Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Blog 16 : More is in You

I have found myself drawn to a quote time and time again, mostly via pinterest, but it pretty much sums up dealing with babyloss to a tee. That quote is:

"You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have"

I am a man, and with that title comes certain pre-requisites unfortunately. Men are strong, men don't cry, men don't show emotion to name but a few. Becoming a dad 3 and a half years ago blew the last two out of the water. The wonder and amazement of fatherhood basically made me an emotional wreck, even more so after the birth of Mia. I have never cried so much as that one night that Mia was with us. Something happened that night that I didn't even know could happen, I used up all my tears, temporarily. I was lying on my bed at the hospital, trying to get some sleep as I was advised. It was never going to happen when Mia was fighting for her life in the other room but I did as I was told. It was here that my tears dried up. It wasn't because I'd stopped caring, far from it, it wasn't because I'd slipped back into "man mode", as I don't think I'll ever go back there. It was because I'd cried too much. I lay there, a million thoughts running through my head, and started to cry (again) but this time, no tears came out. I was doing everything else that I normally do when I cry, but no tears. I see that as proof that nothing compares to the pain suffered as a parent dealing with babyloss. 

The one element that I've not yet touched on is Strength. I have a strong exterior, I'm a man, I have to have that. But inside, I'm not strong. Inside is torn apart, damaged beyond repair. The wounds that I have inside of me can't be healed but I've always had to make sure the exterior covers this up. I couldn't carry on if I displayed on the outside, what I felt on the inside. If I wore my heart on my sleeve, it wouldn't be pretty and I'd feel sorry for the rest of you out there. The thing that has developed more than anything over the past 13 months is my exterior strength. 

I am not a life coach, nor a counsellor, and I'm certainly no expert, all I've done is live through it and I've managed to find what works for me. I have mentioned before that the strength that Mia had has been transferred to me and Vik, but i probably now realise that it's us that gave Mia that strength. It's a strength that I never knew I had, and I'm pretty sure Vik didn't know she had it. Vik will tell you that she's not strong, and that she doesn't feel strong, but quite frankly she's a liar. She has amazing strength, we both do, and as the quote says we didn't realise until it was our only option. One of the biggest battles I've faced during this time is when I wake up on a bad day, trying to shake that feeling. It was impossible in the first 6 months, if I woke up feeling that way, I'd go to bed feeling that way and it would last for days, maybe even weeks. The thing that I am most proud of now is that if I wake up feeling that way, and it definitely still happens, and I don't expect it to ever stop, is that I can shake it off within a couple of hours. I've found a channel in which to focus positively rather than let the grief take over my whole body. That channel is the thought that I am going to help other people and create a lasting legacy for Mia. Forget the Olympic legacy, everyone has pretty much forgotten about the London 2012, but Mia's legacy is something that I am determined will last for much much longer.

A lot of people that read this will already know that Vik and I are currently setting up a non profit organisation in Mia's memory to raise much needed funds for the neonatal unit at the Liverpool Women's Hospital. And this is the positive channel that I can now focus on. My head is full of ideas for the organisation and I'm desperate now to get the ball rolling. I have big ideas and I would love it in a few years if we have developed into a full registered charity of our own, but that's the long term. The short term is that we've already got 3 events planned in for 2013, more details to follow when the website is launched and 2014 is going to be a big year for us. 

A friend has recently completed the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, cycling from John O Groats to Lands End and the tag line from that ride was "More is in You". And the truth is that you never really know just how much more is in you until it really matters, that's what we've found out this past year. There are times when I have thought that there was nothing left in me, that I had nothing left to give but I am still here to tell the story, and I'm now here to help others and prove that there is so much more in me. 

We will make our organisation a success, there is no doubt about that as we have a motivating factor that can't be put into words. We can't have Mia here with us, but we can keep her memory alive by creating a lasting legacy for her. When we succeed with this project, it will prove to everyone that Mia's life wasn't wasted. Of course we'd rather have her here with us, there is nothing in the world we want more, but if we can help others that may be faced with this in the future then I'll be happy.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Blog 15 : June 2013

June 2013 has been a strange month. Many milestones have passed in June, obviously most significantly it was Mia's birthday and anniversary. Very differing occasions as the names suggest and the differing emotions that each day brought could not have been further apart. 

Those that have not suffered this sense of loss will not understand this, but the birthday of a lost child is just as special as the birthday of our other children, the ones that are here with us every day, the ones  we get to organise parties for and take out for their birthdays. Just as our other children, a lot of planning goes into the birthday. Granted, there are big differences with the preparations, and celebrations but still, it's your child's birthday. Instead of looking for presents for our little girl to play with on her 1st birthday, we were searching for nice things to display in her garden, things that symbolise our love for our angel in heaven. There were many visitors to Mia's Garden, all bringing different gifts, all beautiful in their own way, each one a reflection of the bearers thoughts of Mia. There were flowers, teddys, ornaments, hand crafted wooden keepsakes, balloons,  poems, all very personal of their feelings to Mia. Mia's birthday was a really beautiful day. Little Miss Sunshine had done her job, the hottest week of the year was delivered for the birthday celebrations, she knew that we wanted to have a picnic with her. So after visiting Mia in the morning to give her all the presents, just as we do with Kyran, he gets his presents first thing in the morning, we visited again at lunchtime to have our picnic with the birthday girl. A happy day with lots of happy thoughts drew peacefully to a close. We never knew that the birthday of a beautiful baby girl, now an angel could be so beautiful. 

The following day, Mia's anniversary, was quite different. The mood had changed significantly, there was an air of inevitability around the place. We had planned a balloon release at 14:55, which symbolised the end of Mia's short 31 hours and 21 minutes with us. The sad thing about the anniversary day was that it was like a countdown, counting down to the moment that no one wanted to arrive. We released the balloons and 12 months of emotion came flooding out, it was almost as though the clocks had been turned back a year, the feelings were so raw.

Another significant day passed on the 18th of the month, which was when we buried our princess. Although I tried not to think about it too much, grief had other ideas for me. Leading up to lunchtime, all I could think of was carrying Mia's small white coffin into the cemetery chapel, no matter how hard I tried to block it out of my mind the visions were still there. Then, at 12pm, the time of Mia's service, Rule the World by Take That came on the radio. Now this isn't one of Mia's songs, but still it is one of those that remind us of her. Some of the words just fit perfectly for Mia "You light, the skies, up above me, a star, so bright, you blind me", after all she is the brightest star in the sky. And "Don't close your eyes, don't fade away, don't fade away" symbolises the hope for a miracle that we felt while she was with us. Sat in my office that day, I believe that song was a message from Mia.

June was also a significant month where we decided that the time was right to start giving something back. The idea of fund raising was born the month before but it really progressed in June. We visited the Liverpool Women's Hospital to meet with the charitable fund raiser there and made a commitment to support the neonatal unit in the future. We also have a meeting planned with the CEO of the hospital at the beginning of July. It's this second meeting, with Kathy Thompson, the CEO of the hospital that makes us want to help the hospital even more. Kathy doesn't need to meet us, she is a very busy lady doing great work for an amazing hospital, but she is making time in her busy schedule to meet with us. This only strengthens a statement I made to Lisa, the charitable fund raiser, that " The Liverpool Women's Hospital is like going private, but on the NHS ". The extra mile that all the staff go is a credit to the hospital. 

Fund raising was always an idea, but in June I was inspired. I was inspired to do this properly. If I'm making a commitment to the hospital, then I want to make it official. I'm currently organising a logo, a website and I'm going to meet someone next week for advice in setting up a non profit organisation to handle the fund raising. It is the person that I am meeting next week that has been the inspiration behind making sure this mission is done properly, his name is David Pope. He set up an organisation in memory of his granddaughter and has just completed an amazing challenge and raised over £3500 for his organisations chosen charities. 9 months ago, David decided to enter the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, and committed to cycle from John O Groats to Lands End, despite not being a regular cyclist. He completed this only last week, and I followed his progress daily, each day coming more admiration and inspiration. You can read his story, blogs, and activities at the below address, links to the twitter and Facebook pages are also well worth following.

It's the above account that echoes the sentiments of another regular blogger on the Internet, known as Fathers Grief. He talks about the network of people out there that are all united by the unwanted bond. These people, most of whom we have never met, or ever likely to meet provide a lot of comfort, and more importantly an understanding of the situation we are in, after all, those that have not lived through baby loss can never understand just how difficult it really is. You can read all of Fathers Grief's posts, inspired by Ethan at the address below, and again, the links to the twitter and Facebook feeds are worth following.

June has been a funny old month. So many emotions have been experienced once again, but I have found a new focus in my life, giving something back and helping others in similar positions. One thing I did learn in June though is that just because a year has passed, doesn't mean that the grief is any different. Unfortunately, there is no 1 year switch that turns the grief off, it's still there, as strong as ever. What is happening though, is that I'm getting stronger, and as long as that continues, I guess I can focus my energies into getting this charity ball rolling.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Blog 14 : Fathers Day

Fathers Day 2013 is my second since I lost my princess, Mia Rose. Last year, Fathers Day was only 12 days after we said goodbye to Mia and the day before we laid her to rest so understandably it was not a time for celebration. I have never forgotten that I am Mia's daddy but it can sometimes be difficult when people see us with Kyran, our 3 year old and ask if we're having any more children, or if we've just got the one. The people that ask these questions don't know my situation but in the months after losing Mia, it was too easy and convenient for me to confirm that I've only got 1 child. This however, is so wrong and the guilt felt after telling someone this is unbearable. I'm now in a completely different frame of mind from those early days and can now confidently state that I have 2 children, one of which was too special for this earth. The biggest thing is now, I can say this (most of the time) without crying.  

Fathers Day has always been one of my favourite days of the year, certainly ranked higher than my birthday. We have never really splashed out on Fathers Day, just little things like cups, glasses, key rings etc that say "To My Daddy" or "Worlds Greatest Daddy" on them is all we have ever done. The big difference this year is that these little gifts will be from both of my children, the 2 children that I am so proud of. Kyran, my 3 year old boy makes me proud on a daily basis, whether that be from his spelling and writing or from him coming out of his shy little shell on holiday and suddenly appearing on the stage in front of hundreds of people. Mia made me proud the way she fought for those 31 hours that she was with us. The doctor was surprised she made it through the night and it's that fighting spirit that she had that she has instilled in her mummy and daddy. There is no way that we could have got through this past 12 months without Mia's fighting spirit, and that is why I can now openly say that I am so proud to be Mia's Daddy. 

What I like about Fathers Day is the togetherness and family spirit. It's traditionally a day spent together, our own little family. The toughest thing about these special days is that our little princess isn't with us. Instead of her being here to join in, we have to go to her garden, the only place that we genuinely feel close to her, to involve her in our day. Children should visit their dads on Fathers Day, shouldn't really be the other way round.

Mia may not be here with me like Kyran is, but does that mean that I'm not her daddy? Of course it doesn't, I'm every bit Mia's daddy as I am Kyran's. Mia is included in everything we do, on a daily basis. Mummy and I talk about her all the time, and Kyran is involved in that. He knows who his little sister is and he talks about her openly at will. 

No one can ever take away from me that I am Mia's daddy, and I'm so glad that I can finally say to the world that I am proud of my little girl. I will always talk about Mia, she is just as much a part of me as every other part of my life. Anyone that can't handle that should probably give me a wide berth from now on. I will never forget my princess and anybody that thinks any differently is not worth having around.

I'm looking forward to Fathers Day, it will be a nice day as it always is, but this and every one after this will always have that missing piece, Mia Rose.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Blog 13 : Giving Something Back

Blog 13 : Giving Something Back

Today, I'm feeling strong, and quite positive. Yesterday, I felt very weak, and pretty negative, tomorrow I'll probably feel that way again. At the moment, that's how it goes, one day up, the next day down and so on. This pattern seems even more erratic with Mia's birthday and anniversary approaching quickly.

The difference between now, and maybe where I was 6 months ago are the thoughts and visions I have on my up days, or strong days. I think being back at the Liverpool Women's Hospital for the memorial service last week has made me realise that I now need to start giving something back to the place that cared for Mia with such diligence, compassion and dignity. Well, that and the fact that Mia's mummy has been talking about jumping over obstacles in the mud to raise money next year. I think we've decided that we want to start fund raising now to help parents and families that are faced with baby loss in the future. 

Our fund raising will be exclusively for the Liverpool Women's Hospital who we feel eternally indebted to after the way they cared for our princess, Mia Rose. We will speak to LWH direct to discuss specific details of where we want the money to go but our first goal, after doing some research is to provide Flexmort cooling cot systems for the hospital. These allow bereaved families to spend more precious time with their babies, and means that babies don't need to be rushed straight off to the bereavement suites to be kept cool. They can stay with the families longer in a comfortable ambient environment and provide some extra bonding time, where those treasured memories can be formed. Some families choose to take baby home, which is made possible with the use of the cooling cot. Had the cooling cot been available to us, Mia may have been able to spend the night with us in her mummy's hospital room. We would love other parents and families to have this opportunity. 

I have recently started cycling so my fundraising will be taking the form of sponsored cycle rides. Some small (ish) ones this year, some bigger ones next year and hopefully building up to the likes of "Lands End to John O Groats" and "L'etape du Tour" in a few years time. 

So I'm guessing that this blog is really a rallying cry. To our families and friends. Let's do this. I'm sure the possibilities are endless of things that we can do to raise money for this amazing place, the Liverpool Women's Hospital. For my own ideas, I need willing cyclists to share these journeys with me, maybe sponsors to help fund some custom cycling gear and basically lots of people who want to make a difference. These are only ideas at the moment, but i need more of them and I need to make them into reality. So who's with me?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Blog 12 : Contrasting Households

Blog 12 : Contrasting Households 

My best friends have just had a beautiful baby girl. I am absolutely over the moon for them and it was a genuine pleasure to meet her, and hold her little over 24 hours after she was born. Her little fingers so delicate, every inch of her perfect in every way. She is quite rightly the apple of my friends eyes. This has obviously been a difficult time for me, such a major event to have to endure while the grieving process is still so raw, but I am quite proud of the way my wife and I have handled it. I have an enormous amount of gratitude towards my friends for the sensitive way in which they have approached the whole journey with us, allowing us to process the information and events in our own time.

This does not however, detract from the pain that has erupted inside of me. Going to their house to visit them the day after the baby was born just brought back so many emotions, and emphasised our loss so much. Seeing their happy faces and the obvious joy that the new baby brought to the house only emphasised the sorrow and despair that was instilled in us on our return home. I have wrote about this before, but the baby girl cards that sat on the fireplace were in direct contrast to the sympathy cards that were displayed in our house. Our mournful flowers of sympathy were replaced by bright and joyous flowers of congratulations in our friends house. The pink gift bags overflowing with pretty pink clothing was something that we never got to receive, yet we would give anything to have had that experience. 

I am not jealous, as jealous suggests that I don't want my friends to be happy about their families new addition, I am over the moon that they have got their perfect little girl to add to their lovely little boys. What I do feel is cheated. I feel that Mother Nature has let me down, often leaving me asking the question "Why Us?". It's a question that will never be answered unfortunately. 

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Blog 11 : Mia's Garden

Blog 11 : Mia's Garden

I'm not a religious person, even less so these days, but I still feel that Easter is a major event. Apart from birthdays, Easter is the first big event of the year and it normally signifies the change in season. The weather tends to turn around Easter time, bringing brighter days, and with it a change in moods. Although there has been a slight change for the better in weather this weekend, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the mood in our house.

The one thing that does lighten the mood this weekend, and it's also one of the only places that I feel happy these days is visiting Mia's Garden.

Mia is buried in a beautiful little baby garden at our local cemetery. Away from the rest of the cemetery, it is a quiet, semi enclosed area where we can go and be with Mia. It's the only place that I feel close to Mia, maybe that's because sadly, it's the only way I know her. The main reason that we call it "Mia's Garden" and not the baby garden or anything else is because it really truly is hers. She was the first in there and with that bestows certain bragging rights, I can just see her in years to come bossing everyone around who comes to play in her garden. At the moment though, it's just Mia and her little friend Charlie, who came to play in Mia's garden just a week after Mia had played out the opening ceremony. 2012 wasn't about Danny Boyle and the Olympics, it was about Mia Rose and her beautiful garden.

Mia was given such a beautiful and dignified send off, laid to rest by her Grandad's & Uncles onto a soft bed of flower petals, at least she'll be comfy. And instead of throwing dirt, we got to throw more petals to Mia, somehow this made things so much more child friendly. It was a little thing that the council had done but made such a big difference.

I think this is the first blog where I mention the word happy, maybe this is a sign that I could be turning a corner, or is it just proof that I need to be doing something for or with Mia to be truly happy. I do have a son, Kyran, who makes me very happy but I'll talk about my responsibilities to him in a future blog.

I'm hoping that the change in season helps to lighten the mood. If not, I can always go to Mia's Garden, sit on the bench with my wife, Vikki and talk to Mia while her big brother rides around the grounds on his bike. For me, that's the most beautiful scene on Earth at the moment.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Blog 10 : Just For You, Mia

Blog 10 : Just For You, Mia

Mia, I'm going to start off by saying sorry to you. It's my job, as your daddy to protect you, to keep you safe from all that's wrong with this world but I failed. I couldn't do the thing that's the first item on every dads to do list "protect your children". I hope you can forgive me for that Mia. I just want you to know that if there was anything I could have done to save you, absolutely anything, I would have done it. There is nothing I wouldn't have done to have you with us right now.

That's not the only thing that I couldn't do, there's an endless list of things that we will never get to do together. Not just us, but all of us, the whole family. You were the final link in the chain for me and your mum, you completed our perfect little family. You are always with us Mia, we try to include you in everything we do, and we always will, but you know that anyway, don't you? You've seen the little gifts that we bring you back from our days out, of course you have.

I'll never get to hold you, to feel your warmth, to feel you wriggling in my arms but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.
I'll never get to kiss you, to tickle your belly, to make you laugh but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.
I'll never get to bath you, to dress you, to play with your beautiful hair but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.
I'll never get to help you walk, help you to talk, help you to write, help you to grow but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.
I'll never see you go to school, see you develop into a teenager, or get to check out your first boyfriend, but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.
I'll never get to be there for you, to pick up the pieces when you got your heart broken, to give you a hug and tell you that everything will be ok but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.
I'll never get to give you away to the man of your dreams, and tell anybody who will listen that my little girl has grown up into a beautiful young woman, but that doesn't mean that I don't love you.

Basically Mia, there is nothing in this world that can stop me loving you. You are, and always will be my little princess. I am so proud of you for fighting the way you did, just to last overnight was a little miracle, but I know you were holding out for your mummy. You couldn't have left us without spending some time with her. The strength you shown in that short time was amazing, I only hope that I have got the same strength in me because that's the only way that I'll get through this.

We talk about you all the time Mia and we all miss you so much. You've seen your big brother waving to you in the sky, he even tells us that he loves you and misses you, we'll make sure that he never forgets you. I like to think of you as a star in the sky, Auntie Jenny & Uncle Adam even named a star for you, and that's what Kyran knows you as, the brightest star in the sky. You'll always be there, looking down us and I know you'll always look after us, it's a comforting feeling knowing that I have my own Guardian Angel here for me.

I've said this in a previous post Mia, but when we said goodbye to you, a part of me died, a part of me went with you, a part of my heart went with you, I'm not the same person that I was. When we do meet again, and I get the piece of my heart back, I've got something for you too. It's a big kiss for my baby girl and a nice tight cuddle from your daddy. Only then will we able to close this chapter, so really, I guess this is a story that never ends, and there is definitely no happy ending.

Until we meet again, I love you so much Mia Rose, my little princess.