That Question

I was in London on Wednesday on a course. Nerve wracking as I don’t like the crowded tube – too many worries of fires, bombs and crashes underground and anxiety about meeting lots of new people I didn’t know. It was all fine of course! The tube was crowded and dirty but sailed smoothly to Stratford and the people on the course were very nice and some interesting perspectives were shared.

It was a course about managing mental health in the workplace, an important subject and one close to my heart these days.

Whilst working in a small group one of the ladies commented on my print necklace. She said how pretty it was. I replied saying it was all of my boys. The other lady asked ‘that’ question, the one that loss parents dread… ‘how many do you have?’ Usually I freeze and say just the one, but that didn’t feel like the right answer given that I’d mentioned plural rather than singular boys. My reply, after a deep breath was that I have a living five year old and we lost two boys at 23 weeks in 2015 and 2016. 

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and the ladies said all the usual kind words and we moved on to the task in hand.

This is only the third or fourth time I’ve been honest about the number of children I have to a stranger. It was scary but it felt good to be honest and to acknowledge all of my children. 

I need to do this more often! 

Birthday

I’m 37 today, I feel older than that, but it is to be expected really. We had a lovely family day out and at times the sun shone down on us. Whilst Toby was in the splash park we talked about what might have been if Rory was here today, life would have been much different with a nearly two year old in tow. More fun? yes, harder? probably, happier? definitely.

Two years ago today Rory was cremated, everyone told me to change the date, but I’m glad I share my birthday with Rory’s cremation ceremony. It gives us an excuse to mark the day and celebrate our lives, his life, Henry’s life. 

We had a fun day, it was missing something, someone, as always it is but it was special and it was fun.

Living the Dream

It is halfway through the first week of the Easter holidays and I’m exhausted. Toby and I aren’t designed to be together for ten consecutive days! We are too similar, a fact that always confuses me as we share no DNA. I love the bones of my boy but there are times I am defeated by the tantrums, the willfulness, the monotony, and the shear humdrum of parenting. 

Today had been a good day of mooching about at the shops followed by lunch. All was well until a tantrum about wearing his new trainers before Easter (they are an Easter present, I had to justify the frivolous purchase somehow!). As I pushed the heavy shopping trolley out of Aldi (complete with argumentative five year old) my hip popped (again). Not only was I stressed out, I was now in excruciating pain. I got to the car and unloaded the shopping, took the trolley back and my delightful boy refused to sit in his car seat. He stood there defiant and point blank refused to move. In that moment I wanted to cry. I pleaded, he sensed the defeated mummy in my voice and he complied. 

We sorted it all out in the end with a deal of being able to wear the trainers in the house but not outside until Easter Sunday. I wondered this afternoon if I was actually cut out to be a mummy, if that’s why I only have Toby. He’s a handful at times so maybe that’s why the others couldn’t stay. Perhaps with two children I’d be over the edge? I don’t know. It’s a thought that I often have, it doesn’t make it true of course.

Every parent feels how I did today, I know that and I know it’s not really true as I know Toby is awesome and the good times definitely outweigh the crappy moments. It is hard though (and confusing) when something you longed for for so long doesn’t always feel like you thought it would. The idealised view I had of parenting – the fun times, the snuggley stories, the milestones, the love is there in bucket loads and it is awesome and I am so lucky but also there is the monotony, the exhaustion, the frustration, the boredom, the guilt. These are the bits of parenting that I wasn’t prepared for and they are (at times but not always) soul destroying. Yes, 5 years down the line I’m still not totally used to it. I am so very lucky and that adds to the guilt. I have the prize that so many people want and sometimes it doesn’t make me happy.

Add the baby loss element to being a parent after infertility and the guilt is infinitely harder. Every time I moan about parenting I feel horrible. I hope the moans show that I’m just a normal mummy trying to stay sane.

At bedtime of course Toby was a delight, saying lots of lovely things and being his (mostly) happy sweet self. He reminded me of the joy that is being a parent and the reason we put up with all the crappy times. I realised this evening that you need the mundane to make the joyful moments happen. 

I have concluded that parenting is hard, parenting after infertility is harder, parenting after baby loss is harder still. Actually it is all just bloody hard! 

Matt and I have a long running joke of uttering three words during the testing (and disgusting!) moments – we tell each other we’re ‘living the dream’ and we laugh (and sometimes we drink wine too). 

I am truly living the dream. This is what being a parent it, signing up for the crap as well as the fun. Sometimes it may not feel like I’m living the dream but I truly know that I am and I’m so grateful. 

National Siblings Day

Apparently it is national siblings day today, our local ice cream parlour chain is giving away a voucher to celebrate. 

Days like this are something Toby can never celebrate, his siblings aren’t here and to him they are just names, photographs, teddies and balloons.

Last week at bath time Toby asked some questions about babies and I explained that I didn’t hate babies but they do make me very sad these days. 

He broke my heart by saying it was his fault that I’m sad, he explained that he’d asked for baby brothers and then they died and for that reason it’s his fault 😢

We managed to reassure him that it wasn’t his fault and we chose to have more babies not him. I essentially said it was my fault as I wanted them and I put them in my tummy. I told Toby that I already had Henry in my tummy when he asked if he could have a baby brother so it couldn’t possibly be his fault.
I forget quite how much he listens to and processes in his little five year old brain. I desperately wish I could give him a living sibling but everything is just so complicated. 

On the subject of siblings I’m proud that I have three amazing ones along with a very special cousin who is essentially my little sister. I also have some awesome friend sisters who have seen me through thick and thin. So perhaps it’s not just about siblings for support?

I hope, as an only child that Toby can surround himself with a good bunch of cousin and friend ‘siblings’ to be there for him. Essentially I just don’t want him to be lonely.

Dates

I’ve been twitchy the last week, I put it down to lots of things going on at the moment and end of term fatigue (I never knew the latter was a thing until Toby started school!). 

As I travelled into work on Wednesday I remembered that this time last year I was pregnant and then I panicked that I don’t really recall any milestones and dates from my pregnancy with Henry. I can still remember special dates from my pregnancy with Rory two years on so Henry should be clearer, more easy to recall but he isn’t. I put so much effort into protecting my heart when I was pregnant that I’m forgetting him so quickly.

I’ve read articles about ‘loss brain’, it’s essentially like baby brain but far more extreme. It makes sense really, trauma is life changing and it does change your brain, your whole being. My memory is definitely awful, a good example is that I forgot the Olympics had happened last year – yes really! At the end of last year we were eating one of those cheesy review of the year shows and the Olympics popped up, I said to Matt, ‘it wasnt this year, I don’t remember it’. Poor Matt, the look of fear mixed with concern and WTF on his face is something I’ll never forget. In my defence, the Olympics took place not long after we’d lost Henry and everything was a bit of a daze.

Anyhoo, last night I couldn’t shake the thought I’d had in the car earlier in the week. I WAS pregnant and I should know dates. I had a feeling that our 12 weeks scan was early April, I realised this was why I’d felt weird, but I didn’t know the date. I rummaged through Henry’s memory box and found the scan pictures. There it was – 8 April. I knew it was soon! I was so glad that I’d not missed it without a single thought. 

Henry’s 12 week scan

Henry, you are so loved, I may be crap at remembering your dates and milestones but I promise never to forget you.

Tiny Prints

I was properly adulting today as I helped out on mine and Toby’s first ever school trip. It was a fun sunny day spent outdoors with some lovely children.

As our groups lined up after a toilet stop a few of them commented on my necklace – a couple of girls said they liked it and a couple more asked what was on it. I wasn’t about to freak out a bunch of 4-6 year olds with tales of dead babies, loss and sadness so I said it was a necklace of prints of my babies, I showed them Toby’s toe print and one little girl commented that it was so big. 

They seemed happy with my explanation and didn’t probe further. Relief from me that I didn’t have to make something up or  explain why I’d said babies rather than baby. In that moment though I was happy that a few kids liked my necklace and proud that I had included Rory and Henry in the day in a round about way.

I love the gardens that we visited today and I went there a few times when Rory and Henry were in my tummy so it’s a special place for me. It was lovely to be there in the sun making memories with Toby’s schoolmates and it was extra special to include my baby boys.

Six Words

Matt is away this weekend so it’s been a Weekend of Mummy and Toby time. Friday we had an after school play date which was lots of fun, this morning we pottered about at home and this afternoon we headed off to an absolutely lovely afternoon tea party which was raising money for Aching Arms. 

Toby was such a good boy at the busy party full of grown-ups he didn’t know so as a treat we headed off to McDonalds for tea. On the way to the car Toby marvelled at the fact that I knew everyone there. I explained that I knew a few people and the reason I knew them was that they were like me and had babies who had died. He took the fact on board and we carried on. 

At McDonald’s we were having a good time and whilst Toby was eating his apple bag (it’s not all burgers and coke there these days!) he was watching two brothers as they left. They weren’t doing anything remarkable, in fact I didn’t notice them at first. Just after they walked past our table Toby said ‘I wish I had a brother’. I froze, six words that cut deep, he has two brothers, he is a big brother but if I’m honest, he isn’t really is he? 

Toby can’t play with his brothers, he can’t chase them, cuddle them, shout at or moan about them. As much as I talk about the boys, I involve them and he understands about them; in his world he just wants someone to play with. 

I replied saying that I wish he did too and I held him so tight whilst I fought back tears. He just wants a brother and I can’t give him one, I tried and I failed twice over. We only ever tried for another child for Toby. I was fairly happy with just him but we thought he deserved a sibling, Toby has so much love to give. 

This afternoon I realised that no amount of treats, toys, play dates, holidays, and indulgement is never going to make up for his brothers not being here. 

The practical side of me of course knows that having siblings isn’t all fun and games. I have three siblings – we argued and wound each other up so much and life was very hectic BUT it was fun and I love them so much. The shared memories we have, the stories, the bond we have is so special. I’m sad that Toby won’t have this -memories of his brothers are limited to photographs of them, my hospital stays, pictures with their bears and writing messages on balloons. I am so so sorry for him and for us and for Rory and Henry.

I’ve been doing really well lately and now I feel like I’m back to square one (again).