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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For such a long time (I’d say from the moment I lost Poppy) this post has been with in me – bubbling away and yet suppressed by my british courtesy and respect for others, as well as the fear and inner worry that perhaps I will be misunderstood by others and perceived to be a selfish person – one who is unable to be happy for those around me. But it is more than that, and yes, perhaps it should have been something I published in the early days, but it is just as true now as it was then and when I read Laura Doves Post recently about how she felt Jealous of those whose babies die and get to do more memory making than she ever did 12 years ago, or when she hears of those who get more time with their babies, it resonated with me (a lot), and empowered me to press publish on this long ago written post!

As we met last Monday with other bereaved mothers to film a news piece on Stillbirth, it became very apparent that Jealousy is a massive part of grief and another thing we really need to talk more about. And so in all of my vulnerability I am putting it out there, and I am writing this post to speak the truth of how it feels for nearly all of the women I have ever met on this side of loss, when someone (whoever it is), announces a pregnancy that you know! I am writing it for me to get it out, and for the women in my shoes. But I am also writing it in a hope that if anyone reading it has a friend or family member that has lost a baby, that they may approach it a little more sensitively.

Being a woman of childbearing age, and a mum of 3 living kids, it is inevitable that I will share acquaintances and friendships with women who are in the same boat – that is having babies and raising kids. We are also from big families, and belong to a church that is very much all about family, and whilst I love that we have so many people to enjoy life with, It can be (and most often is) very hard to see so many people having babies when yours has died! I love that I share relationships with people who get the madness of raising kids, but it is inevitable that with that demographic of people there will always be lots of “Hi I’m pregnant” announcements, and whilst I am happy for my friends and family, this is rarely the emotion I feel first when I hear the news.

I know that feeling of sheer joy when you find out you are pregnant, and that together you have another child coming to your family. You want to shout it from the rooftops and you want to share that happiness and great blessing with all of the people you know and love. It is exciting and you want to celebrate.

It is normal now that after calling, meeting up with, or texting family and best friends to let them know the news, that we slap it all over social media and want everyone to feel this excitement with us too.

I remember it well and it is such a great time of life.

But since having a Stillbirth, pregnancy is suddenly more fragile to me, and anything around tiny new babies just feels more heart wrenching! It is hard to see babies that new and fresh, and excitement for others, however much I love them, is not the first emotion I feel now when I find out that someone is pregnant. It is rather more of anxiety and jealousy. It’s often like an inner torture as I fight my grief and pain to find, and then balance it with the joy and happiness for others as they enjoy the blessings of a new baby. I mostly just want to hide away, and for a small while (sometimes longer) it is what I do as it all just feels raw again and a little unfair, even though I know it absolutely isn’t.

The Pain  of announcement because of my loss 

I find pregnancy announcements terribly hard because I am rarely prepared for them, and because I have little control over how much it hurts – every single time! Each time it is the same anxious and sick feeling I have always felt – a reaction tainted by grief that tears me up, and whilst I wish that my initial reaction to a pregnancy announcement was still one of joy and delight, and that I could truly celebrate the moment like others (and like I used to be able to), instead I am faced battling these bitter emotions. Often the joy comes in time, and after a lot of “getting my head around it”, but until then it can be a lot of “faking it til I make it” scenario’s.

More often than not, they are feelings that have to be searched for beneath the initial shock and pain that comes from hearing someone is having a baby.

It would be unreasonable to expect a delighted friend, family member or whoever to consider our feelings before sharing their news, but at the same time this is what is needed to soften the blow and know they are respectful of our feelings and the daily battle of living without one of our kids. An element of sensitivity would ease the awkwardness within me as oppose to the sudden “Oh hi we’re having a baby – yipeee!” which catches me off guard every single time.

I guess that people assume that our loss was an event and not a continuum we live on. They fail to see that this means that rather than sharing in their joy, I struggle with feelings of anxiety and awkwardness – I feel aching that they are getting another baby and I will always have to live without mine.

I find it terribly hard when having opened a message, a text, or a social media page, that I come face to face with an announcement. And, like a slap in the face there it is –

A baby…

A scan picture…

A due date…

A gender reveal!

And nothing prepared me for it, nothing was there to catch my fall, and suddenly I feel defensive too.

Don’t they remember what we went through?

Don’t they consider how hard this is?

And I go into a panic, and I begin searching as to what it is that am I feeling about this and how will it affect me in my grief? When are they due and will it mean their milestones coincide?

Pregnancy announcements stir within me a jealousy and pain I never expected to feel and that I wish I didn’t feel. They all remind me I was pregnant and lost a baby at term. They don’t remind me of my living kids and those moments I felt at ease in pregnancy (though later I can find it), rather I feel the awful demon of Jealously rising up everytime, and I wish it wasn’t so.

I feel jealous and worried of how I am to be around the new baby, when brand new babies (however lovely they are) trigger the memory of holding my still baby! And then I worry that the more babies that come, the less Poppy will be remembered.

And so I battle and try to juggle the joy for them with the aching for me and my baby who died.

I fight to be happy that they have this blessing whilst every day we live with the continued aching for her and one less kid to raise with her siblings, and all I feel is that I wish it was me. I wish I was having the healthy baby… And the moment of an announcement makes me wonder why it was me that had to have the baby die, and why it was me that didn’t get the miracle?

An announcement makes me wonder why so many of our friends get these opportunities and we didn’t, and my heart sinks for our little girl that was gone too soon.

I get mad too … mad that I have a grave and they won’t ever know how incredibly hard that is or what that feels like – and whilst I would never ever wish that on anyone, compassion would be nice sometimes!

This feeling has never left me, no matter how much I pray and wish it wasn’t so. And it has never become easier to see people I know having babies even though I have had a healthy baby since. And so whilst its all kind of wonderful to have mum friends and family, and whilst it’s lovely to see them growing their families, often it can be like walking through a minefield, because I had a baby that died, and people keep having babies that live!

Of course I respond graciously and celebrate in the way you would hope, but it takes me a long time to digest the news because ultimately I am reminded of my loss each time I hear of newborn and expectant babies, and I am reminded of how hard it was, and still is some days and I guess I want people to continue to validate our loss. I want others to be aware that it wasn’t something awful that happened 3.5 years ago, but that it is something awful, and very painful that we have to live with for the rest of our lives.and so these joyful moments for others will trigger my grief and cause me to stress a lot about it.

If you know me personally, then I hope you would know that I love you and can eventually be genuine in my happiness for you and your family (though initially it is somewhat of a facade to try not be weird in my emotions that trip me up).

I know that It is so awkward for us all to live with this, but surely there is a place somewhere in all of this grief, where your living child and my dead child can both be celebrated and acknowledged in life. I guess in another world it would be nice if birth announcements came a little more gently to my heart and crazy mind, but they don’t. So please, if you made it this far, please have more compassion on your friend or family member that misses their sweet baby whilst you get to have and raise yours.

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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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Flowers speak so many things don’t they? They are a gift of love, of appreciation, of condolences and comfort, of congratulations, and generally just to make a room more pretty. I love receiving flowers because they make me feel thought of and always look so lovely and they never fail to make me smile however big or small!

But for me having fresh flowers in my life and home are more than just something I hope for on special occasions, rather they are one of my must haves for a feeling of joy and well being in daily life! They are a weekly (or fortnightly) gift to myself to brighten my home and lift my mood. I have my favourites (Tulips), but whatever flowers they are, provided they are fresh, they bring much loved colours and happiness to any corner of my home and life.

I often get messages from people asking what they can do for Mothers who sadly have lost their babies. I always find it so touching that they want to do something (anything), just to let them know they are thought of and loved at such an awful time! Whilst I have a whole post worth of ideas for this (yet to be published), I often want to also remind the friends and family of bereaved parents that help initially is always there in abundance, but it’s as time moves on that it’s also important you reach out. It’s a journey that you need to be in for the long run, because often as time passes, naturally people begin to forget that year after year there are certain dates that just make it all raw again. They forget that one of the “biggies” each year where support is needed is always Mother’s day!

Mother’s day is such a lovely day when you have kids around you or in your life. It’s so exciting to get the homemade cards, the bunches of flowers, chocolates, smellies, treats or Jewellery. It’s a beautiful, heartwarming thing to be remembered and shown appreciation for the love and work you put into raising a family and keeping a home.

But what about the mothers without their kids? The ones that never got to bring their babies home? Where is their acknowledgement and appreciation on a day dedicated to Mothers?

Give the Gift of Flowers

Flowers are a great gift at any time of year, they are a fantastic gift for our mothers, and especially as a gift to a mother without her child on Mother’s day. This date in the year for bereaved mothers is one of dread and anxiousness. Its another reminder of what they are missing, and it’s a day that feels really hard. Yes they are a mother…deep in their hearts every single day, but on the surface to the world they are seemingly not. It’s a day that screams to them “you have no child here… you don’t get to mother that baby”! For them mothers day lacks the hand drawn pictures and cards from your child, the scribbling name next to the others and the lovely treats chosen by the little ones. For them there is no acknowledgement of what it means to be a mother.

They miss out on the gifts, the cards and the brunch. But most importantly they are missing out on the little hands around their necks and gentle kisses on their cheeks – they are missing every tear, “I love you”, and cuddle that comes with being a mother.

My suggestion to anyone reading this, that knows of a mother that is facing mother’s day without their baby, is to send them something. Yes…why not send them a gift? And something so easy is a gift of flowers. You can order from the comfort of your home, with a personalised message and send them anywhere in the country or world even!

By sending a gift of flowers to a mother on Mother’s day you are acknowledging who she is on a day that seems more than ever to remind her of what she has lost. You are sending colour to her life and a vase of happiness to her home. It shows her that she is thought of, and her child is remembered! It brightens her home and lifts her heart, and helps her to take comfort in the knowledge that she and her child are not far from thoughts of others (as is sometimes the case in everyday life).

They are gift that will instantly lift the mood of the person you have sent them to, and bring positive emotional feelings to their day as you say “I remember who you are – Happy Mother’s day”!

Prestige Flowers have as many varieties of Mother’s day bouquets as there are mothers, so you are bound to find the perfect thing for that special mummy! They can be ordered in advance or last minute, and my favourite thing – they have some great offers on including Free Vases or Chocolates with some of their bouquets, and £10 -15 off some of them too.

So whether it is for your own mother, the mother of your kids, or a friend or relative that might be struggling this Mothers day because of loss – Why not send them a bright and beautiful gift of flowers right to their door. Let them know they are remembered this year, and help them feel acknowledged as a mother this mother’s day!

I am still very much enjoying the stunning bouquet that was sent to me last week with a few additions of a bear, vase and chocolates! When I saw them sat on my front step it was such a joyful delivery and has brought a lot of happiness to my home each time I see them – it made me think of all of those mother’s that might not get this this year!

*In Collaboration with Prestige Flowers

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