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.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sorting

I did it. I made myself go into Anabelle's room and sort the pink from the neutral.  

I knew it was coming, I knew I had to stop putting it off; after all the next thing to build up to is turning it into a little boys room. These things need to happen in stages; not all at once. I'd never cope with them all at once.

So yesterday afternoon, probably fueled by the adrenaline of anger, I bit the long time coming bullet and proceeded with stage one. 

Stage one meant picking out the pink accessories, the pink toys and putting them in piles on the landing. Ready to move into the attic; hoping they'll get to be used for a second daughter one day.  Stage one meant sorting through Anabelle's clothes, picking out the white and neutral bits for Alexander and boxing up the pink, flowery and girly bits to go in the attic with her toys. 

It wasn't her clothes that really upset me. I approached it as a job that needed doing, methodical, practical. Focused.   Blimey Anabelle had a lot of clothes! Between what we'd bought and borrowed she was already challenging my wardrobe! A typical girl as her Daddy would say.  I'd forgotten just how much there was, what we'd bought. 

Of course we'd been through them before and already picked out the bits that were really Anabelle's.  The bits that meant more to us than the rest. In the weeks after her death we compiled her memory box and added the outfit we'd planned to bring her home in, her first dress, her "Daddy" t-shirt, the matching outfit to the one we'd buried her in.   So many tiny beautiful clothes she never even got to wear. 

What upset me more than anything else, and unexpected by me, was her shoes.

The tiny little shoes I'd lovingly chosen; because being the typical girl I am I love shoes and wanted her to have cute pairs just like Mummy, So Anabelle already had pink sparkly 'trainers', pink sandles and white and pink pram shoes. I held them in my hands for the first time since she was born. I realised that although aged 0-3 months they were more or less double the size of her feet; enormous for her. 

Anabelle's tiny little feet were only the size of my thumb; length and width.   Those beautiful shoes, now boxed away for the attic, made me realise once again just how tiny my daughter was, arriving far too soon, arriving asleep. 

So now we have two boxes of clothes. One full of pink things for my girl who'll never need them, the other full of whites and the few boy things we've bought for Alexander so far. I hope this time the clothes don't have to stay in the box. 

Stage one is complete; now for stage two we have to build up to painting the pink, blue. 
Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Disgusting Habit

This afternoon I'm angry. What a complete turn around from yesterday. I almost feel an overly gushy fool; although I know I'm not the real fool. 

There are not many things in life I completely detest, but smoking is one of them, lying to me is another.   Never being a smoker I cannot pretend to understand the addiction; and I'll fully admit it is one addiction I struggle to empathise with. Especially when it is affecting me personally.    

I particularly began to hate it passionately when I was pregnant with Anabelle.  I'd always disliked it, but could tolerate it before I was expecting. Being pregnant bought out a new side to me. Mother protector in full force; for her sake I hated being anywhere near smokers. I knew the toxins of second and third hand smoke presented many risks for her and me. 

The same is true now. Only the passionate hate has remained inbetween the two pregnancies.  For the most part I'm avoiding situations where I'll be exposed to too much smoke, keeping my little man safely away from the risks that could jeopordise him. Addtionally my sensitivity to smell is heightened which just makes it even more smelly and yuck at the moment. 

I don't want my children exposed to smoke; unborn or otherwise. I don't want my squidgy beautiful newborn to be cuddled into clothes and hands that smell of smoke, making my perfect boy smell of smoke too.   Even if no-one smokes around him directly, the residue of left over smoke, the 'third hand smoke' that sticks to clothes, hair, hands, fabrics, skin, breath continues to release those toxins and chemicals that could harm my baby.

It continues to seep into the air he will breathe for hours, weeks, months even; increasing the risk of chest infections, ear infections, asthma, other respiratory problems for his tiny little lungs, and the scariest risk of all for me - SIDS.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  

Some quick articles I've found here and here

I may sound over the top to you, I know this post probably has many elements that will offend and upset. But one of my children is dead and I'll do everything within my power to protect my little man from dying too.  I stood by Anabelle's grave earlier and the fear of it being reopened for my second child, for whatever reason, is overwhelming.  

This is one added risk factor I will do my utmost to eliminate and control. 


Friday, 29 July 2011

The Man I Love

Disclaimer: All mushiness is going to have to be forgiven for the next few days.  It is very nearly our second wedding anniversary and its making me feel all loved up and sentimental. 

Over the last two years I've learnt a lot about love. 

Not about the first rushes of love of a new relationship and not the gushy in love moments, but about real love. The love that endures the worst of times and still comes out the other side strong. The love that really meant "for richer and poorer, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health."

I've always believed in us. Not ever has the mere possibility of our marriage failing crossed my mind. In the very worst of times; our child dying (and I don't think anything can get much worse than that for both our individual and joint survival), we drew closer together than ever before amidst everything that was against us. 

Grief has so much potential to destroy. We were broken, we coped/still cope vastly differently, we had new expectations of each other, we were both weak, we both took our grief out on each other; me on him especially.


But the only other person who truly understands my pain is Jon; Anabelle belongs to both of us. Physically and emotionally I've lent and relied on him constantly since  she died. I'm often needy, hardwork and high maintenance. But his patience with me seems endless, giving me the reassurance I need and nothing but constant unconditional love. Without him my mental recovery thus far wouldn't be what it is; when I feel crazy he keeps me together.  Security.

The reality of sickness, bad and poor makes or breaks a marriage; its made ours. 

Year One we dealt with his 'lucky to be alive' pulmonary embolism because of our honeymoon,  the onset of worrying neurological symptoms, the joy of growing our girl and being shattered to the core when she died. Year Two we've spent the majority of it piecing our lives back together and 'recovering', we've dealt with his diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis and the ongoing worry of a possibility of MS, and now we're growing our little man Alexander.  

Year Three's highlight has to be his birth and bringing him home yes?! 

Beyond the vows there is an even greater sense of 'foreverness' about us now - if we can survive our daughter dying we can survive ANYTHING, because nothing more painful and destroying can happen to us than that. 

I count myself so very lucky. This is no slight on anyone who hasn't been so fortunate; every woman deserves a good man, there are too many out there who are let down in some of the worst ways by theirs and it makes me angry.  That is why I always make every effort to appreciate the wonderful, generous, doting man I managed to nab up! 

Jon I love you, always and I feel so proud and lucky to be your wife. 
Thursday, 28 July 2011

Birth Planning

Tuesday we had an appointment with our consultant, we also had another scan and another peek of our little boy. He really is growing fast! He is above average length and already estimated to be a whopping 2lb 3oz in weight! According to our baby app on Jon's phone that is 2 weeks more than he should be!    

We're expecting him to be long; Anabelle was long for 32 weeks at 44cm tall. But she was only an average weight for her age at 4lb 5oz.  Without any estimated weight for her at 25 weeks though it is difficult to compare, although needless to say I'm starting to think Alexander may be a porker compared to his sister! 

I know these weight estimations are a bit like voodoo really, they don't really have a clue do they, although I find it very interesting. I wonder what he'll be estimated at our next scan in 4 weeks time?! It really doesn't matter to me how heavy my little (or not so little!) boy is though, all that matters is that he gets here screaming.  

The rest of our appointment focused around discussions about my anxiety, the pain in my hips and our birth plan. 

Anxiety; there isn't a lot that can be done. The consultant and hospital midwives are very understanding, they want to offer as much reassurance as they can, I'm welcome to go to the hospital to listen to Alexander's heartbeat whenever I want to, I'll be offered frequent appointments for check ups through 3rd trimester with both my consultant and community midwife. But they recognise, as do I, that even all of this is not going to banish those anxieties completely. Only bringing him home; and even then I think I'll be the worlds most over protective mother. I will have to try and be rational I suppose. 

The pain in my hips; we're going to see how I go. If the pain is worse by my next appointment in August I'll be referred for physiotherapy. 

Birth; this was the bit we were especially anxious to plan. Originally, in our 'planning next pregnancy' appointment in January, we were told I would be induced at 37 weeks.  We were anxious to know, in the change over from one consultant to another that this plan would still be adhered too. Thankfully we were reassured that is the plan. 

I will be admitted to hospital at 37 weeks and induction will begin over those few days.  The finer details of the exact date and exact process we can go over again at another appointment, but for now it is enough to know the week at least is definitely arranged.

I know not everyone agrees with inductions and intervention, especially early inductions, but my sanity is relying on it.  This is appropriate care for us. My baby boy needs to be born as soon as safely possible and at 37 weeks he is considered fully cooked and it is time to come home with Mummy and Daddy. We have an end point to focus on, a birthday goal; Alexander has to keep surviving for 5 weeks long than his sister did and then he'll be big enough to be born. 

Every week feels long now, but they are especially going to be the longest 5 weeks of my entire life. 
Monday, 25 July 2011

Faith vs. Fear

Making the decision to enter into the world of pregnancy again is probably one of the bravest things we've ever done. Our moment of a 'leap of faith'.  

So I came off the pill again and spent the next few weeks terrified that I might be pregnant; and then was gutted when I wasn't. I wasn't convinced we were 'ready' after month one Whatever 'ready' meant. I wasn't sure I could cope with the rollercoaster of trying to conceive. Month two we were lucky and Alexander's little life began.

We knew no-one could guarantee us anything, we know they still can't; we knew I might miscarry before our pregnancy had even really begun but we also knew 12 weeks actually meant absolutely nothing. We knew it would be the longest 9 months of our lives full of fears, we knew our baby might be buried instead of coming home. 

But in a moment where our faith for the future felt stronger than our fear of it, we decided to try again. 

No-one thinks they are going to give birth to a dead baby that first time around. We all hold onto getting past that 12 week mark to feel more secure. This time we don't have that. There is no time to be complacent and take Alexander for granted. At no point in this pregnancy will I feel secure, each passing week only adds to my fears. Ironically the more pregnant I get the more I feel he could be taken away in a moment. 

We are stuck on a giant pendulum; swinging between faith and fear.  I'm not always sure which side is winning; which future will happen to us this time. I guess the truth of it is; despite our hospital care, our hopes, our prayers or however strong we feel (or not as the case may be) - we just don't know what Alexander's ultimate outcome will be. Faith and fear are co-existing side by side. 

When faith is winning excitement and dared optimism reigns.

Every time we buy something for Alexander, look to the future and make plans we dare to visualise our son actually being with us. If nothing else in this pregnancy I've been determined to make plans for his nursery, to buy him things, to make memories with him; because memories matter so much. These moments confirm his existence, they are the moments we bond with him and feel those rushes of love.

But when fear is winning, it is all engulfing. 

Each week the anxieties are getting harder to control and banish. The desperation to hold my boy in my arms and nurse him, love him and push him around in our pram is beyond enormous. The fear he'll join his sister instead; all consuming. The continuing ache for Anabelle to be in my arms also, ever present. 

Intellectually I know everything is likely to turn out just fine. The risk (apparently) of Alexander dying is no greater than any other low risk pregnancy; despite Anabelle's death. Intellectually I realise we are likely to be one of the 199 out of 200 pregnancies this time where our baby boy comes home. The odds are in our favour. But  we've already been that 1 out of 200 once before. The perception of odd and risk is somewhat screwed after that, being the one seems far more likely once you've already been in that position.  As much as I wish and hope I will really be in the crowd of 199 I wish harder there didn't have to be that one at all. 

Intellectually I know; but emotionally it is near to impossible to convince myself. 

12 weeks to go little man. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

BellePixelle Blogspot

Well one blog evidently wasn't enough so now there are two I'm connected to! 

Number two is dedicated to our business, BellePixelle. I thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to share our favourite photographs and tell the stories behind our shoots and experiences; celebrating the people in our images and the time we spend with them. 

So this is a shameless plug to encourage my readers to visit us on Facebook, Twitter and now our BLOG! Post one is all about my brother's wedding; BellePixelle's first unofficial outing! We'll be sure to be updating it with more of our experiences very soon. 

And while we're shamelessly plugging I might as well drop in our first promotional offer; the 1st confirmed booking we take via either Facebook or Twitter will receive 10% off - quote code "firstfortenoff" 

Hoping our photographs are enjoyed as much as we enjoy taking them




Friday, 22 July 2011

Ten

Feeling a bit clueless today. You'd never have thought I've actually done this pregnancy and birth thing before. You'd think I'd know what I was doing on my second but I'm forever unsure of myself. I don't do very well with trusting my instincts anymore when it comes to growing babies. 

From 26 weeks pregnant the general advice is to make sure 10 movements are noted every day. But what exactly do they mean by 10 movements? Is that 10 singular kicks across 24 hours or 10 periods of movements across 24 hours? Is there any clarity? 

10 singular kicks does not seem like enough to me.

I'm already obsessing about every movement Alexander makes. I'm constantly asking myself when the last time I felt him was and spend more than half the day poking and prodding or getting Jon to talk to the poor boy to try and make him move. Even the shortest of quiet times is enough to send me into a panic.  Realistically I know he is sleeping a lot of the time, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was a heavy sleeper just like his Daddy,  but I'd much rather he be kicking my insides black and blue every waking moment of my day. 

Today I've already felt Alexander more than ten times. This is good for me to ensure he has a calm (ish) Mummy.  He's been doing big kicks while I had a soak in the bath and I've been feeling regular wiggle movements otherwise; but does that mean if he decides to settle down for the remainder of the day I shouldn't start to worry until tomorrow? After all he's already reached today's 10 kicks quota? 

I'm trying to establish his movement patterns now. I'm hoping now I've got the time over the next week or two to really focus my attention solely on him I'll learn exactly when he is likely to be awake or asleep. I'll then be aware of even the subtlest changes. 

So with the help of the Baby Kicks app on my phone and Count the Kicks website and their resources, I'm zoning in on his little feet. 


Thursday, 21 July 2011

And STOP!

After over half a term of madness I can finally sit down, put my feet up and relax for the summer.  Between Anabelle's Angel Day, end of term reports, parents meetings, class trips, and a whole school event that I organised I literally do not feel like I've stopped since the start of May. At times I wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew whilst dealing with Anabelle's 1st birthday and being pregnant again, but I've made it! 

Anabelle's Angel Day was a huge success, our final figure raised for Sands (and still without Santanders promised contribution) came to an enormous £5763.74!   And to think I thought £500 was originally an ambitious target! Really looking forward to having Santander's added contribution on top. 

We've had a busy but enjoyable end of term. Despite the pressure and madness that this time of year always brings as we prepare to shut for summer and get ready for September, everyone has had a great time on our trips and enjoyed being involved in all the activities that went on for the whole school. 

But I'm SO glad term finished today. Yes I have planning to do over the summer, and will go in for a few hours next week to finish re-backing my display boards and meet with my maternity cover. But for the most part, I can start to wind down. 

I need time for me now, and some time for Alexander. 

This week the pressure has been building. Anxiety, which has been there since my BFP, has started to take hold in a much bigger way. Third trimester is approaching and I'm scared. I don't know how to keep him alive and today it is 13 months since his sister arrived sleeping. 13 months and now over a year. I wish with every fibre of my being that Anabelle was here and with every fibre that her brother will get here. I wish I could have them both.

I need these six weeks summer holiday to focus completely on my boy, his every move. He needs my full attention now; not work, not anything else. Only Alexander needs me.  Somehow I have to keep it together. 

How I'll get back into the work zone for a month in September I don't know, but I'm not going to worry about that until then! 
Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Risk Factors

So, we are into the stage now, where if anything were to go wrong, Alexander's death would be recorded and registered as a stillbirth. 

I know you're all thinking; always with the negativity. Focused on the doom and gloom.   I promise I'm not like this 100% of the time. Of course it is there and anxiety gets the better of me, but I do often talk of my son with excitement too. I'm beginning to enjoy shopping for him, I'm beginning to plan his nursery, I'm beginning to dare to imagine showing him off. I want to do all of these things. But the fear of another baby being born asleep is huge. 

I'm always pleased when I see newspapers and the media reporting and highlighting the issues surrounding stillbirth. Each piece doing their bit to break the silence and raise awareness. Last week the Daily Mail Femail magazine did an article introducing 17 mothers and their bumps, highlighting that none of those babies were ever taken home, representing the 17 babies every single day that do not go home.  I think it made for really impacting reading.   

But something that always bothers me in the reporting of stillbirth is the focusing on the risk factors.   

Yes of course there are things that if the pregnant mother chooses to do she is going to increase the risk of her baby being damaged or dead. There are unfortunately always going to be groups at higher risk. But I often wonder if by turning the focus in reports to at risk groups, the reader remains ignorant to the fact that many babies die to women where there was deemed no risk at all. There is not always an apparent risk, stillbirth could literally happen to anyone.

It happened to us. I didn't fit in anywhere. 

Anabelle was a single pregnancy, I wasn't an older mother, I'm nowhere near 35 let alone over it, I'm not the other extreme either, not a teenager, I don't have a specific medical condition that should've or could've affected Anabelle's safety, Anabelle was my first pregnancy therefore I had no history of obstetric complications, I've never smoked, I'm not obese or overweight, I don't live in social deprivation and I'm not an ethnic minority group. 

I was supposed to be low risk. I don't fit into that list.

Yet not only was I supposed to be low risk, there was no obvious cause either. Anabelle's death will forever remain unexplained.  No placental or cord problems, she was not growth restricted. My perfect baby died in utero and I'll never have a reason. 

We are 1 in 4 families who's baby is stillborn where no reason can be attained for their death. So if I look at the figures I explored in my UK verses Finland  post; where in 2009 there were 3,688 stillbirths reported, (and a further 1,715 babies died in their first seven days) it is shocking to say that 922 of those babies died and were stillborn for 'no reason'.   Of course more research is required, no-one dies for no reason at all. 

After all, I keep saying it, but our stillbirth and neonatal death rate equates to 16 jumbo jets crashing every year with no survivors. And just how long would we as a society tolerate that without demanding an improvement in safety to bring the death toll down?  Exactly, we wouldn't tolerate it. Yet we are seemingly happy to ignore the number of deaths because of stillbirth. 

I really hope the Sands and Grazia Campaign, with help from other media who are willing to raise the stillbirth profile, will prompt the government to finally place this high on their health agenda like they did with cot death twenty years ago. One suggestion from Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp (a former nurse who now works within the field of clinical negligence) is to hold inquests into the deaths of stillborn babies. Although I believe inquests would be hugely distressing in the aftermath of a babies death, maybe they would, as Rosamund  suggests, enforce changes that would save lives. This already happens in Australia, Holland and Norway and their stillbirth rates are on the way down. 

I'm horrified that the Daily Mail article reports that in Britain inquests do not happen currently because a stillborn baby is not considered a life in the first place and therefore there is no death to be investigated.  

What an appalling failing and contradiction in our law. If a baby is considered life enough from 24 weeks to be registered as a legal person with a certificate; as I celebrated about Alexander yesterday, then surely he should be considered life enough for all care and circumstances surrounding his pregnancy to be investigated if the worst was to happen?  

Not only am I horrified, to me this failing in our law just confirms the attitudes of old; the brushing it under the carpet, our babies never existed, the getting on with it, not a real death to grieve anyway attitudes.  The law needs to change and be consistent. How are people supposed to understand the all-consuming and forever grief of our dead children if a part of the law does not even acknowledge it? 

So Alexander is now in the stillbirth territory of gestation. Of course I ask God every day not to let it happen again. 

My consultant and midwives have promised me that despite my past obstetric history this time, in the absense of a reason for Anabelle's death there is absolutely no reason to think there is a risk of me losing another baby to stillbirth. 

Alexander is supposedly as safe as his sister was thought to be.

It would've been worse to find a reason, I'm told, because with regard to a subsequent pregnancy there would always something there to try and prevent, or at least look out for. For us, and Alexander there is nothing to prevent, and this apparently makes us safer. 

You'll understand why my anxiety levels are up, I'm already beginning to verge on neurotic and there is such a long way to go. There is nothing anyone can do to make sure my little boy comes home, apart from monitor us closely and act if they feel there is a need too. 


13 weeks to go little man.


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

V Day

Today is "V" day. Today I'm 24 weeks pregnant. Today Alexander is viable. 

I'm not greatly enamored by the word viable. I think it is slightly distasteful, another one of those words that doesn't do a whole group of babies justice, because I think the opposite word, unviable, anything before 24 weeks makes those tiny people sound less significant; when nothing could be further from the truth. 

I don't for one minute think my baby is anymore important today than babies who are a few weeks behind him. That losing Alexander before today would've been any less devastating than it will be from now on in.  

But in the eyes of the law; today my son becomes a legal little person!

If he was to die and be born today, or in the weeks to come, he would now be entitled to the same rights, and certificates as his sister. 

When we were pregnant with Anabelle I remember briefly commenting that 24 weeks meant she 'could' survive outside of me now, but the date held little to no significance for us. After all, in my naivety it hadn't occurred to me she would do anything by come home anyway. Prem-babies, dead babies; always the sort of thing that 'happens to other people' - not something to think about when you're pregnant, always to keep the rose tinted glasses on. 

Today this moment feels very different, because the possibility that Alexander may not survive is all I can think about.  Today is important. My son has become a 'real' recognised person by the law, and not just by us.  24 weeks is another milestone I've been aiming for. Breaking this pregnancy down into milestones is keeping me sane and today is one of those moments. 

Alexander celebrated at just gone midnight by having an almighty kick around; its almost like he knew we'd entered a special day! Rolling and kicking so hard we could see him moving as well as feel him. One of those beautiful Mummy, Daddy and baby moments we cherish every time they happen. 

So for my next milestone; 28 weeks and beyond. Because 28 weeks marks the point when each week onwards and upwards from there, the survival and prognosis of a baby if born prematurely gets better and stronger. Although I'm not naive anymore, I know better than most that nothing is guaranteed in pregnancy, no life of a baby is guaranteed at any stage. I'm just clutching at some sort of hope for Alexander if I threaten premature labour again like I did with Anabelle.  

Then the hardest milestone of all; getting through 31 and 32 weeks when our world broke with Anabelle.   Praying that he'll still be with me and I'll be more pregnant than I've ever been before. Then the only milestone left after that will be his birthday and the hope of bringing him home and being an earth Mummy and Daddy too. 

It feels such a long way away.
Sunday, 17 July 2011

Baby Ceremonies

BellePixelle has been busy today capturing the special moments and family portraits at a christening. 

We've been privileged to be included in a rite of passage of a little boy and his family, a special baby ceremony and celebration. And whats more; personally today was progress.  The familiar sadness was of course there, but for the most part I felt a strength and happiness about it I've not felt at any other baby celebration over the last year. Possibly because we were there to work more than anything else; there in our professional capacity, there was a different focus.  

Genuinely there was no hint of hurt or overwhelming pain, not like all the others this year. 

Before Anabelle died I'd attended only one christening in my lifetime. Ironically in the year since I've now been to two christenings and sat through a number of dedication ceremonies at my church.  A christening of a friends son in the Autumn of 2010, dedications at church (often a surprise when I get there on whatever Sunday morning they are planned for) and today's BellePixelle booking. 

The first few, in the months after Anabelle's death were especially painful and drained all the life out of me. Utterly exhausted and feeling ill by the end of the service and holding it together by a thread; then came the all engulfing sobs in the car on the way home, or collapsing into Jon's arms on my return from church. 

I was full of resentment, anger and overwhelmingly hurting. They were able to hold their babies up and celebrate their lives whilst our daughters only ceremony had been her funeral. It hurt seeing babies paraded around the church when all I could think about was my daughter being carried through one in a box.

I didn't really like myself, I knew I wasn't being fair; but grief was (and still is at times) all consuming. It wasn't fair, it isn't fair. My baby is dead. 

For Anabelle I'd wanted a naming ceremony not a funeral. Of course not.  I'd already planned her pink letter "A" cake with my friend Marie for the occasion! Anabelle had her cake, it was beautiful and poignant; but it was part of the completely wrong occasion.

For Alexander I'm desperate for a naming ceremony; I've dared to begin to plan it in my head. Desperate to be the Mummy who gets to celebrate her child's life instead of grieve their death. Desperate to be the proud parents proclaiming at a happy celebration just how much both of our children are loved.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Seven Words

I'm still not completely in the know about how blog linky's work, but have decided to give it another go again! This time inspried to join in with the "Seven Words" challenge over at Doing it all for Aleyna; describing my current circumstances in just seven words.

Life is dominated by anxiety and concern for the safety and well-being of our growing boy at the moment, each week feeling longer and longer in the wait and hope for him to be born screaming into our world.

So my seven are:   Wishing and praying for Alexander every day. 

What are yours?



Friday, 15 July 2011

BellePixelle

Tonight I want to share with you, finally, our new business and our little girls beautiful legacy.

Jon had always had a passion and interest in photography and was often hankering after a "proper" camera; a digital SLR.  It was one of those purchases that was put off time and time again, always something of a higher priority to pay for; the car, our wedding, our house, our growing Anabelle baby.

A "proper" camera was always something we were going to buy 'at some point in the future'.

Then Anabelle died and all our dreams for the future were obliterated.

One month later our savings didn't hold the same importance to us; it was only money, and not even money could get us what we really wanted. So Jon bought his first SLR Canon camera and had lots of admiration from his first photography attempts from our families.  

The months passed and we hit on the idea of Jon turning his hobby into a small photography business. Photography 'saved' Jon, in the deepest throws of grief everything camera became his focus, a distraction.  So we investigated what a business would be all about. Neither of us are business savvy, neither of us did business studies at school, basically neither of us had the first clue! But we're learning as we go. 

We're not naive, we realise that building a successful business takes time. Lots of time. After all getting this far has taken us the best part of a year. But we're determined; determined because BellePixelle is going to be our daughter's living legacy. She is the reason we have it at all and that is why it is named after her. 

Naming a business is surprisingly difficult; it took weeks just to do that! Thinking of meaningful, memorable, catchy, unique names and then seeing if they were available. Then Jon finally had a brainwave and came up with BellePixelle. Beauty in Pixels. 

It was perfect. 

So then came step two. Months of purchasing necessary photography equipment for a business, buying domain names and setting up an email address. Jon has been busy, and finally, we are just about launch ready. 

So BellePixelle's first unofficial outing was my brother's wedding; and wow what a day! Jon's first time as an 'official' photographer and first go at a wedding. To say he was highly strung that day would be an understatement, but the results are fantastic. I really am very proud of him. Then our first official outing was of course Anabelle's Angel Day, and a photobooth raising money for Sands.  It was fitting that our business would really come to life on Anabelle's birthday.

Since then things have appeared to have taken off. We've had nothing but happy and positive feedback from the photographs we produced from the angel day and we've taken two bookings; a child's portrait shoot in the park (completed!) and this coming Sunday we're booked for a Christening. 

Month one and already two bookings! It is all quite exciting really. 

So it is time to keep up the momentum. As of tonight you can find BellePixelle on Facebook (take a look at example of recent photography), Twitter (@BellePixelle) and being advertised around and about at various other places.  Next on the list is completing our personal Website. It is surprisingly slow going building your own website, but we're getting there.  Please keep visiting us. 

And how about if you are local, considering us for a booking sometime soon? We'd love to hear from you. 

Tonight I'm so proud of Jon and I'm so proud of Anabelle. Maybe this is what year two is going to be about for us. Building her legacy, adding to our family. 
Thursday, 14 July 2011

Dreams

I had so many dreams for Anabelle, so many things I wanted to take her to and enjoy with her.  Water babies, music and rhyme time, ballet classes, gymnastics, piano/instrument lessons, rainbows, brownies. I had it all planned. Her life was going be rich and full of lovely experiences.  

Today we are expecting Alexander. I'm struggling to conjure up the same long term dreams for him as I had for Anabelle. I know I want to take him to water babies and rhyme time, I know I'd love him to play an instrument, maybe we can explore beavers and cubs. But beyond that I haven't got a clue, neither of us really do sport and I wouldn't be surprised if that rubs off on him. Daddy is a geek after all, not a footballer!

Jon wants him to be into science and experiments, or a petrol head; he's even boasted of his aspirations of Alexander being a F1 driver and wants to encourage him into motor sport from a young age. (Yes I'm rolling my eyes too!!) 

I knew how to be a little girl; I've no clue how to be a little boy! So what do your little boys enjoy? I want to fill Xander's life with lots of lovely experiences too.

It's time for new hopes and dreams, different to Anabelle, unique for him.  Bittersweet as always; letting go of my beautiful girls dreams and creating a little life for my son. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Capture a Moment... 22+5 Bump

We've been taking bump photographs again. This time taking the opportunity to celebrate our little boys name!  

The first thing we bought for Alexander after we found out he was a boy was this blue letter A.  Just like Jon had done in his lunch hour for Anabelle (only hers of course is pink!)  I love it. To me, their letter A's instantly celebrate their names, instantly identifies the little person inside my bump.  

I'm sure I've written in other posts that Alexander was so named because we wanted to find a new letter "A" name for our second child, giving them another special connection to their sister by sharing the same AM initials.  Alexander was also the only boys A name that we both loved enough to see ourselves with a little boy called it! 

Jon and I in both of our pregnancies have been notoriously bad at agreeing on boys names.  Girls names; not a problem, lots of agreeable ideas. Boys names; we have very different ideas. Or more to the point, I have lots of ideas, Jon says no to nearly them all but doesn't come up with any of his own!   

I've always enjoyed looking at the meanings of names. According to Gurgle the meaning and description of my name is 'Song of Happiness', Jon is 'Gift from God' (he'll love that!), Anabelle is 'Beautiful' (of course!) and Alexander is 'Protector of Mankind'. I've also read other places that his name means brave.  I'm sure he'll live up to the meanings of his name, I'm imagining him being a strong man, our Xander-Man, and after all his sister lives up to the meaning of hers! 

I wonder how many variations in spelling of Alexander/Xander we'll see over his journey?  

We've seen many for Anabelle. I knew as soon as she was named we'd chosen an unusual spelling. We actually carefully chose the spelling of her name because we wanted the focus of a short name to be Belle. Two 'n's looked too long and felt it took away from Belle then, and the other alternative spelling didn't leave us with the spelling Belle in the name at all, rather Bel which to us didn't look right either. 

So Anabelle she is. Frequently I see her name written with that extra 'n' though, and frequently I've heard myself spelling out her name as a matter of course when I've needed too. Our poor girl, if she was here, would've spent her life saying "Anabelle, that's one 'n', two 'l's and an 'e'! It's quite nice that I've been able to do that for her. (And something I've been used to doing my whole life with my maiden name; "that's Villars, V, I double L, A, R, S!") 

So far for Xander I've seen his short name spelt with a 'Z' instead of an 'X'.  I wonder how many other alternatives there will be?! 

Anyway, we've taken lots of photographs now. Already a beautiful collection of bump shots to remember this time with him and with 14 weeks still to go until I'm induced I'm sure there'll be plenty more yet.  And what I think is extra special about all these photographs; they've been taken by his Daddy. Next time, somehow, we'll try getting Daddy in some of them too! 




Sunday, 10 July 2011

If, Hopefully, When

If and hopefully are two words that are frequent in my vocabulary at the moment. Usually contained in a sentence when talking about our growing little boy.  "If we bring Alexander home... when Xander is hopefully here... If Alexander doesn't die..."    

I've decided somehow I need to work on my PMA and at least pretend I believe he will come home, even if the constant anxieties and doubt are there, somehow the faith has to start shining through and I have to introduce when into my vocabulary. Because Alexander deserves this much from me.  

So this weekend it has been all about him. 

We've enjoyed a weekend full of progress. I intended to start the weekend with baby steps; to continue planning the redecoration of the nursery and his sleeping arrangements, but we've finished the weekend with a moses basket. Baby steps to a leap - our first 'big' purchase for him. 

I'm proud of us. Especially me, because I'm allowing myself to imagine the nursery as something different. I'm imagining and even daring to be a little bit excited for Alexander's beautiful room. We've picked the theme and I've been looking on ebay for ideas for those special finishing touches.  For those who know Jon, the theme is as you'd expect... Transport! Cars, trains, planes, boats. He wants his son to be a petrol head like him is appears!

The nursery is coming together in my head, I'm beginning to think of the details; blues and yellows with our white furniture. Transport decorations, fabrics and accessories. We're going to put a rainbow wall sticker above the cot, to celebrate our rainbow baby along with his beautiful name bunting. We've bought a star nightlight for the wall and plan the words "Love, like starlight, never dies" to be printed to go next to it, linking to his first book and hoping it will become as treasured to him as its become meaningful to us. Angel wings on the wall for Anabelle with her initials painted inbetween, a cushion decorated for them each on the nursing chair. Somehow bringing both of my children together in the nursery.

Thinking in this much details is progress made I think. All that is left to do on the journey of PMA is to really turn the ifs and hopefully into when. "When Alexander comes home... When Alexander is here..." 

If only I could really make myself believe it and send the fear on its way.   

Saturday, 9 July 2011

No Matter What

Recently I've been introduced to a beautiful children's book by a lovely Mummy.  A book which has quite profoundly impacted on me.  It is a beautiful story written by Debi Gliori called 'No Matter What'. Small asks Large would he still love him in a multitude of situations and Large always replying he'll always love him no matter what.   The story finishes with Small asking what happens to love when we die;

 Small said, 'But what about when we're dead and gone, would you love me then, does love go on?'
Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright. 'Small, look at the stars - how they shine and glow, but some of those stars died a long time ago.'
'Still they shine in the evening skies, love, like starlight, never dies.'


This one little line has stuck with me since; love, like starlight, never dies.  How appropriate for our little family. Death has made no difference to the love we feel for Anabelle.   

We've bought this book for Alexander, his first story book. It arrived yesterday. I'm not going to wait to read it to him, because never reading to Anabelle as I'd planned to do before she was born is one of my biggest regrets. Alexander is awake at the moment and moving around, so as soon as I've finished this post we're having story time.

As Anabelle's first book (Guess How Much I Love You) expressed the expanse of our love to her, his book is going to do the same. Because above all else I want my children know how much they are loved. I hope the gentle reference to death and the stars helps him place his sister in his life and our family, and he'll truely know we'll always love him, and his sister, no matter what.  That love in our family is forever.

Some may feel is it morbid that our little boys first book references death. But the truth of it is, death, like love, is a constant in our family; a very important little persons existence in this family is through her life in us even in death. If that makes any sense; it does to me.

Right from day one I want to ensure Alexander feels a connection to his big sister, that he grows up with her there, and not as someone who is just a name. I don't want the elusive 'we'll have to tell him about her one day when he is older'. I don't want him to be told, I want her to just be part of his knowing, part of his family, someone who was only missing in body, not in spirit. Like a child knows who Mummy and Daddy are, I want him to just know who Anabelle is.

I've no idea how we really begin to achieve this appropriately. It is such a delicate situation. I would never want Alexander to feel he is only here because she isn't. We have to find a way of giving Anabelle her place in gentle and constant ways but never letting her outshine Alexander.  As their Mummy I need to show love to them both. How do we make sure our dead and (hopefully) living child feels they are equally loved and important? How do you bring up a sibling alongside and including a dead one?  How do we get the balance right between the two?  

How do we do 'family'? Another thing to think about in our incompleteness.


Remembering Sterre and Mummy Hannah who shared this story with me. A little star far too soon. 
Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Being Pregnant

Yesterday we went to collect this years paint colour brouchers from B&Q to start thinking about eventually painting the nursery a new boy colour. After a quick glance so far my favourite colour choice is Sky by Colour by B. Of course this is all subject to change when we put testers on the wall.  It was easy to go and collect the books; actually painting on top of my beautiful girls pink walls will be far more difficult. 

Just one of the difficult parts of this new (or not so new at 22 weeks!) pregnancy. 

See its not the coping with sickness, heartburn, aches and pains that is difficult at all. It is the parts the remind me this isn't our first baby. 

The substituting girl bits for boy bits is bittersweet. I love both of my children equally, I'm excited about our little boy and all the new things I can do for him, I'm exctied about all the lovely new things I can choose because he is a boy and needs boy things and cannot share everything that belongs to his sister. Alexander being a boy adds something to this pregnancy that we wouldn't have had if he'd been another girl. Our first son, that is something just as special as Anabelle being our first daughter. 

But because we live in a two bedroom house, preparing for Alexander means erasing parts of Anabelle. Yes she is included wherever possible and will have her part in their nursery, she will be there, Alexander will 'know' her. But we have to  sort out her clothes and put them in the attic, and then the biggy; we have to paint over the pretty pink walls in our nursery. And it will be forever gone. Forever gone just like Anabelle.   

As I said the other day these are the things we have to start thinking about and building ourselves up to. 

Being pregnant again is wonderful. It is also emotionally breaking. 

I absolutely loved everything about being pregnant with Anabelle. I embraced getting bigger and loved having a bump; it filled me with a confidence I had never had before.  Now don't get me wrong, I love being pregnant now, and I love watching Alexander grow, I'm trying to embrace my changing body in the same way I did with Anabelle - but this time my bump also scares me. The bigger he gets the more scared I'm becoming that I will lose him, because being big reminds me of being pregnant with Anabelle, all the joy of growing her and still carrying her for those five days after she died. Sometimes I catch sight of myself in the mirror and think wow, look at my little man bump, but sometimes it makes me think about Anabelle and her bump. 

I miss her bump, I love Alexander's bump. Emotionally torn. I can never have both of my babies. 

Then there is my milk; and I'm finding this the hardest. To the point its made me cry. 

I started spotting drops of colostrum at around 16 weeks with Alexander, but the last 3 weeks the spotting has turned into flow. After I take my bra off in the evening and put my pyjamas on it starts, and sometimes within minutes I need to change my top because I'm soaked through. Many mornings I've woken up to enormous wet patches over my support pillow and on our sheets where my boobs have been leaking throughout the night.  When I was pregnant with Anabelle I only ever spotted, there wasn't this flow. Not until she was born. 

So this flow is a sharp painful reminder of the weeks after Anabelle was born and my milk properly came in. The wet clothes, the wet bed, the full heavy feeling, the milk and no baby to feed. It feels almost the same now. All this 'milk' and he is not here yet. 

15 weeks to go our little man. Stay safe. 
Sunday, 3 July 2011

Haze and Days

It dawned on me today that I have absolutely no recollection of anything that happened last July.  I don't remember a single thing we did or anything that happened. OK so I know my friends got engaged exactly one month after Anabelle was born, but I don't really remember being told the news, and OK I remember my cousins wedding; well sort of. I was there in body at least. But I don't really remember anything in July. Thinking back draws one big blur. 

I know I was living in a state of bewilderment and shock, but it is like my mind has blocked out the raw pain as our lives fell to absolute pieces.  I remember June vividly; everything that happened, everything we did with Anabelle and for Anabelle, but post funeral, going into July. I'm drawing a blank. Our world stopped and a haze of constant pain and tears set in. 

Last July I was supposed to be heavily pregnant, on the last four week count down to meeting our daughter. When in actual fact by July she'd been born and buried for two weeks already. 

Mummy and not so little Xander bump!
21+5 weeks, 03.07.11
This July I am pregnant. Not as pregnant as I should've been last July of course, but today I'm 21+5 weeks with Alexander and I want to celebrate that.  I've never been pregnant in July before! 

This July I need to start really focusing my mind to Alexander.  Up until now I've just been pregnant, I've attended multiple hospital appointments and done that side of things, I've been getting bigger, (and bigger, and bigger!) I know I have another baby on the way; but our home is not prepared for him, not even at all close.

By now with Anabelle we'd bought her lots of stuff; Alexander has been bought hardly anything.  OK he has the little white bunny we bought from Hamley's when we were in London just days after finding out I was pregnant again, he has a blue letter A, one pack of rainbow babygros, a wall height canvas bought by us, a teddy bought by his Auntie and a cot bumper bought by Grampi and Gu.   But these are all small things, decorative more than functional items. 

I guess by now with Anabelle I believed she was really coming. I'd taken for granted she was coming home and in the thrill of having a baby I literally couldn't wait to buy her everything she could possibly need and more. The nursery is literally full to bursting of everything we'd bought preparing for Belle, a princess paradise. 

Today 21+5 weeks pregnant and I still cannot bring myself to really believe Alexander will come home. We hope, we pray that in just over 15 weeks from now, we will be induced, and he'll be born screaming and crying and beautiful.  But 15 weeks is a long time to go, and plenty of time for the worst to happen.    At 21+5 last time it didn't occur to me that Anabelle would be dead in just over 10 weeks from that point. Today that is all that occurs to me.  

Today, each day is a miracle and a little celebration that Alexander is still with us. 

But I know I have to start thinking like he is coming home. We have to start preparing for him instead of just growing him. What's more I want to start creating those special times with our son, the shopping trips, the choosing cute gorgeous things, because I want to do with him what I did with his sister.   So over the coming weeks we are going to have to make ourselves sort out the nursery, sort through Anabelle's things, decide what Alexander can also use, decide what needs to be bought for our boy. We are going to have to go through the painful process of putting her pink and girly things away and turn the nursery into our little man's pad instead. A room we've avoided for the main for the last 12 months. 

I really wish we had a 3rd room we could decorate and love just for him. But in the absence of a 3rd room, Alexander deserves the equal love and attention to detail we put into preparing for his sister in the room they will share. 

So this July, I'm going to start being more attentive to our little boy...  after all 3 and a half months from now, I pray hard he will be here. 
Friday, 1 July 2011

First's into Second's

Well we survived June; the second longest and hardest June of our lives.

Another June full of the highs of finding out Bow is Alexander, marking our beautiful Anabelle's 1st birthday with smiles as well as the tears and raising an immense amount of money and still counting for Sands. And crippling lows, the year markers, the pain, the reliving what happened and grieving for what should've been.

But here on July the 1st we are.  

June has really taken it out of us, to be honest it has felt never-ending, the longest month to survive this year. As a result both Jon and I have started July on a course of antibiotics each; Jon has had tonsillitis and has been particularly rough all week, I've got a water infection and a bladder and uterus that feels completely irritated and uncomfortable at the moment.  To be honest emotionally and physically we're both shattered.

What now then?  What is in store for us now all the "firsts" have finished?  

What will be expected of us now we've done all these all important "first" times?  I've been told time and again it is easier going through all the memories, triggers and anniversaries a second time, the worst year is the first year.  Sure I fully imagine the 'easier' aspect will be knowing what to expect from these moments and days, but then again we've learnt this year that grief hits in ways unexpected.   Maybe year two is going to set off a whole new set of triggers, yet more new moments to grieve.

Will we just be expected to cope better now because we've 'done it all before' ?

I'm feeling a massive sense of unknown tonight and a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach again; it is that 'foreverness' resurfacing once more. Another new month without Anabelle joined with the constant fear for her brother.

Here we go then year two...
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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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