We have just enjoyed an incredibly fun and very sunny week down in Cornwall with Nathan’s side of the family and whilst 4 days later I am still feeling wrecked from all of the driving and being go go go, I am also pleased to report I am a little sun-kissed and it was pretty much everything we hoped for – family fun, banter, lush weather, beach trips and comfortable surroundings. I guess I did hope for more rest and relaxation, but who was I kidding?? I am already beginning to see that that rarely exists on a family holiday now…especially with a new-born! This busy holiday lifestyle is life now for a few years!

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It all began with a 6am start and a drive of 350 miles down to Cornwall for our “Summer Holiday” with 3 kids in tow and with one being only a few weeks old, we had anticipated lots of stops for feeds, but in the end it took 10hrs for us to arrive at our destination and the place we would call home for the next 7 days!!!

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I really love Cornwall, the 1st time I went was 2 years ago (again with Naths family) when I was about 35 weeks pregnant with Poppy, and whilst excited to be back and greatly looking forward to a break, family fun and time together, I couldn’t help but find myself reflecting once again on our baby girl, the hope we had and all we lost with her passing. I guess I realised that this holiday, whilst being a lot of fun, was also going to be a little emotional at times too because when I look at our family 2 years on, there are so many big things that have happened since we were last there..births, marriages and unfortunately deaths too. I suddenly began to see more and more truth in what my mother in law always says, that in life our joys and sorrows are all mixed up together.

There was certainly many things to smile about, laugh about and a sense of excitement to be had daily. But the heartache of the reminders of being there before, and then of course the joy of our new baby girl mixed in with the sadness I felt in seeing what could have been equalled a holiday of mixed emotions!

Whilst I refer to it a lot, I seem to not yet have learnt this… but when I look back, it would be obvious that being back somewhere again for the 1st time after a loss is bound to rustle up emotions and reflections that are sad, and there were a couple of times this happened and it felt odd to have feelings of sadness and that heavy heart again when we were having so much fun, but this is life now and I guess with time it will become normal to feel that when I visit places that remind me.
The main one was in Padstow at the beginning of the week. I fell in love with this place last time we were there; Whilst the family biked the camel trail from Wadebridge to Padstow, Naths Dad and I went ahead to meet them for lunch and a ferry ride. This time though I was very aware he isn’t here and not just that but the baby we chatted about there isn’t here either. I desperately hoped Id feel fit enough to bike it with them all, and almost did just to avoid what I knew would be felt if I didn’t, but at only 4 weeks postnatal it wasn’t going to happen. I went ahead on my own with Alice and had a little cry in the car on the way over to meet them and wandering those streets pushing my pram felt so weird, so different and somehow just not as beautiful as it was to me previously!

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Aside from these emotions when we first returned to where we were staying, when I sat on a night feeding and at the odd time I wasn’t able to join in with the various activities and remembered last time being pregnant, the holiday was mostly lush. Its hard to put into words that something as simple as returning to the same ice cream shop or driving down the same road, church in the same place, can all hit your senses and trigger reflections, sadness and grief be it for a brief moment or several hours/a day, so yes is was a real mix for me of highs and lows but the highs of the holiday really stand out. Aside from sunshine, actually being on a holiday, Poldark girls night every night, daily Lidl trips, our lovely room, only cooking once (yes it was for 26 but still), it also included;
Local delicacies: Cornish ice cream, fish and chips and a Cornish pasty! It was all delish and there is something about eating locally that makes holidays that little bit more special.

The numerous trips to the beach with AMAZING sunshine – Of course you always take a risk with UK breaks, but this one was perfect. We had several amazing days of hot sunshine and spent them on the beach. The beach is definitely my happy place and more so seeing my kids loving all it has to offer too.

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Swimming in the Sea – I was grateful for the day we found ourselves at Constantine bay…what an absolutely gorgeous spot and I couldn’t resist joining my sister in-laws for a dip in the clear blue waters!! I love, absolutely love swimming in the sea and it was amazing.

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Seeing the kids with their cousins – Nearly all of my Summer Holidays saw a 2 week break spent with my cousins. We made clubs, sand castles, trouble, laughs and bonds to stretch for years to come. I loved to sit and watch my children doing all of this with the people they call their best friends. It was lovely to see them playing, being busy bees on the beach building empires, wandering from lodge to lodge together, eating their meals and chatting together and making plans for swimming, Dvd’s and when they would next be getting together again!

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Seeing Nathan with his Siblings – Having a new baby meant I spent a lot of time sat back (and feeding) and so had more of an opportunity to see Nathan with his siblings. It was lovely to see them jumping off harbour walls, go Karting, surfing, playing beach volleyball and generally laughing and sharing stories and memories. Whilst I wish I could have done some of the afore-mentioned activities I always love to see him with his family as its so important and I always count my blessings that when I married him, I married into an amazing family too. It’s such a happy sight!

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I think I said it in a recent post, but the older I get and with what we have gone through, life is certainly a real mix bag these days of highs and lows. We lead a rollercoaster life for sure, but despite the days or just moments my heart feels heavy or something reminds me of how desperately I wish our family pics and experiences looked differently, I am so blessed to have the family I do. Call it rarity or luck that we all get on so well and are able to share in so much fun together but it is what makes life full in addition to the adventures we experience as an individual unit.

 I am really loving England at the moment and having time to explore more of its beauties together. I love Cornwall, I really love holidays both here and afar, love family and actually really loved this 1st holiday with our new addition even though it was at times hard work. I know that its only natural to think of those no longer with us, because yes the truth is that life 2 years on does look different, very different to what any of us could have thought or hoped, and that is a heavy thought, but there are joys that have graced us to maintain some highs too aside from our relationships, and because of those I feel that I can still see the joy and heartiness in life and bask in it…we can enjoy holidays even in places that remind us of our loss and we can appreciate our beautiful land.

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Its almost 5am and right on schedule I have just finished up feeding Alice. Some mornings I cannot wait for this moment so that I can quickly pop her back in her crib and resume sleep for another couple of hours before Ethan and Megan arise. But some mornings I hold her a little longer, I smell her and give her extra kisses…I have a precious new baby girl and I treasure dearly what I have been given and what my life now is. Blessed.

Our little rainbow baby is a whole month old today! For a whole month this has been my new normal; feeding, changing, baby cuddles, smelling her and touching and kissing those small baby hands and feet. She is a true little miracle of life both in her perfect make up and in how her presence has ignited so much joy in a home and in lives that needed more healing. I have been asked on many occasions since she was born if we feel like she has alway’s been here? Perhaps she fills a gap in our lives now and all is well? and I quickly answer no…she is herself, she takes her place as child number 4 and does not fill a gap or replace that which was lost. That gap, that space of child number 3 and the Poppy shaped hole will always be present in our lives, our photos and experiences, but what she does fill is my empty arms, our hearts with love and joy, and our lives with gratitude to God for sending her. I answer no to it feeling like she has always been here because most days I cannot believe she is here. I look upon her tiny face and her warm breathing body, into her beautiful eyes and I cannot believe this is real. I watch and hold her and cannot believe that she is here and is ours. She has such a calm and gentle presence about her with a little cheekiness thrown in for extra measure, she feeds well and sleeps as well as you would hope at just 4 weeks unless its the odd crazy period where we hit a growth spurt, and with that she is growing well and doing well and is adored and loved by many people, she has brought a great buzz and cheer into each one of our lives, and she is ours!

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Of course it isnt all just snuggles and being in awe of her newness and her presence here, having a new born is hard work and whilst I have been rather successful at life with 3 in tow it also has been hard at times. There is the usual hardness of balancing life and an extra child and the amount of time everything takes now. Then there are the difficulties of adjusting to life with little rest and trying to establish and be comfortable with breastfeeding. Some days I am grateful for an extra half hours snooze, others that I could shower!
And then? Well then there are the days (not too many) when my mind feels a little confused and my heart aches again for everything that we lost, the days I feel less excitement and more awareness and a little more solemn and reflective. There are some days we slip up and call Alice Poppy, some days we talk about it all again and how incredibly sad it all is, how much we missed and still miss her in our family…some days we reflect on how nice it would be for that extra sibling to be here too enjoying the new baby and how strange it is we have 4 kids now…FOUR! Some days are exhausting and feeding loads, some days I stay in my PJs and some days we have incredible adventures with energy I never knew I had. But then some days I sit silently and reflect on all of this and wonder how to answer when people ask me if I think its all so wonderful? Yes it mostly is and yes most days it does feel wonderful she is here, its hard work but it is wonderful to have a beautiful new baby, yet in someways because there are those days where we talk and remember still, things have not changed as hugely as others and there are many aspects to having a baby following a loss that brings these triggers and reminders that are out of our control and are not wonderful but more painful.

I have noticed that I do not talk about Poppy as openly as much and for a while felt guilty that perhaps I wasn’t keeping her memory alive? because I am mostly Okay in life right now and able to function, beaming and overjoyed with our new baby despite that constant ache beaneath the surface, I guess its just something people feel they don’t need to ask about now either because we seem okay or at fear of stirring emotions we have control over. But I choose to talk less because we have learnt (or are learing) to live with that mix and so instead choose to keep her memory alive within our family. I have been hurt too much by others responses and judgemnets, opinions on my stages of grief that I prefer to talk about her often with Nathan as I feel safer this way and know it won’t be dismissed, judged, mocked or made to feel like “we’re still on about that”. She is our daughter and we treasure her memory as we treasure our newest little one month old and our other living children. No parent wants their child put down in any way so its important to me that that aspect is respected and never demeaned. I am happier now, but I still miss her tremendously, its always beneath the surface and I can never forget what I went through, only control the emotions more and love what I have been blessed with in 4 beautiful kids!

Some nights when feeding, Some days when pushing the pram and some mornings when I am pulling tiny clothes out of the washing machine my wound from loosing Poppy stings a little more, then the odd tears well up and I reflect a lot more on her and on who she is/was, why again we couldn’t keep her, how much it hurts to have missed parenting her and how I still continually miss out on her life and growth. I love parenting little Alice yet at the same time I see daily how many things I do for her that I didn’t get to for her sister. I see how much joy I feel over Alice, the kisses and cuddles, little smiles and cute expressions, and am reminded occasionally that for Poppy this was swallowed up in the most painful of emotions one could ever feel. On those days, in those moments, what I feel is gratitude intertwined with the pain of loss too. I hold Alice closer, thankful for her radiant presence and I know that this is normal and okay, but that for a while, perhaps a long while, it is present and feels strange.

And then there are the weird behaviours that no one notices, that people may think as morbid or madness when I tell you why but that I have done with little thought and probably appear normal on the surface…the first couple of weeks it was all about checking her breathing and overthinking how many layers she had on at fear she may be too hot or cold and something could happen, then being paranoid about her positioning in the car seat. I then noticed occassionally that in the innoncence of looking at her hands, feet and features I would get flashbacks of how Poppy looked when I held her which leads to thoughts and emotions and heartache again as I can’t help but think of where her body lies and that she died. I take pictures almost every day, not to keep as I often delete most the following day, but it is so if something happened I have a picture of the last time I saw her living. I smell her lots to capture that as a memory and also hold her blanket or muslin close to me as she sleeps…again not always but I never have with other babies and I believe its for comfort as I sit sometimes wondering if I will have her to raise or will she go too, again I cannot believe she is here and is ours! Its all a whole mixed bag of emotions some days and I am sure these things in time will subside, but for now it is how I treasure my rainbow and come to terms with another layer of my loss. Its how I cope with another first which is the first born after loss, and whilst I could talk for hours on it all with people, how do you really say that sometimes my living baby reminds me of my dead one and the things I missed and longed for??? It sounds mad and many I see are so delighted for her being here too that I have choosen to hold these things in my heart, because now when the pain hits I have our newest child to hold and my arms are no longer empty though a portion of my heart still is. There is more light and happiness in our lives now and I guess people don’t want this to be disturbed, so when these moments come or I do these weird things for reassurance that Alice is staying and all will be well with her I realise whilst one is in my arms bringing me Joy, I can still ponder on the other. It is no measure of love or my gratitude because each one of my babies are special. I miss and grieve for Poppy when I need to because I love her as much as I love Alice, Ethan and Megs when I look upon their little faces, it just all makes me wish once again, with the arrival of Alice, that I had them all here to hold and love as dearly.

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The last month and our 1st month as new parents after loss has been pretty much all of that; the appreciation of what we have and delight in that but more present reminders of what we lost too. Our grief for Poppy intertwined with our overwhelming burst of love and joy over Alice. I do love her so very much and know that I talk far more than normal about breastfeeding and what I have bought for her than naturally I would. I love to baby shop, its a dream come true and when we are out I wrestle Nath to push the pram because its such a novelty for us both…its all because it feels so surreal and amazing that we can do all of this again for one of our children. Its amazing to me and a privlidge that I can sustain her life after feeling like my body failed her sister and I cannot believe this is my life, I certainly feel like a blessed new mother with a gorgeous baby girl and have more hope in our future..It is a life and time of such sadness at what we lost and over who we miss, but such happiness and gratitude over who we have been given to ignite our lives with love and colour again, we are utterly exhausted but so in love with our lovely Alice Grace… you are a little beaut and what a great adventure this month with you has been, I know you will teach us a lot and bring more than you will ever realise to life!

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I believe that healing from the loss of a child is a very slow, even life long process. I recognise that it is something I will feel in my soul probably for the rest of my life, and whilst that is a hard realisation, it also means that I can not be so hard on myself if I suddenly become emotional or have a terribly painful day, because to erase the pain completely would mean to loose the memory of my daughter, and I would never wish for that! And so we learn to live with the niggling pain as best we can, for healing is in controlling the pain and having the courage to live a full life despite it, not erasing the pain completely.

My healing has been in small portions, a rocky journey where I have done things which have required the courage to step out of my safety net and then in return I have had glimpses of hope that as time goes on and life brings us new things/experiences, that things will be easier, things will be less intense and more joy will be restored to us. But Yes, courage is the key…without torturing yourself or sending your progress backwards, often healing comes in the moments and events when you take a step of courage to do something you would otherwise avoid because of what it means and reminds you of!
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It took me a lot of courage to recently welcome a pals new baby girl into the world, and whilst I was so very happy for them, seeing her wasn’t something I was immediately able to do, and I recognise that that is because she is the 1st baby girl so close to us since loosing Poppy! I just needed a bit of time and I needed to muster a lot of courage, but that’s really okay…its a first and I have leant that firsts take time! Whilst I do feel very happy for her family, and excited for them that she is here safe and looking so lovely, that she has made my friend a mother again, I know more time will be needed to feel completely at ease with it all as I still have a lot of moments of intense awkwardness around her and an inability to know how to act around such a little baby girl (I often feel like an alien)!

But the courage needed for that, whilst a lot, wasn’t as major as the thing that required my courage to a greater degree just a month ago, when we read of the heartache and tragedy that a family friends baby had died during labour. Baby Faith was a healthy and beautiful little girl, but for some unknown reason was taken home before she was born…I remember the pain of this news when we had been somewhat prepared that it was a possibility, but to be expecting a healthy baby and to have them born sleeping is a complete tragedy!

This type of news is heartbreaking to anyone that hears of it, but when you have lived this nightmarish hell yourselves, you immediately return to the moment of silence and intense soul wrenching pain when you were told your own baby had no heart beat. To then hear of it happen to someone you know, and watch them weighed down by the all too familiar burden of baby loss, well the sadness is almost paralysing that someone else has had to hear those words too!

I wept for this mother, and whilst I barely knew her on a personal level like others in our family, I just wanted to be with her and help her, my heart understood and we had an instant connection! We messaged one another and in her pain and grief she also was a strength to me in my own stage of grief as we shared poems, pictures, quotes and understanding! I believe I was in some way a little guidance and comfort to her and was able to celebrate her gorgeous daughter despite the immense tragedy surrounding her birth, and whilst I hate the circumstances that created a friendship, I am grateful for her strength and words too as we stay connected on this difficult journey.

The following week, despite much anxiety, I felt the need to be at the funeral. A lot of people thought it was a bad idea, and others thought I was the key to what they needed? Either way it was what I wanted…I wanted to show that my support was not merely words and that she was not alone, that her feelings were indeed understood and that as I had been where she was a year ago, I knew too well how hard and unfair it all felt to be burying your baby only a week after their birth.

I was in awe of their courage to perform that service to their baby and for the duration of what was a lovely funeral (despite the circumstances) it was like being a spectator of our own funeral as I saw pink flowers, a white casket and the same music to bring her in to, but I was surprised that amidst it all I held it together, yes I shed tears but never sobbed as I watched. I think I have learn’t to suppress those intense emotions, until later and so I was able to support, to hug and then I left… I felt the weight of the day tremendously in the days following, but no where near as much as I know they would have. I recognised that though it was hard and felt so fresh for me too, I had come so far to be able offer some condolence to another bereaved mother. I was healing and to be able to do all of that meant I had made some progress in this seemingly never ending journey.
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Just 2 weeks later we found ourselves at the bedside of an elderly man from church that had recently passed away, and it surprised me how at ease I felt in that scenario. I felt strength to chat to his brother that wept, and to hold his hand. I then felt strength to help with funeral plans and I also felt strength to accept the invitation to sing at the funeral. I am not a great singer, but I do okay with hymns at church, and again I felt surprised by the peace I felt doing this not far from the coffin with some other ladies and then strangely found myself agreeing to a solo on one verse?!
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I know for a fact that even a few months ago a funeral of an adult, let alone a baby would have been way too hard, or to see a new baby girl or hold a baby boy, or buy baby gifts for friends and family would have all been too much. I still cry over these things at times as they trigger the pain of my loss, but that is natural and I am happy I am not bitter and do have the strength to be genuinely happy in person and celebrate others happiness and then to be a support in sadnesses too! But when I think or ever consider if I could stand near a coffin and sing ?? NO WAY that certainly would have always been out of the question!! But again I am grateful that with some time, with a change in my heart and with time on my side, I have found a strange ability to talk about it and be a strength to others in their moments of loss and not just to be able to celebrate with people their births and pregnancy’s which I thought would be the bigger challenge.

I have noticed that healing is evident by how you can share your story with less rawness, how you can support others that are at the start of this and how you can do things that perhaps a year ago (or even weeks ago) were just too hard. It is a step by step process where confidence in areas of life returns, anxieties over babies and baby things reduce, joy is restored and you begin to be courageous in areas that you once would have completely avoided. I for once, in a long time, have an increase of hope in the promise of sunshine after the storm, because I am gaining the courage to do things that heal!

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It may be a sign of bad parenting, but I am not one to jump in and correct my kids grammar when they come out with funny and adorable interpretations for things…I just love to hear it and it makes my day. My faves at the moment are “cu-pumber” (cucumber) and “school nuniform” (an obvious stage we are in) and so as little E starts school in 2 days (sob) he might say some funny words, but after a mental shopping trip yesterday, he certainly won’t be getting funny looks in his dapper new stuff!
WP_20150908_19_11_57_ProI am naturally a bargain hunter.. cheap, low price tag kinda gal…you don’t really have much choice to have it any other way when your hubs is a student and surplus cash is a thing of the past (for now). We all make sacrifices in various ways, but lucky for him when it comes to new purchases it is a natural trait to get a deal and rarely a sacrifice.

Whilst I am more than aware of the cheapest places for uniforms (we’ve been surrounded by it since May) I have shopped around to feel fabrics, compare prices, look at sizing and a whole host of other things! In the end we bought him a cardigan and a jumper with the school logo on from the local uniform shop, general uniform from Sainsburys and shoes from Clarks. He already had PE kit courtesy of M&S and chose a cool skull back pack from Asda. We grabbed a barg with his shoes; £21 instead of £34 at the outlet and of course the perfect fit as he had his feet measured, and then we noticed his shorts were only £3 for 2 pairs on sale at Sainsburys…scooorrreee.
WP_20150908_14_35_10_ProWP_20150908_17_39_23_ProWP_20150908_15_04_57_ProInstagramCapture_82f0189f-6cd9-4cb8-be58-4572ac7157b8I wanted him to look a little old fashioned/posh boy and so went straight for shorts and long socks, which he absolutely LOVES! Its so nice that he is not yet fashion concious, that he is comfortable in his own skin and loves to just look smart. He is going nuts over his long socks and shorts and so am I, that for at least one school year I can dress him like a posh boy haha. I have deliberately not taken shots of his jumper and colours to keep the excitement for Thursday, but I am totally loving him in his new “nuniform” and I can’t stop smiling at him.
WP_20150908_19_11_01_ProWP_20150908_19_22_57_ProI really make myself laugh( and make Naths eyes roll) that I left it til 2 days before he started school to get his stuff (talk about last minute) and I have been saying its so that Nathan could come along too for the fun. I think its more that it freaks me out that my baby is taking this step, wearing a uniform, full time school and making new friends… some peoples kids are already on their way and here we are only just getting his tat together.. its going to be an interesting adventure, but one where he will be looking the business.

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