If in 2015…

If in 2015 someone said to me:

Naomi, you will go to the funeral directors and you will feel so much love when you arrive, you will greet people who are life long friends with a feeling of joy in your heart, you will say hi to the vicar who looked after you twice over and tell her you are doing ok, you will eat cake with an undertaker whilst watching crazy cat videos, you will make a slightly inappropriate joke about using a coffin as a buffet table (don’t worry, they didn’t!), you won’t cry but instead you’ll laugh, you’ll feel at home and safe and part of a family you never knew you had.

If someone had said this to me this time three years ago I would have laughed and probably have told them where they could stick their stupid prophecy. Having a nice time at a funeral directors is probably unimaginable to most people, it certainly would have been to me three years ago.

Today though, all of this happened (yes, even the comment about the coffin as I am that person who says what everyone else is thinking 🤣).

Today I had the honour of attending the dedication service for the baby chapel at the funeral director who looked after our baby boys. It was such a beautiful afternoon and I left full of joy and peace that we are a part of such an amazing thing.

Lisa and Nicky work tirelessly to make things better for bereaved families, they are caring, kind, and super fun. I know that every time I’m in Eastleigh I’ll pop in to say hi and that for me will be a nice normal thing to do!

I’ve just opened my party bag, a whole dollop of love was inside. Thank you to all at A&H Rogers for a lovely afternoon and for all the support you give to people when they are at the lowest and most frightened.

Pressing Play

We had a mindfulness breakfast at work on Friday, I missed the start as I was doing the school run (not very mindful!). I arrived just as the speaker was taking about unhappy people being stuck in the rut of thinking about things that had happened, things they wished they had done, things they wanted to go back and change. She likened them to being stuck in rewind constantly going over and over stuff that couldn’t be changed. She went on to talk about those who were always looking for the next thing – the bigger house, better car, saving for a big holiday (but not getting there) and putting things off until the time was right, until they were thinner, richer, etc., almost like they were on fast forward. Both groups of people weren’t living in the present, they were too busy thinking about things in the past that they couldn’t change or planning so far ahead that it might not happen. Neither were paying any attention to the present, to the life they were living at that moment.

As she spoke, so much resonated with me. I used to be those people she spoke about but I noticed that I no longer felt that I was.

I’ve always been that planner, the person trying to keep up with those who seem to have everything and as soon as I had the thing I dreamed of I was onto the next grand plan. Never content, never happy always thinking about what I didn’t have.

Then, since Rory and Henry died (maybe more-so after Henry) I’d been stuck in the past, I spent the best part of 2 years going over things that had happened, things that were said and done, thinking about what should have happened and it was pointless. It wasn’t going to change anything or make anything better. I had just wasted time and added to my grief and unhappiness.

As I listened I realised that I still plan, I’m still impatient, that won’t change. But I am better at living in the moment and being better at being grateful for what I have.

I try not to think about the past in terms of ‘if I’d done this differently would the boys be here?’. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to think about what happened or that I’m forgetting them. It just means that I’m not reliving the past over and over because that is pointless and not a constructive use of my brain power. I still wonder what they might be doing if they were still here, or what life might have been like but I know they are daydreams.

As the speaker went on I listened, I nodded, I understood. I could identify with all of the examples.

She spoke about daily gratitude and I realised with our memory jar record of the year that we were already doing that as a family. I started it in 2017 as I wanted to end the year thinking about the good things that had happened.

Last year I won a mindfulness book. At the time I read it but I couldn’t see how mindfulness fitted in to my routine. It seemed like a chore, my head felt too full. I put the book away and carried on as usual.

I reflected on the session and I realised that to get where I am now, it was me who had to identify what needed to change and it was me who had to take action. The changes had to be mine, and for me. I thought about the mindfulness book and it sort of made sense. 5 minutes was all I needed as a minimum, surely I have that.

The thing is, whilst I’m feeling so more positive in my life, just lately I’ve been feeling more anxious. Not really about anything in particular, but I can feel the anxiety clouds looming and I want to ward them off as best I can. It could be the come down from EMDR, it could be I’m worried about stuff and I’ve not realised, I just can’t put my finger on it. What I do know is that I don’t want to hit that re-wind button. I want to be here in the present and I don’t want anxiety to get in the way.

I feel ready to try daily mindfulness again. I’ve dusted off the book, downloaded an app and I’m going to try my best. I’m going to press play.

Limbo

Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month

March isn’t just Rory’s month, it is ‘pregnancy after loss’ awareness month. I’m a little ambivalent about it, my news feed is full of people saying how hard it is to be pregnant, how tricky it is to parent a baby born after a loss, there are so many happy rainbow baby stories. It’s a bit triggering to say the least. I’ve learnt to keep scrolling on the bad days.

The thing is, I was pregnant after a loss, I did feel all of those emotions but then Henry died and I wasn’t in that club any more. I feel like I’m in limbo, I feel like nobody wants to hear a story of failure, I know that my story makes some people feel guilty for having a baby after loss as I’ve been told that. All of this adds to the feelings of being marginalised and ignored by the wider loss world as we didn’t get the holy grail of a living baby after a loss.

But then another blogger encouraged me to tell my story, she said it was important and people needed to hear it. So here it is.

How it Started

Way back in 2015 I screamed these words to my husband: ‘I will never be happy again until I have a baby in my arms’. Those words were spoken with such passion, I was trying to convince him that we needed to pin down a rough date for the transfer of our one remaining frozen embryo. I was so empty, I thought a new baby would fix my broken heart.

Fast forward to January 2016 and I’m sat in a clinic in Spain about to have the embryo transferred.

I was nervous, scared and dare I say it, a little excited. I was on the journey to my holy grail, the road to being happy again. My experience of the loss world up until that point was that a baby after loss will help you heal, that it was the best way of healing, and that the vast majority of loss parents ended up with another baby.

Pregnant Again

Fast forward 10 days later and I was looking at a positive pregnancy test. I knew I was pregnant before then as there the nausea and the raging thirst – familiar signs. I looked at the faint line and I was scared, the expected had happened.

I was pregnant but I didn’t want to be. In that moment I just wanted Rory back. I wanted my baby, the baby who couldn’t stay.

There as absolutely no excitement with my Henry pregnancy. I pretended it wasn’t happening; the 7 week scan was competed in silence, even when there was spotting and I had an early scan I pretended that it was all happening to someone else. It felt very much like I was going through the motions but my heart wasn’t present.

Matt and I didn’t talk about the pregnancy, we didn’t even say the P word until I was about 16 weeks along (by that time it was becoming fairly obvious that I was pregnant and we could avoid it no longer).

I had frequent appointments at the hospital all the way through. I felt uncomfortable sat there surrounded by massive bumps. The happy chatter and excitement was totally lost on me.

Rory’s first anniversary arrived, I felt awkward, like I wasn’t supposed to be sad about him as I was pregnant already. I felt like a fraud. We went to the beach and had a lovely gentle time. We didn’t talk about the new life growing inside me, instead we talked about our baby boy (the baby I just wanted back).

We only told those who needed to know about the pregnancy – family, work, a handful of friends. At our 12 week scan we said ‘good’ and ‘thank you’ when the sonographer was checking Henry over. We just wanted to get out of there. Sitting in the waiting room full of happy excited people wasn’t helpful. I felt like an outcast, like I wasn’t supposed to be there. It felt like I was pretending at being pregnant.

There was no sharing of scan photos on Facebook, to be honest there was no sharing of scan photos with anyone. I couldn’t bring myself to look at them never-mind sharing them with the world.

I can share one now though, my upside down baby boy.

Guilty

I felt so guilty when I was pregnant again. It felt like I was trying to replace Rory, like I was trying to pretend that he didn’t happen. I knew that wasn’t the case, I knew I wasn’t trying to replace Rory, I was just trying to find happiness again.

I felt guilty about wanting Rory back, I worried that I didn’t want this new baby. I felt guilty about that.

I felt guilty for putting my family through this all again.

I felt guilty for being pregnant when loss friends weren’t.

I just felt guilty about everything all of the time. It was exhausting.

Protecting Ourselves

I said earlier there was no excitement and that is the truth. We didn’t buy anything, we didn’t talk about the pregnancy, we didn’t discuss names, we didn’t make any plans. There were times when I dared to dream, I dared to imagine holding a living baby in my arms. It felt awkward and I struggled to imagine it. If felt like it wouldn’t actually happen.

It was safer to pretend it just wasn’t happening, easier to not get attached as there were no guarantees. I was anxious and worried and this added to the guilt induced exhaustion.

This is literally the only photo I have where you can see my tummy (16 weeks and knackered as you can see).

The Beginning of the End

At our 20 week scan we found that our baby was small for dates by 2 weeks. We knew that in that moment that we wouldn’t be taking him home. The baby was a boy, I’d been so scared the baby would be a boy. The things I feared most were happening, it was another boy and we were losing him.

We cried, we felt so lost. We were prepared for this of course but it still hurt, we had hoped it wouldn’t happen again. It hurt that in that moment when we were told our baby boy was small I realised that I did want him, I wanted him with all of my heart and it was unlikely we’d get to bring him home.

The next two weeks involved medication, doctors appointments, scans and lots of rest.

It didn’t work.

Our baby boy hadn’t grown. He was in poor shape and we were told that he was going to die in the next few days.

Familiar Territory

We were back in the realm of planned early inductions, this time not to save my life though, and there was no little life to save. We knew this process all too well and we thought we knew what was coming.

We made plans, we had to finally take back some control. We carried on as normal, I went to work, I told colleagues I’d be back in two weeks. I carried on planning Matt’s 40th birthday party. I bought things for hospital – pads, snacks, new pyjamas. I bought impression clay to take prints, I contacted the lady who made my print necklace as I needed another charm added. It was all very matter of fact and controlled.

Carrying on as Normal

Henry was due to be induced on the Sunday which was also Matt’s 40th birthday and Father’s Day. I was determined to keep things normal for us and to celebrate in some way so the day before we went to Paultons Park. I knew that day that Henry was slipping away. I looked pregnant but I sort of wasn’t really – I was in limbo.

We made the best of the day and whilst it was an odd thing to do, it was right for us. We needed a dose of normal.

Labour and Beyond

Toby and Rory had fast labours. We assumed with Henry that we’d be done by lunchtime, we’d make lots of memories and I’d be home the next day. We were so wrong. Henry took literally all day to arrive. It was exhausting, disorientating, and at times it was downright dull.

Henry was born on his daddy’s birthday though and that makes him that little bit more special.

We stupidly thought that as we’d been through it before that we knew how we would feel and that we would feel the same. It was worse, so much worse. Henry leaving us was not only another loss but the end of our baby making journey. We decided before his induction that we’d call it as day. There were too many risks, too much expense, too much stress and so many unknowns.

I found I didn’t want to leave the hospital as it felt like I was leaving a piece of me, a piece of my life behind.

Henry’s funeral was so difficult, it was a massive full stop on a difficult period of our life.

We had been pregnant after a loss but we didn’t get the holy grail at the end. It was a hard concept to deal with. There were other loss parents who were pregnant at the same time and I couldn’t understand why they were getting to keep their babies and I couldn’t. It felt so unfair. I distanced myself from our local loss group as it was full of bumps and babies. It still is of course (oh the irony) but I can cope, I have at best mild indifference to babies. They don’t interest me, they certainly don’t upset me like they did.

Final Thoughts

As I sit and recall Henry’s pregnancy and the aftermath I’m not sure how I feel. Months of EMDR therapy have softened the trauma of what we have been through. I know though I didn’t get my reward of a living baby, that I was pregnant after loss. I did go through all the same emotions as a parent who won their prize of a living baby after loss. My pregnancy story is just as real and as valid as theirs, more-so perhaps as it tells a different story to the countless happy outcomes.

I know that my story doesn’t have a traditionally happy ending, there is no living baby at the end. I know my story can make people uncomfortable. I get that nobody wants to think about more than one baby dying. It’s not nice. The trouble is, it happens and I am not the only one who didn’t get their prize. I was lucky enough to experience pregnancy again, some people don’t get that chance.

In a loss world filled with new babies it is hard for parents like me. There is no escape, no safe place.

Being my own Rainbow

When we lost Henry I lost myself in a deep dark hole of despair. I couldn’t see how I could ever deal with bumps, babies, and sibling groups when I didn’t get my rainbow baby and there was no chance of another. The word ‘rainbow’ made me feel sick and it triggered me. I was so angry at the world, at other loss parents, at my body. It just wasn’t fair.

I’ve spoken at length about the EMDR therapy I undertook and it helped massively. I have slowly come to realise that to be happy I need to be my own rainbow. I am proud that I fixed myself and I didn’t need a new baby to do it.

I’ve also realised that there is a certain type of strength that comes from having to carry on with no sign of hope, with no sticking plaster baby covering your wound.

I have stated to love and value myself and that is a truly special thing.

Mother’s Day

This is my sixth Mother’s Day. If I’m honest it has never quite hit the mark of warm fuzzy feelings like Christmas or birthdays – sometimes a bit underwhelming, devastating one year and just awful another. None of these feelings were anyone’s fault or wrongdoing, Mother’s Day just never felt like I thought it would after all those years of trying for a baby and I could never quite put my finger on why this was.

But this year, things are different, I am different. If I’ve learnt anything from my baby boys, it’s to have no expectations of what might happen. Whatever you imagine in your mind will never quite be the same as what actually happens.

This year for Mother’s Day I had no expectations, no firm plans, no warm and fuzzy ideal day in my head. For once I let my big boys decide where to go and what to do. I went with the flow, well sort of (unheard of for me!).

We had the loveliest, gentle, and warm day together as a three (and a five in our hearts, always). For the first time in 6 years I can honestly say I had a brilliant Mother’s Day. If I’d told my 3-years-ago self this fact back in 2015 I would have probably scoffed at such a ridiculous idea.

Toby, you made me a Mummy, but Rory and Henry you taught me how to love more deeply and how to approach life head on. To quote Elphaba and Glinda from Wicked – so much of me is made from what I learned from you.

Thank you Matt and Toby for a lovely day.

To my three little boys, I love you all equally but differently. Always.

Spreading the love (again)

Last year to mark Rory’s anniversary I made 23 hearts and hung them up all over the local area for people to find. This year I wanted to do something different, I was a bit stuck and then realised that Mother’s Day falls two days before 13 March so it had to be something for mums this year! Rory’s anniversary is always near Mother’s Day – I was still in hospital on the first Mother’s Day without him. Matt and Toby visited with cards and presents, it was strange and none of us quite knew what to do.

Anyway, this year’s Rory gift is for the mums – five gift bags full of Mother’s Day treats.

I’ve not actually decided how and where they are going. The weekend will be a bit wet so leaving them for people to find might not be an option but I feel awkward going up to a stranger and her family and saying – here’s a gift for you in memory of my dead baby.

Suggestions welcome!

Hello March

I’ve known March was about to come, the calendar is a good reminder (obviously!). Mid February I noticed that March was around the corner and I wasn’t sure how I felt this year. In previous years there has been dread in the pit of my stomach, along with sadness, anger and anxiety.

This year I felt neutral, I saw the images of previous years popping into my head and with a silent nod I thought ‘now isn’t the right time’ so they have been put to one side for now until I have the focus to think about them. This year I don’t feel overwhelmed by what is to come in the run up to 13 March and that’s a good thing!

Rory again is our March photo on the family calendar. His and Henry’s photos are the months that never change, they will never have proper birthdays and Christmases, no snow, no summer holidays, no first day of school photos to add each year.

Anyway, back to the point of my post. This came up on Facebook today.

Ouch. I’d lost track of the date (I blame the snow) and this took me by surprise. This post was the start of the end. I went into work the next day and laughed when my colleague told me to get checked out. I promised and I did but I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t realise that just ten days later I’d be very ill and my baby would be dead. Ten days, that’s all it took.

How do I feel now? A bit sadder perhaps but still ok. I know there will be more ‘on this day’ posts in the coming days, I’m prepared for them and I’ll nod in acknowledgment and deal with them when I’m ready. Rory’s balloon day is mid-week this year, Mother’s Day is the Sunday before so we’ll spend time as a family and do something nice to honour him and his short life.

I think deep down my brain has been preparing for the days ahead. I had a dream last night that we had a baby who was very weak (and he talked – weird!), the baby didn’t realise he was dying but we knew. We cared for him and took him to meet friends and family and work colleagues who congratulated us and said he was lovely. I woke up feeling sad and strange. In my dream we did the things I didn’t get to do with Rory and Henry, people getting excited and fussing over newborns are the things that still make me tigger. We didn’t quite finish them off in EMDR but we did do some positive affirmation stuff around bits and bobs to do with this (which I know have paid off as I’ve ticked a few things off since EMDR finished).

If I’m honest March, you are a bit of a bugger but bring it on, I’m bloody ready for you!