Loss · Moving Forward

Parenting A Baby In The Stars

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So today I shared some of my thoughts at a Baby Remembrance Service organised by our local hospital’s chaplaincy team and Sands. I was blessed with some really lovely and kind feedback so I just thought I would share my words in the hope that they may help somebody else. It went like this…..

Hello Everybody,

My name is Rachel and I am Alex’s mommy, Alex is my youngest son and on Wednesday he will be two years old, or at least he should have been because Alex was born sleeping when he was 8 days overdue following a perfectly healthy and uneventful pregnancy. Some of you may remember that I spoke here last year about how we had tried to find the good things in our loss and to create some positive memories for us to associate with Alex. We have continued to do that this year and as a result Alex’s light shines brightly on our lives and we are extremely proud of everything our little boy has pushed us to achieve. Things like standing here in front of you today would have been an absolute no go before losing Alex but he has changed me for the better and its now an opportunity I jump at. As I’m sure you all know only too well, losing a baby breaks you in every way possible, it’s a pain so deep that we will never fully recover but there’s a saying I love which says to pay attention to the cracks because that’s how the light gets in.

I’m two years into life after Alex now so I’m not new to child loss but I’m also not what I’d class as experienced either. I am still learning how to lose Alex, how to grieve for him, how to survive life without him but was is becoming more and more apparent, now that the fog of grief has started to lift is that I am also learning how to be a parent to him and that was something I thought I lost with Alex. To those who haven’t experienced the loss of a child the idea of parenting a baby who isn’t in our arms might seem like a bit of a strange idea but to those of us who have, being able to see ourselves as parents and being acknowledged as a parent is everything because its everything we thought we’d lost. The early days after Alex’s birth were very much focused on what we had lost, the parental jobs like changing nappies, cuddling him when he slept, soothing him when he cried, all lost. The last year has seen a shift in my mindset, it has brought brief moments of what I begrudging have to admit feels a little bit like acceptance, like maybe my mind has finally reached a point where it can whisper to itself that this is it, that he’s not coming back, he cant be replaced and we won’t ever have the answers we so desperately crave. And from that I’ve tried to focus less on what we lost and more on what we have. And the one thing which has been a revelation to me and it seems so blindly obvious now,  but as we all know grief doesn’t always allow for the clearest thought processes, is that, I am not just Alex’s Mommy but that I can BE a Mommy to Alex, maybe I cant be a parent in the way I had prepared for, the conventional way with all of the usual baby essentials but I do still have an active role to play and one which is starting to heal some of the cracks in my life.

It’s similar to a parenting a living breathing child in that there is no handbook- we simply do the best we can and we learn on the job. In our house we include Alex in most things we do, that could be writing his name in the sand on the beach or taking his donkey with us to include in a photograph, we raise money for charity and participate in things like today, and that’s my parenting style. It doesn’t have to be huge grand gestures, it’s things like taking them flowers and tending their resting places or just thinking about them in the quiet moments at the end of a busy day, everyone will have their own way of doing it and hopefully seeing yourself as parenting your babies when you’re doing these things will bring you some comfort as it does for me.

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In the run up to Alex’s birthday this year I posted on social media about how life starts to get a bit rough around now. That familiar heavy grief and sadness starts to descend, my patience runs thin, my concentration is non-existent and I’m never far from tears thanks to the constant barrage of memories, ifs, buts and maybes. A special lady who Alex brought into our lives just after we lost him commented on my post and gave me hope that maybe this year could be a little easier on our hearts. She always manages to say the most perfect things and her comment last week was another example of that, she said that she hoped we were able to just enjoy the love we have for him on his birthday this year and that seemed so doable, instead of focusing again on what we had lost we could try to focus on what we have and that is love. As a mother my love for Alex is fierce, strong and unbreakable, the same as any mothers for their child and that applies whether they are here or not. And with that I realised that maybe there is one part of my life which hasn’t been affected and changed and warped and cracked and broken by loss. And so beyond the regrets, guilt, sadness and tears I am a Mom, I am Alex’s Mom, my love for him is unchanged and I will always continue to find ways to be a parent to him because he existed, he matters and he deserves it. And I truly hope that you can see these things in yourselves too or if you don’t now, that you will do one day. That before any of the labels which society may give us now we have been touched by the unthinkable we are still parents, we are Mommy’s and Daddy’s, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles before we are anything else, and we still have a very important role to play in our baby’s lives.

Love Rachel & Alex xx

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Loss · Moving Forward

Saving Babies Lives

It’s been a bit quiet over here on the blog recently, I’ve still been writing but I just haven’t been able to find the courage to post anything. After a bit of reflection, I think I just got a bit bogged down in worrying about other peoples thoughts. I was concerned that what I was saying wasn’t really reaching the audience it was intended for and instead my friends and acquaintances were being bombarded with ‘sob stories’ about how the unimaginable happened and my baby died. So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record and putting myself on the receiving end of negativity, I lost my nerve and stopped. Then, totally out of the blue, a near stranger reminded me of my motives with just three simple words and those words lead me straight back here.

“You helped me”

We were two strangers on a hen party, there was plenty of Prosecco, a Motown party boat and all the cheesy tunes a group of girls could ever want, the perfect ingredients for a memorable night out. Hannah’s words that evening made it a truly unforgettable one for me because her story is forever linked with mine, thanks to Alex.  Hannah has very kindly agreed for me to share her story in her own words below:

“I was three days from my due date, my Mum had come to Norwich to stay for the birth and we went out for food. I had the most sugar laden milkshake it is possible to drink and my Mum said something like he must be going mad in there. It obviously played on my mind a little as he wasn’t going as crazy as I would have expected him too. The next morning, I didn’t feel 100% about him so I had some orange juice, also normally a kicker and he didn’t respond too much. So we went up to the hospital for monitoring. It took them a little while to get him to react, seemed like he was asleep, but then the monitoring was fine and they said to come back if I still didn’t feel right. By the evening I still wasn’t happy so we went back and although the measurements were ok again, the consultant said it was unusual for someone to come in twice in one day and so close to my due date it just wasn’t worth the risk, so I opted for induction.

When my waters broke on the morning of my due date there was a sudden emergency as he had pooped and I think it was quite dark so on the more serious end of the scale. Essentially everything was fine prior to that as they were able to monitor him through delivery but when my waters broke Aaron was told to throw all our bags on the bed and then they literally ran with the bed through to a delivery suite where about 7 or 8 doctors were waiting for us, it was very scary.

I had seen your posts through Steph’s Facebook and as a result of that, the Kicks Count page and I was definitely more conscious of Charlies movement as a result. I’m not sure what I would have done if I wasn’t aware because he was still moving, just not as much. I may have convinced myself because he was moving that everything was fine, but of course I’ll never know how many more days I would have gone before labour started naturally and what that might have meant for him. So I am eternally grateful to you”

I was already feeling teary before our conversation, since losing Alex I always do in those types of situations and even more so when I’m without Rob. I think it’s mostly because I’m anxious in anticipation of the questions I might face. I dread having to be the one who brings a joyful, celebratory mood crashing down by mentioning my Son who died in response to a perfectly innocent question such as ‘how many children do you have?’ Tears instantly stung my eyes on hearing those words and as is often the case since our loss I was faced with two totally opposing emotions. My night had been made and also ruined in one fell swoop. There were tears of sadness, that I didn’t get to bring my baby home like Hannah did but there were also tears of incredible pride and happiness; pride for Alex and the incredible legacy he is leaving and happiness that two more parents didn’t have to suffer the pain that we did.

And there it was, like a lighthouse in dark stormy seas, my reason – awareness. Creating awareness and potentially saving a baby’s life is one of the vitally important reasons behind my blog and it took those words to remind me that it’s a much, much higher cause than my superficial worries about other people’s thoughts.

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I know anything relating to stillbirth doesn’t exactly make for light bedtime reading whilst pregnant. I’ve been there and I could barely face listening to a difficult birth story let alone stories of babies not making it through pregnancy and birth. Pregnancy bought out the hippy earth mother in me and I lived out all three of my pregnancies in the blissful ignorance that I would have perfect natural labours where I would be home within a few hours. I look back now in total disbelief at my ignorance and naivety. Educating ourselves about risks will not ruin our pregnancy or give us a difficult labour, quite the opposite in fact as it could potentially save your baby. In my younger, wilder days I sky dived and before doing so I was thoroughly briefed on the risks involved and the correct procedures to follow to avoid them. It didn’t ruin my experience in the slightest, knowing the risks and how to avoid them kept me safe whilst still being able to thoroughly enjoy the experience (after the initial being thrown out of a plane bit!). And that is all I am asking for pregnant women to do, as Mothers we should take some of the responsibility to educate ourselves about the risks and warning signs to enjoy a healthy and safe pregnancy. Keeping an eye on Alex’s movements was mentioned very briefly by my midwife but the importance of why was never stressed enough and the consequences weren’t mentioned at all. Regrets and what ifs are the things which hurt the most, I can’t help but wonder if there could have been a different end to our story if I had learnt more about what to look out for and why. Hannah may not have had the perfect birth story but at the end of it she still got to take her baby home and that’s the most important thing.

If you do nothing else today please share this with a pregnant mother and refer them to the Kicks Count & Tommy’s pages for a wealth of resources on a healthy and safe pregnancy.  Tommy’s midwives are on hand to answer any questions you may have and always seek professional advice from a doctor or midwife if you are worried no matter how small that worry may seem. You wont be wasting anyone’s time and I can confidently say that a midwife would rather check someone over ten times and find it’s nothing than have to deliver the devastating news that ours did. Knowledge is power, it is vitally important and ultimately, it saves babies lives!

 

Love Rachel & Alex xxx

Loss

Happy Fathers Day

It’s Father’s Day, another one of those annual events on the post baby loss calendar to endure and survive. There are still fry ups, handmade cards with scribbled kisses and a whole day dedicated to Dad’s but in our house one of the tiny people who gave Rob his father status is missing and that changes everything. One of the things I’m coming to realise about Fathers Day, and the reason for my blog today, is that there is a startling difference between today and the days which are dedicated to me as a Mommy. I have had two Mother’s Days without Alex and I am so thankful to have been surrounded by love, thoughtful messages and a whole crowd of people trying their best to make the day pass as gently as possible. And yet sadly, the same can’t be said for Rob today.

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I would really like to say that this is a one-off occurrence but the lack of attention started on the day we first heard those devastating words in hospital. It started precisely when I was whisked off to surgery and he was left in a room totally alone, in shock and cradling our lifeless baby. Everyone’s focus, which should have been concentrated on welcoming our new born baby shifted to me and the things that they could do to support me. It felt so wrong to me even through the black fog of grief, so much so, that I didn’t just cry for our baby, I cried for Rob too. I cried because no one was there for him and it felt so unfair. He was and is my rock and I am only here writing this blog today because he carried me through our loss until I was strong enough to cope on my own again. He did everything I couldn’t. He held me tight whilst I sobbed into the early hours, he took care of our boys when I couldn’t bear to show them my tears yet again, he fielded the concerned texts and calls, he answered the dreaded questions when our neighbours asked where our baby was. He did it all, and I hate to say it but he mostly did it alone. I heard him being asked countless times how I was doing but I don’t recall being asked the same amount in return.

He did what was expected, he was the stereotypical ‘strong’ man, conditioned not to show any emotion and just get on with things. But why should it be that way? As a Mother I was encouraged to show all the facets of my grief openly, without judgement and I am certain that it helped me to deal with it. It seems odd to think that men aren’t encouraged to do the same. Men need support too, maybe not in the same forms as Mothers but they need it all the same. I can confidently say that I could not have done some of the things that Rob did following Alex’s loss. Carrying our little boys coffin in to church is one that always comes to mind. His strength confounds me, I know I wasn’t much of a support to him in those early days and I will always wonder how he managed to carry on and do those things without the network that I seemed to have around me.

So why shouldn’t he get a simple call or text on Father’s Day to check how he’s doing? Because he’s strong? Because he doesn’t need the support? Because its not the manly thing to do? Or maybe because he’s over it now? But he has also lost a child and whilst he may not have suffered the same physical effects from pregnancy and birth that I did, his heart also broke that day and continues to ache every day ever since with the weight of our loss. His loss was equal to mine, we both lost a son, he also lost all of the tomorrows with Alex and still ponders on the what could have beens just like I do.

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I haven’t written a blog for quite some time but I just had to today to highlight the importance of not forgetting that Daddy’s hurt too. Whilst I strongly believe that there is a lot of work to be done to improve the care of men following the loss of a child I would just like to end it today by saying to all of the Daddy’s with a child in their hearts that I hope you have a gentle Father’s Day. You are all incredible and I know that your baby’s will be watching over you today with nothing but love and admiration.

And if you know a Father who missing a child today I’m sure a little message to let them know that you’re thinking about them would be very welcome.

Rachel & Alex xxx

Loss · Moving Forward

Surviving December

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December was always going to be a tricky one for me to navigate since losing Alex, it’s the month after we lost him and when the whole world seems merry and full of cheer I couldn’t feel further from it. To help me cope this year I took part in a wonderful idea from Jess at The Legacy of Leo blog (go have a snoop here, she’s really wonderful!). Last year Jess & her wife did an Advent for Leo to ease them through December and include their son Leo in the festivities, this year they very kindly opened up the idea to allow other bereaved families to participate and remember their little ones. The idea is beautifully simple, its an alternative kind of advent and every day throughout December you plan to do something to remember your baby, or indeed any loved one who you’re missing at Christmas time; it could be an act of kindness, attending a memorial service, an act of self-care, or something as simple as lighting a candle. The idea is as big as your love and imagination allows it to be.

For me, the 1st December marked a year since Alex’s funeral and it hit hard. Harder than I could ever have anticipated. Throughout November I had been remembering my time with Alex a year ago, the final days of pregnancy, those words, his birth, the times we had visited him and the things we had done to make memories. It had been an emotionally draining month but the constant reflection helped me feel closer to him at a time when we’d physically never been further away from each other. I found Alex’s funeral a relief at the time, we’d had over 3 weeks of living in limbo, stuck between our three children, two very much alive and needing our attention and one who needed us for nothing but who we desperately needed to savour every second with. This surreal period allowed us the time to gently prepare ourselves, so that when the time eventually came to say goodbye we were ready for it.

But that’s the thing with grief, there is no rhyme or reason. The stormy seas can come at any time and without any warning. I’d survived Alex’s first birthday and November by pre-empting the sad days and planning in plenty of distractions but I’d disregarded the 1st of December. It turned out to be a crisp, clear and frosty day exactly like it had been a year ago and I felt like I was right back there, dressed in black and silently screaming on the inside. Those memories of watching my husband carry Alex’s tiny coffin into church and through the church yard whipped the air from my lungs and made my chest ache with sadness. The tears didn’t stop all day and for the first time in a long while, finding my brave face proved extremely difficult. Definitely not the start to December and the run up to Christmas that I had anticipated. But as we all know, life sadly goes on in spite of our loss, so I got ready and took homemade star biscuits into work for my colleagues, my very first Advent For Alex activity. It wasn’t a magical cure to my sadness on that day, nor did it stop the tears but it felt good to include Alex in a positive way and create a happy memory alongside the sad ones from last year.

Since then we have done something every day to include, remember and honour Alex and it has warmed my heart in so many ways. There have been 25 in total so I won’t list them all but some of my favourites were posting Christmas cards to elderly people living in our local area and giving out candy canes to strangers. We’ve adopted a donkey, donated to a food bank, dedicated a star and a light to Alex. In amongst that there was some self care which included a festive afternoon tea, a Christingle service at church and a craft evening at my local SANDS meeting. We decorated Alex’s grave for Christmas and our own Christmas tree in lots of Alex related decorations. Feeling inspired a friend even did a ‘12 days of Christmas’ for Alex and in the 12 days before Christmas she gave a total stranger a candy cane each day and told them Alex’s story, one of these people had also experienced a stillbirth over 40 years ago. What was so lovey about Advent for Alex was how we have been able to include Alex’s brothers and give them ways to remember their little brother. They both lit candles at his grave on Christmas Eve so that Father Christmas could find him and William now wants to hand out a candy cane to pretty much every person we meet!

 

I heard a lovely analogy of grief the other day, one which I’ve not heard before. It compared grief to a tennis ball and a jar. Our lives as newly bereaved parents were likened to a tennis ball (our grief) being put into a small jam jar (our lives). At first there is no space in the jar, no room to breathe or move without being reminded of our grief. People often think that in time the ball of grief will shrink, giving us more space in the jar and making us less aware of it, when actually the opposite is true and the ball stays the same size; grief is a product of our love and our love will never diminish or lessen. Which means that the task in hand is to expand the jar, to build a bigger life around our grief by living life to the very fullest. What Advent for Alex gave me this December was the extension of dreams on my jar and it felt nothing but truly wonderful! Excluding Day 1 I’ve felt so fulfilled and content, we think of Alex everyday but to physically do something in his name each and every day has been a balm to my aching heart. He’s played a bigger part in our Christmas than I ever thought possible and as I sit writing this, on the very first day of a brand-new year, I can’t help but look back and feel like we did December right!

It’s been so wonderful to see how other families have interpreted their grief into their own Advent’s To Remember online, the Instagram community has felt so hopeful and I’ve looked forward to seeing what other parents have done for their advents each day. There have been some fantastic ideas that I would love to try next year (of course we’re doing it again!). I can’t thank Jess enough for giving me a focus and an outlet for my grief and love this December, Advent To Remember has pulled me through a pretty tough season for anyone missing a loved one and it’s given me plenty of smiles and happy memories to cherish.

 

I hope you all had a gentle and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

 

Rachel & Alex xx

Fundraising

The After Alex Ball

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The things that Alex will never get to do are just another cruel twist of the baby loss knife. No first day at school, no magical Christmas mornings, no seeing him marry the love of his life and no birthdays. We don’t just miss our baby, we miss all of the possibilities and dreams which died with him. With Alex’s first birthday fast approaching I was starting to feel anxious, confused and contradicted. The idea of a birthday with the special guest missing felt so odd and peculiar, I had no idea what we were supposed to do and if we should do anything at all. Maybe a day in bed hibernating from the world would have been the answer? Either way it was starting to feel like a huge mountain casting a shadow over us. We were entering an emotionally triggering time of “this time last year we were….” I think people forget that it’s not just the anniversary of Alex’s birth and death, it’s a year since I last felt him kicking and wiggling, a year since life was normal, a year since we left him with a stranger and walked away, and it’s a year since we gently placed him in his coffin, tucked him in with his teddies and kissed him goodbye. All of these anniversaries hurt, it’s not just one day that we needed to get through, it’s this whole time of year. I used to love it, crisp cold and clear sunny mornings used to make me smile but now the start of the frosty mornings take me back to that hospital window cradling my baby, looking at our frost covered car all alone in the car park because everyone else had left with their babies.

I desperately needed a distraction, something to focus on and lose myself in to get through the weeks surrounding Alex’s birthday. We do a lot of things for Alex in his absence, I say it often; we live for him now. And whilst I long for what should have been, he should have been joyfully opening presents with the help of his big brothers at his first birthday party surrounded by family and friends, I came to realise that his birthday is another event that we can live for him. Why can’t we have a first birthday party and be there for him? Why can’t we all gather together and show our love for one tiny little soul who is fundamentally changing our world on his birthday?

The answer is we can! We will! And we did!!

I clearly remember trying to draw Rob into a conversation about how we were going to mark Alex’s birthday. I knew that I wanted to have some sort of balloon release or family get together but I wasn’t sure what his feelings might be. He gave his usual nod and said OK and the rest is history as they say. But I found the more I thought about it the more I realised the potential to create something truly memorable for all the right reasons. And so the idea of a simple family get together quickly spiralled into a Charity Ball. A year ago I would never have thought myself capable of organising something on that scale but Alex has taught me that I’m so much more than I ever believed. We may lose a part of ourselves when we see nothing but perfect stillness on the ultrasound screen but we gain a lot too. Self-belief was one of those things, Alex gives me so much strength. I’ve survived the worst part and nothing will ever come close to being that hard again.

So last Saturday 117 people came together to mark Alex’s first birthday and raise money for an incredible charity so close to our hearts-Tommy’s. We made the evening as much about Alex as we could, we themed the event with white feathers and stars and there was even birthday cake! The evening was a huge success and we raised over £5000 for Tommy’s!! An unbelievable amount!! I still feel so overwhelmed by people’s generosity and their willingness to come out, dress up and support us and Tommy’s. There were a lot of people there who have felt our loss first hand but there were also complete strangers who have never met us and I’m still in total disbelief that they would be so kind. I’m confident that the money will go a long way to help Tommy’s in their mission to ensure that every pregnancy has a happy ending. We achieved so much more than that though. We raised awareness of stillbirth and how common it is, we hopefully showed that it’s not something reserved for certain stereotypes, it can happen to absolutely anybody and often without a determinable cause. We chipped a little more into the silence around losing a baby and demonstrated first hand that its OK to share our babies and be asked about them in return.

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It was an overwhelming evening for me full of joy, bittersweet and tinged with sadness. The night played along to a chorus of: “You should be so proud,” “you’re so brave,” “you’re so strong,” “you’re an inspirational couple.” Each one is an incredible compliment, but I can’t help feeling like a fraud, like I’m not worthy of such high praise. The truth is I don’t feel proud, or brave or any of those things. Its hard to articulate but I feel like this is normal, isn’t this what we’re supposed to be doing? And that is in no way meant to be an insult to bereaved parents who chose to honour their babies in other more private ways. We all do what feels right for us and our babies. But for me, I have surrounded myself with a group of incredible loss mothers who are all doing similar things. Essentially, we all blog, we all speak out to create awareness and raise money as our way of parenting our babies in the stars; so, to me Saturday was nothing out of the ordinary, this is simply what we do. And it was my absolute pleasure to do it! I don’t get to do a lot for Alex and when I do, it fills my heart with love and pride for him. I’m proud of him and what he’s pushed me to do, not myself. I certainly would never describe myself as inspirational. Life for us now isn’t all beautiful dresses and smiles at glamorous balls, some days its barely brushing my hair and getting dressed because the sadness feels so heavy. Some day’s the tears just don’t stop and I long for my beautiful baby boy, the ‘old’ me and my ‘old’ life. Some days I boil with anger and rage at how cruel and unfair the world can be. But if I could inspire just a few people, it would be the other mom’s out there with aching arms and holes in their hearts. I would like to give them the confidence to speak about their perfect babies; you are all mothers from the moment you get a positive on your pregnancy test, your motherhood doesn’t start the day you bring a baby home from hospital. You can share them with the world and feel proud, you don’t have to keep quiet if you don’t want to and you shouldn’t!

The most unexpected part of the evening was that everyone had such an amazing time that we’ve already been asked when the next one is!  All I’ll say on that, is that birthdays happen at the same time every year…..

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For more about the incredible work of Tommy’s please visit their website by clicking here.

Loss

Happy First Birthday

To My Precious Boy On Your First Birthday,

‘Happy Birthday’ has never felt so wrong. I don’t feel like celebrating a year without you and yet I know I need to. What kind of Mom would I be if I didn’t acknowledge your birthday and celebrate everything you have pushed us to achieve this past year. 365 days ago I was sat in hospital cradling your small, still and silent body and I couldn’t even see the top of the hole we had found ourselves in, I couldn’t contemplate how anyone could possibly survive such pain, guilt and despair. But we’re here, we’ve made it and I hope with all of my heart that you’re proud of us. It’s been a whole year full of you and my heart has never felt so full because of it! It is pouring with rain today, totally different to last year’s beautifully clear and frosty morning but it reflects my mood perfectly so I don’t mind too much and I know that after a whole year of riding the waves of grief that there will be brighter days and calmer seas ahead.

Wow I miss you! There hasn’t been a single day when I haven’t thought of you, your absence is a constant ache, its familiar now though and it reminds me that it wasn’t just a bad dream. You were real and every beat of my aching heart reminds me of that. I think back to the days around your loss constantly. The guilt still haunts me. Did I miss something? How could I not have known that something wasn’t right, I am your Mommy, I should have known! And the question which makes me despair every time; did you suffer because I didn’t notice? I tell you constantly but I need you to know on today of all days that if I could go back and change the ending of our story I would in a heartbeat! I would move mountains to go back for you and bring you home!

I took a step into the unknown this year, I laid my soul bare for all to see at a time when I felt so incredibly delicate and vulnerable already. I wanted to do that not only to help other parents in our situation but also for you. I sensed everyone’s uncertainty around your Daddy and I and I wanted to lead the way for them. I wanted to show in no uncertain terms that I will not forget you, I will not stop talking about you and its OK for them to do the same. Hearing your name and seeing everyone’s love for you is a balm for our aching hearts. I know that sharing you and our feelings so openly may seem strange from the outside looking in, it feels alien to me at times too but at others it feels so instinctual. I’m sure that if another family member had passed away I would not share them to the extent I do you. I would not sign their names in cards and I wouldn’t expect people to send birthday cards after they were gone, but the grief of a bereaved parent is unique. You didn’t have a chance at life, we don’t have years of memories with you and that could make you so easy to forget. So your Daddy and I live our lives for you now, and that means you need to be included in the things you didn’t have the chance to do yourself.

This year should have been full of your firsts, and it has. Just not the ones we anticipated. We set up ‘Alex’s Wings’ after all the painting of your hands and feet we did in hospital. Sorry about that, we just needed to make sure that if we couldn’t take you with us that we had enough of you to keep us going until we meet again! Mommy started blogging and discovered a long-lost love of writing, we’ve been in the newspaper and next week we’ve got the biggest birthday party planned for you!! Your Auntie Kerry biked all the way to Cornwall! Daddy & I even stood up and spoke in front of 200 people last week to share your story and hopefully give courage to other Mommy’s & Daddy’s who have babies in the stars with you. Before you I would never have dreamed of doing any of these things!! I couldn’t even stand up at our wedding and say thank you to our family and friends because I was too shy which makes this the best example of the positive influence you’ve had on our lives! You’ve changed us both, and only for the better.

I’m so thankful for you Alex, I hope you know that! Thank you for everything that you have done for all of us. The most precious thing you’ve given me is showing me how much your Daddy loves me. I knew he loved me of course but its like putting glass on top of water, you know what’s underneath but it becomes so crystal clear through the glass! It takes my breath away. You’ve also shown me a strength and resilience in your big brothers that I had no idea they could possess at such a young age. They love you so much you know, if I could post all of the pictures that William draws for you, you would live on a mountain of paper!!

Happy Birthday Alex, I would give anything to have you here but I will always look for you in everything we do. You are loved beyond all measure and missed beyond all words. Have a beautiful day dancing in the stars!

Love Always

Mommy xxx

P.S. Mommy will eat an extra slice of cake for you! 😊

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Moving Forward

What Would Life Be Like With Three?

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It’s a question I often ask myself. What would it really be like? How would we have managed? Would they really have all fitted into the car? Well Saturday we got the answer and I wont lie, it was bittersweet. We looked after my best friend’s son for the day and despite all of the warnings we had received from perfect strangers when I was pregnant, it wasn’t chaos, we didn’t lose a child and we definitely didn’t find ourselves rocking in a corner with a bottle of wine by 7pm. In fact, it was quite the opposite, we had the best day!

But like so many things these days, the experience has left me struggling to appease conflicting thoughts and emotions. I feel torn between the contentment of a great day, the sadness that Alex should have been there and the bittersweet taste of life with three children.

I often got the impression that some people thought we were crazy for having three children. The truth is that I actually wanted four, Rob wanted two and so we did the grown-up thing and compromised on three (with me secretly hoping he would come round to the idea of a fourth).  The general consensus was that three children under the age of four was absolute lunacy! Most of my pregnancy was lived out to a soundtrack of “good luck with that!” “It must have been an accident”! “Are you crazy”? “How on earth are you going to cope”?  “How on earth will you go to a theme park when one child will be sitting on their own”? “How will you ever be able to cross the road when you don’t have a hand for each child to hold”?  My standard reply to these questions was always that we will cope because there is no other option but to cope.

But Saturday taught me something, I learnt that whilst I am in no doubt there would have been tough days where just coping was the only option (isn’t there always with children), there would also have been days where we more than just coped. There would have been days where we excelled at being parents to three children, days where we could pat ourselves on the back and smugly reassure each other that we’ve got this parenting lark sorted. There would have been days where we not only managed to get three children dressed and fed but where we also managed to get out of the house! (A miracle I know!) There would have been days where they screamed with excitement in the car because we were going on an adventure. There would have been days where we made magical memories to last all three of them a lifetime. Having three would not have been the grey hair inducing hell that people seem to imagine it to be and I know that we would have loved every second of it.

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So I guess that even though it made me sad to think of what could and should have been, it also settled an internal battle I hadn’t fully acknowledged I was fighting. I realised that I constantly question myself throughout my daily activities, always wondering if I could have coped with Alex in the mix. When I’m rushing in the morning to get two children fed, dressed and at nursery in time for me to get to work I wonder if I would have had enough time to feed and dress an additional child. When I’m battling with two fed up children in the supermarket on a busy Saturday afternoon I wonder how on earth I would have managed with Alex as well. But this is our life now, without Alex, and imagining him in our current lives will never seem like a perfect fit. The reality is, that if things had gone to plan and Alex was with us today then I may not be back at work at all or at the very least I would have been getting up earlier to allow time to get Alex ready as well.

I now realise that the question I need to be asking myself isn’t, how would I have coped? I know for sure that I would have. Instead maybe I can wonder who would have fallen in the mud first? Where would we have gone? What magical adventure would we have imagined? Would we have gone out to hunt for bear’s, fairy’s or dinosaur’s? Who would have eaten all the bread for the ducks instead of feeding them? The thought process of doubting my ability to cope with three children was instilled in me throughout my pregnancy with Alex and then only exacerbated by his loss. His death left me feeling like I had failed my child in the worst possible way and doubting my abilities as a Mother. Our day out with three children gave me back some of what I had lost, confidence in myself.

And the best part of it all? Alex still found a way, as he always does, to send William a white feather. He was there with us hunting dinosaurs in the woods.

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Love Rachel & Alex xx