Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Angels and Rainbows at Christmas Time - Coping with Loss over the Festive Season

I would like to preface this post with a few statements.

I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas, and Chanukah is not overly important to me. This does not mean that this time of year is not hard.

Everyone grieves and remembers their Angels differently and that's okay.

I cannot speak to what others feel; only what I feel. I cannot speak for those who have had miscarriage or stillbirths, but I can empathise with them.

I have lost a parent, grandparents and friends; no loss can compare to the loss of one's baby - it is just not the same. We have no memories to comfort us. This in no way diminishes your loss or your pain - it's not a competition.

This post may be triggering or difficult for some people.

These are my thoughts. They may be wrong, but they are still in my head.

This time of year is one of those seasons where there is a huge focus on families and fun, blessings and gratitude, birth and renewal.

Images of happy families and frolicking children abound and films about joy, redemption and happy endings are everywhere.

Our pain is real

For those dealing with the pain of losing their babies, this time of year holds a special kind of terror and sadness. Regardless of how many other children there are, how much fun is had or how much time has passed, there is always that little piece of heartbreak that can never be healed; that little corner of what could have been that haunts us.

Seeing other people's children or pregnancies can be particularly hard at this time of year and the more time passes, the less compassion others have. They believe that you can just move on and that you should be able to be normal again, so they don't have to feel uncomfortable or deal with your issues.

This is where neonatal loss, stillbirth or late term miscarriage differ from all other kinds of loss - we can never get over it or move on. There is no salve for our hearts. Our rainbow children are beloved beyond measure, but they do not replace our Angels, just like subsequent children do not replace their older siblings. Our pain, regardless of our beliefs or whatever else is happening in the world, looms large at this time of year, simply because of the celebratory kind of vibe going on.

We deal differently

We all handle things differently, and right now is where it shows. 

Some of us may decorate our babies graves, which may seem morbid to the layman, but consider that the first real act of mothering many of us could do for our children was to bury them, and if this is the only thing we can do for our children, we do it with great care.

Some may include their Angels in all their celebrations; hang stockings up for them, buy gifts, which they later donate, or try to find subtle or overt ways of keeping their memory sacred and alive. The last thing we want to do is to make our Angels feel left out or forgotten. It's not crazy. It's love.

If I go a day without thinking of my Angelica, I feel terrible. Since she was born we have lit a pair of candles for her every single night, no matter where we are or what we are doing. (We have been known to forget and wake up in the middle of the night and do it).

Some of us struggle more than others. We don't talk about it but may seem quiet and sad. If we have other children, we try to hide our pain from them, but we know they see it, and we know it spoils things. It's not selfish. It's loss.

For those of us who don't celebrate the holiday, it's all kind of strange. We want to do something to affirm the life that was lost and is missed, but we don't really have a platform for our story. Chanukah isn't really that kind of holiday, at least not for me. At least it's more of a celebration than other holy days that are more serious or sad. 

Maybe I just feel that way because we have no local family and our rainbow is still too little to celebrate with. Having said that, I am really doing okay this year; it isn't as bad as I thought it might be.

The point is, the essence of "the season" is infectious and those who are merely witnesses have to find other ways to express their love and grief, be they of other religions or none, and it can be hard.

Support is a life saver

Support can make a huge difference and it is so important to find some, be it in your "real life" or your virtual one. I went to a grief counsellor (Mr C insisted - he was right because it really helped us both) and attended SANDS meetings at first.

Talking about how you feel and how you are coping is okay and your people should not be afraid of talking about your Angel - tell them it's okay - they don't actually know that. Most people avoid the subject for fear of upsetting the mother. Angel mothers love to know that their Angels are remembered; that people acknowledge that they existed, even if they never had the chance at having a life.

Throughout this time (I refuse to call it a journey), I have had the support of some incredible women I have never met. I belong to a few secret Facebook groups (three actually) for women that have lost their precious little ones (one for those who have lost, one for those who have lost and are expecting a rainbow baby, and one for those who have lost and are raising their rainbow babies). Each one of us is different, from all over the UK mostly, and each one of us has a different experience, outlook and perspective to share. 

These groups have changed my life. They have answered my questions without judgement, lifted me up when I was down, allowed me to support them so I can feel strong, made me feel normal and shared their stories so I do not have to feel alone in my grief, or guilty in my joy.

We honour our children by sharing them and their stories. These groups have given me the community I needed to do that, and in that community, I have found some precious friendships that live just there in that space that to me is so sacred.

We do not expect others to understand our hearts, that is why we have each other. These women are so central to my life now, that I cannot imagine not laughing and crying with them, or even occasionally rolling my eyes at them.

It's okay to be happy. It's okay to be sad

From one day to the next, none of us know how we are going to feel. That is part of living with loss. It is part of our new life that some days we will be okay, and then we see, hear or remember something that will make us feel anger, guilt, anxiety or sadness (or a whole gamut of confusing feelings), a little or a lot.

The one thing I know is that to survive this, we have to be okay with that and deal with each day as it comes. We cannot be hard on ourselves for feeling what we feel. We must be kind to ourselves and show ourselves as much compassion as we hope to receive from others.

Right now, I am in a good place. Other than struggling with sleep, my Rainbow baby has brought light and joy into my life that I never expected to feel again. She is a treasure and although I am still sad, in this house, we talk to and about Angelica all the time and we bless her like we do her sister on every Sabbath. Today I am okay, and that is all I need.

With that, I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas / happy Chanukah (etc.) and a season of kindness and compassion; whatever your beliefs. May you find warmth and support for a good New Year.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Nappies and Wipes and Creams, Oh My!

For something that was never even in my consciousness before having a baby, the subject of nappy changing accoutrements has taken up residence, along with friends feeding, bathing and sleeping, in the centre of my thoughts and occasional dreams.

We fight an endless, epic battle against blow-outs and nappy rashes in an effort to keep our younglings cooing merrily and comfortably.

When it comes to changing nappies, every mother's quest is to find the ultimate nappy/wipe/cream combination and pair it with the perfect technique for their  baby's bum, wrestling with such questions as do I use talcum powder and risk Cancer (I think this is nonsense by the way)? Do I apply barrier cream at every change or only when rashes are imminent? Do I give the little toosh a warm water wash every time I see a poo? (While we spend some time analysing and agonising over poo colour, texture and frequency, I will not go there in this post.)

My journey began at the baby show where I received free samples of nappies and wipes. While I am still unsure of our nappy choice, This sampling led me to a wipes pack that I would not have otherwise encountered.

We use Aldi's Mamia wipes and have a healthy store of backup packs to boot. This is mainly because we never otherwise shop at Aldi and do not have one local to us. 

We started out with Water Wipes, and although they are very nice, they did nothing to soothe a rashy tooshy. So I delved into the sample cupboard and tied a few options. When I got to the Mamia wipes, I hit paydirt as I saw a massive difference after just one nappy change. I did try the other things we had samples of but have no been that impressed.

When it comes to nappies, it's not that simple. We haven't really seen much difference between Pampers (we really like the product, the price; not so much) and supermarket brands. We currently use Mamia, which I find adequate, despite recent upwards and sideways blow-outs. (I am tracking this and if it continues beyond this week, we will be investigating alternatives.)

Our collection of nappy creams is a bit democratic. Basically, I've found that no one cream does it all so we use a bit of a mix, alternating between Bepanthen, Metanium, Sudocrem and a tube of Aloe Vera Gel. Surprisingly, I don't really over-think this part as  I have found that the randomness and mix of products works best. Also, when she is borderline, rashy, I do use talcum powder to make sure she is super-dry before applying creams (I wipe it off with a flannel so there is no residue).

In terms of texture, each cream is different. Bepanthen has a greasy cream texture and slides on rather well, becoming translucent on the bum. Metanium is very thick, dry and chalky like that colourful zinc stuff you put on your nose, it coats the skin and remains yellow. Sudocrem has a an almost whipped texture. It is hard in its jar but applies smoothly and softens on the skin. 

There are a couple of Hero Products that deserve a mention here. They are not changing items, but they make the experience much smoother. 

The Manhattan Toy Wimmer - Ferguson Double - Feature Mirror

And the Baby Shapes 4 Books and Mobile Set, which Liora loves. We put the mobile together and attached it to the changing station so it hangs above her head keeps her fascinated.

What are your go-to, hero products for nappy changing?

Please comment below. I may give them a go.

Oh, and another thing: We use one of those plastic changing mats with inflatable sides, covered by a terry cloth cover so it's not so cold for her. We discovered, very quickly, that if we wanted to avoid washing the covers daily due to contamination, we would have to find a solution, so we always have a disposable changing mat over the top (or, rather, Pound Store disposable bed mats). We fold it in half and change it when accidents occur.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Our Baby Setup

By way of introduction into some posts that will follow, I want to share with you the basics of our setup for baby Liora.

In our home, the living space is downstairs and the bedrooms are upstairs. As we live in the UK, this basic principle is unlikely to change as most houses follow this arrangement.

As I may or may not have mentioned before, our bathroom is downstairs and has no tub; not the most convenient arrangement, but not the end of the world by a far stretch.

Liora has her own room, in which she does not yet sleep . In her room is a cot-bed bought for £60 from a charity shop (new mattress bought at Mothercare), a Brimnes chest of drawers from Ikea, a Hensvik changing table from the same and a cupboard that covers one whole side of the room. (Apparently the landlord had a lot of clothes). There is decor and stuff, but due to one thing and another, it isn't finished, and at three-months of age, she doesn't care, so it's not a priority.

Almost all the changing stations we saw when we were baby shopping were side-facing, which we believed would be awkward to change baby. So we opted for the front-facing changing station that turns into a bookshelf. I have since discovered, having changed the baby in public changing places, that is isn't always awkward and can actually be quite good because you do not constantly stand in your own light.

HENSVIK from Ikea

Don't get me wrong, I like our changing table, but an elbow height dresser with a changing mat on top would have done the trick in a pinch, even though there are some advantages to our layout.

She sleeps in our room with us. Sleep is an issue. I will talk about it. Not today.
She had a Moses basket, which, frankly, I am still not sure about. We resisted buying one for the first month or so; Mr C built a unit that would go next to the bed to but the pram bassinet onto and lock it in place.

She refused to sleep in it, so out of desperation, we bought the Moses basket. She hates it too (she has no problem lying in it if I am right there and she isn't sleepy / being made to sleep. If she is there to play with her toys, she is happy; once sleep comes into the equation, it's a no no. Strange but true) . She only likes to sleep on us. I am working on this. Moving on.

Downstairs, we have a bouncer; not a fancy one that can teach her the classical harp, a simple one from Argos that is bouncy with a button for vibrating and one for music. She loves this. It puts her right to sleep.

We have a travel cot from Mothercare that we occasionally use and we have her Babyzen pram. It is incredible and we love it. We do not use the seat thing yet; just the above-mentioned bassinet that she will now happily sleep in (go figure) and her Recaro Young Profi Plus car seat.

We have one of those playgym things with the criss-cross bars arching over. She doesn't play with it much yet. It is a simple one from Argos as we didn't want to buy an expensive one in case she hated it. she is interested in the thing but the mat is quite thin so I don't bring it out too often. She does most of her tummy time on our bed, or on us.

We bath her in a Mothercare baby bath or use a top and tail bowl with plain hot water and a flannel (face cloth / gant de toilette). We wash her while she is on her changing station. The water in the bowl may be hot, but by the time the cloth touches her skin it is barely warm, 

That's basically it, really. Not much more to tell, unless I go into brain-numbing detail. 

Liora, who is currently lying in her crib, is tired and therefore starting to fuss. 

Please leave a comment to let me know you've stopped by. I would love to hear from you.