FINDING HAPPINESS AGAIN

EMOTIONAL, LOVE & MARRIAGE, MENTAL HEALTH, MOTHERHOOD, PREGNANCY, BIRTH & BABY'S, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

**Trigger warning this post is about baby loss.** 

The 5th of May marked International Bereaved Mother day, so it felt like a poignant time to share this list from Sarah Tobin, who I have had the pleasure of following for some time on social media. I first came across Sarah as she was in the depth of heartbreak having lost her precious daughter Alice. Since then Sarah has gone on to have two sons/little brothers to Alice and also discovering tapping therapy as an incredible tool to cope with anxiety and stress, which has been fundamental in helping her find happiness.

In some ways I still can’t believe that we’ve lost our daughter, our first child, so longed for, and now have a family of two boys. It’s a dream and it’s a reality all at the same time. It’s our story and a story I’m proud to share.

November 2014 I gave birth to Alice in hospital, after a stint in the birthing pool, she was in distress and the midwife didn’t notice. Finally she did notice and Alice was born floppy and lifeless, put on ventilation, wheeled over to me for 3 seconds so I could see her and then whisked upstairs to NICU. It took me until the next day to realise the gravity of the situation. High on birth hormones and hope I really thought everything would be ok. I’d not seen the drama unfold the way my husband had. He nearly fainted.

Very long story short, we had 5 days with her, sleeping in the hospital and walking upstairs (waddling at first with my catheter – as I’d had surgery to repair my episiotomy) to see her whenever we had the strength to. Leaving her alone was so hard, but staying there all day was equally as hard, the trauma of it all was sometimes too much. She was the largest baby in the unit, at full term, surrounded by tiny little pink things waving their hands in the air in time with the cacophony of beeps.

An MRI was taken on day 3, which only one Doctor in the country could interpret (female doctor I might add!).  In a way we were hoping for the news she gave us. There was no hope, no prognosis, no alternative. It made our decision easier. We withdrew life support on day 5 and went to a private room with a double bed and ensuite with her to wait for her to die. The nurse popped in every now and again, we upped morphine, but Alice was a stubborn wee thing and it took her a while to pass on. Nothing on earth ever prepared me for that, what has to be the hardest moment of my life. In the end I was willing her to pass, I was calling in all sorts of angels and loved ones to come and ease her transition.

I know now that I am a strong person. I think we all are, but some of us are unlucky enough to find out how strong we really are.

Here’s how I found happiness and love again after her transition…

  • We surrounded ourselves with our close family unit who provided unwavering support almost immediately and were with us those five days (and beyond), we are forever grateful

  • We organised a funeral and over 100 people came, with about 20 from Ireland (and two heavily pregnant) making us feel so loved

  • We started fundraising instead of receiving flowers and by the funeral day itself we’d raised £3,000, and we’ve since gone on to raise £11,400 for Rocking Horse charity who support the amazing NICU who looked after her. Raising money initially took our minds off the bad and focus on some good. It makes us so proud to have raised so much and feel that it gives Alice a wonderful legacy. Money came in from all over the world – she’s touched the lives of many and reminds them to have gratitude and love for life and loved ones.

  • We (hubby and I) found strength in each other from the moment things went bad. We had a motto in the hospital ‘stronger together’ and said it over and over to each other. We went into a little bubble with each other – an invisible cave that helped us get through each day.

  • We went to Thailand! (I can’t recommend this enough). Even in the hospital on maybe day 3 we decided to use the money I’d saved for mat leave and go find some sun, solace, rest and recovery. It was like a light at the end of the tunnel that kept us going. A reward for the sh*t we were going through. It did what it said on the tin, it was wonderful. Although a few Thai masseuses kept asking me was I pregnant! Doh!

  • I started to write. On the beach in Thailand I got a notebook and just started to write. When I got home I turned it into a blog and it was so cathartic. I never thought I could write, but I write from the heart and it seems to resonate – and I got messages from all over the world asking for advice and support in their journey. It helped me to help others.

  • I got a TATTOO!!  A tiny one on my finger of a bird to remind me of Alice, it FRICKIN hurt like hell 😉

  • I drank every day! Yup, pretty much for 2-3 months solid I would have a few glasses of wine every evening. I was numbing the pain absolutely.  I enjoyed it! After a while I thought I really can’t do this forever!

  • We survived (barely) our first Christmas, which was just one month after losing Alice, to the day. It was absolute torture – I wanted to sit in bed with a bottle of vodka but probably best I didn’t. I tried to play Christmas games and just get through the day.  It is just one day.

  • I stayed in bed all day once. I didn’t get dressed or washed. I brought food to bed. I watched movies on my laptop. The next day I thought I could stay in bed again or I could just get up and choose to find my feet, to find my new normal, to move forward with my life. I chose to move forward.

  • I worked on my photography logo and website every day and it gave me a great focus and creative outlet. I had something to do each day. I also cooked. I didn’t lose any weight, I think my body thought I was still pregnant!

  • I had Reiki, Acupuncture, Skype healing with some healers in Bulgaria (yep I tried everything) and around the three month mark the every day pain in my heart started to heal and gradually vanished. I worked with the healers to release Alice, I was actually holding on to her too tightly and needed to let her go. I agreed and felt so much lighter after I did that.

  • I decided to go back to work after 3-4 months on a very slow phased return, which was fantastic. I could have taken my whole maternity leave but by this point I figured I had to find my ‘new normal’ again some time so why not start now.

  • I turned my attention to building my photography side hustle, to making our home look nice, to nice weekends away, to following amazing kids clothing brands, to connecting with my family back in Ireland and visiting our friends in the UK, and we enjoyed spending time with our friends kids – it confirmed to us that we wanted to try again.

  • I received so much support on the auld Instagram, from people all over the world. That did and still means so much to me. It helped me a LOT.

  • Hurrah! We got pregnant again. The relief was unreal. I felt very lucky. It felt like we could move again on our journey, where we had been stationary for a while. With the joy came the fear, and more anxiety and by this point I was having severe PTSD symptoms but didn’t realise it at the time. In fact I only realised this a few months ago.

  • Few months into pregnancy and I was feeling yuck and fainting and getting anxious and I knew I needed to do something and my sister recommended I tried EFT / Emotional Freedom Technique / Tapping. I was literally willing to try anything so I found a lovely local practitioner and worked with her by having 4 sessions before Casper’s birth and one session afterwards. To say those sessions were life changing is an understatement.

  • Having had those sessions I was starting to enjoy my pregnancy towards the end and also did some (mental) work to prepare for my elected C Section.

  • 7 days before Casper came it was Alice’s first birthday. We decided to spend the day by ourselves and we started a tradition where we write messages to her on stones and then throw them into the sea beside where we live. We’ve done it every year since and the past two years we have seen the addition of little hands with our stones and Casper picked the biggest stone he could find for her this year.

  • We had our baby boy Casper! Yay. A planned C Section that went well and we had lovely skin to skin etc. My recovery wasn’t great to be honest. It kinda sucked. I felt more vulnerable than I’d ever felt and really struggled those first few weeks. Only now can I actually see that having had my second son.

  • Bringing Casper home was a trigger for me. I never got to do that with Alice. I had to do an emergency skype tapping session with my practitioner to help me through that and breastfeeding issues I was having too. I found connecting and bonding with Casper a little difficult but we got there, I adore him, he’s so confident and happy and just wants to make us laugh! There’s some good healing right there.

  • I started a business!! With my sister, back in Ireland, we created Young Hearts an online clothing company selling independent and mostly organic stuff. It was amazing. I loved every second of building our company and our website. Casper would nap and I would get the laptop out and build our little empire. It was a BIG distraction and one I needed at the time. It was so nice to keep my brain ticking over and felt so fulfilled and proud to launch something we’d worked so hard on.

  • We travel! We went on lots of family holidays and sun really soothes our souls. Our boys are water and beach babes and are happiest in the sunshine on the beach, just like us

  • I talked about Alice. We made new friends where we live after Casper was born and so I got to talk about our girl. By talking about her I connect with her and feel her legacy continues.

  • We pursued a case against the hospital she was born in, siting 7 counts of negligence to try and ensure what happened to us would not happen again.  The process although long (3.5 years long) was healing as we consulted lots of different experts about our care, about Alice’s trace, about what happened to her and got answers we didn’t get from the hospital. Some of those answers were hard to hear. The big one being; if she had been born 10 minutes earlier she would have survived in tact without damage. However, we received a formal apology, which was surprisingly very healing to me. They have also since changed and improved processes and have a speak-up policy so anyone and everyone can raise concerns without fear of judgement or repercussion. I’m glad we took this further. We were doing it for all those people who couldn’t, and for those who have difficult births with negligent elements but their baby comes home ok. We did it for those bad birth experiences too.

  • I had a channelled writing session with a healer who turned into an incredible friend and Crystal/Sound/Energy healer extraordinaire. She, without knowing my story, channelled a message from Alice to me. My grandmother showed up too, the both of them are spending time together in another world. It gave me soooo much comfort and it was the start of my journey connecting to Alice in my dreams/meditation state. I feel her presence constantly and many of my family & friends do too. It is such a comfort to me to have found her. I know she is always with me, petitioning heaven for my wishes and looking after us all (particularly the boys).  This helped me find more peace and more joy.

  • We got pregnant again!!! So, last baby, our complete family; this was such a welcome for us and our whole family I think. Being honest early pregnancy I was convinced we were having a girl. I probably got my hopes up and went into that 20 week scan expecting to be told a girl. Then the balls & little willy were right there in our face – no doubt it was a boy! Oh gosh I felt so much emotion, I was sad that we weren’t ever going to have a girl, I was disappointed. I cried. It didn’t last for long, and I felt guilty afterwards for that reaction. I reconciled and apologised to little baby boy as soon as I could and I don’t feel guilty for my reaction any more. I think it was natural.

  • Very soon afterwards I was thrilled we were having another boy. I knew Casper would be over the moon with a brother to wrestle and play with, and I have a sister I am extremely close to I can only imagine the fun and hijinks they are going to get up to in the future.

  • I had a really good pregnancy. I practiced hypnobirthing with THE YES MUM, meditation, some yoga and Tapping of course. I went back to my practitioner (Kate) as I had an inkling that I’d like to try and have a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). There is no way I could have had a natural labour for Casper but this time around I felt different and keen to try. I did work to prepare for the birth and visualised it with Kate and took Josh through it so he knew what would happen and what to do. Honestly everything I planned for his birth came through. It was the most empowering and healing moment of my life. Finally I had the birth I’d always wanted. I felt like superwoman for facing my fears and doing what I had wanted to do. Josh came out (all 9.4oz of him) so calm and peaceful – he didn’t make a sound for hours. He’s still a calm and happy baby now.

  • In the build up to Joshs’ birth I had also decided that I was going to train in Tapping. I earmarked June (so 5.5 months after he was born) to do a 5 day training course, and then in September I did a specific Birth Matrix Reimprinting course to specifically help women with birth trauma, including their own birth as our own traumatic births can have a big impact on our negative & limiting beliefs.

  • Deciding to take our experience of loss and recover, and learn how to help others in similar and different situations feels very empowering and healing.  That has also helped me find happiness because I know I am going to spend my future years helping as many women as I physically can to clear the traumas and pain of the past so we can all look forward to a happier future.

  • I am continually working on myself as there is still plenty for me to do. But it is not hard, it is interesting, revelatory, exciting and releasing. I am becoming a better person because of all of this and actually in some weird way I think I am happier now (deep down at my core) than I was before Alice came into our lives.  I am proud of myself for how I’ve coped and look forward to a continued happy future with my gorgeous boys (hubby included!!) all while connected by my daughter, by my side.

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