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.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Little Boy Blue

So it looks like we're having another baby blue! This is our second son; 

Zachary Stephen Morgan 

Or Zac, as he'll be known for short...

Initial reactions; not bad! I cannot pretend there is no longing for a baby girl, there will always be longing for a baby girl, for the one we had and the one I want to one day come. Whether we have another or not, there will always be longing for Anabelle. I still want my second girl, as much as I wanted a second boy one day. I have my second boy now and I'm very happy. 

There are some mixed feelings, of course, but right now I'm mostly feeling excited. Excited that our baby has their name, that today he has become a little person. Baby Zac. I'm excited to see how alike he and Xander will be, if he'll share the same similarities with Belle. I'm excited to go and buy him his own set of babygros and the first thing he'll wear. I really like the bright dinosaur set in Next at the moment. I'm daring to be excited about choosing his coming home outfit, I'm thinking something rainbow again. My second hopeful rainbow baby boy. I'm excited about the chance to use all my favourite Alexander outfits that are in the attic again! I'm excited about the prospect of two boys and the pair of them being double trouble. I hope I get to take lots of 'guess which baby this is' photographs when I put Zac in the same clothes I had put on Xander when he was a tiny baby. I'm excited to buy matching outfits and dress them up together when I can. I'm excited to see them being brothers together.

So far Zachary is growing well and everything at the scan looked well. His measurements are more or less spot on for his age, which makes him smaller than his brother was right now and much more like his sister. At this stage of my pregnancy, Alexander was already measuring almost two weeks bigger than he should've been! I fully expect him to be a whopper by the end like his big brother though! 

For all my worrying, I've not reacted badly. This is my son and I love him very much, just as I do his bigger brother and sister. I'm really outnumbered now thought aren't I?! 
Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Back At The Beginning

I made the list for the counsellor. Every event, every worry that seems significant at the moment. It came to at least eighteen items long... so much to deal with, a little overwhelming seeing it all written down on paper. 

It was last December when I first mentioned my nearest and dearest were suggesting accessing counselling to me again. Late last year, seven months ago when it was clear that not everything was well and I was struggling with an evolving grief and time moving on. Maybe if I had accessed it then, and not put it off, the ultimate meltdown in June wouldn't have happened. Looking back this all feels a long time coming. 

So I went last night for the first time in two years. The same place but a new counsellor because the lady I previously saw had moved on. It was all very overwhelming and I left beyond exhausted and drained. Ill even. 

Last night we talked about all my background, not in huge amounts of detail but enough for her to get a grasp of why I was there. We went back to the beginning quite literally and then I had the realisation that is where I've always been really, just below the surface. I knew my grief was still raw, still consuming, but I thought I was dealing with Anabelle's death in my own way. But maybe I haven't at all. I've talked and blogged endlessly but I've become stuck on the 'Journey' as my counsellor described it, somewhere along the way. I haven't emotionally dealt at all with what happened to our family, to our daughter. The counsellor thought a form of PTSD was entirely possible. Because as she said 'what is more traumatic than burying your child'. 

Of course, session one and I cried.

So we're starting back at the beginning and starting grief counselling again as if I never had it before. 

She talked a lot about letting Anabelle go. Not forgetting her, but letting her go to a place where I don't feel raw and longing every time I think of her. She talked about a scar then never goes away but doesn't hurt anymore. That seems impossible and something I don't even think I'm ready for. I guess she means letting go of my grief, rather than her but I'm really struggling to disentangle Belle from grief. They've always gone hand in hand and its frankly overwhelming and scary to accept there being one without the other.

I'm scared not to grieve for her. The idea of feeling no grief when I think of my daughter makes me feel very guilty, because doesn't she deserve that of me? Isn't this part of what gives her her place in our family? If the grief gets less prominent doesn't she get less prominent? The fear of her being forgotten is already too much without her fading into the background of my family too. I need her to be as included as Alexander is, and Blob hopefully will be.

She is one of them. One of us.

I don't know how I possibly begin to move past this. I'm so utterly heartbroken without her and part of me thinks I need to feel this pain.  

Just one session has already opened up so much more reality and I don't know if I'm ready to do this at all. 

Here's for some more turbulence then I guess.

Hand holding and reassurance appreciated. 
Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Nightmare Night

After a quieter, more settled few weeks, last night was a nightmare night again. 

Vivid and horrible. Alexander died. Vividly and before my eyes, my beautiful boy died. I could feel it, it was real, the sickening gut feeling, my chest exploding, panic rising, holding my floppy lifeless toddler in my arms and knowing there was nothing I could do to bring him back. 

We were at some sort of indoor seaside, with proper waves and a weird underwater current. We were paddling and Xander was pulled away from us by the current and under the water. The water was murky, so we couldn't see him. We dived under to find him, again and again and again, but we didn't find him until it was too late and he had drowned. Reviving him futile and I could feel it as if it was real and the realisation that my second child had died too was washing over me. I wanted to die, I couldn't do this again. 

Then I woke up. 1.30am. Flying out of bed, tears nearly there just to go to his room and listen to him breathing. 

My chest was pounding and barely able to breathe. I felt sick. I was panicking, even though I knew it wasn't real. 

Eventually I went back to sleep, but I still felt very panicky and unwell this morning. 9.00am and I was still having strong palpitations. It was nearing dinner time before I felt better, but if I'm honest my chest has felt weird all day. Deep breaths hurt a little this evening. 

I hate the effect a bad dream can have. How it eats on into the day and continues to effect your well-being long after it has passed. Its been all I can think about today. Another of my precious babies dying. I can't do it again. I won't survive again, if you can really say I survived now. Yet another dream reminding me how fragile this life is and that the lives of my children are not guaranteed.  Alexander, Blob could be taken from me just like Anabelle was. This morning, the chances of burying Alexander or Blob felt imminent. I was there, visualising Anabelle's open grave again and another tiny coffin being put next to hers. 

This morning I said to Jon I'm too scared to take Xander swimming tomorrow as usual now, or to the beach next week when we are on holiday like we had planned to, because I'm genuinely terrified some freak accident will occur and he will drown. Most of my nightmares in June were flashbacks, or the reality I know is there, but this nightmare felt like a premonition. 

Tonight I've made myself pack the swimming bag ready for tomorrow. I cannot let irrational fear induced by a bad dream stop Alexander doing something he loves, something we've done nearly every week since he was three months old. I know it will be fine. But there is this part of me screaming but what if it isn't. Tomorrow I'm going to be nervous at the pool when I haven't been before. Another nightmare to recover from and try to forget.

I know regardless now, I'm going to be feeling freaked out about the beach. We'll have to go of course, its a holiday, its what you do on holiday, our child will enjoy the beach this year, he loves his sand and water table ,its only fair we take him. But I know I'm going to be on high alert and tense now and not enjoy it properly. Is it unreasonable to insist he is holding one of our hands at all times while he paddles in the very shallows of the sea? Or should I allow him to be a step or two away from me if he wants to, while I hover over the top of him but letting him enjoy a little freedom. 

It isn't easy being a parent with a dead child. It colours all rational and irrational thought into hysterical thoughts.  And blimey after last night its been on the hysterical end of thought today. 

Now I better go and think about the list of worries and events to start exploring with my counsellor tomorrow. Nightmares and the engulfing fear my living children will die too are right up there then I guess.... 

Hoping for a quieter nights sleep tonight at least.  

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Another Pile Of What Ifs. Girl. Boy.

This is a post I'm almost too scared to vocalise. Too scared to face. Scared of being judged. I guess this needs to be on the counselling list. 

What if we never have another daughter? 

What if, as well as grieving for Anabelle I will have to accept pink, dresses and girly things are not going to be part of our lives; at least not in the way I would love them to be or they should've been. What a new can of worms to come to terms with that would be, a new kind of grief all over again.

Our loss was two-fold that day. First and foremost we lost Anabelle, her unique little being and the beautiful child she was going to be. Then we lost the dreams and a life we had built in our imaginations with a daughter in it. A daughter we no longer have, a life and dreams that were snatched away and we're still yet to experience. Instead dreams were replaced with pain. A living nightmare.

We bought beautiful girly clothes, delicate pink and flowery bedding, cliche girly decorations for her room. Things for Anabelle, but things for a daughter. Things that are still in our roof, unused. Boxes and boxes of baby girls clothes and things. Yes I know lots of people hate the pink for a girl, blue for a boy thing but I didn't. I don't. Having Alexander was new dreams, boy dreams, a different kind of life, new different things, boy things. 

Even if this baby is a girl I'm not sure I could use Anabelle's things, not all of them, they are hers. Regardless of what this baby is it will be getting plenty of things bought just for them. Their things; not just all hand-me-downs from their brother or sister. It isn't really about using her things. It isn't about trying to replace a life we had taken away, it can't be fixed, nothing will fix my firstborn daughter being snatched away. But I'm not ready to accept a life never raising a daughter at all. Maybe because I still can't accept that the daughter I have, I had, was taken away. I don't want to face a whole new set of potential grief that the only daughter I ever had was taken away. I can barely cope with grieving for her without grieving for another girl that might never even have existed. I really don't like myself for admitting that. 

It is different to a boy isn't it.  

I don't think I'm expressing myself very well. I must sound beyond awful. Thank goodness for Beth Morey who expressed these fears much better than I have done! 

I, more than most people, know that gender is not the most important thing. It really isn't and above all else all I care about is that this little baby comes home.  But what if this is our last baby? I don't know that it is, but what if this is our 'last chance' to have a daughter that stays and comes home? People keep asking me what I want this time. I still want a living baby that is all; but I can't deny a girl, if this is our last baby, wouldn't be a bonus of sorts. On one hand at least; another chance of raising pink. Not raising Belle. 

On the other hand there is so much fear either way. 

But I'm terrified I'm not going to react well if we're told at the scan next week that this baby is a boy. I had a dream a few nights ago that it was a boy and my reaction wasn't pretty. I know it was only a dream, but what if that dream is my subconscious telling me something; I hate myself for it. I don't want to be that mother, that terrible person. I didn't want this to be an issue. So now I'm scared this beautiful bond I'm developing with my unborn child will be severed if I react badly to a boy. To a boy that already has a name if he is indeed a boy this time. How could I be like this? 

Equally I'm terrified this baby might be a girl. 

What a turmoil to deal with. Another set of emotions. As much as I don't want to face never raising a girl, I'm not sure I'm ready to face having a girl.  I'm scared its a girl. I'm scared that I can't carry girls to term and that is why Anabelle died. Mostly I'm scared that if we're told this baby is a girl there is an even bigger risk that it will be another death sentence waiting to happen and we'll be burying another daughter. Scared. 

I'm scared I would somehow compare her to Belle, or reinvent the life we were supposed to have three years ago. I don't want to do that. I would want her to know how special she was in her own right. Have dreams for her in her own right. Just as I would want another son to know how precious he was too. I would hate for this baby to be a boy then him find this post one day for example, to see never having another girl has even crossed my mind. I wouldn't want him to think he was unwanted because of his gender. That simply isn't true. I love this child so much already and I don't know who they are. 

Secretly (or not so secretly I guess!) I would love another baby after this one; another boy, another girl. A life where I had two of each maybe. But life doesn't work like that, and whatever happens I have to accept and love the children we've been given or will be given as much as I love the one that was taken away. And I will, because I adore my children, and I know, just because of Anabelle and Alexander that gender is irrelevant to love. 

Anabelle was perfect and wonderful, my world and so would another daughter be.
Alexander is perfect and wonderful, my world and so would another son be.

I know this. So why am I so scared about how I will react to finding out this time? 

But we need to find out. This child needs their identity incase the worst happens. Anabelle being Belle for 12 weeks before she died is great comfort. To us, she died a person. We need to bond with a person, not just a 'baby' just as we did with Anabelle and Alexander. And I need to know, to face my fear on both sides and sort my head out either way. 

This child currently has two names and we're just waiting to find out which one belongs to them. Please let me be a good mother and react as well as I can, with all my fears, for either one. 

Regardless of what you think of me for admitting these fears and thoughts, please be gentle in your responses to this post. 

Will It Help?

My first counselling appointment in two years has been arranged. Next Monday. Yesterday it sounded like I was in for a bit of a wait for a space to become available. Today I've been emailed with an appointment for next week. Suddenly I'm very nervous and don't have a clue where to begin. 

What am I hoping to get out of this? I'm not really sure.  Maybe to feel stronger again, put the fragile part away for a while again, maybe not to let other people and the times they are insensitive bother and break me so much, maybe to mentally pack away the June just gone. Why was year three so much harder than year two? Maybe to prepare me for becoming a family of five while only really being a family of four, if we're lucky. Always so bittersweet. What elements need exploring as a priority? I don't know. My mind feels very jumbled. Somehow I know I need to pick it apart and write it down before I get there. 

What can they really fix for me? I'm not fixable. No amount of talking can bring my baby girl back, they can't put me back together. Somehow I just need to figure out how to cope with the foreverness of our grief. 

Blimey 2013 is a big year. I'm made enormous leaps recently but I've also taken a huge knock backwards. So much has happened, so much is happening. I guess this is the first step to trying to figure out the way forward from here. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Why We're Having Another Baby

I've been asked a few times recently if I'm feeling as scared this time... The answer is yes. I'm utterly terrified this baby will die before it is born and we'll be burying another baby in another coffin again. Even though we have Alexander, and he lived, death still feels the overwhelming factor for our pregnancies. A very real risk. It happened before, why wouldn't it happen again? 

This time I spent the first trimester mildly obsessing about miscarrying. Almost convincing myself for a while we wouldn't get past the early stage this time. I had no reason to think we wouldn't, the end of pregnancy has been our problem area, not the beginning. But somehow it felt a real possibility this time.  With Anabelle, miscarriage was something I of course knew was a risk but didn't let myself really think about it, it wasn't a conern. With Alexander, I strangely didn't think about early loss too much either, all my effort and concern was fixating on how we were going to get through at the end. I let the first trimester wash over me a little because 12 weeks meant very little anyway. It still means very little. 

This time I seem to be winding myself up a little all the way through, at each stage. I suppose I did exactly that last time too, but maybe in a slightly different way.  There is no rest, I'm just as scared. I'm winding myself up there'll be no heartbeat at next weeks scan, even though I can already feel baby Blob moving around quite clearly. I love and dread scans with equal measure. I can't wait to see Blob again on the screen, I can't wait to find out who Blob is in two weeks, but the build up to scans is still immense. I'm feeling more than wobbly on the way in and only the flickering on the screen calms me, for a time again at least. I fear those words more than I can describe. 

Three years ago death violated me and this is what will live with me most forever. I led on a scan table and was told my 32 week grown baby daughter had no heartbeat. The third trimester, 8 weeks off due date. At a time when we're led to assume our babies are safe and coming home, my baby died. Three years on I still don't really know where to begin with processing it. There is no naive assuming for us now. 

I wasn't the one who was dead, my daughter was. My tiny baby daughter. Inside me. I carried death inside me for five days.  I managed to live and breathe, while she had gone within. Ironic as it almost is; I gave birth to death. 

There is a difference this time though. It seems to be going by more quickly! I think this is mostly a good thing, even though it feels I'm being hurtled towards the scariest bit. Those last few weeks with Alexander when I stopped coping are coming ever closer. This time I need to try and keep it together a bit more. Last time every moment dragged, I guess I'm so busy with Alexander this time it mostly hasn't had time to drag yet.  Xander is going to be my refuge as he always is. My precious boy. Tomorrow I'm already 18 weeks pregnant. Already more or less reaching my half way point. I'm breaking this pregnancy down into milestones. The next is the 25th July and naming Blob properly. 

I wonder if people question why we're having another baby, why we're putting ourselves through this again when we have a living baby already now? Are we pushing our luck?

We planned to have another baby, because mostly, we want to; we love being parents, we adore our children. Our family doesn't feel complete; although I realise it never will because we'll never have Anabelle, we need to find our version of 'complete'. We need to be brave for our 'complete'. We're being brave and adding another child to our family, another hopeful rainbow like Alexander. We're having another baby because we want Alexander to have a chance at some normality. To have a sibling he can really know. To experience play and love, not just waving and blowing kisses at a photograph of his sister and playing around her graveside. As much as he seems to be forming some sort of remarkable bond with his sister, seeming to grasp her importance in his absolute innocence, seeming to know the little girl on the mantlepiece is part of his family; that kind of siblinghood shouldn't be the only experience of having a brother or sister our beautiful boy should have. In part, we're doing this for him. 

We're having another baby because I love being a Mummy. I've got so much more out of being a mother than I do anything else in life. It fulfills me. My babies, all three of them are my life. I'm happiest when I'm with my baby boy, happiest when we're having our Mummy days and our family days. Our little family is all that really matters to me. I want our hands full. So we're being brave, even though we are very scared. We dare to hope. We dare to believe, because we have too; because Alexander came home we have to dare to trust Blob will too. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

I'm Back On Facebook

I spent a few days beside myself. A new kind of  'not myself'. Worried husband.

Then another few days feeling bewildered and a little lost. 

Exhausted with grief in my world where no-one really understands. I felt like I was being pushed under, pushed to do something drastic, like reveal the true horror of the day Anabelle was born; share the most private and intimate parts of our grief and exactly why I fall to pieces through June. I'd reached a point where I didn't know what else to do. 

Another week on and I'm relieved I had given myself a self-imposed blogging and Facebook ban for a little while. So I sat on my hands. I'm glad I did. I'm an over-sharer in many ways, I've lived life with social media not far behind. But sharing the most intimate details of Anabelle's birth would have been a step too far, even if they would really reveal the full extent of our pain, my flashbacks and nightmares. 

Nevermind anyone else, it would have been a step too far for me, to lay every moment bare here would have hurt me. These  unshared details of 21st June 2010, are precious yet some of the horrific moments with our daughter. Our memories. They are what haunt me, but all we have left at the same time. 

Back in the thick of the storm last week I found myself questioning my state of mind. This week I'm finally going to explore that further and get some support in place while I recover from the latest low. Following an appointment with my midwife I've been referred to the Dr to access some trauma counselling. Because three years on we still live post-trauma. 

Day to day I may appear strong; what other choice do I have? Survive or constantly drown. 

But just underneath the surface is a frightened, traumatised and fragile girl still learning to live with the forever without her baby daughter.  Forever is an unpredictable and big place. 

Sometimes I drown. 

At some point, always, for the rest of my life, I will drown.

Drowning in June is a given. 

June has moved into July; it felt like an instant weight off my shoulders. 

A week into July, some timeout and although I'm still feeling emotionally fragile, I'm also feeling much calmer. Calmer is good. 

I've spent the last fortnight watching films with my husband because I've spent next to no time on the laptop. I've read a book, possibly for the first time since having Anabelle, and indeed since I've had Alexander. I've listened to lots of Emeli Sande and reflected a lot over her lyrics, as always seeming to sum me up perfectly.

Reading blogs that could also sum me up perfectly. Edspire, whose baby daughter, Matilda Mae, died a little over 5 months ago wrote this post this week. Everything about it rang true, but especially the last paragraph, because it is still that, three years on. It may still be that forever. 

In many respects this weekend I've come on leaps and bounds as it were.

It may seem small fry to some, but this weekend has been of huge significance to me. After three years of not being emotionally able enough to hold a baby that wasn't my own, I've overcome that hurdle because a friend allowed me to feel perfectly safe around her with my grief whilst I took this monumental step. This weekend I held a baby girl for the first time since holding my own baby girl. I don't think it means I could hold every baby yet but I felt safe enough to cuddle this one, and the best bit was; it felt lovely. Alexander was totally mesmerised by her too and enjoyed his own cuddles, smothering her in kisses and sharing and showing her toys; I hope that is a sign of things to come with his little brother or sister!

Not only did I overcome that hurdle but today I stood in church and became this little girls godmother. What an honour and what epic progress on our After Anabelle journey. Three years ago playing this part in another girls life, or any baby's life, would have felt impossible, too painful, too soon. I can't pretend there is no nerves at all about the emotional logistics of having a goddaughter, but her Mummy knows and is gentle about that. Specific circumstances, a specific and special friendship gave me the gentle kick up the bum to step up and be important to a different kind of daughter. 

So you see two weeks of  blogging and Facebook silence, of stepping back and re-evaluating lots of things in my life has done me the world of good, even the wobbly bits. So tonight I'm logging back on, because if I can take the leaps I've taken this weekend then Facebook in comparison, is nothing. Hoping feeling calmer remains.

It is lovely to see you all :) 

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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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