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, 11 November 2017

Smile Tho' Your Heart is Aching

Smile tho' your heart is aching
Smile even tho' it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by


If you smile
Thro' your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shin-ing thro' for you


Light up your face with gladness
Hide ev-'ry trace of sadness
Altho' a tear may be ever so near


That's the time
You must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying
You'll find that life is still worth-while

The last time I posted was Baby Loss Awareness Week. I was on the brink of my usual 'grief collapse'. It happens from time to time.  For the first time ever, I didn't participate in Wave of Light. We weren't home. Not for the first time, we were at the close of Xander's birthday celebrations (The Big Boy is 6 update to follow at some point soon!), travelling home. Not that that has made a difference in previous years; I've just joined in late when we have arrived home. But this year, the place I was in was becoming so dark I couldn't join in. I didn't want to light a candle. I didn't want to be a part of it.  

This year it was baby loss awareness week. World Mental Health day fell within it. As did day of the Girl. All of which felt poignant, and dark and overwhelming.  And well, when the day of the girl started and all the 'my wonderful daughter and what I want in this world for her' posts started I just wanted to file them under PISS OFF along with all those awful 'Daughter's Day' and 'If you have a daughter who' memes that pop up from time to time. All I wanted for my daughter was life. She didn't get that simple pleasure, neither did we. I've often debated where 'just grief' ends and where maybe 'depression' takes over. Although absurdly I've never considered myself classically depressed it is glaringly obvious I am damaged. I truly believe I have some elements of post-traumatic stress. I've posted about it before. 

A few weeks ago this was the song on Strictly. You know, on the Sunday night results show, an artist sings, the professionals twirl around them while they sing.  I don't know who was singing. It wasn't Nat King Cole, clearly. But it resonated with me instantly. Timing apt. 

Right there in the middle of grief consuming me and struggling to keep my head above the ever deepening water. 

Smile tho' your heart is aching, Smile even tho' its breaking. 

Hasn't this become the soundtrack to my life? 

And oh boy haven't I become the expert! Masterful at the game face. Carrying on. Always carrying on. So when in the midst of it, no-one, other than those in my closest circle could have any idea that I'm hurting.  Because that is what you're expected to do, isn't it? Especially so, the further and further we move on from 2010. 

Light up your face with gladness. Hide every trace of sadness. 




2010 was a long time ago wasn't it. Its been almost seven and a half years.  Goodness I know how tired people must be of me. Even in those closest circles. Maybe especially in those closest circles. I'm tired of myself. I'm tired of hurting. So tired of hurting. Every time there is a 'flare up' of grief and the rawness hits me all over again. These last weeks/months have been littered with dark thoughts. Intrusive and awful. Telling me things I know not to be sensible, or true. But they've been oh so loud. I've desperately wanted something else to hurt other than my insides. 


I've been up, and down, and up, and down. 

I think we're coming out the other side again now. Into another period of calm and restoration. Into another period where I'll work on healing. I've realised again it is almost like I need these extreme reactions to process and settle once again. Sometimes it needs to blow up to put me back together again. 


My best friend and my husband have categorically told me they think I need counselling, again. In seven years I've already been through that process twice. Is this going to be it? Every couple of years I need some professional insight again?  Previously I've seen a dedicated 'Pregnancy and Baby Loss' type counselling service. I don't think that is what I need anymore. That initial loss isn't my biggest problem anymore. More a 'Life after long-term loss' service maybe. Someone telling me how on earth I live the foreverness of it all intact. 

They'll be cross but I haven't done anything with it yet. I haven't had the time, or energy to fight for a 'routine' Doctor's appointment on a day and time that I can go. Or be bothered for the inevitable waiting list after a referral has been made. Right now, coming out the other side what is the point?  By the time I see anyone we'll be so far past the latest crisis point that will the conversation even be relevant. I don't know. 

Life continues to be a juxtaposition of the strikingly wonderful and happy life we have intermingled and parallel to the never-ending trauma that my only daughter died. Will I ever really truly be able to make a peace with it, even of sorts? I don't know. 
Monday, 9 October 2017

Collision

It is that time of year again. When my news-feed becomes awash with Baby Loss Awareness Week.  So many people with a part of their lives missing. All these bereaved parents I've 'met' along the way over these last seven years, three months, two weeks and four days

What an insane amount of time! A lifetime ago but yesterday all at the same time. 

It has always felt so poignant that Baby Loss Awareness week combined with the build up to Xander's birthday. Our wonderful first rainbow who came home. A week where utter relief and joy filled our lives and spread colour throughout it again. Our boy Big. We have such wonderful plans to celebrate his 6th birthday this week, we are very excited! 

In previous years I know I have been a lot more vocal than I'm going to manage to be this week. This is such an important week; breaking the taboo, breaking the silence around stillbirth and miscarriage. Baby loss affects so many more people than you could possibly imagine.  

But I cannot champion it or join in the capturing grief project this year. 

This year I don't have the energy to confront grief. I don't have the energy to capture it, or reflect or allow it the time. Grief is teetering on the edge of consuming me somewhat at the moment without giving it active space. Even though maybe that is what it needs. Maybe soon. But at the moment I'm deploying the "fill my life with distractions, happiness and excitement" strategies instead. I have plenty planned to keep us busy until Easter!

After more than two years now of being in a relatively settled place, once more it feels the two parallel and overlapping parts of my life are colliding. The last few weeks have been met with so much inward panic. I'm managing, my game face has been fiercely on, but I can feel it building, I can feel is spiraling once again. Anxiety intermingled with a grief that will never let me go. Absolute desperation for my daughter. 

There is so much I need to say here. This used to be my safe space. But at the moment I'm so out of touch with myself and here. I'm certainly more guarded than I once was and I daren't allow myself to spill. Not right now. 

This week, like every week, we think of our beautiful Anabelle Violet

Always missed, always loved, always everything. 
Sunday, 3 September 2017

Six Weeks of Summer Week 6: Outer Space

Well we were supposed to start the final week of the holidays with a bank holiday day trip to the Space Centre up in Leicester... what better way could there be to start Outer Space week...? However, we were feeling utterly shattered Sunday night and after much umming and ahhing we decided to abandon the idea and think of something a little less full on for the bank holiday instead. I knew then from the outset that to be honest it was going to be a 'wing it' week with a bit of space thrown in if we were lucky! Haha! (We're now going to save the Space Centre for a birthday day trip maybe next year!) 

So Monday was visit the family in Plymouth day instead! The boys always love getting together with their cousins and we spent an unusually sunny bank holiday playing on Dartmoor and with the paddling pools and water squirters in the back garden at my brothers house. Lucas's highlight was of course definitely some ice-cream. 




Tuesday we did manage to space it up a bit. We baked some stars, moon and planet biscuits whilst listening to The Planet Suite by Holst. The boys had a good go at guessing which part of the music was about which planet and I was surprised by how many planet names they already knew. They all loved baking, even Lucas who had each step of the ingredients given to him on his tray to explore; I should do it more often with them, especially now Mum and Dad bought me my own mixer for our wedding anniversary this year (that I somehow managed to find a home for in my kitchen! Haha!)  Xander thought the spinning mixer bowl was fairly hysterical and Zachary loved getting his hands stuck into the biscuit mixture. 








Wednesday was of course 'big boys' day out. This week we went to Dewstow Gardens and Grottos near Caldicot with my Mum. She has wanted to go there with the boys for ages, but it isn't a baby suitable place so it had to be a day without Lucas. The gardens and grottos are fairly magical and very different; so we pretended we were going on an adventure to a new planet. The boys promptly decided between them we were visiting a planet called "Zoomi Mars" and thoroughly enjoyed themselves running across bridges and stepping stones, into caves and caverns. My little plonker Zachy managed somehow to fall into one of the little ponds and finished exploring the gardens soaking wet... we even pretended the water might turn him into an alien! Haha! 









Wednesday night the boys had the real treat of sleeping over Nana and Bampi's house so Thursday was another fairly quiet day after we had returned home. Lucas has some rare 1:1 playtime in the morning before went to collect his big brothers, so we played with our  'space blanket' and he discovered some plantets and stars using our imagination with some of his orbit rattles, tambourines and star stacker toys! He loved the foil blanket and made sure he had a good go at shaking it as loudly as he could! 





When the big boys were home we watched some story bots videos on YouTube - with this planet video being one of my personal favourites! 


Friday was a complete Space off day (as Saturday and today have been, apart from watching a film called Planet 51), and instead we spent a glorious start of September day at the beach celebrating our friends twins 4th birthdays. We arrived at the beach at 11.00am and didn't leave until bedtime. We really are loving the seaside this year! 



The weekend has been spent mostly getting ready for school. We have had the most fantastic summer and we can't wait to do it all again next year; infact the boys have already requested some themes for next year so Boats and Jungle are already on the list for Six Weeks of Summer for 2018! 

And now it is time for back to school... Boo! But we've got so much to look forward to before half term, and indeed throughout this entire academic year with Big's birthday in 6 weeks and his London weekend away, our fly away holiday at half term in 8 weeks, a new cousin for the boys around the same time, Small's birthday in November, Christmas, my BFF's Hen weekend to start 2018,  Jon has the stag to look forward to in Feburary, our birthdays in March and the wedding of course all before we get to Easter! 

How lucky am I to have been able to have so many adventures with my boys this summer! My confidence with solo outings with three has definitely improved (although ask me again next Summer when Little can walk! Haha!). We've made some wonderful memories and I'm determined to make the most of our summers like this every year until they decide they are too old. I'm just loving them at the age they are now; yes sometimes it is really exhausting and really hard but they are little children that just love life and prove to me every day that life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.  Even though I think they are pretty perfect! 

Our wonderful summer and my rainbow boys, still healing me. 

Six Weeks of Summer Week 5: Dinosaurs

I absolutely cannot believe that tomorrow my babies go back to school! 

I've been entirely rubbish at keeping up with my Six Weeks of Summer diary entries but we really have had the most marvellous summer. I'm not ready for it to end and feel sad that its over. I know I'm exceptionally lucky to be able to spend school holidays with my children and jam them pack full with adventures in the way that we have this summer; but now I face term-time when I'll miss 'Family Thursdays' and the prospect of many other things in school because the irony of my job makes it difficult to attend school events for my own children. 

Back to school is a milestone each year that rests quite heavily on me; it is undoubtably exciting and the boys are definitely excited to spend the day with their new teachers and cannot wait to see their friends. But along with the momentary gut-wrench that my boys are moving another year away from being babies and getting so big,  there is always that smack in the face that another chalk board should be ready for the 'Back to School' photo tomorrow morning too. Another yearly milestone where Anabelle is missing. Tomorrow she should be starting the junior school, joining Year 3 and feeling very grown up because she isn't in the infants anymore. But her cohort starts without her again while Alexander start Year 1 and Zachary becomes a rising 4 at Nursery instead of a rising 3. 

The last two weeks have been so busy. Although I'll admit Week 6 we have been flagging. Outer Space week has been extremely flimsy on the ground to say the least, to the point that its hardly worth giving it its own blog! Haha!  We've all been tired, six weeks of adventures have tired us out, so although I don't back to reality to arrive I think we'll all certainly benefit from the back to routine. 

But anyway.... Week 5, Dinosaur Week. 



We started the week with some dinosaur egg hatching. The boys had been dying to do this for ages, after we had found them in the cupboard (we had forgotten we had them!) but they made a perfect activity for dinosaur week so I saved them for the summer. We found our eggs with our dinosaurs and put them in water, waiting for them to grow and hatch. Zac was most put out that they were not going to hatch instantly! 



Tuesday was a home day. We spent the morning building some Lego Duplo dinosaurs (and watched The Land Before Time). The boys worked separately on this for a while, Xander building lots of different designs of dinosaur and Zachy making a Diplodocus. After a while they started to work together, joining their bricks to build a very tall dinosaur!  Later on in the day they then decided to build a tree for some of their dinosaurs to eat. 





In the afternoon I went to get the tuff spot out. I was going to make some sort of dinosaur land in it for playing in the garden that afternoon but discovered it filled with water (note to self - the blue sheeting isn't waterproof!). Not to matter I thought it can be a dinosaur swampland! Now the boys loved it but I don't really think entirely thought the swamp through... of course all three of them were in it within minutes; the baby especially thought this was marvellous! But the soggy mess! Haha! 





Wednesday was 'big boy' day out and this week we went to Cardiff Museum, especially for the Dinosaur Babies additional exhibition currently there. We arrived to discover some enormous dinosaur footprints outside the museum and some ominous claws over the side of the building! We spent a good few hours discovering animatronic dinosaurs, fossils, skeleton models of dinosaurs and their babies, baby dinosaurs in their eggs, the children had a pit they could climb in to reveal dinosaur bones, made up their own dinosaur names, dressed up as a dinosaur, read dinosaur books, and completed big dinosaur puzzles. It was an exhibition well worth the visit and the small entrance fee to that part of the museum. Both boys came away happy with their mini dinosaurs I bought them too. 







Thursday we were in Cardiff again. This time for the dinosaur encounter event at Cardiff castle. I must say, that although we had a lovely afternoon out it was an incredibly busy session with many many other people there too. I was quite disappointed that the group was so large because it meant there wasn't any opportunity for the children to have a 1:1 moment with the T-Rex in the walkabout session and didn't get chosen to meet one of the animals in the animal encounter session. The boys were subsequently quite underwhelmed by the whole experience to be honest! Zachy lost interest and all Xander had to say was the T-Rex was a man in a costume because he could see his legs, jumper and shoes. Not the best effort into disguising! They enjoyed themselves though in the castle grounds - we'll definitely be back with our castle keys (heavily discounted 3 year entry passes because Jon works in Cardiff) soon to explore the castle properly with more time (and less people!) 



Friday was mostly a dinosaur day off. Instead we met with some of our friends for a day out in Cardiff Bay. We parked in Penarth and walked and scooted along the barrage to the Bay, stopped half way for a play in the park,  had ice-cream and another park play when we got there, had a Starbucks, couldn't get on a boat (too full) so had to walk the rest of the way back as well. 14,367 steps (or 4 miles). The children were super!  


Luc got in on dinosaur day though, because after a late nap and then a car nap he wasn't going to bed on time that night. So instead had a dinosaur hopper session! Hehe! 


Saturday the boys watched The Good Dinosaur in the morning and played in the sand making Triceratops skeleton fossils with sand moulds in the afternoon. 


And then Sunday was another dinosaur day off and another day spent in Cardiff Bay with a different friend!


Then we loosely started Outer Space week... more to follow! 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Six Weeks of Summer Week 4: Beside the Seaside

This has been my favourite week of the six so far and I think the boys would agree, especially as Xander said to me yesterday evening it has been his 'best day ever' (although we all know how fickle little children can be, and his next best day ever is no doubt just around the corner!) 

We are loving going to the seaside this year. Since our birthday visit to Barry Island for Belle this year we have seemed to be on the sand often, much more so than any other year since we've had the children. The boys are loving it; the huge open space to run (or crawl) around, the sea to splash about it and the fresh air is doing them the world of good. I expect we'll be on the sand at least a couple of more times before this summer is out! 

Beside the Seaside week has been ace and its another impossible task of narrowing down some photos to share of our week! 

Monday we started the week quietly - having just got home from a weeks holiday I was through the ceiling in a washing pile and we were all tired. It was a much needed home and pyjama day! So in the morning we watched The Little Mermaid and in the afternoon we were outside pretending the garden was our beach. This week we haven't had a playhouse, we've had a beach hut! 


Tuesday was a super long, but super fun day. We went out for the day with my Mum to Bristol Aquarium and then onto Weston Super Mare.  The boys enjoyed the aquarium, feeding some of the fish and seeing so many sea creatures up close in huge glass tanks. I especially enjoyed watching the Octopus - gliding up and down the tank and seeing all the suckers on his tentacles.  I don't think I've ever seen an Octopus behave quite like it before. It was quite creepy but mesmerising all at the same time! I was glad that we hadn't payed full price to go into the aquarium and had used the 'Kids visit for a quid' offer, because although we enjoyed it, we had been around twice and finished our visit in just over three hours (and that included stopping for a snack half way around the first time, and stopping for lunch before going around our second time). So by two o clock we were finished and looking for something else to do.... spontaneously the decision was to head down the road half hour to Weston. 






I must say, we haven't been to Weston for a few years now since my 30th birthday but I found the beach alarmingly hazardous which we hadn't before! Within half an hour I had found a sewing pin and two shards of broken glass buried in the sand around where we had sat. Now maybe we were just unlucky that day, but I was glad I had found the hazards before my children had stepped on them.  

I wanted to walk up to the pier but all three boys couldn't have been happier on the beach (and had no interest in moving from the beach!) We hadn't any buckets or spades for them but they just created their own fun regardless. Writing and drawing in the sand with their fingers, running around, jumping in the holes that others had already dug, creating slides sound a little embankment. It was a fabulous hour or so. 






Then we went to have a look at this years sand sculptures. I'd love to know how these enormous sculptures stay standing when exposed to all the elements for months on end - they had apparently been there since April?   They were really impressive and clever and the boys decided that their favourite was a baby elephant playing on his back. I liked children under the bed scaring the monster who was in the bed!  I wouldn't pay £10 to go in there again though...! 

We went for a Harvester meal to finish the day and got back home at 9.00pm with a Zachy STILL awake and Xander only falling asleep as we pulled into our street! I've no idea how they didn't fall asleep on the journey home. 

Wednesday it was our 'big boy only' day with Lucas in nursery. I had had every intention of taking the boys to Barry Island again, but they didn't want to go!! Both of them told me they were 'too tired for the seaside again today Mummy' so instead after dropping Luc off at nursery we started the day off in Asda buying them a small car each and then onto McDonalds for a treat of a pancake breakfast! 

Then we visited Penarth seafront to have a walk along a pier. They loved it - running the full length of the pier and lying down on the boards to listen and peek at the sea beneath them. We had a play on the pebbles too and collected some seaweed to bring back home with us. Xander found a pebble he was absolutely convinced is a dinosaurs tooth - so that has been bought home with us ready to explore in dinosaur week!  It was one of those visits where I wished I had taken the big camera with us; although still managed to get some pretty lovely shots on my iPhone. 






After a drive so at least one of those boys could nap (Xander refused! Haha) we ended up at the Wetlands in Newport, discovering the lighthouse in the park and the lighthouse on the sea wall.  Definitely somewhere we should visit more often; free carparking, free entry, a lovely playground and walks the boys could scoot around. I definitely should have taken the scooters or the stroller buggy for Zachy this Wednesday as he was flagging by the time we had walked from the car to the lighthouse.   (Note to self; next Wednesday big boy day out take the stoller buggy, because it is hard work with a tired Small boy who hasn't got a buggy board but doesn't want to walk either!) 

Thursday was another much needed home day. And mostly we watched films; a total film fest day! We watched Finding Nemo, Finding Dory and Moana! But we did get into the garden too and played with the Seaside tuff spot; bringing together everything we had collected on beaches on Pirate week, Holiday week and Seaside Week.... sea shells, pebbles and seaweed and of course some sand, buckets and spade. The sand was an absolute bargain at 63p for 10kg from Asda the evening before! I absolutely loved watching the three of them playing seasides together in the tuff spot, its lovely that Lucas can join in that bit more now! 





Of course they played again in their 'beach hut' and decided that was where they were going to eat their dinner for Thursday lunch. 



Friday was another quieter day with a a quick visit to town followed by the afternoon at Nana and Bampi's house. However, Xander thoroughly enjoyed playing the seaside counting game with his Bampi. (Bargain £3 games in Aldi earlier in the summer!) 


Which brings us to Saturday - Xander's proclaimed 'best day ever' for now! After a lovely quiet home morning, and a birthday party for Xander's school friend in the afternoon - we packed up some lunch boxes and headed down to Cardiff Bay Beach for a late afternoon/early evening trip. I always love love love Cardiff Bay. We don't go too often, but when we do the atmosphere is always great and we always have a good time. Every summer we go to the six week beach festival once (its way to expensive to go more than once; the beach part is free but the fairground on the other hand is a second mortgage!) and of course this week was the perfect week for this years summer visit! 

The boys loved the sand again, got absolutely filthy and were like little crazy things altogether. Lucas couldn't have tried hard to crawl quickly enough to catch up with his brothers and was following them around the beach and in and out of the beach huts. His little relationship is blossoming all the time at the moment with his brothers, especially so with Xander with whom he seems to be developing a really strong bond now. 







Then we went on the rides! Half hour (or not even quite that!) on the rides and £16 spent!!  This gave them four rides each - which was ample. Xander had been going on about going on a Helter Skelter all summer; clearly remembering our visit to the Bay Beach last time so he was chuffed to get two slides down there. 



Unfortunately for Zachy he was still that bit too small to go down the Helter Skelter on his own and I wasn't feeling up to going down with him on this visit (having a flare up of pain around my c-section site again, feeling like I had the baby four weeks ago, not a year and four weeks ago right now), so he felt really sad that he missed that one out. But they were both thrilled with the Beach Buggies (aka Lightning Mqueen) ride! Zachy is all about Cars and Lightning McQueen at the moment so he had two goes in the red Lightning car!  Xander had a go around the Fun House while Zachy had a go on the Bumper Boats. 

All-in-all a fabulous evening out and bought our Beside the Seaside week perfectly to a close.


We've had a day off from the seaside theme completely today and have instead spent the day with family; a visit from Jon's Dad and the boys Godmother this morning and popping to visit my Grandma on her birthday this afternoon. 

Tomorrow it is the start of Dinosaur week and we already have exciting days out for this week planned too!  
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Caz
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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