When we initially found out that Poppy had died I went into a state of shock and detachment. I felt numb and at times it was like I was just going through the motions but not 100% there. There are times even now that this is how I survive day to day and get through things in my life, but I have come to find out that this is not a way to live – only to exist.

During the period that followed our loss, I reached out to several people I knew who had also had their babies die. They told me that grief came in waves and that when it hits in the beginning it would be like a Tsunami – powerful and all consuming. With time those waves might ease, but even if they still have force behind them, I can be assured that they will become less frequent. I came to understand that grief is hard, but over time you learn to wear it more comfortably.

I have clung to this analogy and sought out many people since who have lost babies and children to find out if what I was STILL experiencing year on year was normal – I needed reassurance that I wasn’t losing it. I knew that grief was a lifelong thing, or rather living without one of my children would always feel a little sad, but my “grief” didn’t seem to be changing. Not just that but these cycles and waves of pain were actually becoming more and more frequent – the more I filled my time to distract from them, and the more I tried to “get on with it”, the more emotional and exhausted I was becoming. Each day has been a fight to stay afloat, and I have struggled over the last 3.5 years to be able to deal with anything that triggers my memories of Poppy – her pregnancy, birth, anniversaries etc. I am constantly tense, anxious and on guard at fear something may happen to my kids or Nathan, or simply that I will see a baby I wasn’t prepared for, and these situations and memories cause me a heck of a lot of distress.

We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors – but I am going to open mine to you now. For the last 3.5 years I have painted on a smile whilst often inside I am struggling. I have forced myself day after day to “get on with it” on the faith that in time it would become easier. I have sat and wept – clutching my head in pain as the thoughts and memories hurt me so much. I have yelled, shouted, thrown things in rage and become awful to my family and Nathan. I have struggled to get out of my bed and face the world and I have struggled to exist. I have been angry that I have needed help and understanding but I didn’t know why I needed it or how to get it. The more friends distanced themselves, or even seemed to just be getting on with life, the more stuck in the past I felt and the lower and less self confident I felt.

I will stress at this point that this isn’t all of the time and not every day – but it has been incredibly frequent and enough that it has negatively affected our family and my ability to fully enjoy our lives together and be a good mum. It has been enough that my husband and I both have felt for a while that there could be something wrong with me.

I struggle with disciplining my kids because I am so numb and at my limit every day. I often just burst into tears at the smallest of stresses and will often be heard saying “I can’t cope!” – Because that is all that I feel.

But then I learnt about PTSD (post Traumatic stress disorder) whilst studying my recent counselling course and quickly realised it was me on a page. It kind of made complete sense to me – Those points and symptoms – they were me and my life since I lost Poppy. I was STILL angry (even to the point of rage sometimes) and I feel guilty no matter how hard I try. I have heightened senses and am easily startled by noise and situations. I am unable to fall asleep most nights and have regular nightmares or the memories playing so vivid on repeat. I have stress and always feel at my limit, and often I just feel numb!

I detach from life and people because I feel they don’t get me, or I feel isolated even when around people. I find it hard to know how to be in some situations and all of these are things I never struggled with prior to her passing and seeing her dead.

I read on and on and all I could see was my life and my brain/behaviour since Poppy had died. It all kind of fitted.

Why were the dates, the season changes and general days when I saw a little baby so painful? Why did they make me not just sad, but anxious and tense? Why do things unrelated cause me to spiral into such dark places? It wasn’t simply because it was when she died, because I wasn’t “just sad”, it was also because the change of Summer to Autumn, and the sight of a baby, the dates and the announcements of more babies and pregnancies, the joy of baby talk and hearing of people dying, all flung me back into reliving the trauma I experienced in September of 2016!

I haven’t just had the waves of grief hitting me for the last 3.5 years, I have been consumed by the event of giving birth to my dead child and then burying her over and over, and over again. It plays out in my mind on several occasions pretty much daily, and I am bombarded with reminders of what it was like and how awful it was. I have nightmares regularly of seeing and holding dead babies and members of our family (or even random babies).

Second to that I realised I was really good at avoiding things that reminded me of Poppy and her death, and that in situations where I couldn’t avoid it, I would just disconnect!

I realised when people talk of babes and death that I freeze up and become tense. When I see a documentary or read about kids dying I obsess and panic. Even a couple of weeks ago when I saw a dead baby bird on my drive, I became anxious and emotional at how its mother must have felt (yes really!). And then when people or myself are talking I zone out. I noticed this huge change in the last couple of years that I can no longer focus or remember things like I once prided on myself on being able to do and it has been incredibly frustrating and scary! I have had moments where I go in to a shop and suddenly realise I am stood there –  numb, and unable to remember what I went in for!

The memories of losing Poppy haven’t spaced out or become any easier like I assumed they would at this stage, but rather it is all consuming and it drags me down over and over again. Sometimes I fight and sometimes I conquer. Sometimes I want to talk about her and have her remembered because it’s all I can think about. But recently I just do not have the energy anymore. I have reached a point where I have shoved so much in the cupboard of my brain and tried to get on that it has flung open and it’s time to deal with it.

When someone has suffered trauma, getting on without professional help is quite possibly the worst thing to do, as it only becomes harder to live with and all consuming. When you have PTSD your brain struggles to file away the traumatic memories and associations into the back of your mind, and constantly brings them to the front.

One thing I know now is that my grief triggers are actually trauma triggers. The hearing of birth announcements make me sad yes, but many of them cause real panic. My heart races and palms sweat and then it’s the same when I see or know I am going to see tiny babies, go past the cemetery or hospital, have her anniversaries or hear of a passing!  They make me feel allsorts – but mostly its anxiety. And it’s not always because of what I have lost, but a lot also to do with the panic of thinking “what if they lose their baby too?” or “how will they cope”!

I feel as soon as things feel good, and as soon as I am feeling joyful – another reminder, trigger or intrusive thought hits and I go right back down to how I was in the beginning. One minute I am up and without warning I am spiralling – free falling and unable to stop it. I come down with a bang and then I can’t cope. All I feel is pain, anger, despair and fear. Day to day I fight the thoughts of losing my other kids and my husband, and then in these moments I have pure anxiety for days about all sorts and I am disconnected from life, only going through the motions.

For so long it hasn’t made sense. It has been a pattern of confusion on repeat, because I am happy…but then i’m not. And the pictures I share of capturing my positive and blessed moments are all real – but they are just that – moments! And now, after more weeks of hiding indoors and only facing the world for school runs, and for all of those days of painting on a smile followed by talking lots and lots so I seem like I’m okay, I finally went with Nathan to see a Dr who referred me to the Mental health team.

I felt scared.

I felt anxious.

I felt like I had failed.

I felt as though I wasn’t enough.

But then I felt so much relief too – relief that I had finally accessed the help I needed.

For 3.5 years as I have sat in despair and mostly alone whilst these triggers have pushed me down, and as I have said in great despair and in anger and frustration, the words “I.NEED.HELP” over and over again – I finally got it. I was told after an initial assessment (and previously by my counsellor friend too) “Mary, I think you have PTSD!”.

I think I already knew that from my counselling course, but to hear those words suddenly gave me hope that if I have something wrong, that means I can be better. I can be more consistently happy, I can grieve in a more healthy way and I can be more confident and more free. I can be a better wife and mother.. a better friend and I can be well again.

The thing about PTSD that they made a point of telling me about during this consultation was that other than the anxiety attached to the trauma, we are otherwise mentally well. This explains why sometimes in life I am well and happy and having a laugh, and why at other times I am depressed, anxious and in despair!

Next week I will see a private psychotherapist and begin therapy to help me overcome the negative trauma of losing my baby girl at term. I will learn techniques to help me remember and focus on the positives of her life and presence in our family, and how to preserve her legacy without it damaging me day to day. I will be able to see life in a positive light as opposed to one of despair and fear, and consequently I will rewire my thought patterns to help me have less of these debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

To have this diagnosis makes so much sense. It means I am not losing my mind or unable to heal and let go. It means I am ill and I am living with the consequences of having trauma in my life. When Nathan and I have discussed it, it kind of all makes sense – How could I find out my baby had died, carry a dead baby inside of me for 2 days and then birth her. How could I look at one of my children dead – see her and be told I could no longer have her with me, send her to a funeral home and then bury her in the ground and return home empty, and not suffer some serious issues to my brain?

How could I think that continuing a normal life when I have experienced something so painfully life changing and awful the following weeks and months be possible?

I have suffered something horrendous that most will not in life, so please don’t tell me to get on with it or be happy for what I have when I am exhibiting symptoms associated with trauma. Please don’t pacify me with comparing others trials – These are unrelated. My blessings cannot compensate for the mental disruption the trauma of stillbirth has caused. Of course I love my family and they bring me great joy. Of course we have many things to be happy about – I am incredibly blessed – but I am also fighting a psychological disorder caused by seeing one of my children dead and that is a bit of a mess some days! It blocks me from being able to see the joy in all things and whilst on occasion I do, some days and weeks it consumes me.

I am grateful for those in my life that have consistently shown me compassion and understanding. For those who always ask how I am and take thought in announcing things they know will cause me pain. I am grateful for the friends that accept me on a daily basis wherever I am mentally and emotionally! Thank you for giving me the space to be honest and share how hard this is!

Perhaps people will read this blog and decide to be more patient and understanding – perhaps they will just continue with their life and leave me to mine – because it wasn’t them and they still don’t get it. Either way I feel hopeful now that I can find relief from my anguish and suffering. That I can reach a more healthy place to remember my daughter without the crushing pain and emotions of remembering her death, birth and burial. I hope I can remember her with fondness instead of seeing the traumatic events that followed that night when I was told “there was no heartbeat”! I hope I can have more meaningful relationships without the wedge of loss and I hope I can see in more clarity and less tarnish!

*If you can relate to things I have spoken about in this post, and have suffered a traumatic event in your life, please, please, please contact your GP or local mental health team. The longer you live with PTSD the harder it is for your brain to function and find happiness! 

 

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When you eat mostly chocolate as your daily food intake, and wallow around sobbing and feeling anxious and gaining pounds by the second, you know you’ve hit rock bottom and are pretty miserable! And yes, this is a scene that frequently plays out in my life. You see, sadness or grief is something I experience frequently, and I suppose it is all part of my “new normal” package I received when my child died!

Sometimes I know what will trigger these emotions, and whilst they are difficult, I have learnt that I can be on my guard, and this often in the short term avoids me spiralling into the depths of misery and negativity. I know for example, that entering certain situations or doing certain things, will ultimately hold sadness for me, and this has been okay to bear (mostly) and I can cope. Whilst I may get tired from fighting it, ultimately it isn’t so bad as the days when I am caught off guard.

For me it is in the moments I am least prepared for it that the sadness grabs me and pulls me down – it’s on these days it strikes the hardest – with low mood, constant crying, some anxiety, and a desire to hide away from it all! I know for some it is easy to label it as depression, and I assure you I have gone through every type of mental health problem with these symptoms that I can think of. I have asked time and time again “What is wrong with me?”! “Am I depressed? Am I Bipolar (because I was on one yesterday)? Is it hormonal?”! And right now I do not know the answer to that. I do not know if it is simply the messy and very natural occurrence of grief since stillbirth, or if it is the effects of trauma and I have an element of PTSD? I don’t know if there are underlying and deeper mental health problems that I may need to explore. All I do know is that whilst we all get sad from time to time, (frustrated and stressed about things too), for me it is different to normal. For me it has become, and is, a very real and regular occurance in my life that makes me feel often at my limit and searching for joy.

I have had depression before (PND), and whilst some emotions and behaviors are similar, with this I can cleary pinpoint it back to 2014 – when my world came crashing down and I endured the trauma of having a stillbirth, and burying my baby. It went against all that is natural and now I am frequently sad and brain doesn’t work how it used to!

It is an almost daily battle to lift up my pain, grief and loss and try to wear it comfortably!

In the last 3.5 years I have grown in confidence with this and have come to the conclusions that those who judge me in how I respond to my grief, or choose to wear it, are obviously completely oblivious to my pain and need to mourn. You see, when I am sad I am also very fragile, and sadness isn’t all that comes in the package. The sadness is only the start because it also leads to feeling rather discouraged about every aspect of my life, momentary anger and stress and a general feeling of inferiority and longing for more joy.

I begin to think I am failing at everything.

That I am not very good at anything. 

I am not myself – But I am always sad.

I am emotional.

And I am fighting hard to survive!

But how do you get out of that? How do you stop it from making you go insane? Stop it from drowning you and consuming your life?

Yes I think it’s completely fine to be sad, to have things move us to tears, and to mourn losses – sadness is natural. But to stay there long term is not. And so here are the steps I take, and the things I do that help me embrace the grief, but also then help me to move through it and be better at the other side! I guess they are my steps to self care to cope with it all!

My steps to moving forward in Sadness! 

1.Let it out / feel it

This is a vital step to being able to move forward. For too long in the beginning I tried to suppress my sadness thinking that being strong meant I shouldn’t cry, and that to cry meant I was weak. This only made it worse and, meant the periods of grief lasted for longer. Now when I feel it I cry, I sob, I whine, I mourn, and I feel every raw emotion that at other times I keep a lid on. In these moments I remember what it felt like to be told my daughter had died, and to then give birth and how hard it all was. I look at how different life looks and feels because of it, and It is a sad thing that still makes me sad…and that’s okay.

I feel it… I acknowledge it, and I remember it’s okay to not always be okay!

Letting it out, and riding the waves of sadness and grief are so important in finding calmness at the otherside and coping with the stresses of life after loss!

2.Talk

Some people are very private when going through struggles and deep grief, and won’t talk or mention it to others. But I am not one of those people. I am a talker, and a wear my heart on my sleeve type – I find it both therapeutic and strengthening to be able to talk to a friend, counsellor, family member, or SANDS group about how I am feeling, all of the thoughts racing through my mind and how sad I am at that point in my life.These days that friend is usually Nathan or my older sister, because I have found that both allow me the freedom to go over and over the same old points I need to in order to try and make sense of them. They allow me to talk nonsense, or to bring up things that to others are uncomfortable.

With Nathan I find he holds me, my pain, and lets me speak. He seems to get now that for me, talking about how I am feeling is so important to feeling Okay again.

3.Veg!

Being that sad, anxious about things, and generally emotional completely wipes me out. I often feel exhausted, drained and unable to function and complete my usual daily tasks. I remember how in the first year of loss, it left me feeling everyday like I had the flu because my whole body was literally trying to carry that burden and it was tough. Only on occasion do I now get that sad, but when I do I feel it all over – headaches, pain and tiredness.I have discovered that as the heart is the life of the body, when it is broken, it’s effects are felt through pain and aching in your entire body – heartbreak is all consuming.

The way for me to feel better in these moments is to veg. I do like to go for nature walks and do things that lift my spirits on days I feel a little “meh”, or in need of a rest to my soul, But on the days I hit rock bottom, I just veg! I drink Pepsi Max, eat rubbish and I don’t get dressed/do my make up. I take time out from the day to day things, and binge on treats, have a diet of chocolate for 24hrs and just snuggle in my bed or on the sofa. I stay at home and I’ll watch films to take my mind off things and give me emotions a rest. And i’ll sleep more than usual, because I am more tired than usual! The house work and laundry will still be there tomorrow, and whist I always manage to feed the kids and get them to school (success), I have learnt that sometimes looking after our emotional and mental needs has to be prioritised over those day to day menial things!

Vegging is not lazy when your emotions are wrought – it is necessary, and an important step in rebuilding yourself from a point of pure sadness!

4.Write about it!

I found writing to be a great therapy for me early on in all of this. Once I have let it out and rested from the day to day demands, I will pick up a pen and write down what I have been feeling and thinking in my journal. Some of that I will filter out on to my blog, to help others, but often the deeper things I keep private.

Writing to me is an essential step that not only helps me process what has just happened, and how hard it was… what my thoughts and feelings were and what caused it, but finally gets it all out of me and then I can close the book on that period of grief and sadness and pick myself back up again!

5.Read things that will motivate and strengthen me

Initially I don’t particularly enjoy hearing positive quotes or uplifting messages, they irritate me, because in my mind none of it means much and I already know it all – I’ve heard it before! At that point of sadness I am purely lead by my heart and the emotions of sadness from the broken, empty part left by poppy. When I am sad, I want to be sad. I want to cry, I want to talk about it all and I want to veg. I do not want positive stories and quotes until I am ready to process them, and only after the processes of steps 1 -5 do I find I want to be inspired and motivated to get up, put one step in front of the other and start walking through life again!At that point I will scroll through pinterest, I will read positive thinking books or talks from leaders in our church, and I will turn the pages of my scriptures to look for things that will build me. From here I set a couple of goals to apply those things and then head into reminding myself that…

6.Remember that there is no time limit

This quite possibly is the most important step. However sad you feel, and for however long you have felt that way…however you chose to deal with it, it is so important to remember grief has no time limit and will hit in the most unlikely situations. There will always be the expected dates and places that make you feel sad, and sometimes only briefly, but if sadness hits, months or years down the line it’s okay.
It isn’t a race, and there is no particular time you need to aim for to be able to broadcast to the world “Hey remember me whose baby died – yeah I’m all fixed and better now!”… you know, the hard reality is that I don’t believe you ever will be all better. I believe you can live a full life, but there will always be an element of sadness attached to some things, and it’s remembering with that to say “There is nothing wrong with me. It is not a lack in my faith or inability to heal. It is simply a fact of life…an act of love and the natural effects on ones heart from suffering a major loss”.

Sadness and grief have no time limit, and having a plan in place to get through it, bare it and come out of it again is something I find essential to carrying this, and living a joyful life in the easier moments despite that aching!

Always Remember…

Sadness and low mood from grief makes you feel less – you are not!

Vegging doesn’t mean you are a bad person or parent – a day of TV is fine and your kids will not suffer as result or be any less intelligent, it is self care for you and an essential step in being able to cope with the burden of sadness. 

Being sad doesn’t mean you are a failure or inferior to anyone else – it means you are normal and feeling the effects of losing someone or something you deeply love.

It’s okay to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend. family member or counsellor – Choose people you know will respect you and hold you, not tell you to move on, get over it or make you feel less for being sad!

Success and happiness can still result from a life where grief is a recurring scene! At times this may not seem true and it may feel like a balancing act, but you soon begin to realise that as you feel deeper pain, you are also able to feel deeper joy in contrast – and that is a strange, and yet very beautiful thing! 

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A few weeks ago I received an email in my inbox from one of the channel 5 producers asking me if I would be interested in sharing our story (or rather Poppy’s story) with them for an additional News piece they wanted to do on Stillbirth! I’ll be honest, despite feelings of anxiety at the prospect of being on TV, I was mostly jumping for joy and over the moon at such a privilege. All I have ever wanted to do since giving birth to Poppy, was to raise awareness of her life, our life after loss, and the impact of Stillbirth on individuals and families.

And yet despite this, I always find that sharing our story is such a hard task and takes so much energy – it can wipe me out for a couple of days after as I deal with what I now refer to as “Grief Hangover” (Thanks Antonia!).

My desire to Raise Awareness

The easiest (or maybe most convenient) way I have found to raise awareness of what it is like to go through Stillbirth and how it feels after, is to write it here in my blog or to talk about it with people; both in person and at seminars hosted by SANDS and other loss groups! My blog has for me being the thing that has kept me afloat. To write about the things I cannot speak is incredibly cathartic to me, and whilst I know at times this has been difficult for friends to hear me say “I am okay”, and then read from me things that are far from “Okay”, it has been the only way I have been able to get out, formulate the right words, and make some kind of sense of all of the pain that continually beats upon me from losing my daughter before she was born.

I find my motherhood very difficult (and this is beyond the everyday mundane that we all struggle with) because it is two fold – on the one hand I am mothering 3 living children, but on the other I am also mother to a daughter in heaven. But this is difficult for both my mind and body to make sense of, and often in the early days my body would literally crave a baby and yet my mind couldn’t bear to be around new babies – the torture within has been incredibly hard, and motherhood such a daily battle. Nowadays the battle is more emotional and mental, but it has always been a battle to parent my living children whilst grieving and navigating the loss and who I am as a mother to Poppy.

I want to (and the key is that I can) encourage my living children to be successful in whatever path they choose and I want them to be happy. I want them to write interesting stories and leave an imprint in some small (or big) way. I want them to find people that will make them happy, and who they can hopefully have a family with too. And whilst being a parent is hard day to day, these things are so natural and in some ways the easier part of motherhood to do for them.

With Poppy however, she cannot write her story because her life never really had a chance. Her whole life went against what is natural in the order of things – her death came before her birth, and life was never lived. Her presence was known briefly by many, but quickly forgotten. Her parents buried her in infancy instead of holding her close and raising her with her siblings. And I know now that many believe I should let that all go, accept what happened when it did, and focus on my own life and happiness, but when I held her in my arms in the silence of the delivery room, I looked upon that sad situation we were in and was determined I would make something of her small life and presence in this world. She would/will always be a member of our family, spoken of in our home and remembered between us each birthday. But as a mother of a child who did not live, I cannot just let that go and I cannot just let that be what her life was.

To me her life would have been wasted, however brief it was, if something was not to be written and created in her memory.

And so I write – I write her story and I write about her tiny life. I write about how it broke us and how it has at the same time helped us to find inner strength and courage we would never have known any other way. I write about the hard stuff – the taboos, and the ongoing effects her life and departure has had on our family. And I write about our life now – how we still have joyful enriching moments, how we still see goodness and beauty, and how our joys are all so intertwined with the sadness she will never experience them with us.

And I talk – I talk about Trisomy 18, about CHD, Stillbirth and SANDS, to anyone interested. And I talk about her birth story and pregnancy at SANDS trainings. I talk about the hospice, and then I walked a ridiculous amount of miles and nearly died on a mountain side all in the name or raising awareness – awareness of our daughter and awareness of her life and how it ended, and what that now means for us.

I became a befriender, and I am becoming a therapist of some description because I want her life and the pain of her departure to have purpose – I want her imprint to be left in the hearts of others, and I want to channel my pain and grief into something meaningful. I can make breakfast, read with, play with, wash their clothes, cook dinners, talk with and go on adventures with my other kids… I can teach and discipline them, hug and kiss them, laugh and cry with them; my motherhood to them is my daily life and very apparent in how we live life together. But for Poppy it isn’t ever obvious unless I make the ongoing decisions to write, speak and find various ways to have her remembered and her life purposes created.

So raising awareness through all of these mediums, and working in a field supporting others in hardships, are my way of finding a way to let my motherhood of her show in this world.

So when a TV station email me, or when I speak on a radio station (see here), or if a newspaper or magazine were to contact me, I would always say “Yes”!

Yes to raising awareness.

Yes to helping others through our experiences.

And Yes to being able to be a mother, and helping my child’s story to be written and leave an impact on the world.

It is because of this that I was so absolutely gutted and fed up, to be stranded on a train, and I couldn’t just let it go. I was so nervous to speak on camera in the first place and all I wanted was it to be right. I wanted the message to get out of course, but I so very much wanted to be one of those speaking it as I had envisioned and had looked forward to doing.

I loved the opportunity to be acknowledged as Poppy’s mum and to share Poppy with so many people. I loved the chance to be able to speak the words so many don’t want to listen to. And I felt it an honour to stand shoulder to shoulder with 8 other brave women who too just want to mother their sweet babies.

I am grateful that 4 weeks ago I was invited to go to ITN studios and be a part of the “Stillbirth: Still a Taboo” panel. What they discussed and created was incredible and a huge step in helping families affected by stillbirth. For me It was an incredibly exciting moment in my life, and whilst it was a scary one too, ultimately it was a complete privilege to have a chance to raise awareness and exercise my motherhood for Poppy!

If you would like to see the programme then you can here 

 

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I found myself using the analogy of a magnifying glass this week to try and help a friend see how Mother’s day felt for me since losing our daughter Poppy at term in 2014. I used to think as each date passed that it would feel like an accomplishment, that it would suddenly enable me to more easily face the next one, and one after that, and so on. But instead I find that the passage of time just magnifies the loss more and brings home to me the ripples of our loss for the remainder of our lives.

It is always the time of year where I am constantly reminded by other’s to “look at how blessed I am with my other children”, to which I want to just scream! Such a comment implies that because I grieve for my 3rd child on such occasions (and every day) that I am somewhow ungrateful for my living children? It’s such a ridiculous thing to say! It’s as if Ethan, Megan and Alice make up for the fact Poppy died… or that my love for Poppy isn’t valid and would be best shared amongst each of my living kids instead!!

The truth is that yes I am a mother to 3 living kids – I know that, because it is my life! I birthed them, adore them, and I am a stay at home mum to them. Each of my children is unique and special just as every child in the world is. But neither can replace or make up for the other because they are individuals, each with their own unique character and interests, each with their own place in my heart and in our family. And so Mother’s day isn’t a failure to see what is right in front of me, it is rather a magnification of what I have and have also lost.

This day, just as Poppy’s birthday and other significant dates, are bitter-sweet, and will forever be hard for me – not because I don’t see what I have, but because that doesn’t make up for what I have lost.

Mother’s day brings lovely moments where I sit sleepy eyed on the bed with my now 3 tiny gorgeous faces glaring at me in sheer delight. Handmade gifts, cards, flowers, chocolate and pictures; all eagerly handed over and each one excited to see my joy for all they have given me. I am showered in loved, but I am fighting and battling with the soul wrenching pain that another year has passed without knowing, raising and holding one of my precious little babies. I miss the cards from her, the pictures she might have drawn, the scribble of her 3.5 year old signature!

In short Mother’s day magnifies our blessings. But it equally magnifies our loss, and that is something no-one should be shamed over!

Magnified Blessings

Mother’s day is a great day to stand up and be proud that I am a mother! To relish in my motherhood and feel so immensely proud that I have 4 beautiful children. I am 33 and I have 4 kids – it’s nuts, but its brilliant too.

I love that Mother’s day is a great time to reflect on the excitement and anticipation we felt leading up to their arrival – the days we decided it was time to grow our family and how each one is such a lovely blessing in our lives. I love that I am their mother, and I love that I know them. I am forever changed for the better because of that. And so I love that on this day, out of all of the others, we get to be high-fived for our efforts and made to feel so special!

I love to think of how blessed we are with our own mothers and grandmothers and the amazingly strong women in generations before that too (that somehow impact me now as a mother), and I love to think of their sacrifices and examples to me of faith, courage, and strength.

Being able to be a mother, and know such great mothers is such a wonderful blessing in life, and I love how this day enlarges that reality and blessing. I love how I have time to be grateful in the fact that raising my kids, whilst challenging, is also a lot of fun!

Mother’s day is certainly a day to magnify our blessings and feel proud in what we do!

Magnified Loss 

But I am also a mother to a child that isn’t alive and that concept is something I can never get used to. I miss her everyday, and whilst some of those days are more gentle and I am able to function and feel great happiness and sunshine, on other days the storms rage and I can’t see for the fog!

I always find that Mothers day rolls around and magnifies these foggy feelings and our loss – It’s approach brings a lot of anxiety and sadness, and I find as it is a day that celebrates Mothers and Motherhood, what is to celebrate when the child isn’t here? When the world only chooses to see who is here and now, and not who has died and is missing from all of these moments, I find myself closing up and wondering how I make my motherhood to her a tangible and living thing still.

In a nutshell Mother’s day magnifies my loss because it suddenly reminds me of my own motherhood, and my inability to mother my 3rd child because she has passed away. It’s a day where it suddenly feels more intense, and the hole in my heart feels wider and bigger, the gap in our family is enlarged, and as I see pictures of other mother’s, with all of their children and celebrating their day, and my smiles are turned to stinging tears because my loss suddenly feels so huge and obvious again.

I become frustrated that I haven’t got those pictures of me grinning with my 4 beautiful kids, and I never will.

I haven’t nursed her, taught her, played with her or had the adventures and snuggles like I have with her siblings. I left  the hospital that Sunday night numb and heartbroken that she had gone before we could meet her, and I left that same hospital on her birthday empty handed and never to be the same again! I have carried that pain ever since, and no matter what I do it’s always there hovering beneath the surface.

And so now I look at Mother’s day, and whilst my blessings of 4 wonderful children are very apparent, and my love for them and hard work is acknowledged, I sit and wonder how the heck do I validate myself as her Mother when she isn’t here and few people even knew of her?

I want more than anything on these days for everyone to know I have had 4 kids, and that my amazing body made, carried and birthed each of my precious babies. I want them to see and know that even though there seems to be 3, there are in fact 4. But somehow stillbirth still creates an awkward barrier to that truth, and I back away and feel like I am weird or something. That feeling then feels like a scream that I want to shout out and tell the world that I am a mother to 4, proud of each one. I want to shout out and say that whilst I grieve I am strong, because life is incredibly hard to live without one of your kids. And yes, even though the others make it a happy and fun journey, full of wonderful and blessed moments – it is hard to have number 3 missing from them. And it’s hard to always fight for them all to be remembered, and for me to be validated as a mother of 4!

So how do I feel about my 4th Mother’s day after loss? Well I welcome the day to feel treasured by my little family, and look upon my blessing to hold the title of “Mother”, but I also dread the day because it hurts and enlarges all I have lost in our precious Poppy – another reminder of the ripples of loss!

There are mother’s all over the world that will be reading this and know exactly what I am saying. But there are also the mothers who unlike me, don’t have other kids to celebrate their motherhood with on this day. They don’t have the “other kids” to bring smiles and soften the blow of a painful reminder of loss. These Mothers need the acknowledgement more than ever – the chocolate, the flowers, the “thinking of you” momentos to say “YOU ARE A MOTHER TOO”!! But more so what they need, and what we all need, is some acknowledgement – Acknowledgement of our missing child. It is one of the greatest gifts one can receive and they need that often because they are mothers, and their children are real. They now have so much love and longing that can never leave, and it will always hurt. Yet despite that, they/we are still standing strong and surviving every single day without our beautiful babies here!

So “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY” to all of you Mothers – may the day be gentle and kind!

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