Notice

I’ve given up on the October prompts. Nothing was grabbing me and it was a chore, I didn’t care that I’d missed one a few days ago I cared even less when I missed the next one and the one after that. At first I panicked that it was because I didn’t care about my babies, or that I didn’t care about baby loss awareness month. But then I sat and noticed the feelings and the reason for not caring. It was simply that I was not engaged with the prompts and I had different things that I wanted to write about. I’ve become impatient since March 2015, if something feels like it is wasting my time or I’m feeling constrained I switch off. I can’t waste time on things I don’t enjoy, life is too short. 

The ‘noticing’ thing has come from EMDR, during the wavy fingers bit an image or feelings will pop into my head, I’ll tell the therapist what is was or how I felt, we’ll discuss it and she will simply finish with ‘just notice’ and the finger waving starts again. 

A couple of weeks ago I walked past a massive bump in Sainsbury’s. I felt the usual jolt in my chest and an immediate need to be as far away as possible. But rather than walking away (like usual), I stood there by the pastries and the bump and I just noticed. I noticed how my body felt, what my feelings were. Physically I felt dizzy, my chest was heavy, I was nauseous. Feelings wise, I felt repulsion. Yes repulsion. I was shocked. For months, years possibly I thought the feeling about bumps was jealousy but in that moment I noticed that it wasn’t that at all. 

I mentioned it to my therapist at the next session. She was pleased that I had ‘noticed’ she was as surprised as me about the repulsion. Neither of had an answer, we still don’t have an answer but it’s on the list of things to tackle.

I’ve been noticing more lately. 

Babies are an interesting one. I’ve noticed that I can stand near a baby if it is just in its pram, detached from other people. But as soon as it is held, or cradled or cooed over I feel the usual dizziness, pounding heart and nausea. Again, I noticed that it is not jealousy, I don’t want a baby, I don’t want that particular baby.  When I look at a baby I don’t feel broody or a pull of longing for a new life. I don’t really feel anything other than uncomfortable. I noticed and tried to unpackage the uncomfortableness. I realised that nobody had the chance to get excited over Rory and Henry. I didn’t get to parade them around in a pram, take them into work, be asked how old they were, how big they’d grown.  I noticed the feelings related to this were really just sadness that my babies never had the chance to be celebrated in the way a new life usually is. 

The baby thing of course finally explains why I can stand in Paultons Park and be surrounded by babies, it’s because they are passing by and nobody is conversing about their age, how they sleep, the colour of their eyes. The school playground is a completely different dynamic. Parents compare notes, they share in the excitement of yet another new arrival. I can’t join in, I just feel sad and awkward. I thought it was just a case that I can cope when I’m outside as it’s easy to hide or run but it seems to be more complex than a simple location issue. 

Babies are on the list too, of course they are.

Forcing myself to evaluate my physical responses and my feelings has meant I am trying to expose myself to the bumps and babies more often. I can feel that things are changing, becoming softer and less frightening. We’ve still got a lot of work to do in the few remaining sessions. In the meantime I’ll keep noticing. 

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Pregnancy Picture

I’ve been pregnant three times, you’d think I have tonnes of pregnancy bump photos but I don’t. 

With Toby I was petrified things would go wrong, I didn’t allow myself to record my growing bump with photos as I was frightend about having them if the worst happened. I have one bump photo taken at about 8 months pregnant. I did it as I thought I’d better have at least one record of his bump. I’m in our old lounge, I look a bit embarrassed but also excited and happy. I don’t have the photo to hand but it is lurking on the laptop – a picture of me and my small neat Toby bump. The bump that made it. 
With Rory there are some photos taken at Toby’s birthday party where you can see my 16ish week bump. In the photo I’m wearing a grey Next maternity top. I don’t have any other photos. I didn’t have time and my bump wasn’t big enough to do a proper bump shot. 

With Henry I hid my bump, I wore baggy clothes and scarfs to hide my increasing tummy size. A handful of times with friends who knew I wore a tighter top, but still a scarf to disguise the bump that was starting to form. I don’t have any photos where you can see that I was pregnant. 

I wish I’d taken more photos. 

Before Loss Selfie

Pictures record a moment, they speak volumes. This isn’t strictly a selfie but it is one of my favourite photos of me, it was taken about a month before we had our ‘Rory IVF’ cycle. Rory’s loss was pivotal, but us choosing to take the sibling route also weighs heavily on me. We were happy with Toby but we got complacent and we made a choice that changed everything. I worried about how I’d cope if the cycle didn’t work, I wondered if we were doing the right thing, I questioned whether I was a good enough mum to cope with two children. 

You can see the sparkle of a new life being planned in my eyes in that photo. I remember thinking that this was one of the last opportunities to do fun stuff as 2015 might bring a new baby. It felt like one last hurrah spending the day in London with a good friend. I think that was the last ‘fun’ day out I’ve had in London – 20 September 2014. 

Life changed little over a month later. I was pregnant, unbeknownst to me I’d set our family walking down a dark and scary path. 

Looking at this photo is more traumatic for me than photos where you can glimpse my Rory bump. This photo shows the end of my happy content life as a mum of one.

Favourite Grief Quote

There are so many amazing and inspiring quotes about grief, too many to mention in fact. The one that immediately popped into my head is this:


When Rory died it felt like I was drowning, the weight on my chest was heavy and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. 

I don’t like the water much and I’m not a strong swimmer, drowning scares me and losing Rory scared me just as much. 
Grief does indeed come in waves, it ebbs and flows and most of the time you can paddle in the cold water and you are absolutely fine. Other days the waves crash, you can see them coming and you can brace yourself against their force. You hold on so tight and you ride it out until the sun warms your face again and you can breathe. Then unexpectedly a tidal wave comes and it sweeps you up without warning, you fight and you struggle and you can’t break free, then it spits you out on the shore battered and bruised and gasping for breath. I’m not sure what’s worst – being swallowed up with no warning or seeing the storm about it hit from miles away. 

I’m not a strong swimmer in water but I have learned to ride the waves of grief. I’ve realised it is safer, easier and kinder to move with the waves rather than fight them. Being on top of the waves and bobbing up and down is far nicer than being under water fighting against the tide. 

Favourite Photograph

In October I usually follow ‘capture your grief’ prompts but this year they felt a bit over my head and I know I couldn’t do them justice so this year I’m doing a simpler version that suits my brain that isn’t feeling very creative at the moment.


The first prompt is favourite picture which is easy as I have lots and hard as even two and a half years on, I still worry what people think of me sharing photos of my (beautiful) boys. 

Earlier this year I was told that pictures of the boys weren’t nice to look at and they made people feel uncomfortable. I cried, I felt guilty for sharing photos of my family, I wondered if I was weird or wrong to do so. Then I realised that actually it’s them with the problem and if they can’t open their heart to see the beauty that I see then that’s not my fault. 

When I look at their photos I don’t feel sad, it just reminds me that they were real and they existed. Sometimes things don’t feel real so photographs are a great thing to have. I can see their faces, their hands and the clothes they wore. 

I know Rory and Henry don’t look ‘normal’, they are small, they are red, they are fragile but they are mine and I love them. I’m proud that they are beautiful, I find comfort in them looking like each other and they look like Toby when he was a baby (it’s the nose, they all have the same shaped nose, so cute).

I had a wobble about photos again recently, I had people coming over that I didn’t know well and I wondered to Matt if I should hide the photos on the mantelpiece. Luckily he told me I was being ridiculous so they stayed. 

I worry about play dates and Toby’s friends seeing the photos, I panic and think their parents will not want to come over again. I worry about upsetting and offending people. ‘Normal’ people don’t have to think about such things when they invite someone over to their house. 

Still, I can see the beauty in my boys and that’s all that matters.

This is my favourite photo at the moment…

The Paradox Mummy guide to being a good friend to a loss parent

I am two and a half years into this strange old world that is baby loss. Before I had pre-eclampsia at 22 weeks, before Rory died less than a week after my diagnosis, I’d only ever met one person who had lost a baby (a neo-natal death) and perhaps a few people who had suffered a miscarriage. I was aware of course of their sadness and I never knew quite what to say or do. I was guilty of changing the subject, of silence, of putting my foot in it and just not knowing what was best. In two and a half years I have lost two babies at 23 weeks and I think I’ve seen the best and worst of peoples’ reactions to a loss.  

I’ve written this guide as it might be helpful, it might open eyes and help people to help their loss parent friends a little. It does sound a little confrontational in places, it is not meant that way, living with loss is a constant battle and whilst it has broken me time and time again, it has made me stronger and harder than I ever contemplated it would. I speak with a matter of fact tone as my losses are ‘normal’ to me, part of me and the making of who I am today. I am sensitive, I am strong, I don’t suffer fools gladly and I don’t have time for those who don’t acknowledge that I have three sons even though the world can only see one.

One major lesson is that after a baby dies your relationships with the outside world will change, accepting this fact is hard for the parents and even harder for friends of those who have suffered a loss. Nobody knows what to do and with emotions running high, a small error can feel like the end of the world to loss parents. I really hope my advice and observations help reduce issues like this. During my loss journey I have lost friends, I have gained friends and those who were acquaintances are now good friends – it is funny how things work out!

In the early days and beyond:

Message your friend, write to them, send a card, if you are close give them a call. Don’t be offended if there’s no reply or acknowledgement. When your baby has died, knowing that people are thinking of you is enough even if you don’t have the energy or strength to reply.

Say the baby’s name to your friend, on social media, anywhere, honour that they lived. If you don’t know the baby’s name, ask. Ask why the name was chosen, what it means and the same goes for middle names. Loss parents love their baby’s name and they’ll love you asking about it! Say their baby’s name often. If you feel able to honour their baby – writing names in sand and taking a photo is a nice easy one.

Don’t make empty promises. If you say you will pop over or help, do it. Don’t say ‘if you need anything let me know’ and leave it at that, make a tangible offer and follow it through. Ask if they need help and make suggestions of what you can do if they don’t know. Simple things like nipping to the shops, or feeding their cat – anything that is helpful will be appreciated.

When I arrived home I wasn’t up to making dinner and my husband was so frazzled neither was he. Meals left in the freezer were a lifesaver. Take food around to your friend, don’t ask to come in or expect to be invited in, it’s a difficult time – it will be appreciated though. If you aren’t close send Cook vouchers or arrange for a food/shopping delivery.

If you feel up to it, ask if your friend has a photo they’d like to share. Comment on the baby like you might with a regular newborn. When Henry died, Margaret the midwife told us he was beautiful, she cooed over him and spoke about him like he was a normal baby. The reality was that he was the size of an 18 week baby, with red skin and a puffy battered little face but to us he was beautiful (he is beautiful) and the spitting image of his big brothers. We needed those kind words and will never forget them. Before Rory died I didn’t understand why people took photos of dead babies, I thought it was odd, I get that it might appear morbid to a non-loss friend but photos are all parents might have of their babies. Imagine only having a handful of photos of your baby, imagine how precious they are. I recall being really frightened of sharing Rory’s photo on facebook for the first time, I was nervous, I made sure I shared one of him alive rather than dead. I only received lovely comments from those who took the time to reply. We have had negative comments about our photos, they hurt, no doubt about it, but I know the comments come from a place of not understanding the importance of these few photos, of not appreciating the beauty behind the sadness.

Don’t change the subject if your friend wants to talk about what happened. All you need to do is listen. They don’t want you to give advice or solve their problems, just listen and share their sadness for a moment. If your friend cries, don’t stop the conversation, they were probably going to cry anyway, they might be crying because they are happy you are taking an interest. Ask if they want to carry on, give them a hug (and a tissue) and let them do and say what they need to. Ultimately don’t be frightened to mention their baby, you will not be reminding them of what happened, they won’t be forgetting that in a hurry, but what you will be doing is acknowledging their baby which will be very much appreciated.

Don’t say their baby is in a better place, or that it wasn’t meant to be, or worse, that it happened for a reason. Such phases are well meant but they are not always a comfort to loss parents. Don’t say ‘at least’ you are ok, or ‘at least’ you have a child already. There is no ‘at least’ when a baby dies.

Don’t compare their loss to your pet/granny dying, it is not the same. When a baby dies you lose a lifetime, you lose every milestone, every sleepless night, every birthday. It is not the same.

Don’t say, well at least you hadn’t bonded, at least you didn’t know them, at least you hadn’t seen them grow before they died.

Siblings born before or after a loss are not consolation prizes. Do not say, at least you have X, or you’re so lucky to have X, or you need to be strong for X. Loss parents with living children know how lucky they are, it is not helpful. A good way of supporting parents with living children might be to offer to look after them for a while, or organising a play date. Parenting a living child after loss is hard, it is isolating and it is draining – any help on that front is appreciated.  

Don’t say – you can have another or you can adopt, or you can find a surrogate. There is no quick fix or easy decision for a loss parent, all of these options do not have guaranteed outcomes. Not every loss parent gets a happy ending baby. 
Don’t pretend that you understand what it is like, if you haven’t lost a baby you can only imagine. Be honest and say you can’t comprehend how they are feeling. Your friend will appreciate that far more than empty platitudes.

Don’t assume because someone appears happy that they are ‘fixed’. I am a very good actress, I can ‘do’ normal, I can laugh and joke and pretend that I’m fine. When asked how I am I will reply that I’m fine before commenting on the weather. Scratch below the surface and you will notice that I avoid bumps and babies, you will see me put my headphones in when the noise of the real world gets too much, you will notice that the smile when my son plays with a toddler is paired with eyes that are sad, you will see me staring into nothing as I wonder what might have been. Ask me how my Thursday was and I might tell you that I spent an hour and a half in an EMDR therapy session to treat PTSD symptoms associated with two traumatic losses.

Include your friend in social invites, even if they keep declining, keep asking. Loss parents are lonely, they might not be strong enough to call and ask to meet up. Not only have they lost their baby, they have likely lost themselves too. Reaching out to someone will not go unnoticed and will really make a difference. Often your friend might decline, or cancel at the last minute but keep asking them out as one day they might be strong enough to come out for some ‘normal’.

Message them to check they are ok every so often. Don’t be offended if there’s no reply.

If the parents have special dates (it is likely they will have lots), ask what they are and honour them with them. Send a message or a card, or light a candle and send them a picture.

Follow the parents’ lead. If they acknowledge their baby in cards then it is lovely to reciprocate if you feel able to. An extra kiss or star is enough to show you remember that their baby is part of their family.

Don’t judge or pass comment on the dates that loss parents hold dear and the rituals associated with them. Dates and memories are all they have, there will be no firsts, no milestones. Things like pregnancy test dates, scans, first movements, concerts, dates of bad news, birth dates, due dates, funeral dates are all remembered and might be a trigger or sensitive time. As a loss parent I cling on to every date as it’s a memory, something to cherish.

Don’t ask your friend if they are feeling better now or if they are over it yet. Many parents who have suffered a loss are experiencing some sort of trauma. If the baby was born in the second or third trimester the mother would have had a labour and given birth to a dead or dying baby, the father would have seen this happen – that is not something easily forgotten or ‘got over’ in a flash.

If you are having a party or meeting with friends and you know babies or bumps might be present, tell your friend in advance. Let them decide if they can face it. Perhaps suggest a safe place where they can go if it gets too much, we really like escape plans!

If your loss friend sells their baby stuff to clear space (and their minds), don’t ask to buy things. Consider the weirdness of your baby using something meant for their baby, think of how your friend will feel when they see it in use. Don’t be offended if they would prefer to sell to a stranger.

Don’t forget the dads!

Dads grieve too, often this is behind closed doors as they are the ones running around looking after their partner and running the house whilst working and having to process this life changing event.

Ask the dad how they are, offer help, offer to have a drink with them – anything to show that they are not forgotten is great!

If announcing a pregnancy/arrival of a baby:

Be discrete, send a message before a main announcement is made.

Don’t hide your pregnancy and tell your loss friend at the last minute or only when you have to tell them for another reason. The fact you couldn’t trust their heart with your good news hurts. The decision is likely to be well intentioned but tell them when you tell the wider world, don’t hide it as them finding out much later will be far worse for your friendship.

Don’t be offended if they don’t reply to your announcement, don’t be offended if they’ve stopped ‘liking’ your posts on social media, they’ve probably unfollowed you. If they unfollow or unfriend you on social media, it is done to protect themselves, not to annoy or offend you. For me, I need to keep my social media feeds ‘safe’ and that essentially means no bumps and babies but lots of cats!

In your announcement don’t say, ‘we’re not excited, we know what can go wrong’. That makes bereaved parents feel they are putting a downer on happy news. To them it might feel like a lie because of course you are excited – you are perfectly entitled to excited so please don’t dismiss it. Saying that you are being cautious and that know what can go wrong, reminds them that it did go wrong for them (not that they’ve forgotten). An alternative turn of phrase could be ‘we don’t want to upset you so we will be discrete with baby talk around you, we imagine this might be difficult so we’ll be guided by you’.

If you have a pregnancy scare, remember, telling your loss friend about it might cause them to get upset, they might worry that things are going wrong for you. If they have anxiety or trauma associated to their loss (which is very likely) you might set off a trigger. If you need to tell them something or need advice, wait until you know exactly what is happening, this will avoid causing undue stress. If in doubt tell someone else or seek advice elsewhere.

Do acknowledge the difficulty the pregnancy may cause for them. Don’t be offended if they don’t respond to messages or don’t want to meet up with you. Don’t be surprised if they are quiet or distant around you, they are adjusting to your news. Give them time and space to grieve for the change in dynamic.

If you are pregnant and you are going to see your friend try not to draw attention to your bump – there is no need to hold it (it won’t fall off!), or rub it. If you can, wear loose floaty clothes – skin tight tops which accentuate a bump are not helpful. If I’m honest, baby bumps repulse me, I’m frightened they will touch me – ridiculous I know but for me they are very traumatic, the bigger they are the worse it is.

If having a baby shower, text them before you send invites, some loss parents would love to attend, others would prefer to send apologies with a nice gift. If you don’t want to ask direct, ask their partner or a close friend. The same goes for Christenings and other baby related celebrations.

When the baby arrives they may want to see you, they may not. Respect their wishes and don’t be upset if your friend doesn’t visit. If they do come to visit don’t answer the door with your baby in your arms, if you can, pop them in their Moses basket or go out for a walk. Some loss mums love to hold babies, others don’t – be respectful of either choice and be guided by your friend.

When sending cards or gifts that contain pictures of your baby, stop and think how this might make your friend feel. Either check in advance (and be prepared for a ‘thank you but no’ answer), or send a plain card/alternative gift.

Final thoughts:

If you don’t know what to say or do ask the parents or their families for guidance. SANDS do some really useful leaflets which cover advice for friends and families, they are free to download.

If you don’t know what to do just give your friend a big hug and tell them how crap and unfair life is.

Strong 

I saw this meme today and it struck a chord as it covered babyloss and infertility. 


Baby loss and infertility are all consuming and both have the ultimate goal of a (living) baby. 

I can recall doing all of this when we were trying for a baby before Toby arrived:

  • I knew exactly what day of my cycle I was on without looking at the diary 
  • I could feel ovulation pains
  • I spent every day second guessing the slightest twinge or change in my body
  • I would count ahead 9 months all the time
  • I put fun stuff on hold ‘just in case I’m pregnant’ when it happens
  • I changed what we ate
  • I consumed more supplements than they had in Boots
  • I thought of wanting to be a mum from the moment I woke to the moment I went to sleep

Those points are the tip of the iceberg and infertility did consume my life. 

Then babyloss happened and the all consuming feelings returned, not with the detail but after Rory the longing for another baby was all I thought about. I thought a new life would make me feel better. It consumed me in a way I cannot describe. 

As soon as I was pregnant with Henry of course I knew a new baby was never going to fix me. 

When we lost Henry we decided enough was enough, no more babies. I said it in June 2016 but deep down I didn’t really mean it. I’ve had wobbles since then and trawled the internet for stories of hope, they are there of course but there are no guarantees. 2017 has been the first full year since we had Toby where there has been no vague plan for a sibling. At the start of the year I wondered if I was strong enough, if I truly wanted that journey to end.

Now, I sit here and think about things with the meme in front of me I realise that baby loss and infertility doesn’t consume me anymore. The phrases did relate to me but now they don’t. The all consuming feelings are in my past, not my present or future. Ask me today and I can’t tell you anything about my reproductive cycle as I’m not interested in it. I have no plans to have a baby. I don’t want another baby. I feel free.

People say that I’m strong and I don’t think I am, I just take life as it comes and I muddle through. I’m not strong when I avoid bumps and babies. I’m not strong when I duck out of social situations because I’m frightened of people asking how I am. I certainly wasn’t strong at work on Friday when I cried in the loo as the baby talk in the office just got a bit too much.

At the gym today (whilst I tried to improve my physical strength), I noticed that it takes a different kind of strength to walk away from something that consumes your life for so many years. This year I have made a choice to carry on without a baby in my arms. I have made a choice. 

For the first time in a long time I think I might actually be strong. I want to hold my head up and tell people I lost two babies and it’s crap but I’m still here. 

I’ve spent most of the last year looking for stories of hope after loss which don’t feature a baby at the end and I’ve not found many. 

I didn’t get a happy ending but I think I’m finding an alternative that doesn’t feature pregnancy and a baby. I think I’ve found my own story.