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.

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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