Christmas Cards

Just a short one, probably a depressing one too, sorry for that.

It all started with the Christmas cards arriving.

My first card this year, ironically came from my dad’s wife, it hit hard. 

Suddenly it’s arrival made me realise that is it for the ‘daughter’ cards. Those beautiful, heartfelt, well chosen, well thought out cards that only a parent buys, in fact my mum would buy two (or three some year so). In its place comes a card not in the hand that I see my cards penned. A card from a multi-pack. A card that probably found her facing her own thoughts of Dad on this first Christmas without him. A card that I’m sure she struggled to write and to me was bordering on devoid of all emotion. I’m not blaming her for this.

I hate the fact Cancer has taken both my parents from me, I hate the fact that Christmas is hugely lacking with both of them gone. I haven’t spent a Christmas with my father for quite some years but I always spoke to him on the day and enjoyed buying him gifts (more so after Noah’s arrival, being able to share our love of photography with a beautiful [in my mind] image of my boy). This year his wife requested that presents wouldn’t be sent either way, a request that I’m sure will stand from here on in. I find myself battling with this. I want to send her something because she has been part of our lives for 26 years, she was my dad’s wife, she is family, but I also feel I should respect her wishes. I find myself browsing my Dad’s Amazon wish list and feeling robbed, whilst doing this I found my Mum’s, untouched since 2007 and feel absolutely devastated.

Whilst trying to buy a card for D from Noah I’ve stared at the Mum and Dad cards on the shelves in the card shops and had to hold back the sobs knowing that I’m looking at something that I will never buy for my own parents and that hurts. Hurts beyond belief. I remember now thinking it such a chore finding the ‘right’ card, now I’d find it so easy. I’d buy the fucking lot if it meant that they would read them and realise how much I loved them, how much I respected them, how much I thought of them, how much I miss them.

I’m sat here at home alone listening to the gentle hum of the baby monitor whilst D is on his works do, quietly dreading Christmas this year but also aware that Noah is starting to get excited about it. I want, more than anything, for Noah to be totally unaware of my hang ups and feel the pressure of trying to make it extra special as a way of making up for my feelings of lack of enthusiasm. 

I find myself struggling once more and hate it. I know I have more grief coming, more anniversaries, family events, milestones, all without my parents there.

So as I go through the motions of preparing for a Christmas without the love and thought of a parent I think more deeply of those in a similar situation. I’m not ‘alone’ yet I know (especially in my previous line of work) there are so many out there that are and realise how much that must hurt at this time of year. I just hope they have atleast received one card with a heartfelt thought behind the words written in it.

Baby Loss Awareness

My partner messaged me from yet another of his hotel restaurants to let me know, whilst holding back tears, that it’s baby loss awareness week this week and it got me thinking. Thinking about awareness weeks… not about my baby losses because I think about them every day and no doubt will do until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil.

I wonder who decides when these weeks will be and whether they ever really make anyone more ‘aware’ of the subject matter or whether it’s just a week that makes those who are directly affected remember with more vigour.

I’ve found myself thinking more deeply into my own losses this week, thinking more about the four beautiful babies I never held but still love with all my heart, wondering more deeply about who they would be and thinking over, once more, why we had to suffer these losses. It’s an awareness week yet I don’t see anyone talking about it. I find that when I bring the subject up with a lot of people their eyes glaze over and their eyes wander, I can almost hear them thinking “here she goes again, how am I going to get away” (I’m not talking close friends here).  I find the only time you’re allowed to talk about your own losses after a certain time is when someone else has lost, and even then only if they ask to hear your story directly because they’re going through their own hell and (quite rightly) don’t need to listen to yours too, but from experience it’s nice to know that you’re not alone and it happens to more people than you are aware of.

I find this doesn’t only happen when discussing baby loss, but any loss and have come to the conclusion that we just don’t like to talk about grief in whatever parcel it’s delivered in. There seems to be a period of time where you are ‘allowed’ to express your feelings and grieve and no matter who you talk to they will listen, or at least politely pretend to. Then suddenly, and it’s pretty soon I think, you’re not allowed to talk about it anymore. People get bored of listening and if you persist in mourning your loss you stop seeing these people because they just can’t deal with your misery.

I remember being told on a number of occasions, on the loss of my mother and then subsequent miscarriages and then the recent loss of my father, that I shouldn’t ‘dwell on it’ or ‘wallow’ anymore… As if I choose to feel this cutting grief, as if I enjoy it, as if I’m purposefully prolonging my own agony, as if I should just forget they ever existed.

So as I light my ‘Wave of Light’ candle for my four babies that weren’t given a chance I think of everyone else who has suffered the loss of a baby, or a pregnancy and give them strength and hope that the future does brighten. I want to tell them that their feelings matter, regardless of how many years have passed since their loss and that they are not alone. 

I spent half an hour of the WoL hour sitting on the edge of my bed listening to and looking at our beautiful boy as he slept peacefully and thanked the universe for him, aware that others aren’t as lucky as we are. 

So perhaps that’s the idea of awareness weeks such as this, not necessarily raising the awareness of those that haven’t suffered, but to make the affected aware that they are not alone.

  

Goodbye Summer

Wow, it’s September. The summer has gone, the Autumn (proven by the incredible plunge in temperature) is here once again. Summer seems to have passed me by and I struggle to remember a nice, sunny day of it. Did we have any, or is it my darkened mind that has tarnished their memory?

I love summer, always have. I hate the rain, I hate the grey, I hate the wind, the sun is where I find my happiness, it’s my power source but as we approach another long and bleak Cornish winter I feel I haven’t had my batteries fully charged with what I need to get through it.

I hated this summer mind, hated it like no other. All it seems to have brought to my door is more grief, loss, disappointment, fear, stress, anxiety and rage and for once I’m looking forward to winter as the beginning of winter means a new year is just around the corner.

I find myself writing this the day after my baby was due to be born and so much has happened that I nearly forgot that this had happened to us too, this that I thought would be the worst thing to happen to us this year, so forgive me for this rather maudlin post.

‘They’ say things happen for a reason but I struggle to contemplate what the reason is for so much heartache to fall on my doorstep this year. 

I’m not a bad person. In fact I’d go as far as saying that I’m a fairly nice person, a caring person, a fair person, a tolerant person. So if things happen for a reason, please can someone enlighten me as to what that reason is? Because I can’t see it right now. 

I’m not going to say Why Me? Because, quite frankly, why not me? What makes me so bloody special that I shouldn’t have a hard time more than the person next to me. I just struggle to know why all my babies couldn’t be with me now instead of just the one, special, precious one that was strong enough to stay with us. Why both my parents have been taken away from us so they are unable to witness my beautiful boy grow into an adult and give him the magical memories grandparents provide. Why we have been dogged with such bad luck where other matters are concerned. So to you people who say it, please give me the reason and if you can’t, then stop saying it to people when dreadful things happen to them because it doesn’t help. The saying should be, quite simply… “Things happen” and that’s the end of it.

So as I say goodbye to Summer and hello to Autumn I hope, beyond hope that our run of bad luck has come to an end and that the changing of the leaves will also bring the changing of our fortunes. As those leaves fall away from their branches and begin to become one with the earth once more, our misfortune will join them and leave the hope of a brighter, more fortunate future.

The Fourth Star

You’d think I’d be used to this by now, right?

A familiar face comes and gets me, warning me of an imminent power cut and uncertainties of how far we’ll get before the engineers test the generator again. I joke with her and discuss the improbabilities of the engineers carrying out this sort of work outside ‘their’ working hours.

We get started and get the first part done before the power goes off and as I lay there in the dark staring up at the forest scenes taped to the ceiling tiles her words keep resounding in my eyes “It’s not the size it should be”. I need an internal scan as soon as the power is restored and I wait. This uncomfortable and intrusive procedure confirms that the tiny little heart I’ve been nurturing for the last 11 weeks stopped beating a couple of weeks ago.

A second opinion is needed and I’m doing ok. Until the second sonographer, full of sympathy, confirms what I knew, but had hoped against.

I fall apart.

There in the dark, I wonder who’s making that barking noise and realise it’s me. Uncontrollably, I sob like a baby.

Why?

I’ve never broken down like this before.

I frantically try and build that wall that’s protected me so well in the past to save my dignity but I struggle to glue the bricks together.

Why has this one hit me so hard? Sadistically I can’t help but stare at the little kidney shaped image on the screen and I realise, for once, that since the birth of my most precious Noah, that shape wasn’t ‘just a cluster of cells that wasn’t viable’ that little shape was a life, a person, my child that hadn’t made it. It hurts. It hurts more than I ever thought it would. I feel like someone has driven a poker into my very soul.

Turning down offers of support, “I’m fine, I’ve been through this before”. Yet in this moment I kick myself because all I want is a hug, a massive hug, one of those hugs that takes some of the pain away for just that instance. A hug only a loved one or true friend can give. Yet here I was discussing with a known stranger how I am going to proceed. I’m numb. I just want to get back to my boy who I’ve left my brother, I just want to hold him, to hug him, to kiss him, to look into his eyes and be grateful that at least I have him, I just want to get out of here.

Thankfully, as a ‘season ticket holder’, she lets me go without having to sit in that waiting room awaiting a consultant to talk me through what I already know. I turn down that forget-me-not decorated ‘sympathy’ pack, opt for the ‘natural miscarriage’ option and I race back to the car to phone D and break the devastating news while he’s hundreds of miles away and not able to do anything.

In just 6 days we would have been announcing to family and close friends that Noah was going to be a big brother, in 6 days time! I was beginning to get excited about it… More fool me. Now I’m left waiting for my useless uterus to clear itself of ‘the product’ once more. ‘The product’, my child.. MY CHILD.

I still feel sick, I still feel tired, I’m still enduring those first trimester headaches but for no reason whatsoever. I ask myself, why? Why me? Why does this keep happening to me? What have I done to warrant this once again.

But then, why not? Why shouldn’t this happen to me? What makes me so special that I feel that things like this shouldn’t happen to me? Nothing, that’s what. I just have to deal with it and thank the universe that my beautiful, healthy, happy little boy is in my life and, god willing, who knows whether he’ll be blessed with a sibling in the not too distant future.

As for today? I wait for this to be over, pray it’s not as traumatic as my second and think of my four little stars that were never destined to be, but love like they were.

Mother’s Day

My mum, my beautiful, intelligent, funny, witty, kind, caring, popular, strong, heroic mum… where do I start? She is quite possibly the love of my life, second only, since November, to my boy.

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She sacrificed so much for us, she worked tirelessly to bring the three of us up to respect and care for others. She raised us single handed when my Dad had to go to Nigeria to work, she scrimped and saved to give us what we needed and often what we wanted. She was known not to eat herself so we had food on the table at a particularly bad time financially, working two jobs then coming home to do freelance typing just to pay the bills. She threw us the most amazing birthday parties, kids loved coming to our parties, in fact kids loved simply coming to our house for her cakes and warm welcome, never did she make them feel uncomfortable or in the way when I’m sure at times they were. I have the most wonderful memories of my childhood with her. She was strict but fair, we were never spoilt where objects were concerned and if we were naughty she never failed to punish us, the worst punishment of all was knowing she was disappointed or ashamed by our behaviour. However she loved us openly and never ever made us feel that we weren’t the centre of her world as she was ours.

As I grew into an adult our relationship changed from mother/daughter to best friends, we did pretty much everything together. We holidayed together, shopped together, worked together, often lived together, partied together, cried together and laughed together. Not a day went by when we didn’t talk except when I went travelling where phone calls were limited to, at the very least, once a week. She never turned us away, never made us feel that we couldn’t turn to her if we needed her and we so often did. She sacrificed so much for us and never asked for anything in return except that we be happy.

She’s the strongest woman I know, she’s a fighter, she tackled everything head on and with gusto. She wouldn’t let anything defeat her without a damn good fight.

In 2000 she was given the devastating news that she had cancer of the breast. Again she put on her bravest face and started the biggest battle of her life, never letting her humour or smile evade her, not in front of us anyway. She beat it after months of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I have never been so totally in awe of someone in my life, her bravery and positivity were inspiring to more than just us. She wasn’t just our hero, she touched the lives of so many people and rarely lost touch with anyone she came into contact with and as such had hundreds of friends across the world. This was never more evident than at every birthday and Christmas where the sheer number of cards that she received spoke volumes.

Unfortunately the cancer returned years later, it had metastasised and again her battle began to prolong her life. She fought it so well until unfortunately her body couldn’t fight any longer. Our relationship changed again and as her health began to fail I became her carer. It was my turn to look after the woman that had looked after me for 35 years and yet still her foremost concern was us and how we were. She never ceased to amaze us and despite medical opinion she saw in her 70th birthday, filling her room at the hospice with well wishers to bursting, so much so I was literally pushed out the patio doors. Even here she made friends, the staff loved her, she filled the place with light and laughter even when she was obviously in so much pain. That year, 2008, I celebrated my last Mother’s Day with the woman that defined me. Unfortunately 9 days after her birthday, on April 13th, we lost our brave, beautiful, wonderful, precious mother. Our hearts broke and continue to break to this day. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of her and miss her. A hole was left which nothing can ever fill.

The last five years I have tried to hide from Mother’s Day. I avoid card shops and florists, I turn my head away from gift shop windows in the run up and tend to lock myself away on that Sunday so as not to see the happy faces of mothers and daughters out on walks or out for lunch. I’m jealous you see and bloody angry that this evil disease has robbed the world, us, of such a precious person when there are so many wicked people still roaming it. I hate Mother’s Day.

Now here I am in 2014 no longer avoiding it but being the centre of it because now it’s taken on a whole new meaning… It’s now my badge of honour. I am now that mother to be celebrated. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope with this change having harboured such ill feelings for the last 5 years. I hopefully got all my tears out of the way last night in the hope that there won’t be any sad ones shed today.

I find myself missing my mum even more since the birth of my beautiful Noah. She would have doted on him and I feel he’s been robbed of this beautiful woman, of a doting grandmother so although this is now ‘my’ day I still find myself struggling to see it that way, I feel like a fraud, in my mind it will always belong to the woman that brought me into the world, she was a real mother.

My mum was my first love. She was my life. She was my everything. Now it’s my turn to hopefully give Noah the same wonderful memories and to instill the same moral and social principles. She’s a tough act to follow but I hope I do her proud.

Happy Mother’s Day Mum, I love you.

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