Pregnant Women and Newborn Babies

How do you cope when you see pregnant women or newborn babies? This is such a hard one for many of us who have lost a child, it’s something that comes up a lot on Sophie’s Angels and other loss groups that I am a member of.

Your Feelings

I would like to start by saying that your feelings are completely warranted. There is no ‘right or wrong’ way to feel in this situation and your feelings will probably vary depending on the time since your angel grew his or her wings, how close you are to the pregnant woman, as well as other factors like how the other children are treated, how long they have been trying for a baby, and their personal situation… I know that this is absolutely none of my business but when you have lost a child your perspective changes, and even though I may not say anything except ‘congratulations’, my feelings are warranted and important… and so are yours. I still find that I get envious of people who seem to fall pregnant very quickly and have an easy pregnancy… It doesn’t mean that I’m not happy for them… because I am! But I am still envious… and that’s ok!

How to cope with your emotions

This is different for everyone, and you need to do what is right for you. It can help to talk about this on groups like Sophie’s Angels as you can talk to people who understand the mix of emotions that you are feeling… without being judged. Some people (and I have done this on occasion) go into self-protection mode and try to ignore their own feelings and emotions; however, by doing so you can end up feeling ‘numb’; this can help in the short term, but when those emotions return (and they will) it is so much harder to deal with it. However you deal with your feelings around pregnant women and newborn babies is right for you, and as soon as you realise, and truly believe that the feelings are completely normal then it will become easier to cope with. It is ok to not be ok.

What can you do to help with these emotions

The first thing, and I can not stress this enough, is to realise that your emotions and feelings are completely valid and totally normal; you are only human and therefore can easily be triggered by something which hurts your feelings. These are some ideas which could help you to cope with seeing pregnant women and newborn babies:

  • Join a few support groups like Sophie’s Angels or SANDS. On these group you will find other grieving parent, grandparents etc, and talking about your feelings with people who understand can be really helpful
  • Cry, scream, shout and vent as much as you need to, because none of this is right or fair
  • Avoid (at least to begin with) triggering situations… I’m sure friends will understand if you can’t attend their baby shower etc
  • Talk to you doctor if you feel that you would benefit from bereavement counselling
  • Talk about your angel as much as you want

What other things have helped you to cope with this? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sophie’s Angels and the Future

I am constantly trying to think of ways to support more people who are going through the loss of their child and raise awareness about miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. The Sophie’s Angels support group has become very successful, with many people making new friends and finding that connecting with other mums, dads, grandparents etc has helped them with their own grief. The Sophie’s Angels – Raising Awareness page has been amazing for raising awareness and breaking the taboo, and this blog is now being viewed all over the world which is just incredible.

The petition is going well… but it’s still very early days! However, the awareness it has raised concerning preventable stillbirths has been amazing! Sophie’s story and the petition have been on the Mirror Online twice, The Kent Messenger Newspaper, and tomorrow morning I have an interview with BBC Radio Kent. I have had a letter from the House of Commons in support of these changes. This wouldn’t be possible without so much support from friends, family, followers and other grieving families… so Thank you!

In the future I would really like to see Sophie’s Angels become a charity, and I am currently looking at ways to make that happen! I would ideally like the charity to concentrate on raising money for bereavement suites, cuddle cots, and memory boxes… not just for parents, but for siblings and grandparents too. I don’t feel that there’s enough support out there for siblings or grandparents.

So, exciting plans for the future! If you would like to sign and share the petition it would mean so much to many grieving families; and please feel free to join Sophie’s Angels if you have suffered a loss… it doesn’t matter how long ago that loss was.

Promises are Never Broken

I try very hard to always keep my promises, it’s not always easy but if I make a promise to one of my children then I will move mountains to make sure that I keep it! Promises are built on trust, and my children trust and depend on me, and I sure as hell won’t break a promise and disappoint my children!

When Sophie was born I made 3 promises. The first was that I would always love and remember her… that one is easy to keep because she will always be my daughter and I will always love her; the second promise was that we would find out why she died; this one was slightly harder because the post mortem can back largely inconclusive… she was perfectly healthy which made things harder; however, they were pretty certain that she died from placental insufficiency caused by a blood clot which restricted her oxygen; the third promise was that I would make sure that other people know about her, help to support other mums who’s babies have died and campaign for safer pregnancies and births to try to stop other people going through this… Well… my darling beautiful daughter, your legacy is living on! Your mummy will never break that promise and through the Facebook page, the support group, Twitter, the petition and this blog many, many people now know about you, they know your story and they have also felt supported in their own grief.

I am shocked and humbled by how many people have visited this blog and amazed by how many different countries your story has reached. People from all over the world know who you are and I am very proud to be your mummy. I will never give up and I will never stop fighting to reduce the rates of stillbirth, and I will always help and support the mummies of your angel friends.

Love always xxx

You Have to Live On

Last night I was watching an episode of Eastenders which made me think and analyse my own emotions; and how much these have changed since Sophie died. For those of you that don’t know, Eastenders is a Soap Opera in the UK; Max Branning has lost his daughter Abi, she is now brain dead and they are preparing to turn off her life support machine; he is obviously, like any grieving parent, a complete mess; Dot Cotton is trying to make him look to the future, and the speech she gave really made me start to think! In fact it kept me up last night wondering how my feelings, and the way I view ‘carrying on’ have changed over the last 22 months.

Dot’s speech went like this: ‘Don’t you think it’s time that you stopped hiding yourself away? Life can be very cruel and to lose a child is against the natural order of things. Is it because you feel guilty, that it was all your fault? You have to carry on for the sake of them that are left, Because they (the ones that have died) live in your memories, and you’ve got to live for them too; And you’ve got to live for yourself’.

Don’t you think it’s time that you stopped hiding yourself away?

When Sophie first passed I did hide myself away, I think that’s natural! I am still guilty of that now, although not as bad! I do like my own company though, my own thoughts… it’s just the way I am! But I do also enjoy the company of others, and they have helped me to ‘stop hiding myself away’. At first, I think it was the fear of people looking at me, not knowing what to say and just giving sympathetic glances in my direction; after a while I think the low motivation took over and I think I just wanted to shut out the world… this is natural and something which you have to work through in your own time.

Life can be very cruel and to lose a child is against the natural order of things

I can’t argue with this! No one expects to bury their child, and it is just heart-breaking that there are so many of us out there who have been in the position where we have to lay our child to rest.

Is it because you feel guilty, that it was all your fault?

Well… yes actually! Most grieving parents feel like this at some point, I know I have! I felt like I should have waited longer at the hospital, waited for a doctor, asked for a doppler scan; but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I can’t change the past. However, there is one thing I want to tell you… it is NOT your fault… not even remotely your fault! It is cruel, and it is unfair; but it is not your fault.

You have to carry on for the sake of them that are left

My children, my husband, my family and my friends were the reason that I carried on in the early days. I HAD to get up to make sure Brett and Brendon got to school on time, I HAD to get up to take Aiden to toddler groups so that he could socialise, and I HAD to get up for Paul, so that he wasn’t left to deal with everything on his own… he was grieving too! My family and my friends were the only reason that I carried on; because if I was on my own, I’m pretty certain that I would have stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling, all day, every day!

They (the ones that have died) live in your memories, and you’ve got to live for them too

This is so true! Sophie lives on in our memories, and I try to make her proud with everything I do. Sophie is helping so many people now with the support group which is fantastic! Helping others, helps me to see a future; She is raising awareness with the petition; and many people across the world know about Sophie and her story. She is one of the reasons that I do carry on, I campaign for change for her, and I help people for her.

And you’ve got to live for yourself

This one was harder, but now, I am pleased to say… that finally, after 22 months, I am now living for myself too! I see the fun in life once again, and I can look to the future.

If you would like to sign and share the petition to reduce the number of preventable stillbirths, then please click here. It only takes a minute and would mean the world to me, my family, and other grieving parents.

If you have been affected by stillbirth, miscarriage or infant death, then you are very welcome to join Sophie’s Angels.

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How I feel – 22 Months On

How has it been 22 months since you left us? On one hand time seems to have flown by and on the other it has gone in slow motion. It’s a very bizarre thing! I am trying to find the words to say how I feel; I have written and rewritten this so many times, and the truth is… I just don’t know!! I still have so many emotions, and so many triggers. People don’t tend to see the real me! They see the happy, strong, organised me; but they don’t see the ‘me’ behind closed doors! They don’t see the ‘me’ who is jealous of every single pregnancy announcement, and the don’t see the ‘me’ who suffers with anxiety, who is so protective of my other children, and paranoid about something happening to them that I had a panic attack when there was an incident at my son’s school… my son wasn’t even involved but it still caused a major panic attack. These are the things that I keep to myself, these are the feelings that people don’t realise affect me, this is the ‘me’ that I tend to hide.

Because I’m still not sure exactly how I feel, I will start by talking about the feelings and emotions that haunt me, before talking about the positive way I feel… as I’m sure that the good outweighs the bad!

After so many losses, I am still triggered by pregnancy announcements and birth announcements, I still struggle to see new born babies, and although I recently held my friends baby (who I adore) it is hard. I am sorry if this comes across badly; I am truly very happy when someone is expecting, and when their baby is born; but I still feel that pang of jealousy… I don’t show it, but it’s there! My anxiety became quite bad recently, and I finally (after months of my husband pleading) saw the doctor, I am now on anxiety meds and waiting for an appointment for therapy to help with my panic attacks… This was an important but difficult step for me to take, as I like everyone to think that I’m in control and everything is ok!

Now we move to my other children. As you know, I have 3 boys Brett (18), Brendon (12) and Aiden (4); all very different characters but all lovely in their own way. Brett is going through a hard time at the moment, we are trying to get an ‘all over’ assessment by the doctor (we have an appointment tomorrow), because since Christmas he has been really unwell. We’ve been to the doctors 3 times so far, but I’m hoping that by seeing a different doctor tomorrow we may get better results! He needs referrals to lots of different departments to find out why he’s so unwell; and hopefully get him back to college. I worry about him so much because he IS very unwell, and we don’t seem to be getting answers! My middle son Brendon is very outgoing, he enjoys sports and loves to take a football to the park with his friends. This causes me so much anxiety, I ‘have’ to take a step back and let him have fun… but it’s so hard! I like him where I can see him, and I can’t see him if he’s out playing! I try not to make it obvious; going out with your friends is a good thing… but to the ‘me’ that I hide, it is scary! Now we move on to Aiden; he is a ‘character’… that’s they only way to describe him!!! But, my goodness he seems to find danger at every turn! He is always hurting himself, knocking things over, bumping into things… these are normal things for a 4 year old, I know that, but I still can’t help feeling worried! He is probably my biggest worry at the moment, as he doesn’t seem to recognise danger, and he is always putting himself in dangerous situations (Opening the oven door, running in the road, putting his fingers in the hinges of the door etc).

Losing a child changes you, there is no doubt about that… but one of the biggest changes at the moment is the paranoia that something might happen to one of my other children… and this I find hard to shake.

Now I’m going to move on to the things I am grateful for. I am very thankful that I have such an amazing, loving family. Paul and I have become closer throughout the losses, and as I know this can tear relationships apart, I am really pleased that this hasn’t happened with us! My children are happy and healthy (apart from the health concerns with Brett, but we will sort that one out!!), and we are very close as a family; we always keep the lines of communication open so that helps a lot! I am also grateful that I can speak to my mum and step-dad, my dad and step-mum and paul’s mum and dad about anything and everything! We really do have a fantastic family and I owe a lot of my strength and courage to them! They have supported me with anything that I wanted to do, and been there to wipe the tears!

My friends are amazing! I have both friends that I see, and online friends in the loss community… after losing Sophie I ‘lost’ quite a few friends and was upset for a long time; however, the friends that I have now are the most amazing people! It is true that you find out who your friends are when something tragic happens!

I am really happy that I have been offered an unconditional place to study Midwifery at Canterbury Christchurch University in September. Not many people would be happy to receive an ‘Anatomy and Physiology’ book, or a blood pressure monitor for Christmas… but for me… I was over the moon!! I’m excited and nervous!

Sophie has also given me the opportunity to help other people, which although it hurts like hell sometimes, I feel very privileged to be able to do it! Sophie’s Angels has grown so much recently, and although biased, I feel I have the most amazing admin team! They are always there for people, and we all truly care about the members of our group; some of which have become good friends, or formed friendships on the group. It has been great to see the group change and develop! Our Angel Sophie has also grown which is fantastic! More people are hearing Sophie’s story and more people are interacting with the page. Our Twitter Page is slowly growing and I’m finding this to be good way to communicate with a range of organisations and people. I am thankful that we have had media exposure, and were in the Mirror Online twice last week! This article focuses on Sophie’s Story, and this one focuses on the things not to say to grieving parents.

I am extremely grateful with the support that has been shown for the Petition, there are far too many preventable stillbirths and this need to change. At the time of writing this we have 3,069 signatures… still a long way to go, but it is rising and it is gaining awareness! If you could sign and share it then it would be really appreciated.

So, yes, there are now many things that I am grateful for! And although I still get ‘triggered’ and find some things really tough, I can see that we have a happy and positive future ahead!

Forever loved and forever missed my gorgeous girl, but you are making a difference and you legacy will live on xxx

The Butterfly Awards

The Butterfly Awards are opening their nominations soon, and I have been asked a few times since yesterday about this event! So I will try to explain! The Butterfly Awards is a ceremony which brings awareness and helps to break the taboo surrounding loss. The award ceremony is a black tie/cocktail dress event which aims to celebrate the achievements of people, volunteers, groups or professionals, who support or raise awareness about this. The awards will be held on 27th October 2018 at Chesford Grange Hotel, Warwick.

The Butterfly Awards 2018 Award Categories 🦋

  • Inspirational Father
  • Inspirational Mother
  • Bereavement Worker
  • Author / Blogger
  • Awareness Advocate
  • Healthcare Professional
  • UK Support Organisation
  • Cherished Keepsake
  • Best Hospital Bereavement Care
  • Midwife of the Year
  • Most Valuable Contribution
  • The Thank You Award

People, organisations and groups can be nominated for more than one category, so get your thinking caps on and work out who you plan to nominate in advance!! Voting will open soon, but the date hasn’t been confirmed yet! I will let you know when voting is open, and you can vote for anyone who you feel has helped you, raised awareness etc.

If you want to follow The Butterfly Awards for up to date information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/TheButterflyAwards/

And to view the website, which should be updated soon, please visit: https://babylossstar.co.uk/2016/07/29/babyloss-star-awards/

 

An Open Letter to a Grieving Dad

I am so sorry that you are in this devastating situation, I am so sorry that you have lost your precious baby and I wish I could take your pain away and make everything ok again. It is hard being a dad walking this path, everyone is asking how your partner is coping, how are your other children coping, if there’s anything they can do to help your partner and do you think she would benefit from extra support like bereavement counselling. You answer this questions, you field the phone calls, you try to protect her and comfort her; while all the time inside you are screaming ‘what about me!? I’ve lost a baby too!’.

As a man you feel you need to be strong, you feel protective towards your partner, and you feel that you need to give her a shoulder to cry on; well, I need you to know that in this situation you don’t need to be strong, you can be protective whilst also grieving your loss too, and you also need to have a shoulder to cry on, to vent at, to shout and scream about how unfair this is… because it IS unfair and it IS ok to express that, to let it out, and to hate the world.

Right now, you might have more questions than answers; you may not have received the test results yet or they might not give a definite reason for your baby passing. This limbo is horrible, it really is, and it is my hope that that one day you will find the answers that you seek. I know that you probably feel numb, angry and upset, and I also know that you feel you will never be able to accept what has happened… how could you? How could you possibly accept that your baby will not be coming home? How could you ever accept that you had to leave your baby with strangers, cold and alone, while you returned home to an empty house, and a nursery full of things that your baby should be using? I also know that as time goes on, more people will almost expect you to carry on (much sooner that your partner), they will expect you to return to work (maybe before you are ready), they will expect you to be the strong one… I want you (even though it’s hard) to block these people out, there is no time limit on grief, it ebbs and flows; these are people that fortunately don’t know how it feels to lose a child; they are the lucky ones.

I want you to know, even though you feel like it, you are not alone. I want you to know that you and your baby matter, and I need you to know that there are people who you can talk to, other dads who have been through the same, devastating and life changing thing… because losing a child is life changing, and no matter what others might say, things will never be ‘normal’ again… but you will, in time, find a ‘new normal’. One where you find ways to honour your baby, whilst also looking towards the future.

I know (from my husband) that as a loss dad it can be very hard, people need to realise that you lost a child too, and you are hurting. Please share your baby and your experience as much as you want; your baby is not just a statistic… he or she is a baby with a family who love and miss him/her, and therefore he/she deserves to be recognised and remembered. I know that, occasionally, as a loss dad, you may receive negative comments when you talk about your baby, or share their photos. These comments may put you off sharing, you may feel like you ‘have to move on’ and not share any more, you may then feel more isolated, upset and alone.

When I first started to share Sophie I received comments like this, mostly from people who care a great deal and thought that I was torturing myself. At first, it really upset me, and I stopped sharing Sophie’s story and her photos; but after a short while I realised that sharing her, as much as I share my other children, was helping me and not hindering me! If people don’t want to look then they are welcome to scroll past, and the positive comments certainly outweighed the negative, which made me happy! For the people who do post the odd unhelpful comment, I no longer feel upset or angry; instead, I feel grateful, grateful that they don’t know, and don’t understand, what it’s like to lose a child; because I would never wish this on any one.

I want to let you know that it’s ok to not be ok, I say this to people on Sophie’s Angels because it’s true… sometimes breathing IS enough! Sometimes you may not feel like doing anything, or you may want to do things to keep busy… both of these are perfectly ok. Taking things one step at a time, taking each minute as it comes… all these things will help you to get through today; and that’s ALL you need to do.

Lastly, I want to let you know that it is ok to not be ‘strong’; it is ok to shout, scream, cry; it is ok to shut yourself away and it is ok to not want to talk about your baby if that helps. However YOU need to grieve is ok, everyone grieves differently; and sometimes we can be triggered by things long after we ‘think’ we’ve finished grieving… because grieving a child never really ends, it ebbs and flows like the waves. However, there will come a time, when you find yourself smiling again, you find yourself wanting to look to the future, and you find yourself enjoying life once more; you may not see it now, but it will happen.

Lots of love and hugs to you, your family, and your precious angel

Maria

xxx

If you feel that you would like to join Sophie’s Angels, then please click here.

Providing Comfort – Bear for an Angel

Bear for an Angel is an amazing organisation which supports grieving families following the loss of their child, no matter what age or gestation. Bear for an Angel was founded by Michelle McGunnagle who has, herself, suffered several losses and you can read her full story here.

Latest figures show that 1 in 4 women suffer miscarriage, missed miscarriage, ectopic or molar pregnancies, and as early losses are often not acknowledged by many hospitals or care providers these families, often in shock, have to go home with empty arms and a broken heart.

Michelle McGunnagle says ‘At Bear for an Angel we believe that every baby is precious and should be remembered, acknowledged and is loved no matter what gestation or age. We provide comfort & acknowledgement to bereaved families affected by the devastation of pregnancy, baby or child loss. We donate ‘Bags of Love’ to Ipswich hospital epau (although we’d like to offer these to more hospitals and funeral directors eventually), and we also offer our ‘no sew’ memory bear packages to bereaved families throughout the UK’.

Bags of Love:

  • A tiny teddy bear
  • A tea light
  • A mini acknowledgement of life
  • A mini quote scroll
  • Our bear poem
  • Butterfly bubbles
  • A tibeton silver charm
  • All inside a organza bag

 

Our Memory Bear Package

  • An 8 inch teddy bear skin
  • A bag of stuffing
  • A wishing star
  • Our Bear for and Angel poem card
  • A tea light or small candle
  • A teddy bear certificate

Bears for an Angel use the slogan ‘Comfort in a Cuddle’, their bears are a cuddly companion to hug, filling empty arms and helping grieving hearts to find comfort while acknowledging the lives of precious babies sadly gone too soon. Another fantastic thing about these bears is that they are ‘no sew’, which means that a sound device containing the baby’s heartbeat, a spoken message from someone, a scent chip, a vibrating heart or a few ashes or keepsake can be added inside.

There is also the chance to help another bereaved family whilst helping the memory of your babies live on through our Give a bear option which is such a wonderful gift to give. Beyond the bear there is our emotional support network via social media which families find invaluable and is run by bereaved parents so we understand what you are going through.

Our Aims are:

  • Provide an emotional support network via our Facebook & Twitter pages to ease the isolation of baby loss.
  • Connect grieving families via our social media pages & give a bear option a wonderful gift to give to another bereaved family.
  • Provide funding towards our no sew bear packages to provide comfort at times of sadness and to make memories in the UK after any loss, up to 21 years.
  • Provide free bags of love to bereaved parents after loss in early pregnancy to provide acknowledgement in the UK.
  • Provide free acknowledgements of life via download for any loss who didn’t receive any birth certificate.
  • Provide free memorial pages in partnership with Much Loved.
  • Raise awareness of pregnancy, baby & child loss by events, flyers and advertising.

Achievements:

  • We have grown to over 11,000 members on our Facebook page and growing
  • We have helped over 600 families receive a package
  • We funded 36 Xmas comfort packages (DEC 2016)
  • We donated 14 bags of love to Ipswich hospitals epau

Michelle is passionate about baby and child loss and wants Bear for an Angel bags of love in every hospital epu, bereavement suites and silent rooms no mother should go home without anything to acknowledge their precious baby.

Please visit Bear for an Angel if you have suffered a loss, or if you can support this amazing organisation in any way. You can visit their website here.

To ensure that this fantastic support continues they need as many supporters as possible to help with fundraising. If you feel you can help in any way, then please click here.

You can also find them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter