A Christmas letter to military wives – Jules G

Here’s a moving post from Jules, who has written about being a military wife at Christmas. I’ll let her explain.

Jules blogs at www.thegigglesfamily.com

As a military wife myself, I decided to write this open letter this year. I’m sure there will be lots of thoughts published for our soldiers, and I don’t for one second think they have easier. Far from it, but I thought wives and girlfriends deserved a little something too:

giggles family to doTo the Wives and Girlfriends missing their Soldier this Christmas,

It’s sh*t. It’s completely, utterly, gut wrentchingly, pit of your stomach crappy. I can’t change that with this letter but I can say THANK YOU.

Thank you for supporting him. For holding back that lump in your throat when he calls so he doesn’t worry about you; sending the care packages to him with extra tears included; calling his grandma every week to check she’s ok and pass on messages; loving his child but craving just ten minutes to yourself; managing ok all day until you find his sock in the washing 3 months into tour; feeling emotional whenever you see couples holding hands on your sad days; going through the loneliness of trying to get to know a totally new community at his new posting; trying to find a Christmas present that can fit in a care package; and missing him at night, literally feeling the hole in your chest.

For waking up on Christmas morning with his side of the bed empty, knowing you won’t get what you’d really like for Christmas.

T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U

Because you’ve supported not just him, but his colleagues by keeping him stable. His commander by helping him concentrate on his job. The country for supporting him while he does his part of trying to keep the country safe.

You’re strong and brave too. Yes in a different way, but a hard way. Trying to be a swan on the surface whilst paddling furiously underneath the water as they say.

Thank you. I hope he’s home soon, well and with the yummiest cuddle ever.

Follow Jules on Twitter @TheGigglesBlog

Stillbirth. My story, my son Louis – Claire Copland

Claire pic 1In recognition of Baby Loss Awareness Week, it is an absolute privilege to be able to share Claire’s story. Claire is mum to two beautiful little girls, 7 year old Amelia and Poppy, 2, who she describes as her world. She helps her lovely husband run his advertising business and strives to be happy, as most of us do, but Claire hasn’t always been happy.

Claire says, “I know what it’s like when life kicks you down. You feel alone. My first child, Louis, was stillborn at 41 weeks in September 2002. He was an apparently healthy baby who was fine one moment, and then gone the next. Words fail to describe the pain of losing him. I have been lucky to go on to build a happy life, full of the joy my family give me but it hasn’t been an easy road. 

We are a family full of all the normal issues, fun, fears, good times and bad times; but most of all we are a family full of love.”

This is Louis’ story.

Claire blogs at www.joyandpops.com

It recently occurred to me that in the 12 years since I lost my son Louis, I have never told our story from start to finish. Always the abridged version to fit the audience, just the details that I think they will be able to understand or even want to hear.

So here it is, from the top.

I found myself pregnant at 20 years old. Despite not being the previously maternal type, I was thrilled. I was in a fairly new relationship with ‘A’ (for the sake of his privacy) but we were crazy in love – that specific young crazy love where you think everything is going to be fine. I made plans to defer university until the following year, we moved to a new city, got a beautiful puppy called Molly and rented a house. We set about becoming a family, rose-tinted glasses firmly in place.

I think about that couple sometimes, just starting out in the world. We may have been naive/crazy but we really loved each other and we were happy.

We were also extremely poor. Our families, initially not overly pleased with our news, rallied to help us with baby essentials. We decorated the nursery with a nautical theme using donated half-empty tins of paint. ‘A’ spent days decorating the room and painting an old chest of drawers. It was late summer; I can still remember the smell of autumn appearing in the air and David Gray’s song ‘Babylon’ was the soundtrack as he worked. The first signs of autumn (and that song) still remind me of that time – it was filled with happy anticipation.

It was apparent that we were having a rather large baby. In fairness, I was absolutely huge. I know everyone says that but I really was. I went from 8st 7lbs to 13st 11lbs – totally massive. I had sciatica and could barely move. My due date came and went, not unusual of course. I had an appointment to discuss induction scheduled for 9 days overdue at the hospital.

As he walked, I shuffled, along the river that weekend – with Molly bounding around us – we talked about how our son would be born the following week. “One way or another” I said, which seems so prophetic now. Again, I think about that young couple and I feel so sad for them.

The morning of my appointment I was sitting on the bed when ‘A’ walked into the room. I blurted out that the baby wasn’t moving. I had tried lying down, poking my tummy and downed a large glass of cold water. Nothing. ‘A’ told me not to worry and reminded me that everyone keeps telling us that he’s so big he’s got no room to move, and we’re on our way to hospital anyway. We were going to the right place after all.

At the hospital we sat in the waiting room, ‘A’ chatting away, genuinely not worried, but I felt cold and clammy with a fear I just couldn’t articulate. When we were called into the consultant’s room, I told them I couldn’t feel the baby move so they got me on the bed and listened for his heartbeat.

I now know what deafening silence sounds like. Silence so loud I can still hear it now.

Pooh-bear-stillbirth-quoteReassuring words and a scan arranged in the next room, only to confirm what everyone already knew. A lady saying sympathetically how sorry she was and leaving the room to get the midwife. I tried to stand up but my legs failed and I’m in ‘A’s arms on the floor screaming. I know I’m screaming but I can’t hear my own voice.

We are taken from the scan room to another smaller room. ‘A’ starts calling our families. Everything is such a blur but when I look back I think how hard those calls must have been for him to make. My Dad was visiting from abroad and had been due to have lunch with us, he was on his way to our house when he got the call and came straight to the hospital. He walked in the room and I collapsed on him in grief.

I never knew you could genuinely collapse in grief until that day.

The only saving grace that day was that I was already in labour, so no induction or waiting. Things actually moved quite quickly and I was taken to the SANDS room (a special room donated by the charity SANDS). When labour became more intense I was taken through to the delivery suite. I went to the bathroom on the way and stayed in that tiny room for so long they threatened to break in! I was hiding from myself, in pain on the floor. I knew once I left that room I was going to have to deal with what was happening – obviously it was all happening anyway but hiding in that little room felt like the better option.

I did eventually come out and labour progressed. My mum had been away on a course but rushed back to arrive in the evening. I had an epidural just before she arrived so was a bit more comfortable but when I saw her I broke down; I told her I couldn’t survive it – I knew I didn’t mean the labour.

It was just ‘A’, me and two very kind midwives for the delivery. I wouldn’t push, I didn’t want him to be born. I wanted him to stay inside until someone told me it had all been a mistake. I knew once he was born it would all be true and the real hell would start.

Louis was born into silence. He was silent, we were silent. Everyone was crying – even the midwives – but after the brutality of giving birth, there was not a sound to be heard.

They brought him back cleaned, wrapped in a blanket and lying in a Moses basket. He was wearing a little blue knitted hat and holding a bunny. He had lots of black hair, chubby cheeks and podgy wrists. He was a beautiful little boy. He was big at 10lb 11oz. There was, however, no way to pretend he was just sleeping; he looked dead and that shocked me. I would have liked to pretend for just a minute.

The house was cleared of baby things (except those I wanted to keep) while I was in hospital. People brought flowers and sent cards, all of which was very kind. For a time people spoke Louis’s name and listened to me speak about him, but even the closest of friends and family moved on leaving me behind, trapped in that moment of grief.

I wish I could say in the weeks, months and years that followed I rose above this terrible situation. The truth is I sank. For a long time, I just hit the depths. My relationship with ‘A’ fell apart by Louis’s first anniversary, I was barely surviving financially and I felt out of control emotionally. At 21 years old I had lost so much, so quickly.

Claire pic 2I did rebuild my life but I was right when I told my mum I wouldn’t survive it. I didn’t. The person I am today is not the same woman who walked along the river at the end of that summer, waiting for her son to be born. I am a better person in many ways. I am stronger, but I am not the same.

Follow Claire on Twitter @JoyandPops

Read another blog post by Claire at Joy and Pops for Baby Loss Awareness Week

baby loss awareness week logo

Waiting – Sophia Thompson

love in the clouds logoSophia has recently become a mum for the first time through adoption of a little boy named Shipmate. In her first Blogs For Babies post, Sophia busted some myths about adoption for those who wanted to understand a bit more about it. Here she gives us a personal insight into the emotional time waiting to be ‘matched’ with a baby needing to be adopted.

Sophia blogs at www.loveinthecloudsblog.com

“Once we finally felt ready to adopt, after years of heartache, we went through a 2 year process to be approved. Our Adoption Agency Social Worker was lovely, making the process as understanding as she could, though it couldn’t help but feel very intrusive as it needs to be.

The post below is one I wrote during the wait between being approved as a “Prospective Adopter” and bringing our son Shipmate home.”

We had an update from our social worker today. Updates are a double edged sword. It’s a relief to have news and hear things are in the pipeline but also a reminder of the wait and that there is a birth family going through turmoil somewhere. I try to keep busy. Making my Love In The Clouds things really helps. It stops me obsessing about all the scenarios our future could hold for an hour or two. But as soon as I’ve had an update my mind goes into overdrive!

There are a few little ones that may need homes. She is keeping an eye on things in case we can be put forward as adopters for them. Everything is still uncertain though and we won’t know if we are ruled in or out for another month or so. Though rationally I know it’s not that long, it seems like forever!

Earlier this year, we got until a week prior to a little one coming home when we were told it couldn’t go ahead. Nobody’s fault, just that things can change at any time in waiting to adopt. It’s people’s lives and people are complicated. We had let our hopes get up though. We had to prepare for it going ahead so had the nursery ready, clothes, bottles, the whole shebang. It was so painful packing the room up afterwards…

somedaySince then, like I say, I’ve tried really hard to stay busy and not let my mind run away. Now that we are getting to only a month-ish away from hopefully getting some certainty about these little ones it’s getting harder. My heart is taking over. It’s forcing me to think about what it would be like if it was finally time to meet our child. I’m having to keep it in the back of my mind as I plan things in my diary and say “yes I could do that but let’s make a backup plan just in case…”

Sometimes the wait gets painful. Knowing our child could be out there waiting for us but we can’t be with them feels like my heart is being squeezed in my chest. I also think of the birth families’ pain right now and how that must be hundreds of times this.

It’s such a complex process, adoption. Through my experience of meeting birth parents in my previous work, I have never met one I didn’t feel sadness or empathy for. Not that there haven’t been times I feel frustrated with them or think there are some choices they have made that are plain wrong, whatever their background or reasons, but still the pain of losing their child has been so tangible. You can feel it in the air. I’ve held a birth mother in my arms as she wept after the court announced they felt the best interest of the child was adoption.

Even though there will be good reason for our child to need adoption by us (to protect them, or birth family’s choice) and even though we will be excited to become new parents, I still feel the sadness within the situation.

I had a weepy day this week. We went to a beautiful christening, a really joyous day. Towards the end we had photos and I suggested getting all the little ones together. They were all cutely sat on the grass when I suddenly had an overwhelming sadness that the baby we had been matched to earlier this year wasn’t there. I had to run off to the bathroom for a little cry then put a brave face on. Mr Thompson noticed and gave me a hug without needing to ask. Sometimes I think he’s secretly psychic! I am seriously lucky to have such an understanding husband

That feeling lasted all day with me though. That gaping ache in my heart.

Adoption comes with feelings of loss all around. The painful loss of a birth family no longer caring for the child. The loss for the child of birth family, foster carers and all that is familiar (even if the familiar wasn’t good for them) and loss for us of every child we put ourselves forward for.

I just keep saying to myself it will be worth it in the end. That when we are matched with our little soul mate we will look back and say we are glad that happened as we wouldn’t be this exact family otherwise. I hope so. Sometimes hope is all you feel you have when you’re waiting. I’ll cling onto that though.

We need to be strong and ready “just in case”…

Follow Sophia on Twitter @LoveCloudDesign

20 myths about adoption busted – Sophia Thompson

love in the clouds logoI’m so thrilled to introduce Sophia – our first blogger who is a new mum through adoption. I must admit to knowing very little about the whole adoption process, and this first post by Sophia has really opened my eyes to this whole other route to becoming a parent.

If you have any queries about adoption that you would like Sophia to try and answer for you, please comment below.

Sophia blogs at www.loveinthecloudsblog.com

I’m really excited to be the first mum on Blogs for Babies through adoption!

Adoption is a crazy journey and something I find people are really curious about. There is so much in the media or through hearsay that isn’t true so hopefully today I can shed some light on it. Let’s start with busting 20 myths of adoption:

MYTH#1: You get to choose a baby

BUSTED: It’s not like shopping. Anyone who views hearing about children in need in that way really shouldn’t be adopting! Through the lengthy assessment process you explore with your social worker the kind of child as a family that you could cope with, what could make you uncomfortable or affect your attachment with a child, and where your skills and personalities lie. It’s to ensure that once a child is adopted it really will last forever, that long terms needs have really been considered. The social workers discuss profiles of families and children to ensure a “match” is made that will last. For many adopters this means expressing an interest in a child only to be told a large number of adopters are being considered and waiting, hoping for weeks before you know if you’re ruled in or out. It’s not easy.

There are websites where approved adopters can view profiles of children waiting, but it’s not an easy surf. To see all those children in need of a family and read harrowing stories is heart breaking. Whenever we looked on them I felt awful afterwards, however it is a necessity to ensure that matches can be made as quickly as possible for the child.

MYTH#2: You have to pay lots of fees

BUSTED: In America private adoptions can costs tens of thousands. I think this is where this myth in the UK has come from. In the UK, adopting a child through the state, domestically, does not cost anything. The local authority pays for the preparation, training and home assessment. The only charge is when applying to court to formally adopt, which currently is about £170.

Adopting from overseas can be expensive. The adoption agency may charge a fee. There are also the visits to their country to consider, which may be more than once. It can still be well worth it, but is something to think about when considering your options.

MYTH#3: Adopters are always needed so you would have a child straight away

BUSTED: Since the huge, and much needed, campaigns to attract new prospective adopters in many local authorities the wait has actually increased. This doesn’t mean all children have been adopted though. It just means there are a lot more adopters waiting too, but your wait can depend also on what child you are happy to adopt. If you feel you could cope with a child with very high needs, there are sadly many children in need of you. Please contact your local agency!

To give you an example, from the time we attended the adoption information session to when we brought Shipmate (nickname for our son) home took nearly 2 years. That included a delay due to availability of a social worker to take on our case. From what I hear that’s pretty quick, however I also know people for whom it took under a year in their county. It’s worth asking about current waiting times for the assessment when you make an enquiry. That way you can be realistic in your expectations. It’s painful getting your hopes up, i.e. by Christmas we could be a family, only to have to undergo that event still waiting.

MYTH#4: Single people, Gay/Bi/Lesbian people, people with any difficult history, disability or that have ever had depression can’t adopt

BUSTED: Noooo! All applicants for adoption should be treated equally. The most important thing is that you have a loving and stable home. The home assessment covers your relationships, whether you are single, gay or heterosexual makes no difference. It’s about who will be in the child’s life and whether that is a good thing for them. You will also be asked to undertake a health assessment with your GP. If you have had medical problems, the severity, whether this could affect the ability to parent, and whether you have accepted help (especially in depression) will be considered. It is a strength to have known when to seek help. Everyone goes through difficult periods in the life. You are not expected to be perfect.

MYTH#5: You can’t adopt if you live in a flat and must own a house

BUSTED: You can live in the flat, you can be renting. It’s about whether your home is safe and suitable to bring up a child. Just because you don’t have a garden doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use local parks for outdoor time. You will however need a bedroom for the child.

MYTH#6: Once you adopt you’ll relax and get pregnant

BUSTED: This is said so often. Adoption isn’t a relaxing experience. Being a parent generally often isn’t! It’s busy, there is always something to do and kids are demanding. If this was true for any parent, when they are ready for their second child it would just happen! It should also be born in mind that for some (not all) adoptive parents, they may have been through infertility issues. Saying to them they will “just get pregnant” could actually be pretty hurtful.

MYTH#7: Adoption is a second choice

BUSTED: For many people adoption was their first parenting choice. I for one would never look back wishing I’d had a birth child. Any birth child we had had wouldn’t have been Shipmate and I wouldn’t want anyone other than our Shipmate!

MYTH#8: All adopted children have been abused

BUSTED: Children come into the care system for all sorts of reasons. Yes some have been through traumatic abuse that should never have had to happen to them. For others it may have been that they were “At Risk” of abuse e.g. perhaps previous siblings had been harmed and taken into care or there are significant concerns around the safety of a birth parent or their ability to keep the child safe. Though rarer, some babies are also relinquished. My point is just not to make any assumption. You may never know why your friend’s child needed adoption. It’s a very private piece of their life.

MYTH#9: All adopted children are orphans

BUSTED: Again this is rare. Usually there is a birth family in existence for whom you need to be able to have some understanding and perhaps have letterbox or face to face contact. That you will need to explain to the child and help them to understand the situation.

MYTH#10: Adopting an older child means you miss the hard bit/sleepless nights/nappies etc.

BUSTED: For many adoptive parents this is met with sadness. They would have loved to have been a walking zombie from a sleepless night with their child as a baby, or drowning in nappies. For some children they come with other “difficult” times as they settle in with their new family and learn to trust again. It’s not necessarily harder or easier, just different.

MYTH#11: You can just adopt from abroad

BUSTED: There is the option of adopting from abroad but that’s a whole specialist subject in itself. Not something I have experience of. However I know from friends it’s also a long process, from many countries an even longer process than in the UK. You may be dealing with another language, a foreign legal system, fees and distance. Whilst obviously still very worth it, to them it’s not as easy as “just adopting from abroad”.

MYTH#12: You can’t adopt if you’re in the military

BUSTED: Yes you can! Military personnel are also entitled to Adoption Leave. You can adopt through your local authority or there is an organisation called SAFA especially for military families that provides an adoption service.

MYTH#13: Adoption means you have to live in fear of birth family finding you

BUSTED: Not all birth families pose a danger. Some try to move on the best they can from such a hard experience. Some may have agreed with the route of adoption or adoption was needed because they couldn’t care for their child due to severe learning disability for example. Where there is a danger, the adoption agency would discuss that with you and measures that could be put in place e.g. the child may be adopted out of the county or in extreme circumstances it may be advised their name is changed. Part of the agency’s job is to ensure a safe match, risk assess and provide a support plan.

MYTH#14: Birth family can claim the adopted child back

BUSTED: Once a child has been adopted it cannot be overturned. You become the legal parent of your child permanently.

MYTH#15: It’s best not to tell the child they were adopted/help them to forget about their past

BUSTED: This attitude always breaks my heart. In my opinion (and many professionals in the area) children have a right to their origins and history. Imagine finding out by accident as a teenager or adult and feeling your parents lied to you about something so so important. In the past this may have been common but many of those adoptees grew up feeling something was “different” and feeling hurt that they weren’t told the truth and choice was taken away.

There are many books and services available now to help explain adoption to a child. Their social worker provides a life story book and later life letter to explain their personal history on their level.

In our house adoption is an open subject. Children in the wider family know Shipmate was adopted and have children’s story books to begin explaining it in a child friendly way. It doesn’t need to feel shameful or secretive.

MYTH#16: You get paid loads to adopt

BUSTED: Adoption agencies don’t pay prospective adopters to adopt. Adoption Allowance is available the same as it is to biological families in the form of maternity pay. It’s not much! Some adoptive families may receive a top up from their adoption agency, but this would be for extra support such as towards medical needs.

MYTH#17: You can’t adopt over age 40

BUSTED: You must be over 21 years old but there is no upper age limit in law as far as I am aware. The adoption agency would discuss with you your particular circumstances.

MYTH#18: You can’t adopt if you already have birth children

BUSTED: Not at all. Many adopters have previous birth or adopted children. The current child/ren’s needs would be considered to help them understand what adoption means and how things will change. Some children may need a home with no other children due to their experience or needs but there are many who would love brothers and sisters.

MYTH#19: You can’t adopt if you have ever been in trouble with the police

BUSTED: Obviously if you have any convictions against children you won’t be suitable to adopt. However other convictions would be considered by the adoption agency on a case by case basis. If you were caught shoplifting a nail varnish as a dare as a teenager it’s unlikely that’s going to affect whether you would be a good parent now!

MYTH#20: You can’t love an adopted child as much as a birth child

BUSTED: I don’t have experience of a birth child however every day I think I can’t love this little guy any more than I do then the next day it surprises me that I do! I am told by biological parents it is just the same for them. For some the feeling is immediate, for some it takes time to grow (just as it can for a biological parent). The love between a mother and child is special and personal however it is formed and not something that I feel should be compared whether it’s between adoptive and biological parent or between biological to biological parent. It’s too individual. Love occurs in many circumstances and different types of relationships around the world. There is no way of measuring it. I think we should just value it however it turns up 😉

 

I hope that has made sense for you. If not please leave a comment below and I’ll try to help along with any questions you may have that I haven’t answered. In my next post I’ll tell you how our story started. It’s been a long and at times overwhelming journey, but oh so worth it.

Sophia

Follow Sophia on Twitter @loveclouddesign

What a difference a year and a half makes – Grace Hall

grace hall picGrace is a 23 year old, stay-at-home mum from Bedfordshire who loves to bake wacky cakes and make beautiful baby items for her children. She loves cloth nappies and is pushchair crazy. She also had a tough time of conceiving her baby daughter Emilia. Her story highlights the strains that trying to conceive can put on even the strongest of relationships.

Grace blogs at mumwithanopinion.com

One day 3 years ago we were sat there just casually watching television when my partner (42) said ‘why don’t we have another baby?’ Now I was shocked! He has 3 children the mothers don’t allow him to see, his eldest now 16 and my little boy now 4. He was always saying he was getting old and can’t keep running around, but sure, I wanted a little girl to complete my own little family.

So we set off trying; I’d previously been on the Depro injection but that hadn’t been a problem with conceiving my son. We used an ovulation calendar, so I knew when the best moments were for a greater chance of conceiving and got to it whenever necessary, but things weren’t happening. With my son it took 3 weeks and we were pregnant, but 6 months down the line we still didn’t have a baby. I’d been to my doctors, who told me the injection could take up to a year to clear my system and I feared another baby might not be for us.

With every friend that got pregnant my jealousy grew; our relationship wasn’t going very well either with the stress of trying too much and having specific times we could and couldn’t. A year had passed and I had done research, a lot of research! I had come across this drug called Clomid that doctors gave to patients trying to conceive but having difficulties; normally they only give around 3-4 doses before other methods are looked into and other possible difficulties.

So I went to my doctors and explained my frustration and how much it was affecting our relationship trying to conceive. She told me she’d contact the hospital who tend to deal with the drug process and that I’d have to go for blood tests and fertility screening. It had rather scared me that I had to go through this and I did start to wonder what had or hadn’t I done to prevent getting pregnant. Me and my partner spoke it through and we decided this would be our last attempt before finally giving up.

However the day before we were due to attend our Clomid appointment, my partner finally came clean and said he had worries about our relationship and the stress had got to him, and he no longer wanted to go through with it or the baby. My. Heart. Sank. I had wanted this for so long but maybe had pushed the limits too far and hadn’t realised my relationship had been affected because of it.

So for months in the back of my mind sat this feeling – every time I saw a new baby I thought that could have been us, we could have had our little bundle by now. I hadn’t spoken of the subject since my partner said he didn’t want another, but I started to think ‘he’s just turned 40, we need to have one now or never’.

I sat him down and explained I was sorry last time hadn’t gone well and the pressure had been too forceful, and at the end of the conversation, he simply got up and said OK. OK he was fine with it; he didn’t feel we needed another one but if it’s what I really wanted and felt strongly about he would be prepared to do so, but on the understanding we tried on our own, no pressure from doctors or ovulation charts.

So it was back to trying hard and secretly I still had my ovulation charts as I couldn’t seem to shake the want for a little girl. After another 4 months we still were struggling and by now had left it to pot until…

One night out for our friend’s fancy dress party – and 4 weeks later, I was sat there staring as the faintest blue line stared back at me from a stick; far, far too early in the morning, a couple of days before my partner’s birthday. I was in complete shock and almost felt to cry out in sheer joy. I bounded the stairs and came down with two sticks of pure joy as an early present, of which he said ‘what does that mean?’ LOL – men, they haven’t a clue.

20 weeks and 2 scans later revealed I had indeed, after nearly 2 years of trying, got myself that little pink one I had stressed and cried about for so long. She weighed 6lbs 2oz and came with a dramatic 9 minutes to spare before her cousin’s birthday, taking just under 12 hours to make her appearance.

I will say I feel I’m the luckiest mummy. Sheer desperation, lots of tears, a near break up and so much bedroom talk, but see it was worth it all. I felt like I’d never see the day but the trick is: Never. Give. Up.

Follow Grace on Twitter @tinkerbella3456