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, 31 January 2011

32 Weeks

Today marks 32 weeks since Anabelle was born. Anabelle died when she was 32 weeks and 4 days grown; by the end of this week my daughter will have been dead and gone for longer than she was here and alive. I’m finding it very difficult to come to terms with it. I don’t know why these milestones and dates affect me so much. 
Jon on the other hand reacts very differently to dates than me. The 21st of the month doesn’t make him feel the way I do. To him nothing changes, she is still gone, however long it’s been, the being gone doesn’t change, the hurt doesn’t change. Each day is still another day longer without her regardless of date or time.
I’m constantly aware of the next thing to work through; and even then something comes up in between and surprises me.  
After today I’m aware that our birthdays are coming up in a month and that the family day out we’d planned to celebrate Daddy’s 30th will never come to fruition. My brother’s wedding is soon after and Anabelle is gone, so instead of his niece being the token flower girl she should be, other small children will play that part. And then there is Mother’s Day.  While everyone else I know will celebrate their motherhood, I will be mourning my own.  
And that just takes us to April.
Today I’ve spent time going through the phonebooks and making a list of local and national companies I would love to get on board to support Anabelle’s Angel Day and help to raise money for Sands. http://www.justgiving.com/anabelles-angel-day.  Today I feel exhausted, exhausted that I have to know Sands at all, exhausted that we’re a statistic in this horrible life, exhausted that instead of planning a first birthday tea party with jelly, ice-cream and normal childhood things, I plan a fundraising event instead.
It is so important and I’m determined to raise awareness of the impact of stillbirth on a family’s life and to raise as much money as I can for a charity that supports families in their deepest darkest hour.
But amongst it all, it feels so desperately unfair. What made me less deserving of being a mother than anyone else? Why was Anabelle less deserving of life than anyone else’s baby?
These are the questions that can never be answered and I find so difficult to accept.
Sunday, 30 January 2011

My Grief

Today this was posted on one of my support networks in the virtual world. I've added Belle's name because this sums up more than ever where and how I am right now, and where I will be for the foreseeable future. Grief has no plan. I'm not ashamed to admit that recently things have become more of a struggle for me. The hurt has become more intense again; it is a like a new wave of reality has hit me.

Today I want to share this with you:

Please talk about my Belle, even though she is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that she never existed. I need to talk about her, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."


Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my little one’s death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving her death, but also the person I was when she was with me, the time that we shared, the plans I had, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my daughter and rather than recover, I want to incorporate her life and love into the rest of my life. She is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember her with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my daughter is dead, so please don't make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right.

I don't understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get on with your life." My life is going on; I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. Send me a card on special holidays, Belle’s birthday, and the anniversary of her death, and be sure to mention her name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may so no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone. Understand how difficult it is for me to walk into events alone and to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.
And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.
Saturday, 29 January 2011

Anabelle's Garden

Up until the New Year we had visited Belle almost every weekend without fail.  Right in the beginning, when she was first buried we had been to the cemetery more regularly again, every few days, sometimes a couple of days in a row. But after the initial shock that our baby was in a grave we fell into a routine of visiting her garden every weekend.
Since the New Year we’ve not been. Not once.
I’m feeling so increasingly guilty about it. I know it will be looking uncared for and unloved. I know I’m letting her down.
I can’t blame our poor attendance on not having the time or other things getting in the way; our opportunity is there like it ever was. I’m just finding it so hard to go. I push it to the back of my mind. I don’t know why but suddenly it seems so much harder, but everything is.  2011 has put me in a very difficult place.
We’ve been living this reality for 7 months now, it is not new; so why now is it too hard to go and visit my daughter’s little place in this world?  Why am I suddenly avoiding the cemetery?  I guess I’ve stopped finding any comfort there. It used to make me feel close to Anabelle somehow, but I guess throughout December it began to hurt just that bit too much.
So another Saturday has passed and we haven’t visited. Tomorrow I need to go, I’m not sure I want to go in all honesty, but know I need too. Because I won’t be able to handle the guilt if we don’t and January then turns into February.
I wish I knew how to stop the hurt, to stop this feeling of falling apart at the seams. It’s all getting too much. I thought and keep being told that “Time Heals” and on the surface I suppose it does. I’m functioning well on a day to day level, but deep down, my head is feeling more screwed up and the pain feels overwhelming.  
Overwhelming, that I’ve still a long way to go before I’ve learnt how to live this forever.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Seven

Over the last week I’ve become more involved in the blogging world. I’ve begun to realise it is a venture that has quite a following and community behind it; and so after hearing about British Mummy Bloggers, I decided to join up.  Networking; reading about others experiences and hoping that they read about mine.
Today I’ve been tagged in mumsarcade’s blog http://gigglingatitall.blogspot.com/ to reveal seven things about myself that my readers will not know. What a refreshing change! I cannot promise that some of my readers won’t already know some or all of these things but I hope at least some of them are mildly interesting!

ONE: My middle name is Elizabeth. As children it was not uncommon for my Dad to fondly refer to us by our middle names; Lizzy being his shortened version of choice for me. It sometimes made me wonder why it wasn’t my first name! He is still known to do it today.
TWO: Jon and I almost share a birthday. He celebrates his on the 6th March and me the 7th. He is 4 years and 1 day older than me.  
THREE: Jon and I met on a website called faceparty which was popular before facebook. He sent me a random message one day just telling me we had gone to the same secondary school. This turned into a penpal type relationship and his persevering for a year before I agreed to meet him. We finally met for my 21st birthday and the rest, they say, is history.
FOUR: My favourite verse in the bible is Phillipians 4 v 13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It often pops into my thoughts, which is just as well because I always need reminding of it. Especially when I’m reaching breaking point; which is often these days.
FIVE: My TV crush is David Boreanaz. Also known by Booth in Bones and the famous Angel vampire! Just lovely!  
SIX: I can play the piano. I used to be able to play very well but I am considerably out of practice these days. I used to play classics, but these days the most I play is a few hymns in school assembly and of course for Christmas concert; the highlight of the school calendar year!  I wish I could play like I used to and would love my own piano at home!  
SEVEN: My first doll was called Cherry. I’m still strangely attached to her and will keep her forever. I’m not sure I could even pass her on to my children; although she currently sits in Anabelle’s room amongst her things.

That was nice for a brief change of focus! Anyone visiting feel free to ask me something about myself that you still don’t know!
Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Conned

Well today we were expecting to be sitting in the audience of the Britains Got Talent auditions in Cardiff. Jon had an email before Christmas asking him if he would like to apply for tickets; so we applied, appeared to be successful and were allocated what we thought were two tickets.  Only it transpires today, when we arrived an hour early that this ticket allocation got us into a standby queue and we were not guaranteed seats at all.  This had not been obviously stipulated beforehand in any of the emails we'd recieved. (Although I expect it will be in some teeny tiny small print somewhere...)
Neither of us were particularly feeling in the mood to be stood outside in the cold and damp weather; especially when it had just started to spit rain! Even more so that we could’ve spent a long while getting cold and damp and still not got in.  From people on facebook I’ve discovered this is quite common practice with TV shows. We had no idea!  Needless to say I don’t think we’ll be so trusting of TV ticket allocations again!
We feel quite conned, but then isn’t most things in life a con?
I know; I’ve become cynical. I’ve next to no trust left in the things that are apparently good and just.
What was just about my daughter dying?  As a society we’re conned into believing achieving 12 weeks of pregnancy takes us out of the risky period. I’d stupidly believed this, trusted in my body to keep Anabelle alive, took it for granted in fact, only to be conned.  Which leaves me where I am now; and I’m not even sure where that is. 
Today I’m having yet another crisis of confidence, what is my purpose in life?  Where am I and it supposed to be going? Supposed to be doing?
Professionally it seems all figured out. I love my job, I have purpose there. If I achieve nothing else each day, it feels successful if I have filled a profoundly disabled child’s day with happiness, given them a good day and above all else made them smile.  Smiling, clapping and celebration of self is important in my classroom.
But in my personal life? That’s not so figured out.
Next week Jon and I will have been married for 18 months. Our whole marriage so far has revolved around having a family. We tried for a baby, we had a baby, our baby died, and now we’re grieving for our baby. Some days, like today when I’m in a dark place and the hurt feels fresh and new once more; I feel no closer to realising the dream of our family than I did 18 months ago.
I know fundamentally this is untrue. We are a family. We are parents. We have a daughter. It just wasn’t supposed to be this way.  
Today I think “tormented” just about sums it up.
Monday, 24 January 2011

Fiz


We brought Fiz home on the 20th June 2007. Ironic really that Fiz became part of our family almost three years to the day Anabelle was born.
We’d bought our house three months previously in the March and one day Jon came home and asked if I wanted to get a kitten; somebody at his work had a litter, the mother had died and they needed homes.  I was a bit “meh” to begin with, I’d not grown up with pets and up until the day we got Fiz I really did not understand the pets being part of the family thing. But I said if you want to, and off we went to meet the kittens and choose one.
We decided we wanted one of the girls and went through a long list of pet type names until we settled on Fiz. Inspired by one of the Tweenies! Fiz suited her name from day one, she has always been a little bottle of fizzypop. But what I didn’t expect was how quickly I would fall in love with this little furball we’d bought home to be part of our family.
Fiz was tiny and only just over 6 weeks old. Because her mother had died she had only known human contact and quickly assumed I was her mother. She seemed to only want to sleep if she was snuggled against me and was always very close to our sides. Now at 3 and a half, she isn’t really that different, she still likes to snuggle up close to me to sleep; I quite often wake up with her cwtched right into my tummy, or into the crook of my arm. Fiz still thinks I’m her mother and she is most definitely my baby.
Fiz has a delightful personality. She is a little bit crazy, affectionate, playful, cheeky, answers back when she’s told off. She is an important member of this household.
When I look at Fiz now, I still see the little kitten in her that we brought home; I think she’ll always be a kitten to me.  Is that what parenting is like? Do our parents look at us and still see the tiny newborns and small children that we once were even though we’re grown now? I’m fairly sure that once your baby, always your baby, no matter how old they get.
Anabelle will always be my baby, quite literally because she was never given her chance to grow. 
We had worried how Fiz was going to react to a new baby. I’ll admit she’s been a hugely spoilt cat! We spent weeks getting her used to not sleeping in our room anymore, put down scratch pads to protect the carpets, felt guilty as she cried about not being allowed in. 
And then Anabelle died. There would be no baby for Fiz to get used to.
The not being allowed to sleep in our room anymore instantly went to pot again. Fiz is back into the habit of sleeping close to me. You see; Fiz has been a huge comfort these last seven months. There is something about a purring Fiz that is so soothing, warm, relaxing. Fiz enjoys her cuddles with me, and I enjoy my cuddles with her. Fiz makes me feel needed. Although I am under no illusion that to her I am her servant and she is very much the queen of this castle!
And so, I understand why pets are such a huge part of people’s families. There is no such thing as “just a cat” or “just a dog”. Fiz has shared in our grief, she may not understand what has happened, and that the baby she felt move in my tummy never came home. But she has been aware something has been terribly wrong, her behaviour changed. She has become a lap cat even more and seems to understand that we want her close.
I’m so glad we have Fiz. She has made our home and lives seem less empty. She’s let me mother her and smother her, she comforted us and been a welcome distraction.  I hope one day we can bring a playmate home for her, another little human for her to get used too.
But for now, I’m going to go and have a cuddle, give her some fuss, and be comforted by her purr.
I'm a big girl now!
 http://imageryinspired.blogspot.com/2011/01/sleepy-creamy-cat.html


Friday, 21 January 2011

Another 21st

Another 21st; another month without our Belle. 7 months without our little girl.
In all honesty, it has crept up quietly on us this month. Calm I suppose, accepting that whatever I do the 21st will always arrive. Does that mean things are changing? Am I getting better? Whatever better is going to be. It’s difficult to say, just because I feel calm today doesn’t mean I’ll feel that way on the 21st February. There is no consistent pattern to grief.
I’ve also been poorly this week so my focus hasn’t been on the impending date today. I’ve been sofa bound most of the week feeling sorry for myself; suffering with a particularly bad bout of tonsillitis. I think my body made me take a break and realise how run down I am.  
So it’s the 21st January and we’re almost a month into the new year now. I guess I’m feeling more together about it than I was three weeks ago. I’ve spent time thinking about what we would like to achieve this year, some things to focus on, some plans made to know what to expect from the year ahead.
February, March and the first weekend in April are particularly busy months. We have two pre-wedding parties, a family wedding, a friend’s wedding, Jon’s 30th Birthday. I’m going to work hard to genuinely enjoy these occasions, because they are happy and they’ll never happen again. I cannot let them pass me by while I struggle with version 2 of myself, especially my brother’s wedding. I cannot let my misery tarnish his day.  So that is my first goal; to enjoy a happy occasion without feeling guilty or heavy about it.
Anabelle’s birthday is going to be positive.  I refuse to be hurting so much that her day passes by without celebration of her short life as well as the sadness. Her fundraising angel day is coming together, a venue will be booked as of tomorrow and generous raffle prizes are starting to come in. People are getting on board. Already we’ve raised £183 of our £1000 target for Sands! A wonderful 1st birthday for my daughter is my second goal.
And then there are the small things I’d like from the year for example our bedroom to be re-carpeted and decorated.
I think being able to think ahead like this is a massive positive step even if it doesn’t stay this way, today I’m looking forward more than I have before. I’m feeling bothered enough to be bothered by the bedroom and want it to look better.
And then there is our hope for 2011. Our hope that sometime this year we’ll be expecting another little bundle of joy and adding to our family;  making Anabelle a big angel sister. Our hope that next time we’ll get to bring our baby home. I can’t call this a goal – it is merely a hope and a massive leap of faith. A dream that next time things will be different for us.
2011 is still as huge as it ever was.
Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Those Words

“We’re sorry, but we can’t find your baby’s heartbeat.”
Words that will live with me forever. What happened next is a bit of a blur; I remember Jon taking me in his arms and my uncontrollable sobs and screams being buried in his chest. We must’ve both sounded like wounded animals – I guess we were.
This is our last experience of a scan; the day our lives fell apart.  Minutes before we’d been sat outside the scan room joking with the midwife that she wasn’t even born yet and was already causing us no end of worry; and then I was on that bed and I just knew what the sonographer was about to say. Something wasn’t right and I just knew – mother’s intuition I guess. All the hopes that had been raised as the doctors and midwives examined us smashed to pieces in one look on the sonographers face. It hadn’t been Anabelle’s heartbeat they had found on their machines; they’d found mine. Anabelle had gone quiet because she had grown her wings.
I don’t know how long they left us clinging to eachother in that room, but I know the crying didn’t stop; not for hours, and then only for brief pauses. When we were too exhausted to cry anymore, until the next hysterical sobs took over.
Then we were moved to another room, the room where Anabelle would be born 5 days later, furthest end of the labour ward, a room with an en-suite, a sofa bed, fridge, coffee and tea making factilities and a door with outside area if you wanted some air. The room I guess designed for families about to go through what we had to; self- contained, as comfortable as possible. The Sands room for babies about to be born sleeping.
Here in this room, the Doctor visited and explained what would happen next. I’d be started on potent drugs to induce labour. He couldn’t say how long it would take but on average it might take 2 or 3 days.  So I took that first tablet and we went home. Waiting.
Went back for a second tablet the next day. Still waiting.  Day 4 I was admitted and kept in hospital, they started pessaries along with the tablets, my morphine drip was attached. More waiting and lots of sickness. Day 5, more of the same. I knew I couldn’t have many more of these tablets, they’re potent and too many would start damaging my other organs. They weren’t getting me into active labour and I thought we were heading for a section. 
Until at 7.00pm the midwife decided to attempt to manually break my waters to see if it would make a difference. Within minutes I was in active labour and the contractions were excruciating – even with the morphine.  It took only 5 hours and 8 minutes for Anabelle to be born when labour started. 8 minutes into the sixth day; our girl took her time coming to meet us.
In all honesty I don’t know how I survived those 5 days. Being still pregnant but knowing my baby had died inside me. I felt at my most vulnerable. Mirrors had to be covered around my Mum and Dads house because I couldn’t look at myself, I couldn’t see anyone that wasn’t in my immediate family. Hoping upon hope that the scan was going to be a mistake and she’d be born and be fine. Somewhere between denial and reality.
But the scan wasn’t a mistake. Anabelle arrived, beautiful but silent.
Anabelle said hello in her scans, but she also said goodbye. From here on in, any future pregnancy scans will be full of fear, terrified of hearing those words again. Lying on that bed will never be a magical experience again, instead flashbacks of the day my life shattered. I’m not sure how I will cope with it. I guess that is something we’ll find out when the time comes.  
To try again makes us braver in so many ways than most will ever know.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011

On this day...

Anabelle: 11+2 weeks grown.
On the 18th January last year we saw our little baby for the first time – the day when Baby Morgan became even more of a reality. As well as the morning (all day!) sickness to prove it, we now had beautiful pictures of our baby too. Of course we didn't know she was Anabelle yet, but we could see her little heart beating and was amazed that we could already see arms, legs, body, head and even got a picture of her face.  
Anabelle: face, body and little hand on the right.
We particularly love the picture of her face. Anabelle looked like a chimpanzee! The detail we could see in those first pictures, for a tiny little thing that was only 5cm long at the time, we were in awe. Of course Jon got the brunt of the chimpanzee jokes from friends and that obviously the baby was looking like him!

Turns out, Anabelle by 32 weeks looked nothing like a chimpanzee but did look everything like her Daddy.
We left the scan over the moon, dated at 11+2 weeks and given a due date of 7th August 2010; a week after our first wedding anniversary. Perfect.

We framed her scan pictures and put her up in our living room. Our baby! Those precious first pictures are still on display today, a year ago today those pictures were taken.
Today, all we have is pictures and a box of memories.  
Saturday, 15 January 2011

Two Versions

I don’t fully understand who I am anymore. The person I used to know very well has gone and has been replaced with two versions of myself.  
Version 1: The version that the world sees; my out and about self, my sociable self, my professional self.  This version is able to hold conversations, show some interest in other people, attempts to share in others happiness.  This person is able to laugh in the right places, still finds things amusing, briefly enjoys activities, copes with work pressures and is capable of looking after severely disabled children all day.  This me is socially acceptable because it behaves in an expected way.
Version 2:  The barely functioning mess; my mentalist self, my broken self, my behind closed doors self. This version is bitter, nasty and resentful, struggles to relate to other peoples happiness because I don’t particularly care. This person struggles to get enthusiastic about anything, doesn’t want to join in with happy, spends much of the time on the verge of tears and suffers with huge anxieties. This me isn’t seen by anyone except those who are closest to me, this me I try and hide.
So which one of these people is really me?
I think in reality I probably swing between the two versions of myself, landing somewhere in the middle of the two. But today, the majority of me feels stuck in version 2.
Monday, 10 January 2011

Clothes and Things

Just before the New Year I had a clear out. I do this occasionally; go through our wardrobe and drawers and bag up older or clothes no longer worn to put into the Salvation Army textiles bin at the tip.  
This time going through all of my clothes, I found two items of maternity clothing still in the bottom of the drawer. Two items that linger from the Anabelle pregnant part of my life.
After Anabelle was born it took just 10 days to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. All the lovely things I’d bought to wear while I was pregnant quickly became redundant, along with everything else we’d bought pregnancy or baby related.  I collected and washed all my maternity clothes and put them in a pile inside Anabelle’s room; out of sight. I did consider getting rid of them all, but that seemed rash and silly considering how much money we’d spent on my maternity wardrobe and that if things were different they would’ve been kept ready for number two anyway.
So now, I’ve found two more things to add to the maternity clothes pile, sat there waiting until they are needed again. 
They haven’t quite reached the pile yet. Since I’ve found them they have been draped over the upstairs banister just outside the nursery door. We find it difficult to go in there, however briefly. Like with many things in this new life, opening Anabelle’s nursery door takes some building up too.
When you open her door you can still smell the freshness of the pink and lemon paint; finished just hours before she died. The tape that had been put down around the edges of the carpet to protect it while the skirting board was painted is still there. Her room is filled with boxes of furniture; her cot, wardrobe and chest of drawers that were bought but never built. The nursing chair Jon had built in the few days before her death sits in the corner, her pram and car seat covered with sheets to keep the sun and dust off them, boxes full of her clothes I’d washed but she never worn, bags filled with toys still in their packaging.
It is hard going into that room and seeing the love and preparation we’d put into being ready for our baby, seeing the beautiful room we wanted to turn into a princess palace for our girl, seeing the things that mean so much to us.
Anabelle’s room is full of pregnancy reminders, full of her belongings, but she never got to see any of it.
Saturday, 8 January 2011

Choosing a Headstone

No-one ever thinks they will be in a position where they are required to choose a headstone for their child. Of course, we all know babies, children and young adults die, but the thought that our offspring will die before us doesn’t cross our minds, after all it goes against the nautral order of things, against all our expectations about the circle of life. A baby or child dying is the sort of thing that happens to other people.
We are the other people. Our baby dying happened to us.
Today we had our first appointment with the lovely funeral director who looked after Anabelle to discuss the process of ordering a headstone for her garden. It is a relief in all honesty that the funeral director also happens to be a monumental mason, having to employ somebody else would have just added to the enormity of an already distressing thing to decide; he knows our situation, he remembers us and our daughter. I don’t suppose you forget the deceased baby and the parents that entrust them to your care do you.
It felt surreal almost today, back at the chapel of rest where we last saw Anabelle. Of course, we were in the offices, not the chapel, but for a moment as we parked outside I had to compose myself. I felt nervous and sick and had to take a few deep breaths before we went in.
I’m nervous because this really is a mammoth task. It is important. We have to get this right, no, more than right; this has to be perfect for Belle. This headstone will mark the place where our daughter’s little body is buried and more than that needs to reflect how much we love her, how much she matters to us.
Months ago we were given booklets to look through. It has taken months to build up the courage to look through them properly. In fact, after the initial flick through, they have just been sat inside Anabelle’s memory box untouched. Untouched, because the reality that we had to choose a headstone for our daughter instead of new clothes and toys leaves me feeling sick. It is all too huge.  In the last couple of days the booklet has been taken out and given a more serious consideration.
In this one booklet there are literally hundreds of designs, many stone types and colours to choose from. There is even a whole section of it dedicated to stone designs more appropriate to honour children.
Choosing the design was actually the easy bit. From the start hearts have been important to us and Anabelle. Her nursery was planned to include hearts in its theme, it seemed only appropriate that her garden would carry this theme too. Adapted from one of the stones in the children’s section of the booklet, Anabelle’s headstone will in the shape of a heart, sat on a cloud.
That bit is decided.
We’ve also decided today it will be made from rose white granite.  A black headstone was in no way appropriate for our daughter. I was worried what the options would be other than black or marble (which doesn’t weather well), I needn’t have worried – there in the office was another booklet with a multitude of colours to choose from.  Rose white granite was the obvious choice; it is a soft delicate colour, perfect for our girl and turned the other way around white roses mean something to us. A white rose is our flower, it was the theme of our wedding and it is ‘nice’ to have a little something else to connect to her, something else that makes her special.
Style, colour and design decided.  
What is more overwhelming is deciding the wording; the words that will be forever etched upon that heart declaring our love for our daughter.  Where do we even begin? The love that we have that is as vast as the universe contained onto a small stone. How can it even begin to do her justice?
It doesn’t have to be set in stone yet (pardon the pun) but we have written down a general idea of what we might like it to say; it is personal to her and us, but somehow it doesn’t seem quite enough. I don’t think it would ever seem enough. We’ll never stop trying to find ways to honour our daughter’s existence and impact she has left on our lives forever.
A headstone is just a small piece of it.
Friday, 7 January 2011

Mumsnet

The arrogance and ignorance of some people never ceases to amaze me.
Over the last few days I’ve been following closely and contributing to discussions on Mumsnet surrounding the Eastender’s storyline. The majority of people ‘get’ why it is so distasteful and why bereaved parents especially are upset by the storyline. (I reiterate I am not upset about the cot death, I think there has been a golden opportunity lost to educate people. I am upset about the sensationalist headline and rating grabbing ill-conceived baby swap).
But there are those (aren’t there always) who are rude, crass and vile in their response to our protest. We, as a group of bereaved parents and those who support us, have been told by these small minded idiots (no other word for them) to “get a grip”,  “it’s not real”,  “it is only a TV programme”,  “turn it off if it upsets you”, “its entertainment” among others, oh and get this one “people die, life’s a bitch”.
The more I read these comments the more infuriated I’m becoming. Now I’m not naïve, and neither do I expect everyone to have the same point of view as me. However what is becoming increasingly irritating is the belittling and blasé attitude from some regarding our experiences and why this current storyline is damaging on so many levels.
So for the record; Eastender’s is turned off in the Morgan household, that is the easy part. No I don’t have to watch it and I don’t intend to. That is not the issue though is it. This storyline has portrayed a newly bereaved mother as dangerous. I and many others have the intelligence to know this is not true to life; however, there are also a significant amount of people who will be watching this plot unfold and believe that this must be what happens to a woman when a baby dies.
It may only be a TV programme but the power of influence it has over our society is immeasurable. Soaps pride themselves on tackling and raising the profile of difficult issues. They proudly claim they research their stories thoroughly and carefully to deliver the content in a realistic to life manner.  Eastender’s have done none of these things in this current storyline.   Instead, because of its influence ill-informed people remain ill-informed at best, at worst their first experience of a bereaved mother is that of baby stealer and now hundreds of vulnerable women up and down the country will in all likely-hood, be viewed with suspicion through their grief.  
Please do not tell me to get a grip on reality and that it is not real. I know IT is not real, I know IT is only a TV programme and believe me I have a very firm grip on reality. I live the reality of a baby’s death every single day.  It is not me who needs educating about the reality of a baby’s death.
You see, my life IS real, my daughter being dead IS real. That IS my reality.
It’s entertainment we’ve been told. How disturbingly worrying that someone could consider the tradegy of a baby dying, real or otherwise, entertaining. But Eastenders were way off the mark with informative, maybe it was entertaining they were going for instead… But enough with me being facetious.  
Most disgustingly of all we’ve been told “People die, life’s a bitch” -  words actually fail me. How very dare someone be so blasé about the death of my child.  Vile.
I think I smell a couple of trolls.
I should step away from these threads, they are doing me no good.  But I’m still there. Why?  I am there because I am furious that a bereaved mother has been portrayed in this manner. You may think melodramatic but it could give people justification to be wary of me, incase I have a complete meltdown and become unhinged.  Because there are actually people out there who will think it to be true because Eastenders said so.
I’m furious because no-one has any idea what Jon and I went through and yet the biggest evening programme in the country saw fit to make a mockery of what happens when a baby dies and that even one person finds its content entertaining. 
I gave birth to Anabelle on the labour ward of the hospital. It was a slow process, an induced labour that was failing to progress until my waters were manually broken at the end of the fifth day. For two of those days I was kept on labour ward, unable to be shielded from the screams of other mother’s in labour or shielded from the cries of the other babies on the ward.
Finally at eight minutes into the sixth day after she died our beautiful daughter was born sleeping. You’ve no idea how in those hours after her birth how hard I willed it all to be a bad dream, how I willed her to breathe, to move, to cry. All a new mother wants is to hear her baby’s first cry. Only I never heard Anabelle cry. Holding my silent daughter I was surrounded by the cries of other newborns, and I hated them, I just wanted to get as far away from them as possible.
Not once did I want to go and swap Anabelle for one of those screaming babies in the rooms surrounding us. I didn’t want them, I wanted her. Anabelle was mine and I’m so very proud of her. I held her for hours not wanting to put her down, knowing that these few hours were the short precious time I was ever going to be able to hold her or look at her. I remember trying to fight a drug induced sleep so that I didn’t have to take my eyes off her. I didn’t want to take my eyes off her.
Handing Anabelle over to go to the mortuary after 12 hours was soul destroying. Even that felt like I was abandoning her. I wanted to keep her with me forever, even just as she was. Equally, walking away from her in her tiny pink coffin in the chapel of rest the afternoon before her funeral was literally heart breaking.  I didn’t want to give my Belle up, in that moment I felt like I could die with my daughter too.
That is the reality.
It has been irresponsible, insulting and damaging of Eastenders to insinuate it could be any other way.   But apparently the reality of a bereaved family does not have enough dramatic effect as it is, and that is the point of making our voices heard.
Thank you Mumsnet for hearing our voices. Thank you for taking the time to listen and using your influence to campaign on our behalf.
Thursday, 6 January 2011

Phantom Kicks

I’ve not been pregnant now for 6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days. That’s how long it is since Anabelle was born. Yet even now I regularly feel ‘baby kicks’. Of course I know they are not kicks at all. I know what I feel is a weird sort of wind movement; but even now I notice the sensation straight away, the popping feeling that makes my insides jump. Not only do I notice but it causes me to pause and remember how it felt having my beautiful Belle move around inside me.
The first time I felt little Anabelle movements I was 18 weeks pregnant; like little bubbles popping in my tummy. The next week I started feeling definite little kicks. At exactly 23 weeks pregnant Jon finally felt his daughter kick too.
Anabelle responded to us, she was aware of the world outside her growing place. The first time those definite little kicks were there we had been playing her music. We had bought a baby classical music CD a couple of weeks before and we put it on for her with big headphones over my bump. And there she was; kick, kick, kick.
Music wasn’t her favourite sound though, her Daddy was. Without fail, every time Jon spoke to Anabelle she would kick and move. Anabelle already loved her Daddy; he got many an affectionate boot in the face as he led there talking to her.  These are such special and precious moments we shared with our daughter.
I never tired of feeling and watching her move; my stomach moving in a wave like alien rolling way or the big jumps that poked out. I never minded being woken up in the middle of the night – I always found it reassuring that she was nice and busy. Although I will admit I did wish her off my bladder on many occasions, the number of times I didn’t think I was going to make it to the toilet in time as she used it as a punch bag or squeeze toy!
I can look back on these times with affection. I miss my daughter. I miss her and am left with a physical emptiness I’ve not been able to shift.  I am left with phantom kicks; bubble pop kicks like when Anabelle was 18,19, 20 weeks grown, kicks that remind me what it felt like when she was there, while taunting me because she is not. 
But I don’t want Anabelle back inside me, I want her in my arms.  Everything has been left empty.  
Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Visiting London Town

The first Christmas Jon and I were together we made a little trip to London between the Christmas and New Year festivities. We’d been together for 9 months and it was our first little romantic mini-break. We had a really lovely time and definitely one of my favourite early memories with Jon. It is a happy memory and a happy place.
I loved the hustle and bustle of the big city, the atmosphere, never being short of anything to do, how you can be anyone you want to be and no-one bats an eyelid; A melting pot of different cultures, languages, outward personas. The pace and rush of life was exhilarating for a few days; I was particularly marvelled by the tube system.
London that first year together was exciting.
In the run up to Christmas we decided that we would try and go again over the holiday period. Re-live as it were those happy memories. So Christmas Eve we looked at hotel prices and booked a stay in London for the bank holiday weekend (Sunday-Monday).   
Our second romantic mini-break there hasn’t failed to be just as lovely. Having two days of uninterrupted time with my husband, not having to put on a face or make any effort for anybody else but him. No-one takes any notice of you in London, we could be how we wanted to be. Zero pressure to have to be all joyous around other people; the opportunity to be completely ourselves. Evidently, on the whole, it has been just the break we needed after having a very difficult day one of the year.  
We have been to the London Dungeons, visited Covent Garden and discovered a girly girl shop called Sass and Belle, shopped and drank champagne cocktails on Oxford Street, spent hours in Harrods gawking at prices and beautiful things and popped in the Science Museum. The break from routine has been warmly welcomed and we now plan to return for a second 2011 visit to London for our birthdays in early March.
As much as we’ve enjoyed our visit to London, it is yet another example of something we shouldn’t be doing now. We wouldn’t have even have entertained the idea of going to London for two days if Anabelle had been here. I looked around me while we there, wondering how anyone with a pram, pushchair or small child was managing to cope in the crowds. Yes, I’m often quite daze like now, but I felt like I was in a pin-ball machine being pushed from pillar to post and barged past. Doing that with a pram didn’t look my idea of fun, we wouldn’t have taken Anabelle to London while she was so small. I found myself feeling nervous for the babies on the tube incase they got hurt by all the pushing and shoving.
Before my beautiful Anabelle I probably wouldn’t have really even noticed the babies were there. Now I’m instantly on edge around babies. Especially those who are newborn and those who look around the same age as Anabelle should be. My coping levels are pushed to the maximum around them when often all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, block them out. I wish so much I had my daughter with me.
On the tube yesterday we were sat next to a family with a baby girl who looked around 6 months old; as old as Belle should be. She was enjoying a game with her Daddy, playing peek-a-boo with her toys and giggling. I hated sitting there near her, I know Jon did too. I kept willing them to get off at the next station. Finally they did and I relaxed again.
Will it always feel like this around babies now? The problem is babies are everywhere, literally. Maybe it is because I am a mother now but all I ever seem to see around and about is prams.
You’ve no idea how I wish things were different, how I wish I was pushing Anabelle around in her pram… Instead her pram is in her room, covered by a big sheet to keep the dust off it, stop the light from fading it. Never used.
Will I ever push be able our pram around? Will Jon ever be able to play peek-a-boo games with one of his children? Will I be able to keep our unborn children safe long enough to allow them to be born into this world alive?  
This is something that tortures me daily.
There isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t think of Anabelle, very few days that pass without something in this world triggering another avenue of grief to explore. Something new that catches us unawares.
Even in our ‘escape’ to the big city.
Saturday, 1 January 2011

Day One, Month One, Year 2011

So how did you spend the first day of the year?


I have spent the afternoon at the Wales Millennium Centre to watch the musical production of Mamma Mia.  It had been planned for ages; Mum had bought the tickets back around Easter time. Back then there had been a discussion about which would be the best performance to go to; and we had decided that a matinee would be better because of my young baby. Planned all around Anabelle and what we were expecting her needs to be around 5 months old.  We imagined that she would’ve had her lunchtime feed and that by going to see the show in the afternoon it would enable me to be home for her bedtime routine.
Only Mamma Mia day has arrived and there was no baby to rush home to.  An activity that had been carefully planned around her and as is always the case now; we had the activity, we don’t have Anabelle.
It is not the first time I’ve watched Mamma Mia. I saw it for the first time on stage in London, a month before Jon and I got married. I loved it, which is why I didn’t mind going to see it again so soon. I thought I knew what to expect today, after all I know the storyline, the scenes and what is going to happen next.
But tears caught me by surprise today. I had ‘forgotten’ about something, or hadn’t realised how it would impact on me now, watching it again 18 months later. Things are very different now though aren’t they.
And there is was, the scene where the mother helps her daughter to get ready for her wedding day, and sings a song about her daughter growing up and “slipping through my fingers all the time”. 
It caught me completely unawares, but I welled up and silent tears rolled down my face. Anabelle completely slipped through my fingers didn’t she. We will never get to share her wedding day, the excitement of going dress shopping, planning together. I will never get to be the proud Mother-of-the Bride, not for Anabelle.
And so there, in the theatre, it hit me again. I haven’t just lost my daughter’s babyhood, I’ve lost her whole life.

"Happy" New Year

So it is here then; the “Happy” New Year.  I’ve felt strange for most of the night, I’ve tried hard to view this symbolic passing of one day to another, one year to the next as a new start. But it isn’t at all. How can we possibly have a new start? New start means erasing the old, and that simply cannot be done.
Since 11:55pm when the countdown began I’ve just started to feel more and more teary. I’m deflated, my whole body feels like a dead weight. My baby girl wasn’t there to start 2011 with me, the only way I could include her was to write her name with a sparkler. I was in a room full of people, surround by my family, but really I felt so very alone.
2011 is completely unknown. It makes everything that has happened to us “last year”. I don’t know what is expected of us now. I don’t know what to do, what we should do. What can we do? I’m feeling so very lost.
The difference between how I felt this time last year, and how I’m feeling now is immense. There is a huge empty void where excitement and anticipation used to be. I’m struggling to hope tonight. I don’t know what we have to hope for. The future is just one big scary place of unknown, and all the New Year has done has highlight this in glaring lights.  
Where do we go now?  Tonight it hurts.
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Caz
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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