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.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Celebrating Mums: Guest Post!

A few days ago Kate of Celebrating Mums appealed for bloggers involved in charities who wanted their cause to have a shout on her blog to get in touch.  I asked if awareness could be raised for Sands and a special mention for Anabelle's fundraising day on her page. Kate responded asking me to write a guest blog about Sands and send it to her.

I sent my post and today it has appeared over at Celebrating Mums!  It is really exciting, reaching more people about the realities of stillbirth and continuing to raise awareness for Sands, Anabelle and all other angel babies.  Take a look! 

A big thank you to Kate for supporting us!
Saturday, 28 May 2011

The UK verses Finland

In the UK a baby is considered stillborn if born with no signs of life after 24 weeks gestation.  In other countries the limit ranges from 20-28 weeks gestation. To allow a comparison the Lancet report studied stillbirths across 193 countries after 28 weeks.  In the Lancet report (summary from Sands here)   the UK was ranked 33rd, one of the worst in rate amongst the 35 rich nations examined; France and Austria coming behind us. Since Thursday I've been thinking a lot about the stillbirth rate in the UK verses the stillbirth rate in the country identified as the least per 1000 births - that country was Finland.  Finland records stillbirths from 22 weeks gestation.

  • The UK's officially recorded rate of stillbirth (after 24 weeks) is 5.1 per 1000 births, (after 28 weeks as reported in the Lancet - 3.5 per 1000) or 1 every 200. 
  • Finland's officially recorded rate of stillbirth (after 22 weeks) is 3.3 per 1000 births, (after 28 weeks as reported in the Lancet - 2 per 1000)  or 1 every 330. 

For the purpose of this blog I've looked at the national statistic pages for the UK and Finland using figures from 2009.

The UK page (here) records that in 2009 there were 706,248 live births in England and Wales and 3,688 stillbirths. Additionally 1,715 babies died in the seven days after their birth and a further 3,312 babies died before reaching their first birthday.    So for the 709,936 babies born during 2009 a total of  8,715 never came home or died during their first 12 months. 

During 2009 there were 60,430 live births in Finland and 205 stillbirths were recorded. Additionally 95 babies died in the seven days after their birth and another 282 babies died before reaching their first birthday.   So for the 60,635 babies born during 2009 in Finland, a total of 583 never came home or died in their first 12 months. (Finland's stats pages here and here)

My maths ability isn't great, so please forgive me if there is some error; but on my calculations (with some help from Jon!), the comparative percentage difference is: 
  • Of the total babies born in the UK in 2009; 1.2% died. 
  • Of the total babies born in Finland in 2009; 0.9% died. 
Yes, comparatively argued in the UK, 8,715 of over seven hundred thousand babies is a low mortality rate but Finland's is lower. As I stated Thursday, each of those lost babies (in whatever country figures) represent a devastated family, each of those babies count and matter as much as the babies that lived.  The difference compared as a percentage between the UK and Finland isn't huge, granted, but there is a difference; especially as Finland's figure include babies 2 weeks younger in gestation than the UK. 

As I said in Thursday's blog, the UK needs to aspire to that 0.9% stillbirth and mortality rate. Or better. I say again, even one baby's death should be considered too many. What are Finland doing differently to us? 

I know that there are regional variations in what you can expect from antenatal care around the UK, but based on my experience of antenatal care for a first baby in my area is as follows; 
  • A booking appointment with community midwife around 8-10 weeks. Fill in the green pregnancy notes. 
  • Dating scans around 12 weeks and booking bloods taken checking haemoglobin levels, blood group, antibodies, rubella immunity status, hepatitis B status syphillis and HIV status.  Sickle cell and Thalassaemia is also checked in women of other ethnic groups. 
  • A nuchal fold scan is also offered in my area, I've declined in both of my pregnancies. 
  • 'Triple' blood test offered at 16 weeks to screen for Down's syndrome. Again I've declined this test in both of my pregnancies, but have visited midwife for a general checkup instead. 
  • Anomaly scan offered around 20 weeks. 
  • Further routine antenatal visits offered with community midwife at 25, 28, 31, 34, 36, 38, 40 and 41 weeks of pregnancy. During these visits the baby's heartbeat is listened too on a doppler and bump measured to assess baby's growth. 
  • Further blood tests at 28 weeks are offered to check haemoglobin levels. 
It is interesting to also note that in some areas, for a second baby with no complications on your first, less antenatal visits are offered. Because Anabelle died I am having far more antenatal appointments for Bow with my consultant and community midwife than would routinely offered for even a first baby. So far I've had eight appointments, so on average seeing somebody fortnightly. As we progress further into this pregnancy I will see my community midwife weekly, with additional consultant appointments as well. But frequency of my appointment in this specific pregnancy is another topic for another post I think. 

From the information regarding antenatal care I can find about Finland's services an expectant mother would meet with her healthcare providers 11-15 times throughout her pregnancy. This is not too dissimilar to UK practice. In Finland it is currently recommended that a scan is offered around 11-12 weeks to date pregnancy and number of babies. Another scan is offered around 20 weeks. Similar blood tests are also offered. (See here)

I hope to be back with further information regarding Finland's pregnancy care a little later, but what astounds me, that if as far as my limited findings on Google can see, is that if similar routine tests and a number of visits being offered in both countries, why  is there the discrepancy in stillbirth and infant death rates? Answering that question would take a far more skilled researcher than me, someone with far more time and obviously take into account other innumerable variables. (e.g. environmental conditions, food sourcing, water quality, genetic factors etc. etc. etc.)  

I don't know what the answer is or how we can lower the stillbirth and neonatal death rate in the UK. 17 babies a day is heartbreakingly far too many.  I hate that my daughter is part of the figures that will be released for 2010, she should be here with me.  It would make sense that the finer details and general set up of the Finnish healthcare system were closely compared to ours and steps taken to adopt some of their systems when caring for pregnancy women and unborn babies. Despite the similarities I've so far found on Google they must be doing something better than us. (Finland Health Care History)

Sands funds research (info here) into the causes of stillbirth and improving antenatal care so problems are detected before a baby dies. I don't know what they could change. Maybe additional routine scans in later pregnancy, maybe something else. In our case, an extra scan did nothing to save Anabelle. She was scanned 8 days before she died and no problems were detected, no distress found. Maybe the sonographer missed something, maybe there was nothing to miss - this is something I'll never know, although the question buzzes around in my head constantly.

But for a huge proportion of stillbirths maybe, just maybe, an extra scan in the 3rd trimester could've saved the baby's life. Even on a hope of a 'maybe',  I feel this is something that should be worth pursuing. Even one baby's life saved would make it worthwhile. 

I hope the recommendations in the Lancet report are pursued and addressing the number of stillbirths made one the UK's national health priorities. Surely in a country where our cot-death rates have been reduced by 70% since the 'Back to Sleep' campaign we can also do the same to reduce our stillbirth and neonatal death rates. 

Additional Links:

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Today in the Daily Mail 'Femail Magazine' suppliment there was a discussion surrounding the push to lower the caesarean section rate in this country, yet asking why lots of female doctors and obstetricians elect for c-sections in their own pregnancies.  The article compared the dangers of surgical and natural births, complications and injuries to women that occur during labour that lead to an emergency section and why women in the medical profession often opt for a c-section over natural delivery. Remembering all post surgery complications that can occur - the infection risk and long recovery time among other risks;  it is interesting to  additionally note that statistics show that a woman is much more likely to die during a vaginal birth and associated complications than a section birth.

It was food for thought considering these are the questions we need to be asking ourselves and our consultant as we begin to plan Bow's delivery.

I am not at all scared to give birth again in regards to me. I've done it once, I'd give it a good go again. Yes it hurt (one of the biggest understatements of my life!) but it was also very empowering. But I am scared about the effect of an induced delivery on Bow. However I am not willing to take the risk of going far beyond 37 weeks as the placenta goes past its peak and starts to deteriorate with each passing day - for my sanity and Bow's safety; he or she needs to be delivered as close to 37 weeks as we can as we reach "term".

My questions surround the length of time induction may take. Remember it took 5 days of treatment and then artificial rupture of membranes to actually get me to labour with Anabelle, if she'd been alive they would never have allowed it to go on that long and I'd have been taken to section much sooner. If Bow's induction does not progress quickly would a section become an emergency situation and our baby in distress?  The last thing I want is an emergency birth with Bow, or for them to be in any way distressed.

If the likelihood is induction probably leading to a section I think I would much rather just plan for an elective section so Bow arrives into this world in a calm manner. Although a big part of me really wants to experience labour again the only concern that matters is Bow arriving screaming into this world rather than silently and I will endure anything to make that happen. The method of arrival isn't the most important thing.

These are things I need to discuss with my consultant. I need to ask the question regarding their induction turning into caersarean rate. I may only be 16 weeks pregnant, but I'm already reaching a place where I need to know. After all, unbeknown to me while pregnant with Anabelle, at 16 weeks I'd reached our half way point.

The article was a very interesting read. But then there was this statement:

"The UK is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. And of the 1,917 babies delivered each day in this county, just 11 will be stillborn." so said Bridget O'Donnell.

My biggest problem with the statement of all? The word "just".  My second biggest problem? It does not include the neonatal deaths, the further 6 babies who die in the minutes, hours and days after their birth also.

I assume Bridget O'Donnell has been lucky enough not have been "just" one of the 17.

This statement is another example of the false sense of security we are lulled into in this country. This statement is great if your experience of pregnancy is being one of the 1900 who make it. Of course until you're the minority you give little thought to those who are. But it is an insult to count the other 17 babies who don't go home with their devastated parents as "just" - it implies a huge insignificance to their loss simply because the other 1900 made it.

These figures are not acceptable, they are not good innings. According to the recent Lancet Report our rate of stillbirth and neonatal death places us 33rd in the developed world of places 'safest' to have a baby. So are we really that safe at all?  True, being the 33rd country is better than being the 133rd country BUT 33rd is appalling for a developed country with an apparently outstanding healthcare system.

33rd is nowhere near the top 10, it is nowhere near 1st.  33rd is significant room for improvement.  33rd is an absolute need for improvement. I'm going to find out who is 1st - that is what the UK needs to aspire too, or better infact, because even one baby's death a day should be considered far too many.

Every single one of those 17 babies who die each day in this country matter. Remind yourselves again that 17 babies each day is 6500 over a single year; the equivalent to 16 jumbo jets crashing each and every year with NO survivors. Here is an additional thought - our stillbirth rate is ten times the number of cot deaths in the UK. Thought about in that context? That's an awful lot of deaths; reducing stillbirth and neonatal death rates need to be a priority just as cot death figures were in years gone by.

Attitudes need to be changed. How wonderful for all the 1900 families who's children were born on the 21st June 2010 that got to take them home. But we, the other 17, who's babies were born on the 21st June 2010 and didn't come home? We are not "just" anything. Our babies matter as much as the 1900 others who share their birthday.

Every baby's existence, born screaming or silently counts.
Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Its been a good few days. Yesterday I listened to Bow's heartbeat for the first time and prayed hard it will beat for at least they next 70 years. Today I felt Bow's first cluster of little movements while I was eating my breakfast and nearly jumped out of my skin in the staff room at dinner time when a big kick caught me by surprise.

(I have been feeling little 'pop' type movements for the last few weeks which I think has been Bow as it has all felt really similar to when I started to notice Belle, but this morning there was no doubt about it being baby rather than wind!) 

But Jon and I cannot seem to escape the what we will do if Bow dies too. And I mean we're (well I assume me more than Jon) really thinking about it. I know, its morbid you're thinking. 

Together over the weekend we discussed what we would do with the headstone if we needed to add Bow's name to it too. After all a headstone is an expensive investment. You would hope it wouldn't need amending or replacing for many years, we would hope not until we ourselves die and then we'll replace it for a family sized stone; but we have no guarantee's we won't be living a second child's death. So the discussion of the possibility of needing to add our second child to it has come up. We've reasoned that surely if we needed to add to Anabelle's stone with Bow they could cut a quarter inch off the front and re-engrave on a new surface but keep the stone more or less as it is now otherwise.  Yes I know, its morbid you're thinking. 

On my own I've thought about where Bow would be placed in the grave if he/she were to die too. Reasoning with myself that the grave is big enough for 2 adults and Anabelle, but assuming Jon and I will both be buried on top and they wouldn't dig to the same level as Belle to reveal her coffin and place one of us next to her, rather than on top as it were.

I've thought to myself Bow could be placed next to their sister at the other end of the grave and then Jon and I could still be on top and we could all still be together. I reasoned with myself that if we were told it were not possible to fit 2 adults and 2 babies in our grave that we could still rest Bow with their sister so at least they were together and figure something else out for Jon and I when the time came.   Yes I know, its morbid you're thinking. 

On my own I've thought about where we would hold Bow's funeral if they were to die too.  Would we plan to use the same church as we held Anabelle's funeral in, or would we now use the church I'm attending?  I've thought about funeral flowers and what we would choose for Bow. Something different from their sister and of course would completely depend on whether Bow is a boy or a girl.

I've thought about what hymns we would choose for Bow's funeral. We chose children's hymns for Anabelle because they were appropriate for our daughter's funeral, Would we choose different children's hymns for Bow, would we use some of the same?   I've thought about how we could make Bow's funeral unique and special for him or her rather than it being a carbon copy of their sisters. 

I'm always thinking like this and I know it is morbid. 

Yes it is morbid, but we're scared. We've lived our first child's death. We had to make all these decisions for Anabelle with no warning, no expectation that we would ever have to.  It is completely within our realms of possibility that Bow will die too before we meet him/her. I doubt thinking and planning a possible funeral now will make it any easier at all if the time came but we cannot help thinking this way.

We've already done this once and dare not believe we'll be earth parents to Bow when we're already angel parents to Anabelle. What if we're only ever angel parents?  As well as the "what ifs" there could've been with Anabelle and how different things could've been, we're now living the "what ifs" with Bow. 

What if Bow dies too... What if. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Capture a Moment... Anabelle's Walk

On Saturday Jon and I went for a walk around the woodland side of Cwmbran Boating Lake.  I'll admit we don't do much walking usually, but it was just what we needed after an emotionally draining week. So we grabbed the camera and decided to have a stroll around the 2nd half of Anabelle's 17 Themed Walk (which will be taking place on 17th June!)  It was really peaceful, only a few dog walkers about so we milled around enjoying some "us" time. Jon took a few pictures of the beautiful flowers on the way; here is one of a bee collecting some pollen! 

Looking forward to Anabelle's walk on the 17th June now! 
Monday, 23 May 2011

I've Voted

One of the best things about working part time now is the beautifully quiet "me" days I can have. Especially on a Monday. On Monday's I often indulge in a pyjama day, potter about the house a little doing housework, I enjoy lots of Fiz cuddles and chill out on the sofa.

Today is one of those days. So far today I've blogged, done a little housework, I've had a lovely bubble bath and filed my nails; and now, sat on the sofa in my (clean pair of) pyjamas and spent the last hour or two looking at all the finalist nominations for this years MAD blog awards and now I'm blogging again.

After sulking for all of a minute that I wasn't one of the finalists and therefore an opportunity to raise awareness of the realities of stillbirth had been missed, I eagerly checked out the blogs that had made it - and found a few new blogs to follow. They really are deserving of their nominations.

Most categories were easy to decide; a clear blogger who caught my eye instantly on the first look and the most recent post. The only category I ummed and ahhd for a little while was "Best Baby Blog" where there were 3 blogs I was enjoying having a nosy at.

So these are my votes!  If you have a little while of "me" time, why not go and check them out for yourselves!

Best Family Life: Mummy From The Heart
Best Craft Blog: Nurture Store
Best Family Fun: A Mother's Ramblings
Best Pregnancy: I Heart Motherhood
Most Innovative: Violet Posy
Most Inspiring: Ghostwriter Mummy
Best New Blog: SAHM Loving It!
Best Photography: Clinically Fed Up
Best Pre-School: Mummy's Busy World
Best Small Business: All About The Boys
Besy Baby Blog:Diary of the Dad

Dreaming of Death

The vivid dreams are continuing, although the theme is becoming ever more resolutely about death. This weekend I've dreamt that one of my cousins had died and one of my friends had died on the same day; I then started to worry that their funerals would also be on the same day and how I would get to them both if they were because one would be in Plymouth and the other in Carmarthen. As it was; in my ever crazy dreams, the funerals were a week apart, both on a Thursday. I've no idea why a Thursday, but it seemed a significant and important chosen day in my dream. 

I'm a bit concerned that my dreams are becoming so obsessed by death again. It makes for a very restless night. I suppose it is because I'm becoming obsessed again by death in my waking time too. Obsessed with the possibility of Bow dying, Jon dying, my parents dying, starting to relive the run up to events 'this time last year' just before Anabelle died. Death features heavily in my life so I guess it is only natural it is featuring heavily in my dreams. 

The last time things had got this bad it had only been a few weeks since Anabelle had died. Those dreams were especially horrible.  Jon had died and they had re-opened our grave. For some reason the men were taking Anabelle's coffin out of the grave to put Jon at the bottom and then to put Anabelle back on top. Only the man who had picked her up dropped her; the coffin lid came off and she fell out.  I woke up in a state. 

I know I am living my fears in my sleep and I don't know how to stop it. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Last 21st...

... before THE 21st.

So here we are, 11 months and counting down to the big 12.  Not even sure how I feel today. This time last year I would never have dreamed what June had in store for us, or that a year on we'd be expecting Bow.  The reality of this year was not part of the plan.

Now I know to take nothing for granted.
Friday, 20 May 2011

Nearly June

It's nearly June.  Or more accurately it is nearly the 21st May and the 21st means Anabelle will have been born an angel for 11 months; almost a year. Another month to go until she's been gone a year.  From tomorrow the countdown to her birthday begins. 

Most people have a mixture of excitement and a tiny bit of sadness as their baby's first birthday approaches. The excitement of planning their first ever birthday party and celebrating everything they have done in their 12 months on this earth; the sadness that their "baby is growing up too quickly" and wishing he or she would slow down.

I wish I was feeling that. I would love nothing more than to be watching Anabelle grow up, quickly or not. I wish there was some excitement in her birthday approaching instead of this sinking sickening gut feeling and a disbelief that I've survived a year and carried on living when her life ended. The only positive I can muster is wanting to raise lots of money for Sands in Anabelle's name, because I'm doing it for her. 

Soon we will have to start thinking of a birthday day plan, remember it is the plan that gets us through. Jon is having the day off work and I'm so thankful her birthday falls on a Tuesday this year. I don't work Tuesday's. I'm not sure how I will cope on future birthday's. It is going to be an emotionally draining week surrounding her birthday. Her "17 themed" sponsored walk the Friday before, Father's Day two days before, her birthday and then her fundraising fete the Saturday afterwards.  It is a big week. 

June is an enormous month for us. Right at the start we are finding out who Bow is and at the end our fundraising efforts reach their peak after all these months of planning.  But then we hit the first anniversaries of everything; a year since she died, a year since she was born, a year since her funeral and another Father's Day for Jon. Last year on Father's Day, right at the end of the day I finally went into active labour. 8 minutes after Father's Day finished, Jon saw his sleeping daughter emerge into the world. That's how Jon lived his first Father's Day, he's about to live through his second before we've even quite reached her birthday.  

Some of June will be joyful; of course naming baby Bow will be wonderful, but our fundraising day will be bittersweet and Anabelle's birthday will open the scars on our hearts once again. 

Some people have said it will get easier after the first anniversary, after we've done all the firsts. I don't understand how. What does a year really change about our pain? It just signifies the start of the second of many more years without her, a lifetime without her. Yes we'll have done the firsts, but we just have to do it all over again for a second time next.

A second year of should've beens. The year Anabelle would've started toddling, learning more and more new words, began discovering a will to be 'independent'. Until we reach her second birthday another 13 months from now; and the cycle will begin again with even more should've beens. 

This is it, year upon year, forever. 
Thursday, 19 May 2011

Anabelle's Rose

During my pregnancy with Anabelle I posted regularly on an online antenatal forum. The ladies of August 2010 - we were sharing the excitement, joys, worries and niggles together. Then in June I had to drop out from the club, because Anabelle had died and was born before her time. 

I remember shaking as my hands sent the post which confirmed my baby girl had died. It hadn't quite sunk in yet, I wrote so matter of factly that Belle had gone to sleep inside me and they were starting to induce me. I don't know what else I said. 

This group of ladies were some of the first to teach me about the kindness of strangers. A beautiful card was sent that had been made especially for Belle and had her name on the front, it was all very pink. They had sent an generous donation to Sands in Anabelle's name and had organised for a rose to be delivered to us in the Autumn. 

The rose that had been ordered was a Beatrix Potter rose. The ladies wrote and told me that they felt the rose captured the essence of Belle and her perpetual childhood. It was also going to be a soft pink colour which reflected everything we dreamt for Anabelle. Yes she was going to be very pink. 

The rose arrived and my Dad helped me to plant it, also in a pot we'd found in the garden centre called Bell. It seemed fitting. I was apprehensive that I would be able to keep it alive, and religiously kept it indoors throughout the winter incase a frost killed it off.   The rose flourished with greenery sprouting everywhere and looking very healthy. I was impressed with myself. So far so good. 

Over the last week the rosebuds have finally opened. Beautiful full roses, very pale in colour, almost white at the moment and brightening up our arrival at our front door. So I wanted to say again thank you August 2010 ladies for your thoughtful gesture. 

Just one of the beautiful roses! 

Roses have been special to us since we got married. Especially white roses.  

My wedding dress was made by "White Rose" and because of that it became the theme central to our wedding. The finer details were white roses; on the cake, on the favours, even embroidered onto my shoes. My bouquet was white roses. The essence I suppose of our day; we were surrounded by them! 

That is why it is extra special that Anabelle's rose, although we were expecting it to be pale pink, is at the moment much paler and almost white.  When we bought Anabelle's special angel bear from Build A Bear Workshop and ordered what we thought was an angel dress and halo; when it arrived in the post it was a beautiful white dress with embroidered white roses and a halo covered with white rose flower buds. It felt like a sign. I think Belle knows how special white roses are to her Mummy and Daddy. 

Our flower, reminding us of our togetherness.  Reminding us of our family. 

Today I also want to remember little Thomas William, born too soon on the 3rd May 2011, and send love to his parents on this his "goodbye" day as he joins his big angel twin brother and sister in heaven. 
Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Anabelle's Headstone

This is not the moment I expected to capture today.  I was going to take a photograph of Anabelle's rose which has bloomed over the last few days, maybe I still will later. Instead early this afternoon I've found myself taking photographs of Anabelle's headstone. 

Unexpectedly today we've heard the news that it has been put up on her garden.  We knew it was due to arrive any day now, but was expecting a phone call for us to make an appointment to see it before it reached the cemetery.  Jon phoned at dinner time to be told they had forgotten we were supposed to see it first, but that it had arrived and had been put up already. 

It is so pretty and so perfect for Anabelle, if you can say that about a headstone. 

The raw pain has hit me again.  Wow, full force in the chest.  It is aching, my heart isn't beating properly, palpitations now for over an hour, a lump in my throat and I just feel so drained. Seeing her headstone, as beautiful as it is, made it feel even more eternally real. I guess that may sound silly after very nearly 11 months. Of course I know this is our reality by now; but once again foreverness has hit, and hit hard. 

Our baby daughter has a headstone. I can't believe our firstborn child has a headstone, a grave. I feel helpless. There is nothing anyone can do to make this better for us, nobody can fix Anabelle being dead.  We cannot fix it for ourselves either, she is always going to be dead. 

And now I find myself so very scared, even more so than I already was, that our second child will join their sister too; and there is nothing anyone will be able to do to stop it happening if it is going to. I stood by Anabelle's side today completely broken that she was there instead of in my arms and so fearful that we'll be living this all over again for Bow. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Blue Baby? Pink Baby?

This weekend I made a huge step of progress. 

Saturday we visited the Mamas & Papas Outlet store in Bridgend. I bought two pairs of maternity jeans for £5 each (a bargain when full price are £38 each!) and managed to coo over baby girl clothes for the first time in almost 11 months. 

Since being pregnant again I've been feeling a want/need to look at baby things in baby shops. We can't cope with being in the stores for too long, but we have been popping in for short periods and re-acclimatising ourselves to planning what we want for our baby once again. Only this time planning for Bow.   

The big things we need to buy very little of; we have our pram, our cot, our furniture for Bow, but the things we were borrowing last time for Belle we've decided we're going to buy this time so Bow has new things chosen and bought especially for them too.  We don't want everything we plan for Bow to use to be left over from their sister. Bow deserves special shopping trips and new things too.  So over the coming months we will buy a beautiful moses basket, a baby bath and equipment and other bits and pieces that were on the borrow list for Anabelle. 

If Bow is a girl we need to buy very little else. All of Belle's unworn clothes and unused pink toys are in the nursery; although that is not to say we wouldn't be buying Bow a few of her own clothes and toys too. Of course we would; a first dress, a going home outfit, a coat and long trousers because Bow is due to arrive in a much cooler time of year.   However if Bow is a boy he will need a whole wardrobe of clothes and toys bought for him!   We bought only a few white/neutral bits during Belle's pregnancy. She was a girl and I wanted beautiful pink things for her. 

Up until now I've been drawn towards all the blue things. To the point where I'd convinced myself Bow is a baby boy. Loads of my dreams up until last week had included a baby boy, but then last week I dreamed of a baby girl. When we were expecting Anabelle I only dreamt of baby girls; I was taking the blue dreams and the looking at blue things as a sign. 

But then I realised that the reason I was only looking at blue things and possibly dreaming blue babies because I was feeling in no way strong enough to think or look at the pink things. I have not been able to look at pink things without thinking about what I would love to dress Belle in; and it has been too painful to contemplate, just until I know who Bow is. I haven't wanted to look at pink things for it to hurt all over again if we would not be buying anymore this time.

That is why Saturday's extremely brief visit into Mamas & Papas is quite monumental. I looked at a tiny purple raa-raa skirt and an adorable tiny pair of pink shoes with a sense of newness. I thought how cute Bow would look in them if Bow happens to be a girl too. 

At the moment I've lost all sense of who I think Bow is. Everyone else is saying boy. Not one person has said to me they think this bump is pink.  I wonder if it is because perhaps they think a blue baby would make it easier for us. 

In reality whether Bow is blue baby or pink baby makes no difference whatsoever to either me or Jon, or to the elements of pain in this pregnancy or the elements of joy and re-living the pregnancy experience again. Whether boy or girl will bring its own pains and its own joys.

Another baby girl would be wonderful; another chance as it were to hope hard that we bring our new little girl home and watch her grow. Another baby girl would be painful; a direct comparison of Anabelle, hopefully watching our new daughter grow and constantly wondering if Belle would've been similar, if she would've had similar likes and dislikes and everything that little girls do. 

A baby boy would be wonderful; we've never had a baby boy before. A completely new experience of growing a blue baby and buying lots of blue and boy things, getting ready for our son. A baby boy would be painful; all of Anabelle's things remaining unused and having to be put into storage in the roof, the nursery that still smells of fresh pink paint having to be repainted when it was the last thing that was done for Anabelle while she was still alive. 

We are desperate to know who Bow is.  We need to know. Whether boy or girl there will be these emotions we will have to work through and we don't for a minute underestimate how hard some of these emotions will be to cope with. Pregnancy is very different now. 

In 3 weeks time we'll know, Bow will be named and we'll love getting to know him or her; just as we did with their sister.  

Friday, 13 May 2011

Fundraising Update

Our fundraising day is drawing ever closer and already an amazing amount of money has been raised. Over the last few weeks we have broken the £800 mark and the £1000 target is well within our sights.  I'm a bit gobsmacked really.  When we first started planning Anabelle's Angel Day I remember me and a friend umming and ahhing over what target to set ourselves. We discussed £250 and then maybe pushing it to £500 and then I thought; you know what - let's go all out, be ambitious, aim high and go for a £1000! The generosity of everyone who has contributed to get us so near to that £1000 is absolutely incredible. 

What amazes me even more is that we haven't actually done anything yet. 

Ok we've sat around, planned, discussed and made things to sell on the stalls, but the actual sponsored walk and Anabelle's birthday fete is still over a month away.  

I am more than confident we will smash that £1000 target and sending a whopping contribution to Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charty in Anabelle's name.  I'm really quite excited and looking forward to be able to post the final total at the end of June! 

I just hope we get loads of people through the doors now and it isn't a flop! So shamelessly I once again plug our fundraising event on Saturday 25th June 2011 at Ponthir Village Hall near Cwmbran between 12 and 3.  £1 entry including tea/coffee/squash and a biscuit.  And if you haven't already done so; please donate what you can on Anabelle's justgiving page.    Every little really is a big help. 

Sands is a national charity, establish by bereaved parents in 1981. 

We have 3 core aims which are to: 
  • Support anyone affected by the death of a baby.
  • To work in partnership with health professionals to improve the quality of care and services offered to bereaved families.
  • To promote research and changes in practice that could help to reduce the loss of babies' lives. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Capture a Moment... 13+3 Bump

When we were pregnant with Anabelle we booked photographer Sarah Stone to take photographs of us and record our growing pregnancy journey. We met her first as 12 weeks and she visited every 6 or so weeks after that.  Sarah's last visit was two days before Anabelle died. Jon was not supposed to be part of the photographs until 37 weeks pregnant, but after Anabelle had attempted early escape the week before she captured our bump family at her 32 week visit incase we didn't make it to the 37 week shoot.   

We didn't make it to the 37 week shoot. But for all the wrong reasons.

Sarah Stone's photographs are so very precious to us now. Taken at a time when we were completely unaware what would happen to us two days later; they capture the beauty and our happiness in Anabelle's pregnancy. 

We're not in a position with Bow's pregnancy to pay for Sarah to take photographs of us again all the way through, but not wanting to miss out on capturing Bow's growing journey Jon is having a go at a bit of pregnancy photography for us and adding to his ever growing repertoire of photography skills! (All good practice ready for BellePixelle's business launch over the coming months!)  

Last Friday Jon spent a little while of the evening taking photographs of me at 13+3 weeks pregnant with Bow. I think they are great! 

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Anabelle's Story

A few weeks ago a lady on Sands announced she was publishing a book about the life of baby loss and looked for volunteers to contribute. As Anabelle's story had already been written in bits over on my blog I thought it would be "easy" to piece her story together from the beginning into a chapter for a book. I was wrong; the exercise was incredibly draining, even with the help of my already written words over here.  Today I finished Anabelle's story; from the beginning to now. Its been emailed off ready to be printed into the book and hopefully before long it will be available for sale on Amazon, and the profits to be donated to Sands. 

Today I'm going to publish our chapter here. Much of it you'll have read before, but this will be the first time Anabelle's story will have been told in whole. After Anabelle is our ongoing story, but this is the little life that started it. 

When Jon and I got married on 1st August 2009 we were on top of the world; the day was magical and everything we’d dreamed. We started our married lives full of hopes and anticipation of beautiful things to come our way.
Long before we were married we knew having children was part of our plan. We wanted to be a Mummy and Daddy and enjoy being a family. I had been insanely broody for some time so after we returned from our honeymoon we decided the time was right to start trying for a baby and to begin our family.  We were fortunate to catch quickly, and after 3 cycles I had that beautiful BFP test (or for those who don’t speak internet – Big Fat Positive).
So that was the 2nd December 2009. We were over the moon. 6am and I was bouncing; Jon had the wake up call of his life as I couldn’t contain my excitement, screaming that he was going to be a Daddy.
Even at that moment, as soon as saw the word pregnant appear in the test window, Anabelle became our baby. A rush of love for the tiny little baby that was already growing inside me, the baby that was going to turn us from a newlywed couple into a family – everything we wanted and the perfect Christmas present. We had an amazing end to what had been an amazing year. Things felt like they couldn’t get any better for us.
So we got used to being pregnant and loved the feeling of a growing baby inside me. I felt tired and rough constantly and battling sickness like I’d never imagined. I quickly discovered “morning” sickness was a myth as I constantly threw up morning, noon and night. Even waking up in the middle of the night and being unwell.  However I realised it was par for the course and would quickly be forgotten once the ultimate reward arrived; our baby.
Of course we knew it was early days, I let the consideration of miscarriage briefly cross my mind, but as each early week passed I became more and more confident. We reached our first scan, saw our beautiful baby for the first time and believed everything was going to be ok. Doesn’t everyone? With no previous experience and reaching the 12 weeks mark I believed my baby was safe now. After all that’s what we’re led to believe; the baby books scarcely cover miscarriage or baby loss at all but are sure quick to tell you that reaching the 12 week mark reduces the risk of losing your baby dramatically. 
We set about preparing for a baby to come into our lives. I made lists of everything we needed and everything I wanted for our baby. I started to imagine a beautiful nursery and spent hours looking at the Mamas & Papas and Mothercare websites. I couldn’t resist the shops any longer and starting browsing beautiful baby things. By now it was January 2010 and the winter sales, and after weeks of just looking I was desperate to actually buy something.
So we decided to buy our baby’s pram. A big purchase and I remember feeling maybe it was a bit too early, but we were past 12 weeks right?  It would be fine. Initially I’d found the pram I wanted in the sales but the next time we went to Mamas and Papas with a view to buy, a brand new pram had been put on the shelves.  Instantly in love with the black and white polka dot design; I knew it was the one for us. So in the excitement of choosing things for our baby we abandoned the one in the sales and ended up bringing home the Pliko Switch in the Mimi design and spending over double what we’d originally set out to that evening. I was wowed by it and already couldn’t wait to push our baby around in it.
The weeks were beginning to fly by and I was getting noticeably pregnant. I loved it; I felt so confident with a bump and didn’t mind wearing clothes that flattered it and showed it off. What was to hide? I wanted to remember these moments and hired a pregnancy photographer to capture our growing baby in bump form. The photographer visited every 6 weeks and we had a promise of a new-born shoot at the end. The package plan was expensive but worth every penny to us; after all what was more special than growing your first child? Little did we know in those early days just how precious these photographs would become.
I religiously read the baby book, soaking up the information about what our baby would be doing this week. We marvelled at the development and what our tiny growing child could already do. I signed up for the weekly email updates and got excited as each new message arrived in my inbox. Each week was a step closer to finding out who our baby was and a step closer to meeting him or her.
I’ll never forget the first time I felt our baby move. I was 18 weeks and for a few days I’d been feeling little pops; not sure at this stage if it was movement but knew it felt different to everything else I’d experienced before. Then one evening we decided to play some classical music to the baby. Jon found his big headphones and we put them against my bump and pressed play. Almost instantly there was a cluster of very definite baby kicks. Another one of those wow moments!
By now we were approaching the half way mark and our conversations for weeks had been surrounding baby names and if we were going to find out if our baby was blue or pink at the next scan. Jon was incredibly keen to find out, I on the other hand initially was keen to have a surprise. But as the weeks went on and Jon continued to want to know I came around to the idea; especially after the names were decided! So we both excitedly counted down to the 20 week scan which we hoped would reveal all to us.  
We were not disappointed. There on the 22nd March 2010 was a very clear view of our beautiful baby daughter. We were expecting a girl! We’d gone into that scan room with two names and came out with Anabelle Violet, our Belle. We were on a complete high! Literally flying with excitement with the prospect that our world was about to become very pink.
When I look back now I can hardly believe our naivety. Our concerns had not been of anything being wrong, or any anomalies being picked up in the scan. We’d reached 20 weeks and continued to take our pregnancy for granted; it didn’t occur to us in the slightest that anything could go wrong from this point. All Anabelle had to do was grow some more, be born and come home. We were living in a blissful ignorance and trusting in the way things were supposed to happen.
People around us questioned our decision to name our baby girl at the 20 week scan. What if she was born and we decided her name didn’t suit her we were asked. Jon and I just knew that was her name, there was no question as far as we were concerned about her name suiting her – to us she was growing into her name, it was her name, Anabelle was her identity, it is who she was from that moment on.
Jon named Anabelle. Anabelle and Violet were both of his name suggestions. I thought they were such pretty girl names and perfect if our baby was to be a daughter. It turned out she was.
Anabelle being named changed something about our pregnancy. The connection we started to feel to her as her own unique person was incredibly strong, before she was anywhere near ready to arrive in this world we already felt bonded with her. Jon spent  some time with Belle every evening, he led on my bump and talked; almost every time she heard her Daddy’s voice she responded with a boot into his face.  Our pregnancy with Anabelle was full of special moments and memories like these.
The weeks went by and quickly our house filled up with many pink things. Everything we were doing now was planned and bought with Anabelle in mind, buying her things and creating her little space in this world. Jon and I enjoyed so many shopping trips buying for our daughter; some of the most memorable included the letter “A” Jon had bought in Mamas & Papas in one of his lunch hours to celebrate his baby girls name and the joint trip we shared choosing our daughters first dress and outfits.   Little did we know then that Anabelle’s beautiful white and yellow dress with pink flowers would end up in a memory box and never worn along with her going home outfit and letter “A” among everything else.
Up until 31 weeks our pregnancy passed without major incident. With no previous pregnancy experience to go on I assumed everything was normal, I thought Anabelle moved enough and took the baby books as gospel as regards everything that was going on.  Then at 31 weeks Anabelle had a very quiet day, I couldn’t be sure I’d felt her at all, accompanied by quite strong Braxton hicks. So I phoned the hospital who suggested we come in for monitoring. Onto the trace and there Anabelle was; and as the baby books assure you with and because of that what we expected, she started squirming around as soon as we were attached to the machine.  Anabelle was busy again, but what the trace did reveal was that the Braxton hicks were actually regular and more like contractions and with each contraction Anabelle’s heart rate was dipping. The hospital assessed that I was experiencing a threatened premature labour and quickly swung into action. The Doctor on duty prescribed treatment to try at stop the contractions, steroids to mature Belle’s lungs just in case, and organising equipment to prepare me for an emergency c-section if the threat of labour progressed further or if Anabelle’s heart rate did not stabilise soon.
We were flabbergasted. This was not what we had been expecting at all. I couldn’t believe what I thought were the Braxton Hicks the baby book told you to expect at this stage were threatening to become full blown contractions. It was too soon for Anabelle to be born. I wanted to avoid delivering her by c-section because she was just too little. A neo-natal Doctor was called to come and talk to us about everything that would happen if we were taken into surgery in the next few hours. She discussed how Anabelle would be treated and cared for, that I would be able to express milk to feed her. For every week past 24 the prognosis for a premature baby fared better, especially past 28 weeks she said. But even now our thoughts didn’t turn to her not surviving; our concern was any special needs she might grow up with if born prematurely.  You see I am a teacher and I work with children with profound and multiple disabilities, some with very complex medical needs. Some of my pupils have difficulties because of birth trauma, or a genetic condition.  Some it was from the moment of conception, others because they were born too soon.  At this moment with the talk of c-sections and catheters I was terrified our beautiful Anabelle would be born too soon and live with an overwhelming difficulty for the rest of her life. The neo-natal Doctor could promise us nothing in regard to prognosis of this but assured that most babies born at 31 weeks did very well.
Fortunately, I responded to hourly drug treatment and the tightenings became less frequent and less severe. Anabelle by 10pm that night had settled down and given a consistent stable trace for over two hours and so after spending most of the day on delivery ward not knowing if today was going to Anabelle’s birthday or not we were given the all clear for the night and transferred to the maternity ward upstairs. We were looking at another 48 hour stay for regular monitoring, continued treatment and more steroids.
By the end of the 48 hour stay the contractions had completely disappeared and after a scan checking in on Anabelle we were discharged. Anabelle was absolutely fine in the scan, all her vital signs were good; her heart, blood flow, placenta all fine.  What happened only 7 days later I was assured was just a horrible coincidence in timing and in no way related to our experience of threatened premature labour the week before.
In the week after we were discharged there was a big push on preparing things quickly in case Anabelle tried to make an early appearance again. We had a fun night casting my bump, our pregnancy photographer visited again, Anabelle’s Grandad painted her room and Jon bought my gift ready for her birthday.  Jon set about starting to build her furniture, we were very nearly ready for her arrival.
Then at 32 weeks and 3 days pregnant Anabelle went quiet again. I had a midwife appointment that day and after hearing her heartbeat on the Doppler I was reassured. At this point she’d only been quiet for a few hours and I assumed she was just having a sleepy morning. By the evening she was still quiet and I was getting concerned but didn’t know what to do and after only just being discharged 7 days before didn’t want to come across to the hospital as a hysterical first time mother. We had a heart monitor at home so we put it on before bedtime and heard what was definitely her heartbeat. I reasoned with myself I would give it until the morning and if there was still no movement I would go into the hospital first thing.  
First thing came and there was still nothing. I put the heart monitor back on and heard deafening silence. Now I was hysterical, in some sort of denial, telling myself the batteries must be flat and the monitor not working properly, but really I knew she was gone. A mothers’ intuition.  Over the phone I was told off by the receptionist on delivery ward for using the heart monitor; I wasn’t trained and would have only upset myself unnecessarily. Because they were busy I was told to wait an hour before coming in for monitoring.
At the hospital I was put onto the trace that I had become so accustomed to the week before. For a few minutes our hopes were raised; a heartbeat had been found, slow for a baby but there. The midwife however looked very concerned and rushed off to find a consultant. Within seconds I was surrounded by midwives, the consultant and registrars who pulled in a pre-historic ultrasound machine to look at Anabelle. The picture was not that clear but I knew what they were looking for, and I also knew they hadn’t found it.
Rushed down to ultrasound accompanied by a midwife to use the modern machine and as I led on the scanning bed I was scared. Minutes before the midwife had been trying to keep us calm and I remember joking that she wasn’t even born yet and she was causing us no end of worry. But then the sonographer turned to the second sonographer and shook her head. Without needing to be told I knew Anabelle was no longer there. Sometime in the early hours of 32 weeks and 4 days Anabelle had grown her wings.  The unthinkable had happened; our baby girl had died.
Nothing can prepare you for the words “I’m so sorry, but we cannot find your baby’s heartbeat.” For nano-seconds time stood still as the shock of the words sank in, and the noise that came out of Jon and I next were unearthly; wounded animals in horrific pain.
I don’t know how long they left us alone in the scanning room. We clung to each other sobbing, in shock, not understanding how or why our baby, our daughter who we already loved so much had died. We were taken back to delivery suite and put into a room more comfortable than all the others. A room which had an en-suite, a sofa bed for Daddy, medical provision for me, this was eventually the room Anabelle was born in.  The registrar came to see us and explained what would happen next.
We were advised that a c-section should only be considered as an emergency or last-resort option at my stage of pregnancy because the womb is not stretched as far is could go yet and because the lining was still quick thick it would likely cause more complications for future pregnancies. So their preferred option was to induce labour. He explained I would be given a tablet then, and another one 24 hours later. If I still hadn’t gone into labour on the 3rd day I would have a rest before being admitted to delivery ward and intensive treatment given on the 4th day.  They couldn’t tell me how long it would take; hours or days.
I was terrified. Terrified of being induced unexpectedly, terrified of going into labour, terrified of what it really meant that my daughter was dead.
The tablet was given and we were sent home. Nothing happened. Nothing happened at all for those first three days. I remained visibly pregnant and could not cope with my bump anymore. The bump I had loved every minute of was now my greatest pain. Every mirror in the house had to be covered.
It was in these few days that we were in a flurry of preparation again; only this time it involved speaking to a funeral director to explain we would need their services over the coming days, making sure we bought more clothes for Anabelle that would fit her, her grandmother knitted a gorgeous tiny pink cardigan in tiny premature baby size for her to wear.
Day 4 arrived and by now we were both beyond distressed, despite the fear of labour the lack of its arrival was torture. Partly still in denial and partly so grief stricken we wanted to believe some dreadful mistake had been made. We wanted to believe she would be born very sick but somehow be ok. How could our little girl be dead?
Day 4 turned into Day 5 and started to approach the evening again towards another new day again. A new plan of action was being discussed; my waters were going to be broken at 7pm. If I didn’t go into active labour after that a consultant would probably take me to c-section the next morning. I was beside myself; going to c-section anyway after all the days of waiting just added more distress to the worst situation anyone can find themselves in.
So my waters were broken; 3 minutes later full blown contractions started. Finally as labour became real I realised more than ever I was not ready for it; not ready to give up my daughter. Much of my labour between then and 11.30pm is a complete blur. Drugged up on morphine I remember passing out between contractions and coming around to contract again. The pain however I remember; the morphine, gas and air may have taken an edge off it, but it was very real and horrific. I made noises during labour I had never heard myself make before.  I remember Jon begging them to give me an epidural or something to take the pain away; distressed by my own distress. However, in the days of waiting for labour to establish I’d developed an infection and was on an antibiotic drip, an epidural was refused because of the risks of taking whatever infection there was into my spine.
From 11.30pm my morphine drip was disconnected and I took myself off gas and air. I knew we were very nearly there and I knew I needed to be a bit more with it. So for the final few pushes I was completely aware of Anabelle’s birth. 11.45pm and her head crowned and was born. Unbelievably contractions seemed to stop and for over 20 minutes nothing else happened, just waiting for my body to finish to greatest job it’s ever done. Finally at just gone 5 past midnight another overwhelming contraction started and at 00:08 Anabelle was born sleeping.
After waiting 5 days to meet our daughter, when I was finally in labour she was with us in only 5 hours and 8 minutes. On the 21st June 2010, Anabelle Violet arrived perfect and sleeping into our arms and weighing 4lb 5oz. 
It was important to us that we maintained some sort of ‘normality’ around Anabelle’s birth as well. Despite the outcome we knew was coming we wanted this precious moment of meeting our daughter to be special. Anabelle was placed straight onto my chest for some skin to skin, she spent time on Jon’s chest for some skin to skin, she was weighed and hand and footprints taken and made sure we dressed her ourselves in the clothes we’d bought especially for her tiny little body.  This was our only time with our little girl and we treasured every second that we had, we barely put her down at all. We told her we loved her, kissed her, cherished her.
Then the time came 12 hours after she was born, when we knew it was time to hand her over. I made her safe, wrapping her in her blanket and laid her in a moses basket before giving the midwives permission to take her somewhere safe.  Handing her over to a funeral director was soul destroying; in that very moment a piece of us died alongside Anabelle.
At 4pm, just 16 hours after Anabelle was born, I was discharged and sent home. We left hospital without our baby.
The day after arrived and we had a visit from the funeral director to start discussing arrangements. We found ourselves in the position of every parent’s worst nightmare. I could scarcely believe we’d gone from excited anticipation about becoming parents to discussing coffins and colours, funeral services, hymns and flowers. Her funeral was arranged for a week after her birth.
On the 28th June Jon carried his daughters’ coffin up the aisle of the church instead of her on his arm as we’d imagined would happen many years from now. In our experience it is the father that gets forgotten. In those early days people remembered to ask how I was coping but rarely how Jon was. Jon was expected to be the strong one for me; as if people had forgotten it was his loss too.
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.
The church was packed; far more people there than I could’ve ever imagined. I could barely stand up and clung to my own father tightly as we walked in behind Anabelle and her tiny pink coffin. The church was a sea of pink, everyone wearing pink to honour Anabelle on her goodbye day. We sang Jesus Loves Me, Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild and There’s a Friend for Little Children and listened to our pregnancy story and love for Anabelle being read out and shared. Sharing the huge impact Anabelle had already had on lives and gaping hole that could never be filled she’d left behind.
From the service we went to the cemetery, to a huge open grave ready to lay Anabelle and her coffin inside. We’d planned it this way but the tiniest of coffins in an adults grave more than I could bear and after dropping white roses into the grave with Anabelle I crumpled into Jon’s arms.  Anabelle has an adults grave because one day Jon and I will lay beside her too and that brings us comfort. At 25 and 29 we knew where we were going to be buried one day too.
The day after her funeral, we plucked up the courage to return to our own house. Up until now we’d moved into my parent’s house, unable to face our home. You see as well as dealing with the death of our baby girl we then had to deal with the new-born girl next door. Born the day before Anabelle died; we returned home to a sea of pink tiny clothes drying outside. It was the final twist of the knife and for months we lived in darkness.  Opening the curtains was not an option and each cry heard from the tiny new baby next door broke my heart even more.
Even now 10 months I find it incredibly difficult to deal with crying babies. My heart races, my body becomes tense and my chest starts to hurt. We never saw Anabelle’s eyes and we never heard anything from her but silence. Can you even begin to imagine the pain of your child not even once opening their eyes to look at you? 

We were in shock; living in a haze – there but not really. I used to think that heartbroken was a word used to describe being very sad; now I know differently, because my heart is broken. In those early days the pain in my chest was so real and so hard that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it stopped beating and literally broke into two. I was tormented; the heaviness of guilt that I hadn’t kept my daughter safe. It felt like my fault. It was my job to keep her safe but I’d failed.

I played and replayed the weeks over in my mind. Sometimes I still do. What had I missed? I should’ve known she wasn’t doing well. All the what ifs? What if she’d been delivered instead of all the treatment fighting to keep her inside. Would she have been alive now if she’d been born instead of premature labour stopped? What if I’d gone into hospital the day she started going quiet instead of waiting until the next morning? Could they have saved her instead of her dying in the middle of the night. How could so much change in one week? There was so much we didn’t understand and we still do not understand.

The world seemed very noisy, much more noise than I could cope with and being out in public had me panic stricken. I leaned heavily on Jon and if he left my side for too long I crumbled and imagined all manner of terrible things that could happen to him too. I remember one particular day, about 8 weeks after Anabelle’s death and not long after Jon had gone back to work; I’d text Jon and the minutes kept ticking by with no response, a few minutes turned into 15 minutes, 15 minutes into half an hour and half an hour into 45 minutes. By the time Jon phoned me I was crying hysterically down the phone. In the 45 minute wait for a response I had convinced myself he must’ve crashed the car on the way to work and was dead too.
Rational thought disappears when your baby dies. Everything you once held to be true and trusted about the order of this world is shattered and you are left with nothing. Our entire world was smithereens and everything in it changed. We are changed.  Some changes for better some for worse; for one I’m now a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person. I’ve always been a worrier, but now negativity surrounds me – I fully expect something disappointing, upsetting, devastating to happen to us. Anxiety fills our lives, anger rears its ugly head in our lives because our world is broken and hurting.
The biggest change of all surrounds other people in my life. Relationships change when your baby dies; we as a society are not geared up to cope with bereavement, let alone the death of someone’s child. After the initial deluge of sympathy cards, flowers and messages you are often left alone by the majority. People drift away; some not wanting to intrude on your grief, others because your grief is too ‘upsetting for them’ and because they just do not know what to say or do.
Your baby’s death isolates you from the rest of the world. Time moves on around you while you remain stopped in the moment you heard those words. There were times; there still are times when I wonder if I’m losing my mind. Time moves differently now; Anabelle died over 10 months ago, but she died just yesterday.
People in the darkest time of our lives have astounded me; from the acquaintances with the thoughtful gestures to the people you once spoke to daily who are no longer there, to even strangers and downright ignorance from all. 
Anabelle had been buried for 2 weeks and we were making one of the many visits to her garden. Being a sunny summer evening there were quite a few people in the graveyard as well. An older lady, visiting a grave 2 up from Anabelle said hello to us and asked if the grave we were visiting was that of a child. I simply said it was our daughter. We were then asked how old she was, in response I said that she had been born sleeping. The lady did not understand until I choked out the word stillborn. That was conversation over, the lady loudly tut’ted at us and turned away.
This being one of the many episodes I’ve since experienced surrounding the taboo of stillbirth and complete lack of acceptance about the impact and devastation caused has spurred me to feel a real need to raise awareness. I had absolutely no idea how many babies were stillborn or died shortly after birth until it happened to me; 17 babies every day in the UK, 119 every week, 6500 every year; the equivalent of 16 jumbo jets crashing each year with no survivors. I could not understand how this many babies were dying with a complete lack of acknowledgment. Why is stillbirth a silently ignored problem?
The problem with the word stillborn or the term stillbirth in my opinion is that it does not honour the angel baby. In a society where stillbirth appears to be very much a taboo subject the terminology feeds into attitudes of old; a stillborn baby was a non-baby, not ever really here, not a real death, something to brush under the carpet. I struggle with referring to Anabelle as a stillborn baby.  My daughter was born, I laboured and gave birth to her, we lavished all the love we could on her until it was time for her to go. Anabelle was really alive, inside of me for over 7 months and she really died. Our love for our daughter did not die with her; she is very real to us, our firstborn and an important member of family. We are parents, we have a child.
Three months after Anabelle’s death the shock bubble and haze burst. Reality set in and I reached my lowest point, recognising I could no longer cope and on the verge of a complete breakdown I walked into a local counselling centre dedicated to supporting people who’ve experienced baby loss. Between counselling there, support on the Sands forum, and plucking up the courage to start a blog I began to function. 
Over time my blog has especially become my salvation. The freedom to write and express the mixed up world in which I live was liberating and saw a significant improvement in my emotional health. My blog has also become my richest source of raising awareness; I do not shy away from the realities of what it means to be an “Angel Mummy”.  It sometimes makes for hard reading but I hope my stark openness encourages readers to relate to bereaved parents they may know in a different way and allows other angel Mums and Dads to not feel alone.
In just over a months’ time it will be Anabelle’s 1st birthday. One whole year since our world fell apart. We’re planning a big fundraising fete to celebrate her short life and raise money and awareness for Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. We could not let Anabelle’s 1st birthday pass without acknowledgement and wanted to end the very worst year of our lives in a positive way; what could honour our daughters’ memory better than raising funds for a charity that supports angel families and seeks to prevent babies of the future dying? We hope our contribution to the charity will stop more families living our reality.
The passage of time amazes me. If you’d said to me the day Anabelle was born that today I would be functioning relatively well, working and living I would not have believed you. The resilience of the human spirit is a wonderful thing. Even in the darkest days we somehow pull ourselves into some resemblance of normal; from somewhere within us an incredible strength pulls us through.

Of course we’re by no means fixed. You do not get over the death of your child; our grief and pain will be there forever. Sometimes the overwhelming foreverness of it all completely engulfs us. It doesn’t go away; it just shifts position with the passage of time.

All those months ago we were a complete emotional wreckage, the day I walked into the counselling offices I couldn’t find the strength to eat, get dressed, breathe, sleep, or stand up, I somehow managed to continue to live even with a broken heart.

Today I’m emotionally scarred. My heart is stuck back together with some sticky tape. I know it will never be quite healed. Some days my strength deserts me, some days the physical pain returns. We live a life we wish we didn’t have to; but we would rather have known Anabelle for a short time than never at all. We can live with this life because it means she touched it.

When Anabelle died we wouldn’t have believed any hope or joy could enter our life again. Our entire world had crashed around us. All hopes and dreams, all trust in life, blissful ignorance; all shattered. 

Today we dare to hope. Admittedly it is feeble and easily extinguished but I sometimes dare to believe there will be things in our life to smile about.  Our world is fragile; we know it will never be the same again. Our personal tragedy altered all perception of it. But it is amazing how far we have come. Today with some trepidation we attempt to look forward, to try and find some new hopes and dreams. Dreams that are different now, but still include Belle in them somehow. 

On the 21st June 2010 our daughter, our firstborn, our Anabelle was born sleeping; stillborn, but STILL born.  

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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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Written by C.E Morgan. Powered by Blogger.