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.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Growing Around Grief

Earlier in the week my local Sands group chairwoman posted this picture:

It struck a chord with me; ringing true in our experience. 

This time six years ago I couldn't have imagined life like it is today. I couldn't see beyond the rawest of grief, when even lifting my head off the pillow in the morning took such monumental effort. When even breathing took such monumental effort. Life back then was a haze and a daze. I've said before that there is very little from those first couple of months after Anabelle's death that I actually remember.   I know things that happened, but I can't remember living them. I was in shock. This complete blank in time now represents how truly broken I was. 

I had no idea how I was going to heal or grow. In all honesty, back then, and for a very long time afterwards, I didn't even want to heal. Accepting recovery invoked a tremendous amount of guilt. How could I be happy when my daughter was dead? 

But slowly, slowly somehow, days seemed slightly brighter again. Somehow a life began to swell around our grief. Notably, our wonderful Alexander was born and saved me from the pit. Zachary joined him and now Lucas. My beautiful rainbows. My reason to keep challenging myself to heal. They keep saving me from myself. 

There have been many ups and many downs - all of which have been extensively documented here. There have been many times when grief has been all consuming once more.   A breakdown of epic proportions over her third birthday and struggling with family events in the year leading up to her fifth.  Still, June is incredibly hard. June still feels stuck in a cycle of 2010. June I've accepted is likely to always be my sticking point regardless of how much healing there is. 

It wasn't until the second half of last year, 2015, that I finally decided to proactively heal. To reflect on all that had passed. All the time taking small steps, giving myself permission to finally accept a happy extraordinary life (click to open) despite Anabelle's death. The Capture Your Grief workshop last autumn was good for me. Cathartic (click to open). Maybe I should do it again this year. 

Anabelle's absence is ever felt. There is rarely a day that goes by without her name being mentioned in this household, there is never a day she is not thought about. But life has grown around her. I feel like I'm there on that third picture. 

This picture reminded me of a post I wrote back in 2014 (click to open). .  My world got bigger. Because of Anabelle my world got bigger, even when for a long while I didn't think it could. Our grief has never diminished, never got smaller, a little girl missing is pain beyond measure - but alongside that, around that, a wonderful life has swelled and grown too. This last few weeks our world has got so beautifully bigger again with her tiniest brothers' arrival.  

Our wonderful boys are now one bigger. Alexander, Zachary and Lucas; even without anything else, they'll always be my reason to keep growing around our grief. 

Permission to make memories. Permission to live. Permission to have a happy extraordinary life. Permission to grow around unimaginable grief. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Lucas @ 1 Month

Where has the last month gone? I’ve no idea how Lucas is already a month old, changing already. We’ve had a wonderful five weeks of getting to know our newest little boy and he is such a delight; utterly adored by the whole family.

Lucas is a lovely content baby for the most part. He cries to be fed, if he has a dirty nappy or wants to be cuddled to sleep. Lucas loves a lot of cuddles, loves to be held and so it has been a month of cuddles, breastfeeding and bonding.

Luc is getting used to the world around him and us getting used to another small person needing our attention. As much as we’re enjoying Lucas and our boys, there has been no doubt that adjusting to three little boys has been overwhelming at times. It often feels like someone always needs something and it has felt quite the challenge giving each of the boys the attention they need and deserve. However I remember feeling just as overwhelmed in the early days when Zac arrived, wondering how I was going to spread myself thinly enough for them both – now there are three and we just need this bit of time to find our new groove and routine again.  

Alexander and Zachary are truly beautiful with their baby brother - always telling him daily that they love Baby Luc and that he is so cute. All Xander wants to do is help look after and hold his baby, Zachy often introducing Luc to other people as “my baby”!  They’ve had their adjustments too though; at times these little boys have seemed unusually shattered, unusually over-sensitive, there have been more tears than usual, more drama between them than usual – they love Luc but we’re not underestimating how unsettled and affected by change they have been feeling.

But we’re getting by, more than getting by. Any moments of frustration and tiredness is more than outweighed by how much we’re enjoying our beautiful Little baby.

Oh Little Lucas. As I type this one handed, you are sleeping soundly in my other arm. You are already a month old and your baby days are flying by far too quickly. Today, at five weeks old you weigh 9lb 1oz, measure 53cm long and steadily in proportion following the 25th percentile line. In the last week you have phased out of your early baby clothes and into your newborn wardrobe. You are feeding well, like I always knew you were. After your slow to gain start you are more than making up for it now!

You’ve started to be a little bit sicky after your feeds, but currently nowhere near as bad as your brother’s were before you. While they constantly needed outfit changes, at the moment you generally only require bib changes. You seem to posset more if you do not burp after your feed but boy do you sometimes make us work to get any wind up!

Most nights you sleep well. Well, as well as you expect a newborn to sleep anyway! While there have been a fair few nights where I have been up with you almost every hour through the night, for the most part you average two wake-me-ups a night after midnight.  Most nights you have been waking for a feed around 11.00pm – so at this point we’ve been going up to bed, feeding you and settling into your Moses basket. On a good night you wake sometime between 2.00-3.00am and again around 5.00am. Some nights are better than others, some nights you seem happy to be in your Moses, other nights you’ll only sleep soundly if you’re in my arms – but I don’t mind – you’re my last tiny baby and I will spoil you, knowing only too well just how quickly you will outgrow the need to be held so constantly, and how much I will miss the tiny weight of you in my arms.

You’ve had a month of firsts. Your first go in your pram, you’re first go in the sling. Your first visits to so many places; Belle’s garden, St Fagan’s, the Farm, a guest at a birthday party. We’ve been shopping, to restaurants. We’ve crossed that hurdle of breastfeeding in public well and truly off our lists now. Although you can still be a fusspot to latch sometimes we’re getting better at it together and my confidence has grown again – or at least I care much less about ‘flashing’ in public with each baby I’ve had!   With Daddy having another week off next week to finish the summer you’ll have been to a load of other exciting places very soon too. Already the social baby!

We’ve learnt so much about you this month baby boy. We’ve learnt that you like to feel your body wrapped tightly in a blanket but will go bananas if we try and swaddle your arms. Instead you like to feel your arms and hands up near your face.

You like to sleep curled on your side – going against everything in the rule book and making my anxieties twitch, even with the breathing monitor mat. As a compromise we allow you to have a slight weight shift more onto one side with your back mostly still facing the mattress. As soon as you can intentionally roll I’m sure you’ll be a side sleeper.

You like you snug nest chair, again preferring to almost curl up on your side in it when you doze there. You like a bath now, but only if Mummy has got into the bath with you, holding you and moving you through the warm water. I wonder if it reminds you of being on the inside? You still do not like having your hair washed and like getting out of the bath and getting dressed even less! You do however seem to like the sound of the hairdryer, often stilling and silencing to the noise when I am drying my hair.

You are beginning to have more periods of awake time and short bursts of play on your mat. When you are awake you are so alert, so switched on to your surroundings – nosy already even! Already you seem so strong – on your first tummy time you were lifting your head way off the floor and lifting your legs too, appearing to almost be unintentionally trying to roll off your tummy.

You are so bright eyed beautiful boy. Already you are trying to smile – we’ve been treated to half smiles, nearly there smiles, but we’re still waiting for that properly intentional beaming face. Both your brothers smiled at 6 weeks old so it won’t be long I’m sure. Mummy is so looking forward to it, as is Xander who keeps telling me that you’re nearly big enough to smile.

Oh how your brothers love any interaction with you. Even though Zachy will often tell me that you’re too noisy when you cry,  he plants gentle kisses on your cheek often throughout every day. Xander can’t get enough of you, always wanting to be on hand to help with getting a nappy, or helping to bath you or just wanting to know when it is his turn to cuddle Baby Luc. Baby seems to have become the first part of your name, neither of your brothers referring to you without the Baby prefix first!

You are so surrounded by love Lucas. I cannot wait to see your relationship with your brothers grow and change. Another few weeks and I’ll bet you’ll be fascinated by them, unable to take your eyes off them, saving all your best smiles for them! My little trio of lovely boys.

Precious lovely baby. It feels like you’ve been here so long but no time at all. Already can hardly remember life before you. I look at you and love that you are mine. I wish slightly for time to slow down, for you to stay tiny for as long as possible, my last baby. Equally I’m so excited for all the beautiful moments I know will be coming. I wonder what you’ll discover before you’re two months old? A proper beaming smile will be Mummy’s highlight, beautiful boy.

Loved beyond measure Little.

Mummy and Daddy xxx

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Image Of His Sister

I wasn't expecting Lucas to look like Anabelle. Not like he does. 

I expected him to have some likeness to her of course, like I expected him to have some likeness to all of his siblings; they all have shared genes after all. But it was Zachary I was expecting him to be the image of, not Anabelle. 

In the first few days I couldn't decide who he was most like. He looked like them all. But as the newly born puffiness started to disappear he started to look more and more like his sister. 

I said in his one week update he looked like Anabelle. Now, at three weeks old and already changing a little again, if its possible, he looks even more like her. 

At the moment, he looks surprisingly different somehow to his brothers as babies. They all have a likeness of siblings, the other boys had a resemblance of Anabelle at times too, but Lucas, Lucas is the image of his sister in a way the others were not. I hadn't prepared myself for a likeness to be so very very similar. Less like the boys and more like our girl. My beautiful delicate boy. It is beautiful and bittersweet all at the same time.  

I've caught myself looking at him and a lump appearing in my throat and tears threatening to prick my eyes, because I can see 'her'. I've wondered if they would've shared their looks if she had opened her eyes too. I've wondered already, who he will look like as he grows. Will he start looking more like his brothers or will he look like Anabelle would've done? In a boy version at least.   In reality I know we'll lose the ability to see the resemblance to his sister as he grows, because she did not. When he isn't a baby anymore we won't have an idea if their similarity would've remained. 

It has been really lovely that so many people have mentioned on many of his photos, or in messages to me that they think he looks like Anabelle too. My Mum was saying it from day one. I love that other people can see her in him too. That through him she is being thought about and remembered. 

We're always aware of her absence, but at the moment (whether it be new baby hormones, last baby hormones, the fact that the baby looks like her or something else) I'm feeling a heightened sense of 'one missing'. The other baby I can see in his face is missing. 

Today at an afternoon out at the farm we had yet another reminder, as if we needed reminding, we're one short. At the playground Alexander started playing with a little girl. An Anabelle (or some other spelling variant that the little girl probably had). Watching him run around with her, shouting her name across the playground for her to follow him, watching them play their games and strike a friendship was like a little bolt. Another lump in the throat with threatening tears. Jon and I commented to eachother how difficult it was to hear. Not that there was another girl around us called Anabelle, but the sound of Alexander playing with the name of his sister - how it was supposed to be; if his sister had lived those would be the sounds of them playing together and him calling her name. 

I didn't want to include all of this in Lucas's next update a week or so from now (how is he that close to a month old already?!), not wanting moments of grief to impinge on what a joyous wonderful baby he is. We're enjoying him so much, so utterly smitten with him; but there is no escaping he looks like his sister, and tonight I needed a space to say all of this. 

If only we had 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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