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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I remember a week or two after Poppy had passed away and how I realised that my world was so different now, and I not only grieved and longed for my baby, but I grieved for the life that was before too. Things were so very different I didn’t even have the words. I just felt lost – lonely, sad, angry, confused and yes, lost. My view of life was tarnished and my way of thinking deepened and became so different. I carried a new identity as a “Bereaved Mother“, and in my vulnerability I didn’t yet realise that most people couldn’t cope with talking about babies and death in the same sentence.

I longed for understanding and clarity.

I longed for someone to know my heart and how I was feeling.

I longed for direction and guidance through each anniversary and milestone.

I longed to find people that just got it.

I longed to just be able to talk about it…all of it, even the parts I hid from my closest friends and family. I needed to get it out and start to make sense of it.

I found that place at Leeds SANDS just 5 weeks after Poppy had died. As I sat in a room filled with other mothers, fathers and grandparents whom at various late stages had lost babies too, I found my comfort zone again. I remember thinking how awful it was that these people were suffering like me, and that it seemed to be happening to so many too. But, I couldn’t help feeling how blessed we were to have found one another and that that bunch of ordinary people were to me so special because they were the ones that got it.

There were certain people in my life I wished would have had the opportunity to come with me and share in it, that they might have been able to understand more of what I was experiencing too, and that there were similarities in others and what they were suffering. But I think that to most people looking in and not understanding it would just seem a depressing place (or at the least an incredibly sad room). Perhaps we would all seem bitter as we spoke of the pain that comes from seeing others pregnant for the 1st time after you have buried your own baby? Maybe a little nuts over the things we found funny? But it is none of those things, far from it; everyone’s feelings are the natural result of baby loss and with each of them in their pain, both Nathan and I found people that got it, got me, and understood our journey.

I have always believed since then that those who do choose to judge a bereaved parent or support group should count their blessings that they simply cannot understand it, because it is at SANDS you can truly be you. You can cry, be angry, cry, laugh, joke, cry, listen and be heard. You are accepted for whoever you are and at whatever stage in your grief you are at. They know (we know), what loosing a baby means and does to you and would never judge your behaviour or words as a result of loosing the most precious thing.

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I learn’t at Sands how to be kind to myself whilst I hit rock bottom. I learnt how to keep going and how to be me through all of this. Sands gave me love, friendship, laughter and acceptance. They gave me a channel to release my emotions (good or bad), and from their support I found direction – they saved me in my desperation and I will always feel indebted to them. It seemed natural then that with time, and when I was in a better place emotionally, that I would want to give back and naturally I feel its my time now.

Alice is here and in a routine, and its lovely that I am able to leave her now for a few hours between feeds to fulfil commitments I want to make to sands. On Thursday I attended their general meeting and Volunteered to take a chunk of responsibility in helping with events and their media/social media. I feel that not only have they given so much to me, but my talents and knowledge in social media have only grown because I had and lost Poppy and decided to start a blog to write our families story… she gave me this and so I want to use it to help others too, and I want to give something back after I have been so richly blessed from associations with my Sands friends.

Baby loss sadly is not going to go away anytime soon, and whilst I will never know in my life why my baby had to die or why she was gone too soon. I will not just live my life with it being “one of those things”. I will and do want to use my experiences to help others that unfortunately will follow. I want to use my talents and flare for life to help build Leeds Sands and those who attend it… I hope in the new year to be a befriender and complete my training for that, as well as doing loads of wonderful things in my newly appointed role as their “Events and Media Manager” (possibly self titled but they love it). It makes me so happy to be doing something so worthwhile, and to think that I can help others in the way I was helped 2 years ago – what a great charity to volunteer for and to be spending my time on, they are an incredible bunch of people and its the perfect source to really understand what losing a baby means.

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