A few weeks ago I was driving from the coast when I saw a beautiful field of Poppies. Immediately my thoughts turned to our baby girl Poppy (our stillborn daughter in 2014) and memories and wonderment ran through my mind. I often will say how hard it is to have her missing from every picture I take, from every memory we share and from every ordinary moment of life.

With a name like Poppy it is easy to find associations and little keepsakes to help us reflect on her, but what I have wanted most is pictures. Pictures of all of my kids, pictures that remind me as the years pass by that I have had 4 kids and not just the 3 little beans everyone sees us with. The Poppy fields seemed like a great setting – a great place to show my 3rd child in pictures.

Since she has died we have used the Poppies growing at the side of roads, fields and parks, to illustrate her still living in heaven to the kids. We often will say “Oooo Poppies, maybe she’s been here and has left these to remind us!”.  It is an ordinary moment on days we see them growing, to be excited at the thought of her. The kids use them (like hundreds of others with the wars) to remember and talk of their sister.

I thought of different set ups we could have, but in the end, and with some tips from my friends at Sands, a simple family shoot in a Poppy field seemed right. As we passed some Poppy fields on Thursday I coaxed the kids out of the car for a “Practice run”, but of course things with kids rarely go to plan. Between shoving each other, whining and my battery dying (don’t get me started on that), we ended up with only a couple of semi decent ones. I look at them though and see my world in one picture. And whilst I still want to try and get us all in a Poppy field for a “Proper” family photo shoot, but for now I see the beauty of my living kids next to the simple beauties of a Poppy field, and for one ordinary little moment 2 worlds combine to capture my blessings.

I will never have all 4 in pics (or even my arms), but little moments like this along the way briefly fill my heart with joy!

The Ordinary Moments
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I began blogging about 2.5 years ago as a form of therapy and as an outlet. It was during in our 3rd pregnancy when we not only found out we were having another girl, but that she also had a serious form of congenital heart disease. Half of what we were told I had never even heard of and I could barely make sense of what was going on, let alone reiterate it to friends and family. I also found that life suddenly was heavy and the foreseeable future would be spent in hospital with major surgeries, followed by a life of uncertainty. It was awful, it was hard, it was nothing a pregnancy should be, and it was just all emotional.

It seemed to be a natural time to begin blogging as I needed a place to tell the details concisely to everyone without always having to repeat it, (and a place to let it all out). It was to be my space to share the highs and lows of life, and something to ensure I drew the positives from family life to maintain a sense of normality and balance – And so “The Hearty Life” was born.

It was less about image quality and more about just getting it all out. It created a channel of communication, but also as a way of focusing on our blessings despite the trial we were facing. It was a way to say how I felt when I couldn’t vocalise that to the people around me, and it was a way to release the ever building pains of our life! Sometimes it was the trigger for a day out instead of staying in, and sometimes it was just my journal.

 

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As things progressed, and she was later diagnosed with a life limiting syndrome (Trisomy 18), and then later born sleeping, my world as I knew it began to collapse and was changed forever. My blog was now my life line.

I began to look for positives to write about…the beams between the clouds, but I mostly wrote about the pain of losing a baby at term; the darkness and loneliness of grief, and the struggles of never meeting her alive or getting to raise her with my other kids.

There were angry posts, desperate posts, raising awareness posts and down right sad posts.

Some posts offended people. Some posts helped and inspired people. And some posts seemed to be an invitation to people to tell me how I should I be handling my loss…

But as much as it upset me to have negativity and nasty comments, I didn’t care really because it was helping me to survive my loss. Writing it all down gave me a voice and a place to express it. It helped me, not only to show people what life after loss was and is like, but it helped me to try and make sense of what was going on in life. The loss of a baby cannot be fluffed up, and unfortunately that isn’t always easy for people to read. Grief has many elements aside from sadness, and that isn’t easy for people to read, but its not easy to live through it either, and unless you have experienced such a raw grief as that of burying your baby the week after their birth, I believe you have no authority to judge another’s journey or how they handle it. To not write it at fear of upsetting the people around me, and to not get that out would have certainly killed me.

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My blog helped me through the worst experience of my life, and each passing week and month it helped to navigate me slowly through the foreign lands of baby loss. It helped me to function as it was a place to focus my depleting energies into something I enjoyed – writing and taking pictures! Grief stripped me of everything yet my blogging helped me cling onto my passions and beliefs… it helped me to stay afloat by sharing the moments of joy we were still able to enjoy as family despite the crippling pain we were carrying. In a strange way it all made me feel a little better and see my healing journey, and yet it confused me that people were sure I shouldn’t be writing it?! Surly the benefits far outweighed the clumsy or angry words of a grieving mother?

From therapy to hobby…to passion

Blogging now is less focus about awareness and more about sharing my life and our family as a whole. Writing our story is one of my favourite hobbies, and the longest journal I have ever kept! Working with brands and online work, most certainly is a fabulous job and I have realised over the last couple of years that I just love to write; be it about emotions or our family life, a product, place or our adventures. I truly love it.

My blog has given me a way to really identify what my passions in life are, and to gain joy from experiencing and sharing them with others. Yes whilst it still includes a chunk about baby loss, grief and parenting after loss, (because this is still a major thing in my life), it is also a place to share my life as a mother and individual, my personal loves of theatre, food, style, bargains and just all of the little joys along the way that make life great (“hearty”!). To remove any of those would remove its roots, my beginnings, my journey and my life now.

I enjoy my connections with other bloggers and I have developed great joy in photographing and capturing moments and the things in life that make me smile! I adore reviewing places and products and working on campaigns with brands. I love it all from my musings to my reviews, because the bottom line is that through writing I have found myself in the darkest chapter of my life. I have gone from having a blog for therapy and in 2.5 years become a passionate blogger and content creator very much aware and confident in what in life make me happy and creates “The Hearty Life” for us!

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So everyday that an email drops into my inbox with an opportunity, or a fellow blogger or reader comments or tweets me, my soul does a little skip and happy dance because I am just so incredibly grateful for my blog and my life as a blogger. It is never something I saw myself doing, but it is something I now love and am very passionate about. I am especially grateful for my daughter Poppy, because having her meant that I chose to start it, and whilst her life is a tragedy in our history, this is her legacy…the way I keep her memory alive to the world. It is a good thing that has come from her brief life, to not only save me, help others and raise awareness of loss, but I see it as her gift to me and our family through the beautiful moments we can remember and the simply wonderful things we get to work on and experience together!

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Blogging in 2017

As I stand at the start of the road that is 2017, I am hoping to stop faffing with my ever changing header and colour scheme, and rather channel my efforts into improving my photography (and hopefully invest in camera)! I need to be better with my time management so that I can read more books on an evening (another goal I have) and not feel stressed over something I love so much. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind a dabble in video and vlogging too (though I cringe at myself with this one).

I wish for a year of more adventures, more fabulous opportunities (and little ones too) in the areas I love, and more connections in the blogging community. I have several specific blog goals regarding my stats and social presence, and some personal one too about travel, reading, being more stylish (ha), but overall from 2017 I want to feel this continued joy and satisfaction from my life as a mother, and of course a writer and blogger. I want to relish in the fact that something wonderful for me and my family grew out of something so devastating, and I would hope that the people that love us, see what a huge blessing that is.

I dont think I will ever (at least for the foreseeable future) stop blogging, tweeting, and writing about my life, our adventures and our loss…it is my passion now, and it is my life. This is me! Blogging is something that makes me smile and brings me a lot of joy, it reminds me who I am and what I love in life, and it is very special as it is a legacy to my daughter. I like that for the first time in my life that the majority of my personal, and “work” goals all intertwine in the same thing and can be accomplished by that same medium – My blog!

I am, for the first new year since she left, excited to see what 2017 brings to us and creates for us.

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Run Jump Scrap!
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My biggest fear (aside from arachnids) would most certainly be to lose my teeth! I have had many a recurring dream in my life of teeth crumbling, being excessively wobbly, or just plain falling out, and they terrify me! Closely behind the whole teeth falling out fears, are my insecurities about my teeth generally. I don’t like the colour, the little wonky one on the bottom, the fillings, the time I had a root canal, and the fact Iv’e had to have a couple removed.

Whilst they are generally okay and I work hard to take care of them now, and whilst I have perfected my smile with teeth showing, thinking I do actually look quite pretty, there are still improvements I frequently envision. It is because of the latter and less of my insecurities, that whilst out of comfort zone I was excited when The Centre for Advanced Dentistry Yorkshire got in touch and asked me to share my thoughts on my smile…(so here goes!).

Thoughts on my Smile

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Be it out of fear of something actually happening to them, or just plain insecurity, but talking about my teeth and drawing attention to them is something I dislike very much. I know without a doubt, hands down, that I am one of the three quarters of people whose confidence would improve if I had work done on my smile. I also live in hope that doing so would conquer my teeth falling out nightmares too!

Its annoying really because I actually love to smile. Sometimes I hide behind my smile and wear it as a mask, but mostly I genuinely love to laugh out loud and give a big cheesy grin when faced with a camera. Smiling is good for the soul and it make us beautiful, I really believe that. I have learnt that smiling feels fantastic and that whatever I face in life, one thing to be sure of is that to smile will see me through, or rather finding things that make me smile will help keep me in a good place!

Despite loving a good grin and chuckle, I find that any comments geared towards my teeth, my smile and my mouth generally all make me uncomfortable, cringe, and surface feelings of insecurity. They at one time would have upset me, but with time I have increased in confidence a little more, and more so just cringe and shy away. Only in the last 10 years have I made a conscious effort to over come this and smile with my teeth, because up until then I thought I looked weird, or even unattractive if I did. I now realise it looks so much better.

IMG_20161210_124503As a child I don’t think I did great at taking care of my teeth, and know for a fact that I ate far too many sweets…the evidence is in memories of fillings and a missing molar. But this was short lived, as when adolescence hit I became more than serious at taking care of my oral health, and very eager to see the dentist. We worked together to fix my gappy/wonky smile with a retainer and some minor cosmetic dentistry, and within a year or 2 my confidence had sky rocketed.

Perhaps I am one of the weird ones, but dentists don’t bother me. They never have and if i’m honest I actually enjoy going. It’s kinda odd really when you think about it, that for someone who is so awkward and insecure about their teeth, and for someone who has had so much work done, would be so happy to go to a place all about the very thing they squirm at! But quite possibly it is due to the realisation that they can cure the dissatisfaction’s I have, and so I tolerate drills, needles or a general check up.

Over the last 16 years I have continued to regularly have my smile checked out by the professionals, discovered whitening toothpastes, and had someone fall in love with what he describes as “a beautiful smile”.All have helped me widen my smile and boosted my confidence, and they have helped me look at pictures and feel happy and pretty with what I see.

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I even wear an array of lipsticks on a (mostly) daily basis which of course draw attention to the very area of my face I have shy’d from in the past. But whilst I am in a better place with how I see my smile, and have so many things to smile about (and do smile about) daily, I still have the niggling teeth falling out fears at the back of my mind, and the strong desire to have them whitened. I know if I had a tonne of money I would totally go for veneers (another dream I’ve had). But for now, here in my 30’s, I work hard to take care of what I have and hope for the day (hopefully this year) when I can have them whitened. I know without a doubt that doing so would tip me over the “secure/insecure about my teeth” line.

So if like me you are considering cosmetic or implant dentistry in 2017 to improve your smile in someway, and are lucky enough to be in West Yorkshire, then why not pop over to The Centre for Advanced dentistry and grab a quote! They offer patients an array of dental treatments to the very highest standards in Cosmetic Dentistry, Implant Dentistry and General Dentistry, and are regularly helping people transform their smile.

*I have been compensated for writing this post

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When I was younger the theatre was something you did if you were a little bit posh or a student of the Arts. I can’t quite remember when the first time I visited a theatre was, perhaps a primary school trip or something. But I do know that from a young age I was very much attracted to stages, music and performance…it just drew me in and everything about it made me happy.

I feel strongly now as a mother that as it makes me excited, and as I have such fond memories associated to theatre experiences, that it is only natural that I would want for my kids to enjoy it too (or at least see the beauty in something I am passionate about). Of course then I was over the moon to be invited last week to see Rudolf at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and even more excited to give Alice her first taste of theatre (theatre before food…we must be posh!). Whilst I had no idea what to expect both from her or the play, I just hoped she would be chilled out and that it would be a lovely afternoon out doing something I enjoy with my littlest…and it was just that.

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Rudolf sees Santa’s most famous reindeer discover the importance of kindness on a magical journey of discovery and friendship in this witty, laugh out loud, family fun performance.

All he has ever wanted to do is pull Santa’s sleigh, “but only the best reindeer get to that. And the best reindeer don’t have red noses”.  It is such a lovely play, where you get to feel a part of Rudolf’s journey, from worrying he doesn’t fit in and feeling like he’ll never get the chance to pull Santa’s sleigh, to meeting the kind Ugly Duckling and many humorous adventure’s in between…the question throughout though is – will he make friends and fulfil his destiny?

RPS 011- Mitesh Soni and Peter Hobday in Rudolf. Photography by Anthony Robling.

Both Mitesh Soni and Peter Hobday were brilliant! They interacted wonderfully with the audience and continued well through kids chatting, babies whining and people rustling…it really is a family friendly performance!

The majority of it saw Alice standing on my knee staring at the stage. She loved what she was seeing, and it dawned on me that theatre is the perfect sensorial experience for babies and youngsters. For Ethan and Megan I know they would see the entertainment factor, and are drawn in to the story line…their imaginations run wild, and they ask a tonne of questions throughout any theatre experience. But for Alice the joy came through the lighting, movement and sound. She watched and followed the actors and with each sound effect and lighting change her body would jump, move and fixate. She seemed to love what was going on and it was only in the last 15 minutes that she became tired and fidgety, which was easily controlled with a feed!

We had a lovely afternoon together with friends and I just thought how perfect the performance was to introduce young children to theatre this Christmas. The whole thing isn’t very long (maybe 45-50mins), but is engaging and imaginative throughout. It has elements that appeal to everyone in the family from babies to older kids alike, and is a wonderful Christmas adventure that is the perfect after school or half term treat this Christmas time for your family!

RPS 005 - Mitesh Soni and Peter Hobday in Rudolf. Photography by Anthony Robling. RPS 004 - Mitesh Soni and Peter Hobday in Rudolf. Photography by Anthony Robling. RPS 002 - Mitesh Soni and Peter Hobday in Rudolf. Photography by Anthony Robling.So why not head down and ignite the imaginations of your children in this delightful story of the true meaning of Christmas. I found it funny, heartwarming, captivating and clever, and just long enough with a baby in tow! It is on NOW at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and runs until the 31st December…so be quick – it is selling out fast.

*Thank you to West Yorkshire Playhouse for inviting us along to preview Rudolf in return for a review. Images of the performance were taken by Anthony Robling and provided for the purpose of this review.

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