…At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.

I’ve never spoken before about how we decided on the name Freddie.

My Nan’s uncle, Ernest Frederick Eldred, was in the 2/3rd City of London Field Ambulance, he helped save many lives along the front line and risked his own. “Uncle Freddie” as he was referred to, only had one daughter Marjorye, herself in the WRENS in WW2. Marjorye was like a sister to my Nan as they were both only-children and Nanny would go and stay with them every summer as her parents were busy running a hotel. I was lucky enough to inherit all Fred Eldred’s WW1 photographs and documents when Marjorye passed away.

One month after the Armistice in 1918, Fred was posted to Mons in Belgium to help process all the French and Belgian refugees. His unit’s story and the photos are harrowing and inspiring. I always thought it would be an honour to name our son after him as he hadn’t had the chance to have a son, so when I found out we were having a boy, we immediately called him Freddie.

I felt an extra pang of sadness and regret that we lost Freddie at 38 weeks. It seemed cruel to have named him in honour of Fred Eldred only for him to die.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Fred Eldred and all the people who served in WW1 today. It’s incredible that 100 years have passed since he clicked his camera and captured “humanity in a lorry” as one of his comrades put it. I want to do another blog post to share the photos of the refugees at Mons but for tonight I will leave it here and remember my Freddie and his namesake.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

The great oxymoron

Stillbirth is a completely peculiar circumstance. Stillbirth, the great oxymoron. Where life and death coexist simultaneously.

How do you ‘celebrate’ the birthday of a dead child? A child who, stillborn, never got to breathe a breath in this world. I see other loss-mums baking cakes and letting off balloons, some are campaigning, some have managed to raise tens-of-thousands for charity through fundraising in their child’s name. It’s so difficult to know what is the ‘right thing’ to do…

There’s no support leaflet suggesting creative ways to mark the passage of time since your child’s death and celebrate that it’s their birthday at the same time. I’m still trying to figure out what feels right for me, what’s right for our family. I’d like to be confident enough to have cake and release balloons but it feels too painfully close to what we should be doing… if only he weren’t in a box on my mantelpiece.

This is only Freddie’s 3rd birthday and so far what has felt right is to get the hell away from people and crowds and surround ourselves with nature. We’ve also been drawn to places we visited when we were pregnant with him. It’s like being there connects back to those memories and makes him feel close.

Freddie’s first birthday was at Kielder, Northumberland National Park- the least populated place in the country. We went to view the northern lights at Kielder observatory. Beautiful, peaceful and perspective-giving. Seeing stars and galaxies in space really made Freddie’s death feel less overwhelming. Freddie’s second birthday was spent wandering the wintery rose garden at Dunham Massey, taking in the nature and remembering how I waddled around, struggling with my bump on our ‘baby-moon’.

It might sound strange but in this age of social media there seems to be a culture of slightly competitive, ostentatious grieving. In the mainstream, you see women who are turning motherhood into a career- branding and monetising their offspring. But, it’s also happening in the babyloss community too. It’s not enough to grieve privately, quietly. They’ve got slogans, hashtags, T-shirts; using their dead children as campaign catalysts for change. Seeing them do it makes me feel like our quiet reflection isn’t enough, I should be creating a noisy public legacy for Freddie…

#listentoyourinstinctsnottraineemidwives #failuresofcarekillbabies #umbilicalcordaccidentsareavoidable

In some ways it makes me laugh that I’ve got mum guilt over how I’m ‘parenting’ my dead child. This Imposter Syndrome, where I’m doubting my accomplishments as Freddie’s mum, is just how it would be if he were here alive.

I wish more things were how they would be if you were alive.

I’m so sorry you died my beautiful boy. Happy 3rd Birthday, I will treasure those hours we got to spend with you on the day you were born. I grieve for you every day of my life. I hope I’m making you proud in our own way.

36 months

I sat looking at one of my beauty products the other day and it had one of those logos for expiration. 36 months… it really is no time at all. It sounds so much less than three years.

It was exactly 36 months ago that we were told Freddie was dead. My eye kept catching the clocks around our house today and I was thinking “this time exactly I was sat opening baby shower presents laughing excitedly”. Looking forward to wrapping Freddie in the gorgeous cardigans and quilts that had been handmade for him..

At 1:30pm I thought about how we were turned away from the Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU) because they were too busy and told to go to my diabetic clinic appointment instead. “Come back later” they told us.

At 6pm I thought about how we were probably sat in the MAU waiting to be reassured by the swooshing “gah-dunk gah-dunk gah-dunk” of our baby’s heart on the monitor.

Four hours later I’m thinking about how the hell I’ve survived the last 36 months having been forced to give birth to my dead son’s body and carry on with life like nothing happened.

It’s Freddie’s 3rd birthday on Tuesday. I don’t even want to punish myself by imagining what we would have been doing if he was here. It’s too agonising.

Just 36 months into this life sentence.

Dead babies don’t really need a travel chess set do they?

Dead babies don’t really need a travel chess set do they?

This morning I received an email from Amazon reminding me ‘Your 2 Year Old: Explore Travel Toys now’… I thought it was a little odd as Albert is only one. Helpfully, there was a link at the bottom saying ‘Why am I getting this email?’, so I clicked on it and was taken to my Amazon Family account settings. It simply said Baby Banks due 21 November 2015, information added 10th August 2015. It’s times like this, where you receive an unexpected reminder that your child should be two and a half, playing with travel toys and talking to you about your upcoming holiday to the seaside, that really kick you in the stomach. A reminder also that I was an excited expectant mum, happy and naive, filling in forms about my son that I couldn’t wait to meet. Freddie’s due date was two weeks after we lost him at 38 weeks. 21st November, another date to hurt when I see it on the calendar. I can scarcely believe you would be three this year.

I was more surprised in a way to receive this email from Amazon because I thought we’d put a stop to all things like that. When you lose a baby there is a special mailing preference list you can sign to stop postal mailings and emails. Marketing directed at your child. Boots’ Parents’ Club love sending you reminders about your baby and what you need to buy for it so it was a relief when those stopped. But here we are, nearly three years later and Amazon want me to buy a bucket and spade for my dead son.

My third Mother’s Day

I can’t quite believe it was only two years ago that I spent my first Mother’s Day digging a grave for Snoopy our beloved greyhound whilst grieving the recent and very raw loss of our first-born son. He’d been the main thing keeping me going and I just wanted to climb in there with him. Mother’s Day can be such a painful time for so many people: those without their mums, those without their children, those who are estranged or struggling with fertility.

Last year passed in such a blur as I was only a matter of days post partum really. I still didn’t feel like a mother. I had had that identity cruelly stripped from me by stillbirth; I knew I was a mother but no one else knew and I didn’t have anything tangible to mother. I’m only now, a year after my rainbow baby arrived, beginning to let myself feel and identify with the identity mother. I’ve been thinking this morning during my Mother’s Day extended lie in about all the things I’ve done as a mother for both my sons. All the times I’ve suspended the wants and needs of my Self to put them first, because I was their mother. I came up with quite a list!

I was a mother every time I:

  1. Injected my stomach with insulin so the blood sugar didn’t damage their placenta.
  2. Tested my blood til my fingers were raw from prick tests.
  3. Swallowed metformin or daily aspirin or antibiotics for them.
  4. Didn’t wear nail varnish or perfume or use cleaning chemicals.
  5. Drained my arm veins for so many blood tests they went purple and green.
  6. Injected blood thinners to counteract my Factor V Leiden gene.
  7. Regulated every bit of food and drink that passed my lips for 36 months solid both during ttc and pregnancy in an attempt to protect them from the effects of diabetes.
  8. Lay awake counting kicks.
  9. Lay awake unable to sleep due to the sheer size and weight of my polyhydramnios pregnancy bumps.
  10. Carefully arranged a car seat belt so it didn’t go over my bump.
  11. Let myself be scanned, prodded, palpated, invaded, stretched, torn, stitched back together, scarred, physically weakened, emotionally broken, aged, enriched, empowered, educated, strengthened.
  12. Attended my child’s body in the chapel of rest.
  13. Arranged a funeral.
  14. Honoured Freddie’s life.
  15. Think of both my sons and know motherly love in both its rawest most visceral form and in the lightest happiest sense.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who have ever loved anything more than themselves, and have ever put someone above their own needs and wants. 🌷

My first first birthday for my second son

I never got to plan a first birthday for my first son. A baby shower at 38 weeks was as far as I got, and that was the day we were told he was dead.

My rainbow Albert turned one today. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. I’ve tried my best to be normal and buy balloons and banners, canapés and wrapping paper. I’ve even ordered a cake for Saturday. But still, still I was convinced he would die before he reached this milestone. I’ve spent more time planning his funeral than I have his birthday. I’d told myself it would get easier the older he got… but I think this is just how it’s going to be as a loss parent.

A fellow blogger literally just posted today about anxiety and her final paragraph hit the nail on the head of what I’m experiencing:

“When bereaved parents worry that something could happen to one of their (living) children, they are not envisioning something abstract. They are remembering and re-living a reality – the most awful reality. And instead of being able to push the scary thoughts aside, they take the thoughts further, potentially even plan another funeral in their mind. Because they live in a very different world. One where tragedies don’t just happen to other people. Tragedies happen to them.”

I never got to plan a first birthday for my first son so this weekend will be my first first birthday, for my second son. He’s the most incredible, precious, most loved baby. Albert has brought colour and meaning back into our lives in a way that nothing else could. He truly is a rainbow baby. We will have balloons and cake and music. If everyone’s well and the snow doesn’t stop people travelling then we will have friends and family to celebrate our beautiful boy this weekend. But behind my smile I will be reliving a reality that you can only imagine. One where I had to walk through our front door and confront a pile of gifts and cards, and beautiful blue wrapping paper with a full-term dead baby inside my belly.

There was a rainbow in the sky over Bury the day Albert was born. He’s given me the chance to be the mum I should’ve been over two years ago. I will always think of Freddie and Albert together. Freddie would have been so excited it’s his little brother’s first birthday.

So Happy Birthday my rainbow boy, thank you for giving this mama another son to love and a beautiful reason to live. ❤️👶🏻👶🏻❤️

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34…

It’s just turned midnight so I’m officially 34… I can’t quite believe I’m 34. Sounds silly but where did all those years go? I remember my 21st birthday like it was yesterday. Our student union was hosting its ‘Christmas LCR’ on 4th Dec and they paid a bunch of actors from ‘Neighbours’ to come Meet&Greet. What more could you want… ‘Dr Karl Kennedy’ and Disaronno & coke for £1.70 🍸 Dressed as angels partying with your friends from school, who’d come all the way to Norwich on a road trip, and your new friends from Uni… not a care in the world.

I remember my housemates sorting a retro tea party in the Ziggurats (our halls of residence at UEA) on the Sunday… nothing cures a hangover better than cheese & pineapple on sticks.

Such a lot has happened in those 13 years and yet when children come along it’s easy to forget the person you once were.

I can only speak as a loss-Mum. I have no idea if I would feel this way if my first born child hadn’t died but, at times, the person I was, it feels like she’s been completely obliterated. It’s only when I start reminiscing or my memory is jogged by something that I recollect who I was, who I am.

I’m currently selling my old friend a ‘Circle One Jeff Townsley 7’10 Surfboard’… I remember surfing it the summer I worked down in Devon at the Surf Southwest surf school and surfing it in the bleak Norfolk Winter dressed head-to-toe in Neoprene. Croyde, Saunton Sands, Cromer, West Runton, Sea Palling. I surfed in remote Morocco and took part in the BUSA surf competition in Newquay. It’s a part of me that was long ago forgotten… just like the me who got her full motorbike license in 2012… who was that girl? 34… suddenly I’m half way to 70.. and I’m scared of riding the tubes in London! 😳

This new year, my 34th year, I’m going to try and put the last 3 years of hell behind me, I’ve vowed to try and embrace things the old (non pregnancy or maternity) me enjoyed. I’m not going to be surfing or riding a Yamaha XJ6 again but I have recently signed up to an art class (something I enjoyed doing in my late teens and early twenties). I’m going to exude joie de vivre like the old me but in a weathered and battle-weary way. I love my sons but I am also so much more than a mother.