Parenting in my shoes – I lost my baby

Anne Marie is 40 years old. She’s married to Paul, whom she works with, and though she likes to consider herself the boss, says really they’re a partnership.  She describes Paul as her soulmate and best friend. They have been together for 21 years and have five living children,  1 boy and 4 girls. She is also mum to two angel baby boys.

Anne Marie very bravely and beautifully spoke to me about the loss of her baby boy Patrick who was stillborn at 41 weeks, and how his loss has affected their family.

 

The pregnancy and the lead up…

In 2015 after bringing our oldest 4 children on the trip of a lifetime to Florida I found myself tired, rundown, just not feeling great.  Before I knew it was sitting watching a pregnancy test turn positive after an almost 10-year gap. I was shocked but quite quickly came around to the idea of having a baby in the house again, we were all so excited.  At 38 I was very conscious of looking after myself and took extra care to keep my little passenger safe. I appeared to have the text book pregnancy with a very active baby boy onboard. I was nervous throughout my pregnancy especially in the last few weeks as my last baby was 10lb 4 and I had a very difficult birth.  The midwives tried to reassure me all was well. My due date was Feb 9th 2016 as the date drew closer I asked several times was it wise to let me go over due with my history.  I was repeatedly told baby was fine and would arrive when he was ready. I tried everything to naturally start my labour as my due date came and went – long walks, bouncing on my ball, squats, even eating pineapple which I don’t even like! I resigned myself to trust my body to stage an eviction when it was ready.

Finally on Saturday night Feb 13th  at 10pm a pain, a real pain a contraction Hallelujah!! I knew it was going to be sometime before things really got going as my body had not laboured in over 10 years.  I sat up until 4am with my baby boy so active I thought he was trying to escape the wrong way, I was so excited & ready to meet him. Eventually I fell asleep for a few hours, when I woke we joked how it could only happen to us that the baby would arrive on Valentines day that was after we realised myself & Paul had bought each other the same card.

Around lunchtime I realised I hadn’t had a good wallop from baby in a while maybe I didn’t notice as my contractions were still coming but slowly. It was then we decided to contact the hospital.  They told us to come in that there was probably nothing to worry about.

We reached the hospital less than an hour later to be delivered the crushing words “There is no heartbeat”.

My world in a split second came crashing down around us.  I was hysterical, delirious there were people who I didn’t know in my face saying I’m sorry for your loss trying to calm me down. This wasn’t happening, this couldn’t happen, my baby was moving perfectly a few hours ago.  Then the shock set in my body shut down my contractions stopped, and Paul was trying to take everything in. There were things we needed to decide. Do we stay or do we go home? We opted to go home to be brought back 2 days later if nothing happened in between.

We had to go home and tell the children. How were we going to break the news to a 16,15 12 & 10 year old?

Paul is the bravest person I know while I slipped silently into the house and sat down he gathered our children and told them the tragic news one by one.  I watched as he picked up our children off the floor as their bodies crumbled to the floor like an earthquake had hit, the wails of their young voices as the tears flowed. It didn’t seem real.  After settling the children Paul then contacted our family and friends. I had lost the ability to talk, I just stared in to space holding my bump.

The following day my contractions started slowly again, people came and went from our house all day offering what support they could.  In my mind I still had a job to do, I still had to give birth to my still baby. One of my closest friends sat holding my hand and at 11pm she knew by me the time had come to go to the hospital.  We made the phone call to the hospital and at 2.23am Tuesday February 16th I gave birth to the most beautiful 9lb 3 perfect baby boy who we named Patrick.  It was love at first sight.

Once the formalities & tests were done we brought Patrick home for 3 days. Feileacain enabled us to do this by supplying us with a Cuddle Cot for our home to allow us time before we said our final goodbyes.

During this time it allowed me to be his mommy.  My motherly instincts kicked in and I did all the normal things a mom does for her baby. I held him, sang to him, read to him.  I examined & kissed every inch of him so I would never forget. We as a family made as many memories that we could in a very short time.  We opened our door to allow friends and family meet our little boy.

Anne Marie and Baby Patrick
 Telling and supporting the other children…

After Patricks funeral my focus became my other children I needed to make sure that our tragedy did not define them.  They were hurting like I’ve never seen, and I was a mess. I contacted every organisation I thought who may be able to help I was particularly worried about my teenagers but in reflection they had their friends.  Their friends came and enveloped them, protecting them. I found myself sitting up with them in the early hours of the morning when they wanted to talk we spent many of this nights laughing and crying together.

First Light helped us with initial counselling sessions for them. My teens were not that engaged they felt they didn’t need it.  My younger two attended extensive play therapy organised by Feileacain which helped them process their emotions. We had lots of tummy aches because they didn’t want to go to school but all their schools were extremely supportive.  I put on the bravest face for them although I was crippled by grief, but they knew I wasn’t the same and life was never going to be the same.

 Our own support…

We were surrounding by so many people who wanted to help. Food was dropped off to the house regularly for the first few weeks. Paul made sure there was someone with me each morning when he went back to work.  I saw a psychiatrist regularly and we attended support meetings as a couple again organised by Feileacain. It really helped to be with other parents in the same situation. It was a safe understanding space to talk.

Considering another child…

We were terrified at the mention of having another child, I was so broken with empty arms.  After our return visit to the hospital we were told the chances of it happening again were slim and I would be closely monitored.  I was 38 having Patrick and now I was 39 time was not on our side if we decided to try again. We did decide that we would try once more. Once those 2 lines appeared on a pregnancy test a fear set in that I was unable to shake for my entire pregnancy.

 Coping with a pregnancy after loss…

I found it very difficult to acknowledge my pregnancy I tried to pretend I wasn’t pregnant.  We told nobody.

My GP organised everything with the hospital and they made a mountain of promises about my care, unfortunately by my second visit at 14 weeks I ran out of the hospital in a high state of anxiety and upset, I said  would never go back. I changed hospitals & consultants and finally felt confident in my care. I continued to see the psychiatrist regularly but still kept our secret. At 22 weeks we finally came clean to the children as I could no longer hide it and we only told a handful of family and friends and asked them to keep our secret as we were so scared.

My consultant was amazing, I had a scan & visit most weeks.

I counted the pregnancy in baby steps. 26 weeks the baby was viable and every week after that was a bonus. I was terrified to bond with the baby but when I was alone I started to talk to baby little by little as my belly grew. But I did feel very disconnected from my precious little passenger.  I was paranoid that one morning I would wake up and the baby would not be moving, I found sleeping at night very difficult. Being pregnant again was the hardest and bravest journey I have ever been on.

How the other children coped with the pregnancy…

They understood why I wanted to keep it a secret.  They really minded me, but they also told me they were nervous.  Like us, we all went appointment to appointment. I think we had the most photographed baby in the womb!

When our baby girl arrived…

Hope made quiet the entrance.  I was brought in for a planned induction at 37weeks, my pregnancy had gone very well under the circumstances. But as fate would have it I had a placental abruption while in the hospital and our precious little baby was born via emergency section.  I never did meet her the day she was born as she was in the NICU and I was recovering. When I finally got to meet her, her tiny little body curled up in the incubator I was terrified. I placed my hand on her back and the touch of her warm skin filled me with so much emotion the tears flowed.  I had a live baby. I made a promise to her that I would never leave her. I stayed by her side for 2 days until she was well enough to join me in my room. I was now caught in the biggest bubble of love and walking on air. I continually thanked Patrick for sending me his little sister.

Baby Hope
 Parenting after loss…

Parenting after loss is no easy task as you are not the same person, it takes a very long time to process the shock and learning to live with a huge part of you missing while trying to look after your other children.  My mind was mush, my children missed their mommy. I carried out the daily tasks because they had to be done, I tried not to show to them how broken I was. There were days the anxiety left me so paralysed I couldn’t leave the house.  I had to take every day as it came and plan as much in advance as I was able. Other days I was unable to get out of bed. Thankfully my youngest was 10 at the time so I did not have smallies running around. I was very open and honest with them as much as I could while protecting them at the same time but if I was having a bad day and I needed some space I was able to tell them

Family pic
 Advice for other grieving parents…

Baby loss is single most traumatic event that can happen to anyone.  Once the shock wears off you find yourself at your lowest point. Its not about forgetting and moving on it about survival.  You learn to live an adjusted life with a new normal. The grief you suffer is like a rollercoaster, one day you think you are doing ok and from out of nowhere you get smacked in the face and you are back to square one.  You are not going mad, this is all very normal. Ride the rollercoaster and take it day by day, I still do. Be kind to yourself and never make excuses. You are grieving parent and others sometimes do not understand as they do not walk in your shoes.

 What a grieving parent needs…

Leave out the clichés “it was probably for the best”, “you have other children”, “ you are young, you can try again”, “you never knew the baby”, “ do you not think its time to move on”,  none of these remarks are helpful in fact they are quite hurtful. Kindness & compassion are what a bereaved parent needs, we need you to listen to our story over and over because that is all we have.  We need you to remember, to speak our baby’s names.

Please don’t avoid me because that hurts even more, even if you don’t know what to say a simple hug is acknowledgment that I had a child.

Coping as the time passes…

The last 13 months have been busy adjusted to life with baby again, once my bubble of love came back to earth I struggled for a long time.  I found it very hard not to think of what could have been. Every milestone Hope has reached I draw a comparison in my mind to what I have missed.  Hope has brought joy & healing to our home on a different spectrum, but I am still missing a huge part of me.

I am trying my best to be the best parent I can in difficult circumstances.

My grief still comes at me in waves on that rollercoaster, but I am thankful I have my little girl to help me through.  Some people assume I am fixed because I’ve had another baby, but this is not the case. While I have relished every moment with my precious rainbow baby I still battle the demons of the baby I lost.

I still attend support meetings & counselling, I speak about Patrick all the time.  Patrick is my son, my son who did not get to stay but I will continue to find ways to make his legacy meaningful and help others along the way.

Baby Patrick

 

You can read more about Anne-Marie’s journey through parenthood after loss here.

 

 

 

Parenting in my shoes – My child has dyspraxia

Benny is a father of two who lives in Waterford and is married to his childhood sweetheart – or long suffering wife as he likes to call her. He has an 8 year old son, who loves technology but not football, and a 2 year daughter who is a Paw Patrol fanatic and is the boss of the house (those of us with toddlers can definitely relate!)

Benny is a stay at home dad and his son has dyspraxia DCD. He spoke to me about life as a stay-at-home dad and what having a child with dyspraxia means for his family.

 

Why I became a stay at home dad

My wife was returning to work after Maternity and a year off to concentrate on studies (but how she studied while being at home I’ll never know). We were right in the midst of making arrangements with crèches and after school, who’d could collect who etc when I dropped the bombshell… “What if I stayed at home?” After the initial shock of my idea we sat down and worked out the figures. Between the tax saving of only having one income, not having to pay for childcare and some tightening of our belts we decided that it could be done. We reckoned it would give us a better quality of life and this was the main thinking behind it.

 

The reactions from other men – and women

Most people are great. Most women have a ‘good for you’ attitude to it. Most men are like “huh, huh, you’re retired then!” But it’s all in jest. I say ‘most’ because there are people who don’t seem to grasp it, yup, you guessed it ‘the elder generation’. The ones who grew up with defined roles of ‘male breadwinner’ and ‘female home keeper’ but this attitude is dying out, literally. Us younger folk are fairly on the ball.

 

The best and the eh “most challenging” parts of being a stay at home dad

The best is easy, being with the kids. When I was an auctioneer I worked long hours (there was no ‘off’, my phone was constantly going outside of hours), I used to see them for a few minutes in the morning and come home stressed to land on top of the bedtime routine. It just wasn’t working for me. Now I get to watch them grow and develop and be much more involved in their lives.

The most challenging aspect, ya ready for this? Being constantly with the kids. There’s no ‘off’ as a stay at home parent either. No sick days. No going to the toilet alone for God’s sake!! But you know what, I’m delighted I made the decision. Plus it’s allowed me to start up daddypoppins.com and write both comedy and serious pieces for various newspapers and websites. I’ve always wanted to write and being a stay at home dad gives me the best of both worlds.

 

How we discovered our son had dyspraxia.

 We knew there was issues at school but their description of our little man and how we found him to be at home were very different. He gotten on great in crèche and Montessori and they thought he’d fly at school but he just never settled. He became anxious and socially awkward and the happy boy we knew retreated into himself. As time went by he became worse and worse as we explored every avenue to help him. Unfortunately the Irish system has waiting lists of up to 2 years for assessment. In fact at the time of writing this we are still waiting. We have paid to go privately (as early intervention is key), he’s been diagnosed with Dyspraxia DCD and sensory processing disorder, we’ve had 2 separate blocks of occupational therapy and still nothing. You have to be wealthy in this country to be seen (something we aren’t, but we’re struggling in to help our kids in any way we can)

In the end it was actually a relief, for us and him. We knew what was going on and put a plan in place to try make things as easy as possible for him.

 

Dyspraxia is…

That’s the issue, it’s very difficult to describe. There’s no one sentence that sums it all up. It’s different for everyone affected by it. To me, it’s a brain-based developmental condition that makes it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement (both fine and gross motor skills are affected). Dyspraxia isn’t a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence, in fact the Little Man is super smart. Some children with dyspraxia struggle with balance and posture. They may appear clumsy or “out of sync” with their environment. Our little man struggles with writing, organisation, emotions, breaks from routine etc. our little girl is the same, there’s definitely something happening there too but at 2 and 1/2 she’s too young to diagnose.

 

The difficulties dyspraxia presents for our son – and for us.

The Little man is 8 and like all 8 year olds there’s worries to be had. How much of it is down to dyspraxia and how much of it is down to him being our first kid is up for a bit of debate. You’d never really know without a control subject. Why don’t they come with manuals?

Dyspraxia has made our life hectic and full of worries about how he’ll cope with situations. It’s made me much more of a ‘helicopter parent’ than I ever thought I’d be. Everything has to be done in a specific way or there’ll be meltdowns; from laying out of clothes in a specific order for the morning and checking upon every detail as we work our way through the daily routine. It’s exhausting. He isn’t able to do what other 8 year olds can, everything needs parental supervision.

 

Finding support

We’ve created our own support system because there’s been a total lack of support from the state. We are still waiting on public assessment. If we hadn’t gone private (much to the detriment of our finances) then I’m not sure where we’d be. The little man’s mental health and emotional wellbeing were deteriorating at an alarming rate.

It’s another reason I’m delighted I made the decision to become a stay at home dad as I know my sons routine and needs. Both myself and my amazing wife are his home support. The wonderful Hannah in Sunflower Clinic is his support and I’m glad to say that since her report the school have rolled in behind us and life has been made much easier.

I’ve become immersed in dyspraxia since the diagnosis. I attended a local meeting one night (hastily arranged by a small group of concerned parents) and it snowballed from there. It was only then that I realised how many people are affected by it. So many people don’t know a thing about it. It’s pretty invisible as a special need and has gone unnoticed in so many people in the past. Did you know that 1 in 20 people has it? I know of 7 kids in my estate of around 60 houses that have Dyspraxia DCD (to give it is full title). This meeting has spawned a group of concerned parents (all in the same boat as me) and has grown and grown and we hope to have club formed by September of this year that will provide an outlet for kids and parents going through everything that dyspraxia brings (from the initial worry, to diagnosis and acceptance, planning, engaging, techniques and tricks and the support and friendship of someone who understands your situation).

Because Dyspraxia isn’t ‘obvious’ to the naked eye it’s often dismissed or ‘tutted at’ by others and assumed to be ‘bad parenting’ or an ‘unruly or emotional child’ or something to that effect. It’s not. They don’t grow out of it. It needs to be recognized like autism or dyslexia. It’s currently being pushed to the side by our health services as regards funding.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve become the public relations officer for the Waterford Dyspraxia DCD Support group (link to page here) and currently run both their public and private Facebook pages. So I’m part of the support, but it’s a huge group effort, we have a board of 16 (who all have different skill sets, from; barristers, insurance professionals, special needs assistants and fund raisers) at this point we also have 15 fully trained couches (some of whom are young adults with Dyspraxia). So to answer your question about support, the involved parents are the support, others don’t seem to understand. But we’re working on making them.

 

The biggest challenge.

In a word, worry. What does the future hold for my child? How can we continue with this exhaustive routine. How can we afford to continue treating them privately? Will they ‘fit in’? Will they be able to secure work and look after themselves properly later in life? Will they be happy?

..and the positives

 I’m not sure whether it’s dyspraxia or just my little ones but they are the most caring, in touch with their emotions individuals I’ve ever known. Their empathy levels are off the charts and when they find something they are interested in their concentration and knowledge of the subject is off the charts. Bottom line, they’re still the special little people they were before a label was attached.

 

Advice for other parents in a similar situation

Address it ASAP (and I mean both them and you) it’s a shock but it provides a roadmap to help. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know the question. The sooner you get to work on things the better the results.

I’d personally say ‘Let them know’ (although some others may not agree) it helped my little man no end to know there was a reason he wasn’t as quick at writing and found some things more difficult than his peers. It changed his attitude from one of ‘I’m useless’ to one of ‘That’s just because of ‘my difficulties’ but now I know how to get around that’.

Finally, get online and find your local support group. People have been there before and can provide a sympathetic ear and advice on who to call or what to do. You aren’t alone. If you can’t find your nearest group then give a call to Harry in Dyspraxia Ireland (link to site here). He’ll set you on the right track.

Benny and his son

Welcome to the new Mama-tude website!

A huge and very warm welcome to Mama-tude’s new site!

I have some pretty big and exciting upcoming projects in the pipeline so it seemed the perfect time to launch my new site which was all designed and basically put together for  me by my brilliant friend Andrew Barnes – whose own blog you can and should check out here 

So have a look around Mama-tude.com , take comfort in the familiar and let me know what you think. There’s past posts,  newspaper articles, podcasts and reviews of my book to be found – and a little info about me too.

And my social media buttons are there too – so if you’re not following me already across the different channels,  please do. I love to have the chats.

So all that’s left for me to do now  is cut the virtual ribbon and declare Mama-tude’s new site open. Go forth, explore and enjoy!!

Jen xxx