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, 29 January 2012

Our Feeding Journey

The last time I wrote about my breastfeeding journey with Alexander I was in a pretty down place. 

My confidence, once restored after a wobbly start was again crushed after a health visitor clinic. If you remember Alexander had had an excessivley sickly two weeks and often distressed after his feeds. As a result he hadn't gained much weight and dropped below one of the percentile lines on the graph.  Instead of taking my list of concerns with an interest my health visitor appeared dismissive and just suggested that if he was being so sick I should be feeding him more to keep his weight up. Nevermind that my normally content baby was so often distressed. Thankfully my GP was far more interested and diagnosed a touch of reflux easily remedied with a few weeks of baby gaviscon; Alexander has been much better all round since. 

But the damage was done in that clinic. I went away feeling I wasn't doing enough for my son. Cue the start of a major breastfeeding wobble. 

There was a number of things going on. I'd already been feeling smothered by the whole breastfeeding thing. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to do it any more, I wasn't sure I was enjoying it enough; Alexander fed for up to and sometimes over an hour at a time, now I was worried that despite how long he fed that he wasn't getting enough. Guilt upon guilt. He had been having an expressed bottle every evening, but I was starting to struggle time and supply wise to get enough during the day. We were considering formula for that one feed, but the huge pressure surrounding breastfeeding had bit me on the bum and I was in turmoil. 

So I wrote a blog on all my frustrations. 

It didn't help my turmoil. Comments on my blog on added to my guilt. 

I was told formula fed babies were at greater risk of cot-death, amongst other things.  The days went by and I tormented myself more and more. How could I introduce formula now? My baby might die and it would be my fault.  Of all the statistics to spout to a bereaved mother is it not a little insensitive to highlight this one? I fear his death every. single. day. I check he is breathing multiple times a day, the first thing I look at if I wake before him is the flashing green light on his breathing monitor to confirm he is still alive, a few times in a week I even convince myself he is dead and my rational self cannot fight the irrational... in my mini-meltdowns Jon is often sent to check on our son because I'm too scared to go in case he is actually dead. 

The fear of my second child dying really really didn't need adding too.  

So way to go anonymous commenter; an already emotionally vulnerable bereaved mother pushed ever closer to the edge. 

We carried on as we were. Epic feeds, trying to express, feeling like I wasn't getting a break. I had a week or so where I started to dread every single feed; a few feeds I even found myself on the verge of panicking and clawing at pillows, counting to 10 and breathing deeply to get me through them.  Things surrounding feeding were not great. 

Just over a month ago I don't think I believed we would get to 3 months old with me still feeding him. I thought a falling weight gain would push us towards formula as well as my failing emotional state about it all. But here we are, a month later, still feeding and in a much better place about it. 

Jon and I made decisions which was right for our family. So there has been a change but I am happy and enjoying feeding him now, it feels special again. I've taken that pressure off myself and taken away the elements of feeding Alexander I wasn't comfortable with. 

Alexander is having around 6 feeds a day, one of these is a formula dreamfeed now. 

Jon gives him this as he was when it was expressed breast milk. The change to formula was seamless, he was completely un-bothered that it wasn't my milk in the bottle and there has been absolutely no fuss about it.  The relief and pressure taken off our day by not having to express now has been just what we needed. The initial guilt the first night he was given formula was enormous, but Jon took control and I've made my peace with it now. Regardless of what the militants might suggest I am not damaging my son with this decision. He is being fed; damaging would be starving him. My emotional health is important too; regardless of what some might say. 

Another biggy; I no longer make myself feed in public. I feed him in the car where possible or designated baby feeding rooms or otherwise he has an expressed bottle. We manage a plan around his feeds and I'm happy with this; happier that the worry of having to get a boob out in a restaurant or park bench.  There is no more working myself up and this solution really suits us.  I'm still expressing most days if I can, and this expressed milk comes out and about with us. 

His feeds are far quicker now; the hour has dropped to anything from 15 to 30 minutes on average. This has made a big difference too. 

A month ago I didn't believe I'd still be feeding him now; but we found the solutions for us to carry on. 

Now I can definitely see me feeding him up to and maybe beyond 6 months old - it doesn't feel such a huge challenge anymore. Six months old is so close now, we're already over half way there. I hope if I come up against another wobble that I have the confidence not to torment myself for so long again and just implement a change to make us all happy.  

That is happy including me. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

2. Reasons to be Cheerful

This has been the sort of week that maternity leave is made for! Lots of quality time spent with my gorgeous boy and filling our days with enjoyment, fun and laughter! So far resolutions four and six for 2012 are going well!

This week I have been cheerful because...
  • We enjoyed a lovely weekend including walks, hot chocolate and family roast dinners! 
  • I took Xander swimming for the first time and he was brilliant. Lots of smiles, no crying at all even though the water was quite cool. Can't wait to go again next Monday! Proud Mummy moment of the week one! 
  • Jon sent me a quirky little love message by remotely operating the home printer from work for St Dwynwen's Day and then came home with a "LOVE" word statue. Cute!  (The Welsh version of Valentine's day for those of you who don't know!)
  • Xander enjoyed Tots at Church again. He is becoming a social butterfly my boy! 
  • Xander discovered he can string two sounds together! This week he has learnt to say 'uh-goo' - it is very cute! Incidently it is also the first time he has attempted a 'g' sound. I love chatting with him and listening to him. He has got such a pretty little voice! Pround Mummy moment of the week two! 
  • Xander has started wearing his 3-6 month clothes. I'd love to keep him small forever and there is a twang now we're starting to pack away his 0-3 stuff but I'm chuffed that he is growing spot on as he should! 
  • We caught up with family and friends we'd not seen in a while. 
  • The Christmas tree and decorations finally made their way from where they'd been dumped in the baby's room and up into the attic! Hurrah! 
  • This morning we went to a baby and tots music group and had a lovely time! Xander enjoyed watching all the bigger babies and children and cooed along to the songs! 
See we are busy bees and thriving!

Now if only there was a way to become a permanent stay at home Mummy!   

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Had a Stillbirth...

... is a phrase I'm beginning to loath the more I hear it.  I've blogged before on my disdain for the official terminology surrounding angel babies.

No-one, as far as I know, has used this phrase in relation to my family; but I've seen it time and again recently in relation to other people. And each time I see it, I cringe and get cross. I get cross because the implication is thoughtless at best. Down right derogatory at worst. 

Let's put this in to some context. For example; 'Caz had a stillbirth in June 2010'

So what is it about this sentence that is upsets me so much?

Because it is, as far as I'm concerned inaccurate, insensitive, deeply hurtful and offensive. 

I didn't just 'have a stillbirth'. I had a DAUGHTER. A baby girl. A person. Who, if it is insisted upon using the official terminology, happened to be stillborn. Or as I prefer my baby girl was born sleeping.  To merely describe her a stillbirth dehumanises her. A phrase so cold that it can't even be bothered to acknowledge the fact there was a baby involved at all. That in fact she is a real baby. Real. A person. My baby. Anabelle; not just an event that happened to me in June 2010. A person who came into my life forever. 

Urgh. Sometimes these things really get to me and I'm sure I'm not the only angel parent to feel this way. 
Saturday, 21 January 2012

Alexander's Month Three

The last time one of my children was three months 'old' I was falling to pieces. I'd spent three months surviving in a shock bubble; not feeling the world properly. On 21st September 2010 that shock bubble burst and 'forever' reality set in; Anabelle had been gone for a whole quarter of a year and  the significance to me was enormous. I stopped coping; a collapse so great I started bereavement counselling and this blog. My salvation and thinking space to organise my thoughts and over time has enabled me to raise awareness of stillbirth. This blog and played such a major part in 'putting me back together'. 

This time it is Alexander that is now three months old. Can you believe it?   This time there is no falling to pieces; just absolute joy. 

Since my last update he has changed so much. We've noticed major leaps in development over the last few weeks. My baby boy is no longer my 'newborn' but turning too quickly into a cheeky and delightful little boy! We've been very busy... 

Still adopting baby led days for the most part; Alexander is becoming more independent and confident, he's fallen into his own little routine that suits us all (and probably the baby whisper would be proud of)! He is now exploring toys and floor time for up to 20 minutes on his own, but equally loves you lying on the floor with him and celebrating every time he manages to make a toy move or make a sound!

He is getting more and more physically strong and lifting his bottom and legs towards his face as well as  already trying to roll onto his side and occasionally managing it. I don't think it will be too long before he will be on the go!   Alexander is tolerating tummy time more and more. Now he consistently lifts his head and shoulders rights up using his arms to support him. Quite funny to watch; using all his effort to lift his head then turn it from one side to the other. He makes lots of 'ugh' sounds like he lifting weights in the gym! 

He particularly loves his new swing and baby gym that he had for Christmas. Alexander is really starting to discover what his hands can do and they are constantly near his face (and in his mouth!), as well as noticing him feeling lots of different things. I have a feeling he may be right handed as he has just started to swipe at toys on his gym predominantly using his right arm. Although saying that he equally seems to prefer to chew and suck on his left fist and thumb; so who knows really yet?! 

It would be kind of cool if he was left handed like his Mummy, but we shall see! 

He is such a chatterbox now and has really discovered his voice. He is loud! Thoroughly enjoying having conversations and interacting with us and has mastered 'ooo' 'ohh' 'ugh' 'ah' and 'ahh' sounds! Telling stories and singing along for music time sessions!  He looks so intently at your face when you are talking to him, taking it all in and answering you back. Lots of happy noises!  He is also a cheeky chappy; starting to poke his tongue out as far as it will go (it is pretty long, we think he could touch his nose if he tried!!) and even blowing a raspberry this week! oh and lots of blowing bubbles at the moment too!

Bathtime is still a favourite. He is starting to explore the big bath now; enjoying all the extra space to kick and splash his legs. He's even had a few bathtimes in with me and experienced floating, bobbing and swishing around in the water. Great fun! Alexander definitely understands he can splash now and kicks his legs intentionally all of the time; and yes, he's managed to get us wet too!  We've discovered he likes a quick warm up with Mummy's hairdryer after a bath which is rather cute and makes his hair super fluffy; of course the pampered little man has a massage with some olive oil at the same time. He thinks it is rather fab! 

This month we have also discovered a little bit of cbeebies! We've found it an excellent tool to keep him entertained and focussed on something else while we are dressing him in the morning, because putting clothes on isn't always his favourite activity; whether that be letting me put clothes on myself or him!  It is remarkable to see him already communicating his preferences; consistently Postman Pat and Mr Bloom have him mesmerised, cooing and animated, but the Zingzillas or whatever they are - so far he's started crying and complaining every time! Amazing really. 

Another big change has been the introduction of a bedtime routine in the new year and Alexander has responded really well and has been much brighter and much shorter naps during the day as a result. He now has a feed around 7pm and goes down in his moses basket straight afterwards; settling quickly for the most part leaving us with longer adult evenings again. Although they are quickly filled up with catching up on housework (or blogging!) He then has a dreamfeed around 11pm which mostly sees him through until 6am or thereabouts. He is doing really well and Jon and I are massively proud. Or what I think you would call besotted! 

See, I told you we'd been busy this month! Isn't he fabulous?! 

My gorgeous boy! 

Friday, 20 January 2012

1. Reasons to be Cheerful

The Reasons to be Cheerful blog hop is one I couldn't bring myself to link to last year; I rarely had any emotional energy left in me to find things to be really be cheerful about. That is not to say I was constantly miserable; but being so constantly anxious doesn't lead to positivity. 

This year, in the spirit of my new positivity along with my new Picturing Twenty Twelve blog I've decided to find Reasons to be Cheerful and join in the blog hop when I remember. 

So this week, my reasons to be cheerful are: 
  • I'm blessed with a wonderful family. I'm lucky to have the loving and supportive husband I've got and the beautiful children he's given me. Yes, tonight I'm feeling gushy! 
  • Beaming Alexander smiles; he is just such a joy. 
  • A lovely overnight trip to friends last weekend. 
  • We've started planning Alexander's Celebration and Dedication service; my church and party hall booked for the 11th March 2012. Big smiley face! 
  • The party hall is the same place as we had our engagement party and Anabelle's Angel Day. It is special that we're having another important family event in the same place. 
  • I've booked baby swim lessons for Alexander and me starting Monday. I'm very excited and really looking forward! 
  • The weather this week has been for the most part dry and bright. I've enjoyed taking the baby out in his pram for a few walks. We hope to go for a family walk tomorrow as well. I'm really enjoying my maternity leave. 
  • Enjoying going 'out for coffee' (for me this usually means a hot chocolate rather than coffee!),  visiting friends for an afternoon cup of tea and having visitors here for cups of tea. 
  • Jon working enough hours to earn a whole day flexi-leave. I'm looking forward to our extra altogether day. 
Its been a good week! 

For more reasons to be cheerful go and take a look at the blog hop over at Mummy From the Heart
Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Call the Midwife Miracles

Last night I watched the first episode of  Call the Midwife on iPlayer. 

There was a miracle; a stillborn baby lived.

Jon was unsure whether I would be able to watch Call the Midwife as I cannot cope with OBEM; due to the era the series is set, post war 1950s, infant mortality would probably be a given. As I've said previously, even is storyland I find it hard to sit through baby death. 

So I was watching it; scenes of overcrowding and poverty. Children being born at home in dirty conditions. Even though I knew it was acting I was a little shocked, realising how fortunate we are today with an established NHS (despite its faults) access to hospitals and mostly excellent care.  The NHS then was still in its fledgling days. 

Episode 1, some of the story went like this;

A lady, 30 (ish) weeks pregnant had a fall and went into labour. The parents were told it would be unlikely that their baby at such a small gestation would survive the birth and to prepare themselves for the worst. Facilities for caring for premature babies in the 1950s were not widely available, survival for such small babies was unusual. 

The baby arrived, grey and pale and declared dead. Placed aside in a dish and not even shown to the parents, not even told if their baby was a boy or a girl. Baby treated like a non-person. I found this treatment of the tiny baby and their family particularly difficult to watch. I'm so thankful that times have moved on significantly and the memories and bonds we were able to form with Anabelle. I cannot imagine not being allowed to meet my child simply because they were dead. 

But then what I found even harder to watch than that was the miracle.  The miracle that parents of all born sleeping babies wish so hard for. 

The dead baby cried. Five minutes after birth, from their discarded dish their baby came back to life. Swiftly wrapped up and reunited with his parents. 

Where was our miracle? Why can that only happen in story land?  

So Call the Midwife took me back to our silent delivery room. To those minutes where we desperately wished it to be a terrible mistake after Anabelle was born. Looking at her, holding her and willing her to breathe. To somehow be alive. To cry.  

Anabelle stayed dead. How am I ever going to really come to terms with it? My daughter is dead. Call the Midwife proved once again that real acceptance is still some way off. 

I was watching it jealous. How ridiculous is that? Jealous of a pretend couple getting to keep their pretend baby when we couldn't keep our real one. 
Friday, 13 January 2012

My Family

Mummy, Daddy and Alexander
On his First Christmas 
On Christmas day we had this photograph taken; Mummy, Daddy and Alexander on his first Christmas. 

I've struggled to call it a family photo. I struggle with calling us a family because I never feel complete. This photo is not complete. Anabelle is missing. Always missing. 

Referring to our little unit as a family feels somehow not quite right. But this is my family now isn't it. Is it completely wrong to say I find it so depressing? Depressing that everything is touched by sadness. Why is everything so bittersweet? Why has it always got to be a bit like this? 

Will I ever reach a true acceptance of our situation? True acceptance that my daughter actually died. That something so horrifically awful actually happened; that this is forever real. 

Sometimes I think I go into a renewed shock. Back at square one and utter disbelief, my mind unable to comprehend something so huge as my daughter dying.  

Apparently there are seven stages of grief; stage one being shock and seven acceptance and hope. Along the way over these last almost 19 months I've always been sat somewhere on the grief spectrum, going around in circles. I think we've even touched hope. Alexander was and is my hope, but I'm not sure I've ever really found a proper acceptance. Of course I know that this happened, I accept that it is real, but I have not accepted it is fair. I have not accepted how unjust it is that my baby died. I touch on angry often, even now. Does that make sense? 

I think the spectrum is now some sort of forever journey; who knows which stage I'll be sat on at any one time. Even if I find some sort of warped acceptance will I find acceptance forever, or just for a time before cycling the grief process all over again? Maybe my experience of the stages of grief is something I can think about again. 

So we're a family. Alternative as it is from the inside, Jon says I need to focus on what is now, and not what is passed. I have to somehow make my peace with referring to us as a family, without feeling guilty that by doing so Anabelle is forgotten or unacknowledged.  I know she is part of my family too, but I guess from the outside we look like a normal little family of three. 

A family of three plus a memory of one. My family is four. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Big Sister, Little Brother

Each December my pink pages get about making nominations for our version of the 'New Years Honours'. There are lots of catergories ranging from the hilarious have a laugh ones to the more serious awards; lots of opportunities to spread the love as it were. Even getting a nomination is a wonderful feeling; that people think of you for something. This year I was nominated for Resplendent Useage of the Scribed Word, for being Inspirational, for Smiling through with Exceptional Courage, for Living to Tell the Tale and for Photographer of the Year (although that was more for Jon!). 

I was nominated for all of that and came second for Smiling through with Exceprional Courage. Jon got an honourable mention for Photography. 

But the one nomination that touched me more than all the others was Anabelle being nominated for the Best Big Brother/Sister award. I wish I knew who was so thoughtful to acknowledge Anabelle becoming a big sister in 2011. 

Anabelle has a little brother, equally Alexander has a big sister. 

I already worry constantly how he will 'know' his sister. How she'll become an appropriate figure in his life despite him never meeting her. I often hear adults, whose parents lost children before them only talk about them as 'The baby that died before me'. I would be devastated if he only ever referred to her as the baby his parents lost before him.  I so desperately want him to call Anabelle his sister; refer to her as his sister who lives in Heaven., to know he is not an 'only child'. 

I know that a lot of this will be down to how we include Anabelle as a member of our family; how we mark and celebrate her birthday as a family each year, how we include her in our family Christmas traditions how we make her an integral part of our home with her photographs and daily mentioning her name. 

I want him to feel some sort of relationship and connection with her. I just don't know how you achieve that with someone you never met and have no memories of. 

How will he understand death? Will the whole concept of his sister not being here make him frightened of death at far too young an age? I'm aware every child goes through this phase, I'm also aware that Alexander will visit a cemetery far more than any child should;  at the same time I don't think we shouldn't take him.  He needs to be a part of visiting his sister too. Death has been part of his life from day one. There is no getting away from it; unless we do not include Anabelle and that can never happen. 

Sibling relationship in this house is going to be a minefield. 

Our family motto is now 'Love like starlight never dies'. I hope this will go some way to explaining why even in her absence his sister is important and so very loved by us; just as he is.  
Thursday, 5 January 2012


So the third series on One Born Every Minute started last night. I know this because of the multitude of facebook status updates about it; women being kick-started into full on broody mode and apparently a boy called Kurt who no-one seems to be very impressed with. 

I didn't watch it. 

Series 1. aired while I was pregnant with Anabelle. It was my TV viewing highlight of the week. I got really involved with it all; I especially remember a really young couple who's maturity far out-weighed their years. That young boy was a far better support to his girlfriend than many of the other grown men taking part in the series from what I recall. 

I watched it and freaked myself out about birth, but was so mesmerised I could not stop watching. There is a fine line between wonderment and fear! 

Their babies will be two now, maybe even two and a half.  

Series 2. along with the live Christmas specials last year I couldn't watch. I didn't want to watch. Why would I?   Six months after Anabelle. Happy ending births with babies crying. I didn't have that; I couldn't watch anyone else who did.  Of course  I wouldn't wish the alternative on them, but it hurt too much. I didn't need to do it to myself. So despite the craze sweeping the rest of the nation it was a no OBEM zone here. 

I thought I'd feel differently about the programme this year. I thought maybe I would even try watching it. Jon thinks I should, even said he would watch it with me. Maybe he thinks it would be some sort of good moving on therapy. 

But the idea fills me with dread and infact the thought of turning it on had me feeling anxious, panicky almost. So instead of watching it we were all in bed already last night. 

Surely I should be feeling stronger about this now? After all I've had my screaming baby; I've had a happy ending birth. What is there to be scared of?

Despite it all coming good for Alexander and me I still can't put myself in the position of watching other people's happy endings. Not in a real life documentary type sense anyway. 

Ironically I want to watch Call the Midwife when it starts on BBC1; I can only assume the fictional acting not real aspect puts me in an emotionally better place for this. Although as Jon pointed out because of the period setting for the programme it is likely babies will die. Even in storyland I find baby death difficult to sit through. 

But Call the Midwife I am willing to give a go, even if I end up turning it off. 

OBEM I can't bring myself to try again, not this year. It reminds me to much of watching in anticipation of Anabelle's birth. The rawness of my deafening silent room is still too much. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hopes, Dreams, Resolutions

Happy New Year! 

This year, I think I genuinely mean it. 

As Big Ben chimed 2012 in I didn't crumble into pieces. The familiar flat feeling of last year was there; the lump in my throat was there, the sadness of time moving further away from our girl was there but finding something to look forward to in 2012 was also there. Something to look forward to was something I couldn't muster the courage to find last year. 

To be honest at 11.54pm we were still desperately trying to settle Alexander into bed and I thought midnight was going to pass us by completely. But as Big Ben chimed I held Jon and he held me. We whispered to each other how we were feeling about our family this new year, we acknowledged Anabelle and then we joined in the chinking of champagne, sparklers and 'Happy New Years' with everybody else. 

New Year 2011 a thread was started on the 'pink pages' to record our hopes, dreams and resolutions for the new year. Mine were as follows: 

  • Jon's test results to come back clear and for all his problems to be resolved. Well Jon got a diagnosis. Transverse Myelitis. So not the all clear but at least the problem has a name now. 8 months on from diagnosis and nothing has changed. He had a few weeks where it seemed things may be getting worse again, but for now having hands that cannot feel and cannot easily manipulate fine motor tasks has become Jon's new normal. Still we wait for the neurologist to call him back for a follow up appointment. I'll have to start chasing that up. I don't like to feel he has been forgotten. 
  • A bfp soon. 28th February 2011
  • A complication free pregnancy and a baby I can bring home. Well I'm not sure I would go as far as to say it was complication free; second trimester bleeding and threatened early labour aside, but our beautiful gorgeous boy came home. And that is all that matters. Our best bit of 2011 can be pinpointed to the minute: 14th October 2011, 00:45 when Alexander was born screaming. 
  • To pull off a great fundraising event for Belle's 1st Birthday. So much greater than I could ever have anticipated: donations have continued to come in, right into December. Including gift aiding over £9600 has been sent to Sands in Anabelle's name. Whopping! 
  • To keep on top of the ironing. Epic fail! My version of ironing is now folding warm clothes out of the tumble dryer before putting them away! 
  • To have more date nights with Jon. Could do better! Ongoing for 2012. Starting with a drink in our local sometime in January! 

So I suppose I should set some hopes, dreams and resolutions for this year!
  • To have a healthy and happy settled year.
  • To make Anabelle's fundraising figure £10k (or more!) for her second birthday. (Can you believe it? Already its the year for her second birthday... I'm struggling to comprehend two years at the moment.)
  • To take Alexander on his first proper holiday. 
  • To enjoy every moment with Alexander. 
  • To celebrate Alexander joining our family with a dedication service just for him.
  • To make the most of my maternity leave. 
  • To go back to uni in May (after deferring since Anabelle died) and recommence the final year for my post-graduate in SEN.  
  • To have more date nights with Jon! 
  • To create more memories and blog our twenty twelve journey. My photo a day challenge.   
Come and take a look: Picturing Twenty Twelve

This is the new years challenge that I think has given me the 'something to look forward to' amongst the joy of watching Alexander grow. A new focus, a positive light-hearted day to day me. The mundane, to random, to small, to big, to important. A bit of everything.  

I really am looking forward to seeing with 366 moments I choose to feature as our photo of the day this time next year, because who knows where we'll be in our journey by then.  

Time keeps moving on. 

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After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows. I'm Caz, Mummy to beautiful angel Belle and my wonderful rainbow boys, Xander, Zachy and Luc. Wife to Jon. Twitter @cazem Instagram @cazzyem
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