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.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Forever

Half an hour ago I walked through my front door and into my living room. I greeted the cat, who as always ran straight to me, picked her up and she curled into me purring. Then I turned around and looked straight at Anabelle's photo. 

My beautiful daughter sits in our arms on our mantel piece. I look at her photo's daily, she is in my thoughts almost every hour of the day; but tonight once again the sheer foreverness of life without her has caught me. 

How did we not bring her home? We had her, she was there, we held her, loved her, kissed her. But now all we have is photographs of her with us. It is overwhelming that my beautiful baby daughter, in the photograph in her Daddy's arms, holding his finger, never came home. So tiny, so perfect. 

I don't understand how I'm supposed to process this. Once again my brain has gone into overload and it seems impossible to accept. How did this happen to us?  What happened inside me to make my body fail doing the job it is fundamentally designed to do? 

This new life is incredible; for all of the wrong reasons. It is so huge, that even 9 months on my head still cannot fully comprehend all that it really entails. Forever. 

We didn't just lose our daughter in her baby years, we've lost her whole life. Her first word, her first steps, her first tooth, her first day at school, her first boyfriend, the day she graduated, the day she should've got married. Everything. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tangled

Wouldn't it be nice if life really had a fairytale ending? 

You know, the one where the lost daughter eventually is rescued and returned to her parents and everyone lives happily ever after... 

This evening Jon and I have watched Tangled. The latest Disney film about the life of Princess Rapunzel. Stolen as a baby from her parents and kept locked in a tower in the middle of a forest. Each year, on her birthday, her parent's send lanterns into the sky in memory of their lost little girl. But then after years of being apart from their baby, she comes home and all the years of mourning and anguish are forgotten and over. 

I wish our lives would turn out like that. That somehow, years down the line there was some miracle and Anabelle came home. But I know that life is not really a fairytale, people here in the real world cannot come back to life and there will be no happily ever after. 

And so instead we wait to be reunited with Anabelle in our own deaths, in the glory of heaven. 
Monday, 28 March 2011

The Wedding of Mr and Mrs V

This morning I stayed in bed and asleep until 11.00am. Such late lazy mornings are rare these days but after such a busy weekend I allowed myself to indulge in a lie in and a PJ day!

Saturday was my brother’s wedding day; the day I’d been really looking forward to and dreading all rolled into one. You’ll remember that my anxiety levels surrounding it all, the families and babies was at an all-time high and I had no idea how my coping mechanisms would pan out on the day.

As it was I needn’t have been so worried. With all major events, significant dates and occasions, it appears once again that the build-up is far worse than the reality.   In the hugeness of my brother’s wedding, with over 200 guests, the tiny people just seemed to melt into the large crowd. The room was enormous and they were miles away from me; and with Jon being official photographer and me wearing one of two hats all day (Bridesmaid vs. Photographer’s Assistant!) there was barely any time to think about it.

But above all, it is because I knew they were going to be there. Amongst all the anxieties and panicking I was prepared in some bizzare way; even the tiny newborn baby girl rocked me less than I had anticipated.

So all in all – I declare myself at my brother’s wedding a success and I’m so excited about the new Mr and Mrs V!  

The day was beautiful, the bride was beautiful and my brother didn’t scrub up too badly either! We were blessed with tremendous weather and they really couldn’t have looked happier!  Everything was just perfect for them, and the only thing that would’ve made my day better would’ve been my beautiful daughter sharing in it too. 
Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Census

So today is census day – the once in a decade requirement to fill in a form all about our households.  Initially I was quite looking forward to the census; the first one in my adult life and the first one in my own household.

But then my broken household in all its reality became apparent once again.

Tonight I’ve filled in the census with no mention of person 3 in our lives. As far as the census is concerned Anabelle has never existed, will never exist. With any future census to come, person 3 will become the “wrong” person, as if we’re lucky enough to bring home another baby, our person 4 will be deemed the third.

Our household is always going to be all wrong. A broken home in the worst possible way and I’ve no idea how to make it any better. 
Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Liebster Blog Award


Well it comes to me today to thank Mama Stokes for awarding me with a The Liebster Blog Award yesterday. I know Mama Stokes is one of my regular readers; often sending me an encouraging and thoughtful message after reading my latest post. Our experiences as mother’s are very different but Mama Stokes also blogs about her life as a Mummy and her beautiful daughter Imogen.

I’m quite touched to have been listed as a Liebster Blog Awardee! This blog has been one of my lifelines for the past 6 months since I started it; even if no-one read it I would still write. The outlet to express my grief and life experience as an angel mother is invaluable to my mental recovery but I find it amazing that is also touches other people. This blog is for me but it is also for raising awareness of the real impact of stillbirth.

Today I get to pass on the award to bloggers and blogs that I enjoy and regularly read. In an attempt to ensure the love is spread around I’m going to try and not overlap others that I know have already been nominated!

The Liebster Blog award is for people with ‘little’ blogs (less than 300 subscribers or followers) to share blog love and spread the word.

The rules are:

1. Post displaying the award, (on the right hand side of the page!) linking back to the person who awarded you (check!)
2. Choose your own blog picks (below) and let them know they’re awarded
3. Hope everyone discovers some new favourites
4. Revel in the blog love!


So here are my Liebster Bloggers:
  • Waiting for Stanley and Lucy – A lady from my Babs virtual world, this a very new blog about this wonderful lady’s experiences as she waits for the start of IVF treatment to have her beautiful family.
  • La Douce Vie – a lovely blogger who was immensely supportive of the bereaved mother’s of Mumsnet following the fallout of that disgusting Eastender’s storyline! I love reading about her life in Switzerland!
  • Running the Tube Lines – a blog by an angel Daddy whose baby twins died and were stillborn in January 2007. He is currently raising awareness and money for Sands by travelling the entire length of the London Underground!
  • Secretly In Bordeaux – another fairly new blog. This lady is another lovely member of my beautiful Babs virtual world. Loving all things fashionable and fabulous, this is the lady to ask about for clothes, hair and make-up advice!
  • Imagery Inspired – my husband’s blog. It isn’t wordy like mine. He’s shares just some of the photographs he takes and I think he is fabulous! After Anabelle’s death he immersed himself in a hobby he had had for a long time, now we’re slowly turning it into a business. Imagery inspired by Anabelle.

Happy exploring everyone! 
Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Girl

22nd March 2010 – one year ago today – we were introduced to our daughter. A morning full of excitement and anticipation; we arrived at the hospital for our 20 week anomaly scan, not giving much thought to the real reason the scan is done and any problems there might’ve been found but all thought as to whether our baby was a boy or a girl.

We’d gone in with two names; one for a boy and one for a girl, and came out with Anabelle Violet. A year ago today, Anabelle was given her little identity and became a little person. What a day it was. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so high – literally flying with excitement that our world was about to become very pink.   We came out on a countdown, we were half way there, another 20 weeks and our daughter would be out and home and wonderful.

Only it didn’t work out that way.

How na├»ve were we. A blissful ignorant trust in how things were supposed to work. Belle wasn’t supposed to die after that. She was just supposed to cook some more and then be born and come home.

How can we ever believe in the miracle of creating a baby again? The innocent excitement of pregnancy has been taken away from us and replaced with an all engulfing fear.

If only we could turn back time. 
Monday, 21 March 2011

Nine Months

Three quarters of a year have now passed without Anabelle.  These three month milestones seem to feel somehow bigger than other 21s of the month.  The passing of one season to the next. In another three it will be her birthday and summer again.  How can it be almost a year since our world crumbled?

The passage of time amazes me. If you’d said to me nine months ago 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 I’m by no means fixed. But the comparison of me all those months ago and now is vast.

Nine months ago I was a complete emotional wreckage. I couldn’t find the strength to eat, get dressed, breathe, sleep, or stand up. The pain in my chest was so real and so hard it wouldn’t have surprised me if my heart had stopped beating; it broke.

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, I live a life I wish I didn’t have too; but I would rather have known Anabelle for a short time than never at all. I can live with this life because it means she touched it.

Nine months ago I wouldn’t have believed any hope or joy could enter my life again. Our entire world had crashed around us. All hopes and dreams, all trust in life, blissful ignorance; all shattered. 

Today I 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, we're not quite ready to trust it again. 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.  

Nine months ago our daughter was born sleeping. Today I will light some of the pretty sparkly candles that her Aunt and Uncle bought for her at Christmas time and hope she knows how much I love her. 
Saturday, 19 March 2011

Pressure

Brokenness returned and bit me on the bum today.  The periods of time between these low and dark days are lengthening but my emotional and mental stability are no better each time they hit;  grief and a spiralling depression making its presence known. 

I cannot think of a specific trigger for today but I’m guessing it’s a reaction to the pressure building surrounding next weekend and the weekend after.

Next weekend is the day of my brother’s wedding. I’m immensely anxious about how on earth I will cope surrounded by babies and families, anxious of the happy exterior I will have to portray when in every likelihood I will be dying inside.  People have no idea how much it hurts me to see everyone else enjoying the pleasures that Jon and I were denied. Denied the opportunity to show off our baby, denied the opportunity for coos and ahhs, denied the opportunity to be parents.

Apparently this is unreasonable though; I am being resentful and unreasonable.

Isn’t it just grand that I have to take into account everyone else’s feelings when mine are so blatantly my own problem to deal with? Nevermind how much I’m hurting; as long as no-one else sees or feels my hurt too. Apparently other people don’t have to think or be understanding.

Maybe I should lower my expectations. Maybe I should’ve learnt by now how it is.

The pressure is building.

Today I went to Cardiff.  I wasn’t in the mood for it. I felt irritable and tearful before I even got in my mother’s car but it was an essential trip. What I stupidly hadn’t accounted for; on top of my already low state, was the mother’s day advertising around all of the shops. Maybe I should’ve expected this – after all it is only two weeks away now.

John Lewis in particular I found distressing. Probably because it was the first shop we went into but also the “make her feel special this Mother’s Day” signs all over their store.  Urgh it just makes me feel sick to my stomach thinking of Mother’s Day. I don’t know how to actually bare it right now; apart from hoping, as always, that our plan will see us through.

I came home from Cardiff and slept for three hours.  I've spent the rest of the evening with an increasing headache.

The pressure is building. 
Thursday, 17 March 2011

From One to Another

You will remember that in January one of my pupils died after spending her short life battling illness and critical stays in hospital. You will remember my post about her funeral in February.

Today I packaged up the last of her things in school; a blanket, photographs and her record of achievement to send to her parents.  Today I wrote to her parents. For the first time since Anabelle’s death, I was the one finding the words to send to someone else, the professional to other bereaved parents.

Vastly different circumstances, same outcome; we’ve both lost our daughters.

For the first time in my career I had more insight into one of our bereaved parent’s world. A child dying is the worst part of my job; an inevitable experience when working with children with life-limiting conditions. This was the third death directly in one of my classes in the almost 5 years I’ve been teaching in special schools. Additionally I’ve been affected by a number of other children’s deaths in the schools where I’ve worked.

I knew as I sat there writing this letter that there is nothing I could say that would make it better.  I know only too well that words offer little comfort, platitudes often meaningless. I didn’t want to be one of those people who wrote only what they were supposed to say.  So I recounted my own daughter’s death, wanting them to know I truly understood what it was like to experience the death of your own child. I told them the small things that are precious to me, and that they had been on my mind to have as many memories of their daughter as I could send them. I hoped these things I was sending would offer a smile.

Smile may seem like an odd choice of word, but I guess in some bizarre way that is what Anabelle’s things are beginning to offer me. I cherish them. So bittersweet; painful to hold and look at but at the same time a smile because they are hers.

Her box of things; many of which she never even touched, belong to her.  Recently I took the blanket out of Anabelle’s box that she’d had over her for a while in the hospital. The only thing we have that she actually used. It used to smell of Anabelle, but her smell has gone now. 

But all of these things, we keep as hers, are precious. They represent everything we dreamed for her, how we imagined her to be. The pretty little girl she was going to be with all her pretty things.

I hope that my pupils’ parents are able to do to the same with all the things they have left of her. I know the action of sending memories and something tangible is far better than any words could ever be.   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Any Children?

Do you have any children? 

The perfectly innocent, reasonable and expected question to be asked at my age and newishly married.

I still stumble through my answer, not really knowing quite how to respond to the question, not really knowing how to word it. Knowing I will never deny Anabelle but knowing I’m about to make somebody feel very awful for asking me the question.  After all nothing can prepare you for the response that my child is dead however softly I try to say.

Do you have any children?

Today my answer was “Yes, I had a little girl last year but sadly she was stillborn”

As expected the lady who had asked me was apologetic and mortified for me; flustered and didn’t know what to say. I went on to tell her my little girls name and how she’d been named at 20 weeks and already her little self when she died and she relaxed a bit. Going on to tell me about a friend who has had similar experiences and asked me how far along we were when Belle died.

I still don’t have a standard response. I don’t know what fits most comfortably yet. Today’s response will not be the one. I don’t like the past tense,  I don’t like the “but”, I haven’t quite fitted in with it being last year and I still struggle with the word stillborn.

It’s not “had” a little girl at all – I have a little girl. She is just not here.

I don’t want to make people feel awkward but I could never reply that I have no children. That is not comfortable for me. I absolutely refuse to have a secret child, an unmentionable child.

I don’t mind being asked about Anabelle. She isn’t  a secret, I’m immensely proud of her. I don’t understand what there is to hide about her.  I hope my willingness to be open about her and our experiences helps people to be comfortable around me. Not so scared to mention her incase they say the wrong thing.

Yes sometimes maybe the wrong thing may be said; but I appreciate the acknowledgement of my daughter.   It is better to talk about her  and get it wrong than to pretend she never existed at all.  The majority of people were never lucky enough to meet my girl. But I met her, I held her, I love her and she exists in every part of me, the biggest part of me.  How could I never speak of her?

Do you have any children?

Yes I do. I have a daughter called Anabelle. She is very almost 9 months old and is in heaven because she couldn’t stay with us. She will always be my number one.

Always included in my answer.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Home Alone

Today I am home alone with Fiz for company.  This is quite unsual for a weekend but today Jon has gone over the bridge to Bristol to take part in some sort of photography event.  I wanted to use the opportunity for a long undisturbed lie in; Fiz unfortunately had other ideas!

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “Time Heals”

6 or so months ago spending the day on my own would’ve been sure to send me into meltdown. The first day Jon went back to work was horrific, for both of us. He’d tried to go back too soon; it had only been 4 weeks since Anabelle had died.  I remember crying as he left the house that first morning, totally beside myself that I was home alone. The days were long enough and hard enough to get through without having face it alone.  As it was Jon didn’t last the full day and after attempting work again the next day he conceded that he just wasn’t ready and the Dr signed him off for a while longer.  My safety net of having Jon at home with me was quickly resumed.

On his second attempt at returning to work we were both more prepared.  Although there was still tears on that morning, we knew he could not stay off for much longer. It was time to bite the bullet. I felt so bad for Jon; so much expectation on his shoulders that were not on mine. He was expected to “heal” quicker than me; to go back to work when no-one expected that from me.  Our grief was the same; what made Jon ready for work when I wasn’t?  Nothing but expectation.

Now I’m used to being home alone. That part of me I suppose is healed. It doesn’t bring the fear it used to in the early days. Infact I relish the peace and quiet and me time now.  

Something else has changed too; the absolute sickening fear that something will happen to Jon when he’s out. Even only a few weeks/months ago the fear was sometimes all encompassing. Convinced something terrible had happened if I couldn’t get hold of him or he didn’t reply to an email or text. Today I feel calm even though he has gone off. I know he is there safely; he’s text me, and today I can believe it will all be ok and he will be home later.

So maybe I’m getting better, maybe time is healing my irrational behaviour and crazy thoughts. Or maybe the fear and irrational thoughts have just been placed elsewhere and moved onto something new.

Who knows what “heals” really means anyway? I know I am better at things now, but the crux is always there and always the same. Anabelle is not here and never will be. That can never be healed. I am better at so many things; but there is and will always be that. Today it is 8 months, 2 weeks and 5 days since Anabelle was born an angel.

Missing you my beautiful girl. 
Friday, 11 March 2011

Grief Makes A Promise

I feel like I'm going crazy. 

[Grief speaks] Come sit down, let's talk. 

Not you! Leave me alone!  You have moved into my life and you won't leave. Everywhere I look; there you are, staring me in the face, filling my life with pain. 

[Grief responds] I know. But just hear me out, okay? 

I'm tired of listening to you. Tired of feeling so many things; Confused, sad, hopeless, angry, anxious, guilty, helpless, isolated, empty, alone, exhausted, lost, and fearful. 

[Grief firmly] You're supposed to have feelings. You're human. 

Look you don't understand. My baby who I love and care for very much has died and it HURTS-- It hurts so badly I can't stand it. Sometimes I don't even want to be here anymore. 

[Grief comforting] I hear you. But if you never loved, you'd never grieve. What you feel is normal. 



No, it's not. Everyone says I'm--well--they say that I'm grieving too much. They are worried about me. They say that it's time to move on. They said to me: "It's time to put closure on this". "It's time to heal, accept, recover, and get over it". 

[Grief softly] And you can't. 

Well, no. Not like they want me to. 

I can't put closure on my love. My love did not die. I can't wake up one day and suddenly exclaim," I'm healed". I'll never completely heal. I certainly will not "accept" or "recover" from my baby’s death. And, I will never "get over" it, as if my grief is a problem that can be fixed. 


[Grief whispers] You don't have to. 

What do you mean? 

[Grief takes a seat] Everyone grieves differently. And you have the right to grieve however you're going to grieve. You had an unique relationship with your baby-- a relationship that no one can ever fully understand. 

So, what am I supposed to do? 

[Grief moving closer] Five things. 

First; grieve; feel your grief. That's why I'm in your life. So you can begin to feel again. Even though you don't like what you feel. 

Second; talk it out with people who are willing to listen and not judge you. Find a way to get all those bottled up feelings out so they don't go round and round with no place to go. Find those people who will really listen. They are out there. DO IT. 

Third; realize that everyone grieves differently. Respect this. 

Fourth; Live. Even though at times you don't feel like putting one foot in front of the other. Your job is to live your life, despite all the changes you've gone through, despite all the pain. 

And fifth; talk about your baby. Say his or her name. Tell your baby’s life story. Your baby lived a life. Find people who will listen to the stories and who will in turn tell you their stories of your baby .Your love for your baby will never go away. You will always carry it in your heart. 

[Grief offering a handshake] And, finally, I make you a promise.
 

[Shaking hands] You? Grief? Are making me a promise? 

[Grief] Yes, my promise to you is: 

As terrible as you feel now, you will not feel this way forever. 

There will be times that you will laugh. Times where your confusion, your sadness, hopelessness, your anger, anxiety, guilt, helplessness, isolation, emptiness, loneliness, exhaustion and fear will not feel so intense. Don't get me wrong. You will never forget your baby. And feeling less grief does not mean that you are forgetting him/her. Now, I want you to say your baby’s name. 

Go ahead, say it. 

"Anabelle"

[Grief] It's a precious name. Take the memories. Put them in your heart, feel them. And know that your baby will always safely be in your heart. 

Always? 

[Grief] I promise.


To those in my life who understand and allow me those five things and more. Thank you. 
Tuesday, 8 March 2011

My Birthday

It seems almost wrong to be saying it; but I’ve had a really very lovely birthday. 

Why is there guilt involved in happiness now? There is a part of me that thinks it is somehow more appropriate to say I had a miserable birthday, after all my daughter is dead. I’m not really supposed to be happy. But the truth is I think that yesterday was the best birthday I’ve ever had.

Only one thing could’ve made my 26th birthday better and that something I can never have. Anabelle back. There is nothing I can do about it, apart from accept it. That was one birthday present that was never going to happen, the birthday family day out we’d planned once upon a time long forgotten; and so we indulged ourselves in London and my lovely Jon spectacularly spoilt me.

Yesterday morning we visited Hamley’s; and marvelled at all the toys. A big kids paradise when you’re a 30 year old man looking for a new helicopter! I enjoyed it too, was sold by the nail art kit being demonstrated and had my photo taken with the men dressed as toy soilders outside the shop.  But then for a moment, on the girls floor, surrounded by the pink and pretty things I was overwhelmed by the sadness that is always so near. We can never take an excited Anabelle to a world famous toy shop. It is always going to be there isn’t it; the daily missing out reminders.

My brother and sister-in-law spoilt us with a voucher for afternoon tea in the Georgian Restaurant in Harrods; very posh and very lovely and we finished the day off in the front row of the Apollo Victoria Theatre watching Wicked. It has only taken Jon 5 years to take me theatre, but it finished my birthday off perfectly.


It was just a really very lovely day. I can only hope the rest of being 26 will remain the same. 


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Month of March

March has traditionally been my favourite month of the whole year; even this year it appears it will be no exception.  March this year is full of birthdays, weddings, memories and future. 


March starts on day one with St David’s Day, the national day of Wales. I have fond memories throughout primary school dressing up, celebrating, taking part in the Eisteddfod. I was bard poet in Year 5 after writing a poem all about rainfall!  Now I’m a teacher I continue to enjoy the first week of March with my class; today we painted red dragons and I took an assembly on ‘Welshness’, exploring all things welsh, daffodils, leeks, welsh cakes, music and anthems.

Of course, Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant is closely followed by my birthday. Or ‘our’ birthdays since I’ve been with Jon. His the 6th, mine the 7th March. As I said Monday, this year I turn 26, Jon turns 30. My sister 21 on the 9th.  I’ve always been a person who gets ridiculously excited about my birthday. I love birthdays; not just my own – birthday celebrations in general. They give an excuse for a get together, to wine and dine out, to be spoilt.  

I’m surprised that I’m excited and looking forward to my birthday this year.  It is obviously something I’m just not going to grow out of!  Feeling excitement is progress, especially since our birthday plans are so different to what was anticipated this time last year, I wasn't expecting any joy.

With Jon approaching the big 3-0 I was already planning a big celebratory family day out. Booking Jon a surprise somewhere and standing on the sidelines with our baby as he enjoyed his treat. Of course, this won’t be happening; there is no surprise for Jon planned anymore, instead we’re going to London for a few days over our birthdays; taking advantage of the perks of me now only working part-time.

At the end of 2010 I wobbled dramatically. I wasn’t ready to let go of the year that belonged to Anabelle. I feel so differently about year I was 25. Even though the year I was 25 was all things Belle I’m ready to see the back of it. I suppose, 2010 belonged to her, being 25 belonged to me.  Being 25 was the time in my life I’ve hurt the absolute most; it will always be remembered as the year I became a Mummy and that is incredibly special but I’m ready for being 26 to possibly signal something different, something new, something as well as Anabelle.

Jon has big plans for his photography. http://imageryinspired.blogspot.com 2011, being 26 and 30 is the year we’re going to have our own business. It very early stage planning but we’re determined; we have a dream for it, a focus and a goal. We have our beautiful Anabelle to thank for that. Without her we’d have never have been inspired to go for it. Here or not Anabelle manages to positively influence our lives.

Here’s to very nearly being another year older, wiser and celebrate that we've 'survived' it.   
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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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