Blog posts

Second Birthday Without You…What’s changed?

This month marks my Mums second anniversary Birthday. Last year I wrote about a year of firsts, but will this year be any different?

I haven’t written on my blog for quite some time now. What with the demands of family life, an ever increasing destructive toddler to chase and the end of my maternity leave and return to work, it is safe to say that I’ve had my hands pretty full. But that isn’t the only reason I haven’t written anything……

Before Christmas last year I found myself in unfamiliar territory. For the first time I noticed that my mum and her death wasn’t the only topic consuming my waking hours and my heart no longer panged at the thought of her. For so long, the opposite of this had been my reality. I had grown used to the majority of the time being preoccupied with the loss of my mother and the way in which she left this earth. My heart, although full of love for my daughter and continuing to grow with love every day, the painful pangs of grief still rendered me breathless and caused my heart to constrict with sadness.

And yet…here I was. I will be totally honest and say I freaked out. I kept asking myself “what does this mean?” and the conclusion I came to, which was predominantly born out of fear, was that I no longer missed my Mum. The horror that the woman who was the love of my life was now out of sight out of mind as they say, I think destroyed more that her physical loss. What was happening to me?

This shook my foundations and I no longer knew my grief. Once again it was an adversary that I had never met, but the biggest thing was that it made me question who I was a person. I placed a lot of credit on my pain as a symbol of my continued love and memory for my mum, without this pain I felt like i had not only lost my Mum physically but I was losing her from my heart. I was a terrible person.

My heart was the only place that she lived on.

As you can imagine, I needed some time to process this shift before I could begin to share it which is why I have been absent for so long.

But after allowing myself the space to understand my emotions and thoughts and to process them rationally, I have come to understand that this does not mean what I initially thought and the guilt I felt was unjust.

For so long I had lived with the pain and loss that we all experience when we lose a loved one. What I didn’t realise was that I had actually accepted that this was to be my reality for the rest of my life and I became ok with that. I even placed relevance on those feelings in that it meat that she was still part of my everyday reality and for that I was grateful. I needed that pain. What I also didn’t realise was that I not only needed the pain but I expected it. And that is where the problem lay.

Without knowing, I had placed an expectation on what I should feel like now I had lost my mum. This became detrimental because when my grief and feelings inevitably changed, I was unprepared, caught off guard and resorted to fear and panic to “cope”.

I felt that by living my life internally for the first time was the same as abandoning her and committing her to my history, to reside in my past alone.

Of course this is not the case and with hindsight and some rational adjustment I can see that this will never be the case. I believe the reason I came to these conclusions was because I was no longer grieving the way I thought I should. Grief is a journey, it is a path which is completely subjective, it can not be planned, it can not be avoided and it can not be hurried. Grief is a passage which must be travelled and experienced as you find it.

Once I stopped expecting to feel a certain way and I stopped trying to analyse the whys and wherefores, things became a lot easier to manage.

As humans we have to know everything don’t we. We have to know the whys: why do we feel this, or why do we feel that, where does it come from, what is the reason. But for man6y of us, and especially when talking about grief, there is no why. Either that or the why is not really that important. Knowing the reason for something doesn’t always change the outcome and rather than focusing our energies on the whys we should spend abit more time focusing on the feels. Accepting you current emotional state for what it is can sometimes be the antidote you need.

As with everyone and such is life, the ever present pain and overwhelming realisation that my Mum had died began to retreat. i began to feel ‘normal’ again, like my old self . I started to have hope, to look forward to the future and most importantly of all, I actually believed I had a future.

And what did I do to kick off this shift?

NOTHING

I didn’t purposefully do anything. It came out of nowhere, but I do believe my grief changed because of these 3 things:

1) I never tried to avoid, bury or ignore my grief. I embraced it and recognised that it was a part of who I had become.

2) I talked. I talked to my Mum, my husband and my family and friends. Having that safe outlet to pour my head into I believe helped me dramatically for without it I fear I would have been overcrowded by thoughts and feelings and well who knows the alternate future that may have been if I didn’t have this option.

3) Time. As with everything, nothing is permanent. Just like the weather, it won’t always rain but we have to wait it out. We’re unable to sustain one emotional sate indefinitely so it is inevitable that my grief would be no different. And I am sure that it will continue to do so for the rest of my life, sometimes positively and other times not so much.

Now I have allowed myself a period of adjustment I am ok with the change in my thoughts and feelings about my mums death and I can see a future that’s exciting. I am living my life on the inside now as well as the outside.

I still think of her, I still miss her and my gosh do I still love her and would do anything to squish her beautiful face again. She will forever be a part of my life regardless, it’s just now I am ok to keep going without her.

Big loves xxx

Dear Mum

The post I didn’t want to write but knew I would.


Here we are, or rather here I am, one year to the day since you died. It’s taken me a year to say that word. Before I could never say it purely because I didn’t want to. Who wants to say that their mum is dead? So I avoided it for as long as possible but today is the day I can’t ignore it.

For me it’s another day without you. The 365th day without you to be exact and it is the same as every other day without you; lonely, heart gripping and scary.

I never thought I would be sat here writing about living without you for a whole year but at the same time I also knew I would write to you today.

It’s strange because on the one hand it feels like you have been gone so much longer than a year and on the other it feels like no time has passed at all. I think about you everyday and I often wonder what would have happened if I had have been there this day last year. I often wonder whether I could have saved you. If not then I could have been there to hold your hand, comfort you and hold you the way you held me when you brought me into this world. I know you’d be telling me not to think like that and to concentrate on my own life but I will always feel that I let you down, that I wasn’t there at the only time you ever really needed me. I wasn’t there.

I hate that I don’t know where you are. That was one thing I could always guarantee was that you were always by my side or at least a phone call away. Now there is just silence. Now I’m not so sure where you are.

When you left you took a lot of me with you. I didn’t just lose a Mum, I lost a best friend, a true love, security, belonging, identity, my home and above all my trust. I don’t trust life anymore Mum. For a long time I struggled to find purpose to life.

Things have changed though Mum. I can smile and laugh again and actually feel it. A lot of that is down to Lady P, who you would just absolutely adore. I will never understand why it is you both could not meet and I know how devastated you would have been to have left before meeting her. But she has brought me back to life.

Everybody has been amazing this last year. I am so blessed to have the family and friends I do. You have no idea how loved and missed you are. You always thought that you weren’t that important, well I’ve got news for you gorgeous, you were and you still are. The only reason they are so good to me is because of you.

I suppose if this was to be a real conversation between us the one thing I would say to you is thank you. We never got to say goodbye. Our last conversation was the day before on my way home from work about everyday things. I didn’t get the opportunity to tell you some home truths so I’m telling you now and hope that you somehow know.

Thank you for always being selfless. You always put me first and gave me the opportunities in life that you didn’t have. I never realised just how much you sacrificed for me and I am eternally grateful to you.

I get it. Being a Mum now I completely understand your love for me and see your love in a new light. I get how I made you feel, why you did the things you did and said the things you did, I get it all. As you would say “welcome to my world”.

You got it right. Everything you did as a Mum was right and you did it well. Doubting myself as a Mum has shown me that every Mum experiences this and I realised I never told you that you were a great parent and you didn’t ever need to doubt yourself.

I’m also sorry, for so many things:

Sorry for not being there.

Sorry for not coming to see you at home when you died to say goodbye.

Sorry for all the times I put myself first.

Sorry for not noticing that you weren’t yourself.

Sorry for not knowing you had gone.

Sorry for not making the most of the time we had together.

And my biggest sorry is not holding you that bit longer the last time we saw each other and telling you that I loved you.

I didn’t want this to be a letter of apology but I am so sorry for a lot things. Your death has taught me about what truly matters in life; love and family.

So I love my daughter as a reflection of the love I had from you. I laugh with a heart born of a woman who was always laughing.

You are my Mum and that is something not even death can take away from me.

Why I’m not the perfect Mum and I don’t try to be.

With social media an image of the ‘perfect insta mum’ has resulted in mums feeling imperfect and failures at not being able to achieve this image and creating a crisis in confidence. Well I have news for you……they’re not perfect either.

First Time Mum

The wonderful thing about social media is that it is the perfect place to not only hide your true self, but provides an opportunity to create the ‘perfect’ image. You can be anything you want to be.

It’s full of mums achieving standards that don’t seem quite realistic when placed within the context of the real world. How super insta mum has created a fantastic game for her children, played with them, cleaned the entire house, done the washing, walked the dog, taken the children to the park, got herself washed and dressed with beautiful clothes and perfect make up, is none stop smiling, her children have eaten all their organic 5 a day breakfast, lunch and dinner, they haven’t cried or had a tantrum once and above all she has the time to make videos and take pictures of everything and post them to social media. I’m lucky if I get to shower that day never mind put a full face of make up on. And they are always happy.

What am I doing wrong? Why do I seem to be living in squalor while everyone else has it together? How is it that they find it so easy when I’m over here struggling? Is there something wrong with me that I’m not happy all the time and actually some days I wonder what the hell I got myself into? The answer is that these perfect insta mums are exactly the same as the rest of us. I am doing nothing wrong and neither is anyone else. Just like the rest of us, I am trying my best everyday. Social media provides mere snapshots of time, as they say you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, or rather an iPhone.

It can be damaging for anyone to compare themselves to others, let alone an image that is fabricated and unobtainable.

I have struggled with perfectionism for years. I constantly set myself standards that I am unable to achieve. This means I view myself as a failure all the time at everything I do and being a parent was no different.

Before I gave birth I didn’t have a preconceived idea of what I would look like as a parent. I was going to take it as it came. But when I got there I was not prepared for the anxiety and worry that accompanies being a parent. I was not prepared for what it took to look after a newborn nor the love that would consume me.

The more time I spent reading about developmental milestones, feeding, safer sleeping and routines, the more I began to form this idea of what I should be as a parent. Seeing other Mums on social media making it look easy further shaped this idea of what I needed to do to be the perfect mum. I couldn’t be anything less because my daughter deserved nothing but the best from me.

I believed that being a Mum was ensuring that I always smiled at my daughter no matter how tired or frustrated I was. She couldn’t see me as anything other than her happy mum.

I believed that when she was awake I needed to provide stimulation and encourage her development. That meant reading to her, playing with her with home made age appropriate games, singing to her and talking to her.

I believed that I should always be calm and I couldn’t ever be frustrated with being a mum and the demands this entailed.

I believed that I should always put my daughter first and consider her needs at all times. This meant that I wouldn’t eat, sleep, shower, or do anything for me unless she was asleep. That was the only time when I would give myself guilt free permission to do something for me.

I believed to be a good Mum was to be able to do everything. The housework, the cooking, entertaining the kids, looking after my husband and everyone else, working and to not find it difficult.

I believed I couldn’t ask for help because I was the one at home all day, I wanted my daughter and above all it was my role as a mum.

These were absolutes. There was no room for error. It was all or nothing and if I didn’t meet my standards everyday then I was a failure. The mum guilt was out of control.

It is safe to say that the pressure I inflicted upon myself was massive and I suffered with my mental health. There was absolutely no way I could be my idea of the perfect mum and therefore it was inevitable that I would be disappointed in myself everyday.

For anyone who has never heard of perfectionism in this sense, perfectionism is a personality trait in which an individual sets themselves standards which are so high that they either can not be achieved ,or that they can ,but to a great detriment to the individual. Perfectionism thrives on fear of failure, the fear of making mistakes and therefore something bad will happen. Now you might be thinking that doesn’t seem that bad. In fact you might be thinking that this isn’t a particularly bad trait to have in that it forces you to be your best and achieve high standards which bring positive rewards. Yes, it can have a positive side such as this and on the odd occasion, my perfectionist trait has led me to produce some of my best work at university and allowed me to perform at my job very well. However the mental impact of this is immense.

Think about it. Imagine running your personal best time. Now imagine that at EVERY race you have to run your personal best, even if you’re tired, ill or have a broken leg. You may STRIVE for your personal best, that’s different and a very healthy way to live, but as a perfectionist you must ACHIEVE your personal best EVERYTIME. That’s a lot of pressure and pretty much impossible.

I have found Perfectionism self help resources such as this to be very helpful.

I think as first time mums we are susceptible and vulnerable. I was particularly so in that I had lost my mum suddenly when I was 24 weeks pregnant and was very much first timing on my own.

Anyone I have ever spoken to who has had more than one child (veteran mum) will tell you how they acted differently with their first and second child. With their first child they did everything by the book, took the advice of every professional and essentially wrapped their child up in cotton wool. With their second child they did the complete opposite. Are they bad parents? Absolutely not. Are their children happy and healthy despite the differences in parenting? Yes. And it was these veteran mums who helped me to realise what I was doing to myself and helped me relax my standards.

What do I do differently and believe now?

Here are a few things which I do now to help me be the best imperfect mum I can be:

1) I don’t believe everything I see on social media.

2) If we all make it to bed at the end of the day fed, clean, watered and healthy as a minimum then that’s enough.

3) I’ve relaxed my efforts with the housework. The dishes can wait and if my husband or anyone else has anything to say then my reply is one of two: “you do them” or “this isn’t a hotel”. My house is lived in.

4) I take time for me. This is a big one and a must which I schedule into my day. It can be anything from having a bath, doing a workout or writing. As long as it is something I enjoy. I realise I am just as important as my daughter and husband, I MATTER and therefore I need to invest some time in myself.

5) I no longer HAVE to achieve my idea of perfection but rather I SRTIVE to be the best I can be everyday. This way of thinking motivates me rather than pressurises me and as result I’m more relaxed and happier. Excellence vs Perfectionism is key.

6) It’s ok to be frustrated ,being a mum is hard work. Admitting this also doesn’t make me a bad mum it makes me a better mum, which leads me nicely to..

7) It’s ok not to be smiling all the time. In fact it’s healthy for my daughter to witness my range of emotions as what is important is how I respond and manage them rather than having them to begin with. That way she will learn how she can manage and respond to her emotions and know that to show your emotions is not a bad thing.

8) I ask for help!! I can not do everything on my own. Yes I’ll admit somethings my husband does he does wrong because he doesn’t do it the way I would. But the point is it’s done.

9) Allowing my daughter to explore and entertain herself is just as important for her development as is us attending baby groups and engaging in ‘developmental play’. I love this quote by Kim Raver;

“I think it’s necessary to let kids get bored once in a while-that’s how they learn to be creative“.

10) Being a mum means: just love.

For any one giving themselves a hard time for what they should be doing, do me a favour and have a little look at the things you are doing.

Anyone who follows my instagram and facebook knows how much I love my daughter and that she is more than a daughter to me because she helped piece me back together after Losing my mum.

To be the best for my daughter is for me not to be my best!

First time Mum quote

Xxx

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Group B Strep-What?

This week is Group B Strep awareness week and I’m sharing my experience of Group B strep and how this impacted my pregnancy, labour and daughter.

Group B streptococcal (GBS)is, apart from being a complicated medical term, a harmless bacteria which is found in the gut and the vagina. According to the NHS it is a very common bacteria and up to 2 in 5 people are carriers of the bacteria with no adverse effects. However, group B strep can be extremely harmful in pregnancy and if the newborn contracts the bacteria during labour this can be potentially fatal. For more information you can visit the NHS website here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/group-b-strep/. The Group B Strep Support site (GBSS) also contains a vast amount of information and additional support. You can also order a GBS testing kit from them here online https://gbss.org.uk/ The NHS in England do not routinely test for Group B strep in pregnant women despite it being so common and the severe risks to the newborn. I was extremely lucky that I was tested at 35 weeks pregnant but for different reasons.

When I was 35 weeks pregnant I had gone to lunch with some friends. I was very full at this point with my daughters head engaged in my pelvis and her bum under my ribs. I was suffering from a lot of pressure in my pelvis and the fact that I could no longer put my shoes on made me cry everyday.

Off I waddled to lunch and in the pregnant lady style I needed the loo as soon as I got there. I had heard of a mucus plug ( or a bloody show) and knew that if I lost this then that was a sign of labour but I agonised over how I would know and what it looked like. Well when I went to the toilet there was something in my knickers that hadn’t been there before and which I had never seen before. It looked very much like all the descriptions I had read of what a bloody show looked like but every pregnancy and labour is different so you can never be too sure. I took a picture (I know gross but it becomes important later) and rang my local maternity assessment unit (MAU) who advised me to go in and be checked.

No lunch and a mate date missed, off I went to the MAU. They completed the routine checks and monitored my babies heartbeat. After completing an internal examination the informed me that my cervix was not dialated and therefore what I found could not be my mucus plug. This is where the picture comes in. I showed it to the midwife and they said that it did look like a show but they weren’t entirely sure what it was. ( Great tip for any pregnant lady if in doubt take a picture)` It was at this point they informed me that they had taken swabs and would run some tests with the view to contacting me only if something came up. There was no mention at this point they would be testing for GBS, in fact there was no mention of what they would be testing for. I didn’t think anything further of it until I got a phone call a few days later. The midwife explained the results had returned positive for GBS and I would need to come in and collect some paperwork for my maternity file and an information booklet. I had never heard of GBS before. Apparently the NHS in England will only test a pregnant woman for GBS IF they are testing for something else. When I arrived at the maternity assessment unit, they gave me the paperwork and information and stuck several bright yellow stickers all over my file which notified all who saw it that I was GBS positive. Was it that bad? Was it something I should be concerned about? The midwife explained not, that it was very common and meant that I would need IV antibiotics when my waters broke.

It was only when I attended a planned growth scan the following day that I was informed of the risks involved with GBS. The importance of ensuring that I came into hospital as soon as my waters broke in order to ensure I received the IV antibiotics to ensure they had sufficient time to cross the placenta and provide the required protection to my daughter through delivery and the period after, was highlighted. I was also informed it was very important that I made sure whoever was leading my care when I went into labour that they were informed of my GBS status. And that was it, nothing more nothing less. Still grieving for my Mum, I didn’t fully understand the severity of the situation should my daughter contract this bacteria from during labour and it is only now , after reading some horrendous stories of how some babies have lost their lives, that I realise how incredibly lucky I was not only to have been tested but that I did receive the antibiotics in time for my labour (only just).

When I was in labour they were unable to track her heartbeat with the stomach trace. As a result they had to attach what my husband described as an antenna ( which made me think that it looked like I was giving birth to a teletubby) and ultimately this caused an open wound on her head. An open wound in the presence of bacteria is not good. As a result of this she was administered IV antibiotics every 12 hours for 48 hours in total and thankfully she was fine. If we hadn’t have known I was GBS positive and this procedure was something they had to perform regardless in my delivery ,then the risk to my daughter with an open wound on her head was massive, it doesn’t dare thinking about. My daughters risk was increased further as she was born at 36 weeks and babies born before 37 weeks are at a higher risk of contracting the bacteria.The fact that we did know and therefore she was able to receive treatment as a preventative measure is fortunate for us.

I do not understand why the NHS in England do not routinely test for GBS, especially when it can prevent newborn babies from contracting a potentially fatal bacteria. You can choose to purchase a test online but why should this be the case? If GBS is as common as they claim then surely it makes more sense to test and prevent than wait and treat.

For anyone who has been informed they are GBS positive ,or for those who want to know more ,visit the GBS support website https://gbss.org.uk/. My GBS story is very common in that we experienced no adverse effects and my daughter was completely healthy. Not all GBS stories end this way and it is because of this that testing should be offered to ALL pregnant women regardless.

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5 Ways To Help Accept Your Grief

When you have lost a loved one carrying on with life can be an arduous task. You’ve finished all the arrangements for the deceased and people slowly drift back to their own lives. I found that this was the time when I truly started to grieve and when I most needed something, anything, to help me be with my grief. I am by no means an expert but here are the 5 ways which have helped me accept my grief and find a little piece of peace.

1. Make time to grieve.

I listened to my Mum’s funeral song today for the first time 11 months after her passing and rather than being crippled with agony and longing , I was actually able to smile and think of how she used to sing that song while she was cleaning. I didn’t purposely choose to listen to the song, it happened to be on the radio this morning and I’ll admit my first initial thought was to turn it off, remove it from consciousness because I didn’t want to be reminded that she’s no longer here right now. But whenever I get these thoughts of avoidance, rather than do everything in my power to avoid them, I do the opposite and focus on them. The same with my grief. Rather than do everything I can not to think about my mum and to run away from the pain, I acknowledge it and allow myself to feel it. After my Mum died and before I gave birth, I spent the majority of the time on my own for 12 weeks and I used this time to do what I needed to do, whether that was to cry, scream, sleep, eat, write or just stare at the TV. I allowed myself to feel. Because of this I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of managing my grief and living my life. Purposely giving myself that time was the best thing I could do in my journey of coming to terms with the loss. Even now I still schedule time in my day to sit and think about my Mum. On the occasions where I’ve been carried away by the days and tasks of being a Mum myself I really feel it. I start to get overwhelmed, irritated, anxious and distressed. My thoughts automatically turn to what I have lost and my mood plummets dramatically. Once I have taken that time to feel whatever I am feeling and more often than not have a good sob, I feel calmer and able to face another day.


2. Get it all out.

This may come as a surprise considering you’re reading this but I am quite a private person. I tend to be the listener and have taken the view in the past that others can’t help with my problems as they are mine and mine alone, so what is the point in talking about them. I suppose you could say this has been a positive result from my Mum passing in that I have found the courage to open up to those I trust. I believe that talking to my confidants has helped me greatly in figuring out how to adapt to my new normal and more importantly how to manage my emotions. When you lose a loved one you fundamentally change as a person, your very core being is altered permanently and whilst parts of the old you still remain, ultimately you have transformed into a new person. I remember my husband saying to me once that ” he had lost a mum but also his wife” and that’s true he did. Part of grieving is getting to know this new person, with new thoughts and feelings, new fears and new beliefs and a whole new way of living. Talking to someone I trusted enabled me to understand the new me but also to explore my new normal.

I have to give some credit here to my husband. He was the one I confided in and divulged my inner thoughts and feelings to, however I wasn’t and am still not a very willing participant. It took him to recognise when I was overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and coax me to talk about it with him. He made me feel comfortable and secure, I knew he wouldn’t judge or ridicule me and actually sharing things with him allowed us to enter a new phase of our marriage and become closer.

Talk to someone you trust, talk about your thoughts and feelings, talk about your loved one but most importantly don’t bottle things up. If you struggle with talking then you can write it down, make a voice recording or even talk to your lost loved one. I’ve also known others who have used creative ways to express themselves including music and art. Whichever way suits you use it to release some of that pressure and to help you make sense of who you are and your new world.


3. Make a plan.

One thing that absolutely terrified me above all else was being on my own. Not just in terms of the rest of my life without my Mum or after I gave birth, but also when my husband and everyone else went back to their lives and back to work. If in the past I had ever felt lonely I would just get up and go to my Mums. Now that this was no longer an option I had absolutely no idea what to do. I spoke to my husband about this and we agreed to make a plan. We made a list of the things that I wanted to do but had not felt up to doing. This list was a ‘if you feel up to it’ list so there was no pressure if one day I decided not to do a single thing from the list or if I did them all in 20 minutes. The other list was around what I needed to achieve as a minimum everyday including things like getting up, washed and dressed. You don’t realise how difficult the simplest of tasks are when you’re consumed with sadness and despair. Life becomes pointless and purposeless. We agreed that if I accomplished the minimum list and then spent the rest of the day crying that was good enough. Having an initial plan gave me a sense of normality at a time when everything was so far from what was.

Now this may seem slightly contradictory but bear with me. In essence with this I did not plan further than each day. Anything more just seemed insurmountable for me so I took one day at a time. I could just about make it through one day without her. If you can’t contemplate a life without your loved one then don’t, remove that fear and focus on making it through that day only.


4. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

I am not ashamed to say that after my Mum died I did seek professional help and visited my GP. I needed it. Just as I would go to my GP for any physical ailments I did the same for my mental ailment. I have suffered from anxiety for many years and even though I’ve had periods where I have utilised medication alongside other talking therapies, generally I am experienced enough that I am now able to control my panic and function day to day. However after my Mum my anxiety went to a new level and I required some form of intervention in order to help me cope. I went to see my GP who prescribed me the best medication that posed the least amount of risks to my baby and one which I could safely breastfeed with postpartum. I was closely monitored by the midwives ,pre and post natal,and maintained regular check ups with my GP. My daughter suffered no effects from the medication whatsoever. The medication reduced the physical symptoms of my anxiety which meant I could focus on utilising coping strategies and tools. I was referred for mental health support and I completed 12 weeks of high intensity CBT therapy for my anxiety only, not my grief. I am by no way advocating that all those who are grieving need to be on medication or for that matter, need to receive some form of professional help. What I am saying is that if you feel you need additional support then don’t be afraid to visit your GP or seek other professional help.


5. Time

This one is very simple: give yourself the gift of time.

There is no time limit on your grief. Take all the time you need even if it is a life time. There is no such thing as ‘getting over it’ or ‘moving on’, grief isn’t a single period of change, it’s a continuous period of change and one which is not governed by time.

11 months on and I am able to smile at the thought of my Mum more often than not when once I would be rendered paralysed. I still have a long way to go but my grief tides are less frequent, less intense and have reduced in duration. Rather than “bad days” and “bad weeks” I have “bad moments” in each day. I can think about the future and get excited. Absolutely my enjoyment of life is forever bittersweet but I am ok with that. My Mum was one of my greatest loves and I’ll always mourn the fact that she is no longer part of my future. Having that tinge of sadness to everything I do means that I still miss her, I want to always miss her and never forget her.

Grief changes us, defines us and ultimately becomes us, but it does not have to take our lives from us.

If anyone has any other ways which they have found helpful when dealing with their grief and you feel comfortable in doing so, please leave a comment on this page so others can possibly find some benefit from it also. We are all in this together. Alternatively you can message me directly or via facebook or instagram and with your permission, share your suggestion on your behalf or anonymously.

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional and the information provided above is based solely on my own personal experience of grief and should not be substituted for any medical advice or information. If you or anyone you are supporting have concerns regarding their mental health then seek medical advice.

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How I’ll Make Sure She Knows You.

When a loved one is lost and no longer present, how do you keep their memory alive?

The only way we can be together in a photo

If you’d have said to me before I got pregnant that my mum wouldn’t be there to meet my daughter there’s no way I would have believed you. Nothing was going to stop that woman from being with her granddaughter, she would have torn every brick down of my house to be with her.

I can say my mum loved my daughter before me.

Except she would be stopped from being with her by the only thing that could and that is the hardest part of losing her.

Losing my mum at the time when I probably needed her the most has been the worst experience of my life, but what torments me is not about me ,it’s about her and my daughter.

I know how devastated my mum would be to have left me at this time. She would have been so angry not to have been here to look after me and help me navigate motherhood but more so, to not meet her granddaughter and watch her grow up would have destroyed her. Family was everything to her. It is this which has caused me the most anguish. I hurt more for her and what she has lost rather than what I have lost. I hurt more for the fact that my daughter had already lost a significant figure in her life before she was even born and didn’t even get to love her the way I know she would have. They say you can’t miss something you never had- I miss the future my mum and daughter never got to have.

That we didn’t get to say goodbye and that they didn’t even get to say hello is excruciating.

So now we have a job that I never thought we would have. It is our job to make sure that my daughter knows her nanny and here are some of the ways we’re doing that.

Wish upon a star.

My cousins bought my daughter the most amazing gift, they named a star after my mum. Now we have a physical point in which we can look to and talk to together and every night we look up and say goodnight to nanny. It’s hard with not having a specific place to visit to be able to spend time with my mum, but having a star provides us with this and what better way to make sure she is always with us than being the brightest star in the sky.

You are here with us.

We didn’t know that my mum was going to die, there was no warning, no inclining, no ‘feeling’ that something was wrong,nothing. She was 59, plenty of time to be had to talk about funerals and what she would have wanted, or so we thought. Obviously it didn’t work out that way and we were left with not a clue as to what she would have wanted. I know she never wanted to die that’s for sure. We as a family did what we thought she would want but there was one thing I absolutely knew with certainty she would want and that was to be at home with us. And so she was cremated and now sits pride of place in the centre of my living room, spending everyday with us just as she had spent most of her life with us.

You are everywhere.

We have a feature wall in our house and it reaches to the top of the stairs. It is filled with pictures of our family and friends as well as few special pieces that hold a place in our heart. We have included pictures of my mum of course because I don’t want to keep her in a photo album, I want her face where I can see it everyday just as I used to, I want to look up and be able to see her smile., I want my daughter to be as familiar with her face as she is mine. Just because she is no longer here physically doesn’t mean that my daughter will not know her. I show her the pictures now and tell her who she is and how much she loved her and couldn’t wait to meet her. And when she gets older I will show her the videos I have on my phone of me and my mum having fun because my daughter has the right to know her nanny whichever way she can.

The nursery

This was a tough one for me. We hadn’t really started the nursery before my mum died, in fact we hadn’t really started buying much for my daughter at that point and the day before my died she had bought my daughter some bits. These were to be the only things she would buy her but they were the first things she had been bought, that my mum had been the one to do this makes it so special. After she died I was unable to even contemplate the idea of having a baby and I shut myself of from the practicalities of preparing for her birth. My husband was absolutely amazing, he took care of everything, he even packed the hospital bag with what me and the baby would need and he got it spot on. He decorated and furnished the nursery but it broke my heart that my mum wouldn’t get to see it finished. So what my husband did was he put bits from my mums house in my daughters room. He used the curtains from my mums bedroom and used plaques from her house as curtain tie backs. This was a way in which my mum could be a part in finishing the nursery and my daughter has parts of my mums finishing touches with her.

There will be many more ways as my daughter gets older that we as a family will include and remember my mum, making sure she remains a part of daily family life as she would have been were she still here and celebrating the special occasions. For me having reminders of her and parts of her around the house allows me to feel like she is still here, that she has in some way got to be a part of our new family life and to be with my daughter. I completely understand those who choose not to do this and that’s ok. With grief you have to do what feels right for you and not what you think you should do. I openly talk about my mum and encourage anyone who didn’t know her to ask me about her. Those who did know her I ask them to share their memories of her as I get to know more about the woman I love more than life.

This way and through some of the things I’ve mentioned, is how I keep my mum in the present and how my daughter will know her nanny.

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A dream is a wish your heart makes.

When having lost a loved one it’s hard to accept their absence in every form. But how do you prepare for their presence in your dreams where it’s a reality to spend time with the dead?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how close me and my mum were and when you have someone like that in your life their absence is felt profoundly. I didn’t fully accept her death, in fact even now 10 months on I still don’t. The only way I can describe it is this; I know she’s not here at the moment but I’m waiting for the day when she comes back, I just don’t know when that is. So in the meantime I take each day as it comes, I accept she won’t come back on that day but contemplating anything more than this is just insurmountable. I suppose thinking and feeling like this is partly what enables me to continue living my life. If you read about the stages of grief, you’d probably say I was still in denial. I’m not for labelling and I don’t wholly agree with the stages, I find them vague and unhelpful but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t say I was in denial, I very much know she has died, visiting her at the funeral home made sure of that and if she wasn’t dead nothing would have kept her away from her granddaughter. It’s just I am able to better understand her absence in these terms, its how I have come to process the void she left behind.

After being without her for several weeks and very slowly developing my own way of understanding , I slept for the first time. Prior to this I hadn’t slept more than 15 minutes at any one time, I wouldn’t even say it was sleep more unconsciousness to which I would suddenly jolt awake and remember what had happened. I used to watch my iPad in bed because I couldn’t stand the silence, I needed noise, I would fall unconscious, jolt awake and have to rewind the film or program back to where I was. I think it took me a whole week to watch Monsters University ( Disney and Pixar films were a safe bet), my husband can’t stand the film now he’s seen it that many times. So I slept and I dreamt, I dreamt of her, my mum. There she was in front of me again, she looked normal, she looked as she always had and like nothing had happened. I’ll never forget this dream.

 

When I woke up the next morning what shocked me most was not reality rushing in, was not that she wasn’t here, but that I felt better for having seen her and spent time with her. Despite it only being a dream, I genuinely felt that I had been with her like always and I didn’t miss her as much because I’d had contact with her. Almost like I’d had a little fix after being without for so long. I’ve read about spirits apparently appearing in our dreams is really them visiting us and I’m sceptible about such things, I’m a girl that needs concrete evidence. I didn’t expect to feel happy because the reality remained the same, but I was in a way. Now this is what gets me about grief, you never know what’s coming next, you never know where it will take you or how you’re going to react. You also never know when but when it hits you got to take it and ride it out. I thought if I ever dreamt about her I would be crippled with despair and it would set me back for days, weeks even ( remember I was pregnant and probably at my most vulnerable). I was actually worried about dreaming about her because I thought this is what I would have to face, like losing her all over again. I’ve had a range of dreams with my mum in them, some of them upsetting, some of them nondescript, but every time I’ve seen her I’ve always felt a little better.

I suppose the point of this post is to show that there’s no right or wrong way to feel when grieving, rather it’s a case of accepting and embracing your feelings for they are yours and yours alone. If you are supporting someone who is grieving for a loved one also accept and acknowledge their feelings, try not to pass comment with your own opinion( unless asked) and approach with empathy not sympathy. Those who are grieving are not looking for sympathy believe me and share you’re own feelings about their loved one. Grieving is a lonely business so it’s nice to know that we’re not in it alone. 

I don’t dream about my mum all the time and I have a variety of dreams including trying to save her, dreams where she has come back as if nothings happened and dreams where she is just there. But despite the type of dream I always feel happy to have been with her even if it is only in my imagination. After all that’s how we live forever isn’t it, in the minds and hearts of loved ones.

pink decor with quote
Photo by pixel2013 ~ Silvia & Frank on Pexels.com

 

Boobie time; it’s ok cause it is time for boobie

It’s national breastfeeding week so in honour of this and to show my support of all things boobie I’m sharing a part of my breastfeeding journey.

Before I had my daughter I had already decided that I would give breastfeeding a go. I was determined to keep an open mind and try it at the very least. I had no qualms with bottle feeding and was ready to accept that if ,for whatever reason breastfeeding didn’t work, then I would switch to formula. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself either way, what would be would be. The NHS advocate breastfeeding and positively encourage all mums to breastfeed and the support provided is pretty special, I mean they have a 24 hour helpline! However I feel that I didn’t really fully understand what it would mean to breastfeed and I was naive in thinking that it would all just happen naturally and away we’d go. Not so. I could write and write about my breastfeeding journey, it’s still happening now, but I’ll touch on the parts which needed to overcome to have a successful journey.

In the beginning there was liquid gold.

I honestly thought that when I had my daughter I would put her little mouth to my nipple and away she would go, my milk would come flowing through like a glorious river and we’d sit there in our perfect bubble together like on the cow and gate advert. Nope. Turns out neither one of us had a clue how to breastfeed and I didn’t have any milk at all. It was a slightly yellow liquid and it did not flow like a river but rather was forced out by a very a lovely stranger. I now know this is colostrum and is often referred to as ‘liquid gold’ because it is so nutrient dense and extremely concentrated but at the time I thought my boobs had gone off.

Because my daughter was premature she needed feeding every two hours for her blood sugar levels, and that’s two hours from when she first latches by the way not when she’s finished. My daughter would latch, have a little suckle and then fall straight to sleep. The midwife helped me with positioning and ensuring the latch was correct but this included guiding my daughters tiny mouth to my huge nipple in comparison and pushing her onto my nipple. I had to stroke her nose with my nipple and squeeze a bit of milk out for her to taste, I had to keep waking her up by tickling her feet and stroking her face. This would last for about 45 minutes before we would eventually give up and I would be milked by a stranger for all of 1ml of colostrum which was given to my daughter by syringe. This whole circus would take around an hour and a quarter meaning we got to start the whole process again only 45 minutes later. This went on for 48 hours day and night. She needed to learn that she needed to stay awake and suck to get the milk and that unfortunately it would not just fall into her mouth ,which I think she assumed would happen. Breastfed babies have to work hard to get their milk.

Help!my nipple is falling off.

We stayed in hospital for a week with my daughter due to her being premature and then having jaundice. I kept on with the breastfeeding exclusively and had visits from the breastfeeding support team every morning to discuss the perfect latch, supply issues and how to make sure your baby is getting enough milk. I kept a log like a boss with which nipple I last fed on, for how long she fed for and documented every wet and dirty nappy. I was spending a bit of time on the pump in between feeds to boost my supply and trying different positions. What I didn’t expect was that my nipples would be that sore that every time my daughter latched I would literally silently scream and curl my toes. I was not prepared for a tiny mouth mauling and sucking my nipples every 2-3hours for around 45minutes at a time and that actually my nipples would be damaged by this ‘natural’ phenomena. I got blisters on the end of my nipples, both my nipples cracked at one point and I have scars from this now, I dreaded feeding her because of how much it would hurt. I agonised over her latch, I repeatedly ensured the position was correct and if it wasn’t I would unlatch her and re-latch her, I tried the dizzying arrays of positions but my nipples still screamed in protest. I tried lanolin ointments (at £10 a tube), I put some of my own expressed milk on each nipple after and before a feed, I used cold compresses but nothing worked. The only thing that did give me some relief was boiling water and cotton pads, I found the heat soothing and would bathe each nipple after every feed. My husband used to love my boobs but after breastfeeding he says he’s sick of seeing them I’ve had them out that much. I would literally sit there with them both out watching tv or even if I was pottering around the house, I had to remember to put them away when anyone came mind which I nearly forgot on a few occasions. I was so obsessed with latching correctly as this was the only explanation I was given as to why it was hurting and I was told repeatedly by every article and person I spoke to ,that it shouldn’t hurt and I was doing it wrong or I had thrush (I didn’t have thrush but I was constantly checking her mouth and my nipples anyway).

Turns out it was nothing me and my daughter were doing that was wrong but rather that with her being premature her mouth was so tiny that she couldn’t fit all my nipple in. I had to persevere with the pain until she was bigger and able to latch to my whole nipple. When my daughter was 10 weeks old my nipples completely stopped hurting, all the cracks healed up and the honeymoon period began. I do believe that if she had been born full term then I would have got to this point a lot quicker.

There may be two of them but there’s only one of me.

Cluster feeding! What fresh hell was that! I do not miss that phase, having my daughter attached to either boob from 6-10 pm every night and then continuing to feed as normal every 2-3hours through the night as well was bloody testing. Because of the importance of allowing her to cluster to boost my supply in preparation for a growth spurt, I couldn’t do anything. They tell you categorically do not give them a bottle at this point because it will disrupt your supply. I was so worried that she wasn’t getting enough milk. Turns out she was and I didn’t need to worry but at the time I thought she was starving. So I had to sit there for hours.

With choosing to solely breastfeed it means my husband has not really had a look in. It also means that I’ve had to do every feed regardless of whether I was ill, tired or just in need of a break, if my daughter wanted feeding I had to make myself available. I absolutely love this aspect of exclusively breastfeeding but it was this that I also found the hardest, it’s very full on. My daughter has always fed every 2-3 hours and has never gone longer than 4 hours, even now, and that’s all day and all night. At times she’s had spells where she has fed every hour even through the night! Its been tough at times, I haven’t had more than 4 hours sleep at any one time in 7 months. I also haven’t spent any time away from her in 7 months which means our bond is amazing but is also making it very difficult for us both to gain independence. This is to be the final chapter in our breastfeeding journey as I prepare to return to work and my daughter gets ready to go to nursery and breastfeeding becomes morning and night time only as her need for food increases and her need for me reduces.

Boobie time is amazing I promise.

Whilst initially breastfeeding came with its challenges and it did hurt a lot, we very quickly got into a rhythm and my body knew what to do. Like everything to do with parenting, it’s a learning curve. My boobs are amazing, they have fed my child and produced the right amount every time and contained everything she needs. Once my nipples healed I couldn’t even feel her feeding, I could just hear her little swallows. That protected time between us has definitely shaped our relationship and our bond is unrivalled. I love that no matter where we are I have the right amount of milk she needs, at the right temperature and I have it immediately. I don’t have to think about sterilising bottles, boiling kettles, cooling bottles, taking enough with me just in case, spending money on milk that I don’t have, having to make my daughter wait until it’s cool enough to drink, having to waste so much milk if she didn’t drink it within a set time and run the risk of her becoming ill. Now it is so easy and it is the most natural thing in the world.

The reason I have included the early day hurdles is because I wasn’t aware of the possible issues I may face, the complexities of supply and demand, the importance of latch, the amount of times breastfed babies feed or the demand on me as a mum. I felt like all this was thrown at me once I’d already started and it was very overwhelming. I thought with it being a natural thing that it would happen naturally and it doesn’t for most women. I have had to work at it, the worrying and googling in the beginning was excessive because I didn’t know anyone else who breastfed. I persevered through the times when I could have given in and shouted ” give her a bottle” ( which I have said on a few occasions but never done). But the work has absolutely paid off and we have enjoyed breastfeeding more times than not.

I do want to mention that for me I support all mums choices, at the end of the day we just want to make sure we feed our children and whether that’s bottle or breast, we’re all just trying to do our best for our children and that is truly wonderful.

One last thing;

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Why I am writing under a pseudonym.

What have those who write under a pseudonym got to hide?

Loucy Lamb is not my given name. You would think writing about my most intimate feelings over losing my mum and laying all my vulnerabilities bare as a parent and out there for all the world to see my name would be the least of my worries.

Let me give you some context.

Before my mum died I had been very fortunate in that I had not lost anyone as close to me as her. Yes I’ve lost grandparents but only when I was young so I can’t really say that their loss had as much of an impact. I was sad and I still miss them of course, but you almost expect a grandparent to die because they’re old, I never expected my mum to die and I think that’s what makes the grief more intense. My mum was one of the greatest loves of my life, I never went a day without speaking to her or more than 2 days without seeing her ( apart from when I moved to Cyprus to live for a year but we still Skyped daily). Wherever my mum went I would follow, people called me her shadow, I hope now she’s mine.

“My mother taught me everything except how to live without her”

I had always been naive about grief, I’d heard colleagues at work talk about losing their mums and I’d think ” aww that’s sad” but I never really considered what it would feel like because I never truly believed it would ever happen to me, especially not at the age of 30. It is all consuming and it literally takes your breath away. I found myself in a world devoid of colour and I began to understand what it meant to have a heavy heart. My heart was made of lead and on the day she died a very big part of me died too. I swear I heard my heart shatter when I heard those word “your mum’s dead”. I struggle to put into words exactly what it feels like to loose someone who’s life you loved more than your own, who was more a part of you than you are now.

Grief is a lifetime experience and whilst time calms the intensity of the grief, it is still always there. To be grieved is to be emotionally and physically invested in the loss of a loved one and this can be draining. I spent so long torturing myself with the way my mum died, asking questions that would never be answered and wondering where she was now. Agonising over what I would never have and all that I had lost.There were so many things left unsaid and I couldn’t think of anything else in the beginning because my grief was all consuming. I was torn and tormented because on the one hand I didn’t want to stop missing her or thinking about her but at the same time I needed some respite, I needed a moment where none of this had happened and I could breathe freely. I did get these little moments at times where I did forget that she had died, either when I first woke up in the morning or where I was successfully distracted by something else. I call these moments pieces of peace. It was in these moments that I could feel nothing, like when there’s been a background noise for so long and it stops, the silence initially is defeating but is also a relief. They were few and far between but these pieces of peace I needed to be able to carry on a little bit further.

What has all this got to do with writing under a pseudonym? Well I am hiding nothing by using a different name just to let you know, but I suppose by writing under a different name allows me to detach from what I’ve written. Writing about my mum causes me a lot of heartache and pain and whilst I very much enjoy it, afterwards I can be prone to losing sight of the reason I write and slip back into torturing myself over her loss. Yes I am in a much better place but it is still a very recent occurrence and I am not able to always process my grief.

I can step away from the content written by Loucy Lamb and have a piece of peace moment so I’m ready to embrace my grief when it comes back, as me.

xx

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