Our beautiful baby daughter Anabelle was born sleeping June 2010.
Blessed with the screaming arrivals of our gorgeous rainbow sons,
Alexander October 2011, Zachary November 2013 and Lucas July 2016.

After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows
Heartbreak. Joy. Death. Life. But most of all Love.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Year of Belle's Birth

This morning I noticed that my Bible is a 1985 copyright version. I like things like this – things that relate to my birth year.
The first present Jon ever bought me was 1985 related. 3 weeks after we started dating he went to Tenerife and brought me back a present. That present was a 20 pence piece necklace, the 20 pence had been made in 1985, cut out and crafted. It is beautiful. Jon saw it and thought of me, the year I was born.
Being reminded of 1985 this morning has made me think of 2010. The year of Anabelle’s birth.
Through our pregnancy we had been keeping a pregnancy diary and filling in a baby record book. One of the pages in the baby book was all about the year of birth and what the key events were. I started filling it in in January. It started with the earthquake in Haiti , over the months I’d noted other earthquakes, the general election and new primeminister, the hung parliament, the volcano ash causing havoc with air flights, the gunman and random murders in Cumbria.  Our last entry was on the 4th June; I’d written about the ongoing oil disaster.
In Belle’s memory box we have the paper from the day she was born. The headline reads: The Minister for Hypocrisy – Top LibDem who dumped wife of 26 years when affair with PR girl was exposed shamelessly played on family values at election. I find it really hard to believe that on the 21st June this year that was front page news.  I still haven’t read the rest of the paper yet. It’s going to take building up to, but one day I will. What happened on the day Anabelle was born?
I can barely remember any of these events happening now. Anything in the first half of 2010  seems such a long time ago. I can’t recall any world events at all since Anabelle’s birth, apart from the recent royal engagement.
The world since June has been such a blur. I can only concentrate on us and our daughter.  
Monday, 29 November 2010


Yesterday somebody commented on my blog post. I’ve already personally replied to the comment, but the issue has continued to play on my mind.  Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion but I feel the need to reiterate my response to Anonymous.
Out of everything in the comment it was the following points that I wanted to address again today.

However, I can see why photos of stillborn babies make people uneasy. They do not look alive, and some of them are quite distressing.
As I am unaware who Anonymous is, I believe this was a general statement, and not directed specifically at Anabelle. However, it is Anabelle who I am going to use as an example and defend.  The only thing that gives Anabelle away as being dead is her colouring – and even that is slight. I will concede that I am biased, I am her mother after all. But from the pictures I’ve shared on facebook I really am at a loss as to what is so distressing about her.
She is not disfigured, she’s not gory or anything else remotely scary. She looks like any other baby, led in her moses basket, or in our arms sleeping.  If there is any distress at all in her photos it’s that she represents myself and Jon, her grandparents and extended family who grieve her loss, and will always grieve her loss.
I made the point in my response to Anonymous that if someone feels a moment’s distress looking at Anabelle or any other beautiful angel babies photos then I hope it makes them think of the life-time distress of the grieving parents. For the few people who react badly and get distressed looking at an angel’s photo I would like to think the majority look beyond the “dead baby” and see somebody’s much loved, beautiful son or daughter. Sees the family, because that child is not just a “dead baby” to them.  In my experience on facebook – Anabelle’s photos have had multitudes of beautiful and moving comments. The majority of people will always have compassion.  

I can't help but think maybe it would better to keep these photos private.
And this is the biggy. Yes it is very easy to sit there in judgement and suggest what is “better” when you are on the outside and not the one living the situation.  We and many other angel parents want and need to share our babies photos – and there is nothing wrong with that. Yes, the points were raised that some people don’t ever view dead bodies, or that you wouldn’t take or share pictures of your dead Grandmother, but the situations are so incomparable that I’m not even going to give it the time of day. But I will ask what is the fear of death in our society? A body cannot hurt you, and neither can a photo of an angel baby.  But it can make you grow a pair, to stop, become aware and think.
Anabelle is not just a dead baby – she is a person, she has a face and a name and she is my firstborn child, I am proud of her and I refuse to hide her away and shush. She is and always will be a member of this family.
Anabelle has her photo up in our home, both of her Grandparent’s homes, her Great-grandmother’s home, her Aunt and Uncles home.  Anabelle is included. If anyone has a problem with her photo on display in our homes, or on my personal facebook page then it is THEIR problem. Not mine, not ours.
 If it’s that much of problem, simply don’t go and look. Don’t click on my photo album on facebook. By all means have a polite opinion such as Anonymous yesterday, raise your point of view that I can answer with how we feel, but there is absolutely no need to cause further distress to grieving parents by starting malicious hate groups – which was the point of my post yesterday.
We live in a society where stillbirth and baby death is a taboo subject. Even today when there are not many taboos left, this is one of the few that remain. Sharing our photographs and including our babies in our families gives opportunity to break that taboo. If they are to remain hidden and private then it only continues to feed the “sweep it under the carpet” attitudes of old. Things have come a long way from the days of old; while I am so thankful that Anabelle has the right to be acknowledged as the real person she is, that I can include her as one of my children, that I’m not expected to just ‘forget’ about her unlike years ago, I still think there is a long way to go.
I want to break the silence surrounding stillbirth. To raise awareness of the huge impact that a lost baby has on a family’s life. A child’s death, unborn or otherwise is not part of the natural order of things, we are living the worst kind of grief. It’s not a sweep it under the carpet matter.
And so today I’ll end my blog with a photo of my family. Anabelle in her Mummy and Daddy’s arms, holding her Daddy’s finger.  It isn’t distressing. She isn’t distressing.  But it is heart breaking.
Mummy, Daddy and Anabelle

Sunday, 28 November 2010


In this world there are some really spiteful people, true nasty pieces of work. The internet especially is littered with these types of people.  Only on the internet these people are called Trolls. Trolls who say or do inflammatory things to hurt people, usually vulnerable groups. But most of all, I’ve learnt, they do it for the attention they get from their audience, thriving off drama and the distress they are able to cause.
At the end of the week I encountered Troll-like behaviour. On Facebook a group was flagged up by other angel Mummies. A group designed to cause hurt and distress, attempt to make our babies non-children again. The group was all about getting the pictures of angel babies off facebook. Only they were not referring to our children as angels, oh no, this nasty piece of work who created the group was calling them rotten, ugly, disgusting. The spiteful, I’d even say evil, creator also going on to say that the deaths of our babies were our own fault – and that we killed them by abusing pregnancy and deserved everything we got. Unbelievably it continued – an album on the group of the creators daughter titled “My beautiful gorgeous daughter who is alive because I looked after her.” 
This Troll: pure evil.
This group at the time I saw it only had 50 likes; and from what I could see, mostly liked by angel Mummies so they could tell the groups creator exactly what they thought of them. The group stank of troll to me. I doubt the creator had a daughter at all, or really cared about angel babies and their photos that much, but that they had simply found a group of vulnerable people they could easily attack, knowing full well that attacking their precious babies would provoke the attention and reaction.
Friday I didn’t feel the need to justify myself or Anabelle’s photos to the Troll. I reported the page to facebook along with many other angel Mummies.
It angers me though that anyone, troll or otherwise, seeks to tarnish my daughter. How dare they? Although I realise this is the exact reaction trolls hope for from their intended audience.
Today I challenge anyone to walk just a mile in our shoes and then describe our babies as rotten, ugly or disgusting. The day our life-changing situation happens to the Troll, let them create nasty groups then.  People have no idea.
My daughter is none of the things that evil person said. She is beautiful. I did not abuse my daughter and did not deserve the life that’s been given to me. I have as much right as every other mother to be proud of my daughter and to share her photos on my personal facebook page. My daughter is not scary. Anabelle looks like any other sleeping newborn. Anabelle is perfect.
I just wish that sometimes, people would ask to see Anabelle’s photo too. You know, when you’re in a group and people are sharing their children. I was at my Mums retirement evening a couple of months ago. There were people asking to see eachothers latest photos. No-one asked to see mine. I just wish people would include me in that. I have a child too. Anabelle is beautiful and deserves cooing over too.
Anabelle’s photos are so precious to us. They are the only photo’s we’ll ever have of her. She won’t grow or change, but she’ll forever be my perfect sleeping newborn girl.
Thursday, 25 November 2010

Today is Thanksgiving

Say not in grief that they are no more,
but in thankfulness that they were.
On Saturday just passed I saw the above quote on a memorial bench at Saltash Pass in Plymouth. It struck me as a beautiful saying, but a saying that is so hard to truly live up to. I am thankful that Anabelle was, but my grief and pain that she is no more on earth is great. I think it will be a long time before I am able to say not in grief that they  are no more.
I’m learning a lot about grief. After all I’m living it. Grief is unique, lonely, isolating, angry, crazy, up, down, physical. Grief is all these things and so many more.
Grief is most of all unpredictable. I never know when the next intense low is going to hit me or what the trigger might be. Of course there are the times, dates, occasions I know I’m going to find difficult, but there is always the unexpected too. In reality I cannot know how I’m going to feel from one day to the next. Forward planning is almost impossible; how am I supposed to know if I’ll be able to do it when the time comes. There have and will be cancellations. There is a fine balancing act going on at the moment between a good day and bad; a good day can so easily be tipped over.
There is no time limit on grief. There is a process, it can’t be rushed. Maybe some people think I should be feeling better by now, or whatever time. Newsflash - I will grieve for Anabelle for the rest of my life. Maybe not as intensely as I do now, but there will always be some new reminder of what she and we are missing, something new in her life that wasn’t to grieve for. Yes, the say not in grief bit is long long way off. Maybe forever off. But I can be and am so thankful that she was. That she is, in our heart, our family and in heaven.
Today the American’s are celebrating thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday in November. A day to think about the year that has passed us and what within it we have to be thankful for.
Today I am thankful that I am a mother to a beautiful daughter, a wife to a wonderful husband, a daughter to loving parents. I say in thankfulness that Anabelle is.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Because She's Worth It

“It will all be worth it in the end” was a phrase that was often said to me when I was suffering horrendous morning sickness. I don’t know why it’s called morning sickness, because I suffered all day; including getting up in the middle of the night to be sick too. I didn’t disagree, I felt rotten, but I was pregnant and that was special – of course it was going to be worth it. Besides, I knew morning sickness had a high probability of being part of pregnancy before we started trying for Anabelle.  I know full well I’ll probably suffer with it again when we’re pregnant with number 2.
I heard it again when I was in hospital at 31 weeks with a threatened premature labour. June was so cruel. I was admitted 10 days before Anabelle died because she had gone quiet, I was having early contractions and her heart rate was dipping. At one point I was being prepped for theatre for an early delivery but they were treating us and Anabelle picked up, the contractions became less intense and slowed down. It was ok. I was kept in for a few days and given steroid injections to mature Belle’s lungs just in case. The steroid injections were the most painful I’ve ever had. But it was “all going to be worth it in the end”.
Going through our head then wasn’t the possibility that our daughter could die; oh no, we were so very concerned for the life-long problems she could face if she was born so early. The uncertainty of her early weeks and beyond. We had a visit from a neo-natal doctor who told us exactly what would happen if Anabelle had to be delivered. I wasn’t really reassured about the long term.  The problem being I know too much from my job.
Now a huge part of me wishes she’d been delivered then. Those two little words creep in “What if” – would she have survived if she’d been born that week? The worst thing of all is that my threatened premature labour was just a horrible co-incidence in timing, it wasn't related to her death the week after. I know the best decision for Anabelle had been made that week. She had picked up and settled down, she was ok, I had a scan, the scan was ok, she was safer inside me than out. Or so it seemed. No-one can foretell the future can they.
Then a week after I was discharged I was hysterical. Anabelle had gone quiet again – the day before she died I had a midwife appointment, her heartbeat was found straight away, a little fast, but not fast enough to worry unduly. During that day she got quiet. We had a heartbeat monitor at home and before I went to bed we listened in; and there was her little heart. She was ‘ok’ – we made the decision that if she was still quiet in the morning we would go to the hospital. How I wish now we’d gone that night. I find it quite difficult to live with, this guilt I didn’t keep her safe or go in early enough. Even though I know in reality that the outcome probably would’ve been the same in the end. They wouldn't have got her out unless they had to, and her heartbeat was there in the night.
The morning came and I put the heartbeat monitor on again. Nothing but silence.
I tried to reason with myself that maybe the batteries were low or something. But in my heart I knew; mother’s intuition?
We got to the hospital and I was straight on monitors. They thought they found a heartbeat, it was slow for a baby but it was there and our hopes were raised. But in reality they had found mine. My heartbeat which was raised a little fast for an adult. We were sent for an emergency scan and it confirmed what my heart was already telling me. Our little girl had become an angel.
But it was “all worth it in the end” – not in the traditional sense, but we still met our daughter. We had gotten to know her, in her 32 weeks she had become such a part of our family, infact she’d become the main feature of our family. She still is. She’s made us a family. Me and Jon loved her more than we thought possible already. Bonding and love starts at conception, from that positive pregnancy test. We loved being pregnant with Anabelle.
Every trial and pain in pregnancy is worth it and I just hope everyone realises that. I appreciated everything with Anabelle, but think how much more I’ll be aware of how precious my time is when we have number 2. Anabelle has taught me to take nothing for granted and that it really will all be worth it in the end.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Unexpected Peace

Here we are again. The 21st of the month. Another month has now passed. Anabelle has been born an angel for 5 months now. I continue to feel uneasy about the swift passing of time, how on earth has 5 months passed? I cannot help but wonder how different 5 months should have been. Anabelle, if she was here would be sitting up and starting to explore toys. Maybe she would start to think about crawling in the next couple of months. But none of that is to be, not on earth at least. It’s the should’ve beens that hurt the most. Don’t even get me started about Christmas yet. I’ve 10 days yet until December starts and I really have to think about it.
Strangely, today has been the most peaceful 21st so far. I haven’t felt the all-consuming brokenness today and in the last few days as other months. It may be because we’ve been very busy, I’m back at work for a start, I’m occupied. We’ve also been away this weekend for preparation for my brother's upcoming wedding.
But the biggest factor today I think for my feeling peace, follows on from my previous blog. The comfort from God that follows my anger. This morning I went to church in Plymouth with my Aunt and Uncle. During the service the minister randomly chose to read some verses from Isaiah 43 (verses 1-2, 18-19) during the singing and then prayed. The verses speak of God knowing his people and being there when we feel alone, providing relief during the stormy times.  It felt like the minister was speaking directly to me and I instantly felt peaceful for today. My Aunt and Uncle also (independently) felt those words had been for me and told the minister at the end of the service. He then prayed for me there. Some people may find that really weird, but I think it is really powerful when somebody takes the time to pray for others and brings their sorrows before God.
Anabelle's Candle
Another thing that made today different was that for the first time we had a plan. A plan to commemorate the significance of another month. Something special for Anabelle today. Last weekend our lovely friends gave us a gift for Belle. They had taken the time and given the thought to have a candle made for her; with her name, an angel bear and a poem on. It is beautiful and was lit for her tonight. It wasn’t just any candle this 21st – it was her candle.
The thoughtfulness and kindness of some people continues to amaze me; and not necessarily from the people who we were previously that close to, in fact some are complete strangers.
You may remember from my “Thank you to the friend” blog of the online community I was part of while I was pregnant. The lovely August 2010 ladies when Anabelle died raised money between them to send to Sands in Belle’s name and organised a Beatrix Potter Rose to be delivered to us in the Autumn. Her rose arrived on Friday and has been potted and placed outside our front door. We love it. And the best bit – wandering around the garden centre I notice the perfect pot for her rose - “Bell Pot” – so apt, a Bell pot for our Belle. Another sign from our girl that she is always there.
I think the next 21st will be the hardest yet. The half a year milestone is looming, as well Christmas in the same week. But for today on this 21st, we remember our beautiful daughter in gentle peace.
Thursday, 18 November 2010

Some Days

Some days I am angry at God. Really angry.  All powerful God who needn’t have let my baby die. All the unloved, unwanted and uncared for children in this world and my beautiful Anabelle was the one taken to heaven. I’m angry at the injustice of it all.
You know what though, it is ok to be angry at God because God is big enough to take it; I’m sure it is better to direct my anger his way for the most part than others. Often when the anger subsides somehow it is turned around to me finding him and the church a huge comfort. Despite my anger at him, God still finds ways to show me he cares. I and God really do have a love/hate relationship at the moment.
Some days I feel really resentful. Resentful at all the people who have everything I wanted most in the world. A family. Our family. What did we do to be so undeserving in comparison to everyone else?  Everyone else seems to be enjoying their newborn baby and watching them grow up, or the people enjoying a life adventure, or all the happy people while we’re broken hearted and longing for Anabelle. Missing out on her first smile, her first tooth, her first word, her first everything.
Is there some life lesson I’m supposed to be learning? What was Anabelle’s purpose in life? It could only be to teach us all something. I don’t fully understand yet, but I know Anabelle has touched people beyond her father and me, and that even for her short 32 weeks God will have had some purpose for her.  Anabelle has already taught us what unconditional love means, taught us the strength of our relationship, she has reaffirmed my faith – but I can’t help but think there is so much more our little girl is going to teach us along the way.
The thing that hurts the most today is that we’ll forever live a life with one child missing, missing out on all of her should’ve beens. From the outside at least we are not the family of three we should be. From the outside all anyone can see is the two of us. From the inside Anabelle lives in our hearts and is very much part of our family.
Anabelle is our first born beautiful girl and that is a very special place in any family.
Monday, 15 November 2010

A New Me

Losing Anabelle has changed me. I know I have said this before but I’m really not the same person I was. I’m still getting to know this new me – and there is still much yet to learn.
I think the most obvious thing I feel is age. I feel so much older than my only 25 years now. I struggle at the moment to identify with some in my age group; the evident stresses that they feel they are dealing with seem so inconsequential to me, trivial in the greater scheme of things. While some people worry about where to go and what to do at the weekend, whether to buy a new car or not, or if the RSVPs will be returned in time; we deal with the full force of just surviving each day, possible further life-changing test results on the horizon and the fact we have to start thinking about a headstone for our daughter soon.  
I know this is all slightly unfair. 18 months ago some of those trivial things would’ve seemed important to me too. But my experiences in life since then have shown me what is really important, where priorities should really be, what really matters. Jon nearly dying, Anabelle actually dying and Jon’s sensory problems and what they could mean have aged me considerably.
I think I used to be quite a ‘people pleaser’ – I cared a lot about what people in my life would think and would be quite happy to go along with things whatever my feelings on the matter if it kept other people happy and avoided any confrontation. This element of my personality started to change slightly while I was pregnant, Anabelle became my number one priority, and rightly so. Since her death it’s continued to change some more. There is still that bit of ‘people pleaser’ in me but its waning swiftly. I think it will continue to wane. I’m so much more inclined to put Jon and myself first now, what we need, us being happy my first priority.
In all honesty, I think this is a positive change in me.
There the not so positive changes too though – but I know they’re part of the grieving process and hope they will change back again in time. I’ve always been a worrier, but the anxieties I feel daily now are tenfold what they were. I’ve blogged about feeling fragile previously. Some days are better than others, some days I can keep myself together, others it all comes to a head and I reach a crisis point. A meltdown. It is difficult to believe good things will happen; if I was a worrier before I’m downright pessimistic now. I feel constantly vulnerable to more bad things happening. Will this stay with me life-long, or will I settle back down to just being a normal worrier? Only time will tell I guess.
It is not unreasonable for me to feel this way. After all, Anabelle’s death was completely unexpected. My trust in doing things the right way has been shattered. It made no difference. I’d done everything expected of me while I pregnant and Anabelle still died. It is not unreasonable for me to feel unsafe.
I’ve realised for much of life there is no control. It’s a realisation that makes me nervous and only compounds my feelings of being unsafe. I don’t like not being in control. I’m a person who has always needed organisation, planning, knowing what to expect. My Dad even called me a control freak in his father of the bride speech! But a massive part of this new me is out of control and everything is blurry. I’m living through something I cannot change. Life is so up and down that I cannot plan too far ahead, I can never know what to expect from myself anymore.
I’m not going to come out of this part of my life unscathed. It would be foolish to expect me to. I will live part of this forever. Anabelle will have influence on all that I do for my life.
I survive the days slowly, one at a time; it is all I can do. But I’m a different me now, with new expectations.  
And so I wish for today that you understood that losing my baby has changed me. The truth is I am not the same person I was before and will never be that person again. If you keep waiting for me to get back to ""normal" you will stay frustrated. I am a new person with new thoughts, dreams, beliefs, and values. Please try to get to know the new real me - maybe you'll still like me.
Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Game of Life

I’ve been thinking about that board game. ‘The Game of Life’ where you travel around the board in a little car, making choices about education, career, lifestyle, partners, children etc. Doesn’t it all look so simple in the game. 
Let’s look at the game of my life; Caz went to university and became a teacher, Caz and Jon bought a house in Newport, Caz said yes to Jon when he asked her to marry him, Caz and Jon had a lovely wedding day, Caz and Jon plan to have 2 or 3 children.
Most things in my game of life could be changed with some effort if I wanted them to. If I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore, I could go get a different degree and change my career. If I didn’t want live here anymore I could move house. If I didn’t want to be married to Jon anymore, we could separate. If we didn’t want to have more children we could just not try again.
However there is an essential part of my life now that I can never ever change. Anabelle. I had no control over whether she lived or died. I wanted to watch her grow up, to mother and nurture her. That wasn’t an option in my game of life. I didn’t have any choices to make, there is nothing I could possibly do that would bring her back to me.
Life really isn’t a game at all is it.
Thursday, 11 November 2010

You're My Angel

A charity group supporting parents of angel babies who were told to drop the description of ‘angel’ from their literature, in case they offended some newly bereaved parent. Although I accept that not all parents in our situation may be comfortable with the term ‘angel’ being used, it simply astounds how this particular hospital has handled such a delicate situation. The group aims to ‘soften’ the harsh reality in the face of the worst time of their lives. While a hospital uses the harsh medical talk of “no signs of life” in their notes, this group gently honours their babies by calling them angels. If angel is unacceptable I challenge someone to come up with an alternative.
Ironically, Anabelle had been pet named “Angel Belle” after we knew who she was. A little pet name that only her Daddy and me would use. Like we had always called Fiz (yes, the cat!) our princess, Anabelle was going to be our Angel. It didn’t occur to us the connotation back then.  I sometimes wonder if we had pre-empted that she would really become an angel by already attaching it to her.
To us, our beautiful little girl is our sleeping angel. I don’t understand how that can offend. In the days after her death, while we were planning her funeral, we searched for an appropriate picture for the front of her order of service; we chose a sleeping angel. We searched for an appropriate poem to be read at her graveside; we chose a poem about our baby being given her wings.  Anabelle and angels were fully appropriate, kind and gentle.
Today, Jon has had the sleeping angel drawing (but with more depth and shading) tattooed above his heart with Anabelle’s name. It is perfect and a fitting tribute between him and his daughter. This is how we imagine our little girl, sleeping in the heavens. Enjoying her wings.  When we order Anabelle’s headstone, we want the same image again engraved onto it. This is the image we attached to her from her birth.
It is comforting to me, the thought that my daughter is one of God’s special angels in the heavens.  We have no issue with being described as angel parents. It is essentially exactly what we are.
Anabelle has a few angel things now; Angel Bear we made and bought for her on her due date, her glass bauble with an angel inside that will go on her tree this Christmas, this week my Mum bought a little light up angel Christmas decoration that will sit next to her photograph, here and at her Grandparents house. Believing our Anabelle is an angel comforts us all, as does the little angel reminders around us.
One of the most significant things we've bought recently are a pair of angel wings - to go on the nursery wall one day. I saw them and I instantly thought of my beautiful girl. One day, we hope Anabelle will share her nursery with a brother or sister, and when that times comes, her wings will be on the wall,  a beautiful letter 'A' painted between them. She'll still be in her nursery looking over her sibling.
We are angel parents, and Anabelle is, in everyway, our little angel baby daughter. And so you see; some people can only dream of angels, but we held one in our arms.

Lord, today we sent our baby to you
Please give her wings and let her fly
She's new at this so take it slow
Teach her how they flutter by

We'll miss her so much
And we'll never know her smile
But you need her and now she's yours
She was only ours a little while

She'll never know pain
And she'll never know fear
For we know that you will keep her near
And now . . .

We close our eyes to say good bye
And watch her fly away to you
Please keep her Lord, and love her 'till
We get our wings and join you too.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Twenty Weeks

Anabelle was born twenty weeks ago today. It amazes me how time continues to tick on by. The last time we were waiting for the twenty week milestone to arrive the weeks were going slowly, teasing us almost, in our wait to find out who our baby was.
Twenty weeks today and it is so different to that last twenty week milestone. The last time we were celebrating twenty weeks was the 22nd March 2010 – the day of our scan.  We had gone into the scan with names and knew our baby would be coming out of that scan as a person. Our baby was a girl, our baby was Anabelle. It was a beautiful day, I was so excited we were having a girl I was almost bouncing! We spent the evening visiting Anabelle’s grandparents and sharing Pink Champagne with everyone for our beautiful pink baby.
Today, I feel so sad, there will be no champagne. What do we have to celebrate? I cannot believe half a pregnancy has now passed in time since her birth.
It is twenty weeks, again on  Monday. Incidentally her scan was also a Monday. Named on a Monday, born on a Monday, twenty weeks passed today on a Monday. Anabelle really is a Monday’s Child! Monday’s child is fair of face. Oh how true that rhyme is with regard to our daughter. Our beautiful girl.
It was our twenty week scan that made me decide that Anabelle was going to have her Daddy’s nose. It was so clear from her profile. She was always going to be Daddy’s girl! Looked like him and spoilt by him from the word go.
The day after our twenty week scan,  Jon went to visit Mamas and Papas in his lunch hour. He wanted to buy Anabelle her big letter “A” to celebrate her name. It was put on top of our cabinet along with her new scan pictures in their frame. She was already such a part of our family, and in our naivety we just believed all we had to do was wait another twenty weeks for our daughter to arrive. The mere possibility of our daughter dying did not cross our minds.
The Saturday after our scan we spent the day shopping for our daughter. Together we chose her first dress. It is a beautiful yellow and white dress with pink roses, with matching yellow ‘knickers’. Feminine and beautiful just like our daughter. Anabelle never got the chance to wear her first dress. Instead it will remain forever unworn and in her box.
It saddens me that twenty weeks will never be such a pure joy again. That the excitement of finding out who our babies are and naming them will be tinged with the fear of losing them too, that we will have to force ourselves to go and buy the first dresses or outfits and toys so that our babies are all treated the same.
When we first found out were pregnant I wanted a surprise baby. Jon on the other hand was adamant that we were going to find out. So we compromised. We would find out for our first child on the condition that for our second I could have a surprise. Never will I have a surprise baby now. I wouldn’t want a surprise now. All our children will be named at their twenty week scans. People have said to me “What if you change your minds on the name when your baby is born, what if their name doesn’t suit them when they are born?” – but I know that simply would not happen. Anabelle was named and she became that baby to us; it was her identity. You don’t change people’s identities when you know them like we knew Anabelle. People are their names.
Anabelle was who she was when she died, named, a real person, an identity, not just ‘the baby’. I cannot imagine how much worse everything might’ve seemed without a name. I don’t know if I could’ve handled having to find out if our sleeping angel baby was a boy or a girl after birth, then having to decide on a name when everything was so painful, when everything was such a blur.  I could not and would not put ourselves in that potential position by having a surprise for our second baby after Anabelle, just in case the worst was to happen to us again.
Just another example of how the innocence of pregnancy has been taken away from us. Surprises are no longer an option.
Names are important.  Twenty weeks is important.
Saturday, 6 November 2010

Anabelle's Daddy

Jon has had a difficult week in work. This week two women brought their new babies in for a visit, another lady announced her pregnancy. These moments are just as hard for Jon as they are for me. People forget it hurts him too. From my experience on the Sands forum this seems to be true of all angel Daddies. Everyone always remembers to ask him how his wife is, Anabelle’s Mummy, but rarely does he get asked how he is coping without our little girl.  It is as if people forget she belongs to him too.
Jon lost his daughter too. Jon struggles too. Jon’s heart is broken too.
Jon was excited about becoming a Daddy. He loved rubbing our Belle-bump and feeling her wriggle around in there. Jon spent time nearly every evening lying on my tummy for a little while talking to his daughter. She nearly always responded to his voice by kicking him in the face! He was so looking forward to being the person bringing his new baby into work for a visit. Jon enjoyed our shopping trips for Anabelle too – choosing her furniture, her toys. I know two of his favourite things he bought for Anabelle is her big letter “A” after we found out she was a girl and had named her and the “I love Daddy” t-shirt he spotted.  Beautiful memories that now fill Anabelle’s box.
When our nieces were born he was quite scared of them. Reluctant to hold them incase (as he put it!) broke them. But with Anabelle it was so different. He cut her cord and she was placed on my chest. Then after a few minutes he just picked her up off me with such confidence and held her against his. Our tiny tiny daughter, only 4lb 5oz, and he held her in his arms with no fear at all. Anabelle was his and he was proud.
It was Jon who took Anabelle’s handprints and captured her photos. It was Jon who collected all those precious memories for us.
It is probably little realised that it was Jon infact who had named our daughter. Before we knew she was even a girl he had chosen the names Anabelle and Violet. Pretty girl names for the prettiest girl of them all. All I did was order those names and decided whether Anabelle or Violet was coming first. I just knew Belle for short was going to suit her.
Jon was there with me and Anabelle every single step of the way.  He laboured with me, he cried with me, he was the best Daddy in the world to her.
Jon looked after his daughter in a way that not many men can say they have. The most important job a man can do for his child. He ensured his daughter was safely taken to her special service and to her garden. He did the job that no other person in the world could’ve done for Anabelle in the way he did. He carried Anabelle in her tiny pink coffin with love and pride because she was his.  I was proud of him that day – being so strong for Anabelle. So strong for me.
Jon has remained strong for me and for Anabelle. Being Anabelle’s Daddy has shown me more than I ever knew what an amazing, strong and loving man I married. He is my rock and I love him unconditionally.
Jon loves his daughter very much and he misses her as much as I do. Please remember living without her is happening to Anabelle’s Daddy too.  
Friday, 5 November 2010

Grandad Villars

In Memory of my lovely Grandad Villars
5th November 1926 - 5th November 2007

I loved Bonfire Night growing up. It was one of my favourite nights of the year. Each year we would have a BBQ and fireworks party. My Uncle Andrew would always buy us a huge rocket which we would save for the end. Bonfire Night was always my Grandad’s birthday party.
3 years ago today, on his 81st birthday, my lovely Grandad died. It was so unexpected and I was devastated. Grandad had old people things wrong with him, but nothing that would’ve predicted his imminent death. It was a Monday. I had a phone call at 6.00am to tell me he had been found downstairs. He’d never even made it to bed. We were assured it was peaceful.
Each Sunday, always, the Villars’ family have tea together at my Grandparents house. The day before Grandad’s birthday in 2007, I didn’t think I was going to make it. My car had broken down and wasn’t fit to be on the road. I think if I remember correctly our head gasket had gone. We only had the one car back then. I remember being upset because it was the day before Grandad’s birthday and really wanting to get there. I was determined we were going to get there. Why? Usually I would’ve just phoned and said I’d make it up tomorrow or whatever. But this day, we were going, in the broken down car whatever damage it was doing to it.  I feel now, I was meant to get there that day – to see my Grandad before he died. It is that that gives me comfort. I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t made that last Sunday tea.
The night before Grandad’s funeral we went to see him in the chapel of rest at the funeral home. His was the first body I’d seen. In hindsight, it wasn’t a great idea. He didn’t look like him. Only a wax-like version. I came away and had nightmares for weeks. Sleeping with the light on.
Bonfire Night has never been the same since. We’ve not had a family fireworks party since his death. It makes me sad, I miss it. The photo of my Grandad was taken on his 80th Birthday – my favourite picture of all, because I  believe it captures a part of Grandads essence. His fireworks, his birthday.
When Grandad died we were planning our wedding. I was devastated my Grandad would not see me get married, because I know he would’ve been proud. But in my heart a part of my Grandad was always going to be there. We hired a professional fireworks company to do a short display in the evening; it wasn’t to be showy, it was in memory of my Grandad. I cried throughout them. The missing never stops does it.
I was upset again when we found out we were pregnant with Anabelle and that he was missing his first great-grandchild. Another milestone in my life. Grandad was a family man, a generous man. He loved and adored his grandchildren and made no secret of it. He would’ve adored Anabelle.
And yet, when Anabelle grew her wings, I realised that in heaven, my Grandad will be adoring my Anabelle. He will be in his element looking after his two grandchildren who are with him there. We wrote a letter to Anabelle and left it with her before she was buried. I finished this letter by telling her to stay close to her Great-Grandad because he would love her and spoil her until Mummy and Daddy were with her too one day. If she can’t be with me, then it comforts me to know someone who will really love her too is there.
It is rituals of remembrance that make these anniversary days more bearable. The routine, so we know what to expect. In a little while, as I’ve done each year since on Grandad’s birthday, I will go to the cemetery and light sparklers for him. It is now mine and Grandad’s little annual thing. The essence of his birthday.  
Today for the first time, I will also light sparklers in Anabelle’s garden. Giving her, her first experience of fireworks, the first time her name will be written with a sparkler. And as we stand there and think of them both, I’ll imagine her being held in her Great-Grandfathers arms and knowing how much all of her family love her.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Colour Me Black

Watch out, I’m in a foul mood.
If you could describe me as a colour, today it would be black.  I’m feeling angry and resentful and at the moment I cannot even find it within me to feel guilty or spiteful about it. (Even though I know I am).
I am so sick of hearing other people’s happy news, hearing about happy planned events, the pregnancy and birth announcements, seeing new happy family pictures on facebook.  I don’t think some people realise how lucky they are to have what they’ve got. I should stay away from facebook – but it keeps drawing me in. It’s like I can’t help myself than to look and then be constantly crushed and reminded of what we’re missing out on.
Yesterday was a high point and today it is almost as if I’ve reacted to the high by having the worst opposite of days I can. As if a high inevitably means a horrible low. Just like a rollercoaster. When you reach the top, your stomach has a sinking feeling as you are thrown to the bottom again. I’m so tired today my eyes are burning – this is not helping my foulness.
We were ready for our lives to change. But not like this. Anabelle even in her absence has bought the biggest emotional changes. We’re not the same people. Losing Anabelle has aged me.
For the most part, our day to day existence is the same. This in itself is so painful, because our day to day should've seen some of the biggest changes. We continue to spend our evenings cooking tea, watching telly, going on the internet, little household chores – I look at us sometimes in the evening and I hate that daily routine part of our lives remains the same. There is no baby here to bath, feed, change, settle to sleep as there should’ve been.  
I was looking forward to being a Mummy so much. We were going to be a family. I didn’t care that our social life would become non-existent, that childless friends would become more distant, because Anabelle as fas as we were both concerned would be put first above all else. Because that is what being a parent is all about. Meeting the needs of your children before your own or anybody else’s.
I would give anything to have that. I can’t bear it when I hear people moaning about their children, pregnancy, sleepless night. Don’t they realise how lucky they are to have them?  How precious they are? That it could all end in an instant?
I resent that I will never again live in blissful ignorance. That has been taken away from me and been replaced with anxiety and fear of having more of my babies die.
Yesterday I was reading a book about trying again. In there I read this; “I realised then that a child who makes it into this world is indeed a miracle and has perhaps performed the greatest feat or his or her life just by growing into a complete human being and being born without mishap.” Oh how true those words from Marylin Hilton. If this, my daughter’s death has taught me anything, it will be to treasure every single moment of time I spend with any future children, the good and the harder times, because they will be our miracles.
And so here is my wish for today: I wish you would understand that being around or hearing about pregnant women, newborn babies or babies around my Anabelle’s age is uncomfortable and painful for me.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Which Hat?

Everyone is known by the different hats they wear. I am a Daughter, a Sister, a Wife, a Mother, an Auntie, a Christian church-goer, a Friend, a crazy cat owner and a Teacher. Today I put my teacher hat on again for the first time in a long while. Today I went back to work.
I love my job. I work with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. It was the area of teaching I would’nt have ever expected to find myself in when I was studying for my degree and qualified teacher status. But I cannot imagine ever being anywhere else now. My class are treasures.
Even though I have always loved my job, going back to work is one of the biggest steps I was going to have to take in this journey, and I was nervous. Last night and this morning my stomach was in agony. But I did it! Today I taught 3 sessions and stayed the morning. Friday I will do the same. Over the coming weeks I will begin to work full-days.
Starting work today has taken weeks of preparation. I had a meeting with occupational health to organise my phased return, I’ve popped in and out of school to join in the odd session, mainly so I could face everyone before my first day of work again. But popping in is very different to wearing the hat again, like I did today.
I’m really feeling quite proud. I’ve left work today feeling positive and like I’d never really been away. I think this is a good thing. I think the routine of work will do me good.
But the tradegy of it all? It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Today marked the end of the saddest of all maternity leaves. I would’ve done anything to make my maternity leave different. I was on maternity leave with no baby, instead of enjoying her first weeks and months. I should’ve been off with Anabelle until May, at least, but instead I am back in work in November. Because what else should or could I do. These are steps I know need to be taken, I couldn’t avoid work forever.
I know I say it often, but how unfair. Why couldn’t I have a normal maternity leave? Every time I see or hear a comment where others are getting upset about going back to work after maternity leave and having to be parted from their babies for a few hours I have a moment of angry thoughts. Don’t people realise how lucky they’ve been? They’ve had 6, 9, 12 months with their baby and you know what, they’ll still be there when you get home from work.
I had 12 hours with Anabelle before I had to give her up, I’ve been at home 4 and half months without her, I don’t have a baby to come home too.  But then I feel mean, because if she was here I’d feel the same about going back to work.
Today I’ve also been made aware of another hat I’m apparently wearing. Depression. My counsellor did a quick assessment sheet with me and I scored high. The purpose of the test was to hopefully see progress the next time she asks me to complete it. It’s hardly surprising that I’m scoring high for depression, but I don’t like it.  Because I don’t know how to fix it; Anabelle cannot be bought back can she, so how can it be fixed? I hope this hat doesn’t fit me for very long. I guess over time I just recover somehow. I won’t ever be truly healed, but I will learn to cope and react differently. Eventually I’m told it will feel different to how it does now. It won’t always be so raw.
But for now, today has been a massive day, I was reacquainted with my teacher hat and I’m pleased I was able to do it.
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After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows. I'm Caz, Mummy to beautiful angel Belle and my wonderful rainbow boys, Xander, Zachy and Luc. Wife to Jon. Twitter @cazem Instagram @cazzyem
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