A special sunny day with Sheffield Sands 

The Journey To Find My Rainbow

Since Isla died I have found overwhelming support, compassion and friendship from Chesterfield Sands. Sands is the leading national stillbirth and neonatal charity in the UK. They aim to support families when their baby dies before, during or shortly after birth. They aim to raise awareness around the issue of baby loss in this country and support vital reaserch in this field to help reduce the numbers of babies who die in this tragic way.

In this country the socking fact is that 15 babies a day die. That’s every single day. 15 babies will not go home with their parents tonight. It’s truly heartbreaking, and, for a developed country, completely unacceptable. Reaserch suggests that more than half of these deaths could be avoided with changes to care during pregnancy.

The reason I accessed Chesterfield Sands when I live in Sheffield is that Sheffield didn’t have a Sands group. This…

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A special sunny day with Sheffield Sands 

Since Isla died I have found overwhelming support, compassion and friendship from Chesterfield Sands. Sands is the leading national stillbirth and neonatal charity in the UK. They aim to support families when their baby dies before, during or shortly after birth. They aim to raise awareness around the issue of baby loss in this country and support vital reaserch in this field to help reduce the numbers of babies who die in this tragic way. 

In this country the socking fact is that 15 babies a day die. That’s every single day. 15 babies will not go home with their parents tonight. It’s truly heartbreaking, and, for a developed country, completely unacceptable. Reaserch suggests that more than half of these deaths could be avoided with changes to care during pregnancy. 

The reason I accessed Chesterfield Sands when I live in Sheffield is that Sheffield didn’t have a Sands group. This completely shocked me given the size of Sheffield and given our state of the art women’s hospital Jessops. Statisicly, more babies will die in a city where there are hospitals such as Jessops because they take the sickest babies. Sadly many of those babies will not live yet Sheffield has a socking lack of bereavement services that care specifically for bereaved parents. 

So about a year ago, bereaved parents in Sheffield started to come together to try and change this. We have managed to organise ourselves into a proper committe and today we launched ourselves as the new Sheffield Sands group. I’m so proud to stand alongside men and women who have a shared goal, to be there for the bereaved parents of Sheffield and South Yorkshire. We have worked so hard to get up and running and have committed to work equally hard to make this venture a success. We are all bereaved parents. We have all suffered a loss like no other. I can’t tell you how happy and privileged I am to call them my new Sands family. 

June is Sands awareness month and during this month our campaign is #15babiesaday. We have been in Sheffield today talking to lovely members of the public, raising awareness of Sands and trying to get people talking about baby loss. We have joined Sands groups up and down the country who have been doing the same. I’m so privileged to be part of this and so happy that we are well on our way to serving the people my beloved home city of Sheffield. 

Here are some amazing photos taken up and down the country of people coming together with a washing line with 15 babygrows that represents the 15 baby’s that don’t make it home every day. They have come together to talk about thier babies, raise awareness and let the country know that things simply need to change. 

What your not to me 

There are so many things that you are to me,
My pride, my joy, my greatest love.Words fail to adiquetley explain the love I have and the sadness I feel.Words are a very funny thing that have power to bring hope, comfort and peace.They are also capable of causing upset and pain.
Since my journey begun you have, at times, been referred to in the most cold and heartless of ways. You have been dismissed, ignored, forgotten and overlooked by so many people who are meant to care.
You’ve been referred to as my loss. Where as it is true that I have lost you from this life, you are a person in your own right. You have lost your life, not your identity. You live on in this life as a person who existed. You were born, you lived and then you died. Your name is Isla.
You’ve been referred to as a note in my medical history. You didn’t get your own notes until I questioned this. You were just a line in my medical records. Not a person but a medical condition. How dismissive of life are we in our health system that a persons life can be disrespected in this way. Your name is Isla.
You’ve been described as “one of those things”. To dismiss you as something so trivial is an insult to your name. This is a phrase that belongs with life’s little mishaps, not with the death of a person. When someone tells you they have a terminal illness you wouldn’t imagine telling them it’s “one of those things”! So why is it acceptable to use this phrase with me to describe your death? Your name is Isla.
You’ve been described as “such a shame”. It’s a shame when you find a hole in your favourite dress or find a stain on your new carpet. Someone dying is not a shame. It’s a life changing, earth shattering, sole destroying nightmare which you will never wake from. You were robbed of your life, your chance to shine. Who knows what you may have achieved, what you would have become. Your name is Isla.
You’ve been described as “something” that has made me stronger. You have not made me stronger. I don’t feel strong, I feel weak. The only strength I can muster most days is the strength to get up and put one foot in front of the other. That strength comes from within me. It comes from my desire to not waste my life as you weren’t given a chance. You are not “something”. Your name is Isla.
These are all the things your not to me. Your not a shame or one of those things. You are more than a side note in my medical history. What you are to me is hard to explain. You are my daughter. Your name is Isla.

International Bereaved Mothers Day 7th May 2017

A lovely project will sweep the online world tomorrow in honour of International Bereaved Mothers Day. This year the theme is “who we carry in our hearts”. All over the world bereaved mothers have come together with photos of them with their hands on their heart, symbolising the child they carrying in their hearts rather than their arms. 

Tomorrow will be a powerful statement to the world that we are sadly not the few but the many, we are everywhere and come from all walks of life. We will not stand silent, we are proud of our children and want to share this with the world. 

Wishing all bereaved mothers a gentle day tomorrow, I’m with you all. 

A Single Yellow Rose 


How do you plan your child’s funeral?
When I came home from the hospital I still looked pregnant. My bump was still there yet my baby was not. I hadn’t slept, not because my new born was keeping me up crying but because instead of that noise was the defining silence of our empty house, the relentless ache of my empty arms, an empty room which should have been hers.

Our house was full of cards and flowers, not of congratulations but of condolence. There were no ‘it’s a girl’ cards and big helium filled balloons, no sea of baby pink washing over the room. Instead there were white flowers and dull white cards with the inadequate words ‘with sympathy’ written across the front. 
We were completely lost yet now we had to start making big decisions. We had to make plans for our daughters final farewell. How can that even be possible?
For many bereaved parents, given their age, this may well be the first experience of planning a funeral. The only funerals I’d ever been to were for old people, people who had led a full life and had many friends and family members left behind to share in the grief of this lost sole. 
When your baby dies, often no one has even met them, let alone got to spend time getting to know them. Given this fact, its hard for people to talk about your baby. It’s hard for them to share in memories that they haven’t been involved in. How were we going to make the ‘right choices’?
When the minister arrived I still had no idea what | was going to say. No idea what I was going to ask for. I just had no idea about anything. 
She was so kind. She was such a gentle woman who I instantly knew was the right person to choose. She explained that she had been the chaplain at a children’s hospital for many years so sadly, taking funerals for children was not new to her. She came so well prepared. She must have known that we didn’t have a clue what we were doing or what we wanted. She helped us understand what would happen on the day and had put together an order of service that she thought might be appropriate. It was. She chose some music that she thought we might like. We did. She just gently guided us in the decision making process, carefully leading us form one decision to the next without feeling rushed. She was fine with the fact that I cried all the way though. She made this process bearable. 
With very little fuss we had made all the decisions necessary. We had made the biggest decision which was that we didn’t want anyone else there. Not because we felt alone, we knew we had people around us that cared but we wanted the only ones who met her to be there at her final goodbye. I honestly couldn’t imagine having anyone there, looking at me or offering their sympathy. I just wanted to be alone with my little family for the last time, undisturbed and peaceful. I will never stop wondering if this was the right choice to make. 
I woke early on the 22nd of March 2013, heartbroken all over again that I’d woken and all of this had not been a dream. I looked outside to find that it had been snowing all night. There was a beautiful, clean blanket of white covering everything in sight. 
I sat downstairs staring into my coffee, thoughts racing through my mind when it dawned on me, what was I going to wear? Sounds like quite a trivial thing really but at the time it seemed important. I had very little that fit me apart from my maternity clothes. What would be suitable? What should you dress like for a funeral? I opted in the end for my favourite maternity top. It was white lace and seemed smart enough. I didn’t know why I worried so much given the weather would dictate that I never took my coat off. The same white lace top, to this day, is neatly folded and in Isla’s memory box. 
As we drove the short distance to the crematorium I remember how quite it was. It was like the whole world had stopped. The snow had muffled the sounds of the traffic and the people going about their day. As we pulled in I remember us being the only people there. We got out of the car and slowly made our way towards the doors. I looked round at the undisturbed snow with only the tiny heads of the spring flowers poking through. It really was a beautiful sight. 
We slowly made our way in where the funeral director and the minister were waiting for us. Nothing had prepared me for walking into the chapel. Ahead of me was a long aisle surrounded by hundreds of empty seats. At the end of this isle, in the faint distance was Isla. A tiny white coffin lay alone on the alter. At that point it hit me like a train, I felt myself falling. My husband took one arm and the minister took the other as they carried me down the aisle, closer and closer to this tiny white box. 
When I got there I spent time looking at the this beautiful white, lace covered coffin. It looked like the snow outside. I read the engraved silver plaque where it still seemed surprising to read her name. 
We had decided against flowers but clutched in my hand was a single yellow rose. I couldn’t come empty handed. I’d chosen this as her dress had a delicate yellow rose knitted onto the front. As I lay it down on this bed of white it looked so beautiful. My last gift to her on this earth. It will never be enough but it’s all I had to give. 

My only words of advice to any parent who is faced with this unbelievable, unthinkable horror is that any decisions you make during this time will be the right ones. You make the best decisions you can at the time. Future regret is pointless and self destructive. You made the right choices based on what you felt then. This can never be wrong.   

What not to say to a bereaved parent – Stop, think and engage brain!


I want to start this post with a little warning, this is a rant! 

Before I get carried away with what might be a furious spouting of pent up anger and frustration, I want to make clear that this post comes from a genuine place of love and care. I am aware that anyone who speaks to a bereaved parent will, unless they are a heartless dick, want to say the right thing. I’m sure they have desperately tried to find some words of comfort to attempt to ease the suffering of this person. Let me also say that saying nothing or ignoring said person is a bigger shit move than saying the wrong thing.  I have however compiled, with the help of some very special people, some handy tips on what might not be the best thing to say if you value your friendship or indeed your face!

Tip 1. Don’t attempt to compare. 

A popular misconception seems to be that a bereaved parent somehow wants to know that you can relate to their pain. Ill let you into a little secret, YOU CANT! Even a fellow bereaved parent cant fully understand another parents story although I imagine it might be a closer connection than the woman who said “I know exactly how you feel, my dog died last year”! I’m sorry, are you high on crack! Did you honestly just compare the death of a precious baby with the death of your dog. I’m sure good old Fido held a special place in your heart and I’m sure he’s sadly missed but you my friend need to go and have a serious word with yourself! 

Now you may have thought Ive just ruined the rest of the rant by steaming in there with what has to be there best example of stupidity however I believe that the next one has to top it so hold on to your seats!

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident, this cracker has happened more than once. When my friends baby died her (ex) friend told her that she could relate to her sense of loss because last year she lost her job! Her fucking job! Well all I can say to this woman whoever you are, I wouldn’t worry too much about the loss of your job has you wont ever need to work again with the fame and fortune that’s coming your way when you win the Guinness world record for being the biggest TWAT! Now jog on! 

Tip 2. Nothing that follows “at least” is ever ok. 

Now I know the temptation that we all have inbuilt into us is to try and make things better. We want to help make sense of tragic events with some platitude or well meaning justification. Just don’t. As a rule Ive learnt that anything that follows “at least” will undoubtably make the bereaved parent want to punch you in the face. 

Some examples are as follows

“At least you didn’t become attached” WTF! 

“At least you have other children” Tell you what, think of the children you have and tell me which one you would like to give back. 

“At least your young enough to try again” Yeh, that will bring my baby back. 

Tip 3. This is a general rule of thumb, just engage your brain before talking!

“If its any consultation having three kids is really hard work”. Surprisingly enough, this is no consultation. 

” Your about to move house so having a baby would have been really inconvenient at this time” I simply have no words at this point. 

Unfortunately the above are just a tiny cross section of the examples I have on this subject. I could write forever and it would never do justice to the insanity that my dear friends have had to put up with. I also want to point out that I have my friends express permission to use their examples as they want to help “educate” people. We all agree that instead of trying to think up elaborate examples of “at leasts” or “I know how you feels” a simple “sorry for your loss” or “can I do something for you” is a far better move. If all else fails, a simple hug or allowing silence whilst your friend cries will be the best gift you can give. 

Fertility – “The Sequel” You cant teach an old dog new tricks!

So the biggest problem with fertility treatment is when you get lucky and get pregnant you think its all over. You don’t think at the time that you, for whatever reason might want another kid at some point. It never dawned on you that, at the end of that unbelievably ball breaking, soul destroying, dignity robbing “journey”, you would have to start all over again! 

There are certainly pros and cons to being in this situation. 

Pro 1. You know what to expect (although, in all honesty, this could clearly make it onto both lists!)

When your a fresh faced and optimistic newbie to all of this, the “not knowing” is the most scary part. What’s going to happen, will it take a long time, will it work, will it hurt, the list is endless. When, like us, your doing all this for the second time round, there are very few surprises left. The biggest surprise is that they seemingly want to start from scratch, as if my long standing health condition will have somehow changed! 

So we start again through gritted teeth, knowing exactly what each test is going to come back as and at the end we are going to new told the same bloody thing, “you need help to conceive”. Well not shit Sherlock, after 8 very long years we kinda guessed! 

One of the first things they like to do is send the woman for an internal ultrasound. Now, over the years, Ive had more of these than I care to count. Never particularly pleasant but certainty bearable.  Having said that, I was reminded not so long ago of my very first one which, if I’d never had more, I might have been left thinking was the worst thing that can happen to a woman. 

I remember turning up at the Radiology department to be met by a rather large, balding man who ushered me into this brightly lit room full of what looked like medieval torture equipment. He casually told me to remove all clothing from the waist down, cover myself with a sheet (I assumed the naked part and not my entire body like a Halloween ghost). On his return he brought with him a very nervous looking bloke who was introduced to me as his student. He asked if I minded if he performed the procedure. Now far be it from me to deny a learning opportunity in a teaching hospital but I did have my doubts. Despite the reservations I agreed. So the student, mustering up all of his class taught bedside manner, told me what position I needed to lay in and explained what he was about to do as he held this GIANT pole like instrument. This unfortunately is where it started to go wrong for the poor bloke! Now to give you the general idea, the scan needed to be focused on my womb and ovaries so you can imagine where this instrument needed to be inserted. Now I would have thought that basic anatomy would be a sort of day 1 job for a radiologist. I’m thinking that this bloke had partied too hard freshers week as he clearly had no understanding of female anatomy at all. There are only two choices down there for where this probe needs to be inserted and the law of averages would surely dictate that he would eventually get it right. Sadly not! Needless to say he spent what felt like an eternity prodding, poking and generally dicking around down there. I couldn’t decide who was more embarrassed, him or me! Having clearly had enough of all the pissing about the main man swooped in to the rescue. Well this guy was like a bull in a china shop to say the very lest. He shoved this probe so hard I thought it was going to come out of my mouth! What a fucking dick. I remember looking at him and thinking, single then are you! 

What you can also expect is a lot of waiting around. Waiting to be even invited in to the hospital for yet more tests, then when you finally do get that golden ticket through the post you turn up, on time (or if your anything like me, ridiculously early) for your eagerly awaited 5 minuets with a consultant.  Now, I know how stretched the NHS is and I’m it’s number 1 fan but you would think that some basic time keeping would be in everyone’s best interests. I remember one particular occasion first time round where I’d been sat in the waiting room for well over 3 hours. Now there really is only so many times you can read two year old Woman’s Own and Take a Break before you start to feel your eyes bleed. Learning my lessons, I now take a book, packed lunch and a sleeping bag to any hospital appointment that means waiting for a consultant. 
Con 1. They tell you the same old shit but in slightly different ways.

Now I know I’m no slim shady. Never have been and given I’m now in my mid thirties I possibly never will be. I am however plagued by a rather unpleasant, life long condition that unfortunately makes it far harder to loose weight and also causes my infertility. Sadly, every DR you see will ask you to loose weight before they will even consider doing anything else. It’s like natures sick joke that the same condition causes me to need fatality treatment and also prevents me from accessing it. Cheers Mother Nature, nice one! 

Now if I thought that loosing weight was hard the first time round, it is nothing compared to the second. This time, not only do I have my usual fat but I also have a post baby helping. I had gone a little mental during pregnancy and had managed to put on an obscene amount of weight that seemed to cling to me like fat filled barnacles clinging to the under belly of an ocean liner.  How I’m going to shift it is anyone’s guess but I think a carefully thought out plan of starving myself to within an inch of my life whilst simultaneously running a number of marathons dressed as Mr Blobby may just do the trick. 
Con 2. Time is not on your side. 

Now when we first started out we were obviously a lot younger, time has not been our friend when it comes to fertility. Now I always thought that starting a family in your mid twenties was sort of average. So imagine my shock when, at the ripe old age of 29 I was considered an ‘older mother’. Shit, years have now passed and I hardly dare ask what I’m going to be classed as now! 

The window of “good age” for becoming a mother seems to be obscenely small. I liken it to Goldilocks where one is too small, one is too big and one is just right. Establishing that ‘just right’ age seems to be hard to determine. You seen to flow though being classed as a ‘young mum’ to being an ‘older mother’ at lightening speed so I really would love to meet one of these rare breeds that are classed as ‘normal’! 

I often feel like I’m running around being chased by that annoying rabbit from Alice in wonderland with the giant pocket watch reminding me that time is a ticking, telling me that I’m late for a date, all be it not as late as the consultant mentioned above so maybe the rabbit is chasing the wrong person! 
Pro 2. You are more prepared.

In all honesty and with joking aside, fertility treatment is harsh. The highs and lows are just so hard to take and to everyone out there who might be reading this who are going through this right now, I salute you. We are more prepared second time round. We do have a good idea what’s in store for us. We can try (although it is hard) to protect ourselves the best we can, knowing that the road will be long and not always straight forward. To all of you out there doing it for the first time please take some comfort in the fact that we are prepared to do it again so it really can’t be all that bad.  

Am I in love with grief?

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When your child dies your life becomes nothing but a never ending list of questions. Did I do everything I could? Am I meant to feel this way? How long will this sadness last? Will I ever feel ‘normal’ again?

You often get no clear answers to these questions but you normally get the people around you give you some standard responses like “of course, you did everything’ or ‘it’s completely normal to feel like you do’.

Ive never really asked this question of anyone around me but can you fall in love with your grief? This may sound like a really odd thing to say or even think but its something Ive thought a great deal about. It seems almost uncomfortable to admit but over time the feelings associated with the child you lost seem to merge into one massive “mess” of feelings.

It becomes harder to distinguish between the overwhelming feelings of love and joy and the feelings of sadness and loss. It becomes hard to imagine your life before these intense feelings started and therefore both seem to go hand in hand.

What is one without the other? If one fades then does the other one follow suit? The risk of loosing your feelings of love and joy for your child is so unbelievably scary that you start to weigh up the risk of trying to work on your intense feelings of sadness. Is it worth the risk?

I have to say my feelings around my grief are still as confused as ever, even four years on. Feeling sad has become so normal that I cant remember a time that I didn’t feel this way. That being said, I don’t feel sad every day anymore but when I do have a day where I do, I feel closer to Isla somehow. I wonder if my feelings of sadness reminds me of a time when I felt closer to her, before time had passed and I still relived everything everyday. People say that time heals but I couldn’t disagree more. Time makes me feel further away from Isla and this is soul destroying.

Some days I really feel like I miss my grief. I miss my sadness. I wonder if this is because I feel intensely guilty when I don’t feel this way. Like I’m in some way denying her. So you desperately scramble to find your sad thoughts. Believe me this is not hard as they are waiting right there under the surface but why do I need them? Why do I rely on them so much?

The only conclusion I can draw is “I have no idea!”. Who knows how you untangle these emotions, maybe I never will. If I find an answer Ill be sure to let you know.

 

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