Saturday, 11 October 2014

Capture Your Grief 2014

Day 1 Capture Your Grief
Due to a sicky baby, I thought I'd be up to see sunrise. But alas, she slept! 
However, this girl IS my sunrise. Every day I wake to her face and she lights up my life. What more can I say?

Day 2
I carry her in my heart

Day 3 - Before
This was climbing Moel Sibod in Snowdonia. Climbing 'mountains' would become quite important to us after losing Isla, and this is where we discovered we quite liked it! 
We were 4 years down the infertility road and had just had our last failed ICSI cycle. That was it. We were done. A few weeks later we would decide that for once and for all. But miracles will happen...

Day 4 - Capture Your Grief
Now - I am happy. I have an Isla-shaped hole in my heart, but Caleigh is a true heart healer! She has fulfilled every dream I've ever had and both Dan and I are so totally in love with her. She has changed me into a 'real' mum and made me happier than I could ever have imagined being. Isla still plays a part in our lives and Caleigh will hear of her sister often but the dark days are gone. Light has flooded our hearts and home once again. The heart in the top right corner is for Isla. 

Day 6 - Book
This was a hard one because I haven't read any amazingly life-changing books - yet! I have a couple I want to buy in the future, to help us tell Caleigh about Isla. But of all the books in this house that are special to me, the most important ones are my photo books. I love photos. I have heaps of photo books of Caleigh and a couple for Isla. In my purse, in amongst the stamps and receipts, I have a mini book of photos of Isla and that is such a precious book to me. A little reminder of her beautiful face, tiny hands and wonderful spirit.

Day 7 - Sacred Place
Isla is buried in the most beautiful woodland burial ground. We don't go up lots really but I blow her a kiss every time I drive past. Caleigh has been up a couple of times, but this photo was taken when we laid the gorgeous wooden plaque for her on Caleigh's birthday weekend. It looks perfect.

Day 8 - Resource
After having Isla, I was in hospital for 8 days, as I was so poorly. Now that's a lot of time to spend thinking, crying and browsing the web. And what you find is a wealth of information and support. By the time I left the hospital, I had already tapped into SANDS, Babycentre and the Carly-Marie website. Through those groups and pages, I found a Facebook group that became a lifeline. The women on there are now truly amazing friends, without whom I couldn't have quite so sanely got through my pregnancy with Caleigh or dealt with my grief so well. There is a whole community of fantastically strong women out there, who have faced unimaginable pain and come out the other side. I am proud to call them my friends. Thank you, girls!

Day 9 - In memory 
Every day, I remember Isla. I have done many things in memory of her - my tattoo, the assault course challenge where we raised nearly £4000, selling my sewing for charity, raising awareness of parvovirus b19 (slapped cheek), sharing our story with people, laying her plaque, talking about her to Caleigh and climbing Pen y Fan for the second time - this time with Caleigh! Everything I do, I believe, is fuelled by the strength I found through Isla. I fail miserably at reflecting her peace and beauty every day, but I try very hard to be the best I can be. Mother, wife, teacher, sister, daughter. In everything, is Isla.

Day 10 - Support
My family have been my support. Everyone in the photo of Caleigh's first birthday party has been amazing to us on our journey through grief. And others too, that couldn't be there - other friends near and far as well as the fab rainbow mums I've met. The baby loss community is a supportive place and you definitely find out who your 'real-life' friends are too. Dan has been such a support over the years and we may bicker like cat and dog, but we love and respect each other endlessly. My sister and mum and Iain are constant supports, even through their own issues. I didn't have space for every individual - my brother, Rose, Aunty Jane, in-laws, Gemma, Jes, Kim, Heather, Sarah, everyone at Mutley. I'm very lucky to have such wonderful people around me and I'm sorry if I've missed you off!

Day 11- Altar
I don't really 'do' altars and we don't have a huge amount of stuff on show for Isla either. A few pieces here and there but on the mantel are a few bits - the candle I light for Wave of Light and a memorial tag I bought for Isla's 2nd heavenly birthday. Just enough to catch my eye and provoke a moment of thought and reflection.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

This weekend...

What an odd weekend. What a strange couple of weeks actually. My head's been a bit all over the place... 

Today we laid, finally, a memorial plaque for Isla. I had found a wood-carving sorta person locally, who had said he could do the plaque for a very decent price. And because mum and Iain are down this weekend, we figured it was a perfect time to lay it. And it was perfect. It looks perfect. So pleased with it! 

But mum and Iain are also down for Caleigh's birthday party. Which is tomorrow! I've been manically baking, sewing, cleaning, sorting, making lists, making lists of lists and generally flapping! However, I think it's coming together! Photos to follow!

But it makes for an odd sentiment, that this morning we laid a plaque for one daughter and this evening I decorated a cake for our other daughter. That messes with my head a little actually! 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Happy birthday, Isla

A hard day. Guess it always will be. I'll start from the beginning...

Friday 13th July 2012 - woke around 7am. Milled around until about 11am, when I suddenly panicked that I hadn't made anything for Isla. I had to make her something. A teddy. Perfect. So I cut it out of the fabric I had bought for the changing bag. Then sewed it all wrong in the hurry. Of course. So Mum unpicked it while I got ready. Then I sewed it correctly before Dan stuffed it. A real group effort! 
Then off to the hospital at noon. I'd not had any contractions or bleeding, but still had a huge bump. How could this baby not be alive? But I knew she wasn't. It felt like a solid brick attached to my front, not a living baby. We went straight back to the same room on the labour ward where we had been given that awful news two days ago. I won't go into all the medical gumf that went on but by 12:30 I was contracting slightly. The mood was ok I guess, certainly once I got a bit drugged up as time went on! I hated the gas as it made me so thirsty. I kept drinking and drinking. Two jugs of water later and I felt like I needed a wee. It was about 7pm. The midwives were about to change shifts. I was given a bedpan and sent Dan and mum outside. The relief I felt as something filled the bedpan was immense. But so was the pain. It was blood. Filled to the top. About 750ml. I asked if that was meant to happen and the midwife did the classic "erm, that's ok, don't worry... I'm just going to get someone to help... Just lie down..." 

And then I don't remember too much in order. I remember lots of canulas and injections and blood. Dan and mum say there was blood everywhere. All on me, the bed and the floor. I just kept bleeding. I remember being given an epidural by a hot anesthetist and a catheter by a not-so-hot doctor. Or was that before the haemorrhage? I don't know actually. But I was poorly for sure. My blood pressure just kept rising. It reached 235/140 at one point, which kind of scared most folks. That's when they grabbed the big red box for pre-eclampsia emergencies and wheeled me quickly into the high dependency room. All a blur. 

And then not long after that I felt that something was there. She was coming. And there she was. Mum saw her. Dan and I did not. They sort of put her beside my leg while they sorted me out. A placenta was coming that was unlike anything they'd seen before. It took a lot of effort and in the end weighed 300g more than Isla. That's not normal. It was a very diseased-looking placenta and clearly not something healthy for Isla to have lived off. Isla was born at 11:52pm and weighed 900g. (2lb1oz)

They worked on getting my oxygen levels stable and the bleeding stemmed for another couple of hours. I must have drifted off too. They brought our little girl to us at about 2:30am and we got to hold her. 
She was clearly very poorly - very bloated from water retention and red too. But my goodness, she was so beautiful I couldn't help but smile at her. 

I wouldn't be leaving the hospital for a further 7 days, with a couple more visits to the high dependency room too. We would have Isla with us as much as possible, free to hold her when we wanted. On the Saturday night, I sent Dan home and spent the night with her by my side in her little cold cot Moses basket. On the Monday she went to the mortuary. We saw her there on the Tuesday and Wednesday, then she was sent to Oxford for her post mortem. We would never see or hold her again after that. 
We left the hospital on Friday 20th July with heavy hearts and empty arms. 

Today I do not have empty arms. But I've struggled. We had such a lovely day yesterday up that mountain and were driving home from Wales today. I wanted to do something fun as a family. Like a zoo or farm. But we had Fudge with us, so couldn't really stop. So we bought some plants at Endsleigh and went to The Ship Inn for lunch. Caleigh was a pickle. Not eating at all, just crying and fussing. And I hate to admit that it was annoying me. I didn't need to hear whinging. I wanted smiles and joy but instead got upset at her. I just wanted to be able to smile. It makes no sense. I can't even put in into words. By the time we got to Isla's burial ground, I was sobbing as Caleigh was screaming. Dan calmed her down before we went to plant a flower for Isla. We spent very little time there, as Caleigh was still being grumpy, so just left. I need to go back in the right frame of mind I think. In my own space maybe. I can't grieve Isla properly when Caleigh is being like that. I feel so terrible saying that. I really do. It breaks my heart but as I sit here with my little monkey being her normal lovely self now, I know it was just the grief and I needed that scream and cry. 

So yeah, two bad days. Thank you to everyone who has messaged and thought of us this weekend. There's a couple more updates in the next few days, as more things came to light back then. But that's it for now, I guess. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Two days, two years apart

It was an odd day in 2012. It was the Thursday. We had only been home from the hospital since about half 4am and had cried and cuddled to sleep. I had had part one of the induction medicine and been told I may start bleeding or contracting, so basically to stay in bed. Family visited in the day and helped us smile and talk. The midwife came round to check my urine and generally cover her back - "we could never have known"...

But it was a limbo day. Little did we know the absolute horror that was coming. Yes, we knew Isla had died. (We had now called her that.) But so much more was to hit us yet. 

It was at some point that day that Dan packed away the baby stuff and his friend came and picked it up. A sad little pile of clothes, comforters, shoes and books, all heaped into a Moses basket with rocking stand. Our friend cried and we cried. I grabbed a muslin from the basket before it was carried out of the door. It was on the top and felt like something 'useful'. For what, I didn't know. 

We didn't know that people take clothes or blankets for their dead baby, or that they arrange for photos to be taken, or that we might want to bath her or see her with a certain toy. 

Over that day, I would read up about stillbirth and what sorts of things people did and choices they could make. But it was still not reality. Everything was still just a blur. 

Two years later, we are in Abergavenny and today have climbed Pen y Fan mountain. Highest peak in Southern Britain. We climbed it in October 2012, which was the weekend of Isla's due date. We laid a stone engraved with her name. Little did we know that a mere two weeks later, I would be pregnant again!
The original stone and climb

So today we went up again and this time we had Caleigh too! What a different experience. Aside from a challenging climb (I helped with the baby carrier too!), we couldn't find the original stone we had placed. I had sort of expected not to find it but it was harder than I thought not finding it still there somewhere. But we laid a new stone in memory of Isla anyway. We've hidden it under a big rock so hopefully we can find it next time. 

A really lovely day, a successful climb and a great achievement. 

Just trying to mentally prepare for tomorrow now,,,

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Still numb...

This actually hurts more than last year. I think it must be because last year I was so focused on being 38 weeks pregnant. I was aching, sweating through the heat wave and mainly trying to stay mega positive. I didn't want or need to be consumed by grief. Although Isla was certainly not far from my mind, I had to stay in a good place, mentally. 

It would still be another 2 days until Isla would be born, but it was on Wednesday 11th July that we found out she had passed. I went to work on that morning.  My feet were now huge and I was in agony, I was hobbling around but still convinced she was ok. The medical professionals had said so, right? 

I went home at lunchtime and used my AngelSounds doppler to listen in. I found a heartbeat of 120bpm and thought I must have counted wrong. That was quite low for Isla but not alarmingly low. So I downloaded a timer app on my phone but then the phone battery died. I left it to charge while I had my dinner. Came back later on and there was no sound at all, not even the whooshing sounds we'd heard since 13 weeks. I tried for 45 minutes and, trying not to panic, then called Dan, who tried for a further 30 minutes. We were convinced my full bladder was just in the way or she was facing backwards, as the midwife had said the day before. Dan asked me what would make me feel a bit better and I said I felt I needed to call someone. 

So at about 9:30pm, I called the labour ward, who asked us in for 'reassurance' purposes only. The midwife came into the waiting room with a portable Doppler and tried to find a heartbeat - this was in the waiting room full of other pregnant couples, obviously hoping for a quick solution. She couldn't find a heartbeat but stuck with the full bladder theory. So we were taken into a side room and she tried again. No luck but still no negative thoughts even crossed my mind. So we were taken to another room, further down the corridor. I remember starting to worry but not to such a degree that I could have imagined what was to come. The midwife decided we needed to drain my bladder with a catheter but they only got 10ml out. I was still in agony from the catheter when a senior consultant came into the room with an ultrasound machine. 

I remember it was about midnight now. I remember the jelly on my tummy. I remember the ache of the catheter. I remember the midwife standing behind the consultant. And Dan sitting to my left, holding my hand. I remember the consultant was sat on a stool with the screen facing him, but I could just glimpse the screen. 

And there was nothing. Nothing on their faces but also nothing on the screen. Even from 7 weeks we had seen that flickering. But there was absolutely nothing. And the midwife's face was so sad. I remember just staring at them and then the screen, almost recognising what was about to happen. And then, there was the moment I will remember forever and ever. That moment the consultant put the scanner very carefully back in the holder and reached toward me with his right hand. And his eyes said it all before he even uttered the words "I'm so sorry.... There's no heartbeat". And then I remember screaming and shouting and shaking and crying and screaming some more. How, how, how??? Surely he was lying. Surely this couldn't happen at 27 weeks? Not to our miracle baby. Not to us, after everything. 

And suddenly it was 4am. And we were leaving the hospital with induction medicine inside me and paperwork about what to do when your baby dies. What the heck had just happened? This wasn't real. Even now, as I sit here, tears streaming down my face, I really can't believe that was us. Still numb.   

So that was it. That was Wednesday 11th July 2012. So far, the worst day of my life. 

Heart break...

Technically, there is no Timehop from today for two years ago. I know from vivid memory that is because I gave updates in the comments below the photo of my swollen feet. 

The 10th July in 2012 was the Tuesday. On that day, I had contacted the midwife upon advice regarding my swollen feet photo. I had an appointment that afternoon. Upon arriving home I wrote on the Babycentre forum how the appointment had gone. 
And how telling those words are. I knew something wasn't right but I was reassured by a medical professional. Despite since having an official apology for their actions that day, I still can't help but be heartbroken about the consequences of that flippant reassurance. And to feel like a whinger rather than a mother. 

Not only was Isla dying but the aches, pains and bloating were signs that I too was becoming very, very ill. 

Ouch, heart hurting now. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

It starts...

I have this app on my phone called Timehop. It shows you previous Facebook activity from the past 6 years or so, for that particular day. Obviously, I know we are heading towards Isla's birthday but nothing can really prepare you, I think. 

The next couple of days of Facebook statuses from 2 years ago are going to hurt. They are going to bring back some pretty heavy memories and feelings. This is what Timehop showed me today. 

This was the day my feet swelled like balloons. The mirror syndrome was starting - I was getting pre-eclampsia and Isla was dying. She had been slowly dying, really, for a couple of weeks but it was mirroring in me now. It will haunt me forever that I should have forced someone to listen to me. I'd put on 8lb in a week. 1 stone in 2 weeks. There is a tremendous amount of guilt and sadness linked to these few days in history. Why did I not realise that she wasn't kicking me? Why did I not just go to the hospital and demand to be seen? Why did I not take things more seriously? 

And then my sensible head kicks in. I was naive. I was a first time mum at nearly 27 weeks. Why would anything possibly be going wrong? Things don't, do they?

I'll keep posting over the coming few days as these feelings come to the surface. It's the only thing I can do, really. I know there's much more pain to come.