Grief Tore Us Apart

Losing a child has to be one of the hardest things for a couple to go through. Someone that was part of each of them and that was to be part of both of their lives has gone so suddenly and they each grieve differently for the same loss.
From my observations this can do one of two things to a couple, it can either bring them closer together, a shared experience, a need to protect each other and look after one another, or it can drive them apart, fuelled by misunderstanding and fear of the future.

My experience is that it has driven us apart.

My miscarriage has slowly broken our relationship. Grief has festered around it slowly breaking down everything we had together.
How we both dealt with my rainbow pregnancy was the final straw, our grief made us see it differently and that stopped us seeing eye to eye. I need this little boy, not to replace my daughter but I need someone to love, he said he did too, he pushed for us to try again, but when faced with the reality of another baby he didn’t know how to cope with it, he shut down and pulled away from me.

We tried so hard for months to make us work, to get past this, but in the end we have just lost too much.

And now I have to work out what happens next. I am going to be bringing Jackson into a broken home, the exact future I never wanted for my child. I will have to look into what benefits I can get and go out and get a job as soon as he is born. Again, I wanted to spend time with my son, I didn’t want to be one of the mums who never sees their child, but I have to make sure we can live. I have to be practical.

The last couple of days have been hard. Every time I wash my hands or pick something up and feel that my engagement ring isn’t there it hits home again, it hits me like a blow in the face that the future I had planned for my little family has come crashing down around me. I have found myself so often just sitting staring into space unable to comprehend what has happened and how so much can change in just a couple of days. I should be used to this, my future has changed so often in the last year.

So now I need to get my practical head on. I am relying on my parents to support me as I gave up my job during my first pregnancy as my fiancé agreed to support me, and now I have a mortgage and bills, a house to finish before Jackson comes, and a cat to consider, not to mention I now have ALL the baby things to buy. This will have to be living on a budget, and a strict one at that. We won’t be rocking round the city in a Bugaboo pram but as long as it does the job the brand doesn’t matter, my son will be loved – already is loved – more than he will ever comprehend.

Still Standing, But Still Not OK

I’d say that since losing Effy-Mae over a year ago I have now got myself to a point that 99% of the time I am ok. I don’t mean I don’t think about her, she’s on my mind a lot, more so now I have Jackson. Everything I do with him I think that I should have done this 10 months ago with her, but I have got myself to a point that most of the time I can think about her with a smile on my face, glad she was mine, but then there are the evenings like this one when something happens to make me think and I end up sitting up in bed in tears feeling like total crap.

Today it was a simple mistake the physio made, and my on the spot reaction. I had my appointment to check my tummy muscle gap after having Jackson and the physio had obviously seen in my notes that this was my second pregnancy, but not any more than that. She asked a few questions about it asking how quickly I had returned to shape after my last pregnancy and I told her quite truthfully that I hadn’t got that big last time, but didn’t explain. Later on she asked if my previous baby had been a boy or a girl. Again I had quite easily said that she had been a girl. But then later on she caught me off guard and asked how old my little girl was now. At this point I clammed up and I actually can’t even remember what I said but I mumbled something about not having another. And this is what gets me. I don’t know why I clammed up. I talk about Effy-Mae. I do! I have learnt when to bring her up and when to leave it to avoid awkward silences, but with medical people I talk about her. So why today did I not? Why did I clam up and not know what to say? Why wasn’t my response that I had lost her 21 weeks into my pregnancy? Why wasn’t that the first thing to come into my head?
I feel like I let her down today.

I am now sat here trying to find music to play to Jackson to see if it helps him to sleep, probably a stupid thing to do when I’m already feeling emotional after today, but I’m realising that I can’t listen to a lot more music than I thought. I avoided listening to music during my birth with Effy-Mae so I didn’t associate any music with that experience, but then I listened to music around that time, and other songs the words make me think of her and I can’t listen. I’ve pretty much avoided all music since that time, only using my iPod for audiobooks, but I didn’t realise how much the music would affect me when I did hear it.

Maybe I’m not as ok, as together as I thought. I know that this is the 1% of the time that I am not ok, that I can’t hold it together all the time, but I didn’t expect to fall apart over something so trivial. I just want my little girl here with me not only in my memory.

The Day That Should Have Been

8th October was the due date I was given for Effy-Mae to arrive.

I know that it might not have been the date she finally arrived, but it’s all I have, all I know.

I’ll never know when nature would have delivered her to me if things had gone differently, so it’s the date I hold on to, the date I use to judge how old she should be if things had gone differently.

Today my daughter should be one. It should be her first birthday. An occasion for family to gather to celebrate with cake and presents. She should be toddling around, babbling to her family, enjoying her day.

Instead my body didn’t keep her alive and growing for the 9 months it was meant to. I was induced and delivered her asleep, far too early, her tiny body the final size it would ever grow, never to walk, talk, laugh and love.

And it seems like everyone, even her dad, has forgotten, has forgotten her.

I don’t know how to deal with this any more.

If she hadn’t died I wouldn’t have my son, born two months ago. He was conceived a month after her due date (although maybe biologically possible extremely unlikely) I wouldn’t give him up for anything, but I would give anything to have her back.

Today should be a happy occasion, instead, with everything that has happened, I am left confused about what to think or feel.

All that is left to say is Happy (should have been) Birthday to my gorgeous daughter.

In Her Name

Today should have been my daughters first birthday – had things have gone differently.
Today I realised she was being forgotten.

Since I lost Effy-Mae, I, like many other bereaved parents have sworn to keep her memory alive. Like parents of living children protect their children, bereaved parents protect their child’s memory. Today I realised I am failing her.

So I am going to step up my attempts to keep her memory alive by being more public about things I am doing or going to do in her name.

First is only a small gesture – when I was pregnant with Jackson I started knitting hats for the NICU at our local hospital with the wool left over from the blanket I knitted for her. From there I just couldn’t stop knitting, knowing the hats were for a good cause. I started this project off, like I said, when I was pregnant, but since Jackson arrived I haven’t had much time to carry on, but I will get back to it when life calms down a bit here, and I shall write some blog updates and tweet about how I get on knitting hats for babies born too soon.

My second way is a bit bigger, and for anyone who knows me they will know how out of character it is for me to willingly partake in any exercise, let alone say that I shall run a marathon (maybe not this year, or next, but I will. I won’t stop training until I do it)
It’s been my aim since she died to run a marathon to raise money for a miscarriage and baby loss charity – I haven’t decided which one yet as I haven’t had any dealings with any, but I decided to concentrate on giving her a little brother or sister first. I have now done this with her gorgeous little brother Jackson and what better way to shift the baby weight than training?! I mentioned it to my physio and she thought it was a great idea but recommended I wait until 12weeks after birth to start running. So in 2 weeks I will be starting right from the bottom. I have never exercised much, anyone who knows me will agree I am the worlds biggest couch potato, but for her I would move mountains – infact I’m going to move myself off the sofa and that’s a bigger feat!
So keep checking back for updates and look out for #RunningForEffyMae on twitter for updates on how my training is going!

I will never do what some people manage in their baby’s names. Her name will never be known in homes up and down the country as some are managing, but I hope to be able to keep her memory alive in a small way, and make my baby girl proud of me.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

This week has been Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Week and it ends tonight with an international wave of light with candles being lit at 7pm all over the world creating a continuous wave of light.

On 29th May 2013 my world was turned upside down when I was told that my 21 week pregnancy had ended, that my baby had no heartbeat and had died inside me a few days before. I was brought back into hospital a few days later to deliver her, sleeping, never to grow into the newborn baby, the toddler, the teenager, the adult she should have been.

Nothing can prepare you for hearing that your eagerly awaited baby has no heartbeat, but no one even tried. 1in4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage (yes, 1 in every 4 positive pregnancy tests don’t take a baby home from hospital) yet it was never delicately broached by my midwife, not even mentioned as a possibility. Of course everyone knows that not all pregnancies end well, but it’s very much surrounded by the ‘it’s so rare it’ll never happen to me’ phenomenon.
Infact the figures tell a different story. There is a quite large chance that it may happen to you, or atleast someone you are close to.
The majority of that 1in4 statistic will lose their baby early on, before their first scan. People are aware of this and stick to not announcing their pregnancy until they’re 12weeks gone. It has become an unwritten rule, but why? So you don’t have to tell people your baby didn’t make it? Because it’s so taboo to talk about baby loss. How many of your friends have lost a baby and you don’t even know?

Until I lost my daughter I wasn’t aware, not even remotely, of how many people had lost babies, but it’s not like they are quiet, it’s all over Twitter-it just never popped up on my account where I only followed celebs and TV channels. There are groups all over Facebook-but I’d never seen them because I only liked for sale groups or fan clubs.
There are individuals and charities all shouting about baby loss, the effects and how to minimise the risk, but first time, innocent, expectant mums are totally oblivious to this. Their contact with professionals extends to their midwife and if they don’t mention it then it’s very unlikely they’ll search for it, read about it, take it in.

If you haven’t had a baby yet or have had an uncomplicated pregnancy and are oblivious to this darker side of pregnancy, please open your eyes.
Do a quick search on Twitter #BabyLoss, and see how many tweets there are with this one tag. You’ll be amazed that you’ve not realised just how many people are shouting about this topic.
Please do some research.
If you are pregnant please please pay attention to your babies movement. Your midwives advice of if they’ve moved 10 times in a day then they’re fine is absolute rubbish. I wanted to scream at my midwife when she told me this in my second pregnancy because by then I HAD done my research. You should learn YOUR baby’s movements and if they change even slightly get it checked – they’d rather you get checked every week for nothing than they have to deliver your sleeping baby because you ignored the signs.

Baby loss isn’t something that just happens to someone else, it happened to me, and it’s happening to thousands of people every day. Break the taboo and speak about it, raise awareness and go into pregnancy with your eyes open, do everything you can to minimise the risk and then take any change seriously, even if you just feel uneasy, it could be your maternal instinct telling you something is wrong. I listened to mine but I was too late.

I am the 1in4.

Differences In Care

I always thought my care during my first labour was poor. Infact, it was non-existent, but I never realised how poor until I had my second labour to compare it to, and they couldn’t have been more different.

Both my labours have been induced, my first, at 21 weeks because my baby had died inside me and my body refused to acknowledge this so labour had to be started artificially so I could deliver my sleeping baby.
My second at 38 weeks because of what had happened in my previous pregnancy and the objective was to deliver this baby safely as soon as possible without creating any more risk to myself or my baby.

Both my labours were relatively short from the start of painful contractions (established labour) my first was about 12hours, my second was 7hours.

But this is where the similarities end.

I shall start with my first pregnancy.
As I was ‘only’ 21 weeks pregnant I was referred to gynaecology instead of the antenatal ward for my care. This instantly meant that my care was to be led by nurses and not midwives.
I was given a private room on the gynaecology ward and had my first pessary inserted. Apart from having my blood pressure and temperature checked occasionally I was left with my family until it was time for another pessary to be inserted.
My contractions began getting stronger and stronger but the nurses didn’t seem bothered because my waters hadn’t gone, that was the only question they asked when they checked in. I was offered codeine for the pain but nothing else. Gas and air wasn’t piped in to the department and wasn’t offered.
I was terrified. I was naive. I was 21 and 21 weeks pregnant. I hadn’t don’t any research about birth yet – who does that until they’re nearly there? And it wasn’t exactly explained to me that I would be going into full on labour so I didn’t know to research it – though I’m not sure I would have as I had just found out my baby had died – I wasn’t in a googling mood. I didn’t realise contractions hurt, I had always assumed that it was the actual pushing the baby out that hurt.
The pain was unexpected and excruciating, made 10x worse by the fact that I panicked and there was no one there to calm me down (I had my mum and fiancé there but they were just as clueless about induced labour as me so comforting words didn’t help) I threw myself around the room trying in vain to get comfy. I had never been in a pain that I couldn’t make better somehow. There was no position that helped, believe me I tried them all.
Eventually I sent my fiancé to ask for pain relief. It was the middle of the night, there were two nurses on the whole ward and one doctor on call. Someone else nearby kept crashing, the nurses were flat out and I was told that they’d get the doctor to come and give me an injection as soon as he was free. (It was never explained to me what pain relief was available or what I would be given, so I am still unsure what this injection would have been of) no one came and I decided I needed to go to the loo (baby was coming).
I couldn’t walk, I was supported the whole way and as soon as I got there I collapsed to the floor and passed out. I vaguely remember that by chance a nurse popped her head round the door to see if I was ok and then the crash button was pressed and doctors and nurses came running. I was helped onto the bed and remember being surrounded, but the crowd quickly disappeared when they realised I was ok. I was talked through the next contraction by a nurse and it was nice, I didn’t panic, I controlled my breathing and it didn’t hurt as much, but after one contraction she left and I panicked at the next one. They had finally listened that I was in pain and got me a canister of gas and air from the delivery suite, but I had three puffs on it and passed out. The crash button was pressed again and I was given oxygen and came round. No one had even checked how dilated I was, literally for hours no one had been down there. I told them I felt something happening, and the nurse looked, told me to push a couple of times and I delivered my daughter in her waters. Everyone left and the nurse took her away to ‘clean her up’ even though I begged for her to be ‘cleaned up’ in the room and not taken away from me. My beautiful, perfectly formed tiny baby was brought back in and we were left alone with her for 6 whole, uninterrupted hours. The only hours I’ll ever have with my daughter.

With my second labour I was on the delivery suite, with a midwife assigned to me, doctors on call and it was a completely different experience. My midwife didn’t leave my side the whole time, and had this had been my first labour she would have talked me through the contractions. I, however, knew exactly what to expect, that it hurt, a lot, but that I had survived it last time with no pain relief and I could and would survive it again. I didn’t have any pain relief with this labour because I didn’t need it because I kept calm and breathed through my contractions, the only time I did panic was when I felt the urge to push and it hadn’t been very long since I was only 4cm dilated so I didn’t think I should, but within seconds the midwife had realised I was panicking and was there calming me down and reassuring me. Quite soon after that I delivered my healthy 7lb9oz baby boy into my midwifes hands. It couldn’t have been a more different experience from my first labour if I tried. The main difference being that I didn’t panic, and honestly I know now that the panic made the pain so much worse.

Midwives are important during birth, yes they’re there for the wellbeing of the baby, but also to support the mother through labour. A midwives role is to keep the mother calm as stress for the mother causes stress for the baby. Obviously with my first labour this didn’t matter, but it made the whole experience incredibly traumatic for me. Hospitals know that, and that’s why they provide them. They have specially trained bereavement midwives for those having stillbirths. What was the difference between my daughter being born asleep at 21 weeks and another baby stillborn at 24 weeks? They get a midwife. I didn’t. I still went through labour, I still got to meet my sleeping baby, why didn’t I need to emotional, mental and physical support that a midwife gives a woman during labour?
Since I went through this I have found and talked to many other mothers in similar situations, many of which, around the same gestation or less got to have their babies delivered by midwives. I am glad that not all hospitals have the same policy, I’m glad that not every mother having to deliver their tiny sleeping baby have to do so almost completely alone with minimal support, but why should any? I believe that any woman going through labour should be given the support of a midwife.

Mementos To Remember Those We Will Never Forget

If you ask most ‘Angel Mummys’ you’ll find that they have something that they wear that reminds them of the baby they lost.

When I looked through the photos I had taken by my friend and photographer Simon a couple jumped out at me as poignant and it made me think – noone else chose to get a print of them, yet they meant so much to me. Why? Well, they linked my two children.

I will never get a photo of my two babies together. No Effy-Mae holding a small newborn Jackson (carefully, under the watchful eyes of a hovering adult), no sibling school photos. I try and make up for this by taking Jackson to her grave and documenting this, but she will never be in a family photo. Or will she?

A few weeks after losing Effy-Mae, with the pain still raw, I went and got a tattoo. It is my favourite and most meaningful tattoo I have and I love it. I got her footprints, that the hospital took, tattooed with her name on the inside of my upper arm. When Jackson was born one of the first things I did was to put his foot up to my tattoo and compare them. (His were about double the size.) She was part of that moment, she was on my mind, and how could she not be?

As a tribute to both my babies my site title has a photo I took of my tattoo with Jacksons newborn feet, but I wanted a photographers take on my idea to get a photo of his feet with my tattoo. Simon instantly envisaged what I was after and despite it being fiddly to pose taking extra hands to hold Jackson in just the right way, I absolutely love the result -the photo means so much to me, where to others it doesn’t.

 

The other was a photo that he took of Jackson holding my hand, yet its the rings on my finger that give this photo its meaning. I bought one of the rings on Effy-Mae’s first birthday and plan to get the other engraved with her name. By the time the photo was taken I’d been wearing them for a few months (moving them from one finger to another as I gained weight during my pregnancy with Jackson) and I plan to wear them for the rest of my life (or until I wear them out!) Few people know the significance of these rings, but to me they are some of the most important items I own. If I ever take them off to do something and forget to put them back on I feel totally lost.

 

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You may wonder why I need mementos for a baby I will never be able to (nor would I want to) forget. Well, they include her in moments in my life that she would otherwise be absent from. They mean she can be present in family photos and they show others – those who may, in time, forget her – that I don’t want to, and never will.

Time Heals All Wounds

Or so they say.
I was starting to believe it,
Finding it easier to live without my daughter.
My first born.
Until I had my son.
My second born.

Before he was born I was able to go through days only thinking about her in passing, occasionally glancing at the photo I have out in my house, not talking about her much, and that was ok.
I visited her grave a little, occasionally took flowers.
I felt like I was moving on, that the baby growing inside me really was healing me.
I was wrong.
Since he was born she’s on my mind more and more.
I know why.
Everything I do with him I should have already done with her 10 months earlier.
This is worsened by the fact that Christmas is coming and I feel nothing but guilt.
Why?
Last year I was impossibly ill with morning sickness at Christmas and all I managed to do for her was to take her a bunch of flowers (that my dad had to go and buy) on Christmas morning.
It was her first Christmas and that was all she got.
My baby’s first Christmas.
This year it’s Jacksons first Christmas and I’m determined to make it special for both of them.

I suppose it’s almost a relief that he hasn’t replaced her, that if anything I love her more.
No.
That’s not possible.
I miss her more because I know what I missed.

Printing photos of Jackson I felt the need to print photos of Effy-Mae, something I had never done.
Had she survived I would have albums and albums of photos of her growing and developing.
She would be 1 year 2 months now.
I would have pages and pages of photos of her smiling, selfies of us together, walking, talking, wearing pretty dresses, eating cake.
I have 200 photos.
I’ll never get any more.

Buying Jackson a teddy for Christmas, I had to buy her one too.
It’s only fair.
Myself and Jackson will take the bear and some flowers to her on Christmas morning.

These things should have happened without thinking in the normal course of life, but it all takes more thought when everything you do is overshadowed with the grief that you’ll never get to see the look on their face when they see what you’ve done.
The pretty flowers I take her will never raise a smile.
She will never smile.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make her grave beautiful.
Shouldn’t spoil her.
Shouldn’t love her.

I just want my daughter.

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A Mothers Love

I love my daughter fiercely.
You may find that strange, you may find that impossible.
But I do.

I never met Effy-Mae, in as such as she never took a breath, she never laid eyes on me.
She barely made it halfway through pregnancy.
So how can I love her when I barely even knew her?
To any mother with a living child: did you not love your child before they were even born? Failing that, did you not love them the moment you first held them?
I knew her just as well as you knew your children in those moments.
I love her because she was and will forever be a part of me.
The love of a mother for a child is strong, it’s unbreakable and it’s irrational.

My love for her is fierce because I feel the need to explain it.
People don’t understand.
She was so small, so unprepared for the outside world.
Had she been born alive at her gestation they wouldn’t have even tried to save her.
Does that make her any less worthy of my love?
Of course it doesn’t.
But people don’t see that.
You say the word miscarriage and people instantly feel less sadness.
So I fight to show my love for her.
I fight to make people understand.
She was (is) my daughter, however small.
And I love her with all my heart.

Time

Effy-Mae should be 1 year 3 months old now.
I lost her 1 year 7 months ago.
Should I be ‘over it’ yet?
When should I stop grieving?
I can feel people wondering why I’m still sad, why she’s still on my mind so much.
I don’t cry much any more – very very occasionally when something sets me off, but I’m definitely healing in that way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her.
In some ways it seems a lifetime since I lost her, others it doesn’t seem 5 minutes.
We have just celebrated our second Christmas without her, and it still seemed wrong. We visited her Christmas morning after opening Jacksons stocking – I can feel a tradition in the making. But she should have been there celebrating with us. Jackson should have an older sister stealing his presents and opening them behind our backs. There is a hole in our family that although softening around the edges to make it less raw is still indisputably there.

I occasionally look at Jackson and wonder if she would look like him. There are definitely similarities – they have the same mouth. I like to think they would look similar – I take comfort watching him grow up, seeing how she might have looked.

I still try and do things to remind me of her, to keep her on my mind. I draw things, make things, write things.
I love seeing her name written down – I loved her name as soon as we picked it during my pregnancy. I planned on getting everything personalised and looked forward to seeing it on her bedroom door every day.
It is even more special to me now.
But now I have to personalise different things, and make do with little reminders round the house, looking at my tattoo and typing her name on here as much as possible.
It still gives me little shivers whenever someone says her name out loud, and I’m not sure that feeling will ever go.
In conclusion I’m not sure I’ll ever be ‘ok’.
I might never stop grieving.
I will definitely never forget her.

  • An 'Angel Baby' is a baby lost during pregnancy or early childhood, who sleeps in the clouds instead of our arms.

    A 'Rainbow Baby' is a baby born following the loss of an 'Angel Baby', a beacon of hope after a storm, while not denying the storm happened.

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