A letter to…. My seventeen year old self by Tom Cox

A letter to…. My seventeen year old self by Tom Cox

TOTS.PNG

 

Tom aka the Unlikely Dad is 33 and a father to his son and husband to his husband. Blogging all about life, parenthood and everything that comes with having a family over at theunlikelydad.com.

 

 

Look at you!

You have no idea what the next 15 years will bring. You weren’t the biggest fan of school I know, but in the past year at college you’ve met some wonderful, like minded souls. And this sets you on your way to becoming who you were meant to be. You realise you’re okay.  And being gay is no big deal.  You’ve recently met someone called Daniel. You’re very young (and he’s 23, a little older but I know you secretly like that). This is the guy you’ll spend the rest of your life with.

You’ll move in with him. You’ll buy your first flat together at 19. It’s a filthy little pit but you make it a home (a very, very small one). It maybe damp and cold but it’s a first stepping stone. Even now, at 33 I wouldn’t tell you not to do it and enjoy it for everything it is.  You’ll have some ups and downs. You’ll get jobs and lose jobs. You’ll see beautiful places together. You’ll be poor. Then you’ll feel flush. You’ll learn so much. All in good time.

You guys get married when you’re 26. It’s a lovely big affair. Without a doubt the best day of your life. I remember everything about it still seven years later.  A year or so after your wedding something changes. It’s subtle. But you feel grown up. Your circle has gotten smaller…but it’s now the perfect size and there is room for all your friends and family in your heart. These are the friends you’ll keep forever.  You’re an uncle to your niece and nephews and this is a new kind of love you haven’t experienced before and you absolutely love it.  When you’re 30 you’ll want your own baby.  You would NEVER have thought about this at 26 let alone 17. But something changes.  The time is right.  You’ll have your home which you take so much pride in (who’d have guessed considering right now at 17 you’ve never washed your clothes or cleaned the bathroom!), you have your family, your friends, a great community. You feel ready to be a dad.

You and Daniel decide to go on a journey. One that will change your life in more ways than anything else ever has, or ever will. The journey of adoption is a big one. There is no real preparing you for it. You meet with your social work for the first time in June 2014 and she is fantastic. She just gets you both so you have nothing to worry about there. You can often hear how invasive and gruelling the adoption process can be. But be an open book. You have no skeletons. Nothing to be afraid of.

BOURNEMOUTH

You’ll go into this so willing to learn and create your family. Yes, at times, it’s not easy. The meetings and training are brilliant. They offer you such an insight into the children that are in care. The social worker meetings feel like free therapy where you just get to talk about yourself, friends and family, your life, upbringing… but it’s the waiting.  That’s the part that you find tough. It will feel like you sail through the key stages, getting yourselves approved as adopters. You’ve done it. All that hard work is compete. The meetings, assessments, medicals… tick! But then what? Oh, you have to find (be matched with) your child. And this is the insane bit.

From meeting other adopters you’ll be told “you’ll just know”.  But you’ll find that hard to believe. How can you love a child you don’t even know?  One that hasn’t come from you. But oh my… you will.  You’ll be approved as prospective adopters in October 2014 and on December 10th that same year you were sent a profile of a little boy.  You will know from the moment you see his little face that he will become your son. You’ll both laugh adoringly at how much he looks like Daniel.

But the waiting? Yeah… this is when you’ll need to be patient.  You’ll register your interest. But don’t hear anything for weeks. All over Christmas. New Year. Nothing. Were another family also interested in this child?  It’s torture. Not being able to say anything to anyone for fear of getting hopes up. But you’ll decide not to hang around. If this boy is to come home to you forever, you’ll need to make room for him. So you do. Buying nursery furniture in all the sales. Toys. You nest.

TENTIn late January (yes, really!) the child’s social worker agrees to come and visit you.  This is your moment.  The lady representing this beautiful little human, your son, is going to be in your house. We’ve never been more welcoming and of course Tommy’s Famous Brownies™ had to be made.

Together you’ll nail it. You are told at the end of that session that the social worker would like to proceed with the match. Your heart expands suddenly. Is this really happening? She leaves… you both look at one another as well as your social worker. Tears. Hugs. Laughter. Can we tell people? Should we?

It won’t be until April that you get to meet him. You’ll have to go through another panel, this time to be approved for the match. And it will be a unanimous ‘yes’. You’ll be told “you claimed him as your own for the start” and it’s right. He was mine. He was ours. We  knew.

DADDING ITThat day before walking into the foster carer’s house, where he’d been since birth will be with me forever. Knowing that when I knock on that door, nothing will ever be the same again. I will see my son’s face. Hold him and kiss him and be his dad. For the rest of our lives.

And just like that, it’s all change in your world. You’ll no longer worry about some of the things you did before: having the latest phone, buying into the latest trends. You have everything you’ll ever need. You’ll appreciate things you never noticed before. You’ll see autumn. Properly, I mean. Taking in the leaves changing then falling to the floor as your son runs about the leaves kicking them. You’ll see the magic through a child’s eyes that we so easily lose as adults. Encourage this behaviour every day.  You’ll be tired all the time. But you won’t care. The family has grown and shows so much love for your little boy.  He was meant to be here.

At 33 you’ll feel so content. Enjoy it. Every single second. In another 15 years who knows where you’ll be and what our 48 year old self will be telling us at 33…

KAI FOUR

Right Now I’m…

Reading: The Little Book of Hygge. I have been reading it for almost a year, am sure I’ll finish it at some point.
Listening To: Troye Sivan, currently obsessed.
Watching: Ru Pauls Drag Race of course!!

 

Advertisements

In Her Words… My Abortion

linksoflondon2Harriet Shearsmith is the creator behind Toby&Roo, an award-winning parenting and lifestyle blog aimed at sharing the wins and woes of parenthood. Living in the North Yorkshire countryside with her husband (@tobyandroodad) and three feral children (four if you count Yoda the dog who even has his own Instagram account) she is a self confessed coffee addict, nerf gun ninja and all out bad ass when it comes to hide and seek. You can find Harriet on her blog here and her Instagram here.

As an advocate for women’s rights and someone who claims to be stoically pro choice, I always wrote about abortion from the other side of the table, the lucky side, the side that hadn’t had first hand experience. That is, until I wasn’t writing about it as an outsider, but as one of the club, one of the women who had made the difficult decision to have a termination for all the reasons that made sense but didn’t necessarily help make it any easier.

I didn’t have an abortion recently either, this is a throwback to dark times three years ago and yet I still haven’t been able to talk about my experience first hand. For three years I’ve defended the right to have a termination – for whatever reason – but never actually felt like I could declare I had been through it myself. Friends who have confided in me, like they are admitting something shameful and harmful have been met with my kindness but never an admission, even though I could give one. I couldn’t find the words to say that I had been there. I couldn’t do it through a fear of being judged and because everything was so raw for so long. Termination is so shrouded in guilt and shame that even when we so firmly believe that it is a woman’s right not to have to continue with a pregnancy, not to become an incubator without thought or feeling, we struggle to make peace with it ourselves.  That is society’s fault, it is the fault of lawmakers and religious nuts who hide behind politics and religion to control. That is not on us.

This is my story of abortion.

The pill and the coil had had really negative impacts on my health in the past and I was still breastfeeding so I was incredibly limited as to what contraception I could take, so Adam and I decided to use family planning. It had worked for us in the past, only falling pregnant when we weren’t really trying to prevent and were happy to go with the flow. This time however, we had a pregnancy scare and I was mortified. We both were. Edith was 8 months old, we had 3 children 4 and under and there was no way, not a chance, that we were ready to welcome another life. Not for my mental or physical health with a tenuous section scar or Adam’s. No.

So onto the pill I went. Turns out that pregnancy scare? We will never know if it was a scare or just missed because I was so early, but 6 weeks later, a completely normal period and 6 weeks of taking the progesterone only pill, I was pregnant. Shit. We made the decision that I would visit the doctor and take what is affectionately termed the ‘abortion pill’.  Nice.  At the time I was showing as only 2-4 weeks pregnant so in theory we had caught this early enough, despite the failed pill and there would be no heartbeat and the tablets would be the simplest and most effective way to end a pregnancy without too much trauma.  A scan would determine whether or not I could have these tablets – which I would later find out have varying levels of effectiveness from 20% to 80% depending on which ones you wanted to take, which is a testament to how very shit our system is in supporting the women that need this: ‘it ain’t very effective, love, but it’s your fault you’re pregnant so you should suffer through this first’ is the undeniable subtext here and no one will ever convince me otherwise.
linksoflondon
I wasn’t only 2-4 weeks, I was 6 weeks.  I sat, alone because Adam didn’t take time off work for the appointment – didn’t want to explain what was going on in order to ask for time off… after all, it wasn’t really his problem now was it? That is how it felt at the time – perhaps that wasn’t fair, distancing yourself is a good tool of self preservation, but at the time the toll it took on our relationship was huge. I took the tablets, first one and then after 6 hours another. I drove home alone, despite a warning on the tablets to have someone with you – there was no one, Adam went to football because he didn’t want to think about what I was doing, needed a bit of space. It’s one thing in our marriage that I don’t think I will ever forgive him for, but it’s a shining example of how men view abortion and why the laws in some countries are the way they are: it’s not my problem.  Even when they love you. It’s just not their problem. You are the one who is pregnant now, despite their involvement.

The tablets, which should have stopped the pregnancy and made me bleed so heavily that I felt sluggish and ill for days, failed. They failed. At 13 weeks and 2 days I went for a scan to ensure that the tablets had worked but they hadn’t, there was a foetus – a baby that had a heart beat and a 98% chance of having some kind of life limiting birth defect, that couldn’t possibly be discovered until 20 weeks, even with all the tests in the world. A combination of taking these tablets to end pregnancy and continuing with the progesterone only pill meant that the chances that this baby could survive and be born healthy were nill and if they did survive? The impact that would have on our family was not something that I was willing to place on my living children when the decision had been made weeks before, not something I intended to spend my life beating myself up over for choosing to end a pregnancy and it failing, so bringing a life I had damaged into the world.  No way.

I had to go through it all again, but this time an invasive operation that I had taken the tablets to avoid. The first time I thought I had grieved for what we both felt we couldn’t keep, but this time was different. Again, Adam didn’t get the time off work, he says he asked but I will be blunt, I never believed that he did and I don’t think that is unfair. It’s a self protective mechanism isn’t it? To distance yourself, to walk away. I try hard not to blame him for that, not to resent the fact that I felt so alone because, realistically, if he had been there I would have felt so alone anyway. You are alone in that decision. You don’t get that luxury of walking away from it or separating yourself when it’s in your body which is why the choice should always, unequivocally, be yours.

At this point the pregnancy was too far along to perform the D&C without a general aesthetic, so that is what happened, I remember such kindness and compassion from the staff – they didn’t judge, they were probably the only ones – as much as my mum said she didn’t, I always felt she did deep down and friends didn’t know.  I didn’t tell anyone until months after.  I remember waking up and I had been crying in my sleep, the nurse who handed me a glass was the same one who gave me the tablets in the previous clinic and she told me that they were ineffective but that they weren’t really allowed to tell women that. Great stuff.

I came home and Adam came back from work, he tried so so hard to be there, to make up for NOT being there when I really needed him but it was a bit little too late.  At 13 weeks, I didn’t really want to end that pregnancy at all.  That’s the truth. That’s what stings.  I did what was right at the time, I know that, it was right for my mental and physical health, right for my husband and right for my children, but it was not something I wanted to do.  It was something I thought I was preventing, something I took steps to prevent.
linksoflondon1
For weeks afterwards I would cry, sporadically. It damaged my relationship for a time and it damaged me in more ways than I care to admit.

Abortion is not the kind of thing that a woman (or most women) do flippantly.  The other 5 women in the room with me post D&C were all being collected by husbands or long term partners and every single one already had children but had made this decision for all the reasons that they felt were right. In fact, statistically, more than half of women who have abortions already have children and the majority of abortions carried out in the UK are on women in their thirties who have made a conscious and well-balanced decision.

Abortion clinics aren’t like you see on the TV, they are filled with women who are having this procedure for a number of reasons – they have no other options because the foetus isn’t viable, there is an issue with their health or mental health, they don’t have the house space for another child… so many reasons, but these were not teenagers who just couldn’t be arsed to get themselves on the pill – that is not the case.  For some, it’s just not the right time for a plethora of reasons and surely, surely that is better than birthing an unwanted child and placing it in a system that just doesn’t care.  I remember saying to a friend that I had been for a D&C and instantly her response was to assume that I’d had another miscarriage and it was something that I would be sad about, struggling with. It was, but for very different reasons, which only made me feel more alone and more ashamed.

I wanted to share my story, my personal experience for a few reasons – it’s cathartic to write about it is certainly one reason to write about it, but more than that, I wanted women who had been through the experience to know that they aren’t alone.

Statistically, one in three women will have a termination at some point in their lives but it is so rare that we talk about it.  They aren’t the only ones who have been there, who have found themselves in the position of not wanting to have a termination but feeling that there are no other options. Of choosing their living family, the ones that need them now over the potential life.  I wanted to share this because it’s an experience that so many women, far more than I ever would have expected, have been in these shoes but feel so very alone. The fear, the guilt and the self judgement are far worse than anything religious nuts or crazy pro-life activists can throw at you.

Talk about your experience and DON’T judge yourself.  You did what was right for your family, just like I did what was right for mine.
H x

body positivity

This article has been adapted from Harriet’s blog where she first posted it earlier this year.

Pass It on:
Please nominate up to three women that you’d like to see featured on The Muse

I love reading these three strong women’s posts on insta and beyond and the kindness that they truly practice and preach behind the scenes:

Hannah Flemming – @hibabyblog
Dommy Crick – @milk.mutha
Candice Braithwaite – @candicebraithwaite

A Letter To…. My son Oscar by Sarah Roberts

The Muse 2Sarah Roberts is a freelance writer and blogs at “Don’t Be Sorry” which she started to raise awareness about Down Syndrome after her eldest son was born with the condition.  As well as promoting positive awareness about DS, Sarah spends a great deal of her time talking to new parents online whose babies have recently been diagnosed too.  She gives talks to healthcare professionals about the impact that the language they use can have (because there really isn’t anything to be sorry about when delivering a diagnosis of Down Syndrome) and she’s also in the process of writing a book.  Sarah lives in Woking, Surrey with her husband Chris and their three children, Oscar, Alfie and Flo.


Dear Oscar

When I fell pregnant with you, I had all these hopes and aspirations about what it’d be like to be a Mummy. In my naivety, I thought it’d be a walk in the park if I’m honest.  I thought I’d know exactly what to do and I didn’t for a single second, ever expect to feel so completely out of my depth.

Five and a bit years ago you made your grand entrance into the world.  A distant fuzzy memory now but when I allow myself to think back to the “us” then, there’s flashbacks of alarms screeching, monitors beeping, a rushed Caesarean section under general anaesthetic, to waking up and meeting you for the first time.  There you were, completely unaware of the impact your arrival was about to have, cradled in your Daddy’s arms, peeping back at me through the bundles of towels you’d been wrapped in.

The Muse 4

Your Daddy told me everything was ok.  In fact he told me that everything was perfect. Except it wasn’t was it?  20 minutes after you were born we were told that you had Down Syndrome and right there and then, in the deathly silence of that hospital ward, it felt like my heart had been ripped out.

It took a while you see. For me to really love you. The real, all encompassing love I feel for you now. In those first few weeks and months I resented you. I hadn’t wanted different, I had wanted normal…. I’d always imagined I’d have the perfect baby.

The Muse 3

What would having you in our lives mean for your Daddy and I now?  Were we strong enough to be special needs parents?  Did we even want to be?  But here I am five and a bit years on and I wanted to write to say, I’m so, so sorry.  Sorry that I didn’t give you a chance back then.  I made an assumption about what our life would look like with you in it and how I saw you and my goodness I was so very, very wrong.

I didn’t see back then how with each milestone you achieved, albeit at a slightly slower pace to your peers, how much it would make my heart swell with pride each time.  I didn’t see back then how you would bring our family even closer together, for at the centre of that family, is you. I didn’t see back then, that for however many imperfections there are in your Daddy and I’s relationship, the one thing that we both stand united together on, is you.

The Muse 7

I also didn’t see back then the bond you’d have with your brother and sister.  That’s right, (for the benefit of others reading this), I went on to have your siblings Alfie and Flo.  They may be siblings by blood but they are your most adored and bestest of friends.  I didn’t see any of it.  The strong willed determined little boy you’d become; that you’d always make us laugh; the health related hurdles you’ve taken in your stride and overcome.  And that even though you’ve been a man of few words up until this point, you’ve always made yourself understood… there has been no stopping you.

The Muse 1

I had had an image in my mind of who Oscar would be… and the little man standing here today is more than I could have ever dreamed of.  You’ve taught me so much.  More than you’ll ever know.  And now that I’m a Mummy of two more children, of Alfie and Flo – the two “typically developing” children and the ones that are supposed to have been the perfect babies I’d always imagined having – I realise that all three of you have brought me different challenges as a Mum and I now know there is no such thing as perfect. You’re all so imperfectly perfect to me.

The Muse 5

And some days when I get you out of the bath Oscar and I wrap you in your towel, I look you in the eye and see the same baby I saw wrapped in his Daddy’s arms five and a bit years ago.  It always brings a lump to my throat, because I wish I could go back and reassure myself back then, that right now, here today, we’re doing just fine.

Love Mummy

Right Now I’m….
Watching – Call The Midwife
Reading – I never have the time to read but I have been meaning to read The Unmumsy Mum’s 1st book since it came out 3 years ago
Listening to – The Greatest Showman… Can’t get enough of the soundtrack

Pass it on:
Who would you most like to see featured on this blog?  Please suggest 3 people with their Instagram or Twitter handles.

My favourite Instagrammers:
@josephspectrum
@unlikelydad
@missyxmas_kickscount

Website – http://www.dontbesorry.net/wp/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/dontbesorry2/
Instagram – @dontbesorry2
Twitter – @dontbesorry2

 

A Letter To… my mum by Jo Olney

 

mum68
Mum (right), 1968
It’s been one year since The Muse launched and almost everyone I have mentioned the blog to has given the same reply… “You’ve got to feature your mum! Mother to seven women, SEVEN!”.

So, Mum, here goes…

A Letter to my mum

Dear Mum,

There’s nothing quite like treading your own path as a mother to make you reflect on your own dear mum. As you lay your head on your pillow only to hear the baby start up again, as you breastfeed whilst enjoying the spoils of norovirus, as you wipe another bum, another tear, another yoghurt splattered floor and think, my mum did all this – and she did it in days before dishwashers, iPhones, Ella’s Kitchen, disposable nappies and wipes (and yes, I know many people manage fine without these things, but I am not one). So first off, let me say thank you. When I think of all I do for my babes and think of what you did for us, THANK YOU! Lord knows it’s a largely thankless experience, but let it be known that I am SO thankful – for the birthing, the feeding, the clean clothes, the nursing, the teaching, the encouragement, the love.

In so many ways you set the bar high; you made our school dresses, you won every mothers’ race on sports day, you read to us every night even though you nodded off mid-story, you returned to work after raising us all and caring for your mum and you can turn out a mean roast for 20 people at the drop of a hat.

Mama G
Mum with six of us, that’s me at the bottom.
But do you know one of the things I am most thankful for? It’s that you let us see you lose it, that you got cross, and told us to shut up when we were bickering and later apologised for it. That you got stressed driving us around when we were scrapping furiously in the back! Every day there are moments when I regret the way I handled something with the kids and I am so glad you kept it real. I know that it is fine not to love every minute, to lose it, and to believe that when things get bad, it’ll get good again.

I can’t talk about my thanks to you without mentioning the birth of my sweet firstborn. What a long old night that was. That shock of your first. You gave me the confidence to believe I could have my baby at home and you were the one by my side as the seemingly endless night became day, telling me I could do it, and I did. And as we went off to the hospital to check on our poor meconium ingested babe, who stayed home to restore order? You, dear mum. Leaving a clean tidy home to return to and a note I will always treasure thanking us for letting you share in that experience. From that day your greatest gift to me has been to trust my instinct and make my own way.

Mama G and me
Me and my mum
But I feel it is selfish to keep all the wisdom of Mama G to myself, so I have a few things I’d love to ask if you’re game:

Going back to work – back at my desk after my third maternity leave, trying to find my feet and my voice again, I am even more in awe that you returned to work after a 15 year break. Was that hard? Did you struggle to find the confidence? If you did, I never knew.

I always had in my mind the idea that, at some point, I would like to return to teaching in some capacity. I remember walking as a new first time mum past a noisy school playground and thinking that I missed that environment. I didn’t think then that it would be seven children and so many years later before I took that step back to work!

To build my confidence I initially worked as a teaching assistant, gradually building my experience by working in three different schools, with pupils with a range of needs. So it was a gradual process back to teacher status and finally to coordinating the special needs provision in one of the schools.

Then it was the juggling act with which so many women are familiar, trying to run a home, meet the needs of family (including my elderly mother) and go to work!

2017 vs 1977 – I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on my generation of parents, so many books to read, so many labels to give yourself and rods to make for your own back depending on whether you choose to sleep train, baby led wean, bottle feed or cloth bum, work or not work. I love Instagram, but as a parent you have a much wider circle of women to compare yourself to and we are not always the kindest on ourselves. Are we all overthinking it? Did people just get on and raise their kids back in the 70s?

I think your last comment is quite accurate and there was really no option but to ‘just get on and raise your kids’ back in the 70s’. You are also right that there is a lot of pressure on parents now for the reasons you give. It was such a different world then. When we brought our eldest home from hospital in 1972 there were no car seats. I sat in the back of our tiny Austin A35 with her on my lap!  We had no phone or television in the house. There were no disposable nappies and most babies started off wearing terry towelling nappies and soft cotton nighties, as babygros were only just starting to appear.

Hugh Jolly Book of Child CareThere were a few child care books to which people referred. Probably the most well known was ‘The Book of Child Care’ by Hugh Jolly. (So very dated now!) There were clinics that babies were taken to where there were health visitors, but I didn’t find them very helpful. Unlike you, I was not bombarded with a confusing array of ‘methods’ on how to raise your baby and decided very quickly that no one knew my baby like I did and rightly or wrongly, followed my instincts. I didn’t have use of a car at home in the day time, so just got together with friends in a similar situation, or visited my parents who lived nearby in the early years. There were no baby classes to attend.

I’m sure that there are good things about the vast array of baby activities that are available now and indeed the choice of equipment. You are right, however, that there is the danger of feeling inadequate if you don’t join in all these things, or can’t afford to. Similarly the range of baby equipment is overwhelming. I certainly did not have the pressure to be seen with the ‘right’ pram of an acceptable make.

When does it get easier? – With a 5 year old, 4 year old and 1 year old, I’ve never felt more in the thick of it. This stage of motherhood is so physically demanding and exhausting, but is this the hardest bit? How do different stages of motherhood compare? My fear is that it is harder when they leave home and you’re just left worrying about them.

A dear friend said to me in my early days as a mother that ‘every age has it’s compensations’ and I have found that to be true.

There are many advantages of having a large family one of them being that you learn that challenging phases actually pass very quickly. The demands of a new born or the challenges of a toddler are gone in a flash and that recognition can change the way you approach things. You can even learn to appreciate and enjoy these aspects of a child’s development!

I certainly remember having four children aged five and under as being the most demanding time! Getting a five year old to the school bus stop at the right time every morning with three others in tow was very challenging!

In some respects with young children, it does get easier when they are old enough to play cooperatively. When subsequent children arrived there was more choice of playmates, which may be easier than having two who can’t stand each other! I felt that falling out with others within the security of a family was a good preparation for the harsher elements awaiting at school and beyond.

I never did find the teenage years to be the ‘terrible teens’ (although the ‘A’ level years had their challenges!). Perhaps there was safety in numbers and I watched with pride as you all became the wonderful women that you are today. Does it get easier? No it does not! Being in control of things when you were little was probably the easiest bit. Then you have to let your adult children go with love. Once you are a mother you are a mother for life and their pain is your pain whatever their age.

The sisterhood
The sistehood
Your village – One thing I observe in our generation is that there’s a well-trodden path for a lot of parents on leave – NCT to make friends, playgroups, baby sensory, baby swimming, baby signing, baby yoga. How did you meet other mums? I guess we are making our own urban village now, whereas maybe you had an actual real village of support!

In the absence of all the baby classes and groups, my ‘village’ consisted of family, friends and good neighbours. Sunday lunch was often a way we got together with our friends who had young families like us. After lunch we would all visit a local playground or park or walk in the woods.

No one really had a large network of mum friends and I was content to be in touch with our friends who were in a similar situation to us at that time. There were no mobile phones of course and not everyone had a phone in their house. It could be quite an effort to be in touch with people if you had to walk to the local phone box!

Raising women – Being a mother to seven women, did it feel like a big responsibility at the time to be our role model as a woman? Did you have a sense of how you wanted us to grow up?

I don’t think that I actually focussed on the fact that I was being your role model. Had I thought of it like that it would probably have been rather overwhelming! I was always aware of the times when I fell short of my own standards of parenting and I hope I always apologised at the end of a bad day for being a grumpy old cross patch!  Fortunately children are very forgiving and always seemed to forget about these things long before I did.

In answer to your question, yes I did have a sense of how I wanted you to grow up. I am sure you would all have a different take on how successful I was with this!

As you became adults I did try to dissuade you (not always successfully!) from making permanent changes that you may regret.( e.g. hair dying fine, but tattoos to be avoided!) Also, to be blunt, I really hated the idea of one of my daughters being someone’s one night stand. I decided that you have to have faith in the effort you have put in when raising your children and I would tell them that I trusted them to do the right thing. I was told years later that that approach had been more effective than threats!

I wanted you all to feel good about the amazing women that you are, although sadly there were inevitable wobbles along the way. Self worth is so important.  I knew that if you believed in yourselves you could achieve your ambitions, do a job that you wanted to do and you would also know that you deserved lovely friends and a kind respectful partner.

I am so proud that the sisterhood is strong and that you will always support each other.

I also wanted you to grow up secure in the knowledge that the love your dad and I feel for you all is totally unconditional. While we are able, we will always be there for you all and our beautiful grand children.

I will always consider my seven amazing daughters as my greatest achievement in life.  I love you all.

Mum and Dad with two of their nine grandchildren
Mum and Dad with two of their nine grandchildren.

In Her Words… Losing Finn by Lora Price

image1Lora is a wife and mummy of four sons.  In 2012 her family were devastated when her third son, Finn was born sleeping.  

Her brave and honest account below was written to promote Baby Loss Awareness Week this week.

 

In Her Words… Losing Finn by Lora Price

My third little boy, Finn, is 4 years old. He would have started school in September, joining in his brother’s morning rituals which are sealed with a kiss goodbye in the school playground. I imagine he would be delighted and excited by the prospect of being a big boy and starting school.  I imagine. I imagine everything about Finn, as he isn’t with me anymore.

The aftermath of losing Finn was deeply wounding. The grief was engulfing and all-encompassing whilst my deep sense of guilt was choking. I lived on the fringes in the early weeks, as babies born sleeping seemed to be one of the great unmentionables.

image3
Lora with Finn

I was angry. Angry at my own body; angry at those people who were still pregnant; angry at those who tried to comfort me with their own sadness of miscarriage (I have had four of those too). Finn was a perfectly formed 5lb 8oz little boy. He may have been stillborn, but he was still born.

Finn is irreplaceable, yet a few months after his passing my arms felt desperately empty and I became pregnant again. Interestingly, I felt more normal when I was, as suddenly friends who had gone quiet were more comfortable speaking to me again. At 34 weeks, our family was blessed with the arrival of our fourth little boy Joshua Finlay Martin, known as Joss. Our tiny miracle perfectly filled our yearning arms and helped us smile again.

With Joss in our lives, I felt strong enough to start the beginning of our new future. Sadly, this was short lived as one week post-birth I learned that my beloved father had, unbeknown to me, started an aggressive battle with cancer. (He had withheld telling me whilst I was pregnant as he didn’t want me worrying). He put up an incredibly strong fight with the bravest of faces, but four months later cancer took my Dad and enveloped me in the tentacles of grief yet again.

This grief was akin to carrying a boulder around with me all day. I struggled under the pressure, my knees buckled and my arms strained to maintain grip. But letting myself go through this grieving process, allowing myself to feel angry, to unapologetically feel like I had been wronged, that I was the victim, that life was unfair, was in hindsight key to starting the healing process.

It takes time to feel human again and I remember feeling a huge sense of pressure to seek professional help. For reasons that I don’t even understand myself, I couldn’t face this. I couldn’t tolerate the thought of exposing or sharing my deepest feelings with someone I didn’t know. I was much more comfortable being the shoulder to cry on, rather than the one doing the crying. Or maybe I just didn’t want them to take the pain away?

image5
Lora’s dad with his grandson Joss

You can’t heal every wound and I believe that is OK. The ache in my heart is important and I don’t ever want it to fully subside. It’s what tells me that I love Finn so deeply, it’s how I take Finn everywhere with me and it’s my barometer which helps me evaluate what is important in everyday life.

However, I am not ashamed to admit that contentment and happiness are a big part of my life again. I spent the early part of this evening with Sonos belting out some big tunes in the kitchen whilst my husband, three other children and I busted some shapes amongst a furore of laughter! However, as I sit here writing this article with a glass of wine on standby, I am joined by tears rolling down my face and a very heavy heart and it got me thinking about how often I cry now. Is it daily? No. Is it weekly? I’m not sure. Is it about Finn or my Dad? I don’t know and really it doesn’t matter because I love and miss them both. But what I do know is that crying feels much easier and more manageable now, as I know that happy times are just around the corner again. I’d actually go further to say that shedding a tear is for me now is a therapeutic exercise. It’s always done privately, in a quiet moment at home or maybe on a contemplative country walk with my faithful four-legged friend, but for me it is like releasing the pressure valve which allows me to be the wife, the mummy and the friend I want to be. Crying (and writing!) are my own personal forms of healing it would seem.

In fact, I jest about writing, but actually in the early months after losing Finn I found myself enslaved to the computer as I completed a piece of writing which captured our two days with him. This documentation of Finn’s time with us proved to be somewhat cathartic. I was conscious that time could possibly erode the details and I was keen to preserve as much of that time as possible. It’s neither a heart-warming or uplifting read, but it is an honest and precious account, you can find it here: Forever My Finlay 

It is clear to me now that I was particularly fortunate to be surrounded by such a strong and patient group of people who gave me the platform to face the future again with renewed strength and hope. However, one of the most painful struggles I faced in the early months was the discomfort that clearly resided in many friends, dare I say some extended family members too. I get it. Giving birth to a baby who isn’t alive is a difficult reality for everyone to face. Many people don’t have previous experience to draw upon when dealing with friends in this situation. What do you say to them? Talking about said baby will only cause further upset surely? So, many simply said very little. At best ‘how are you?’ At worst, nothing. Certainly there was never any mention of his name. I don’t want Finn to become a forgotten member of our family or his name to be a taboo word in my presence. I yearn to hear his name still. Yes, it may bring tears to my eyes, but it also brings music to my ears.

image4
Lora with her boys and husband David

So looking back now, how do I reflect on all this? I do believe I can see the world in many more colours than I did before we had Finn. Having witnessed both the fragility and blessing of life I am more self-aware than I was before, I count my blessings with much more commitment and I look to really enjoy and not second-guess the good times. To get to the place I am in now, I had a choice to make; I could stagnate and let the world move on without me or I could re-join the journey and start moving forwards again. I chose to jump aboard life’s train, in part, because I owe it to my incredible family unit, but also because I am so grateful to be alive. Many people didn’t go to bed last night or didn’t wake up this morning. But I did. And I am grateful.

I am also much more mindful now of how I react to others facing difficult times, whether great or small. I always try to step off the ledge and offer the comfort that I feel I didn’t always receive. To be honest, this has had a varied response, some have closed me down not wishing to go any further, but equally some have welcomed that subliminal nod which allows conversation to unfold.

I don’t profess to have a secret ingredient as to how best to get through times such as these, I think everyone’s road to reach their new normal is totally personal and unique to them. What I would say though is if I can, then you certainly can too. Also, for those readers who do have a friend out there who does need you, then don’t let your social awkwardness stop you from being the friend you want to be or the friend you need to be.

Everyone’s life will undoubtedly have ups and downs. I believe it is critical to appreciate and savour the ups because this creates the reserves of strength that you need to deal with the downs.

Finally, my advice when you are going through your own crisis: listen to advice but don’t allow this well-intentioned counsel to take you in a direction you are uncomfortable with. Trust yourself and you will find the right path back to happiness.

For anyone looking for support following the loss of a baby, the following charities offer excellent advice:

Sands 
Tommys 
Saying Goodbye 
The Mariposa Trust 
Baby Loss Awareness