Welcome to the world Hollie Rose Hughes.
Your family have been on a big journey as they longed for your birth. Your big sister Lexi will be so happy to finally meet you. Your Mummy and Daddy have two special angels watching over them who helped to ensure your safe arrival. Your Mummy is poorly right now, but when she is better she will be able to give you a cuddle.
Your Mummy has been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Her heart has been broken in the past into tiny little pieces, but when she learned you were on the way, you brought a special glue with you. Now you are born you can start to use that glue to mend your family’s broken hearts.
Each time they feel your breath on their cheeks they will know you are here to stay, each time they see you open your eyes their hearts will smile. Don’t wonder at the sparkles in their eyes, that’s the little diamonds the angels send from Heaven. Your Mummy and Daddy miss them a lot.
This means that you get extra love and hugs and kisses. You are a special rainbow baby. The beauty in the balance of the sunshine and the rain.
There is a weird period of time in the timescale of grief. I don’t know if it arrives for everybody at the same time, but I would bet money on the fact that it appears for all. When your baby or child dies the world can become a very dark place. It can seem like you are fighting just to stay alive, there can seem to be no point to the day.
I discovered the battle of organising the funeral and volunteered for this. In the war zone that had become my life I spent hours each day searching music, readings, flowers. We had tasks to do, even if they were incredibly hard. There were missions out into enemy territory – the real world. The real world where everything seems too bright, too loud, too happy and full of traps to catch you. Booby traps like shelves of nappies in unexpected places in shops, or the screaming baby around every corner. The venture into the most dangerous place of all Mothercare, where instead of being on R&R with our family we were facing large numbers of enemy troops and booby traps trying to find an outfit for our newborn to wear in his forever bed, before we buried him.
The battle of the funeral ended in a stalemate, with no ground won or lost. And the hours after the funeral, when my mind debriefed suddenly became quiet. The shock and realisation hit me that all of the other soldiers, my comrades were going on R&R tomorrow.
A few weeks after Finley was born and my life looked like a no man’s land on a misty morning. I woke up one day and suddenly I was on my own in a barren, burnt and blackened piece of land. The mist had come down and I could not see anybody. I knew they must be there because the war is over, but to find them I had to find the courage to walk out in a world that looked different. A world with different landmarks and slightly hazy, dim views. On the other side of that patch of land life is green and bright, life has carried on for other people. I am surrounded by the letters that were left, all of them saying if you need anything just ask. But the people that left those letters are long gone.
I picked up the phone but the line is burnt and they can’t hear me, my voice was shaken and I couldn’t hear. After a while I began to venture into the wasteland, always heading back because it just seemed to far to get across that No Man’s Land of my Grief.
It’s a very lonely, scary walk to find your way across that land, when you have become accustomed to being alone and in the greyness. Sometimes a friendly hand, or word in that space of time from maybe 2-6 months is when it is most needed.
As the time goes by, I am 2 and half years After Finley, the interactions have changed. The emotion is not so raw and I get a simple kind of pleasure and pride about hearing people say how Finley has stayed in their hearts, how their lives have changed, how when they heard the news they held their child, imagining what it would be like to not lose that. If one person appreciates their life more because of Finley then his life has not been wasted. He lives on through their smiles.
People are able to remember their baby, or a baby that they know in two ways through my work. They can fundraise and dedicate a cold cot in memory of their baby to a hospital. They can also donate £30 and a butterfly box will be supplied to a hospital, with a letter in explaining who it is supplied in memory of. Specific items can also be donated to us, to be included in butterfly boxes.
Everyone warns you that the first year will be hard, you pass through the first Christmas, first mother’s day, first Easter, first father’s day, first Spring, first Summer, first Autumn, first Winter, first birthday/anniversary. You almost expect that year to be tough. But as time goes on you think you have got it cracked, that it’s only those anniversary days that will hurt now.
Well grief snuck up on me again last week. My daughter is 16 months old. She was born a month after Finley’s first birthday in heaven. Generally this year has been great… Ok I know it is only 20 days into it, but believe me that’s a great start. But last week I was hit by the ten ton truck of grief again. It was Toni-Joi’s first day at nursery. We had been for a couple of visits. She was fine, apart from hitting a boy over the head with a duck when he took it out of eye sight (she likes ducks!). I was ok. But when it came to last weeks visit I had to fill in some forms. And of course the nursery has a question on the form “Do you have any other children at home”.
Well, I stopped for a good few minutes. I didn’t know what to write. The truthful answer is “no. No I don’t have any other children at home”. But my heart is never happy with that answer. So my head and heart sit having a debate about what the answer to this should be. Finally I decide to answer with tears in my eyes “No”.
Then later on there was a question about whether there is anything they need to know. I decided to write in this box that I lost a baby called Finley at full term a year before Toni-Joi was born. She knows about her brother, his photographs are around the house. I wrote that it would not be long before she mentions him. I wrote that I would like them to know his name and speak with her about him if she raises the subject or has questions.
I went home with a heavy heart thinking that they should already know Finley. He should be there too, he should be looking after and protecting his little sister.
I want to write,
Have nothing to say.
I want to sleep,
It’s the end of the day.
I want it to stop,
My mind ‘s started to fray.
All of this hurt
I can’t stand it this way.
I want to go back,
Wish I could replay.
I want time again,
I have so much to say.
I want to hold you,
Why couldn’t you stay.
My heart’s really heavy,
Let me heal, that’s all I pray.
Melanie Scott 2012
I would like to introduce Jana. Jana is our first guest blog post. Jana is an inspiration, I am often in tears reading some of the stories shared at Band Back Together. It is a safe, solid place of hope – completely reflecting those strengths from it’s creator.
“But it’s been over a year. You shouldn’t be so sad anymore.”
Is there anything harder to hear when you’ve lost a child than that? Well, probably, but not many other things.
The biggest misconception about grief is that there’s a beginning and an end to it. We all know there’s a beginning. It the “event.” It’s the miscarriage, stillbirth, sudden death of your infant. It’s the accident that takes the life of your toddler. It’s the childhood cancer that robs your child of a future.
But when does grieving end?
My answer is simply this: it doesn’t. It changes.
Eight years out from the loss of my 24 day old son, Charlie, I can tell you that grieving never ends. It only changes.
Shortly after my son died, a friend told me that grieving was like having a rock in your shoe that you can’t remove.
At first, that rock cuts you and makes your foot bleed. It hurts with every step you take. After a while, you figure out how to wiggle the rock into the side of your shoe so it doesn’t cut you and hurt with every single step.
Time goes by. The rock occasionally gets back under your foot and cuts you. It makes you bleed and hurts like crazy. But then you wiggle it away faster and it’s less painful again.
Grief is like that rock. It’s never going away. You simply learn to live with it and walk tall in your daily life, honoring and remembering your child.
By honoring and remembering your child, you are loving them. Yes, I think grieving equals loving.
Some may say that my talking about Charlie and being sad that he’s not here is unhealthy and that I’ve been grieving too long. Eight years is too long? I know a few women who are over 70 who still tear up when their child who died is mentioned.
Talking about Charlie and continuing to allow myself to be sad at times is an extension of my LOVE for him.
I love my living child with all my being and I love my angel baby with all my being. If he were here, I would do things because of him. Even though he’s not here, I still do those things. Each time I find myself doing something because of him or talking about him, I find myself falling more in love with him. I’m sad. But it’s a feeling of love.
By holding the hand of a newly grieving mother, I’m loving Charlie.
When I reach out to someone on Twitter who has just experienced a miscarriage or loss, I do it because I am honoring Charlie and remembering him.
When I ask pregnant women if they’ve been tested for Group B Strep (it’s standard protocol in the US to test between 35-37 weeks). I do this because I would do anything to keep someone else from having to love their child without being able to hold them in their arms.
The outreach I do with Band Back Together, I do in memory of Charlie. I do it because I love him and I love to help others.
It’s my hope that as the length of time grows from the last touch of your child’s hand to the present, your love for him or her can grow. Grief is rough. It’s hard and tough to get through.
But if you remember that by grieving your child, you’re loving them, maybe it’ll be a little bit easier.
Sometimes a person touches your heart and you know that you will never forget them. Sometimes that person is tiny and has never taken a breath on this earth. This week the person that has been on my thoughts most often is a little angel called Ollie Biriya (meaning rainbow). With the controversy caused by Michelle and Jim Duggar choosing to take photographs of their miscarried baby Jubilee, I have been thinking about Ollie Biriya even more.
I hope one day to interview his Mummy and Daddy to share their full story, they are really quite remarkable people. But until that day comes I will settle with telling you about Ollie. Ollie is his Mummy and Daddy’s twelfth baby. Sadly only one of their children’s feet made it to walk on this earth. Ruby is now a beautiful 4 year old. I met Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy after Finley was buried, although my husband and Ollie’s Daddy worked together at the time. We found out that Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy had sadly lost their miracle babies Cameron and Carter at 21 weeks, when they were found to have Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. They had surgery but sadly did not survive. At this point Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy had lost 6 babies before them so it was devastating for the pregnancy to progress so far and develop problems. Cameron and Carter were cremated and settled into their bed a few along from Finley. Cameron and Carter were the first tiny angels pictures that I had seen. I remember every time I saw their photo, just looking at how beautiful they were as they cuddled each other. Their picture placed next to their scan photos and their teeny tiny footprints.
Their Mum and I got pregnant at the same time with our rainbow babies, sadly she started to have some problems and I was with her when she saw Pip (who was later named Charlie). There was no heartbeat. I remember asking if she could have a photograph of her tiny baby in her tummy and she chose to have a d&c. I was with her when she recovered from this and she chose to have Charlie buried with Cameron and Carter.
I was so excited to hear that she was pregnant again with Ollie, and really thought that this time it had to be ok. Losing 10 babies is simply unimaginable. To find the strength to try again, amazing. Surely it would be rewarded by whichever power controls these things. It looked like it would be ok, when a scan at 11 weeks revealed a healthy happy baby. But sadly disaster struck again with a scan at 13.4 weeks showing that Ollie’s heart had stopped.
I had just heard about an organisation called Upon Butterfly Wings, so had contacted them to see if they could help. They sent a beautiful package
In it was a tiny blanket, three angel’s pockets, a tiny little teddy bear, and a knitted moses basket. So I went to see Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy in hospital arriving just after he was born. The nurse checked with my friend that it was ok for me to go in, she came out to see me and said that Ollie was still with his parents. She asked me if I wanted her to take him out while I saw my friend. For the briefest of seconds I stopped in my tracks. I stopped, the nurse probably thought it was fear. Maybe it was, but not of Ollie, I was scared of breaking down. I was scared of making it worse for his broken hearted parents, but most of all I was scared to see another angel baby. The last angel baby I had seen was Finley, and I would have thought that I never wanted to see another angel baby again, as I know it would bring it all back. That lasted the smallest amount of time, before my brain was counter arguing with thoughts that I had brought Ollie presents, that I know how much it means for people to meet your baby and acknowledge he exists. So I went to meet Ollie.
And I immediately commented (probably in a very surprised voice) “he is just so perfect”. At that the tears did come to my eyes. I don’t understand and will never understand how something so perfect can just be taken away in an instant. And Ollie was perfect. I had not expected him to be complete. He was bigger than I expected. He had fingers and toes, hands and feet, elbows and knees. He had a beautiful face, with a tiny little nose. You could even see that Ollie Biriya was a boy.
I gave his parcel to his Mum to open, knowing how much it would mean to her. She had once told me that she felt so guilty that Cameron and Carter, Ollie’s brothers only had a blanket to be wrapped in as they were too tiny for clothes. Little Ollie had a choice of items to rest in. He was photographed in the little moses basket, tucked under the tiny blanket, his head resting gently on the tiny pillow with his teddy bear next to him. His Mummy chose a little green angel’s pocket for him.
She asked me would I like to hold him. Only someone who has lost a baby would be able to understand how amazing this was. The moments that you get with your baby are so precious, the fear that you have of people judging you or your child so deep, I was honoured to hold him. I held Ollie in my hands and for a really long time just looked at him with tears in my eyes. I was just struck to silence by how beautiful and tiny he was.
I watched in silence as Ollie’s parents said goodbye to him, and the nurse came to collect him. Ollie’s parents have photographs of those few moments in that hospital room. I am glad that they do.
I said my final goodbye’s to Ollie on a cold blustery day. I offered to take some photographs at the funeral. I hoped that by capturing Ollie’s family honouring him, it would help me to learn how important it is to acknowledge all babies with dignity and respect. This is something that we did not get the chance to do when we lost our first baby at 8 weeks, and something I have regretted since.
My friend has offered for me to share some of these photographs. I do so with the greatest of pride and admiration for her, and her husband. She carries the weight of a thousand lifetime with her every day. She has had to bear more sadness than many of us can imagine and yet she gets up every day for her little girl, her blessing. Goodbye Ollie Biriya …