Our beautiful baby daughter Anabelle was born sleeping June 2010.
Blessed with the screaming arrivals of our gorgeous rainbow sons,
Alexander October 2011, Zachary November 2013 and Lucas July 2016.

After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows
Heartbreak. Joy. Death. Life. But most of all Love.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Master Ten Months

Our lovely little boy is another month older again! 

We're drawing ever closer to his birthday and I'm so excited already. This little man's birthday is going to be such a huge deal; giving him an amazing first birthday we couldn't do and never can do in quite the same way for his sister. All his birthday's will be a big deal. I'm already planning! Waybuloo is the theme; imagine a magical Nara land with bubbles and chimes and lights. I've been buying party bag bits and goodies already, and of course just today ordered his cake. It is going to be amazing, I can't believe almost a year has gone by since those last terrifying weeks of his pregnancy and those precious first cries in theatre.  But for now he is 10 months old and beautiful! 

Well, I jinxed it! By saying what a wonderful sleeper our Alexander had become last month we've had many an unsettled night since!  After disturbing his routine for a week on holiday we paid for it for a week afterwards on returning home. Up and down to him all nights, spending hours cuddling in the dark rocking him back off to sleep; only for him to wake up again as soon as he was put down! One night in particular we were up nearly every hour; it was like he was a newborn again! Although to be fair he has had lots of developmental bursts recently and now has lots of new skills, so we could put the disturbed nights down to that! 

Xander is really playing with his toys now. I love watching him play and explore. Everything is just a whole world of discovery for him! He doesn't just grab and shake his toys now, but he really studies them. He finds the buttons to poke and push, things to spin and spin and spin. He loves anything that spins! He loves the remote controls, launching himself across the sofa to grab them. He loves tower building with me; watching me count them up and then getting excited about knocking them back down again. He loves his whiz whiz catch the car game we bought him for his half birthday. He watches me put the car on the ramp and then launches himself at the spinning bowl to try and catch the car. Then he catches the car and puts it straight back in the bowl to have a go at catching it again! He loves the front off his new vtech baby walker too! 

This month Alexander has started to 'high 5' when asked to, he has started to wave occasionally, he has pulled himself up to sitting once (fluke?, and always wanting to pull himself to standing and will use you to do so at every opportunity! He still absolutely loves being able to stand up, and is so close to being able to use the sofa to get up; what he needs is a bar he can wrap his little hand around for leverage. He has pulled himself to standing from sitting in his cot a few times now. He is a boy desperate to be on those feet!   

This month baby boy has proved he can crawl; he just blatantly chooses not too. He just mostly cannot be bothered with the effort of crawling when rolling (or pushing with he feet and sliding across the floor on his back!) does the job quicker! What Xander has learnt to do this month is take a few steps holding our hands and he is so excited by it! Still trying to get some decent video of him doing it to to show the world. He has his first little Clarks shoes now ready for this cruising business! He is fascinated by his shoes too! In fact he is just fascinated by his feet; he is looking at them a lot at the moment; especially if he has socks or shoes on them! 

Its amazing really, for all my fretting about his lack of desire to move over this last month or so and worrying he is 'behind',  it now seems he is emerging into a whole new world!  I wonder how far along he will be on his cruising/walking journey by our next update? 


I really am so proud of him I could burst. Quite often these last few weeks I've found myself looking at him and feeling overcome with emotion. Not quite believing that I made him! My boy. 

Baby Man

Saturday, 25 August 2012

A Big Bunch of Firsts

Feeling under pressure. This might be a jumbled up bag of thoughts. 

A big ball of anxiety knot has taken residence in my stomach and making me very snappy. I find it hard these days to distinguish between what is normal pressure, and what just feels like pressure for the 'new me'. I used to be far more of a coper than this, although some might disagree. These days I find myself getting worked up before something has even begun.

Currently the triggers seem to be uni, work and parenthood. Just the normal things then, ridiculously over-magnified no doubt.

I've forgotten how to be a student, I've lost all my confidence. I'm in the middle of an assignment and I can't tell if what I've written is complete drivel. It is two years since I've studied last. When Anabelle died I had just completed half of my post-graduate diploma. Then half way through Module 4 studying no longer was my focus and instead I was planning my daughters funeral. I deferred for two years; until the next cohort of students reached the half way point of the course. I would resume my studies at Module 4 with them.

Those two years have passed and I'm back at uni, back doing Module 4.

That very first day of lectures was pretty enormous. I can't tell you how relieved I was when the first people there with me were people who already knew me. I didn't have to explain who I was, where I had been or why I was returning now.  But it was a hurdle none-the-less. You know the 'last time I was here, Belle was here with me' hurdle. Module 4 has reminded me much of being pregnant with her. Lectures I'd previously sat through two years ago before my world fell apart.

Module 4 has felt like a big deal. I somehow need to prove to myself despite everything that I'm still capable of this, that I haven't lost so much of myself from two years ago that maybe I thought I had. That underneath it all, 'just me' is there somewhere.  Adding 'student' to my repertoire of roles has been exhausting. I've discovered I can barely concentrate compared to the last time I was studying. It is an entirely different process now, priorities of course are different now, and essay writing is fairly low down on the list when there is Alexander to look after.

But I'm getting there. I will be surprised  pleased to scrape a pass, but at least I only have another 1000 or so words to write! Then of course completing my planning ready for the upcoming autumn term. Its that time of year pressure. So much to do and so little time to do it in.

And then there is my ongoing obsession with Alexander's development.  I sometimes can't tell if we've supported Alexander correctly; which is ridiculous seeing as I'm a teacher of children functioning at the earliest stages of development like Alexander. I should know. Somehow it is very different teaching and supporting your own children. I worry far more about getting it right with him; in school I feel much more professionally secure for the most part planning for my class. 

Yesterday was a big day.

I took Alexander for his first settling in session at nursery. The same nursery we had chosen for his sister to attend when I had returned to work. It seems entirely ridiculous and naive now that we had gone to the bother of choosing a nursery for our unborn child.  How sure we were that she was coming home and would attend.

But we stuck with our choice for Alexander, convicted in our previous choice that it was the best place for our children.

Yesterday we walked through the nursery doors, walked into baby room and sat down; and instantly my thoughts turned to Belle. Somehow is felt like I was there for the first time with the 'wrong' child. Two weeks from now, when Xander has his first proper day at nursery I will take a photo of him all ready to go for his first day at nursery. A milestone for him, that our other baby didn't get. A photograph I should've already taken once. I hate it when I have these thoughts, I feel so guilty sometimes,  my hurt for Anabelle's firsts that were taken away from us isn't fair for Alexander and his firsts. I'm not being fair. 

But that the way it is.  Every time Alexander has a first, the reminder of firsts Anabelle didn't get the chance to have is never far behind.  Like yesterday. After nursery we took Xander to get his first pair of 'proper' shoes, although he is still mainly in the bare feet stage I figured that for the time he does wear shoes now they should be supportive.  It was exciting, they look so smart, he was so pleased with himself standing in them, looking at his feet as if to say 'What are those!' But underneath the excitement for Alexander I wistfully looked at the little pink shoes I would've loved to have bought for his sister too. I know it is gender stereotyping, but in this instance I don't care. I would've loved to have instilled a love of beautiful shoes in Belle that I have. 

And that is also the way it is. While I obsess that Alexander is developing as he should do, celebrate and squeal every time he does something new, I wish that his sister could've got to develop at all, could have had her first visit to nursery, her first visit to the shoe shop.  Yesterday was another big hurdle day. 






Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Exasperated

Yesterday I posted this to my facebook wall. I read in disbelief that this woman could be so dramatic about her adult son daring to have a tattoo. I mean come on, in the greater scheme of things a tattoo is such a trivial thing to be getting yourself worked up and 'devastated' about. 

I then had it pointed out to me that it wasn't really about the tattoo at all; rather what it represented and the realisation that her son was indeed an adult now and didn't need her or her permission for anything at all. That was what she was really 'devastated' about. He was grown up. 

Now I was just exasperated. How can you be devastated that your child has grown up? Have you even considered the alternatives? I would give anything for one of my children to grow up.

And this is where my perception of what 'devastation' means differs from so many others.  So I wrote my response, and I believe my response got me deleted off facebook by someone. Not that I meant to offend anyone with my opinion you'll understand. Just as I wasn't offended by anyone else's differing opinion on the matter.  

I argued that words like devastated and heartbroken are becoming grossly overused. They are losing their true meaning, they are becoming just a word when so easily people will say they are devastated about something. I too have been guilty of this in the past, sometimes even now I will slip up, most of the time I catch myself and realise I'm not really devastated at all.  Not over something so trivial, or indeed something that should be celebrated. 

I argued that I won't be devastated when Xander grows up, that I will be relieved. What a celebration that will be; my now infant son making it to adulthood without anything happening to him.  I added that I won't be devastated when he stops breastfeeding, or becomes more independent; that I will be sad but not devastated. 

Maybe I also should have added on further example where I won't be devastated. For example when his body becomes flawed and he gets scars from falling over, or chicken pox, or any other disease, or breaks a bone. I may very well be upset for him, of course I will be if he is hurting, but mostly I'll be relieved that they are only scars and that he comes out the other side with nothing more serious happening to him, that he comes out the other side alive. 

Because there is only one thing I am truly devastated about; that my daughter didn't get the chance to do all these things. That is why I get so exasperated with people who do not appear to realise just how lucky they are to have their children and how lucky they have been to escape such an awful thing happening to them.

So I argued that this woman might need a bit of a reality check. I think it is appalling that she said (and to her son no less) she won't look at him in the same way ever again. Whether that be because he grew up or because he got a tattoo, whatever the article is really about. So I said she needed to sit down and ask herself if this truly was the worst thing that could happen to her, and when the answer was no that she should give herself a kick up the bum. But then she already knows she is being unreasonable verging on ridiculous. 

Maybe this person who has deleted me thought my reply was to get at them. It wasn't. Inadvertently I've obviously offended them, or hit a nerve. I apologise. It was a hastily written response in the couple of minutes the baby was entertaining himself. I didn't mean to upset anybody or appear hard hearted or whatever. I'm accepting and respect that people are allowed differing opinions to me, just as I'm allowed to feel the way I do.

I wonder how screwed up I am sometimes. Should Anabelle's death be colouring our lives and my reactions to things quite so much now?  Should I be getting wound up by articles like this just because my daughter is dead. Maybe, as someone else suggested, instead of being exasperated about her I should be pleased for her, that this, her grown up son and his tattoo, is her only experience of devastation. Maybe it is time to work on my instant reactions to things. 

I'm obviously winding people up with my reactions now. Maybe people think I'm a woman obsessed. Obsessed with Anabelle, obsessed with stillbirth, stuck in June 2010.  Because that is what it nearly always boils down to with me. How I react to situations, how I parent, how I even think; its because she is not here, because two years on I hurt every day that she isn't here and everything else often just feels so trivial.  I don't know how to move on from here. Should I stop writing, stop sharing, stop trying to raise awareness of child bereavement? 

So getting back to the point. The only expectation I have for Alexander; please baby boy, don't die before me, don't do anything to yourself that could kill you or get involved in anything that could endanger your life. Please don't smoke, take drugs, drink alcohol excessively, visit dangerous countries, get involved with extreme sports, drive vehicles recklessly, join the forces etc. Because I'm terrified enough I will bury you one day as it is. 

But remember Mummy will always love you, will always look at you exactly the way she does now regardless of your life decisions, because you are here with me and nothing you do in life could be as bad as losing you. 
Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Day X Turned Ten Months Old

Happy ten month old day baby boy! 
Good morning! I'm really pleased to see you Mummy!

I had morning milk with Mummy.

I had my breakfast. Weetabix and Banana today.

I went for a walk around Roath Park and
saw lots of duck, geese and swans.

I had my dinner. Cauliflower and broccoli cheese, followed by apple and a rusk.

I had a snooze while we walked around the lake.

I played with my toys.

I had another snooze, this time cuddled up to my Mummy.

I looked at one of my story books.

I rolled all over the floor.

I had a bounce around in my jumperoo!

I had my tea. Shepherds pie, then a crumpet and a yoghurt.

I was excited when my Daddy came home from work.

I watched 'In The Night Garden'.

I stripped off ready for bed. My room is very hot!

I had bedtime milk with Mummy.

I'm asleep after a very busy day.


Monday, 13 August 2012

DHACs and Jason Manford

Jason Manford, I salute you. 

Today you have been a voice for bereaved parents of stillborn babies everywhere. Today you've given the judging "don't have a clue's" of this world what for. Or as I like to label them; DHACs. Unfortunately as a bereaved parent it is guaranteed you will encounter a DHAC. 

There are the DHACs who try to be kind and supportive, but are misguided with some comment they make that inadvertently cause you pain. These are the DHACs that at least try to have empathy and show human compassion. 

But then there are the type of DHACs that commented on Jason Manford's status update last night. 


Jason had applauded Gary Barlow on the strength he had mustered to still perform at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, despite his world being shattered mere days before with his daughter's, Poppy, death.  

I wish I could say it was unbelievable that some people felt it was appropriate to make some of the comments that followed, but when walking that path of bereavement it quickly becomes apparent that people presume the right to judge your pain. Even more so through the relative anonymity of the internet. And so there they were; those types of DHACs, the ones judging Gary Barlow for performing, for leaving his grieving wife and children to be part of the Olympics. 

I have yet to see the entirety of the closing ceremony, I haven't seen Take That's performance. I cannot pretend to understand how or why Gary Barlow decided or managed to perform Sunday night, but you know what? It doesn't matter what we understand. It may not be the course of action you think he should take, or even know it wouldn't be the course of action you would take, but that doesn't mean Gary Barlow isn't entitled to take it. The days, weeks, months, years after the death of your child is a profoundly personal journey. You do what it takes to survive, you do what you need to do. Clearly Gary and his wife decided performing Sunday night was best for them. And that should be all that matters. It certainly doesn't negate the searing pain they will be feeling.  

I'm in no doubt that his performance took great courage and strength beyond what he believed he ever had. I am in no doubt that Gary Barlow is a broken man changed forever. I am in no doubt, because although our lives are at polar ends when it comes to celebrity status and lifestyle we have one huge thing in common. Our daughters are dead. That kind of grief, traumatic event that doesn't discriminate through the classes. His life is  irreparably changed, just as my life is irreparably changed. 

But the comments didn't stop at judging his reasons to perform. There was another one; described by Jason Manford as 'Person D'. 

Person D went one step further. Person D sat in judgement on the severity of Gary's grief.  Person D arguably the worst DHAC of them all. Person D who had taken it upon himself to decide that losing Poppy really wasn't that bad at all, because she hadn't lived properly. Person D had cruelly made the assumption, as so many do, that our stillborn children are not real, not worthy. Person D adding in for hurtful good measure the comparison to an older child's death as worse. Person D clearly not getting it. 

Person D evidently is a  DHAC of the highest order. 

Stillbirth is still so grossly misunderstood and misrepresented. Anabelle is no less a member of this family because she died before she was born. Poppy is no less a member of the Barlow family. Anabelle is no less my daughter than any of yours here on earth, and neither is Poppy to the Barlow's.  It is vile to suggest as Person D has that their death somehow impacts less on the family simply because they were born asleep.  

Person D and all other hurtful DHACs; you've no idea the trauma of giving birth to the deafening sound of silence. The trauma of labouring for your precious baby already gone. The trauma of fleetingly holding your precious child in your arms before having to say goodbye forever. The trauma of what forever really means as it lives with you day in day out. 

Today Jason Manford has written a response to these people, a response which has gone a bit viral.  I implore you to take a read of it. Powerfully and eloquently written, Jason has inadvertently become the ambassador for bereaved parents, giving you a glimpse into our world, putting these incompassionate DHACs in their place. 

Thank you Jason Manford. Thank you. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Meaning of Today?

I didn't think August would matter too much this year.   I'm as confused about this date as I was last year.   What does 7th August even really mean anymore?  I know it is a date that once upon a time held so much expectation. Now it is a date that belongs to Anabelle's memory. 

Other than that I'm not sure why I allow it to affect me at all. Our whole focus, everything is June. Her remember day, her birthday. Its all June. 

August was the month of broken expectations and broken dreams. There is that, but there is little else. 

I think up until yesterday the 7th August was creeping up on me silently. I'd almost been feeling a little guilty that I was feeling ok. Isn't that ridiculous? Sometimes it is almost as if I feel I cannot allow myself to feel nothing. That somehow being 'ok' about something is betraying her. 

Then I heard the news of little Poppy Barlow and I realised I'm not 'ok'. I felt teary for a family I've never met, knowing their pain only too well and it somehow feeling magnified for me because it was the night before Anabelle's would've been due date. If she'd made it that far.  

I guess I underestimated the ongoing significance of this date. I don't know if it will feel significant forever or if eventually pass by unnoticed.  Today I'm pondering how differently it all could've been if Augusts dreams had been realised. 

Beautiful darling girl;  we wish so hard you were here. 
Sunday, 5 August 2012

Nine Month Little Man

This update is becoming long overdue; Alexander is already nearing 10 months old and I haven't yet written about his ninth month! We've been so busy with being back in work, weddings and a week or so on holiday that I haven't had chance to write it.

But yes, Alexander is 9 months (plus!) old!

Our bright, beautiful, happy little boy is becoming just that. A little boy. If it possible to fall more in love with him all of the time then we're doing just that! We adore his company; he is such fun to be around. Still the preciousness of each day is not lost on me.I love being his Mummy.

Well after wondering if Alexander was always going to be a gummy bear he finally has some little teeth. At 9 months and two days his first little tooth popped through, a week later followed by his second one! Even after a few weeks I still can't get used to seeing him with toothpegs!   As I predicted now he has teeth I am becoming a little more relaxed about him finger feeding; he is getting quite good at managing toast and baby organix snacks now. Now how do I move him on to other foods? I can't see him being on only family meals by his birthday at this rate!

The biggest thing to happen just before Xander turned 9 months was me going back to work. I felt surprisingly ok about it. We had already had 'taster' days with my time back in uni so I felt ok about leaving him with Mum. I'm already finding when I'm in work I'm so busy I've only really got time to have my work hat on!  The days have been passing by in a flash and then we're home again. Alexander seems to be having a great time with his grandparents too; although he does spend the evening 'telling me off' as it were and being particularly grumpy as if to say 'how dare you keep disappearing Mama'.  

My biggest concern about being back in work is everything I'm potentially going to miss; all those big firsts he could do while I'm away now. I know that has been Jon's situation from day one but I'm struggling to find my peace with it. I will have to reconcile that when I do see something for the first time that he's already done with someone else that it will still be our first; and no-one can praise him quite like Mummy! 

I'm back home on summer break now so easing myself into working gently and no missing anything worries for a while! I wonder if I'll still feel this way in September when I'm back in work 'for real' and half term is a lot longer off? Not to mention Alexander starting nursery on Fridays. That will be a whole different ball game. 

I'm hopeful he is going to enjoy it though as he really enjoys playing watching, playing next to and trying to interact with other little people.  Time will tell I guess. He is forever watching other people, or Fiz, and laughing at what they are doing. Alexander takes such pleasure from the world around him.   

He really does have such a funny little personality now. The absolute definition of cheeky!  He can be so coy.  He has this little routine of grinning and people, burying his head in mine or Jon's chest and then peeking out with a cheeky grin to check people are looking at him!  Alexander has a laugh to make your heart melt too - infectious little giggle.

I don't want to jinx it by saying this (after all, I hear much about a nine month sleep regression period on the horizon!), but Alexander has been sleeping through now for a good month to six weeks.  He dropped his late bottle by himself at around 8 and half months and settled into his going to bed around 6pm and getting up around 6.30am routine. It really does feel a world away now from those early days with the two hourly wake ups! 

On the crawling front Alexander is making slow progress. He is able to pull himself up to hands and knees and rock but is showing little motivation on actually moving forward. The dreaded dummy is about the only thing that gives him the push to make a half hearted attempt at pulling himself forward. I'm positive he could commando crawl well now if he could be bothered. I think it is just that; not too bothered - he is quite happy lying and rolling around!   I know people will tell me I'm crazy for saying this, but I hope he does start crawling soon; before I'm away from him for 3 days a week again and likely to miss it and because it will just be too cute! 

Alexander is much more interested in trying to get from sitting to standing. If he is sitting and we are nearby; whether it be on our laps, or sat on the floor next to us he is grabbing and pulling with his arms and pushing his feet in an attempt to get up. He still loves being stood up and being able to look around. Maybe he is going to be more interested in walking than he has been thus far in crawling? 

We'll just have to wait and see won't we! 

I'll be honest, I do worry sometimes now that our decision to have Alexander early has left him with a delay in these developmental milestones; especially when I hear of other babies a similar age doing far far more than he is and then meet babies that are already walking independently at 9 months when our 9 month old hasn't grasped crawling yet! I know realistically it is impossible to compare babies and I shouldn't but I just hope we haven't hampered his development or future achievements with my pregnancy meltdown.  Hoping for a bit of reassurance from the health visitor at his upcoming 9-12 month review! 

She is going to tell me everything is just fine, yes?! 

Three Quarters of a Year Old 
















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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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