Comfort in Poetry

Sunday was Mothers’ Day, a day I spent so many years wanting to take part in and now I can it has very mixed feelings for me. To be honest it never really lived up to the hype and I’d usually end up feeling a bit meh at the end of the day. 2015 saw me have my first Mothers’ Day as a bereaved mother (two days after Rory died – that was tough), and last year for various reasons I was left feeling like a burden so this year had to be different. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I get to ‘do’ Mothers’ Day, but I’m sad that my baby boys aren’t here to share it, and I feel guilty because my loss mama friends don’t have their babies to hold and my infertile friends are still waiting and here I am with the prize that is Toby who I can hold in my heart rather than only in my heart or my dreams.

Matt was away last weekend so before he went away he and Toby put out a treasure hunt for me to find on Sunday morning. It was lovely – clues to find, thoughtful gifts and at the end the most beautiful heartfelt poem written by my lovely husband. 

It was crumpled due to the treasure hunt hiding place, not because I trashed it… You wouldn’t think he was a number loving auditor would you?! I cried when I read it, I shared it with my loss mama friends and they cried. Simply beautiful was the consensus.

Then this week a friend told me about a poem by EE Cummings, it holds so much meaning for people in my situation so I thought I’d share it here.

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in), by E. E. Cummings

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling) I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

I know the formatting is wrong but it pasted in badly. Hopefully you felt what I did though.

[Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Source: Complete Poems: 1904-1962 (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1991)]

Two pieces of heartfelt words which have provided comfort in a challenging week.

Sands Garden

This weekend we ventured to the Midlands to visit the home of a cheeky blue tank engine. The in laws were supposed to join us but illness cut their time a bit short which was sad but we still managed to have fun! As we were in that neck of the woods we had to pay a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum.

For those who have not been, the NMA is essentially a massive park with lots of lovely memorials big and small, the large round memorial on a hill that you see on the TV in Remembrance Sunday is there (and it is stunning). As well as the big well known memorials there is a section full of little gardens dedicated to various causes – some a bit obscure, all very meaningful.

Tucked away behind a little metal gate is the Sands garden.

If you were walking by you’d probably not notice the butterflies and the baby motives but they of course signify what is beyond the little gate.

The garden is beautiful and parents are invited to leave a pebble in memory of their baby. I’d come prepared with Rory and Henry pebbles and they looked lovely nestled in the flower bed in the sunshine.

We spent time reflecting on our boys and enjoying the peace (well, what peace you can get with a five year old in tow). The son shone and we were grateful for all of our boys in that moment. Then Toby declared that he needed a wee (!) so off him and Matt trotted. 

I sat on the bench enjoying the gardens and then it hit me, the Sands garden has hedges and shrubs around its perimeter which cut you off from the world but through the branches you can see glimpses of the world outside. Inside the garden you’re in a bubble with your precious baby, lost in time and surrounded by beauty and outside, life carries on regardless, you can see normal people but you can’t quite reach them and actually the garden is nice and peaceful so you stay a little longer before returning to real life outside the garden.

The garden was a living metaphor of the life of loss families. We do live in a bubble cut-off from normal life on one hand wanting to get back into the real world and the other not wanting to leave out babies behind. As I sat there contemplating this I was suddenly a bit cross that we were cut off from the people outside the garden. Most of the other gardens were fairly open and designed so you can wander through them easily but the Sands garden isn’t. You can only enter one way (again, a bit like our lives – entry only by dead baby if you please). 

Of course the garden is secluded to give privacy but sometimes we want to share the beauty of our babies with others and to help break the taboo of baby loss. We are not for tucking away out of sight, loss families are warriors fighting to make something so horrific beautiful and purposeful.

Having had my moan (sorry), the garden is beautiful and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month #PALawareness

March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month. I’ve been resolutely scrolling past posts about it and pretending it wasn’t happening. But yesterday morning I realised that although my #PAL didn’t end in a healthy living baby, I can still relate to the fears and feelings any mum (and dad) has when going through pregnancy after loss. 

Here’s Henry’s story.

In the summer of 2015 we’d completed our follow-up appointments with the hospital and fertility clinic and to our surprise we found that the spare embryo from October 2014 had been frozen. We had a pinprick sized ball of hope in a freezer in Alicante. I contacted our NHS consultant to ask additional questions and (after lots of thinking) we tentatively booked out some time in January 2016, something to work towards as it were. That autumn in amongst lots of stuff going on we conformed our treatment and I started taking medication to get my cycle in sync with the dates we’d put aside all those months before. 

There was one small sticking point in that I had to travel alone to Spain for the transfer and I have a massive fear of flying! Hmmm, off to a lovely hypnotist I went and it worked, I made it to Spain without imploding! 

Against all the odds our average embryo survived the thaw and was put on board. I flew home that evening and embarked on nine days of wondering. I knew I was pregnant before I took a test – insomnia, nausea, and thirst were familiar signs. I was not happy or excited. I was fearful, guilty and just felt awkward. I immediately knew this baby would not fix me, I wanted Rory back.

I pretended I wasn’t pregnant, I felt very confused and was scared to connect to the new life growing inside me. I didn’t even say the P word out loud until I was 16 weeks pregnant. Despite having lots of appointments at the antenatal clinic I pushed it aside and carried on as normal. I still hated seeing bumps and babies. I’d still glare are pregnant people and then remember that I was one, one of the people I couldn’t stand.

We told very few people and all were instructed not to ask questions, not to be excited and not to congratulate us. How could we be congratulated when we were only in this situation as Rory had died? I wore baggy dresses and scarves to hide my small bump at work I have no idea if I pulled it off but it saved me from the baby talk.

All through my pregnancy I just wanted Rory back, I wondered if Rory had lived, would we have known about our spare? Would we have used it? Would we have had three children? So confusing. 

I prayed this baby would be a girl, how could I hold and love a baby boy after Rory? I was scared of everything. Sacred of having a baby boy, scared of the same thing happening again, scared of having two living children, scared to bond with my bump, scared what people thought, scared I’d never be happy, scared of pregnancy. Just scared.

I remember getting to 18 weeks and starting to feel very twitchy, our goal was always to get to 24 weeks (one week past Rory) and every week from there would be a bonus. I didn’t buy anything apart from some new maternity jeans and some second hand tops – the essentials but nothing else.

Then, just as I was starting to have a little hope it all went wrong, our 20 week scan showed a baby boy measuring 18 weeks and despite blood thinning injections and rest a scan two weeks later showed no growth and reduced blood flow. Game over.

We made plans for ending the pregnancy alongside real life. I carried on going to work, making hushed phone calls to the hospital to book myself in, telling them that I thought my baby was slipping away. I carried on arranging Matt’s party, we went to Paultons Park the day before we went to hospital when I knew Henry had gone. I was a paradox all over again – I looked pregnant but technically I wasn’t. We told Toby another brother would not be coming home and gave him a new toy to ease the pain. We lived through meeting and saying goodbye to our third son on Matt’s 40th birthday, on Father’s Day. We held Matt’s birthday party five days later. To this day I have no idea how we did all of that, how we kept it together. I know we did it to be in control, to retain some normality but I still have no idea how we got through.

I have lots of regrets, I’m sad that I pretended I wasn’t pregnant, I protected my wounded heart at the time but it made saying goodbye harder. I regret not pushing harder for more intervention, more medication from the start. I regret not finding a surrogate. Ultimately I wish I’d not been so pushy, I wish Henry was still a spark of life, a glimmer of hope in a freezer in Alicante.

Pregnancy after loss is harder than a regular pregnancy and for most there is a happy ending baby, a sticking plaster over the grief. That’s what it’s all for isn’t it? The confusion, the fear, the tears, the anxiety – all for a happy ending.

Out of four happy ending babies in my bereavemt group, mine died. I was the 1 in 4 all over again. Pregnancy after loss with no happy ending is infinitely harder. I don’t have a sticking plaster over my grief. I’m even more anxious around pregnant ladies and bumps as a result of two losses and no happy ending. 

Most days I appear to be fine, but scratch a millimetre below the smiley veneer and you see the pain and sadness. It will never fully leave, it ebbs and flows with each new milestone and trigger. I’m better at hiding it and that’s the only difference between me two years ago and me now.

Thank you to the lovely Claire for this photo x

Spreading Love 

This weekend Matt, Toby and I have been hanging hearts in Romsey and Southampton, I made them in memory of Rory to celebrate and share the love we have for him. I have a few more to put up tomorrow in my lunch break, a fitting way to remember my baby boy on his balloon day. I hope people who find the hearts take them home and enjoy the love that we’re giving 💙

Seeking Good or Seeking Attention?

In recent days I’ve been evaluating how I’ve been grieving and how it may be viewed by others. Disclaimer time – nobody has said anything unkind to me, or reported a photo I’ve posted, however a few events got me thinking and it’s good to think! It has been an emotional, reflective time for me and I’ve (rightly or wrongly) questioned why I do the things that I do… to quote a line from Wicked, ‘was I really seeking good or just seeking attention?’.

I talk about the boys a lot, on this blog, on Facebook, in real life, I tell their story, share photos, talk about how much I miss them. To me this is normal, they are mine and part of my life now but perhaps some people might see it as attention seeking or fishing for sympathy. In the early days, yes I probably was looking for sympathy and lots of it. My baby, my next baby died. That’s not normal and if I needed sympathy then I think I deserved it at the time. Now though I share my boys because they are mine and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the person I am, the friends I’ve made and I want to say so. 

Some people might think me talking about my babies means I’m living in the past, like I’m not moving on and always looking back. I’ve thought about this and I’d like to think that I am (carefully) moving forward and taking our boys with me. The term ‘moving on’ feels wrong, like they are forgotten about and left behind. However, moving forward feels more positive and I really am trying to be positive at the moment. There are of course times when I do look back, this is especially true at the moment as we approach Rory’s 2nd balloon day. I can’t help but look back and reflect on how life has changed.

Let’s be honest though, I don’t have any choice but to move forward as it’s quite hard to live in the past with a noisy 5 year old who is rapidly changing and developing during his first year at school. I’m not sure how up for moving forward is be without him but I’m grateful for his energy and presence.

For me, writing Rory and Henry’s names, sharing photos and talking about them is simply our way of weaving them into the tapestry of our lives as they are part of our life and nothing will ever change that (sorry not sorry!). I love seeing their names everywhere, I love having their pictures up, I especially love it when other people say their name, tell me they thought of them that day, include them in things, donate in their memory – it’s a joy and a comfort.

I wondered too if we were shoving things in people’s faces too much. But, I’m proud of my baby boys so I share their photos, memories of them and their stories just like I do with Toby. The only difference is that there are no new stories to tell, perhaps there are different angles or thoughts I want to share but essentially nothing is that different.

I wondered if I’d caused offence for sharing ‘unconventional’ photos or if I was  weird for keeling Rory and Henry firmly at the centre of my life, but having carefully considered the situation I take the view that you can scroll on past their photos (I only show the nicer ones by the way), or choose not to read my ramblings or even better – unfriend me, I won’t be bothered. I’d rather have two friends who get it than ten who don’t.

I then worried if all of this was perhaps attention seeking and I’d been oblivious to it. I’ve really thought hard about this and no, it absolutely isn’t that. Yes, my babies died, and yes I do get sad and angry about it at times but you know what, I do not need or seek people’s pity, nor do I want to make people feel bombarded with stuff that makes them uncomfortable. Also, you know what, I really wish they’d lived, I wish I didn’t have to consider any of these questions.

What I do want is to educate, to raise awareness and to change things for other loss families. If I can help someone to be a better friend to a loss parent, or raise awareness of how it feels to lose a child, tell people about the impact of PTSD, encourage pregnant ladies to be aware of pre-eclampsia/HELLP, give comfort to loss families or just reach out give others a listening ear then it means I have a purpose, my babies had a purpose. They didn’t just die and became an unspoken echo of a memory.

So, am I seeking good or attention? I hope I’m on the whole trying to seek good and do good. Sometimes though there isn’t a good reason for anything and I might just share photos of Rory and Henry as I love them (again the same I’d do with Toby). If you really think I’m seeking attention then you know what to do.

These are my new favourite photos 🙂

Inspirational Stories

I’ve talked a lot about needing to read stories of hope and thought I’d share some links to some blogs and videos which I have loved this week.

All are amazing, heartfelt, inspirational and give some insight into what it’s like to live a life around loss and they give me hope. Hope that I can live a fulfilled life even without my happy ending. 

The first is by Emily Long, like me she has lost two babies, her words a special and I really needed to read them this week. Emily Long – Still Standing Magazine

The second is a video a dad called Chris, it doesn’t need an introduction, please just watch it! Henry’s Story (Our Angels)

The third is another video from a loss dad called David, it is special and the ending will get you (sorry not sorry for sharing!). Grace’s Story (Our Angels)

The final link popped up today. It’s been a tough week for lots of reasons and I needed to read this post at that particular moment today. It is from Leigh at Headspace Perspective, it is simply lovely. Headspace Perspective

I hope these links give hope to you too. Much love 💙


March brings spring, for the past two years I’ve hated spring, how could the flowers still bloom when my baby had died?! I loathed it in 2015 and last year despite being pregnant with Henry I still felt uncomfortable seeing the world spring to life when all I wanted was Rory back. 

For the past few weeks signs of spring have been popping up and I was surprised – rather than feeling lost and angry at Mother Nature I was excited to see the blossom on the trees and daffodils starting to peep out of flower beds. Spring was always my favourite season and I was so sad that I’d started to hate it. I’m not sure I’ll love it like I used to but being happy about seeing blossom is a start!

March isn’t just about spring though, it’s the month our world changed forever, the month Rory was born and died, the month I lived to tell the tale of pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. I can’t call 13 March Rory’s birthday and given my dislike of terms coined by the loss community, ‘angelversary’ isn’t the right fit either. A couple of weeks ago Toby wrote a message for Rory and Henry and asked to send it up on Rory’s ‘balloon’ day. We always send balloons up on special days which is where the idea came from. That was it! Balloon Day – a perfect term to mark the days our babies arrived. Their due dates will forever be their unbirthdays, their delivery date will never be their birthday. Thank you Toby for finding the perfect term.

There are triggers and dates approaching which scare me, can it really be two years ago it all happened? We have plans to mark Rory’s balloon day, of course there will be balloons and tears but there will be surprise random gifts and cake, lots of cake. I feel ready to mark the day this year. I’m not sure what has changed but I’m ready.

So spring, it looks like you have sprung and you know what? Bring it on!