Welcome to my blog journey of Wellness after Loss.
“It is only in darkness that we can see stars”
This is the post excerpt.
Welcome to my blog journey of Wellness after Loss.
“It is only in darkness that we can see stars”
Life is a messy and bumpy navigation. Two years ago today, I delivered my second baby, a tiny little girl I called Sally. Since her loss, my life feels different, I appreciate life more now, and the fleetingness of it. We don’t get to choose who stays or who goes, but we do get to choose what we do while we are here. How we behave, and how we treat others along the way. I write not out of sadness or pity, but out of gratitude for what Sally has taught me, and is still teaching me. Since her loss, there has been much pain, but out of that pain, flowers have grown, the sun continued to rise in the morning, rain still fell and the seasons still changed, in all that I learnt how to dance in the rain.
Its not the anniversaries that leave me missing those who are gone, but the every day. I miss that my father never got to teach my son how to carve wood, I miss a simple cup of tea and toast with my mum or dad, I miss the beauty of simplicity.
Sally taught me that we are all broken one way or another, we all have pain, it just comes in different forms and flows in different ways……..who knows who I would be now if it were not for my life, my twists and turns, and my bumpy road maps.
I have taken turns that still confuse me, decisions that I would not take again, but through the pain of them, I have learnt about myself, I am a canvas that the artist is never finished with, a continual work in progress. I am learning who I am and what I am. Each day I look for something new in the simple things, although I look at the same beauty in nature and in life, every day I choose to see something different, I make time for that, I stop, I listen, and I breathe, every day this allows me space to be grateful. It also allows me space to live in the now.
Today is just another day, but I will be quietly thankful to you Sally for all you have taught me, for what you have inspired me to achieve in these past two years, and what you will continue to motivate me to do. It is you that made me move, go back to college, learn, study and read again, to be more present. It is you that pushes me every day to be kinder to myself and to others, and to be a better mum to my son.
To those who have just lost their babies, who will lose babies in the future, and those who have lost them many years before, I send you loving kindness, strength and compassion.
I am not my past, but my past has made me who I am today……
Have a lovely day
8th August 2018, sitting in the waiting room of a maternity hospital. Not pregnant this time, but the place I was pregnant. I sit opposite the door staring at the cracks that linger just above, this was the door that changed my path, behind it is the room where I had a scan to tell me (like so many mums) my baby had no heart beat. Sitting in the waiting room, I place both feet firmly on the floor, and I breath, slow steady breaths feeling the sadness wash through me, sitting with the discomfort I am quiet, nobody knows my story, and I know nobody else’s, but we each have one, watching all the pregnant mums and exited dads sitting nearby, oblivious to the what if’s of pregnancies that don’t succeed. I sit alone, again, alone like I was for both of my pregnancies, for each appointment and every scan.
As I sit on the waiting room chair I am reminded that today marks the anniversary of my mothers death, a publicly known riding accident that took place at the Royal Dublin Society, on my drive into the hospital I see a flurry of horse boxes only going one place….the Dublin Horse Show. An exiting time for horse lovers country wide, I know, I was one, still a lover of horses, but not so much what it represents, I have been surrounded by the world of horses all my life, it brings joy to so many lives and I know it all too well, yet what it brought to my life was only tragedy.
What this magnitude of loss has taught me however is so much more, it has taught me the preciousness of life, how short it is and how hard it can be to navigate. There are no road maps, or street signs telling us how to get there or where to go, but there are a lot of pot holes, and for much of my life I have fallen into quite a few of those pot holes, I think now however I am slowly learning to step around them and see them for what they are.
Today I sit in my sadness, it doesn’t last, its like a passing cloud, I am learning to be ok with my sadness, instead of running from it, I stay, I listen, and I am still. Then I step up from my stillness, and I smile, I am grateful for what I do have, not looking back at my losses but instead I look forward, as that is the direction I am going. I have a life worth living, a love worth sharing and a story worth sharing with those who have ears to listen.
I am going to take all this pain, and turn it into something beautiful.
Like a plaster on a wound, when you tear it off theres a moment of ‘ouch’ so sometimes we are resistant to tear it off, best to leave it there for then we don’t have to feel any pain. Life doesn’t work that way…there is pain, and some pain is visible, where those around us will ask are we ok? But its the pain that lies deep inside, the pain nobody sees, the silent pain, that aches some days more than others. Those aches come up around these times, like Fathers Day, a day to celebrate Fathers. Not all fathers get to be celebrated, but those stories don’t get told, they are the unspoken stories, left like the elephant in the corner of the room….best not talked about, yet safe and pleasant to talk of the good news stories.
When I brake my leg, you tend to ask me am I ok? but when I brake my heart, you tend not to ask? My broken heart is hidden, its deep and its invisible to the eye. Today is Fathers Day, and my father is not here…but he is with me wherever I go. It is not just on Fathers Day that I miss my dad, but other days too, like on the day my son was born, on the day I needed help and advise, the day that I was in hospital and felt scared and alone.
I did not get to say goodbye to my dad, but I did get to sit with him by his bedside, after getting off a painfully hard 36 hour flight. Doctors told us it was time to turn off his life support machine, I sat and I told him how much I loved him and that it was ok for him to go if it was his time.
I am grateful, grateful that he taught me to listen, to care, to think, to ponder, to be a kind parent and to respect others. Many of what my dad taught me are things he is quite unaware of, because he also taught me what ‘not’ to do as a parent. It is through such learnings, sadness, and heartache that I spend much of my time working out the workings of how humans behave, speak, interact and listen to one another, and how we as a species treat one another.
We live in a busy, competitive world, where below the thin exterior of our human-ness there is more to behold, if we chose to take more time to listen, to sit, to breathe, to walk in nature, look up at tall buildings and see the beauty, to talk to our plants as we tend to them, to thank nature for all that it is and all that it does, to sit with our children and play, listen, learn and laugh. We would find more peace within us, within this frantic busy world. I think as I get older, I have more in common with animals than humans, animals are simple, kind, non-judgemental, content, and free. Somedays I have little to say to people, yet much to learn from my dogs, they live in the moment, they love you when they see you, and they are faithful, funny, bold and cheeky. They carry no past, and they don’t look to the future, they are eternally present.
Happy Fathers day.
“We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do little things with great love” Mother Theresa
What is a Doula? According to the dictionary a ‘Doula’ is a birth companion, birth coach or post birth supporter. A non-medical person who stays and assists a woman during and after birth. To provide emotional and physical support. In my case my ‘Doula’ was all of those things, and more, except for one fundamental difference, she was Doula-ing a baby that had no heart beat.
I had my first baby in December 2010, a long week of ups and downs labour, in the depths of the snow, and by my side was my Doula, but much more than that, she was my friend, my support, my companion, my crutch, my rock. Finally after a long week with her often sleeping on the floor beside by bed a beautiful baby boy was born, and my Doula never left my side.
September 2016, when I was pregnant again, on a routine scan, the Doctor told me my baby had no heartbeat. Confused, upset, disoriented, angry and broken and alone…..by Doula friend contacted asked me to ask if I wanted her to Doula for me again. On first reaction I was shocked…..’she wants to doula my dead baby????’ was my internal question. I couldn’t understand why she even asked me, until my sister sat with me and said, Alannah consider letting her, it might be just what you need at this sad time….I pondered for a while then agreed.
My Doula and my friend never left my side, she arrived into me at the maternity hospital with a bag of ‘junk’ a word she has always used for sweets/treats/and bad unhealthy stuff that we all love a times. It made me smile for a brief moment, amongst the chaos and surrealism of sitting in a hospital delivery room bed, awaiting labour to start. I lay in my bed, in a section of the hospital designated for problem births, problem pregnancies sickness and sadness, a stones throw away from maternity wards that were delivering healthy, live babies all day and night. It was a waiting game, and she patiently waited with me. We talked, cried, laughed, and cried some more, I was unsure when it all might ‘start’ only that I knew it would come, and that I would need to prepare myself for what lay ahead. The doctor supplied me with the internal tablets to bring on about, and some hours later it all began……….
It was hours about (5-6 I think) of ‘natural labour’ I had not delivered naturally before as I had had an emergency C Section, so I was determined to deliver Sally as naturally as possible. They offered me a cocktail of drugs to ‘help’ me with my labour but I became determined in my flurry of contractions that I wanted to do this alone, no drugs, alone, I felt my body had let my baby down, so it was up to me and my body to work through this, feel everything as raw as I could, and deliver her naturally.
Throughout the whole time, I had my Doula by my side, she sat, stood, held my hand, watched me as I curled up in a ball on the floor, supported me and loved me unconditionally. Towards the end of my labour, I felt like I could not go any longer, she placed a hand on my back and I placed my head on her lap, she told me I can do this. I sat curled up into myself and spoke to Sally, I told her it was time….it was safe to come out….and I told her she was loved. That very moment she was delivered. A wash of heartache came over me, as I saw her tiny body.
If I had never done it, I would never have known….but there is one thing that I have to say about having a Doula for the birth of a baby, both live and not living, the support, love and kindness is nothing I could ever have imagined. My Doula gave me all she had to give, and I will forever be grateful to her for giving me a little piece of her strength that day, her selfless strength that got me through.
Childbirth is a gift, I have had two babies, one living and the other not living. To anyone considering a Doula for the birth of a baby with or without a heartbeat, consider the option……..
Loneliness, we are living in what seems to be a hugely lonely time, and we all know why and how this has come about, we blame the obvious like social media…..Instagram….Facebook….but is it wise to even blame? I would like to dedicate this small blog to my friend, who lost his brother to suicide, I need not say his name, only to say he is brave, kind, and frank. And he like so many brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends, never expected to lose their loved one to suicide. Wellness after Loss, in this case suicide loss, is hard to comprehend, hard to know how that feels unless sadly you are the one who has been left without the loved one. So many things you ‘wished’ you could have said to them, so many regrets, guilt, shame and anger left behind.
Loneliness, is a condition that bears no signals, no labels, no outward obvious marks on ones body, it isn’t a flag that we wave, it isn’t a badge that we wear, and it is often overlooked by others. Loneliness is real, it hits us all at some point of our lives, but with a stigma of embarrassment, discomfort, we are often afraid to call out to those around who care. Afraid to say the simple words….I am lonely, sad, and I don’t know what to do.
Suicide is becoming somewhat ‘normal’ in our complicated society, but its not normal, its a state of mind that is reached when someone feels there is no hope left, that the pain is very real and will not subside, mums are leaving their babies, siblings are leaving their families, its happening and its real, its up to all of us to check in with those we love, and just ask….are you ok?
It is my deepest belief that we are all on this earth for a time…..It is a belief that has allowed me to carry on with my life, and accept what is, be gracious, open and surrendering to life or death if it comes to those I love, time is unknown to any of us, and it is uncontrolled, death comes to us all at some point, I grieve the loss of loved ones in my life, many whose lives were ‘too short’ but as time moves forward I accept that those who have died around me had their time, and I have no right to say otherwise, I have no right to dictate whether or not they stay or go…..I have no choice in that……A loss of a loved one leaves a dark whole in ones heart, and those early days are a blurry hazy mess. Loss hurts, and we will all experience loss at some stage or another, loss comes in many forms, in death, in ostracisation, in abandonment, is rejection and so on……..all painful losses which if experienced, take time to heal, and it is those around us who take time to be still, listen, and open our hearts to others stories of loss. I am always privileged if someone feels safe and vulnerable enough to open up their heart to me, and tell me of their loss, to feel my presence as a friend and to be able to tell me their story.
To my friend who lost his brother, I commend you for your strength and your open heartedness.
I am a mum of two, a vivacious seven year old boy George, and a tiny baby girl Sally born sleeping too early. I have observed this debate like a game of table tennis, back and forth, full or egos, opinions, arrogance, anger and most of all fear.
I am a single mum, who became pregnant twice, yes two unplanned pregnancies, and yes my choice to choose both unsupportive fathers, both pregnancies were as important and significant as the other. I was not proud of my achievements at the time and I was afraid, afraid of being judged, afraid of ‘the how’, just afraid. I didn’t know how I would raise my child alone, how I would afford it on my own, but I did. When I became pregnant for the second time, I knew the reality of raising my child alone, with no support from her father, my parents were both gone, and I felt alone, I agonised over the second pregnancy, as to whether I could go through with it, did I have the strength, the truth is I booked into a clinic in London three times with the support of my sister, who I knew was there for me regardless of my decision….each time I cancelled.
It was after much support from my aunt a wise woman, mother, support and friend, who told me I could do this, I have what it takes she said. I knew in my heart I was not an advocate of abortion (for myself personally) but this was all too much, it was overwhelming I was petrified, I was alone and scared.
I seeked much support from organisations within my community, I asked many questions and I thought long and hard about my decisions for becoming a mum for the second time, for me deep within I knew the answer was that I wanted this baby as much as I wanted my first baby, but I was so scared, and felt so alone. I made the decision myself after much soul searching to keep her, I knew I would in my heart of hearts, but I still needed to come to my own decision, my own choice, once that decision was made, I was over the moon, I was pregnant with my second baby, and I ‘got this’ I knew it would be tough, but I also knew I could do it.
I told my son who was delighted that he would have a baby sister, we were exited, and happy and ready to move into our next phase, I knew he would be a wonderful big brother, he’s kind, thoughtful and most of all my little super hero, we were a team, a family, and we were exited about what our future held.
Our path changed direction, when on a routine scan, the Doctor told me, with sad soulful eyes, she had no heart beat, a moment of deep sadness, confusion, and disbelief a moment when all your hopes, dreams and plans take a sharp turn in a direction our little family was not travelling, someone just pulled on the handbrake and I felt a jolt. Our lives were being altered again, my son and I went through tears, heartbreak, sadness, and loss together, the loss was deep, profoundly deep. A little life inside of me was no longer a beating heart. We had a beautiful funeral for her, and we often attend her grave where she is buried with my mum and dad peacefully with a flowering rose.
So why do I write this you say? am I a yes or a no? I am a mum, and a woman and truthfully my vote is private and personal and not something I need to splash across social media. I will however say this, until or unless you have walked in my shoes, or the shoes of so many other Irish women who find themselves in a situation which is often quoted as ‘she got herself into that’. As compassionate humans here on this earth we should hope to encourage, inspire, support, educate and love one another to build a better future for our children, then I ask the extremists of this campaign to take a moment to reflect, perhaps acknowledge that not all family situations are ‘perfect’, not all families are the same. And not everyone has support in their lives. We live in a world whereby there is Choice, I hope my son grows up in a world whereby he gets to choose how he wants to live his life, and not have any organisation or people dictate to him what or how he chooses to live his life, and that we give the future generations the respect and trust they deserve to make the right choice for themselves.
I am still someones daughter, someones sister, and someones friend, I still matter as does my right to choose.
Wellness after Loss, has been a journey, and will always be just that….. a journey of self discovery, of hope, of getting to know me. Finding that person that I always knew was there, a happy, bright me, but who also can be sad, lonely, angry, lost and confused. But the acceptance and realisation that its ok to be all of these, none of these, or just some of these, has been a welcome relief.
I am grateful for what I have experienced in life, it has allowed me to meet and get to know amazing people, listen to their stories or sadness, fear, hope and joy. It has also made me realise that people do care and that love does exist. I lost a baby, and that loss opened up new avenues for me, albeit painful some of the way. I went back to college, I immersed (and still do) myself in books of learning, discovery and knowledge. I am learning not to fear myself, I am learning to be “Me” perhaps for the first time in my whole life. I am starting to find the voice which I had felt was overshadowed, undervalued, and disregarded for most of my childhood life, I am an adult now, but sometimes only feel like a child.
I have always had a strong desire for the body to move and breathe. Movement is innate within us, it helps us in times of sadness, it activates parts of our brain that gives rise to hormones, like Serotonin. It wakes up the cells, it eases feelings of anxiety and panic, it aids in recovery from illness, it can prevent future illness’s. Movement and breath are some of the most important elements within the human make up. So, why is it that the majority of us struggle to move, lack motivation to become active or to exercise. The answer is multi-faceted but what I do know, one often ends up in a self-perpetuating downward spiral or thoughts, actions and negative beliefs about oneself and the world.
So, what can we do to move out of feelings of low energy, little interest, self-destruction of body image, and hopelessness. We can start by very small baby steps……….by taking time every day to sit and breathe, in a quiet space, undisturbed, and calm. Small exercises of breath will ground us, give us a quiet mind and allow us to just be. We can walk, a small walk around the block at first, just the tiniest act of placing our runners on our feet, leaving the house, getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, or the pouring rain…which seems more likely at the moment……. Mindful movement, taking in our surroundings, listening to the birds and natures echoes around us. After time, and habitual daily walking, this will become a part of ones life, and in time if not done, there will be a sense of something missing from our day……I invite you to try this, even for 2 weeks…………
Trauma (of which there are many different kinds) after loss is an effect on the body that is indescribable, it is up to us to care for ourselves, to give our bodies what they need to enable living a life that still sees beauty in the small things, still smells the roses, hears the birds, and gives rise to hope and courage, knowing that life is not an easy path, but a learning path, ever winding and twisting into new beautiful phases.