The mother I want to be

I’m currently sat in my car, with my baby asleep in his car seat, on a McDonald’s car park having just scoffed a cheeseburger in a vain attempt to make myself feel better. I am having the crappest of weeks.

This morning I found myself sobbing in a car park with Rupert in my arms. It was bad; so bad that, as I returned to my car, a complete stranger came over and asked if I was ok and told me to hand Rupert to her; when I refused- “I don’t know you” I squeaked- she just hugged my instead until I could breath again. I think this moment is what you’d call breaking point.

I’ve heard of motherhood being like this and always thought how sad that is. Until this week, whilst I know I have had difficult days, on the whole the hard days have been easily shaken off and everything has genuinely been wonderful. I’ve felt very proud of myself, in control of my baby’s development and of my parenthood journey and lucky to have so many supportive people around me. This week, despite still being surrounded with all this love, I’ve never felt more lonely and alone.

Let’s just get one thing straight: this isn’t Rupert’s fault. He is wonderful. I know babies don’t manipulate; I understand any crying is communication. He eats well, plays well and sleeps well but for the past two weeks he has started waking for a feed in the middle of the night again. Couple me now having to wake up again in the night with the fact that my brain never switches off, I pile pressure on myself and I’m trying to do and plan a million and one things, I’m putting this behaviour down to exhaustion. I am so overwhelmed by the mother I want to be and it’s exhausting me.

It started Monday evening when we had our first difficult bedtime with Rupert. We tried everything and an hour later than normal he was still inconsolable. I took him upstairs, lay on our bed with him whispering “Mommy is here” and “you’re safe” as I stroked his head and periodically returned his dummy to his mouth whilst he screamed and cried for a further 40 minutes until eventually he exhausted himself to sleep. I put him in his bed and returned downstairs to my husband who then had to spend a good 15 minutes consoling me as I sobbed because of how awful that was and how helpless I felt. And, since then, the crying hasn’t really stopped.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the things I have sobbed over this week:

  • Spilling 1oz of breastmilk on the kitchen worktop
  • Having not yet published a “5 month” photo of Rupert (he is now 5 and a half months old)
  • Forgetting to put Rupert in a dress up outfit someone bought him that definitely now won’t fit him
  • Looking fat in all photos of me and my son
  • Decorations for Rupert’s Halloween party I bought online were £1 cheaper in a shop
  • Buying the wrong pie for tea
  • Not walking the dogs
  • Not having the money to go on an unnecessary shopping spree
  • Not posting naming ceremony invitations despite them sitting here ready to go
  • Making Rupert cry
  • Leaving Rupert to cry for a minute whilst I go to the loo
  • Shouting at Rupert for crying
  • Thinking “your sister would never have done this” (She would’ve but she didn’t because she never lived)
  • Beatrice never having cried at all
  • Not completing my breastmilk donation
  • Not having a holiday to look forward to
  • Not having a full recording of my first dance from my wedding
  • Not giving myself enough time to make myself look nice for my engagement party in 2015
  • Wearing my hair in an unflattering way for a day during my Florida trip last year
  • Not owning a house
  • Not currently having a puppy (NB: I do have a 4 year old dog though…)
  • Not getting married (NB: because I already am married…)

It’s ridiculous. But I feel it.

I have forced myself out of the house every day and felt so much better for it. On a dry day, we took a long walk out- meeting some friends for a cuppa, popping to the library and grabbing some food for tea; we accomplished everything we had planned and I felt like super woman again. The woman I want to be. And then, when my husband returns from work, I realise I bought a pie with onions in which he won’t eat and that I’ve failed again (my sentiment, not his; don’t worry) and I’m back to crying uncontrollably whilst my husband goes to the chippy and I feed our son.

I’m planning his naming ceremony and a little Halloween party for him and his cousins as well as trying to plan cost effective ways (I’m also poor cuz maternity) to make his first Christmas special (yes, I know he won’t remember but I will; it’s important). I know I’m talking first world problems here but if I don’t do these things, I feel I’m a failure. This is the mother I wanted to be. The hostess. The baker. The nail-painted, make-up-ed, got her shit together woman. This week, I’ve left the house twice without brushing my teeth…

Today, I was the furthest away from the person I want to be.

We do loads of “mom and baby” groups and this week we missed our current favourite due to bad time management (I’m having a really crap week remember…) and so I agreed with the group leader to join in at a different location today instead so we didn’t miss out. To avoid a timing issue, I gave myself an extra 15 minutes to make the 15 journey (major mom points for being early right?) but the sat nav said I’d arrived and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked several people as they walked by but no one knew so I thought I’d just jump out and pop into a shop to find out. Several shops later and no luck. By this time, the class has already started and I’m late. Again. I’m upset but I figure it is what it is, we’ll just have to miss this week, we’ll just go home. But then I remembered that my Mom pays for Rupert to do these classes and then I feel awful for wasting her money. So now I’m upset, guilty and panicked, anxious to get there asap. And Rupert needs feeding (so my boobs are starting to tingle and possibly leaking). I kept thinking “just get back to the car” but the more I thought that, the harder it was to stop the tears from falling as I became more and more anxious and embarrassed and the relief I felt at reaching the car resulted in such hard, heavy, ugly crying that I attracted assistance from a complete stranger. Whoever you are, thank you for being so kind and helpful.

I found the class this morning once I’d calmed down. I was 15 minutes late to a 45 minute class but Rupert enjoyed what we did and watching his little face during the “show” at the end (his favourite bit) made it worth all my upset. Before the class I was crying apologising to him for failing him. Now, still sat in the car on McDonald’s carpark but now feeding him, I look at his gorgeous little face beaming at me and cry because I’m ridiculous. He doesn’t care where his naming ceremony is held or if everyone gets a homemade Christmas card with his “mistletoes” on. He doesn’t care if we’re a few minutes late for a class or if I have to pop him in front of the tv for half an hour whilst I cook (or just sit still! Entertaining in a one woman show 24/7 is exhausting…). He thinks I’m great cuz I feed him and can make him laugh. The look he gives me says “love”.

On that note, I shall start a new week tomorrow. I’m shaking off this one, chalking it down to experience and being the best version I can be of the mother I want to be. She won’t wear make up, have her nails painted or be able to buy everything she wants her son to have but allowing that might make her a little less stressed. I’ll report back.

I did the school run

In 2017, my first niece started primary school and, on her first day, I went along to hold my sister’s hand as she dropped off her little girl. In 2018, my first nephew started primary school and, because I’d been there for his sister on her first day, I went along again to be there for him. I vowed on that day that I wouldn’t go next year because Being There On The First Day of Term would then be a tradition (by my standards anyway) and I couldn’t commit to always being there and didn’t want to disappoint them. Well, that’s what I told everyone anyway. I vowed I wouldn’t go next year because in 2019 I should’ve been taking my little girl to her first day. And I wouldn’t be. And I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with that.

This was the first big milestone I was missing. It weighed on my shoulders all summer. “My last summer with my little girl”. That is what it would’ve been. My last summer with my little girl and my first summer with my little boy. Figuring out how to split my time between two children knowing that in a few short weeks my girl would be ‘leaving’ for the big wide world and I’d get to dote solely on my newest baby for a few hours every day.

As The First Day drew nearer, I couldn’t help but want to be there. She would’ve gone to the same school as her cousins. I wanted to be there. I convinced myself that going wasn’t weird- I go every year!- and that I was going to be absolutely fine.

In hindsight, it was probably a bit sadistic and martyr-ey. I wanted to feel the pain. I wanted to go and have just the slightest bit of understanding as to how this day was meant to be. I wanted to see some of the children she would’ve known, some of the children that would’ve become her friends.

It was a bit sadistic but sometimes you need to feel the pain to remember that it ever really happened. Feeling the pain is how I know she was here.

I walked onto the playground, pushing my new baby in his pram feeling the weight of the space at my side. I listened to the other parents on the playground talking about how hard it was to be leaving their children knowing that they will never understand just how hard that really is. I watched my sister hug and kiss her friend’s little girl and wish her luck for her first day at ‘Big School’ and internally screamed “THAT SHOULD BE HER!”. Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.

Fuck. Too much.

Yeah I don’t know why I did this.

I posted a ‘first day of school photo’ for Beatrice but it was just my front door. Eerily empty. My reality.  Hard hitting and heart breaking. My reality. Upsetting and unsettling. My reality.

I’m not always sure why I do these things to myself but I just can’t let these things go by without marking them in some way.

So. I did the school run. Is that weird?

 

Rupert’s Mom

And just like that, I’m not just ‘Beatrice’s Mom’ anymore.

My second child was born on 1st May at 3.44pm weighing 7lb 110z. We have called him Rupert and he is ace. We’re just over 4 months into our relationship with him and are starting to really know each other and get to grips with our new normal; what a journey it has been already!

We had a planned induction at 38 weeks and it couldn’t have gone better. Although many suspected, nobody knew I was in hospital and we didn’t even get chance to tell people I was in ‘advanced labour’ before he was here. He was unknown to anyone but his Daddy and I for the first few hours of his life (and what a gloriously special time that was). The labour could not have been more similar to my first: I had contractions through the night until they became unbearable in the early hours; I had my waters broken to speed things up to find meconium; he was delivered naturally without any scrapes, scratches or tears and didn’t make a sound; then I had to have my placenta manually removed in theatre, leaving my baby alone with their Daddy for the first 2 hours of their life. I hope that any future labours I am lucky enough to encounter are exactly the same.

The midwives we encountered were all amazing; they asked about Beatrice and, when they discovered I was happy to talk about it, involved her the best way they could. Lyndsey delivered Rupert and I will never ever forget her. She was so kind and so funny and, because of her really listening to me, the labour was everything I could’ve ever hoped for. On the way to theatre (after the hard bit), the enormity of everything came tumbling down onto me. The happiness that I’d managed it how I wanted to. The relief that, this time, everything was ok. The insanity of how similar this story was to Beatrice’s. It took about half an hour to get me fully anaesthetised and Lyndsey was there the whole time, holding my hand as they stuck needles in my spine, holding my body as I sobbed, repeating ‘this is exactly what happened last time’ over and over again. I remember saying “I want to see my baby. I want to hold my baby”; someone said “you’ll be back with him before you know it” but I looked at Lyndsey shaking my head as tears rolled down my cheeks and she said “she doesn’t mean Rupert; she means Beatrice” as she squeezed my hand. Looking back now, it was all so overwhelming in those drunken, hazy first hours; I was literally reliving Beatrice’s birth.

The first thing I asked when I’d given birth was “does he look like Beatrice?” and my god he did. He did to the point where I was sometimes transported back. He didn’t cry when he arrived either. He didn’t feed in hospital. He barely moved or made a noise at all (until we got him home and he suddenly became very uncomfortable and screamed for about three nights straight…! Haha). Both my husband and I often said “she” instead of “he” for a few days following the birth and I panicked about what that meant  (and, more importantly, what people would think about us); in the end we settled on “we’re absolutely knackered”.

I miss her and I worry that I’m forgetting already, that I’m not putting enough time into her. It is horrible but the fact of the matter is- as with any second child- my focus is now split and, for my second child’s sake, this has to be ok. I’m also Rupert’s Mom now and, as suspected, that comes with lots of new things to deal with and process. He needs me right now more than Beatrice does but I need Beatrice more than I ever have before. It is painful going to sleep and thinking “I’ve barely thought about her today” but, in doing that, she becomes my final thought of the day and the beginning of my dreams.

I think this new kind of motherhood suits me and I’m excited to share my journey as Rupert’s Mom.

Second Firsts

Second pregnancy. Second baby. Twice the love. Twice the loss.

I can’t talk about my second firsts like other Moms can because, unfortunately, it just isn’t all about how lovely everything is. Everything IS lovely; don’t get me wrong, I am loving being pregnant and I AM excited (something I was hugely concerned about before getting pregnant) but that’s all for another blog. What I need to get out first is that The Lovely is often swallowed by guilt (and a different kind of Mom Guilt to that which women who aren’t mourning a child just will never understand), covered with regret or overshadowed by a deeper level of grief than anything I have yet to experience. Below are some of the things that I have struggled with so far:

  1. Making plans

Not in the sense you would perhaps think but making plans is difficult. I’ve not been concerned with planning for the baby but have found myself having decisions influence by the [possibility of losing him.

The day I found out I was pregnant I handed my notice in at work and confirmed a position elsewhere. I had been planning for 4 days to hand my notice in on that Friday and when I saw the second line on the pregnancy test I thought I’d best change my plans and stay put (which, in terms of ease- and maternity pay!- would’ve certainly been the sensible thing to do). Instead, my brain quickly said “you’re pregnant now but you might not be next week” and just like that I made a life changing, career sculpting decision anyway, on the proviso that something might go wrong.

  1. Naming the baby

This leads on from point 1 with identical sentiment.

The day I told my husband we were pregnant we decided on full names both for a boy and a girl during a 3 hour car journey. We have a style of name that we like and, of course, having discussed names for hours previously, we already had a smaller pool of names to dip into than other ‘first time’ parents. We did, however, add in one criteria that wasn’t previously important to us: the name has to represent something so that, if the baby dies, it has a ‘thing’.

Beatrice is represented by the bee. Everyone who knows about her (/us?) will see a bee and think of her. We didn’t plan it that way (why would we?!) but what a lucky coincidence! We like that her ‘thing’ isn’t the Generic Butterfly and so, this time, we made our final decision based on the fact that the name was easily associated with something else in preparation for our child dying.

  1. Worrying

In theory, this is ridiculous; there is no reason as to why I won’t have a textbook pregnancy like I did last time. I didn’t struggle with anything and my baby was formed perfectly; the birth let us down and we have a very (very… Ugh… For another blog perhaps) strict plan in place to reduce all chance of that experience being repeated. There is no need to worry about anything!

But mothering a child who has died puts you in a circle of other women who are mothering children who have died and that opens a whole new world of disasters. From speaking to these women, I have become only too aware of how naïve I was before, of how many things have to perfectly align in order for you to have a pregnancy like mine, of just how lucky we were last time. I’ve triaged myself into the maternity wards three times so far. Everything was fine but, as they keep saying to me, better to be safe than sorry.

  1. Adding ‘hopefully’

I’m so happy about being pregnant and having another baby and I know that people can sense that because they’re happy to get excited with me. People talk about when he is here and The Future and I am right there with them but often, sometimes out loud but more frequently in my head, I am adding in hope.

When he is hopefully here.

Will you breastfeed? Hopefully! Not as in ‘hopefully he’ll take to it’ but ‘hopefully I’ll get to feed him’. Full stop.

You better get used to being tired; you’re about to start a lifetime of sleepless nights! Hopefully, yeah!

It has become a ‘touch wood’ thing. All being well.  Touch wood. Hopefully.

  1. Getting excited

I am excited. God I am so excited! The countdown is now seriously on and I keep having spine tingling realisations that soon our whole lives will be turned upside down cuz we’ll be a foursome. Someone else is going to live with us. I’m going to have 9 months off work and away from reality to give my child the best start to life that I possibly can.

Hopefully.

There is always a little part of me that can’t engage in this. I hate myself for it. I know it’s a self preservation thing. In the same way that I imagine second time Moms prepare themselves for lives with a newborn as they know it, I am preparing for life after birth as I know it. Every time we have a scan, my brain prepares me for no heartbeat. Every time a midwife says “shall we check his heartbeat”, there is a lump in my throat ready to burst until I hear it. Every time I buy something, I can’t help considering how this might play a role in a eulogy or a heartbreaking announcement or a ‘this is what could have been’ post.

  1. Answering the ‘is it your first’ question

I’ve tried everything I can think of and there isn’t an answer to this that works seamlessly.

The first time, I was sat waiting with Rob at the hospital for our first scan and a stranger, a fellow Mom-to-be, was chatting away with me and asked innocently, making conversation. We’d both been late, arrived alone waiting for our husbands who were parking and refusing to go in without them so were now sat waiting as a foursome. I was feeling nervous and quickly blurted out “yes”, not wanting to dampen the high spirits and knowing full well how Rob feels about the awkwardness of discussing Beatrice with strangers. I then felt so bad about it afterwards that I cried all the way home and told Rob I was never going to say that again.

The second time, I said “no, second” and then, before I could explain, got “it’s annoying that they can’t come too isn’t it? Our’s is so excited to see her little sister” and I just about managed to say “yeeeeah” as I choked back tears imaging Beatrice waiting at home to see photos of her little brother.

I’ve since practised many little speeches… It’s our first son. We had a daughter 4 years ago. Cue the questions about our daughter that rip my heart apart.It is our second baby but the first one didn’t make it home unfortunately. Say it quickly so there is no time for people to butt in and watch them retreat into themselves/get sad/treat you like its contagious/silently judge you for messing up (or at least that’s what it feels like).

It is certainly easier for everyone else for me to say “yes” but then the guilt I feel for not acknowledging Beatrice is not good for my soul. I’ve settled with saying yes and then sending a little apology skywards.

  1. Grieving

I mean, like I never have before. I’m grieving a big sister now. I’m watching my niece and nephews get excited about meeting this new little person I’m creating and every joyful encounter I have with them comes with a simultaneous punch to the gut; this should be her. I’ve got a boy this time- one of each; every parent’s dream right?!- but planning for my boy is (to my genuine surprise- again, for another blog…) very different to planning for my daughter and I feel like I’m missing Beatrice’s help. I feel like the insight her innocent personality would have would be invaluable to the decisions we are currently facing. I need her help.

She would be chatting to me about everything, learning, ready to start school in September and tell all her new friends about her lovely little brother. The timeline is perfectly matched to my original plan… I’d’ve been dropping her off on her first day at school with my boy in the pram, ready to enjoy some one-to-one time like I had with Beatrice. Apart from I didn’t.

Which leads me onto my next point…

  1. Guilt

I knew this would always play a part in having another baby. Christ, I used to feel guilty enough just thinking about it! But now I feel guilty for not being able to give everything to Beatrice that I am going to be able to give to Buzby. I feel guilty for not being able to save her life and get her here safely, like I will (hopefully) do for Buzby. I feel guilty for getting excited about him arriving; and then when I stop myself for a brief second I feel guilty for not giving Buzby the excitement I gave to Beatrice. I feel guilty for not loving without hesitation like I did before. I feel guilty for playing down how great this all is and for having to force the enthusiasm that came so naturally to me before.

I must admit, the guilt isn’t (yet) as strong as I imagined but the new one isn’t here yet and I feel that when he makes his arrival and (hopefully) comes home it’ll ramp up ten fold.

  1. Anger

Something I’d not anticipated was a fresh wave of anger. If one more person tells me they’re going to do everything to make sure this ‘all goes smoothly’ I might scream. Where was this for my baby girl?! Where was your concern and attention then?! What makes you think you have the power to stop it!? And, most importantly, why is my son more important than my daughter?! It sounds bratty and unreasonable and, of course, it mostly is but it is like a knife through my heart every single time. Every baby should get this attention. Every child should matter this much. Not just those that will forever live their lives without their big siblings.

I can also feel the anger starting to creep in when people talk to me like I’ve never been here before. Ihavegiven birth before. I don’t need your advice! I know what I want and I know what I’m doing! I’m pissed off that I can’t actually do what I want but my ranting about that isn’t an invitation for you to part with your parent wisdom. If I ask about hypno-birthing, tell me about that but don’t start discussing pain relief options. I’ve done it too, remember?! And, on that point, REMEMBER! Remember my baby. Don’t start thinking that this new baby is a replacement. It won’t make things any easier. Shut. Up.

The first positive, the first kick, the first family moment; they’ve all been beautiful this time round. But they are my second firsts and they are seeped in tragedy because not everyone will know that.

Just a dog

She is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Being her Mommy is one of my favourite things. As any child would, she makes me laugh, she makes me proud and she infuriates me. I love being with her and sharing things with her and I want to do that at any given opportunity. She is the reason I wake up in the morning and she enriches my life more than anything I could’ve ever imagined.

I’m not talking about Beatrice. I’m talking about Poppy, my rottweiler.

And then people turn around and ridicule me because she is “just a dog”.

She isn’t. She saved me.

Of course, she hasn’t replaced Beatrice but the fact remains that we only have her because we lost Beatrice; if Beatrice had survived, Poppy wouldn’t be living with us. She came into my life just a few weeks after Beatrice left it and having her allowed me to mother. All these instincts I had after giving birth were trapped until Poppy came along. In the same way that a blind man is ‘given back his sight’ when he receives a guide dog, I was given back my purpose when I was handed Poppy.

She is my baby, our baby; she completes our family. I cannot explain how important she is to me and I don’t expect you to understand because you’ve not been through what I have. But let me try…

I am concerned about having another baby in case Poppy doesn’t like it. There is a meme “What if we have a baby and they don’t get on with the dog so we have to get rid of the baby”; it’s a joke but, seriously… In my head currently, Poppy is just as important as a living firstborn child would be when considering having another baby. We’ve been talking about having another dog but, even then, I worry about how she would cope with that.

She doesn’t judge me, no matter what I say, and she has never not been there when I’ve needed her. I talk to her and she listens. Really listens. Her eyes talk to me. Her body communicates with me. She understands me and I understand her. So we are speaking. And she is hilarious. As children look to you for guidance and support, so does Poppy. Children want to be with you all the time and they appreciate your comfort. Poppy does too. She needs me to look after her and that feels lovely; I’m a mother who has never felt that dependency… Until Poppy arrived. I talk to her more than I talk to anyone else in the world. She knows me better than anyone, warts and all, and she still loves me unconditionally. She picks me up when I’m sad. She watches tele and has favourite programmes (and yes, we do put the tele on for her when we go out). As Ross would say “[SHE] IS PEOPLE, LADY!”

I hate leaving her at home alone. So does my husband. So we work out rotas to minimise the time she spends alone. “I’m looking after Poppy” isn’t a lame excuse not to go out on a Friday night, it is important to us, to me. It is sometimes frustrating because it stops me from doing things and, once, I tried thinking “she isn’t a baby, she is just a dog, it’s ok to go out”; I went out and struggled with guilt eating me up for the entire evening and for days afterwards. Not worth it. She isn’t a baby, no, but she also isn’t ‘just a dog’. I won’t do it again. Call me what you like.

I ask people for help in looking after Poppy if there is something I really want to do when it’s my turn to look after her. I know people think that’s weird and unnecessary. But you wouldn’t leave your baby at home alone for 8 hours a day would you? It feels the same to me (I imagine; I don’t know obviously because I don’t have any living children… Ouch!). Why is it different for me to ask my parents to have Poppy for me for a few hours than it is for my sister to ask them to have her kids? I know it is different, but why?!

Likewise, would it be acceptable for me to invite you to my house but presume that you would leave your children at home? Would it be acceptable for me to tell you not to bring your children? The honest answer is no really isn’t it? And, if I did, what would happen in reality is that you would stop coming round. I presume you will bring your children and they are always welcome (I mean that, if your child is in my life, I definitely love them and I want them there). BUT this isn’t often (if ever) reciprocated with Poppy. People don’t want to get to know her. They don’t presume that she will be with us if they invite us round and wouldn’t think twice about saying that they didn’t want her to come if we asked (which of course we never do because I would feel rude, but why?). In irrational moments, this really annoys me… I don’t have children, my house isn’t child friendly, and yet I just have to accept that if I want to see you you’ll bring something with you that puts sticky fingers everywhere, messes in everything, often breaks stuff and wipes snot all over me. I just have to be ok with that because it’s not ok for me to say ‘don’t bring your kids’. And yet, I would never even ask to bring Poppy to a BBQ or to a play date because I’d be worried she’d leave hairs everywhere or lick you too much. It’s bullshit!

With this said, given half the chance, I will take Poppy anywhere with me. If it’s a situation that is dog friendly, I want her to be there. If it’s a family party, in a family house, where she frequently spends time, I want her to be there. If we’re going for a picnic, I want her to come and, if she can’t, know that I will miss her tremendously and I will feel sad that she isn’t there. My heart breaks for her in the same way I imagine it does for parents when their child is excluded by peers. She is really great, she has dragged me back from the edge- know that she has saved your friend, your sister, your daughter- and she is so important to me. She just wants you to like her; why don’t you even want to get to know her?!

If there is ever an opportunity to involve her in something, I want to do so. Please don’t dismiss that. Consider leaving your child at home because nobody wants them at the party. That’s how I feel every time I leave her.

Already, she has to miss out on so much family time because she is a dog.

But she isn’t just a dog. Not to me.

Hope this helps.

Another baby

You should have another baby. Yeah, because that will make everything better won’t it.

You’re only considering having another dog because you want another baby. How stupid does that sound?! If I wanted another baby, we could do that. I’m considering getting another dog because I want another dog!

You should just have another baby. Well I think you should do a lot of things but I don’t go around preaching that do I!?

If my husband had died, would you be encouraging me to get myself out there and find someone else to marry to ease the pain? It sounds bloody stupid to me. And yet, people are following that exact principle when it comes to us (well, me) having another baby.

So pressure, pressure, pressure AND THEN people tell me that when I do get pregnant, they won’t be excited?! How dare you! It isn’t this baby’s fault that their big sister died; why should we treat them any differently to how we treated Beatrice? And, god forbid, what if we don’t celebrate this baby and they die too? We won’t have any happy memories at all! It is important to me that Beatrice isn’t a source of sadness and that she doesn’t bring about negative things and this would be what would be happening if we didn’t get excited. Are you telling me that you won’t get excited because you think it’ll be easier to get over if my next baby dies as well? Because it won’t. I will still be just as sad. You will still be just as sad. So what exactly are you protecting yourself from?!

I used to think a baby wasn’t a baby until they had taken their own breathe. I don’t believe that any more. I don’t count ‘from conception’ as life either but, for me, when you feel your baby moving, that is life. They have made waves so they existed. Beatrice never took a breath but she certainly lived. If they have lived- even just inside someone else- and then their little heart stops beating, they have died and that is really fucking sad. Whether you’re excited about the baby or not.

When you’re talking to people and telling them how they should be living their lives and what it is that they ‘want’, if they’re anything like me, it’ll be making them do whatever you think they ‘want’ even less. People told me I wouldn’t wait to have a baby until after my wedding. I did (not out of spite, granted, but because I wanted to). People keep telling me I don’t want another dog. Let me tell you now, I do (but whether or not I can actually get one is a different matter, granted). People telling me now (over and over and over!!!) that I want/should have/am aching for another baby etc etc etc is making me want to have a baby less and less. It is complicated. Shut. Up.

PLEASE. Stop piling on the pressure. It is beyond annoying.

(And in the interests of equality, where is my husband’s interrogation?!!)

Being selfish

Something that counselling has taught me is that I think way too much about other people. I don’t say this in a martyr type way but in a practical, self-preserving way.

People upset me all the time. People who don’t know that my daughter has died upset me with ignorance; people who know exactly what happened upset me by saying the wrong thing. In both of these instances they can’t be blamed for that and they never mean to upset me so I’ve never said anything and just dealt with it myself. As an outsider looking in, my counsellor was able to see how damaging this was for me and, actually, how that was making me a bit of a martyr.

Its never malicious and, if you’re an avid reader of my blogs, you’ll know there have been multiple occasions where people have upset me by saying the wrong thing but, whichever way you cut the cookie, it is always me who seems to get the raw end of the deal and, to be honest, at this stage I can see how holding that in all the time is doing me harm.

My main upset these days comes from those closest to me because, basically, they want so desperately for us to have another baby. Most things strangers throw at me I am now fully equipped for but the ‘second baby’ thing is such a minefield for us- again, if you read these posts regularly, you’ll know. I requested counselling, not to deal with Beatrice’s death (I felt like I had done that) but, specifically to try and iron out my issues with having another baby. Of course I want another baby. Of course I do. But I don’t know when apart from NOT NOW. When my counsellor asked why I thought I should have a baby, I found myself mostly talking about everyone else and their worries and their thoughts and their needs.

People upset me so much by asking me about when we’ll have another baby. Why isn’t Beatrice enough? I’m just enjoying my time with her; why can’t you?! What exactly do you think us having another baby is going to fix or sort?! Don’t you think that is something I think about all the bloody time?! I DON’T KNOW WHEN! But I don’t want to upset them by telling them this. So I just smile and nod and make polite excuses and let it eat me inside. But anger shouldn’t stay there. It makes me ugly.

Noticing this, my counsellor asked why I didn’t tell people to stop asking. I don’t want to upset them. Her response? “But they obviously aren’t bothered about upsetting you…”. That sounded really harsh to me because I know everyone who was saying these things was absolutely not wanting to upset me but, to a point, she was right. These people aren’t putting on a filter. They aren’t thinking about upsetting me, otherwise (surely!?) they wouldn’t ask such a personal and complicated question, close to me or not.

“Why do you put their feelings above your own? Why, in your mind, are their feelings more important than your’s?”

Well, of course, they’re not but I don’t want to upset them. I don’t want to upset anyone. I trust myself to cope with their words and I don’t know how they would cope with mine. I don’t want to see someone not coping well.

My counsellor suggested that I basically get my head out of my arse and stop thinking so highly of myself… “If you can cope, they can cope. Why should you allow their words and actions to hurt you?! They aren’t thinking or being diplomatic or kind! Be kind to yourself and do what you have to do to protect yourself!”

I have always told myself to be kind to myself but I think it’s time to go further: its time to be a little selfish.

I’m not ok; I’m not coping

Session 4.

I’m not ok; I’m not coping.

I kept saying this. At this session, my counsellor picked up on it and told me I was wrong. Whilst I don’t feel ok, I am definitely coping. I am alive. I am living through it all, working through it. I am coping. Just.

Multiple people have previously said to me things like “I don’t understand how you get up in a morning” or “You’re honestly amazing; I couldn’t cope if I’d’ve been through what you had”. But you know what? You would. You would get up and you would cope because actually you don’t have any other choice. Not really.

The future is what I struggle with most and that’s because I’m a planner- I can’t help it- and as I plan, my mind now automatically jumps to worst case scenario. Logically, I’m thinking that if I prepare myself for everything, if it ends up happening, I will know what to do or at least be prepared for how I will cope. Truth is, though, that not only is it impossible to predict all possible future outcomes, the majority of these things will never happen and you can’t really know how you will cope with things until you are faced with them. It is such a waste of my precious time and, more importantly, completely exhausting.

The main things I fret about are losing the people closest to me. I’ve dreamt about Poppy getting ill and having to put her down a lot. You know those really real dreams where you wake up in a cold sweat or wake yourself up sobbing? Yeah, those. I think of that scenario and my inner voice immediately says “I wouldn’t cope”. Recently, a very real worry has been about Rob committing suicide. This has probably been spurred on by the fact that, unfortunately, there has been a number of male suicides in my local area and, with everything we’ve been through, I could understand his reasoning if he did. I’ve cried with him, begged him to talk to me and not to leave me. Because I really couldn’t cope without you.

But, if you’d’ve asked me what I’d’ve done if my child had died in 2014, I’d’ve told you that I didn’t know, that I wouldn’t cope… And yet here I am…

It is damn hard. But here I am.

What my counsellor has highlighted is that I am coping. In fact, I have very sophisticated coping skills! I talk, I write, I share. I have people who I can turn to and I know who to turn to for what. And, most importantly, I have reached out for help. Which means that, should the worst happen, I’ll do the same again. Anything life throws at me, I can- and will- cope with.

You might not be ok but you are coping so, soon, you will be just fine! Hang in there…

And as simple as that sounds, it is so empowering to take that on myself and truly know that I am good at coping. I am great at it. Not every day is easy- often most days are a real struggle- but every day I show up. The realisation of this lifted me higher than I had been in a long while!

I may not FEEL ok but I AM coping…

Dark thoughts

Apparently, thinking about being better off dead isn’t as uncommon as you think, nor is it as dangerous as I had felt it was the first time I found these thoughts in my head.

The danger comes when you start thinking about how. Not in a dramatic ‘I could just throw myself under that car’ kind of way- that might not do it and what a mess!- but in a ‘lets google how many paracetamol it would take’ or ‘how do I make sure the right person finds me’ or ‘lets draft a goodbye letter’ kind of way… The danger comes when you start making plans. Not just thinking about it but actually starting to do it.

I get the impression that most people who contemplate suicide do so because they think they’d be better off dead or that the world would be better off without them in it. For me, it was being in a position of thinking not that I’d rather be dead or that my family would be better off without me (not all the time anyway…) but that I would actually prefer to be somewhere else; prefer to be with someone else.

If you’re a mother whose only child is ‘living’ somewhere else, without you and away from you, how much of a crap mother are you?! What have you done?! If you could do something to reunite yourself with your child, would you do it?!

I would.

And when my brain thinks like that, I am scared. Because that made me a good mother. That was something I really wanted to do. Something that was much more important than anything I could do here. More important than anyone I was here for.

What my counsellor has made me see is that the fact that I’ve not done anything about these thoughts and that there is always something that pulls me out of that place means I am not in real danger. She kept asking, over and over, “why haven’t you done anything then? If its that bad why are you still here? What is stopping you?!”.

My answer: suicide is the last symptom of an illness and, in the same way that people ‘fight’ cancer, I am fighting this. I don’t want this to beat me. I don’t want my family to have to deal with the aftermath of what I would leave behind. I want to live and I couldn’t do that to my family. I know I never will. So there’s no real danger. Besides, and probably most importantly, there is no guarantee that I’d be wherever Beatrice was anyway which makes the whole thought process entirely pointless. I don’t want my daughter to be blamed for my death.

I know I am safe. I know I am stronger than these hideous thoughts. I know I will be fine. But it is so very unpleasant to be inside my head sometimes…

Sharing is caring, isn’t it?

Session two.

I walk in with a big smile on my face and am asked “how has your week been then?”. I answer, still smiling, almost laughing, saying it has been the worst week for a very long time.

A can of worms has been opened by starting counselling and its tough to work through all these things. I don’t want to. I feel like there is too much to do on my own but realise that this is the only way to work through this stuff. It is exhausting.

Not only that but, this week, I was tested with the arrival of a little girl into my sister’s life (the first since Beatrice was born), a low response to a blog (something that usually really perks me up but, this week, made me feel worse) and a pregnancy announcement from one of my bridesmaids.

The counsellor says “the words you say do not match the expression on your face; you’ve had the worst week but you’re smiling”… Again with the crying. What is it with this woman?! “Stop pretending you’re ok if you’re not. Acknowledge your feelings and work through them rather than against them”. Good tip. Post-it reminders have been distributed everywhere…

Truth is, I desperately want to share these experiences with my husband, Beatrice’s father, but he grieves very differently to me. Since the day she died we have struggled with this, which makes it very difficult for me to reach out these days. I want to talk, he can’t. I want to remember, he wants to forget. I want to cry, he wants to keep control. So then what?! Where do you go from there when you both need opposite things from each other in order cope?

You get on with it alone…

A few months ago, I’d asked Rob to put up a shelf during his day off whilst I was at work. He said he would but when I got home he hadn’t as he had ended up needing to work. No bigger, right? I, however, completely lost the plot and he threatened divorce. When was he going to put me first? When was he going to start thinking about my needs? To be clear, this was not about the shelf. I had spent all day thinking about how I was going to finish sorting the kitchen now that my new shelf was up; it was about my focus for the evening and it had been taken away from me, leaving me with just my thoughts for company and I was scared of that. At this time, being busy was the only thing that kept my mind distracted from horrid thoughts. I was convinced he wouldn’t understand so I didn’t talk to him about that and I didn’t explain. I just screamed at him about being selfish and my needs and when was he going to put me first? He thought I was talking about a shelf. I was not.

This being said, am I being open (like I always say I am) if I behave like this? If I answer ‘nothing’ when questioned by my husband about why I’ve spent the evening sobbing on the sofa, how can I get upset when he doesn’t comfort me?! Why don’t I tell him!? Why don’t I say “I’m grieving” or “I miss Beatrice”?! I never see him upset- he deals with things differently to me- so I think he isn’t hurting. He is a ‘stiff upper lip’ kind; ‘get back up and brush yourself off’ mentality. He would think I was ridiculous. He is totally fine and he has been through the exact same thing. He wouldn’t understand.

Think of your grief as a very heavy load.
I carry my load on the front for everyone to see but, often, when other stresses are added, it becomes too much for me to juggle and, as the only other person in the world who has also lost our Beatrice as a daughter, I ask Rob to help me carry some of the weight. It has to be him; nobody else understands what it feels like to hold this. For me, if he will help me, if we are in it together, sharing the burden, things will be easier. I can’t see him carrying anything, his arms are free to help me! Whilst I focus on my load and how much I have to carry, showing my grief to everyone and getting frustrated when Rob won’t offer his hands to help, I can’t see the load that he carries quietly on his back; it may not be as obvious as mine but it is just as heavy and his back is already breaking carrying its weight. It isn’t that he won’t help me, it’s that he can’t.

Because he doesn’t ever talk about or show how difficult it is for him, I just presume that he is ok when, obviously, this isn’t the case. He carries his load differently to how I carry mine but he isn’t able to take on my grief as well and so just pushes me away. It isn’t selfish. It is necessary to protect yourself. I do this to other people a lot; I don’t like that I do but I know I do. I refuse to entertain their grief and their moaning and their concerns because I have enough stuff to deal with myself. I can appreciate that something is difficult for someone or that something is sad but, as a naturally empathetic person, I sometimes can’t allow myself to listen to it. I’m not saying that my situation is necessarily worse than anyone else’s, but my grief is certainly worse for me than their grief is and I feel I will never be able to fully understand or empathise with people’s problems again. Oh, you’re having a tough time are you? Try having a funeral for your only baby… It isn’t a pretty place, inside my head… It feels heartless but it is necessary for me to have learnt how to take a step back; self-preservation in this situation is critical to survival.

After this second session, I felt so guilty for putting so much pressure on my husband. I have often thought that he has an awful lot of pressure on him with how much I need him and expect from him but this revelation put a whole new spin on things for me. Perhaps he doesn’t want to talk to me about things because he doesn’t want to add to my load? I personally think that him offloading some stuff to me would make my grief more reasonable to carry, knowing that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. If we both distributed the weight evenly- some on the front and some on the back of both of us- surely the pressure would be spread more evenly, causing less pain…

Communication is key and I, for one, spend a lot of time conversing inside my own head, forgetting that other people can’t hear it. When I say “nothing” in answer to “what is the matter?”, I just assume that the person asking knows that ‘nothing’ means ‘I miss my daughter’. Because it is always at the forefront of my mind, I presume everyone must know that I am always missing Beatrice and, to me, if I’m crying or upset it is pretty damn obvious what ‘the matter’ is. What a stupid question! This said, because he doesn’t work like I do, unless I tell Rob that I’m grieving when he asks, how will he know?! For all he knows, there could be something just as equally as awful that has just happened. Nobody is a mind reader and perhaps if I started truly sharing the load bit by bit from the beginning rather than just expecting him to take the full force of weight at the end, this whole thing might get a little easier…

Let us see, shall we?