Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: The Year of Aneurin

“You must be so pleased to see the back of this year.” 
"2016 can be a fresh start for you."
"A new year will help you move on." 

My 9 most liked photos on Instagram in 2015. Why would I want to move on from this?

2015 has been the best year of my life with the worst ending. It is the year I saw two pink lines for the first time, the year I truly understood the meaning of unconditional love, the year I became a mum. The year my heart grew a thousand times bigger and shattered a thousand times more than I had ever thought possible.

On 9th January 2015 I wandered into our living room in a complete daze and tried to convince my husband the word ‘not’ probably flashed up a few minutes after the word ‘pregnant’ on the magical piece of plastic clutched in my hand only to discover it didn’t. Four (cheaper, because those wordy ones are expensive…) tests later and the disbelief made way for sheer, never felt before, joy. The rapid swing between disbelief and joy didn't stop there. It carried on in different ways and for different reasons with a mass of other contrasting emotions throw in for good measure. 

In the first few weeks after Aneurin was born I wanted desperately to fast forward the grieving process. I wanted to heal and put myself back together. Now though, I want to sit with my grief for a bit longer. I want to feel that deep sadness that bores its way into my soul. I want to feel the scary, vastness of a life without Aneurin. I want to sob and wail until I can't breathe because it means he's still important. It means he is present and still the biggest part of my life. Putting myself back together and healing is scary. Far scarier than Aneurin not being here with us. 

I know he will never be gone. He is always with us, every step of the way. We keep him alive by talking about him, by remembering him and by honouring him. Our lives might develop and take new meaning but Aneurin was and will always be our first child. 

Today is the last day of this year. It is also five months to the day our big footed, soft cheeked boy was born. Five endings and five beginnings. Aneurin was in each and every one of those and I know he will be in the thousands more to come. 

I don’t want to move into 2016 without our son. I don’t want to have to say ‘last year’, I want to be able to say ‘this year'. I don’t want Aneurin to be my past, I want him to be my present and my future. I want to relive this year, including all the heartbreak and pain, a million times over. However, as always with grief, there is another facet. The one that brings hope. The hope that we might see the word ‘pregnant’ or two pink lines again next year. The hope that the love for our beautiful boy will start to overpower the pain of his loss. The hope that we find meaning in why he isn't here with us.

2015 was all about Aneurin and I'm not ready for that to be over. I need five more minutes. I will always need five more minutes. And so tonight, I won't be celebrating the year to come, I'll be celebrating the wonderful year that has passed.

Wishing you all a peaceful 2016,

Love,
Mrs D x
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

To All My Fellow Bereaved Parents At Christmas

This is a hard week. It's a week we all had so many plans for. We had images of giggling babies mesmerised by twinkling lights, naughty toddlers poking holes in wrapped presents, excited children begging to stay up late to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas. We had dreams of quiet days at home with our precious little families or warm, noisy get togethers with four generations. Instead we have Christmas morning visits to the cemetary, an empty place at the dinner table and irrational fears the cat will knock our most special bauble off the tree. 

It's okay to pretend it isn't happening. 

It's okay to ignore invitations. 

It's okay to put every card you receive in the bin.

It's okay to stay in bed if you need to.

It's okay to leave an event half way through because it's too difficult. 

It's okay to do whatever you need to do in order to get through this time.

We are having a very quiet day. We'll be going out for lunch with both families as we didn't want either to be on their own. The place we're having lunch at have given us a private room away from the main restaurant so we won't have to see other families. In the afternoon my husband and I will go for a walk to the lakes we spent a lot of time at during my pregnancy to release a balloon and dedicate some time to Aneurin. We're then going to spend a few days at my parent's house being fed and looked after. 

This is not the Christmas we had hoped for. Nor is it the Christmas we're used to. It's just another day to get through and tick off the calendar. 

Support

Sands (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity) telephone lines are open and emails will be checked regularly over the festive period to provide support for bereaved parents. They've been working on a Christmas appeal with Rakhee Thakrar (the Eastenders actor whose character, Shabnam Masood, recently experienced a stillbirth) over the last few weeks in order to fund the extra support. You can donate to the appeal by texting "Star31 £5" to 70070. Alongside this they are doing a campaign encouraging you to share a photograph of how you remember your baby at Christmas or download their image to share. More details on 'Star On Our Tree' here. 

Sands Helpline: 0207 436 5881 


Sands also have a forum where you can connect with other bereaved parents. It can be incredibly helpful to speak to someone with a shared experience so if you don't feel able to talk to someone on the phone it's worth giving the forum a try. Sands Forum.

Cruse Bereavement Care offer telephone, individual and group support to people who have suffered a bereavement of any kind. Their telephone line is also open over Christmas and their emails are monitored. Calls to Cruse cost 7p per minute but if cost is an issue, give them a quick ring or send them an email and they will arrange to call you back. There is also a helpful page on their website of ways to cope with grief over Christmas. 

Cruse Bereavement Helpline: 0844 477 9400



Be kind to yourselves. Practise self care. Take some time out to sit with your grief and remember your child in whatever way you can. There is no pressure to do anything you don't want to do or are not capable of doing. If anyone puts that pressure on you I hope you feel able to tell them it's not helpful. 

Whatever you are feeling please remember, it is normal and you are not alone.

Sending you all so much love, 
Mrs D x



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Monday, 14 December 2015

10 Christmas Decorations To Remember Your Baby

Christmas is a time for family. We spend a whole month trying to find the perfect gift for someone, planning what food we're going to feed our loved ones and seeing people we've neglected a little bit over the year. For me, Christmas has always been about the people I love.

Navigating our way through our first one without Aneurin is proving to be incredibly difficult. Harder than I anticipated in some ways. Every time I write 'Love Elena and Haydn' in a card or on a gift tag I do it with tears in my eyes because I should be adding 'and Aneurin'. No matter how many non-baby-related activities I do, there is still a huge Aneurin shaped hole. I shouldn't have time to watch all six Star Wars films back to back or be able to drink my body weight in Baileys. This isn't what we were expecting this Christmas to be like and it's hard to accept that this what it is.

We're taking Christmas at our own pace and not forcing ourselves to do anything just for the sake of 'making an effort' or jollying ourselves along. With that in mind we haven't decorated our house in the usual over the top manner that we (well, I!) do. Instead, I bought a small snowy pre-lit twig tree to decorate with special ornaments for Aneurin. We've decided it will be his tree for us to decorate every year. In order to do that we needed some ornaments fit for our precious boy. There are lots out there, some traditional, some unique but all quite special.


1. Egg clasp bauble - Write a letter to your baby on Christmas Eve and pop it in the egg. When it's time to take the tree down put your letter in your memory box to read in years to come. You can also choose to have your baby's initial strung round the ribbon.

2. Christmas in heaven angel - This sweet poem is engraved on a wooden angel and can also have your own small message put on the other side.


3. Personalised glass angel bauble - An angel for your angel. A little glass angel is encased in this handcrafted bauble that can be personalised with three lines of text.

4. Penguin family - Perfect if you have living children too so you can show them and anyone else who enters your home that your lost baby is very much an important part of your family. You can have up to six penguins, either with names or without.


5. Laser cut penguin family bauble - Another cute penguin family but this time a little more modern on a flat acrylic disc. This also goes up to a maximum of six penguins so perfect if you have a lovely big family.

6. White feather bauble - White feathers are seen as a sign from your lost loved one, especially in the baby loss community so it's no wonder that this bauble is a popular one. Your baby's name can be printed on the feather which sits inside a glass bauble. Simple but meaningful.


7. Bespoke handprint decoration - All you have to do is message the seller an image of your baby's handprint and they'll engrave it onto either a frosted acrylic bauble or a solid bamboo one. Completely unique to your precious little one.

8. Personalised glitter star decoration - This wooden star can be covered with gold or silver glitter on one side or left plain. You can choose any wording you like so it doesn't have to just be your baby's name, it could be something very discreet. It's also a budget friendly option at only £3.50.


9. Personalised gingerbread man - A traditional clay gingerbread man ready for your baby's name to be 'iced' on. Sweet and simple.

10. Engraved reindeer decoration - Choose from a standing or jumping reindeer complete with bell round his neck to be engraved with either your baby's name or a short message.

Love,
Mrs D x
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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Homemade Christmas Food Gift Guide



For the last few years I've been making food gifts to give to family and friends for Christmas. I love baking and cooking and as I don't have a regular 9-5 job I have plenty of time to spend cooking up a storm during the festive period. Part of my plan to get through this Christmas as best I can is to continue with this tradition for a few reasons. Partly because it keeps me busy and gives me something to do and also because as I've mentioned before I find creating and making things very healing. There's something really enriching about providing people with good, homemade food. I've always loved it and it feels extra special at Christmas.

I'd like to say that giving homemade gifts saves me tonnes of money but the reality is that making homemade food gifts can be quite costly. However, with a little forethought and preparation you can save a few pennies.


1. Collect containers throughout the year. Buying empty jars and bottle can get very pricey at around 50p each so every time you finish a jar of jam or one of those tasty little GU desserts (don't pretend you don't know the ones I mean...), pop them in the dishwasher and stash them away.
2. Get creative! Don't waste money on those albeit beautiful but overpriced packs of pretty material covers and labels for jam jars. Make your own covers with scraps of fabric and pinking shears and print off your own labels. I've listed five of my favourite free printable Christmas labels below.
3. Never throw away gift bags and boxes you're given at Christmas. As lovely as it is to give food gifts in beautiful wicker hampers those can be really expensive and a nice gift bag or box looks just as lovely. I pop some festive tissue paper in the bottom and keep my printed labels themed so everything matches.
4. Buy in bulk. If you're going to be making something like 10 jars of tomato and chilli jam you're going to need a LOT of tomatoes. Try negotiating a deal with a local farm shop or buy from a cash and carry.
5. If you do need to buy jars, bottles, gift bags etc. have a look in bargain type shops. Some of my favourite gift bags and boxes have come from Wilko over the last few years (they also do some fab cheapy decorations!). Other places to check out are B&M Stores, Homesense and Home Bargains.


Marmalade (I like to put a big glug of whiskey in mine!)
Oaty cheese biscuits (these are delicious on their own with a little swipe of butter)
Cherry and coconut florentines (my mama's favourite!)





Do you make any Christmas gifts? Would you ever consider it? 

Love,
Mrs D x
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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Festive Hair Accessories

I've always had a thing for adorning my hair with flowers, bows and pretty accessories. It's something I never really grew out of. I remember a cruel comment from a girl at college when I was about 16 about a rather cute polkadot hairband that really upset me and I stopped dressing my hair up for a while. I soon learned though that I didn't care much for what people thought of me and I became known for my hair bows.

Accessorising definitely isn't important to me at the minute but my wonderful best friend reminded me today that one of the ways to learn to like your appearance is to look after it which made me think about the things I used to like about myself. Shoving ridiculous crap in my hair was definitely one of them! With the festive season upon us I thought I'd put together a little collection of Christmas hair accessories. Some are subtle, some are not but they're all fabulous!

Hover over the image to see info and click to take you through to the website!


Would you wear any of these? I've bought myself the glittery holly clip to don on Christmas Day!

Love,
Mrs D x

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The C Word

I never realised just how saturated the world becomes with Christmas once December rolls around. It is literally everywhere; adverts and festive films on the television, Christmas songs on the radio, every shop dressed up the nines, twinkling lights on streets, in shop windows and homes. It is inescapable and it hurts. A lot. 

Christmas has always given me such a deep, unparallelled joy. All the things that now make my heart ache used to fill it with happiness. One of my favourite things to do was walk round town in the evening in December when it's dark, Christmas lights twinkling, Christmas music merging together from every shop, hot chocolate in hand, watching people buying presents for loved ones. All the festiveness makes me so emotional. Now, the idea of doing that makes me want to crawl in a cupboard and never come out. 

We should be bringing him home from the hospital this week, panicking about being solely in charge and responsible for our three month old. We should be making treats and writing cards for the neonatal nurses and Aneurin's consultant, knowing nothing will ever thank them enough. We should be opening and closing Aneurin's bedroom door thinking of last minute things he might need. We should be putting our Christmas tree up and watching Aneurin mesmerised by the dancing lights. I should be nursing our boy to sleep whilst watching The Muppet's Christmas Carol. Mr D should be rolling his eyes at me as another Christmas present gets delivered. We should be preparing for our first Christmas as a beautiful, happy little family.


There should be another name on this list. Right at the top with more blank space than anyone else to fill with toys, books and sweet little Winter clothes. 

Phrases like 'silence can be deafening' used to make me roll my eyes but now I get it. The absence of something can be overwhelming. Wherever we go, whatever we're doing there is someone missing and that will never go away. We could have ten more children and reignite our Christmas joy but Aneurin will always be missing. 

We decided we need to do something completely new and different this year, something we'll probably never do again. Our first instinct was to just stay at home on our own but we didn't want any of our family to be alone so that wasn't an option. Instead, we've decided to all go out for Christmas dinner. Fortunately, as there'll be eight of us we have our own private dining room so we won't have to watch families with small children which would be incredibly painful. 

I'm trying my hardest to keep doing the things I would normally do like send cards and decorate the house but I'm not sure yet if forcing myself to do those things will only make the pain deeper. Every year I make food gifts and put together little hampers which is one thing I do want to still do. Cooking and creating is healing so I think that's something positive I can do. With that in mind I'm going to do something else I find healing which is blogging. I'm going to feature a few festive themed posts, some baby-loss related like ideas on how to honour your child over the holidays and some generic Christmas themed. 

I think I have to be prepared though for all good intentions to go out the window and just go with the flow of my emotions. Our reactions to things are so unpredictable and I actually have no idea how we'll feel as everything around us gets more and more festive and family orientated. Every day more photos of children standing by dressed trees appear on my social media and everything feels like a reminder of what we should have but we will get through it. We got through those first impossible weeks and we're getting through now. We will get through this. 

Love,
Mrs D x
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