Friday, 8 March 2013

Somehow less of a mother...

So with Mother's Day on Sunday I feel like I wanted to write something about a few experiences that have cropped up since losing Harry and also since having William, that perhaps people could relate to or maybe to be aware of.

I feel a bit funny about Mother's Day. I don't want to, as I feel that it is important to celebrate Mother's Day. Our mothers do so much for us, not just when we are growing up but all through our lives. My mum had three of us, under five at one point, with Dad working away Monday to Friday, she really had her work cut out for her. She did a superb job though, I have many happy memories growing up. Even now, my mum tends to be the first person I call when I have a problem and usually the only person that I listen to! She is so good with William and he absolutely adores her. She is what I compare my own parenting experience to, as I feel that she did a great job with us, I want the same upbringing for William. He deserves the best.

Anyway, it got me thinking about why I feel funny about Mother's Day. I think it is mainly to do with the fact that I am a mother to two children, and only one of them is here to celebrate it with me. I know that William will do all he can to make it special for me, as I know he loves the festivities but I will obviously be thinking a lot about Harry. It is the same with when people ask me how many children I have, I feel like I am lying if I say that I have two, as I actually only have one... but likewise if I say I only have one, I feel like I am lying as I have actually carried and given birth to two children. And now I am in my third pregnancy I feel like I am missing out something when I talk about my second pregnancy and my baby isn't here to show for those experiences. I kind of feel that as a bereaved mother, I am somehow less of a mother. Like half the mother I should be, because only half of my children are here....

A similar issue is how other mothers make you feel like less of a mother because you didn't have a "regular" birth, because you had a c-section. What is that about? I have had one "normal" (albeit assisted) delivery and one emergency c-section. When I tell people that I will be having an elective c-section this time round I get looks like "well that's cheating" or "what a poor effort". My mum had c-sections with all three of us on medical grounds, and she talked about how people made you feel like you hadn't done things properly because you had a c-section. I didn't chose to have a c-section with Harry - I was rushed to theatre following a bleed and a severe drop in my babies heartrate. I am almost positive that most people would chose a vaginal delivery over a c-section any day as recovering from having your stomach sliced open is not a glamourous experience. That being said I know the pain of an episiostomy so I am pretty sure most wouldn't chose for that either!

It is a shame that mothers do this to each other, I found it really hard in parenting groups after having William that it was like a constant competition "well my baby sleeps through the night" (at 6 weeks) and my baby feeds so well, my baby eats everything I feed him, my baby can walk (at 9 months), my baby can read/count/knows his colours (at 1 year!). I couldn't handle the constant comparisons and judgemental mothers so I just stopped going along in the end, especially as William had to be put through controlled crying at 10 months for us to get a good nights sleep and had tongue tie and struggled to breastfeed for a long time, then had colic/reflux and would cry all night long. It made me feel really bad about myself, and again, less of a mother, as I wasn't enjoying this blissful experience that everyone made out they were.

It is even the same with breastfeeding, which is obviously down to the individual mother. And what a shame it is when mothers have to give up sooner than they wanted to as it just wasn't working out as planned, and some breastfeeding nazi starts shoving it down your throat? I breastfed Wills for 5-6 months exclusively, and then added in formula feeds and solid foods and he seemed to be much happier so weaned him off. But didn't I know it, "oh you should try until 12 months, and it is best for the both of you"... etc etc. It was a relief in the end to not feel like a dairy cow and to have my body back after what felt like forever. I have heard health visitors and how they speak to women who chose not to feed, and while I think everyone should give it a try (as it is way easier to feed yourself than mess about with sterilising bottles and buying formula etc!), that is my own opinion and some people just don't want to, and that is their opinion, and no one should be made to feel like any less of a woman because they chose not to.

And my latest "issue" is with William's sleep. Since having Harry his sleep pattern has gone wild. We had it done to a T from just before he was 1 until Harry was born and Wills was just over 2 years. He would go to bed no problems, tucked in, wide awake and he would settle himself and go off to sleep with no dramas, and sleep until 6-7am. We were so happy with his wonderful sleep routine after his first year being so awful. We appreciated our good night's sleep. After we lost Harry, Wills stayed in my parents bedroom for a month so I could recover from my c-section. He would have Mum sit with him til he fell asleep and would wake when they went to bed, but knew they were going to bed and that someone was there in the room with him so felt "safe" and went back off. When we got back to our house after 5 weeks away, Wills would not go to sleep without someone sat with him and some nights this would mean sitting with him for up to an hour while he fell asleep. I didn't know what else to do as we couldn't bring ourselves to leave him to cry, after all I had been through I felt so fragile.Then at 10.30-11pm every night he would wake up and cry, I would sit with him again til he went back off and even then he would be in such a light sleep that he would wake as soon as you walked out of his room and this could go on for hours. In the end I would bring him up to our room so we could all get a good nights sleep and he would sleep next to me in my bed. This has gone on for the past nine months and I now feel that it needs to be fixed, as soon as possible, with the new baby being born in August. I spoke about me sleeping on the floor in Wills room to try and  comfort him in his own bed and settle him back off but being pregnant I can't think of much worse than sleeping on the floor, especially when sleeping in my own bed in getting uncomfortable. Anyway, this week he has been sleeping my room, but "in his own bed" on the floor (basically, his mattress, his pillow and his duvet) and he has gone to sleep within 5-10 mins as we have cut out any naps altogether, and is sleeping through until 5.30-6am ish and staying in bed until 6am when his groclock shows the sun come up! He has been doing this since Monday night and has woken up once or twice at his usual times in the first few nights but settled straight away (using bribes and telling him what a big boy his is staying in his own bed!). When he is absolutely settled and sleeps completely without waking then I will start him back in his own room and see how that goes. I have felt that as William's sleep has been so back to front since we lost Harry, and that we have been quite slack with him and it really shows in his behaviour now we are tightening up with him, I do feel judged again. I want to be stronger than that but do find it very hard when you are told you're not doing something "right".

I have promised myself that with "Little Pip" I am going to be much stronger, and go by what I think is right and not be put off or persuaded what is right by other people. I know mothers feel endless guilt, either about not having enough money, or working too much and not spending enough time together, or being too strict, or not strict enough or not being able to give them everything they want.

Someone said to me recently that when the new baby comes, that the work I do for the Trust will diminish considerably. It won't. Yes I will have less time but I do all I do for the Trust out of the love I have for my dear son, and his name will continue through the work of the Trust, and I would hate for Harry's name to suddenly be forgotten as I am having our new baby.

I think all mothers are truly doing the best for their kids and all out of the love they have for their children in their hearts, and wouldn't the world be a far better place if all us mothers could appreciate that in each other and try to support the decisions that each of us make, as nearly all of us (obviously there are always exceptions to the rule!!) make our decisions with the best interests of our children first and foremost, and this Mother's Day, we should celebrate each other and our achievements as mothers collectively, and individually.

I am very lucky to have a wonderful example set for me by my mummy and I hope I set a good example to my children too.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Pregnancy After Loss

After I lost Harry, all I could focus on was getting pregnant again to give us all some hope, some focus and the child we so badly wanted as a part of our family.

What I didn't realise, in any way, was the terrible levels of anxiety I would experience.

So in the first trimester, I was paranoid every day that I would wind up with a horrific bleed and that would be the hopes for this baby all over. Then, as I edged towards the 12 week marker and had seen a very strong and active "Little Pip" on the ultrasound, I started to become less worried about miscarrying and more worried about suffering the horrendous "we can't find a heartbeat" and how I would feel if I was to have a stillbirth.

I often wonder how I would cope as a bereaved mother, if I was to have an premature baby. I see these wonderful mothers in the support group at the neonatal unit, who are stronger than strong, watching their tiny fighters, wishing and hoping for the miracle they deserve. After having my waters go preterm with both my pregnancies, I worry about this pregnancy having them go even earlier and so the chances of a prem baby seem higher. After seeing my darling boy three hours after giving birth to him, all wired up and ventilated, and watch him fight for his dear little life, and not make it, I worry constantly how I would feel if something was to go wrong this time round. Last time, I was able to be strong, for Harry, listening and observing. This time, with all those horrendous memories and experiences that followed, I don't think I could cope as well as I did. I am not sure I could keep the positive outlook required of a preemie mummy, as my outlook would be so clouded by Harry's story.

Every one tells me "this time will be different", "you must try to remember this is a new, fresh pregnancy", "the extra care you receive will ensure no mistakes will be made this time".... despite all these things I still think of all the things that could go wrong this time. No one is safe from a nasty infection creeping in, no one is guaranteed the healthy placenta your baby needs, no one can say that their birth will be totally straightforward, no one can be absolutely sure you will go on to have a lovely, happy, healthy baby. So whilst I do agree, that this baby deserves our excitement and fresh "eyes" on the situation, I still feel unsure about the outcome of this pregnancy and how I might cope if things don't work out.

Before I found out I was expecting, I found it really hard to learn of friends and relatives discovering they were pregnant. I have to say, that thankfully I can now be happy for people, and can even now take pleasure in looking at new babies, whereas before the pain in my heart was unbearable. I now feel jealous of those who have straight forward births and pregnancies, and also slightly angry at those who are naive enough to truly believe that these terrible things "won't happen to me". I still don't feel like I would be ready to get close to or hold a newborn though, and that feeling will remain, I am sure, for a very long time.

I think of Harry every single hour of every single day. Sometimes I think of him with a smile, and I can feel his presence with me now and again, and that is comforting. Sometimes, I get angry as I question "why?"... why did this happen to my baby? To my family? I managed to look through his belongings last week. It was as heartbreaking as I knew it would be. I let myself really cry as I held the babygrow I had cuddled him in. I breathed in his scent, and held it out to see just how tiny he was. I looked through his name tags and his christening certificate. And looked at his tiny lock of hair that the nurses cut for us. I am keeping this in the hope that one day they will have the science to bring my Harry back from his DNA. That sounds mental, but I just want him here more than anything and I read a book about this when I was at school. I can but hope....

As those of you who have been pregnant before will know, early pregnancy brings about some very vivid dreams. Some nice, some a bit crazy. I had some disturbing dreams about this baby's birth and how it felt to watch them in the NNU again. Not nice. I wasn't ready for the dreams about Harry. In the past I have dreamt about Harry and about him being on the NNU again and holding him and watching him. But this dream was different. We are currently picking out wording and choosing the material for Harry's gravestone, and this dream was about once it had been erected, and my family and I going to look at the finished article. In my dream, I had allowed everyone else to see it first, and once they had left I took a step closer and this headstone was enormous. His headstone was as big as a double bed headboard. It was black and shiny and very OTT for a baby. I was shocked. Then I saw that the grass around the headboard had been dug up and laid back down like a big duvet of turf, this was confusing. To my absolute horror, in the corner of the grass "duvet", up by the headboard/gravestone, was Harry. Like he was tucked into bed. All I could think was that someone had dug up my son, taken him out of his coffin, touched his body, disturbed his body and he was there for all to see and exposed to the wind and the rain. I was furious. Who had permitted this? Not me..... I said to Harry's Dad "What the hell is going on?!" and he said "it's ok, I'll tuck him in", and off he went to Harry's side and started to tuck the grass in like a blanket around Harry's tiny body. I was stunned and shocked. I told him I couldn't handle this and walked out of the cemetry. I woke up, sweating, scared, sad and quite disturbed. I cou;dn't go back to sleep for hours. I spoke to my counsellor about this dream. She told me that perhaps this was to do with when we were at the funeral parlour with Harry and I had dressed him and wrapped him in his blanket, and laid him in his coffin. In my head, I was "putting him to bed" and that was what I told him I was doing when I did it. I do think about that day quite a lot, especially screwing those gold screws into the lid. It was a terrible day but I knew it was something I just had to do.

Anyway, another issue that has cropped up recently, is William's reaction to this pregnancy. Remember that he is nearly three and I think that pregnancy alone is quite a lot for a three year old to comprehend, but throwing a death into the mix is going to complicate things quite a bit. Recently, William has asked his Harry is going to born at the same time as "Little Pip" and if he will be coming to live with us like the new baby. He has also, conversely, asked if "Little Pip" is going to be an angel like Harry. Very hard to explain. Tonight, he said to me "Mummy I am sad." I said "why are you sad sweetheart?" and he said "I'm sad about Harry" and he gave me a hug. No idea where that came from, but it was reassuring for William to show some emotion about the whole ordeal, rather than being just accepting of it all. It shows me he is starting to grasp the sadness of it all.

Nevertheless, we went to see the midwife today for our 16 week antenatal appointment. We got to hear "Little Pip"'s heartbeat and it was lovely and strong.

So nearly nine months on, my beautiful, sweet little Harry - I hope that you will continue watch over us and your dear brother or sister, and keep us all safe and guide us to happier times. We miss you so much that is painful. I wish, more that anything, that life could have been different and you could be sat here with me now. I hope that the angels are taking really good care of you. We love you more than words can describe - always xxxx