Decorating a Grave

I started off not wanting to do anything to my daughters grave, I barely even visited for the first few months, I couldn’t bring myself to. It seemed so final, like not admitting that I had a grave to visit and decorate and not a daughter to dress up was the final thing keeping myself together in those early months.

I feel bad that I didn’t make more of her funeral, not being religious we didn’t want anything remotely prayery, and we didn’t want to make it too big, just parents and grandparents. Maybe in hindsight we should have invited uncles, but only one of my brothers would have been able to, or even wanted to come and I’m pretty sure her dads brothers weren’t really interested. We stood in silence around the tiny hole and watched her lowered in. No words were said, no readings, nothing. I couldn’t find the words, let alone the voice to say them.
We also went low key on decorations, very low key having seen the babies buried since – they have massive floral arrangements laid at their grave, their name in flowers, teddies, toy cars. My baby girl? I bought a small bunch of pink carnations from a supermarket, tied them up with a pink ribbon and laid them at her grave.

I returned a few weeks later with a single pink rose that I tied the same ribbon around, and a few weeks after that to lay my bridesmaids bouquet from my friends wedding. I slowly started adding bits to decorate her grave, an ornament, a vase for her flowers, a small bunch of artificial flowers so she always had colour, it wasn’t until after her first birthday that I really went to town decorating. By then I was heavily pregnant with Jackson and it felt like I needed to show my affection for my daughter too.

Since her headstone was fitted I have had to reign in my decorations a little bit as there are rules about only keeping things on the base of the stone, but I try to visit an absolute minimum of once a month with fresh flowers to keep it looking nice, but normally manage once a week, being so close to my parents house, luckily it’s not a massive trek for me.

I didn’t love my daughter any less when I bought her that single bunch of carnations as to when I buy her massive bright pink bouquets, which got me thinking, who do I decorate her grave for?

I feel closest to her when I’m at home, in my own space, I talk to her, but at her grave, I decorate it and leave, I don’t feel like she’s there. I decorate her grave like a shop window, I don’t want her to look unkempt and unloved like some of the babies nearby do, I buy things I think my pretty girly girl would like, butterflies and flowers, all pink, always pink, it’s become like a signature now, so pink you can’t miss her! But I don’t feel like I do it for her, I feel like I do it for other people to see how much I loved her, to show she’s not forgotten. I write this blog to record my feelings and to help other parents going through similar, I support KicksCount.org both with money and awareness in her name because I want to stop other parents feeling this, I buy stuff to go on her shelf at home to help me remember her.

There are so many facets to my relationship with my little girl that her grave is only a small part of and is, to me, just a shop window displaying my love for my lost little girl.

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“There’s No Heartbeat”

If you’ve just heard those life changing words and have found this post at the start of your journey then I am so sorry for your loss. Let me start by telling you as someone who’s been there that it does get easier, I promise. But it’s shit now and I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

I’ve decided to write this post as there are a lot of things I wish I had known when I lost my little girl, and many things I regret. I don’t want you to have to live with any more regrets than you already will.

 

Meet your little one. For me this was a no-brainer, I’d been growing her inside me for the last 21weeks, of course I wanted to see her, but I know that for others, facing their baby can be hard, but you’ll almost certainly regret it if you don’t. Up until around 30weeks your baby won’t look like the newborn you were planning on meeting, be prepared for that, and depending how long ago your baby passed away there may be signs of this, however as much as you have to be prepared for that, please don’t let it put you off. Your baby is going to be beautiful, with little hands and feet, perfectly formed nails on their fingers and little lips. You will be blown away with how your body created all of this.

Take photos. Even if you choose not to see your baby, PLEASE get someone to take photos for you, even if you don’t think you’ll ever want to see them, it’s better to have those photos sealed in a box and never look at them than it is to want to see them and not have them. You only get one chance. There is a charity called Remember My Baby who have volunteer photographers all over the country to take professional quality photos of your baby just contact them and if they can help you they will. As I said, you only get one chance at this so a professional photographer will create you lasting memories. If they are unable to help you try and get a private  professional photographer to come and take some, and I mean a professional not a friend with a good camera. There’s a big difference and you only get one chance at this. But equally, take your own. Professional photographs are lovely, but there’s feeling in photos you take yourself. Think of poses you want to have a photo of. Wedding rings on toes taking inspiration from Kim and Kanye, or hands clutching a necklace or a finger. I regret not having a photo of my little girls feet. They were so perfect.

Hand and Footprints. Nothing preserves their perfect little size better than prints. I was lucky that my hospital offered this service, I hadn’t thought about anything before I went into the hospital, so was very grateful that after she was taken from me the hospital made these and provided them for me, but yours may not, so if you get a chance, preferably take an inkless kit, or some ink and paper. If you are able to, a casting kit may be nice to enable you to have plaster casts of their limbs, but I don’t think my little girls skin would have been strong enough to withstand this, so be prepared that it may not be possible.

A Teddy. Choose your baby a teddy. Do some research into what size your baby will be by the gestation you are so you don’t get a teddy too big. Buy two. This may sound silly but you will want to keep one in a memory box, you can cuddle yours to feel close to your little one, and it will be a connection. I didn’t think to buy a second at the time but went back to the shop by chance a few months later and found an exact copy at the back of the shelf. I nearly burst into tears in relief there in the shop.

Clothes. I chose not to dress my little girl, but I did knit her a blanket in the week between leaving her at the hospital and seeing her at the funeral director. Clothes are a tough one, finding something the right size could be tough, but there are charities out there that sew and knit clothes for little angels, so a bit of online research might come in handy, or dolls clothes may also work. Some research into what size your baby will be will help you choose what will fit. Try not to pick anything too tight fitting that needs to be pulled over heads and arms as their skin can be very fragile. I recommend a hat if nothing else. Many hospitals do provide these, but mine did not and I regret that I never got to see her swaddled up in a wooly hat like the newborn I should have had.

People. Decide who may want to see your baby and make sure they do get to meet your little one. I will always regret that my dad never got to see her the day she was born, he wasn’t at the birth and when he came to pick me up and asked if he could see her she had already been taken away. Unfortunately they change in the time before you see them again, so he did see her at the funeral directors, but she didn’t look like the baby I remembered by then.

Jewellery. This isn’t something I did personally, but I know some people get matching jewellery and give one to their baby and keep one themselves to wear, either that or something along the lines of a best friends necklace where you leave half with them and you keep half. Either idea is beautiful, I would just constantly worry about losing my half, but I can really see how it would bring massive comfort.

 

I think that is all for the day of the birth. I am aware that I was lucky in a sense that I had a few days to research and organise things, and that for some people they may not have seen this until after the birth, that maybe things were rushed and some things weren’t done. Most things can still be done up until the day of the funeral though, so if there is something you haven’t done, hand and footprints for example, you can always phone your funeral director and arrange to do this or for it to be done.

 

As for arranging a funeral, my funeral directors were great, I chose the cemetery and they did the rest really. I chose a small funeral, just parents and grandparents, at the cemetery, nothing was said and only I bought flowers, and just a small bunch of carnations at that. At the time I couldn’t see past the fact that she hadn’t lived a life to be celebrated, and in my mind that was what funerals were about. I have since seen some amazing funerals for babies, teddy shaped wreaths, and lovely readings. Neither is right. Choose what feels right for you at the time. Decide who you want to come and where you want it to be. It is all very personal and you will know what works for you.

 

All that I can say now is stay strong and life does go on, I promise, however much it doesn’t seem like it now. Remember your little one however you need to, have days where you don’t get out of bed (5 years on I still need these days) talk about your little one as much or as little as you need to, and know there is a community of us out here, online and probably in your every day life who know exactly what you are going through and all you need to do is reach out and we will all be here for you.

Missing Her

How can you miss someone who was never there? Well, I guess it’s hard to understand from the outside, but from the inside it’s simple. 

I miss the fact she’s not there all day, every day, stealing my food and snuggling up in my bed, I miss her first tooth, first word, first step, first day of school… I miss everything. 

So when I say I miss her, I don’t mean it how you mean it when you miss someone you’ve known a long time, that knowledge they won’t call again, make you smile again, but I do miss her, I miss, and will continue to miss everything about her for the rest of my life.

To My Ex

We met, we fell in love. It should have been as simple as that. Happily ever after. We picked out a ring and I wore it with pride, happy to know I’d be spending the rest of my life with you sleeping next to you, carrying babies for you…

Then we lost our little girl and life changed, we changed. Something shifted irrevocably and here I am 3 years on laying in my bed on my own, waiting to be joined in the early hours by our toddler, the boy I did carry to term, the son I’ve dedicated the last 2 1/2 years of my life to. 

I love my life I have with our boy. It gives me purpose and grounding in a world that otherwise is terrifying and lonely, but some nights I can’t help but wonder what could have been if life had worked out how we had planned…  

So yes, some nights I cry about us, about how happy we should have been if loss hadn’t torn us and our plans to shreds. I cry for the daughter who should be in my arms and for the man who should be beside us. For the smiles and laughs and holidays that we should have had. 

I can’t look back too hard though, what good does that do? So come the morning I’ll be dry and steely eyed ready to face the day alone again.

But I do think of us sometimes, just sometimes I let my mind wander to us and the beautiful life we let go of.

Fantasy

I lay, scrunched up, in the toddler bed. My arms wrapped around my infant, eyes tight shut, feeling them breathe, listening to ‘Bing’ playing on my phone. Through my closed eyelids I can almost see the pink, floral bedsheets over us, the mousey blonde hair trailed over the pillow, the Disney princesses staring down at us from the walls and the vividly pink curtains lit by the headlights of the passing cars. Yesterday’s dress thrown carelessly on the floor and a doll propped up on the bookcase. 

I lay there totally absorbed in the fantasy that I am there with my three year old little girl, that she’s just had a busy day at nursery and we are relaxing together waiting for her eyes to grow heavy and for her to fall asleep.

I don’t want to open my eyes, to shatter the illusion I’ve created, but I must. ‘Bing’ is finished and my son shouts ‘Mummy!’ demanding that I put on another. 

So I open my eyes and it takes a second to adjust to what I’m seeing, my two year old son, short brown hair, laying in his rainbow duvet staring expectantly at me completely unaware of the war going on in my head fighting to adjust back to reality. I put on another episode and hug him close staring around his rainbow room. 

My rainbow baby.

Why celebrate 

Why celebrate your babies birthday when they are no longer with us?

I celebrate my babies birthday for the same reason you celebrate yours, because on this day 3 years ago I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. Because maybe I don’t get to tie her hair in pig tails for her party, but she still made me a mum 3 years ago and I plan to honour her for that.

Maybe to you it seems odd eating cake for a child who is not here, but how else do you celebrate a birthday? Cake, presents and balloons. That’s what birthdays have meant to me all my life and it would seem wrong to me to do anything else. 


I couldn’t face her first birthday. I took her flowers and I cried. I cried that it had been a year since I held her, a year since I had to let her go. 

But last year I celebrated. I celebrated the 21 weeks I carried her, the joy she gave me when I saw her on her scans and the love she unlocked in me when I gave birth to her and became a mum, and this year I plan to do the same, because as time goes on it’s not so painful. I don’t concentrate on the bad parts, I celebrate the good and I keep her memory alive for myself, my son and those who loved her.

As the Years Go By

Today it’s been 3 years since I was told I’d lost my baby girl, and it’s been 2 years since I broke up with the man I planned to spend my future with. 

The two events forever merged together, their anniversaries on the same day. The heightened emotions of the first anniversary of losing Effy the catalyst for the breakup. 

So today I mourn two losses. Two futures I’d planned that will never be. 

On Thursday I’ll celebrate the 21 weeks I got to carry my daughter. 2nd June, the day I delivered her will be all about her, I’ll make a cake and take her presents.

But I’ll grit my teeth and get through today by remembering that however much shit life throws at me I will always come out even stronger, fighting, ready to take on the world another day. I may be hurt and broken but my god I am tough because I’ve survived the worst and I’m still here to tell the tale. 

Single Mum

‘So how often does Jackson see his dad’ is a question that is asked regularly, not only by people just finding out about our situation, but people who have asked before hoping for a new answer. 

My stock answer now is ‘a few hours a week’ and you see their faces change from hopeful interest to confusion and almost disgust. 

I know that their initial thought is ‘why’ and they wonder if that’s my fault, if I’m making it difficult, or discouraging it. Think Jeremy Kyle, possessive mum blocking access, but it isn’t me. I always have and always will actively encourage his dad to come and see him and spend time with him, infact I have wasted days upon days sat waiting for him to show up when he says he will, and then doesn’t.

I used to answer ‘a couple of times a week’ which though at the time also true, probably never equated to many more hours, and when I thought about it, a few hours is probably a more accurate answer. He won’t turn up until 2 or 3 in the afternoon when he wakes up, leaving again at any time between 6-10 depending how tired he is, whether he has work and whether Jackson’s asleep or not. That’s a minimum of 3 hours, and a maximum of 8 or so. But equally some weeks pass without a visit at all. 

When I first broke up with his dad at 7 months pregnant I almost felt it would be easier if he left and never saw us again, but the second my baby boy was born my world changed and I knew he needed his dad in his life. From then I have tried to facilitate him visiting as much as possible, but the hours have steadily decreased and his interest wained. 

This kills me inside far more than I expected it to. He has me, loving grandparents, adoring uncles and some fantastic ‘aunties’ in my friends, but he needs a dad. This boy won’t miss out on love, heck I’m pretty sure if he was any more loved he would pop, but he won’t know the role a dad is meant to play in his life. I know that with us being separated that was always going to be a difficult relationship to build, but it’s nigh on impossible when his dad doesn’t seem to try. 

Jackson was a planned baby. After losing our little girl we waited months for the doctors to give us the go ahead to try again and when they finally did I was hesitant. I wrote at the time that I was worried I’d never love another baby as much as I loved her, of course that all changed as soon as I found out I was expecting again, but it was him who pushed for it, who persuaded me we were ready, only 2 weeks later when I took the test and told him I was pregnant, he was less keen. He says it just took him by surprise that it happened so quickly, but really he wasn’t ready. He still isn’t ready, still hasn’t got past the grief for our little girl who should be in our arms, can’t get past that to see the special little boy who is. 

I spend my life running through this in my head. Screaming internally that how can his dad not want to spend every waking hour with his son. How can I facilitate it so he might want to see him more, what more can I do? I literally feel like I’m bashing my head on a brick wall and getting nowhere. 

Jackson does need a dad. However you look at it, it’s a special bond that cannot be easily replicated. Maybe one day I’ll find a partner who loves Jackson as much as I do, who accepts him as his own and becomes a father figure to him, but will that be too late for Jackson to create a strong bond with him? I don’t know. I grew up in a 2 parent family and I planned the same for my son. It breaks my heart that he isn’t getting that stable, happy, easy start in life. 

Maybe his dad will read this post and come to his senses, get some help for his grief about losing our daughter and step up and be the father Jackson needs. But then again, it’s been 2 years of me telling him all of this and nothing has changed so far so I don’t hold my breath. 

As a mother trying to do my best for my son, nothing kills me more than seeing a situation arising that will hurt him and being able to do nothing to stop it.

A Break

I’ve not posted anything on here for over 6 months now and for that I apologise. 

I suppose the reason for this is twofold.

  1. I have an 18month toddler running circles around me, he hasn’t grasped the idea of bedtime yet and I rarely get a chance to sit and write anything! 
  2. I haven’t felt the need. I occasionally think of something to write about but by the time I get round to it (see point 1) it doesn’t seem so important any more. 

I wrote before about cutting myself off, leaving groups and not joining in conversations, well I’m back, kind of. 

I’ve found myself looking through the #BabyLoss on Instagram and revisiting the baby loss half of my Twitter recently. It’s hard to know where I fit now because the pain isn’t so raw any more, I don’t cry (much, anyway, of course I have my moments), but I still feel I need a connection to this world, the exclusive group I never wanted to join but can never leave. 

And my need to write has returned. I find myself thinking of new titles and things to write about, I just hope that I can find the time to breathe life into these post ideas! 

So bare with me, (I seriously admire blogger mummy’s who post daily- how do they do it!?) I may not be regular, or prize worthy, but I’m here and will be writing if you want to read! 

Dream-maker

Effy-Maes headstone was finally fitted on Christmas Eve 2015, 2 1/2 years after losing her.

After 2 years of deciding on the wording, and six months searching for a stonemason able to source the granite I wanted it had been a long time coming, but as I walked into the cemetery on Christmas morning it was the best Christmas present I could ever have wished for. There, stood perfectly on my baby’s grave was a real life version of the sketch I threw together on ‘paint’ all those months ago.
Choosing a design was hard, well, who expects to be choosing a headstone for their baby?

I had it in my mind that I wanted the classic headstone shape with the rounded top, but it no longer seems to be a standard shape. Looking through the catalogue the funeral director gave me I was throughly uninspired and completely disheartened. I didn’t want to get her something that wasn’t perfect!

I also struggled with stone choice. Even from the first meeting with the funeral director I’d said that I wanted a light stone. Black was too heavy and dark for the tiny little mite she was. I initially, when faced with black, dark grey or light grey as my 3 granite options opted for light grey, but quickly after seeing other headstones at the cemetery decided that even that was too dark for what I wanted. I then decided maybe I should choose marble, but a baby’s headstone at the cemetery that has been there only 25 years is already overgrown with lichen and I couldn’t bare the thought of that. So that lead me to white granite. This isn’t a common stone as I came to discover when I started emailing stonemasons and getting back different responses varying from they couldn’t find it to it doesn’t exist!

Then there was what to write. I spent hours upon hours searching for quotes, throwing things together, trying and failing to find something. I regularly settled on something, sent it to friends and family for opinions and then a day later read it to myself and decided it wasn’t quite right, but after about a year of this I picked out all the different mock ups I’d done and pieced together the bits I liked from each and finally I had the perfect words.

Lastly what design to put on the stone. I initially thought about a trail of flowers up the side, but I couldn’t decide on an image or even a type of flower, then I thought maybe a pink bow at the top. Finally I came up with maybe they could put her tiny footprints on the top. A permanent reminder or how tiny and perfect she was, and also her footprints permanently imprinted on this earth.

I never really hesitated on the font I wanted used. I knew I wanted it more swirly that your standard block capitals, and having seen stones with the Disney font on I knew this was possible, so I picked out a scripty font for her name, which had to be in pink and a lowercase italic for the rest.
With all this settled in my mind I sketched it up in paint and emailed what felt like hundreds but in reality was probably about 20 stonemasons the image. Some ignored me, some said it wasn’t possible, some said the stone didn’t exist, some started replying then just stopped, but finally I found a local company and after his initial email said it was totally possible I finally felt that maybe this was going to happen after all!

He invited us to his office to see a stone sample before he special ordered it for is, and from then on it was all plain sailing. It cost £910 which in the grand scheme of things is no more than that fancy pram I had my eye on for her. Heck I’ll never get to buy her a cot or even a coat, so to me that wasn’t a lot to spend on the perfect memorial for her.

And after perhaps the longest 3 months of my life I finally got an email on Christmas Eve to say they had just fitted it.

And my dreams had come true.

  • 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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