Remembering and Reflecting

October can be an up and down month for me. It’s getting closer to Christmas, I’m already planning what to buy and how we will celebrate the day and the weather is starting to get warmer. The clocks have gone forward so summer is officially around the corner. I find the the beginning of the month is pretty busy and an incredibly emotional time, remembering Alex. There are a couple of big events during this month. The 9th-15th is Babyloss awareness week. For me this was the first year I helped to organise the events to symbolise this important time.

As I am now the Secretary of our local Sands group. I realise now as I write this that some people may not know what Sands stands for. It used to be an acronym, Stillbirth and neonatal death support (I think!) but nowadays pregnancy, baby and infant loss support is how New Zealand describe Sands. Geez, I hope this is making sense. Here’s the link for . I have a lot of love for Sands, I truely believe if it hadn’t been for Sands, I’m sure my grief would of taken me down a very, dark path…..

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Love this xxx

Back to Babyloss awareness week……. I volunteered to contact the local paper to ask if we could advertise our events in our area. I got in touch with the paper towards the end of September and received a yes quickly and then waited to hear back from them.

I was contacted on the first Monday of the month, (which is actually the day when we have the Sands monthly meeting in the evening), we arranged to do an interview for the newspaper the following day. Whilst I was at the meeting , I received a phone call from the reporter who was going to be during the story and she asked if there would be someone willing to talk about Stillbirth. I discussed with he group about the phone conversation and I said I could share my story about Alex.

For me four years into my journey, I felt I had the strength to share my story. For the first few years I felt I had to hide the fact my first baby had died and I had a stillbirth. It sounds a bit strange to me now, but I felt I had to protect myself and him. Plus, I also found the tears would come nearly every time I spoke of him. But now, I feel very privileged to share my story, I’m a proud Mum of three. Speaking about him, does take me back to the events of four years ago,  but it’s ok. They are extremely important memories and it’s a pleasure in include him. Read my story here

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Stuff.co.nz Friday 9th October 2015

I had such an overwhelming response to my story being in the newspaper and a massive THANK YOU to those of you who took the time to message me, leave a comment, I even heard from people I don’t talk to much these days, it I was really pleased to with the way the article turned out. The reporter was lovely and as I shed a few tears whist talking about certain parts, it was comforting to not feel awkward about crying in front of someone I hadn’t met before. I now know allowing the tears to flow are good, they are a good and healthy release.

Our balloon release last Sunday the 11th went well and it was featured in the local paper. As much as I am proud to share my story, I am mainly pleased about raising awareness for Sands and hopefully helping others. I would anyone to feel alone in their loss and grief. Link to the Taranaki Daily News article discussing the balloon release Balloons released to remember lost babies

October 15th is when we remember our precious babies by lighting a candle at 7pm, and letting it burn for an hour. This is done all around the world and therefore it is referred to as ‘Wave of Light’. There was a service at the chapel at the hospital, and myself and a few other mums arranged songs and readings. I actually did a reading this year, those who know may know I’m not a public speaker but I felt I wanted to read something. When I thought about what to read, the only thing I thought of was a reading I read at Alex’s funeral. I hadn’t looked at it since I read it out over four years ago, but it seemed the right time to share it. So, I got up and read it, had to read through the lump in my throat in a couple of places, but I did it. When I sat down, I cried. Reading it out loud again took my mind back to his funeral. But I’m glad I read it and I had some lovely comments from people afterwards.

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‘Wave of Light’. Candle lit at 7pm, burned for one hour.

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Individual candles lit to remember our babies

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All set up ready for people to light their own individual candles

 

 

I’m pretty pleased that part of the month is over, it’s emotionally exhausting but worthwhile all at the same time.

This month I was also the feature blogger for AskingMums, check out my blog post if you haven’t already. It has been a real honour to share some of thoughts and ramblings with people. Here is my first submission to AskingMums Mummy Guilt

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I also have a few more things planned, so watch this space!

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Goodbye September, Hello October

Wow, another week has gone by and tomorrow will be October. Lots happening next month, I have a ball to go too and a wedding, fun times! Plus the other day I found out one of dear friends in England is expecting a baby soon, I love a bit of baby shopping!!!

I don’t work again until Sunday so I had planned to have a day to myself. Poor Mr Happy is not so happy though, he’s sick poor guy. It’s not even lunchtime and he is on his second nap for the day. So a lazy day ahead for us, gives me a chance to do some writing and watch TV. I really enjoy Mr Selfridge, so I’m catching up with that. I just love the clothes, the way they talk and its history. Believe or not I find some history quite interesting. Any other secret Mr Selfridge fans out there????

I’ve always been a bit of a TV watcher, I mean who isn’t?  I find these days I have to be quite selective about what I watch. I will admit though I still watch Eastenders, (much to my husbands annoyance!). For those of you who don’t know it’s a soap set in the East end of London and its been on U.K television since 1985. I have probably watched it from the beginning on/off. We are fortunate to have Sky and I follow it on UKTV. Anyway, I found out that would be covering the storyline of Stillbirth. As someone who has unfortunately experienced one I was keen to see how they would portray it. The U.K. is several weeks ahead of the episodes here in NZ so I was quite prepared for when it would be screened here.

I’m glad they have chosen to portray such a taboo subject. 1 in 4 pregnancies result in a loss and sadly I am one of those four. I read quite a few stories and watched a few clips before the Eastenders episodes were available here to watch, I wanted to mentally prepare myself. And they did a great job. It made me feel like my experience was normalised and I’m not alone. It took me back to how I had felt at the time, and it was ok. I embrace it, I awknowledge I feel sad and it brings me comfort, if that makes sense. Eastenders had a lot to do with Sands in the U.K whilst they were researching the topic and filming. And I really think the actors who portray the Mother and the Father to the baby did a great job. If you feel you want too, I have selected a couple of the scenes from the recent storyline which I found powerful and what I could relate too.

 

I have been working on some other projects alongside my blog which I’m pretty excited about. Unfortunately I’m not going to share too much right now, hopefully I will be able to tell more soon!!!!! I have approached a couple of online Mum type websites and other blogs, so watch this space.

I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with Instagram, actually who am I kidding I am obsesses with Instagram. It’s been great and putting me in touch with other bloggers and just seeing what others get up too. I actually applied to be a Brand Representative for a couple of businesses I saw via Instagram, sadly I wasn’t picked. I wasn’t really expecting to be but I was gutted. I’m ok now, I’m just too sensitive for my own good. I’m just really keen to help out any small businesses by helping them promote what they have. I guess I will have to see what else comes along.

October also marks babyloss awareness week which is the 9th-15th October. I’m working with my local Sands group to organise some events for this week. We will do a balloon release on the 11th and there will be the ‘Wave of Light’ service on the 15th. I might save how the events of this week go for another blog post.

CarlyMarie, (a bereaved mother who I have mentioned before in previous blog Sands Conference Wellington 19-21 June 2015),  is doing her fourth year of Capture Your Grief. This is a monthly photo challenge for the month of October. I only found out about this year at the Sands conference and when I heard about it, I was immediately keen to take part. The prompts were shared a few days ago. Looking at some of them I’m wondering how I can photograph some of the prompts, I will have to get thinking. I did also think it would be nice to maybe write a few words each day. I will have to let you know how I get on.

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The journal I will use to document Capture your Grief 2015

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I actually wrote the beginning of this post several days ago before Mr Happy had to go into hospital. I thought it was best to get him checked out by our GP, who quickly rang the hospital as he felt he should be seen by the doctors there. His respiration rate was 60, normal range is 35-45 and his heart was beating faster than usually. Plus watching him breath, he was sucking in his chest where he shouldn’t of been. This poor Mumma, wanted her Mumma but couldn’t, several times I almost burst into tears but managed to push them away. I had to be strong for my boy, plus he was still reasonably happy in himself. By doing this though I have been left feeling overwhelmed and low in mood, how I wish I had let myself cry at the time, as any mother knows seeing you child unwell and distressed at times is just awful. He is doing well now though. We were given an inhaler which helps with his wheeze, we were told it was viral wheeze, quite common in small kids. I have asthma and it is in my family, so could be a sign of that, we are also dealing with a small amount of eczema as well…… The joys of parenting huh? 

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Family time. Good times, Emotional times.

The past weekend was a BIG deal for me, I think the only people who knew this were my parents and my husband. Why did I only share this with them? For me it was something private and I knew it would only be me who would ‘feel’ it.

This weekend was the first weekend Mr Happy and Little Miss would spend some time with their cousins. My hubby’s brother and sister don’t live locally so this was the first weekend everyone was getting together. I always knew this day would come, I hoped and hope the first time would be the worst. I was looking forward to it, as it would be the first time we would be able to get a photo of the five kiddies under the age of four.

My husbands sister has two girls and his brother has one daughter. And myself and my hubby have our daughter and son. Mr Happy is definitely outnumbered. Seeing all the children together, made me think of Alex, our firstborn who was stillborn at 27 weeks in June 2011. He was the first grandchild and grandson to be born on both sides of our families. I know his absence is always felt by me more than others. And this weekend seeing all the children together, made me miss him even more.

I had discussed the prospect of a photograph being taken with my husband, in the weeks leading up to the family get together. I knew a photo would be taken and I fully supported it and looked forward to obtaining one myself. I have a blue teddy which is referred to as ‘Alex Bear’ in our house. It is a cuddly toy I received when he died and after talking to other bereaved mothers, I felt this teddy should be kept to represent Alex in family photos. He sits out of sight in our bedroom, next to a framed photo of Alex. Little Miss is aware of our Alex bear, has some understanding it is special and isn’t to be played with.

We first used ‘Alex bear’ when Little Miss was three months old. We had professional photos taken of her and us as a family. I explained to the photographer at the time, that I had a special toy I wanted in some photos. We had some family shots with ‘Alex’ as well as Little Miss. The photos of her and ‘Alex’ are really special to me and something special for her to look back on as she grows older. We did the same again last year in November, we had professional family photos taken again and have some great photos of Little Miss and Mr Happy with ‘Alex’. The photos make my heart swell with love for my children and gently remind me I am a mother to three.

September 2012 Little Miss with Alex bear

September 2012 Little Miss with Alex bear

September 2012 Little Miss with Alex bear

September 2012 Little Miss with Alex bear

When the time came at the weekend to gather the cousins for a photo, we made sure their faces were clean  and bribed a couple to come and sit for a photo (as they were too busy playing!). I went to retrieve ‘Alex’ from my bag. I explained to Little Miss and my eldest niece (aged 3.5) that this was special ‘Alex bear’ and he would be part of the photo. They both took turns holding him, very cute I thought. When it came time to take photos, we had to be quick, five children aged under four you can imagine the chaos! I only heard one person mention “Oh that’s a nice idea” when I went to get ‘Alex bear’, otherwise I felt the bear was not acknowledged.

While the photo was being taken and afterwards, I was desperate for someone, anyone to ask about, or to look at the bear or make a general comment. After all he is the eldest grandchild, but no words came. I didn’t say anything, I felt by ensuring ‘Alex’ was part of the photo I had played my part, surely someone would like to say something. But nothing. I don’t know what I wanted to hear but I just wanted someone to say his name.

I shared one of the photos I took on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, I was so happy with the photo. It had the five cousins and the Alex bear. As some people may know getting small children to sit still for a photo is next to impossible, but I think family and friends would agree we achieved what we aimed to do. But the photo also makes me sad, seeing Mr Happy sitting as the only boy, fills me with sadness. Not just because he is the only boy, his big brother is missing. What if he never has a brother he can grow up with or a boy cousin he can play with.

November 2014 Little Miss & Mr Happy with Alex bear

November 2014 Little Miss & Mr Happy with Alex bear

November 2014 Mr Happy with Alex bear

November 2014 Mr Happy with Alex bear

I had a brief discussion with the hubby on our way home from the in-laws, and I cried. I cried because I was sad Alex wasn’t there and I also cried because no-one mentioned him. I am so glad my children got to spend time with their cousins its really important to me. I have memories of spending time with my cousins when I was growing up and remember they were good times.

I don’t know when there will be another get together of cousins, but I am glad we have some photos and memories. Family is important and it is also important to me that Alex is awknowledged from time to time.

If anyone reads this and would like to get in touch about anything I have discussed, I would love to hear from you.

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NB: Photos used with kind permission of Amanda Ritchie photography
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Sands Conference Wellington 19-21st June 2015

I figured it was time that I shared some of things I experienced at the Sands conference in Wellington. I felt I needed a few weeks to let everything ‘digest’ and reflect on it. I have shared some thoughts with people who have asked me about it. I know there are some people who aren’t in a position to ask me or haven’t seen me since I went, but I just want to say I would love to talk about it if you want to listen.

We had an extremely bumpy landing in Wellington, it was my suggestion to fly so I take full responsibility and again I’m sorry to the other 2 ladies I flew with. I usually don’t mind flying but this particular morning I wish we had driven down the night before. On a positive note the weather was fab when we flew home, so it kinda made up for the unenjoyable arrival.

I had the pleasure to hear 4 wonderful keynote speakers. Sherokee Ilse and Suzanne Pullen from the United States and CarlyMarie and Jane Warland from Australia. All four of these ladies shared their babies stories and it was truly an honour to have them share their stories about their losses. It was definitely a weekend where it seemed to appropriate to say your babies name and share your story of babyloss.

There were various workshops to attend, often there were 3 running at the same time so we were able to choose which topic we wanted to be a part of. There were a couple of workshops that were ‘creative’ focused, so I was pretty keen to attend those.

CarlyMarie spoke about Creativity in Babyloss, this was fab. She shared the things she has done to heal herself since the loss of her baby. Another Mum who is also a bereaved parent shared the things she has created and made in her babies memory. This workshop was called Speaking from the Heart and this Mum also has a great blog where she shared the things she creates and provides information for others wanting to do the same. Check out milaandcuatro

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I also attended a workshop which discussed the importantance of sharing your baby loss story and ways you can do this. We were all encouraged to write a letter to our babies and we were given the opportunity to share what we had written with the group, if we wanted too. It was actually the first time in 4 years I had written to Alex. The words flowed easily once I put pen to paper, and it make me question why I had never done it before. I found it very therapeutic and I was happy to read my letter out loud.

Another workshop I found beneficial was Parenting After Loss; a workshop for Bereaved parents. Since I have been fortunate to have 2 children after baby loss I felt this appealed to me. I found it really good. Jane Warland was the speaker and she discussed parenting after loss with and without living children. I often worry that I will mess up my children due to the loss of their big brother but there is actual research out there which states the opposite. This is a great relief to me. It is important that my children grow up knowing there have an older brother and why he isn’t here.

I managed to go to a session which discussed Natural therapies for grief and loss. We were all given a gratitude journal (which I’ll save for another blog post) and did a deep breathing/mediation exercise which was very beneficial.

I also attended the conference dinner on the Saturday night which was a lot of fun. I was feeling pretty tired though and didn’t party too hard as I was keen to get back to my hotel room and sleep.

I’m going to end this blog post, I feel I have summed up my weekend. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and hear their stories on baby loss. I feel I came home healed, refreshed and more positive about my grief. It was a great experience to attend the conference and I look forward to the next one in 2017.

Travelling home

Travelling home

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My week 

Most people who know me will know that I attended the Sands Conference in Wellington last weekend, 19-21st June. This post is not about my time at the conference, I’m more than happy to share my experience but I’m not actually ready to write about it. I have shared some of my weekend with my hubby (obviously), my parents and a couple of friends who have asked. I have not seen some people whom I know would like to hear all about it. I will share some thoughts and stories from the conference at some stage via this blog, but right now I’m actually still reflecting on everything.

I got home on the Sunday afternoon and Little Miss was not well at all, spiking temperatures for several days, the poor girl looked dreadful. Off to the out-of-hours we went. We returned several hours later with antibiotics and a slightly happier girl, and Mum. You would think after 3 years I would be prepared for taking a child to the Drs, but this day I was not. As soon as we got there, “Mummy, I need a drink”. Crap, her drink bottle is at home! Luckily, the kind receptionist saved the day. Shortly after, “Mummy, I need to do wees”, ok toilet stop, all good. Not long after this we were told we could be waiting another hour and a half! Not cool! I was informed we could go home, (since we don’t live far) and they would ring us closer to the time the Doctor could see us. Off home we went. Change of nappy, check, drink bottle in bag, check. I received a phone call an hour later and off we went, again! We were in the waiting room, and Little Miss was amusing herself when I looked at her and I just knew what she was doing………… “Mummy, I’ve done poos in my nappy”, ahhhhhhhh! I’VE JUST CHANGED HER NAPPY AT HOME! I honestly thought we would be all good for our short visit to the Doctor. Let’s just say, I dealt with it, saw the Doctor and off home we went.

Phew! I wasn’t expecting to share that story, it’s quite comical when I think back. Little Miss is doing much better now. Although she has shared her illness with Mr Happy (who hasn’t been so happy, at times) and the hubby. We have had a lot of wakeful nights this week, coughing fits, fetching drinks, bed swapping, dealing with temperatures, wiping noses……… I have also had a study day for work and worked today. My wake-up call this morning was 420am, on the ward at 7am, one of patients passed away at 750am, unwell patient in the other room…….. But I survived! I even had a really good chat with one of the Hospice nurses. I discussed some papers I could study at some stage. I’ve been feeling rather unsettled in Nursing lately, so I think today was actually good for me. I have thought about studying again for a little while, but still undecided. I’m unsure as to whether this feeling will pass. Maybe those thoughts are for another day.

I really hope I’m not moaning on here, I like to call it reflection. Being able to rant and ramble is one of the reasons I started this blog and I do find it extremely therapeutic. This past week has been full-on and I think since I’m a little tired and still unwinding from my emotionally charged weekend, I just felt like sharing.

I hope you have all had a great week. Thanks for reading this.

Remembering Alex

10:18am on Friday 3rd June 2011, is a day forever etched in my mind. It is the day we welcomed Alex Michael Smith into the world. He couldn’t stay though, he was stillborn. He was 27 weeks gestation, a perfect bundle of 2lb 2oz and 37cm long. There was nothing wrong with our dear boy. My husband was holding my hands as I birthed Alex and I remember looking to my left hand side and my Mum was holding onto my Mother-in-law, both were crying. Tears of sadness? Or maybe tears of joy. Or maybe both. I remember being asked by the midwife before he was born if I wanted him placed on my stomach. “I don’t know”, I replied, “let’s just get him out first”. My first instinct was to grab him and pull him close, which I did. I looked at my Mum and said “He looks so familiar” and she said “Of course he does, he yours”. He sure was, is, my first born Son and baby.


We spent most of that day with Alex at the hospital in the room in which he were born. The things I remember most about that day are holding him, staring him and loving every one of those previous moments. Only a few family members got the privilege to see him and hold him, we decided it wasn’t a time for friends to visit. We took as many photos as we could. I had left my camera at home, but luckily the others who were there took photos. I couldn’t bring myself to have a photo with Alex, I felt I had to smile in the photo and I didn’t feel like smiling. That is something now I wish I had done. I think we always look back at pivotal moments in our life and think about how we could of changed them to make it better. I do love the photos we have, they are very special. Leaving the hospital without him was gut wrenching. I’m sure I must of cried the whole way home. I feel a piece of me died that day and that part is with Alex. I hold his memory in my heart and he was buried in mine and Daddy’s love.

Wednesday 3rd June 2015, Happy 4th Birthday to Alex. 🍰🍰🍰🍰🎈🎈🎈🎈

My husband and I decided last year that each year we would use Alex’s birthday as a family day. We would both take the day off work and do something fun with Little Miss and Mr Happy. We are thinking about swimming, since Little Miss has been asking to go to the pool lately. We will visit his grave at the cemetery, take him some flowers and we will release 3 balloons. We released 2 balloons at his funeral and it has always seemed to be something special we can do each year to mark his birthday and to eventually involve his siblings. We chose 3 balloons because we felt one balloon represented us, his parents and siblings, one balloon on behalf of my family and the third balloon symbolises my husbands family.

Last year I made 3 cupcakes, so this year it will be 4. Plus I have the added help of Little Miss to help me decorate the cupcakes. She has already requested we make Alex a pink one! Each year I try to think of something we can do as a present for him, the idea of donating money to a worthy cause is always a good thought. But back at the beginning of April CarlyMarie  was offering a deal on one oh her beach butterfly memorial prints. There were lots to choose from but I’m pleased with the one I picked. We can put the print onto a photo, card or a canvas if we wish.


For those of you that are interested CarlyMarie has a Facebook page and a website. She is a bereavement artist from Perth, Australia and she will be the keynote speaker at the Sands Conference in Wellington on 19-21st of June, so I’m looking forward to hearing her speak.


Thank you if you have read this, it means a lot to me to be able to share my journey.

Becoming a Mum, things I wasn’t prepared for

I was thinking about my next blog post last night, sometime in the early hours. I was desperately trying to get my 13 month old back to sleep. He had a temperature and was just wanting to play. ‘I’m glad I went to sleep just after 10pm last night’, I thought to myself but how I wished it was earlier. I just want to sleep, now please! He eventually nodded off, in our bed (something I swore I would never do, but sometimes you have to do what works). Not long after Little Miss woke, my husband went and got in her bed and I had the boy in with me. So in the end we all got some much needed sleep. The point of this ramble is I feel I had decided long before I had children the things I would and wouldn’t do and things have totally changed. I’m a firm believer in doing what works and if people choose to judge, let them. Just as long as your child/ren is/are happy, safe, fed and loved.

Most people who know me will be aware I had my first baby at 27 weeks on June 3rd, he was stillborn and we named him Alex. We found out he had died due to Placenta Insufficiency. Which basically meant when the placenta was forming, there was a ‘cliche’. The placenta was not able to provide him with enough oxygen and nutrients as he was getting bigger.

I went into my first pregnancy, thinking I just need to get to get to 12 weeks and everything will be all good. So the day I discovered our baby no longer had a heartbeat I couldn’t believe what the Doctor what telling me. I even asked him if he was being serious. That day and the days that followed after changed me in a way I cannot explain. I have definitely learnt a great deal from carrying and birthing Alex and even though I wish I could watch him grow, I’m so proud to be his Mum.

I thought  when I would have another baby everything would be ‘better’, far from it. Now in May 2015 I have a daughter, almost 3 and a son 13 months. 3 babies in 4 years, phew! I know I am incredibly lucky to have these gorgeous, happy children in my life but do I always feel it? No! I was told:

  • You will be sleep deprived 
  • You won’t have any time to yourself
  • Sleep when baby sleeps

And I’m sure I could list a lot more. I definitely had ideas in my head of how it would be.

  • My baby will sleep for long periods when I put him/her to bed
  • They will breastfeed with no trouble
  • My house will look nice and tidy and we will eat well everyday
  • I will always look immaculate 
  • I will fall asleep when my baby does and sleep as long as my baby does in the middle of the day
  • I will make time for myself

Did I ever actually achieve any of those things in the early days? Hell no! And I still don’t now. But like I said earlier if your child/ren are happy, safe, fed and loved, does it really matter about Mums needs? Sure it does, we are women at the end of the day with needs and wants. I’m not very good at making time for myself, but I am getting better. Motherhood is great and it’s certainly a rollercoaster at times, with its high and lows.

I’ve been taking antidepressants since the end of January and they have definitely given me back ‘me’. It was awful struggling, putting on a brave face and just wanting to run away and not be a parent. I would beat myself up and think that I was awful Mum, especially after losing Alex and not wanting to parent my living children, WTF? I felt overwhelmed with everything and would get anxiety at the thought of leaving the house with 2 kids in tow. I still have the odd days where I know I’m not in the best place, but I feel I can handle those days better than I used too. I see a counsellor from time to time too which is really helpful.

My journey to become a Mum has not been the easiest, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Little Miss and Mr Happy are the closest thing I have to Alex and I love watching them grow. I do have times where I would love to disappear for the day and come home when I want too and only worry about myself. But don’t all us Mums feel like that? I don’t think there is anything wrong with admitting it’s a hard job. I guess no one can really prepare you to become a parent, or prepare you for what might happen on your parenting journey. I certainly wasn’t prepared to birth a baby that had passed away and the things that people say to you after the event.

I must remember to be kind to myself and to regularly tell myself and others we are doing a great job.