Thursday, 31 October 2013

Day 31 - Sunset

Day 31 - Sunset

The sun sets on this project amidst controversy and sadness. The baby loss community has been shaken after this event was removed from Facebook for offending people. I am actually too upset to go into it all really. The wonderful lady who organises it, Carly-Marie Dudley, has been obviously distraught and is releasing a video later, which I will post a link to on my blog. I hope it continues in 2014 as I would love to see how life changes in another year's time! 

Thank you to those of you who have shared this project with me, supported me and made it feel even more purposeful. I hope some of you have learned something too - I have certainly learned more about myself, the baby loss community and my friends! 

I am afraid to say Caleigh and I slept through sunset tonight! How awful!! But some of my wonderful friends have sent photos of sunsets to me so I have made a montage of them instead - and what a beautiful image they create. 
I wondered whether I would stop blogging at the end of this project, but I think I'll keep it open - just in case I have more thoughts at any point in the future! 

2012 Entry

Day 31 Capture Your Grief - Sunset

So that's the end of baby loss awareness month. Though obviously not the end of our grief.

The weather here in Croatia was not good today so I prepared by taking a photo last night when the sky was beautiful.

I have found this project healing in a way. I have found it therapeutic to be able to share my grief with others. I apologise to those who have not shared in this experience and found it useful in some way. Thank you so much to those of you who have.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Day 30 - Growth

Day 30 - Growth

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandise the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered and has a history, it becomes more beautiful. ~Barbara Bloom 
Now, I'm not saying I'm more beautiful, but I have changed, thanks to Isla. I do see things differently, as in I feel the grief of other mothers and want so badly to help prevent similar losses to mine. I definitely have more of a zest for living - you only live once after all and life is short! There are more important things to worry about in this life than money or objects. It's about happiness and love and peace. I sound like a right hippy! 

So, the gold that has aggrandised me is made up of Caleigh, Dan, family, friends, Fudge, memories of Isla and all the everyday things that make me smile now. And for that, I appreciate everything in life just that little bit more. 
2012 Entry

Day 30 Capture Your Grief - Tell the World Your Grief

Taken in Korcula, Croatia today...

It says "This is Isla, my daughter. Ask me about her. I still grieve deeply for her.

Day 29 - Healing

Day 29 - Healing

To be honest, the greatest healer has been Caleigh. As I walk through this month of Capture Your Grief, it has become even clearer to me how amazingly blessed we have been. And what an impact she has had on my healing this year. I'm not going to end up back in that dark place. Yes, I still hurt sometimes but, where there once was a gaping hole in my heart, Caleigh has helped fill it back up with love, joy and giant smiles. 

However, another aspect of healing has been talk. Talking about Isla to family and friends. Talking about slapped cheek. Talking about infertility. Talking about counting the kicks. Talking about sadness and seemingly endless grief, jealousy and guilt. As I mentioned on the Support day, family and friends have been amazing. 

One friend, after her own loss, recommended the counsellors at Plymouth Pregnancy Crisis Centre. A lot of hospitals around the country have bereavement midwives and offer counselling following a loss. Plymouth does not. You leave the hospital with empty arms and that's it. Fend for yourselves. Which we accepted was just the way it went. Until my friend told me about PPCC. So last September, almost exactly 2 months after losing Isla, I sought them out. And I met two of the loveliest ladies. I worked through my grief on something called The Journey. They listened, they smiled, they cried, they supported, they explored and they understood. It was just what I needed. They were also some of the first to know I was pregnant with Caleigh and, when I finished counselling in January, I was 11 weeks pregnant. What a journey indeed. 
I'm being interviewed by Comic Relief this Thursday about the counsellingI had, as PPCC been given some finding to develop their work with grieving parents. Nervous doesn't even cover it so I hope I can do them, and my daughters, justice. 

2012 Entry

Day 29 Capture Your Grief - Music

At the Exeter Cathedral service by Saying Goodbye, Lara Martin sang a beautiful song called Soothe, which was about her own baby loss. It was beautiful and very poignant. She doesn't have a YouTube video for it however, so I had to make my own up with her song ion the background - Lara kindly offered it for free after the service.
I also love this song, which we had at Dad's funeral. We sang the traditionalAmazing Grace at the crematorium but this version at the church service afterwards. I have it on my phone, so when I play the music on shuffle, it sometimes pops up. It came up twice today!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Day 28 - Special Place

Day 28 - Special Place

Isla is buried in the most beautiful spot - a woodland burial ground in Yealmpton, South Hams. I have always loved that she is surrounded by new life and gets to become part of nature. I love that going to that place is so peaceful. I don't go so much any more, I just don't feel I need to. I never went heaps anyway, though we went up the other day and laid some more flowers. Both of us were very emotional actually, with Caleigh now sitting in the back seat. 

The photo shows a picture of me just after I had planted Isla's crab apple blossom tree, which was last November. It also shows the flowers that our family laid for Isla on her birthday in July. I was pregnant with Caleigh at the time and found it quite hard to be true to my feelings, in all honesty. One of the plants, the one with little red flowers has, in fact, taken root and found its own new life right at the side of Isla, which I find very lovely and poignant. 

Thinking about last year's entry on memories - I still have those pregnancy tests from Isla but also now have the ones from Caleigh! I took about 12 this time which is quite a few!!
2012 Entry

Day 28 Capture Your Grief - Memories

I have put my pregnancy tests as my memory. My VERY first memories of Isla. I have every single one of them still. Only the digital ones have worn off. I have about 6 still. 2 are in her memory box and the others are in a basket in the bathroom. Blimey, it hurts to see them when I open that basket up. But it's a pain I need, almost. I need to remember that happiness. I need to remember how to feel that happy. I need to look at them and feel hope about seeing something so amazing again. That disbelief that we had got pregnant became the most immense happiness I have ever felt, only to end in such an intense depth of sadness, I'm still not sure how to get out of it. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Day 27 - Signs

Day 27 - Signs

This time last year, all the signs I saw were so negative. But this year, we have with us the greatest sign of hope - Caleigh. Dan was only just saying to me that 2013 will be the first year in over 3 years that we have not faced struggles or tragedy. Touch wood!! But in Caleigh, we have hope again. And happiness and laughter. 
Caleigh is a sign of joy, a sign that miracles happen, that infertility isn't always unbeatable, that rainbows come after the storm, that we are a strong couple, that you should never give up and that the smallest people really can change your lives so enormously. 

Caleigh is also a sign to remember Isla. We will tell Caleigh about Isla, so her memory will live on. I also see signs of Isla in Caleigh. Her brow and her little sloped nose. Her long fingers and perfect head! Signs of Isla live in Caleigh and that, to me, is so fantastic. 
2012 Entry

Day 27 Capture Your Grief - Artwork

Two pieces of art I have put in my picture today.

1. Night and Her Train of Stars by Edward Robert Hughes.The priest at the Saying Goodbye service in Exeter Cathedral explained how his wife loves this painting following her own baby losses. He didn't necessarily explain why, but I love it. I have thought of it as all the lost babies being comforted in the sky by the beautiful night. They are safe and shine brightly.

2. Mewstone and Rainbow by Toby Ray. I grew up in the same village as Toby and have bought a couple of his pieces in the last couple of years. The Mewstone is a rock in the sea by the village of Wembury in Devon. We scattered Dad's ashes from a yacht there last Easter, as he wished for us to do. The rainbow is significant to all angel mums as a sign of hope amidst the grey, miserable storm. It is beautiful ~ though it cannot take away the storm itself, it is a sign that it will end and sunshine shall return. To have both those things in one piece of art really touched me when I saw Toby post this picture just the other day. I have bought 4 cards of the print and have put the A4 print on my Christmas list!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Day 26 - Community

Day 26 - Community

You don't even think of there being a 'community' of women who've all lost babies, until you need it. You need someone to turn to and ask questions, a safe place to vent and the truly understanding ear of someone who has already been exactly where you are. These women (occasionally men) know the road we travel all too well - some are further along it than others but everyone feels one another's pain. Gradually, from the first entry you put into a search engine - in my case, I was still at the hospital - you find the SANDS forum, where someone puts you in touch with a Facebook group called Angel Mummies. Once there, you might join the TTC group (Trying To Conceive) and then hopefully get to the Rainbow Mummies group once that positive test makes an appearance. 

This group became a lifeline for me, as these were women who had been through losses and were now pregnant again. And I tell you what, it's a whole different kettle of fish once you've experienced loss like that. Some were 30-odd weeks pregnant and others just beginning the journey. But at all times of day or night, they were there. No question, issue or problem was too big or too small. Sadly, some women had to return to Angel Mummies. Such tragedies united us in our grief for one another. Hopefully they would return to great elation. Though every new member was greatly celebrated. Once you have your baby in your arms, you also become part of the Rainbow Babies group - what a privileged group to be part of, again providing much needed advice and support - often now in the wee hours!

ALL of these groups have helped me through dark days, joyful days, difficult days and contented days. I hope I can give back to them and others in the same way I have benefited. 

2012 Entry

Day 26 Capture Your Grief - Her Age

Friday, 25 October 2013

Day 25 - #Say It Out Loud

Day 25 - #sayitoutloud

There are lots of things I would wish to shout from the rooftops about this journey.  

~ Talk to me about my daughter, Isla. She is still so important to me
~ Don't be afraid to ask me about Isla
~ Don't forget Isla, say her name!
~ Listen to your instincts when pregnant - be strong about getting the right care
~ Miracles do happen
~ Bad days are now rare, but I still get them
~ You can survive this 
~ You don't get over the death of your child, you get through it / around it
~ Count the kicks 
I could go on. But the one thing I am just  passionate about people hearing is about Parvovirus B19 (slapped cheek). Why is immunity to it not routinely checked at booking in appointments? It doesn't cost the NHS a penny more but apparently saving 1 in every 20,000 babies is not worth the effort. Women, especially those in regular contact with school-aged children, should know their immunity status. Only when you know your status can you spot the symptoms of infection and catch it early enough or be monitored more closely. 

I asked to be tested and was told to stop worrying as I had probably had it as a child, I wouldn't be able to avoid catching it anyway and, at 16 weeks pregnant, it's not dangerous after 20 weeks so why bother? That false reassurance led to Isla's death and was wrong. 60% of adults are indeed immune to it. I was one of the 40% who weren't. No, you can't avoid catching it, but if you know that symptoms in adults are different to those in children - headache, fever, lethargy, achy joints - you can watch out for them. Though, as in my case, there can be no symptoms at all. And it IS dangerous after 20 weeks - less so, yes, but it can still infect your baby, as I and others know. 

Talking about saying it out loud, I have been asked to talk about the counselling I had with Plymouth Pregnancy Crisis Centre - by Comic Relief! The centre have been given some funding from Comic Relief to expand upon their pregnancy loss support programme called 'The Journey'. Caleigh and I are meeting a lady for a filmed / taped interview next Thursday! Could be a lovely opportunity to honour isla further,  raise more awareness of the support needed for grieving families and speak out about the taboo surrounding baby loss. Maybe I can even drop in some info about slapped cheek!!

2012 Entry

Day 25 Capture Your Grief - Baby shower / blessing

We didn't have a baby shower, though they're not really something wedo amongst us. Or maybe we do. I don't know. My sister gave me some lovely bits but I don't have them to photograph as they're now in storage. Dan's Aunty Jane sent stuff almost every week it seemed, which was so lovely. I know some people were making quilts or bibs and I'm sure others were planning stuff that they haven't told us about to save us the tears. I'd love to know if there were other little things people were planning to give Isla. I don't think I'd necessarily want them because I have nowhere to put them but to know she had belongings already seems quite important. 

We hadn't bought much really, because we were supposed to be moving house and didn't think it was sensible to buy loads only to have to move it. I had whole folders on my computer of stuff I was going to buy as soon as possible though. However, I did get the odd few bits which again I didn't really photograph - why photograph them empty when soon they'd be full of baby? I found a rocking Moses basket in a charity shop and called Dan to ask if I could buy it. It was so cute seeing it sitting there waiting for her. She never got to lay in it. The shoes in the photo were in a little box of stuff I bought from a lady at school, barely used seconds, though these seemed brand new. I adored them and took photos of them resting on my growing bump. Such happiness. 

To have a baby shower for a future baby, if we are lucky enough, is not something I think I'd want to do. Until I'm home and safe with a happy little baby, I don't think I'll be able to enjoy such an expectant event. But then, I guess I don't know for sure how I'd be if we were so lucky again.