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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This Monday at our SANDS meeting, one of my friends and I decided it might be nice to do a craft with everyone. With the approach of mothers day this weekend, it just tends to be a more sensitive time for bereaved mothers and we find that crafts not only help us create (hello therapy), but our poor skills in that department also mean we tend to laugh together along the way as we share what’s in our hearts. We thought that tealight holders would be a nice thing to do as then we could all light them to remember our babies on mothers day.

I am sharing this with you because whilst it was something I did in my journey of loss with my fellow bereaved mothers, I also think that on a general scale it will make a lovely craft to do with kids as a gift for someone. Ethan actually asked if he could make one when he saw it yesterday morning and I then thought what a lovely activity to do with them too. The thrifty lass inside of me got to thinking a homemade tealight holder would make a nice and inexpensive gift for mums, Grandma’s, aunts or teacher’s for Mothers day or any occasion really and would be so personal. So here you go –

Homemade Tealight Holders

You will need 

*A glass or jam jar  (these were 50p from asda)

*Glass pens

*Embellishments (we used washi tape and stick on diamantes but lace and ribbons too would work)

*Tea lights (available all over, though the supermarkets have some lovely scented ones).

Then just go for it…Draw patterns, images, Lettering. Maybe add some tape or sparkles. Maybe some burlap and lace…

We all chose to do them differently with hearts and quotes drawn on some, to me with a letter P for poppy. One of the dad’s even got involved with tape and lots of sparkle for his wife. I loved how it was just personal to each of us for our baby, and I imagine when Ethan and Megs have a go they’ll be different again.

They are/were super easy and look pretty cute, so why not just go for it… Make someone a little tealight holder with a scented tealight. They will be lovely, cheap and greatly appreciated i’m sure.

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I am sat here trying to the remember the last time I cried over the loss of Poppy. Like really let myself feel it and have a good cry? Perhaps it was a couple of months ago leading up to her birthday? I honestly don’t really know. Only that nowadays those crying moments are way less frequent. I have however had a lot of moments where the emotions rise up and I take a deep breath or stop talking. And then I have had those moments where a vivid scene from my pregnancy plays out in my memories and I have such strong feelings of anger and upset about it all again. But crying? rarely in recent months have I cried..or rather I would say let myself cry.

Whilst I am more of an emotional person now, with grief always under the surface, I also have developed a great skill in keeping a lid on it. Its something I feel quite proud of – I am no longer a blubbering mess and can function well in every day life. But as painful as it still is at time to feel, the further we move away from that time she was in our lives, the more and more awkward it seems to be or for people to go over again. We have another baby, we have a sparkle in our eyes. less grey clouds around us … what possibly could I be sad about still?

So no I haven’t cried, But I suppose I have needed to.

I needed to cry that day I laid with Alice looking at the trees and sunshine through the window. When the thought crossed my mind about Poppy’s syndrome and what having a disabled child would be like. Yes I needed to cry that I missed those moments of simplicity with her.

I needed to cry after my visit to Ikea when I excitedly picked out some gifts for Alice for Christmas and as I put them away at home I felt guilt that I had missed it with Poppy.

I needed to cry on Remembrance day with Poppy’s everywhere.

I needed to cry when I picked out a plaque for her grave instead of a gift for Christmas.

I needed to cry when I pretended I wasn’t insulted by a brash comment on her pregnancy.

Its no wonder then that I was caught off guard at this weeks SANDS meeting when out of nowhere I began talking about something and I suddenly realised how I felt about a lot of these other things. So the lid off so to speak and as I began sharing about a simple idea I’d had to preserve Poppy’s memory, my little jokes and banter I have at these meetings went out of the window and it hit me like a tonne of bricks how sad I have been feeling, and how very little I have from her.

I used to, and still do apologise when I am crying in front of people. I find it a bit embarrassing and I also think it probably has a lot to do with me seeing it as a weakness and that maybe I should be able to control my emotions? Sometimes its because I worry the person doesn’t want the responsibility of offering comfort, and other times it just stems from the amount of awkward moments around my loss where I have ended up feeling a need to reassure the other person when it is me that is suffering. And so I go through my life day to day, balancing my emotions so as not to feel awkward, all the time forgetting that there are people that know how I feel, or that want to hear, and couldn’t give 2 hoots if I was a snotty mess talking about the death of my baby all over again…And I think it was as I remembered I was with the latter, I sat there crying and whilst I needed no excuses I still apologised for doing so.

I haven’t cried for such a long time, but I let myself. With people that got it, again I let myself feel what I needed to and I cried for a bit.

I cried about the fact that I have no family pictures of us all together, but that I have a house full of stuff from each of my other kids. It felt so painful to think that all I have is a small box in the airing cupboard with her life in it and what if something happened to those precious items? The truth is there would be no trace of her life, no physical things to hold and look at from my baby. As each month of life passes I accumulate memories with my other kids. If a photo is damaged we can take another…they can draw me another picture, but with her things? There is no going back, there are no more tomorrows to get new ones, that box is her life, and that is an incredibly sad thought.

My life is very blessed but it is also very unfair, and sometimes I just need to allow myself to cry about it! Burying our emotions to appear strong and in control does no good….Sometimes, to move forward and open our hearts to the joys in life I know that we have to ride those waves and let it wash over us so we can see the beauties of life again.

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