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.

Friday, 30 September 2011

2.4 Children

Sorry I've been quiet. I've not meant to be so neglectful of the blog but between the daily visits to the hospital and trying to potter about and prepare a little bit for Alexander's impending arrival I've been feeling fairly exhausted.  I'm completely preoccupied with lists of things that need to be done before I'm induced in 11 days! 

Things are plodding along here. Xander has remained a happy boy at every check up. I'm feeling fairly calm for the most part because of the daily reassurance and I've even allowed myself to dare to occasionally believe this is all actually going to turn out ok now. That we will have our happy ending this time. 

The difficulty is every time I allow myself to feel some impending excitement it is quickly joined with feeling guilty. Like somehow being thrilled at the prospect of really being allowed to be Alexander's Mummy,  is a betrayal to my Mummyhood with Anabelle. 

But not just that, I'm feeling quite mixed up at the moment.  All my emotions seem split in two. 

If Anabelle was here we would have achieved many peoples ideal of the 'perfect' family set up. The 2.4 children; the one of each.  In theory I suppose this is what our family is; Mummy, Daddy, Sister, Brother. 

Only its not. Only it is. And neither of us really know how to even begin to explain to Alexander one day how he really does have a sister and she really does exist to Jon and I as part of our family. How do we strike the balance? How will she ever really feel real to him too? Will he ever understand? 

I have a feeling the next few weeks have the potential to be the best in our lives but mixed in with confronting so much more pain. I'm anticipating it, because I'm already beginning to feel it. A little nervous of how I will really truly feel when he is handed to me. Worried to look at him and see Anabelle. Worried I will let him down because I still hurt so much for his sister. So desperate to do all these Mummy things with Alexander but still hurting that I couldn't do them with Anabelle. Wondering if this feeling will ever go away or if the parallels of what is and what should've been will live with me forever as I hope to watch him grow up. 

I absolutely cannot wait to hold our beautiful boy, I'm praying so hard we'll be bringing our baby home this time,  that we'll have our miracle. But all the while I'm hurting that he will physically show us everything that was taken away from us and Anabelle and I won't know how to deal with it. 

Wishing so hard that our 2.4 children was real and that I had them both. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Happy Birthday Blog

One year ago today I did my first post. Life

By this point in September 2010 I'd reached my breaking point. After 3 months of living in some sort of haze and bubble, the bubble had burst and the reality that our daughter was dead sunk from the surface into every part of me. Everything felt broken, I couldn't imagine putting anything back together again.  Two days previously, on Anabelle's 3 month birthday, I'd walked into a counselling centre and promptly broke down. 

Then I discovered blogger, and this blog has become my salvation ever since. 

After Anabelle started as an outlet. My space to organise the unbearable pain, to figure out my thoughts, put my brain into some sort of order again. A diary to document how our lives would unfold without her. It became a space to share with the world what it means to be a bereaved parents. It became a space to raise awareness of stillbirth, the facts, the figures, to break the taboo of baby death. It became a place where I refused to be silent and very willing to share the deepest and darkest days and thoughts along with happier times too. Because this is our reality. 

Life one year on, although a long way from the constant darkness we were feeling on the day my blog was born, is still fragile. The reality may have sunk from the surface, but you only have to scratch us for it to emerge full force upwards again. 

Today my blog is still all of those things. Its become part of me, who I am and how I cope.  If I could describe my blog in one word now, I would probably choose "honest". 

Honest because I've laid lots of my life out like an open book. Honest because I think I've covered almost every emotion possible over the last 12 months here.  I hope by being honest it has raised awareness of stillbirth and what it really means to be angel parents. I hope for lots of people reading it has encouraged empathy and understanding of bereaved parents they may know.

So time for a review. Blogger has handy tools to help with this. It has a stats page that tells me how many page views I've had, what countries people have 'visited' from, which posts have been the most read.  After Anabelle has had a staggering 45,826 page views, visits from of course the UK then the USA, Australia, Austria, Germany, France, Singapore to name only but a few. 

And my top 5 posts? 

The Caz and Belle Blog - 3rd October 2010, 966 pageviews.  Written following a troll drama on Mumsnet that hugely unsettled the bereaved Mummy board. Barely after my blog had begun and feeling vulnerable I didn't quite know who to trust or what to believe.  It was a horrible online experience I'd not had any direct experience of before and hope I won't again. Now I know that whether there was any truth in the accusation and uproar or not there are no winners when someone shouts 'troll' - only lots of very upset people. 

Fundraising Update - 14th June 2011, 612 pageviews.  All about our planning and preparation in the run up to Anabelle's Angel Day, raising money for Sands. Fundraising had already surpassed the £900 mark (of an original £1000 target) before our events had even taken place.  Fundraising was the way we chose to celebrate Anabelle's 1st birthday, give her shortest of lives a positive focus, her little life having an impact in this world. And impact she did; our beautiful daughter inspired a final figure of £9340.74 of donations. Money that will help support a charity continue to support broken and vulnerable bereaved parents, and help to fund research that will hopefully one day prevent so many babies from dying every day. 

Repeating History  - 17th September 2011, 547 pageviews.  One of my most recent posts. Written from my hospital bed, terrified after threatening prem-labour again with Alexander at almost the same point of pregnancy that I did with Anabelle.  The fear that the next bit of history will also repeat itself. We're currently counting the days down to him surviving the remainder of his pregnancy to a happy outcome on induction day on 11th October. 

Eastenders - 30th December 2010, 332 pageviews.  The baby-swap storyline in Eastender's last new year distressed many bereaved parents. Distressed that instead of using a storyline for good to focus on the reality of being a bereaved parent, they instead decided to sensational it and portray a grieving mother as a lunatic. To this day I still believe more damage was done than good, and opportunity was lost. 

Anabelle's Story - 8th May 2011, 288 pageviews.  This is my contribution to a book, organised by another bereaved mother. This book will tell the stories of many bereaved parents and raise awareness of stillbirth and neo-natal death. Soon to be published and on sale, proceeds will go to Sands.

Happy birthday blog. I look forward to figuring out year two of our lives After Anabelle with you. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Plan

Today is a much calmer day.  The hysterical state I was in over the weekend and start of this week is beginning to subside; Alexander is still safe and well, and still cooking.   I’m more pregnant than I’ve ever been before and he is now 5 days older than his sister ever got to be.

Until the weekend I’m still in hospital. Most people would’ve gone stir crazy still being on a ward after a week, Jon and I on the other hand have needed this level of reassurance this week.  We’ve felt safe with me and baby here; Xander monitored regularly to catch any potential early signs of distress. Luckily we’re being cared for by a great team of understanding midwives and my consultant.  No-one has made me feel like I’m over-reacting or irrational; only reassuring me that my anxieties are perfectly founded and they will do all that they can to make us feel secure.

When I last posted, and up until Tuesday I couldn’t imagine ever feeling safe enough to go home again. Not until my baby boy was here. Even now “safe” isn’t the right term of expression. I’m not entirely convinced I do feel “safe” to go home; it is easy to feel calm and together from a hospital bed surrounded by a medical team.  

However since Tuesday my entire self has started to calm down. Well as calmed down as I think I will ever be until my little boy arrives screaming. We’d accepted that anxiety was going to be a main player in this pregnancy even before this episode. Goes without saying we’re living on a knife edge now; each day is a bit of a celebration and a step closer to our miracle.

Now I’m not being chucked out at the weekend by any means, they told me I could stay until I felt ok to leave, no-one is pressuring me to be discharged; but here we are, at Thursday, a week after I was admitted and feeling like going home is just about within my coping limits again. Maybe. I won’t actually know until I try.

So this is my decision. With two more days to prepare myself, I’m coming home Saturday morning as long as nothing happens in the meantime.

Then, if of course all goes to the plan, after spending 2 weeks and 3 days at home (whilst also visiting daily as an outpatient for continued close monitoring) I will be re-admitted at 36 weeks pregnant. This time it will be to be induced and bring out beautiful boy into this world. Screaming.

Screaming, alive and our miracle is the absolute key.

Now all we have to do is survive until the 11th October. Me and Jon; survive without losing the plot completely. Alexander; to stay strong and come home with us.

Today we’ve got 2 weeks and 5 days to go. 
Saturday, 17 September 2011

Repeating History

This is not the post I hoped I would be writing today. It is not the post I should be writing today. But it seems by body is incapable of maintaining a pregnancy past this point without drama.   So now, I sit from a hospital bed almost in utter disbelief that this has happened again and so very scared about what could happen next.

The bad news:

Wednesday evening I started having very nasty “Braxton Hicks” contractions. They were the strongest I’d had yet, lasting half a minute to a minute and almost taking my breath away. I even needed to breathe through one or two. Jon was ready to pack me off to the hospital by  10.00pm but as Alexander was nice and active I decided I must’ve just over-done it in work that afternoon and went to bed to lie down. Things eased off as I rested but I remained incredibly uncomfortable all night and was up every hour with period type pains.

Thursday morning things were pretty much the same; feeling uncomfortable, period and shooting pains and more of these painful “Braxton Hicks”. But, me being me, I went to work, knowing there was so much left to do in the days coming up to my maternity leave.

But by dinner time I had to admit defeat and thought it was about time we were checked out, by now I was anxious and worried; I think I knew what might be coming.   One trip to the hospital later and again within half an hour on the monitor, “Braxton Hicks” are ruled out. Instead more real contractions being read every 6-10 minutes it was decided I was threatening premature labour.


One week later than in Anabelle’s pregnancy, but history repeating itself almost to a T. 

The Good News:

Alexander is coping much better with this episode than his sister did. Unlike with Anabelle each time he is monitored his heart rate has remained more or less stable and reactive.  We pray that this indicates he is stronger than Anabelle and will somehow survive.

Since Thursday afternoon I’ve been treated with antibiotics as a precaution while infection is ruled out as a trigger. A water infection has been ruled out, but the other test results are slower to come back.  I’ve been given steroids to mature his lungs; just incase, just like last time. I’ve been given the drug to stop the contractions to ward off labour.  So far they’ve been intermittently working.  My entire stomach is tired and sore.

The difference is this time threatening premature labour means something different to what it did with Anabelle when we were experiencing it. Then we were scared she would arrive prematurely and be unwell. Now we are absolutely terrified the next part of our history will happen. That Alexander, a week from now will die like his sister did.

However irrational that really sounds. The midwives trying to reassure me that even now it would be unlikely that lightening would strike us twice, but the fear of losing him has become very real possibility, not just something we have been scared of since day one.  You see, because the first part of our lightening has already struck twice, at a very similar gestation.  It isn’t unreasonable of us to jump to the next conclusion.

This weekend should’ve been a celebration of sorts. Today at 32+4 our son is still alive; he has currently outlived his sister by half a day. If he gets through another night he will be a whole day older than she ever was.  It’s a terrible mix of feelings; overjoyed of course that he still with us, whilst reliving the exact moment we lost our daughter.  This weekend was never going to be easy; but for this to happen seems almost cruel. So both times I’ve been 32+4 I’ve been in hospital, once being told our baby girl was dead, today being monitored for anything kicking off.

Tomorrow I may well be more pregnant than I’ve ever been before. Tomorrow we hoped our confidence would’ve been boosted that we’d reached this painful milestone without mishap. But instead we are on tenter hooks waiting for the absolute worst thing to happen again, because mishap was unachievable for us.

For 15 months my gut feeling has been telling me Anabelle’s threatened premature labour was a warning sign and not the awful co-incidence in timing in relation to her death. Today I’m convinced this is another warning sign and our son needs to constantly monitored daily for the slightest change to his well-being, the hospital have a responsibility to us to play this differently this time. They absolutely cannot miss the opportunity to deliver our son to us while he alive. Right now he is alive.

We know only too well that things can change in the shortest of time. Despite the plan only put in place on Wednesday; with what was to be only just over 4 weeks from now until his birth, now, after repeating a part of our history with Anabelle, a new plan needs to be drawn up again.
The evidence is mounting that I am unable to keep our children safe. 

We hope that when I see my consultant on Monday she’ll promise to ensure his safe delivery, however soon that now needs to be; because something tells me he’ll be safer in an incubator than he will remaining inside me for too many weeks longer.  It is of course a dodgy time, we understand he is still so very premature, we understand the risks of pushing for a delivery when he is so premature. But even each day now increases his prognosis. And of course he’s had his steroids and estimated big and heavy for his age will go in his favour.

We are now way beyond the point of coping.  We need him here in our arms. We know we won’t survive it again. We will never recover from Anabelle’s death; contemplating Alexander’s unbearable. Our baby boy needs your prayers.   I want this hospital to become our home until our baby boy is safe.  I’m too scared to leave here, I don’t want to be discharged. 

We need Alexander to be our miracle.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

32 Weeks

Today I am 32 weeks pregnant. The last time I was 32 weeks pregnant Anabelle had only 4 days left to live; we had no clue, the mere possibility of our daughter dying had not once crossed our minds. 

We were in the middle of a getting ready frenzy after her threatened early delivery just days before. Her nursing chair had been built, the rest of her furniture wasn't going to be far behind, I was washing clothes to  frantically put together a hospital bag because early delivery was a strong possibility, her room was being painted, we'd booked another visit from our pregnancy photographer. 

Her last 4 days with us were so very busy when maybe I should've been paying her far more attention. Maybe I missed something. See even almost 15 months on I'm stuck in the middle of the blame game. 

Today I just cannot comprehend getting past Saturday. 

It feels alien to me that Alexander will outlive the age his sister was.  Today I feel strange. Like I'm holding my breath, my heart feels almost stopped,  waiting, stuck in a moment not daring to believe Sunday will arrive with everything still ok. It almost feels like a countdown to some sort of explosion. 

In my world pregnancy stops at 32+4. 

This week I really don't know what to do with myself. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Our Beautiful Boy

We weren't going to have one. It was the deal I'd made with Jon when he agreed to us having a private gender scan at 18 weeks; a gender scan or 4D scan later on, but not both. 

At 18 weeks I couldn't see beyond needing know who my baby was, so then it was an easy decision to make. I was impatient to know if Bow was a boy or girl and that was all that mattered to me right then; naming our baby and getting to know them. 18 weeks now feels like a lifetime ago. 

Last Sunday evening I had a bit of a meltdown, it had been building for a lot of that afternoon, overwhelmed that we'd almost reached 31 weeks and the point when Anabelle started to show signs of not being safe. 

I really hadn't thought too much about 4D scans since our gender scan, because that was the deal I'd made. Then fear got the better of me, it was unexpected, but Sunday I knew I had to have a 4D scan. What was important now was that I had to see our son alive, see his little face, see him moving.  I knew I couldn't cope with the risk of only seeing my 'sleeping' still baby again. I also felt this urge to compare him to Anabelle, to see where the likeness' are now. You might recall my post a few weeks ago about being anxious how I might react to him in real life if he looks like his sister. 

So in the panic of approaching 31 weeks, everything this point of pregnancy represents and being terrified he would soon die I reached emotional wreck levels, cried for a lot of the evening and begged Jon to agree to a 4D scan despite the deal I'd made with him weeks earlier. 

Jon did agree and yesterday, at 31+4 weeks grown, we saw our beautiful son.

Wow! I may be biased, as after all I am his mother; but isn't he is beautiful?!  Cute chubby little cheeks! I was amazed how full his face looks already! 

He's apparently a bit of a chubster by his estimated weight. Quite a bit bigger than his sister was when she was born at 32 weeks. I'm not sure how much I believe in these estimated weights but needless to say it has me a little concerned, but that is another post for another time. 

I'm absolutely mesmerized by Alexander. My gorgeous boy. Yesterday we saw our son move his hands and fingers, yawn, frown, put his hand in his mouth, cover both his eyes with his hands, cwtch his hands to the side of his face and lean on them like a pillow! We even saw him stick his tongue out! 

Yesterday we saw our son 'being alive' and now whatever happens we have a DVD of him to treasure forever. Yesterday was a very special moment.  

I see a  lot of Anabelle in him, there are lots of similarities that I was expecting. On the scan these haven't fazed me as I was worried about, at this moment I think it is lovely that he has these links to his sister. I still wonder what that 'real life' feeling will be like though. I also think there are features there that are unique to him too though; his face if a bit fuller and his nose might be slightly wider although a simular shape. And mainly he looks 'all boy' to me compared to his sister's more delicate features!  I also see a lot of Jon in him. 

I've got to be honest; this little boy, my little boy completely stole my heart yesterday. We loved him so much already, but now I'm even more head over heels in love with him! I left the scan gushing, euphoric and bouncing. 

Today, fear has got the better of me again as we approach the dreaded 32 weeks milestone. I wish it was safe for him to be born now; induction day is so far away and I'm terrified I can't keep him alive that long. I'm more anxious than ever that I'll actually get to dote on him day by day forever. What I need is a kick up the bum to cling onto the magical moments like yesterday and focus less on the fear. I just wish I knew how to let it go completely. 

I need to work on some real faith and belief that Alexander WILL come home. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Out of Control

So the good news is we've passed the point where I threatened prem-labour with Anabelle by one whole day. Yesterday I was 31+1 weeks pregnant; the day when last time I was going to the hospital because Anabelle had been quiet and ended up being admitted and told she might be on her way. 

Today I'm 31+2 and on prem-labour watch. Only I don't know what I'm looking out for. I don't feel very able to trust my judgement, whether it be for labour or moving quick enough if Alexander is quiet. I'm on full alert with every ache, twinge or pain but I've no idea what is of real concern and what is normal for a heavily pregnant woman.    

I mean tonight, of course I'm aching and a have heavy tired bump pain,. I'm enormous and I've been at work all day. Who wouldn't be tired and in pain? 

There is a great element of feeling out of control now, and for someone who has often been labelled a control freak its pretty huge to feel so powerless with an overwhelming sense of vulnerability. Powerlessness always adding to the anxiety. I have such difficulty letting go in so many areas of my life, but right now there is very little I can do to be in control, my body will do what it will do regardless of what control measure I attempt to put in place. 

The feeling of being out of control especially spirals when I cannot trust myself anyway. I don't even know if I would recognise a prem-labour again, I didn't recognise it last time. Last time I was uncomfortable, that was it. It was the hospital who picked up on the signs, not me. I'm uncomfortable nearly all of the time now, but I'm pretty sure I'm not threatening to labour. Not today anyway. 

The one thing that matters the most to Jon and I right now is the screaming arrival of our little boy, but it is also the one thing we haven't got any control over. All we can do is hope it will come true and my body prove it is capable of giving us a baby to come home. 
Monday, 5 September 2011

Showering the Baby

Party organiser! Sorreya and Me! 
Saturday my very special friend Sorreya, with a bit of collaborating with Jon had arranged Alexander and me a surprise baby shower. And surprised I was. I really hadn't been expecting it.  A shower in Anabelle's pregnancy had never been mentioned; but of course her pregnancy had ended so abruptly and eight weeks earlier than anyone had planned for. I didn't expect one to be planned this time either; after all, showers involve gifts and gifts involve money. I would've completely understood if people didn't want to part with their money for him until he'd arrived safely.  

I'm so very lucky to have some thoughtful and lovely people surrounding me at the moment. People who want to be a part of making this pregnancy special and memorable for all the right reasons; especially now. Those weeks. 

Jon had been being sneaky for a while. I knew something was up, especially when he said Friday afternoon that he would be taking me out the next afternoon but not telling me where! When he said he would be dropping me off and not staying I was even more intrigued! 

So on the way and blindfolded (and feeling like quite the numpty) I'd decided to myself it must be a spa afternoon or something with Mummy-to-be treats because that is the only thing I'd been hinting throughout this pregnancy! We got there, and arrived to a room full of my lovely family and friends, blue everywhere and a mountain of presents that could have competed with a childhood Christmas! Much better than an hours massage! 

A tea party! 

A mountain of beautiful presents!

Baby Shower Cake - Organised by my sister! 

Rainbow and Angel Cake Toppers - Both of my Babies 
An afternoon I'll cherish as a bright moment in Alexander's pregnancy, I'm so grateful for the thoughtfulness and effort. An afternoon celebrating my baby boy, just as he is now!

Alexander; you (and Mummy and Daddy) are already being so so spoilt! Keep safe little man; there are lots of people waiting to meet you! 
Thursday, 1 September 2011

Back to School

I feel like I've been neglecting the blog somewhat.  The days just seem to be passing me by.  My head is buzzing with different thoughts and worries but I just haven't seemed to be able to find the time to sit down to let them go and articulate them into a post. I don't really even know where to start. Maybe tonight is not the night to do it. 

Tonight it is the night before going back to work. I cannot decide whether the six week break has felt fast or slow. Parts have been both; but going back to work day has seemed to have crept up all of a sudden. 

Six weeks ago I wrote And STOP! I said it was time to wind down and completely focus on my boy. In reality,  I've got to be honest, despite the holidays, I feel more tired than ever; some nights the broken sleep is now hourly, some days my pelvis feels like it is crumbling beneath me and my iron levels are not fantastic (although the tablets seem to be helping now). 

I don't feel as rested as I hoped I would returning to work. 

But the most precious time I've spent over the summer has been learning my sons patterns and routines; I know more or less when he should be awake and asleep now. Some days don't fit the pattern, some days he likes to be quiet all day and have me in a nearing hysterical state, but for the most part I've honed in on his movements. 

Today I'm 30+2 weeks pregnant. We're nearing that time now; the 31 and 32 weeks milestones where our world stopped with Anabelle. As if we haven't been anxious enough all the way through this pregnancy, now its nearing an all time high. These few weeks are crucial in so many ways; we are so near, but still so far from his safe delivery. 

I struggle to see beyond 32 weeks pregnant. Like I cannot really believe beyond it can possibly exist for us. 32+4 weeks pregnant to us equals our baby dying, that is all we know; and so it feels that these next two weeks and beyond, Alexander's entire life is hanging in the balance.

So its September, I'm back at work for a month and the scariest point of Alexander's pregnancy has landed upon us. 
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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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