Last week a tsunami of grief washed over me and left me gasping for air. I couldn’t sleep, barely breathe, function properly, or be me in my everyday life.

I cried for what seemed like hours over several days … sobbing to Nathan, sobbing to the night, sobbing on my knees. I was desperate for some relief from this familiar pain that had returned (or rather resurfaced) to my soul and each day I woke up with that same heavy feeling in my heart, I wondered why?

Isn’t it supposed to get better with time? Aren’t I supposed to feel better about it … with Time? Shouldn’t I be on my way to “getting over this” and dealing with it? That’s what people keep saying or implying why isn’t it true for me?!

It’s been almost 3 years since our daughter passed away and was subsequently stillborn. 3 years. That’s over 1,000 days and I don’t know how many hours, and guess what? I still get sad about it, and I still find the week or 2 before her anniversaries to be the worst time of year. I hate the change in seasons, and find that even if I wanted to never think of it again, that’s actually not even possible. I feel in my soul and I know what’s coming.

I have found that whilst time has made it easier to live with (most days), some days it all just gets too much again. Some days I just become too tired of being strong, I become tired of being the one missing out on so many things because she never lived, and I get tired of pretending that i’m okay with that. I get tired of painting on a smile and not being able to have her in our life. And then, with all of that, something so small comes along and sweeps me over. It leaves me lost and feeling like there’s something wrong with me, and I get cross… why am I still feeling all of this? Why at 3 years is her birthday still so hard?

But you see there isn’t anything wrong with me, and I didn’t do anything wrong either. It’s not my fault that she died (though I have wondered this) and there isn’t anything mentally wrong with me either because I am still sad at certain points of my life as a result of that. I feel all of this every September because it is the natural result of carrying a child to term and then them dying before being born and really having life with you. It doesn’t mean i’m ill, lacking in faith, ungrateful for my other kids, miserable, or have a poor relationship with Jesus – it means I am human, and a mother living in a world with out my child!

But its easy to think there is something wrong with me, or maybe I am lacking something, when people tell you so much that “time is a healer”, or “I hope you can get over this and be okay”, and all along it still hurts… it still causes pain to remember. And then I find that to remember is also seen as a negative thing? Why wouldn’t I want to remember her?

It’s easy for me to think and even feel that I am lacking in something or not good enough because people avoid me or avoid asking how I am around this time of year and then wonder how after 3 long years and 1,000’s of days I am still not over it and still not “healed”.

But please tell me how you can get over your child dying and missing from everyday family life?

Please tell me how you can look at each passing year and birthday without a member of your family there to celebrate it, and then be okay about it?

Please tell me how is remembering them a weakness or a bad thing?

How is making them a part of our family so weird?

How is bringing them up in conversation so blumming awkward?

Please enlighten me on how it is such a weakness to cry and be sad occasionally about the fact my daughter was dead when I gave birth to her? And with that to know you missed a million things and more?

Please tell me why am I lacking in faith because I cried last week for days that she wasn’t starting nursery and her birthday is over looked?

What I wish people would say (or preach) to the bereaved is actually that time is not a healer at all, and that the truth is you won’t ever really get over it, but rather you WILL learn how to live with it. You will (and can) learn how to lead a happy and joyful life despite the pain of them not being in it. You will lead a new normal on a new path, that is filled with triggers of your loss and days of darkness all over again, but you will learn how to survive them and return to a functioning happy place once they pass. You will learn to see goodness in life and count your blessings despite the pain in your heart from one of your greatest blessings not being here. There will be days when the pain is barely noticeable, and people will breath a sigh of relief that perhaps we’re over it now and time has healed us, but with in a matter of days it can be all consuming again and a stark reminder that that isn’t true. That’s okay, there is nothing wrong with you.

I often want to ask “Isn’t my all functioning life, happy kids, adventures, poser pics, deep faith and joyful moments a testament that I am surviving and living a good life despite being sad?”

I wish people would realise that life isn’t easy to live with a piece of you missing, and yet I still do.

I wished they could see that however small they see a trigger of grief to be, it isn’t small at all. If its enough to make someone broken hearted all over again and sobbing, then that’s a big deal! They just need more love, more understanding, a listening ear and patience. The triggers are irrelevant, it’s not a problem to be fixed or solved because often you don’t expect them at all and so can’t help how you feel in any given moment or situation… we don’t need analysing, we just need love and compassion, and an understanding that any trigger is just more evidence, and a tell tale sign that the loss of a baby ripples into life for many years to come, therefore there is no quick fix for baby loss. We will not get over it, but with a good support system, we can learn how to live with it – through the highs and lows of life.

It doesn’t matter how many times we do the whole anniversary thing, the whole starting back at school thing, Christmas, family holidays, days out …. it doesn’t make it easier to know she’s not here with us. Time doesn’t make it easier to have a birthday and no child here to celebrate with. Time doesn’t make it easier to know that each year that passes so do so many days of no milestones or proud parent pics!

Time doesn’t erase that there are still so many unbought gifts, unwritten cards, uneaten cakes. It doesn’t erase having her not start school, or no presents under the tree for her at Christmas. Time cannot change the fact that we own a grave where she rests.

There are things I will never know about my 3rd daughter and things I will never get to experience with her, and because of that, I don’t know how I can ever get over those things? Each new year and chapter brings a minefield of emotions and triggers, and whilst I can see how I can learn to live with it in each moment, how I can lead a hearty life despite it being a part of our journey it’s still a struggle some days to have to pass through and tackle each one.

Yes I can see now how I can survive the waves of grief, however big and painful they are. But I am sorry, I cannot “get over” my child dying, and I don’t think I ever will or want to. I want to remember her, celebrate her if I can, and hold to the few memories we have of her being in our family.

One thing I have learnt from women far older and wiser than me, is that to have a happy life, you have to embrace that fact that you will never get over this, but you can learn to live with it!

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Twilight books were a big part of our newly married life and whilst not a natural lover of fiction, I did enjoy them (a lot). Back in the day I would read them on a night when first married, whilst Nathan went to play football. It was a great balance for us to “do our own thing”! I thoroughly enjoyed each one and fell in love with the characters the anticipation of it all…the fight, power, love story/triangles, and then finally each of the films too!

These days Twilight may seem like a such an immature interest for a now 30 something mother – and it certainly feels like a lifetime ago that my thoughts were taken away to the land of Vampires, werewolves and romance with the Twilight books. But, with no WI-FI still here at the new house (BT issues!), I have resorted to watching films out of our DVD collection, and decided a couple of weeks ago that to re-watch the Twilight saga again would be both nostalgic and joyful!

One thing I failed to account for however is how different my life is now, and how emotional it would leave me feeling for days after. I never anticipated it would, and then it did! As a result I find myself in this frustrating cycle of being annoyed and sad all at the same time. Sad for how it leaves me, annoyed that there isn’t the same joy in the things that I once loved so much!! It, to me, is one of the most frustrating things about life after loss; it’s this feeling that things just aren’t the same anymore…simple things like a film I loved and made me so happy, suddenly becomes tarnished because they hold triggers and reminders of what I have lost and how much pain lies beneath the surface. I suddenly see them from a new angle…read deeper into them or are more easily overcome with emotion.

Almost 3 years on I mostly know my triggers and know the what to expect in certain situations. I know how to protect myself and when I need more strength for things ahead. I know when not to shy away so much, and just ride the waves of grief that will inevitably come, because it is what it is – my baby died and as a result I feel sad at certain things more than others. The hardest part though are these random and annoying moments…the one’s where I am unprepared, and especially when it is with things I felt safe with and once loved so much that are the trigger of all that reflection and sadness. Like I say, I really do find it to be one of the most frustrating and hardest things about life after loss. Its like trying to walk but always tripping. It’s learning to walk through life again!

I never imagined “The Twilight Saga” to one of these triggers though!! I never Imagined Twilight of all things to remind me so much that my baby died and life will never look or feel the same again!

I forgot that the song “1,000 years” was part of the finale – the same song we chose to carry our daughter out to at her funeral.

I never imagined I’d feel a connection to Bella fighting for the life of her unborn child.. and then wondering again if I did enough?

I didn’t think fictional tales of death would have me balling, because I knew how they felt now. Or that the constant talk of “immortals” would leave me wondering where my daughter is and thoughts of life after death (Deep I know!).

I realise as I write this, and I say it often to Nathan too that even if I wanted to forget the fact my baby died (which I don’t) I couldn’t! It is actually impossible to “move on” from something so significant and even traumatic in your life, because somewhere down the line there is always going to be something to remind you of those days and moments when it was all so fresh and raw. I realise that time teaches you how to live and function normally with the pain of loss, but that it doesn’t completely erase it – to do so would erase the love and longing to be with them again.

I never anticipated a much loved film series would be the source of such great reflection and therefore become a trigger for my grief. I thought it was safe, but unfortunately this is one of the bigger frustrations and battles of life after loss and living with a new normal. You suddenly exist in a place where joy and sadness’s are suddenly intertwined and where your eyes see things, and you heart feels things, so very differently than before. I exist in a place where my daughter did die, and because of that loss in every fibre of being, something will always remind me and things will never be the same again, and that’s often a hard pill to swallow!

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15 babies die every day in the UK before, during or shortly after birth. That’s 15 too many! Whilst this has dropped slightly in recent years, we are still 3 times slower than most European countries working to reduce the number of people experiencing baby loss, and as someone that is now one of those stats, I find it unacceptable!

Being bereaved parents its utterly heartbreaking to imagine anyone having to face such a tragedy as that of not being able to bring their precious baby home. The thought of someone being told that their baby has died doesn’t bare thinking about, and yet we never imagine that we might become the 1!

As I now befriend at Sands, I see on a regular basis (outside of my experience) what 15 a day looks like – It looks like stillbirth, premature birth, infection, a weak cervix, illness, chromosome defects and in some cases – neglect!

I see the pain, the loneliness, the longing for their baby. I see the confusion, the broken lives and dreams, and the all consuming sadness and anger. I see the mother who nurtured that baby for months to be told they could never raise them. I hear of heartache, funerals and the ignorance of others. And I see a longing to be understood.

But I also see strength as they try to navigate life without their precious baby. And amidst all of this that they are trying to make sense of, I find it very sad that many still fail to realise that the death of a baby is something that will affect them for the rest of their life. It might not be as raw as those first days, weeks and months, but without a doubt, you don’t just grieve for a few months or a year or two. Losing a baby means losing a lifetime with your child. It is something that changes you immediately and thrusts you onto a path that feels so far from anything you have ever known, and yet baby loss is still very much a taboo subject (and one people talk about less and less as time passes).

It amazes me that so many babies die each day and people still find it hard to say it or accept someone in their loss. I find it so weird that we are made to feel weird for talking about our children or remembering them – just because they’re dead!

This September (the 16th to be precise) my 3rd child “Poppy” Should be turning 3. This year we should be anxiously awaiting her taking a big step and starting nursery. We should have already had 2 birthdays celebrating her in our family and we should have tonnes of pics of our little tot getting into mischief, and enjoying life with her 3 other siblings. There should be one more face in those family pics we take each month and one more around the dinner table. My 5 seater Picasso shouldn’t be enough and I should know the colour of her eyes, the size of her feet, the things she loves and the foods she hates. I should be able to hold her when she’s sad and tickle her and chase her round whilst she giggles.

Her siblings should know her as their friend and ally – not just a memory.

Poppy died 2 days before my due date, and was stillborn on my due date. Whilst half expected with a previous diagnosis of CHD and Trisomy 18, nothing prepared me for how broken I would feel and how dull life would become for a season.

I never imagined how awful it would be to be in labour knowing what was coming. How I would feel awkward to hold my baby because she wasn’t alive. How I would be so numb and how I prayed that it wasn’t true.

No one prepared me for people not helping me how I needed or friends leaving my life because they couldn’t deal with me in my grief. I never imagine how painful it would be to say goodbye and bury one of my children and then feel so alone for so long. And whilst there were amazing people along the way to support, with time passing this too became less frequent and loneliness was a far too familiar feeling.

I never imagined feeling so awkward for saying one of kids names out loud and remembering her.

At almost 3 years on I still cry, I still feel it and I still miss her every day. We often speak her name between us and reflect upon a life lost, but the difference now is that I have almost mastered the art of keeping a lid on my grief (though in some things its impossible) and know (mostly) who I can speak to about it.

I hate time for only one reason, and that is as it passes so do peoples interest and awareness of your pain and loss. At almost 3 years it is rare for people to speak of it and common for people to change the subject. Especially since her little sister was born last year, there is more reason for people to focus on what we have as opposed to what we lost.

As time passes our loss becomes something that happened a few years ago and not something we live with everyday.

But our loss is our daughter too. Our loss is a member of our family… the talking and reflection help us keep her in the present and not as a memory. Talking helps me to slowly begin to make sense of that Sunday night that doctor told me there was no heartbeat. It helps me make sense of birthing and holding my lifeless child. It helps me make sense of the day my husband lowered her tiny casket into a 2ft grave.

Talking reminds me she was here and is ours.

This June support SANDS is helping to reduce the number of babies dying each day in the UK through their #15babiesaday campaign. Why? Because 15 babies is too many and no one should have to live this nightmare! If you can help please do. They continually help me carry my grief and find joy in life (and feel a little more normal) despite being the 1 in 15!

In memory of Poppy Quinn Smith 16/09/2014 #1ofthe15. 

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Just this morning Alice got up on all fours and properly started to crawl (Hooray!). She has been doing the bum shuffles, backwards worm, rolls and some commando stuff for some time now to get where she wants to, but I must say that I am super excited to see her crawling! Great timing too as tomorrow she will be 10 months old.

Here at 10 months I finally feel that I am used to her and relaxed with her. I guess what I mean is, that I have accepted she’s here to stay and with that it’s hard to imagine life without her here. It’s at that point with a baby where they seem like they’ve just always been in the family, even though its only been a few months, and you couldn’t imagine them not being one of yours. I have for so long being worried for one thing and another (that ultimately boils down to a fear of another loss), that to no longer look at her in disbelief feels lovely. She has slotted in wonderfully, is a light in all of our lives and a great daughter and sister.

I think with all of that, it has meant that it has been the easiest and most enjoyable with Alice, from the angle of parenting after loss. I have had a few low days, but these were down to things with SANDS, and that will always take me a day or so to feel right again because of the nature of the meetings.

Last week though she accompanied me on one of the speeches I did for SANDS sharing my story, it was good (and a comfort) to be able to have her with me. It felt so natural that she was there, and it was a great opportunity to have her do something with me about her other big sister “Poppy”. It obviously was a heavy day (reliving those memories are never easy), but Alice was calm and chilled and it was a rare moment I had to reflect on what their relationship might have been or will be, and how Alice is helping keep her sisters memory and legacy alive. I wonder daily what having a toddler and baby would be like again with their personalities, and I wonder how having a sick child with CHD would have been too day to day. Hearing Alice was healthy was wonderful, and is wonderful of course, but we loved Poppy with all of her ailments too and  were ready to go down that road. I know I would have adapted and become her expert for her, and sometimes even that makes me sad…that I didn’t get a chance to care for her medically as well as all of the caring that naturally comes as a mother. I think of that a lot when I meet Drs and health professionals at these things because we go beyond the Trisomy 18 diagnosis and talk about all of the other things she had too as a result. Of course initially it was one with out the other and for 12 weeks that is what we had in our minds as life with Poppy.

All of the medical stuff and of course her passing has meant that I have been rather paranoid with Alice when she gets sick, but this last month, when she had a good bought of Chicken pox (which she handled like a trouper), it didn’t bother me. I wasn’t panicked or worried, we just got on with it and it ended up being a relief to get that one out of the way in this first year.

Developmentally she has started pulling up on the furniture and taking the odd wobbly step sideways. She throws things and laughs, babbles lots, signs milk when you sign food and bawls her eyes out when dinner is finished. She has developed way more cheekiness, cute laughs and for some reason loves to wake every morning at 6am!!! She sleeps through which is fine, but 6am is a little too early. She also growls at us if we do something she doesn’t life, pants and slaps the tray on her highchair for more food and makes the most wonderful and hilarious noises.

We have a great routine, she is a great eater, loving especially satsumas, pitta bread, tomatoes, tuna, chicken, roast dinners, pasta and well pretty much everything!!! I love to hold and cuddle her and just have a feeling she is going to be funny like Megan when she grows up. I love spending my days with my little Rainbow girl and can’t believe how fast she is growing!

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