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

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

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Our Little Girl Was Six

After setting an alarm and getting out of bed at midnight to see Anabelle's birthday in, lighting her 00:08 arrival candle as we always do, the rest of the day started at 5.15am. Which is somewhat ironic. 

I imagine if Anabelle was here it may well have started at an equally obscene hour, but because someone would've been excited for her presents, (which would've been wrapped in a beautiful pile of parcels on the living room floor and not garden decorations sat in carrier bags by the front door ready to be taken to a cemetery), and not because her Small brother appeared to have woken up sobbing from a bad dream. 

So we were awake, all of us (Xander easily woken between 5-6 anyway, disturbed by Zac's cries) early, no-one resettled. Up.

And the 21st June, already emotionally charged, exhausting and difficult as it is, doesn't need tired toddlers, pre-schoolers and parents in the mix too. But we got through it, remarkably well considering that Small only napped for half an hour the entire day and Big not at all! 

Her birthday always seems hugely pressured. Like we're running out of time from the moment we get up in the morning. I'm never sure where it comes from or what it is really about. Maybe its the enormity of only having had her for just one day. One day where we tried to cram as much as we could into the twelve hours we held her in our arms after she was born. Maybe now we try and cram as much as we can into one day, her day.

Twelve hours was never enough time. 

This year the normal daily routine dominated the beginning of the day. Getting Alexander to school, Jon running errands, picking up flowers and a hospital appointment for me. (Lucas doing well and currently estimated a very similar size to Anabelle was at her 32 week birth). Then collecting Alexander from my parents, going to buy balloons and more flowers, and all of us going up to see Anabelle together. 

This year Alexander has asked so many questions. Questions a four year old boy shouldn't even have to think about. Why did Belle die? Where did she die? Where is she now? How can she catch the balloons we send her if she is dead? Is she growing into an angel? What does buried mean? Who is going to be the next to die? Is baby Luc going to die in your tummy too? 

Is baby Luc going to die in your tummy too? 

I don't know if we're answering any of these questions in the way we should. We try hard to be simple and factual most of the time. But sometimes its hard to be factual, and sometimes what we do is all about imagination, our memories, not really real and certainly makes no difference to Belle - like sending her balloons, or bubbles, singing happy birthday. Imagining her somewhere. And that is harder to explain. Xander must be so confused. 

We've tried to make Anabelle an authentic and ever present member of this family; Xander has always known about her, Zac is just beginning to grasp Belle is his sister and recognises her in her photos. But how do you explain any of this to a small child? 

At the moment Xander seems to grasp that someone dying is 'very sad' and seems to understand that is means that we can't see the person anymore. He understands Mummy and Daddy were/are very sad that his sister died, and often tells us that he misses Belle too. He seems to accept that even after someone has died we still love and remember them, and that we still love and remember Belle and that she is part of his family. He accepts what is, but is questioning the deeper meaning behind everything, and the answers are so complex for us as adults let alone him. 

And the worst thing out of all those questions is we cannot say no and promise that baby Luc won't die. We can't promise our small child that something terrible won't happen to his new baby brother. All we can do is tell him that the Doctors are looking after Mummy and Luc so closely and everything looks well at the moment and we really hope Luc will be come out of my tummy and home very soon, just like he and Zac did. 

And then tonight, in all his innocence, he said he hoped Luc would die, so that Belle would have a friend with her because he didn't want Belle to be lonely... 

Bittersweet. Our sweet thoughtful boy. 

Our precious baby girl. At six you're not really supposed to be a baby at all anymore. Sometimes I try to imagine you as the big girl you would be, just about finishing up Year 1 in school and starting your final year in the infants. But then I see your pictures, my tiny 4lb 5oz baby girl. Always my baby girl. Our only ever girl. 

I often wonder what you would make of all your little brothers. What a Queen B you would be if you were here with three little brothers to boss around. I reckon you would've been the apple of their eye, their one and only big sister.

Xander and Zac really enjoyed being part of your birthday yesterday. They enjoyed a play and a run around in your garden, arranged the flowers in the pot on your garden - totally all their work and nothing to do with me. They each chose a balloon for you. Xander wanted to send you a light pink circle balloon and Zachy chose a bright pink star balloon. They released them into the sky for you and watched them float away. Zachy didn't really understand though and was very upset when his balloon had gone; he is only two and a half and we didn't really explain very well he couldn't get the balloon back after he had let it go. 

At home they were both very pleased we had bought you a cake. Xander helped me count out six candles because he knew you were six and both of them blew out the candles after they had sung happy birthday to you. In fact we had to do it twice at Zac's insistence!

And then before they went to bed (and read your story Guess How Much I Love You and another story to help the boys understand what happened and why you're not here), everyone made you a fairy garden altogether. Daddy built the fairy house, your brothers filled the garden with soil, and added a rainbow path and a pond, and everyone sprinkled some fairy dust. Xander is very interested in how the grass seed he sprinkled on the soil is going to grow. 

The fairy in the garden is called Belle too. We knew it was the perfect present this year when we saw it. 

It amazes me that somehow six whole years have gone by since we held you. So often it feels like no time at all. Other times I can't believe your brothers are fast approaching five and three and that you have another brother very nearly here too. What a busy six years. Six years where we've missed you every day and loved you every day. Remembered you every day. 

It is so hard knowing that if things were as they should be we would have a six year old girl heading up this brood of babies.  You've no idea how much we wish it was different. That we had all of you together. An even bigger and busier chaotic mess. 

What would it be like to be six? 

What would you be doing now? Would you be able to swim and flying through your 'Wave' badges? Would you be doing gymnastics, or dancing, or theatre groups, or learning to play an instrument, or a sport? Would you like princesses and fairies? What would your favourite colour be? How would you like to dress? What would be your favourite toy? Would you be into this Shopkins that I hear so much about and little girls at the moment? What would your favourite story be? Your favourite programme on the TV? Would you enjoy school? Who would your best friend be? 

So many questions that can never be known. A whole life robbed from you and robbed from us. 

But we tried to make your birthday special darling girl. In the only way we can and know how. Surrounding you and your brothers in love and pink and hoping we got it right for a big six year old girl. 

Always loved, always missed, always everything. Always xXx 

"You don't really die until everyone that ever remembered you dies too." 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Six Years

Anxiety is peaking, as it always does this time of year.  

I've been reacting as violently to her birthday as I always do. 

This year it seems to be a sense of panic and constant nausea and sickness is how the physical aspect of grief is manifesting itself. I feel ill in waves, exhausted and drained in waves. I'm starting the day feeling ok, and by the evening I'm done in. Totally done in. 

I'm struggling to separate what is pregnancy related, being that amount of pregnant again, being that amount of pregnant again at the same time of the year as I was with Belle, and what is purely her birthday related. Realistically I know it is all inter-related. Feeling ill, exhausted and drained is as typical of an increasingly heavily pregnant woman as it is symptomatic of grief. 

June is always so hard and I feel like I'm stuck on repeat.  

The usual downward spiral to these few days. The days between the day she died and the day she was born. Limbo days. 

Anabelle's remember day last week was especially hard for some reason this year. I don't remember feeling so utterly drowned by it last year. Maybe I was. Thursday there was lots of lying down, feeling so unwell, and violently vomiting by tea time. Drained. An evening spent with constant palpitations and an ever rising panic in my chest. Tighter. Tighter. 

Six years on and a date remains so so powerful. 

These few days I'm struggling to calm myself down. A sensation of on the verge of panic has remained there is waves. 

Today I've been at my best for days. Tonight I feel ok. 

Tomorrow is the day before her day. 

As usual the build up to Anabelle's birthday feels too much. Just too much. 

And this year I'm 32 weeks pregnant at the same time. 

Just as I was six years ago. 

Six years. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Boy Small @ Two and a Half

Our Small one is two and a half.

And he really is still our Small! At two and a half Zachary is the same height and the same weight that Alexander was at 18 months - a whole year of difference! Alexander never felt big; but it is getting pretty clear that Zachary has picked up a whole lot of Villars genes from my side when it comes to growth! So at two and a half he is still more than comfortable in 18-24 months clothes, some are even a touch on the big side on him! Currently I'm hoping he has a growth spurt into 2-3 clothes before January at least, so I can find some school uniform that doesn't look too ridiculously enormous on him!

Yes, come January, after his birthday, this Small boy, who still seems far far too little, will be start Nursery in school as a rising 3 and the application form process will soon be upon us. How quickly it all seems to be coming around. But Zachary is a little boy who loves his Wednesday's in private nursery and playing with his friends there, and would quite happily already follow Alexander into school each morning at drop off if he could and so I think he will thrive in school just as his brother has done. 

Zachary is as cheeky and wonderful as he ever has been. He is the absolute definition of cute and certainly knows how to get you on side with a quick flash of those eyes, a smile or a giggle. Definitely a charmer in the making!  The other side of him is decidedly feisty and determined, he cannot be persuaded from his plan of action and he has certainly been giving us a fresh experience of the 'terrible twos' - absolutely reminding us that no two children are the same!

My beautiful happy boy, you are already two and a half. 

Although sometimes I forget how quickly you are growing up, and forget you are not really my Small baby anymore when you are most definitely 'the baby' to me. You have no idea how suddenly big you will feel in just a few weeks when your new baby brother arrives. I'm so aware you have no idea what a massive change is just so hopefully around the corner now.  I'm treasuring these last few weeks where we get the mornings to ourselves, soaking you as my baby up. 

You know there is 'Baby Luc' in my tummy, but mostly that means so little to you doesn't it? You cannot really comprehend that it is a baby that is hopefully coming to live with us soon. I'm so anxious how you will adjust to a new baby when you're used to being the smallest in our family.  But I also know how anxious I felt for the change for Alexander when it was his turn for you to arrive, and I know how much you both love being brothers. Lucas will only add to this beautiful mix of boys.  I've so enjoyed you being my Small, and the baby. And you will still always be my Small, Xander will still be my Big and Lucas will be my Little. But even though you will still be Small I know so suddenly you'll feel so big too!  

Talking of brothers, you are Xander have a beautiful bedtime ritual at the moment. The must be done thing every night. After story time in Mummy and Daddy's bed you both run into your room and you laugh in delight as you climb into the 'wrong bed' - both of your snuggle down in Xander's bed, arms wrapped around each other and squeezing each other a big goodnight. Then you wait to be told and asked 'Oh Zachy, you're in the wrong bed, where do you sleep?' And you laugh and point and say 'my cot'.  It has become such a lovely part of bedtime routine. What beautiful brothers you are.   Although I think we're going to have trouble when your bedroom is transformed into a big boy room in the coming months; I predict finding you snuggled in with Xander on his top bunk most nights when we go to bed! 

I know your pet-name is Small, but at two and a half you really are still quite tiny! You're only around 86cm tall and weighing in at 26lb. 

Your favourite things are your shoes, and Xander's shoes, stories, stickers and colouring, going to the park, playing in the garden and most notably anything Elsa and Frozen! 

My goodness you really are Elsa obsessed at the moment. As soon as we're in the car you are asking me to put on 'Elsa songs Mummy' - you love the soundtrack, you're nearly singing along to all the words, with some pretty dynamic waving of your arms in accompaniment! Its is gorgeous to watch and no sooner has one of your favourite songs finished (Let It Go, or First Time in Forever) you're saying 'again, again'.  You love Elsa so much that we bought you a little soft Elsa doll for your half birthday which has pretty much travelled everywhere with us since! 

You are so active and busy. You love being outside and you love to run, bounce, leap and climb.  Boinging (as you call it) on the bed is a favourite getting ready for bed activity. No longer content with having a ride in the buggy, and refusing to be contained unless you're tired (or bribed! haha), you're starting to want to walk more and more when we're out and about now, although you cannot be trusted not to wander and need a close eye at all times. You seem to have a real sense of adventure, no fear at all and so desperate to be as big as your big brother. I'm sure you're going to give me my first grey hairs my boy!  

But equally you can still be fairly lazy when you want to be! You love to have a cuddled and be carried too. Which means in my current pregnant state a buggy is still a necessary item to take out with us because I cannot carry you that far anymore. (It does mean you recently got yourself a lovely new bright yellow light-weight stroller though as I was struggling with the pram in and out of the boot.) I hope you realise you'll have to transition to a buggy board soon!  I'm sure you'll find it a great novelty. 

You love putting your shoes on and are especially proud of your new 'star shoes' (Clarks Doddles with lolipops on the top and a star print on the soles) at the moment. You love them - as soon as you tried them on in the shop you were sold and wouldn't entertain looking at any other style or design. Just one of the examples of you having such clear ideas of your own and exerting yourself. I think one day you may be manager material! Still every day you are excited about putting your shoes on. Welly boots are another treat! You put Xander's shoes on nearly every day too, and even try walking around the house in mine or Daddy's too!

You've had a massive burst in your speech and vocabulary these last few months.  Which has only helped to make you even more cheeky! Go away, shush, don't like it and it's stinky all now feature in your ever expanding language! 

You know all of your colours now. It took a while; for a long time absolutely everything was 'blue' - but then all of a sudden I realised you were making observations about what you could see around you and telling me what colours you could see. Now you name each colour without a thought. 

You're developing more and more interest in numbers now and love to mimic counting, often counting during your play. You can just about count to 10 now, and understand about pointing to each object as you count - sometimes you forget a number or get muddled around five - but with a tiny prompt you are back on track. You love bedtime stories where you get to count; Ten terrible dinosaurs has been a favourite pick recently!  You know what a number looks like, and what a letter looks like. You can find number 2 and number 8 but you don't know any of your letter sounds just yet. I think this will be your next area for a burst of development very soon. 

I'm totally adoring your toddler time and the gorgeous little boy you are.  You are our absolute delight and you light up all of our days baby Small. 

We love you more than you know, always. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Mob-Mentality Rant

This is me wading into the Gorilla debate.

Although why there is a debate at all is absolutely beyond me. Even last night, days after the actual incident, my local newspaper, on their Facebook site, posed the question ‘Was the zoo right to shoot the Gorilla?’

I can’t believe there is even a question about it. I really can’t.

Irrefutably, yes.

The media spin on this is all wrong. As unfortunate as it is that an animal of the endangered  variety had to die – and the Zoo acted absolutely as it should because a four year old small child was in danger – what is amazing is the miracle that the little boy survived at all, even more so without serious life-altering injuries.

And it really is a miracle. God’s hand was on that boys’ head that day. And I for one am so glad it was.  I’m not part of the mob who seems more aghast that a Gorilla died rather than a child saved.

The vitriol towards his Mother across the internet has been astounding. Disgusting on so many levels.

The one that has enraged me the most is the photo of the Gorilla, with the words “I was killed because a bitch wasn’t watching her child” stamped over it.  Vile. And so completely unnecessary. Oh yes, a troll will have started it for the reaction of course, but people share this nonsense so quickly, so easily, get swept away with the mob without really thinking of the hurt, the hatred and the down-right unfairness of it all.

Suddenly everyone sees fit to make assumptions about the circumstances, the capabilities of the Mother, everyone else is suddenly the perfect parent or an expert on Gorilla behaviour or Gorilla handling.

Shut up and get off all the high horses already.

Ye without a single parenting mishap cast the first stone.

By the standards of the mob-mentality with pitchforks I should also be labelled a neglectful Mother. Anyone else? You know because as parents we should be able to keep our eyes on our children for every milli-second of every day and toddler types and small children are never pains in the arse and can’t possibly run off, be somewhere they shouldn’t and disappear in the blink of an eye.   Eye-roll

You see, I also have a four year old – and confession, shock horror – we’ve had our mishaps where I lost sight of my child – the only difference being ours haven’t ended in such internet hype consequences.

Evidence One -  There was the time when Alexander escaped me while I dealt with an item return in a shoe-shop that meant I needed to speak to head office on their telephone. So while I was on the phone and he didn’t have my undivided attention, he hid, under the chairs and benches. The minutes where myself and two shop assistants frantically searched for him felt endless, terrified he’d left the shop or worse, been taken. But there he was – watching us ‘play’ hide and seek from under the chairs.  

Or the other notable occasion –  Evidence Two - at a birthday party in the park, where we were in a big open space and his baby brother had my attention running off in the other direction – Alexander took his opportunity to sneak off from the rest of the group and take himself off to the playground across the field unnoticed.

Both times (and I’m sure there are more times I’ve already filtered out of my memory) I was seconds away from total meltdown, feeling sick, verging on panic and fear that I’d lost my precious son.  How quickly these things can happen, seconds, minutes. No time at all. Was I negligent? No. I’m just not an infallible super-human. And neither are any of the ‘mob’ attacking this Mother. It could just as easily happen to anyone with a small person in their care.

Why this woman out of the news stories this week? When she hasn’t gone out of her way to do anything wrong or cause harm at all and just got caught up in a tragic accident.

Where is the collective rage at the parents in the news this very same week, who wilfully put their young child in harms way in a bear infested woods this week. Not lose sight of him for seconds – no, they left him purposefully in a dangerous situation.  That is real negligence, real abuse - but no-one seems to be calling for them to be hung, drawn and quartered.

Where is the collective rage at the multiple news stories weekly of toddlers and small children being beaten and tortured and murdered at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and protect them the most? The parents who habitually neglect their children, leaving them poorly dressed, poorly fed, are so disinterested in them they are farmed out to anyone who’ll have them or left to their own devices constantly.

Or a collective rage against people who go out hunting animals of the endangered variety (or any animals) just for fun? Not because a mere babe’s life was in danger and it needed to happen.

That poor poor woman. Put yourself in her shoes.

Honestly, a family fun day at the Zoo took the most horrific turn. She planned a nice day out with her children and it turned into a thing out of nightmares. She didn’t go to the Zoo thinking ‘I know what, I want a Gorrila to die today, how can I make that happen’.  She couldn’t have possibly ever expected her child to have got into an enclosure. No-one expects that.  Have you ever been to the zoo and given it even a seconds thought that your child might get in with one of the big animals?!  It shouldn’t have been able to happen!

Days later I expect she is struggling to come to terms with what has happened, still feeling utterly sick, terrified by the hatred being directed her way, still reliving the horror of watching her small boy being violently dragged around a cage by an enormous and dangerous animal. I’m sure she thought she was going to be burying her son that day. I feel sick for her – just the mere thought of that being my four-year-old, let alone living it.  

She certainly does not deserve the disgusting things I’ve read people say about her these last few days.

Where is the compassion? Where is the collective relief that by some absolute miracle a four year old didn’t meet a gruesome end at the hands of a wild animal? (All-be-it undoubtedly mentally scarred by the experience).  Where is the collective relief that some poor parents didn’t have to join the bereaved parents club?

Because what Is coming across to me is an air of the internets’ ‘justice mob’ that would quite like the poor Mother to be grieving her child right now. Because you know, that would’ve taught her for losing sight of her child in a moment. More eye-rolling. What a distasteful place the internet can be.

Although thankfully I’ve not seen the hatred across my personal newsfeed, (what a bunch of sensible, level-headed, compassionate friends and acquaintances I must have!) I’ve been aware of it elsewhere and across others; including some utter dimwit on my husband’s friend list yesterday who even went as far as to say the child should have died. The child. Really?!? I can only presume he is a) not a parent b) certainly not a bereaved one to wish that on somebody else and c) wow, really all kinds of stupid.

Really? There are actually people that would’ve been happier for a four year old child to die? I’m gobsmacked. A tiny four year old that for as far as we really know could’ve fallen in by accident, or at worst was being a bit naughty and not listening (because there isn’t a single four year old who doesn’t have their moments, it doesn’t make parents of four year olds bad or neglectful parents) or was just being a curious small child with no understanding of the danger he was putting himself (or the Gorilla) into.

Would you really stand by and watch a terrified child die? What is wrong with you?

That disgusts me. And my husband. And said dimwit is no longer on his friend list on Facebook.

I hope she is surrounded by real-life love and support from a secure network of friends and family. Real-life people telling her she isn’t the worst person in the world, real-life people telling her ultimately all that matters is that her son is still alive. 

Because ultimately, it doesn’t matter the circumstances leading up to the child getting into the enclosure. It doesn’t matter if the Mother wasn’t paying enough attention, or if the child was actively trying to get in the enclosure. (And as an aside if he was actively trying to get in how frighteningly fast it must have happened for not one adult in a busy zoo environment not to have been able to intervene!)  It doesn’t matter because regardless he should NEVER have been able to get in there. The ultimate responsibility for the incident and everything that happened surrounding it rests with the Zoo. They are the ones who failed in their duty of care to visitors and animals alike with poorly secured enclosures.

So dear Mother of that boy, people like me who stand in solidarity with you probably seem like a tiny drop in a huge ocean of vileness being directed your way. But there are people who virtually gently rest our hands on your shoulders knowing it could’ve been any one of us and any one of our small children too.

I hope you and your family can heal from the trauma of this, both the incident and the aftermath of the pitch-fork brigade you’ve been forced to endure.
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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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