him!

I was to go every four weeks for a scan and check up, partly to check on the baby, but also for our own reassurance. At the first check up we unexpectedly had a scan and got to see a tiny embryo with little more than tiny stubs for arms and legs. It was amazing to see, but I found it hard to get too excited.

 

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12 week Dylan. The little buds are his hands and feet.

 

At my 12 week scan, I went through the normal procedure e.g. seeing the sonographer, before I then had see the consultant. Adam and I sat in the waiting area and I had a flashback to sitting in the same spot waiting for the scan which would tell me Ewan had died. Up to that point, I felt as though I had kept it together, but broke down when that memory pinged in my brain. By the time I saw the sonographer, I was an absolute gibbering wreck leaving Adam to explain why. She was absolutely lovely and reassuring, and probably spent more time with us than necessary just to make sure I felt better.

We were very reluctant to tell people and kept the news to ourselves other than telling close family and friends. Usually most people will make an announcement after 12 weeks, but we just told people on a need-to-know basis. And the Facebook statement was a definite no-no. Why? My skewed logic told me that the more people knew, the greater the likelihood something would go wrong. So by keeping it quiet, it would increase the chances of everything going well. Bizarre I know, but that’s what my brain told me at the time.

Still trying to cover up! In Scotland at about 16 weeks

Scotland camping St Andrews

I don’t think I made it public knowledge at work until I was about 18 weeks. I remember my manager asking me when I was going to say something (she knew very early on) because people were already starting to wonder and ask questions. A few nights later, I became very upset. I (irrationally) thought that now more people knew, the more likely it was that something would go wrong.

It wasn’t long after this that I spoke to a work colleague, who had been through a similar experience and then gone on to have twin daughters. I asked her how she had coped during the second pregnancy. She told me that she came to the conclusion that there was no point in worrying. It wouldn’t make her feel any better, nor would it affect the outcome. This struck a chord – she was right. Spending my time and negative energy thinking about something which may never happen was pointless. When I talked it through with Adam later, he was a bit frustrated as he had been trying to tell me the same thing all along! I think I maybe just needed to hear it from someone who had been in the same dark place but had a positive outcome.

From this point on, my mood definitely lightened. I wouldn’t say I fully relaxed and had the carefree abandon of the first time pregnant me, but mentally I was in a much better place.

We continued to get excellent care from our consultant, Mrs Martindale. I was also assigned a caseload midwife which meant I saw the same midwife every time rather than seeing a different one each time in clinic (thus saved from having to explain our situation time and time again). Around the time I was scanned at 28 weeks, Dylan was measuring on a small side. Although Mrs Martindale didn’t have huge concerns, she still sent me for regularly heartbeat monitoring over a few days, just to double check. I was surprisingly calm throughout this time. The hardest part was going onto the antenatal ward and being taken into one particular room. I recognised straight away that it was the same room I went into when I had my first scan to find Ewan’s heartbeat.

Early on, it was suggested that I would be induced early in an attempt to reduce the risk of another stillbirth and also allay our worries and fears. Mrs Martindale recommended going to 37 or 38 weeks. I was quite comforted knowing that I wasn’t going to go overdue and could plan ahead. Because of this I decided to finish work quite early (34 weeks). This coincided with time off over Christmas and the wedding of one of my best friends in Northern Ireland. This was quite exciting actually. I wasn’t able to fly so we had to take a mammoth trip driving to Scotland to get the ferry. Still, it was worth it to catch up with old university friends and get the cobwebs blown away by the wind blowing off the Irish Sea!

One regret is that I didn’t get many photographs of my pregnancy with Dylan once I started showing. (Stupidly now) I was reluctant to capture pictures of my bump. As if it was going to affect anything! Thankfully I did manage to relax in time for the wedding.

Finally some bump photos!

Giants Causeway Me and Jen Ruth and co Ruth wedding

The hospital were so careful in their attempts to avoid any clash with dates associated with Ewan (14th and 17th January). So I eventually went into hospital to be induced on the 10th January 2012 and our beautiful rainbow bounced into the world two days later. I will share his entrance into the world, but that is for another day.

Tomorrow we will celebrate his 4th birthday. His new scooter is set up in the living room with balloons attached and I think I am more excited than he is. In those darker months it didn’t feel as though we would get to this day. Only a few weeks after losing Ewan, my mum and I went to visit his grave. She told me with confidence that I would be a mum one day. I didn’t dare believe her then. But as we all know, mum’s are always right!

Happy Birthday to our beautiful Rainbow!

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Eight Reasons to Love Parkrun

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Yesterday morning I completed my eighth parkrun. New Year’s resolutions and all, I decided if I was going to get off my backside and start running properly this year, I needed to start as I meant to go on. I’ve written about my first parkrun here and also about how I want to do the Great North Run this year to raise money for SANDS in Ewan’s memory.

Eight parkrun’s isn’t a huge accomplishment but it’s one I am proud of as I haven’t run much over the past couple of years. Anyway I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons (so far) why I love parkrun and hopefully motivate others take part too.

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A great start to the weekend

Gone are the days when Saturday mornings are spent in bed till noon, nursing a hangover. If I’m lucky, it’s a 7am wake up call and I’m straight into mum mode. So it doesn’t feel a huge effort to get myself ready for a 9am run seeing as I’ve been up at least 2 hours already. Ok the run feels tough when I’m doing it, but afterwards, I have a sense of achievement. I get on with my day feeling rather smug wondering how many other people have a 5k under their belt by 10am?

 

It’s free

Perfect for a tight northerner like me! No expensive gym memberships or class subscriptions required. Parkrun doesn’t cost a penny.

 

The great outdoors

I’ve never been one for gyms. Sorry, it’s just not for me. If I’m going to run, I want to be out and about and get fresh air into my lungs. All parkruns are, believe it or not …. in parks! My local run is in the beautiful surroundings of Towneley Park in Burnley, Lancashire. I’m sure there are equally stunning locations up and down the country. It’s good for the soul to spend time outdoors, whatever the weather.

 

Motivation

I can’t imagine getting up on a Saturday morning and motivating myself to go out for a 5k run. In fact, I am not good a motivating myself to run full stop. I generally find that I can only run when I have a goal to work towards. Getting fit after having my babies was one goal. Running a charity 10k or half marathon has been another. I find it hard to get out otherwise. I don’t tend to run just for pleasure.

Parkrun is helping to be that motivation. It gives me something to look forward to and work towards. This New Year I am aiming to get out for two runs during the week, hoping that it will improve my Saturday parkrun times.

There is also the motivation to beat the person in front, to improve on each run and chase that PB.

 

Volunteers

Each parkrun is run entirely by volunteers. Now I would be impressed if that just applied to one or two parkruns. But it applies to every single parkrun. Hats off to all those who turn up before 9am to be assigned a role and then stand there in all weathers, marshalling and (most importantly) clapping and encouraging us runners on. And of course, the runs wouldn’t take place without them.

 

Family

Parkrun is a real family affair. Each time I have taken part, I have seen plenty of younger children running (I am talking 5, 6, 7 year olds!) with their mums, dads, grandma’s and grandad’s. I can’t think there would be many other regular opportunities where this can happen. It is such an uplifting sight.

Even babies can take part …. well kind of. A few parents run with buggies (those special 3 wheeled ones designed for bumpy terrain). Someone I know is a good 5 minutes faster than me … with her 18 month old in the buggy. That’s kind of embarrassing really.

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Thanks to my parents I’ve managed to run with Adam a couple of times

Each week there are hundreds of photographs posted on the local parkrun Facebook page. It is really wonderful to see so many happy kids, of all ages, enjoying themselves with friends and family, getting fit and keeping healthy. I hope that maybe when my active, almost 4 year old gets a bit older, he will be keen to take part too.

 

Technology & Timing

I am blown away by the technology used. It is absolutely amazing!!! Starting from the moment you sign up to parkrun, you get a unique running number and a barcode. You print off your barcode (in a handy credit card size) and bring it with you. At the end of the run you get a tag which tells you your position (in the race). This is then collected and your barcode is scanned.

IMG_7156Between 2-4 hours later, a text message is sent with your time and position. I think it’s great how quickly this arrives, but it feels like forever when you are waiting to find out whether you have beaten your PB or not!

You can then go onto the website or Facebook page of your local parkrun and delve into the statistics even further. How many people took part? (In my case) How many women? This gives you an idea of how well placed (or not) you are. For example, you may have come 30th overall, but be the first female home (for the record that has never happened to me, nor is ever likely!). There is also an Age Grading (now for the science bit). This is compiled using your time and the world record for your sex and age group to produce a score. The higher your score (a percentage), the better you are. It just helps if you want to compare yourself to other runners who are a different age or sex.

It’s baffling the amount of stats available and you can look at all your past runs and compare times. And for a free event? It’s nothing short of miraculous.

 

Community

The word community means so many things when it comes to parkrun. From the army of volunteers to the hundreds who turn up each week. Although I’ve taken part in such a small number, I think at every run I’ve ended up talking to one or more stranger. It could be about the weather or if we were happy with our times. Maybe to encourage someone who has stopped to walk, or to tell someone their laces are untied! I spent one run chatting away to a woman with two dogs. My time wasn’t very good but I had lots of fun.

I’ve seen colleagues from work, friends from school, and even my junior school teacher who first encouraged me to start running.

It’s great to see such a huge variety of people gathered together; different ages, abilities and backgrounds. All sharing in one common goal.

 

If you are a parkrunner, do you have anything else to add? If you aren’t, I hope I’ve convinced you to take it up in 2016. To find your nearest parkrun, check out the parkrun website

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Before my first parkrun. Don’t know why I looked so nervous!

 

 

..And a Happy New Year

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So another New Year passes. How did you spend yours? We celebrated in the same way as we have for the past six years. A night in watching a film/boxset (last night we caught up with the latest season of the Walking Dead), our favourite food/takeaway (left over buffet dips, cheese and biscuits and smoked salmon!) and generally rarely making it to midnight. We lasted until about 10.30 pm and then crawled up to bed!

It hasn’t always been so. Whilst some people are very ‘anti-New Years’, I’ve always been one to celebrate, ideally somewhere different or exciting. But always with friends and of course, for the last ten years, Adam. It probably stems from the fact that from turning 18 I worked in a pub on New Years Eve for about four years. Ok it was generally lots of fun (with great tips!), but it wasn’t the same as kicking my heels up and being on a dancefloor at midnight with friends singing Auld Lang Syne.

There has been a fair share of  celebrating in nightclubs and pubs across the country. One favourite New Years was at a friend’s house party in Watford. It was particularly memorable because at midnight, after the obligatory singing, we stayed in our huddle and started decided to shout out all the things that had made us happy or we were proud of in the previous year. The fact it lasted a long time obviously showed what a contented bunch we were! I also remember spending the whole of New Years Day in our pyjamas watching Sex and the City boxsets.

I’ve been lucky enough to be abroad a few times and celebrated in memorable places.

  • The Blue Mountains near Sydney – my family came out to visit me whilst I was backpacking. We rented a cottage in the middle of nowhere, played games and set off our own fireworks.
  • Christchurch, New Zealand where my in-laws live. We had a few drinks during the day and then watched the fireworks from their house overlooking the city at midnight.
  • Cologne, Germany – a truly amazing New Year experience spent with friends, ranking up there with one of the best. We had a tip off that NY in Germany would be spectacular, and it didn’t disappoint. We witnessed a truly ‘dis’organised firework display, spontaneously created by the locals. It was the stuff of nightmares for British Health and Safety staff, but we loved it.
  • Arusha, Tanzania at the start of our honeymoon. We actually went to bed early that NYE because we had to be up at the crack of dawn to go on safari the following day. I still remember hearing the fireworks.

Cologne 068 Cologne 018Celebrating in Cologne

It could be argued that our most memorable was the year we got to celebrate midnight twice! We’d spent another Christmas with Adam’s parents in New Zealand and set off travelling back to the UK on New Years Eve. Our flight left Auckland at 11pm. Once we were in the air, the cabin crew handed out glasses of bubbly and toasted the New Zealand midnight. After a 12+ hour flight we landed in Los Angeles just after midday on the 31st having crossed the International Date Line (thus going back in time). When we boarded our connecting a couple of hours later, out came the glasses again and this time we toasted the UK New Year. Two for the price of one!

So even though I’ve enjoyed sharing my trip down New Year Memory Lane, I am still more than happy to spend the evening of the 31st, as I did last night. Some may say it is boring and uneventful.

I know that one day the boys will stop up and celebrate with us. We might take them out to stop with family or friends. You never know, we might even take them to experience a New Year abroad.

But for now, I am happy and satisfied cuddled up on the sofa in my PJ’s, with my other half and two sleeping rainbows upstairs. Forever grateful and thankful for what I have.

Happy New Year to you all.