by: Oscar Wilde
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.
Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.
Florence's headstone was laid on Friday.
This poem was going round and round in my head after Florence died, so we chose a passage from it for her stone.
I feel peace that it's now laid, and I'm happy with the simplicity of it.
Sometimes I find myself at the cemetery feeling all sorts of emotions. Yesterday I was grinning so hard when I saw the grave next door but one to Florence. The grave is of an older gentleman, obviously much loved by a large family. His plot is always very decorated. Yesterday his family had decorated his whole plot with fake snow, a large decorated Christmas tree, and even snowmen!
We have been considering a small conifer with solar powered fairy lights for Florence, but nothing so elaborate. It was a bit tacky I guess, but lovely to see he was so loved, and certainly made me smile.
(PS if you are looking for the results of the giveaway scroll down to the next post)
Thank you so much for all your comments,I really wish I had a doll for each of you.Infact I'm so moved by each of your comments, I'm going to offer three runners up gifts of little heart decorations. These go to:
no 2 Klarsen
no 1 CatherineW
no 10 Karen
If you could all send me your addresses to jeanette dot archer at gmail dot com I'll get your gifts off in the post asap.
(All prizes were chosen randomly by random.org)
OH yes! And head on over to Karen at Busy hands for Day Three of the 25 days of giveaways.
It's day two of the 25 Days Of Giveaways!
Tina gave away a beautiful necklace yesterday, and today it's my turn.
Maisie is all ready to come and live with a babylost family.
Maisie is sister to Madeleine, they are almost identical twins.
Madeleine is staying here with us to watch over our family through our first Christmas without our darling Florence, and Maisie wants to come and watch over another family who needs her to help them through this Christmas.
Maisie is approx 35cm/14" tall, and would be happy either sitting on top of your Christmas tree or on a mantel shelf, wherever you'd like to put her.
Maisie is not a toy, she's for decorative purposes only, as she has small parts that are not suitable for children.
This giveaway is open to all babylost families across the globe. I will pick a winner(using random.org) early tomorrow morning,to give our American friends a chance to enter.
Just leave a comment and let me know how you are coping with the Christmas shopping? Are you like me, shopping online,wrapping and hiding before I have a chance to even think about what I'm doing? Or do you have a different approach?
I've made a start on some supplies for my local hospital's bereavement suite.
This stack of the softest flannel blankets is just the beginning, I hope.
There are five 22" square blankets and five 17" square blankets. Each one is two layers of the softest killington flannel with a sweet appliqued heart in the corner. I truly hope that these blankets give bereaved parents even a tiny bit of comfort in the darkest moments of their lives. I made each one with love.
To all my American friends.
I took some slightly better pics of Madeleine and Maisie this morning.
Don't forget Day 1 of the 25 days of giveaways starts tomorrow over at Tina's blog, and Day 2 is right here on Saturday.
Maisie wants to come and watch over a babylost family, and that could be you.
She's got her best butterfly hairslide in, and is waiting patiently for her journey.
(And yeah, I'm having far too much fun playing with these girls!)
Introducing Madeleine and Maisie. These pretty Yule Tide Fairies are responsible for keeping me sane these past few days...or rather the making of them is.
Florence would have been four months old on Sunday, and I've had a few dark anxious and tearful days where I've struggled just to get through the daily chores.
Working on these little dolls has given me a focus.
I had been so looking forward to making Christmas gifts for our baby, I'd even tucked away some special fabrics and trimmings with gifts in mind. A doll was top of that list.
When I saw the pattern for these dolls in the December issue of Sew magazine, I realised we could still have a doll for Florence, we could have a special hand made decoration for the first Christmas without her.
Then I read Tina's blog, and her idea to have a twelve days of Christmas blog giveaway for babylost parents inspired me to make two.
So Madeleine has a loving home here, but her not quite identical twin is looking for a home with another babylost family.
Tina's idea has snowballed into twenty five days of blog giveaways,(click on the link in the side bar for details) We are day number two, on Saturday 28th November.
So, make your way back here on Saturday, when I'll have a post with more pics and details, and if you want Maisie to come and live with you just leave a comment then. More details to follow.
Oh, and a top tip for other babylost parents; don't lock yourself away in your attic for three days making dolls, then answer the door to your neighbour, who you haven't spoken to since his new baby was born a couple of weeks ago, ask how everyone is, then when he tells you the baby's name, say "Oh how lovely, I'm making a doll and was thinking of calling her that same name."...I may as well have answered the door in a nightgown, clutching a reborn doll, and muttering to myself!!
This is what's keeping me busy right now, and stopping me curling up in a ball while the children are all at school. I'll post more later, but meanwhile click on the link and read about Tina's great idea to bring a little comfort to babylost parents this Christmas.
Living with grief is constant, at least it is now. Maybe one day it wont be so present, just a subtle "something" no one can quite put a finger on.
Everything I do is coloured by grief. I'm not wailing and sobbing all of the time. Some days the tears are close and come easily, others they stay caught in my chest,but doing anything beyond the most basic of chores has me with heart racing, and fear of "can I do this with my dead baby in tow".
I'm so angry with myself. I know each new challenge should be taken gradually, It's still only been such a short time, heck I'm still post natal, but Urghhh!
Pull yourself together woman!
Something I can tell myself,but please don't anyone else dare to deny my loss, to ignore it or gloss over it.
I'm caught between wanting to find my new path and not be disabled by my grief, but wanting to also wear it with pride and wanting the world to grieve with me.
The world keeps spinning,and I'm trying to keep up, but I'm running in treacle afraid I'll drop my dead baby and she'll be gone, forgotten.
I'm going to enjoy watching it grow.
It wasn't until after her birth, and death and I was on the phone to my Mum to give her the news that I remembered that Florence was also my maternal grandmothers name.
I was sobbing into the phone, and as the name fell from my lips I remembered.
How could I forget something like that?
My Grandmother died when my Mum was only just in her twenties, and I was maybe five or six.
I only really remember her auburn hair, and the aqua blue silky turban style hat she wore with the big blue brooch on the front.
She was Nanny B to me.
I recently sent my Mum a copy of the beautiful photo Carly took of Florence in the sand, and my Mum said she looks at it and imagines her Mother walking on the beach with Florence in her arms.
Sometimes I forget how hurt other people are by Florence's death.
This is my Mum's Christmas gift. (I'm safe to post this here, my Mum doesn't have a computer!)
The violet coloured stone is for my Florence and the aqua coloured stone is for Grandma Florence.
I hope my Mum, Florence's grandma will love it.
Thank you Tina.
This is new. I was expecting the crash, the tango man ( or his more sinister brother)spinning me around and slapping my face. Maybe he's still lurking here somewhere.
A lady I sometimes speak to told me the other day that I needed to get my hair done and put on some makeup, either that or she said I shouldn't be hiding behind my hair dye and make up. She doesn't speak good English, so it's hard to tell.
Either way, she could be right.
Must pull myself together before my driving lesson.
I've actually been working!
Woody and my big girls were all off school and work today with this horrible flu bug that's been doing the rounds. They are thankfully at the tail end of the illness,but I thought it best to cancel my plans for today anyway, which kinda left me at a loose end. My big girls were happy lying on the sofa, and Woody was pottering about gently.
So, I decided to see how it would feel doing some work on my sketchbooks, and y'know it felt pretty good, if a little scary.
I moved all my art equipment into the dining room a while ago. The light is better there than in my usual work space. I even have a pack away inspiration board...it's one of those jigsaw folders,but works well for my purposes too.
Lets hope I can keep this up. If I'm honest I'm waiting for the crash that usually comes after a few ok days.
Oh yes, and I finished another Baktus too.
I was planning more of these,but I've voluntered to make blankets for the bereavement suite at my local hospital. Something useful I can do that will hopefully give a little comfort to other bereaved parents.
The sun seems to always shine when we are there.Even on dark, rainy days, the light streams through the trees.
Now that winter is here,the gates close at 4pm, so if we go around 3.30 and light her candles,I know they will burn brightly just as the sky gets dark.
I'm not alone. Today as we left there was a sea of flickering lanterns right across the cemetery. All those loved ones remembered.
Sometimes I catch myself wondering what Florence would think of it there had she lived, and then I remember we'd have no need to go there had Florence lived.
Then I'm reminded what a fucked up world I live in now.
This is just for you Julie!
I've been having a play with some old designs, tidying up repeats etc and I made up a couple of stripes to co ordinate with my Dahlia prints as suggested by my reader (and sister in law) Julie.
This bud print needed a bit of fine tuning too.
That's enough tidying up of old designs for now though. I think it's time I started on some new drawings and some new ideas.
Is a mothers instinct so strong that I could've known Florence was not going to make it?
Is it possible that maybe in some cellular way my body knew from her body that she wasn't going to live?
I know it's not a question anyone can answer.Even if they could, it wouldn't make any difference.
I often go over conversations I had with people while pregnant, just innocent small talk, but I can pin point several times when I was asked about my expanding bump when I had a feeling of "something" not being quite right.
I visualised Florence's birth, and she was born just as I imagined. I remember holding her and thinking how silly I was to have had those feelings.
Of course, even if I had taken the instinctive feelings I was having while pregnant seriously, and told my midwives, nothing untoward would have been found. I had a super healthy pregnancy and Florence was lively with a good beating heart right up until the placenta came away.
Any woman who has grown a baby inside knows how deep that connection to their child is. I've known all of my babies before they were born.
Florence's name came to me in an early morning half dream when I was only ten weeks pregnant. I woke up saying to myself "Florence Violet".
I know that had she lived, I would've forgotten those feelings I had , or I would have at least thought how silly I was to be so paranoid. I would've just put it down to pregnancy, hormones, a mother's worry.
I can't help wondering though, and there are no answers.
Finished this a couple of evenings ago, but only got around to weaving in the ends today.
I used this free pattern on Ravelry.This was a good stash busting project. I'm not much of a knitter,but I do like to have something on the go to do in the evenings while I watch rubbish telly. (my fave at the moment is Ghost Whisperer. The lead actress has a great wardrobe!)
The yarn is a Rowan 4ply I bought from a bargain bin about four years ago at Sewing For Pleasure. I still have lots left, but at least I've made a dent in my yarn stash.
Might cast on this tonight to stash bust some of the sock yarn sat lounging in my yarn basket, that, lets face it, is probably never going to be socks.
Firstly there is my large scale Grey Dahlia print. This is lovely for home dec, would make great curtains, cushions or blinds.
Secondly there is my small scale Blue Dahlias. A lovely small scale print ideal for childrens clothing, or handbags, I'm planning to make some Christmas ornaments with some of mine.
This fabric used in the outfit below was a mirror repeat, the fabric available to buy is a half step repeat which works better.
Just click on the designs if you'd like to buy. The prints are available in a choice of fabrics, including organic sateen, organic cotton knit, and bamboo. I'd recommend either the upholstery weight or cotton sateen for the Grey Dahlias, and quilting weight or organic cotton knit for the Blue Dahlias, but the choice is yours.
And if anybody does buy either of these, I would love to see what you make from them.
(you can email me direct at jeanette dot archer at gmail dot com )
Maybe this will finally give me the kick up the bum I need to get my sketchbooks out again, and work on that collection of fabrics I've been planning for so long.
She came back in time to see us though, and I'm relieved to report that all four of the children are healthy with good beating hearts.
The doctor told us she'd seen the coroner on her way to see us, but there was still no news about the post mortem.No surprises there then.
Oh yes, and something frivolous but made me smile yesterday was this...that's the wedding dress I made for Heather featured in the main pic.(Thanks Caroline for pointing this out to me.)
Just a few months ago I'd imagined life once Sid went to school full time to be full of a new baby, LLL meetings, baby massage classes, Slingmeets. Lots of snuggly breastfeeds on the sofa. I expected to be busy.
I'm not, not busy now. There is always the daily efforts to stop the household sliding into utter chaos. Plus I still have plenty of good friends checking in on me and invites out for coffee and lunch.
I know though that sometime very soon I'm going to have to start thinking about the future and work.
My little business has never made me my fortune,but it kept me busy and paid for treats we might not otherwise have afforded.
I wont be going back to making baby carriers. The level of detail and involvement with the customer and their babies is not something I think I could cope with right now. Maybe one day, who knows.
So, the thought is there, something to ponder.
Meanwhile, today I've made a skirt. I could've been cleaning the bathrooms, or making our bed, or cooking tonights tea,but I guess I'll never be a Stepford wife. To hell with the housework and on with the sewing!
This skirt is made using the Amy Butler Barcelona Skirt pattern. The fabric is Botanical Pop cotton by Jackie Shapiro. (And yep the raw edges are deliberate.)
I don't need reminders that I was pregnant, I gave birth, I know I did those things. I just hate seeing those hairs falling and sighing to myself that yes,I did have a baby.
I recovered physically very quickly after birthing Florence. I joke to my friends that since she was baby number five it was like "shelling peas". Certainly after Sid's birth it was a breeze.
Florence barely left behind any physical reminders on my body. She was much smaller than Sid,so there were no extra stretch marks.
I'm just a few pounds heavier than I was this time last year.
Sometimes I wish I'd been left with a scar, or some extra stretch marks,something I could point to and say was her, but like I said I don't need physical reminders. I know.
Tonight there will be bonfires being lit all over , and fireworks lighting up the skies. We usually go to a local display, and despite my misgivings mentioned before, I do usually enjoy wrapping up in winter coats, woollies, and wellies, and walking through the smoke filled night to stand and oooh and ahhhh at the colourful explosions.
The thought of it this year though,just seemed to fall flat without Florence to tuck inside my coat.
Instead we will be having fireworks in the garden, and dedicating them to Florence's memory.
We can stay warm inside,I can wear these new pyjamas I made this afternoon, and toast Florence with hot chocolate and parkin. (while Woody gets to be all manly playing with explosives in the garden!)
Pyjamas made from snuggly cotton flannel, using an ancient threadbare pair of Boden pj's as the pattern.
So this meeting we would like to talk about where you are. Where are you at in your grief. Has it been years or just weeks since you lost your baby. How are you feeling. How do you hope you will feel in the future. Have you found any peace at all?
It's been fifteen weeks and two days since Florence was born. I'm starting to think of the time in months now, so that would be just over three months. I find it impossible really to imagine her at three months old. I can guess how she'd look based on how the older children were at three months,but to me Florence is an eternal newborn.
I think three months is probably enough time that most people around me are starting to forget, well no, not forget,but for her not to be at the forefront of their minds.
I still think of her constantly.
I am coping, and slowly slowly adjusting to this new world. There are bad dark times, and brighter easier times,but the pain is still raw and it hurts like hell.
I know there is still a long way to go,but I also know I'm not falling apart and that's all I can do for now.
Peace comes at odd moments and for odd reasons.
This week peace came after meeting with one of the doctors who treated Florence.I realised that spending that time with the doctor talking about Florence, even though we were talking about her death reminded me of her realness. The doctor knew my daughter and spoke of her in such a tender way.Very few people met Florence, and it's hard to explain to everyone just how beautiful and real she was. So when the doctor said she was a "perfect little girl" my heart filled with gratitude, because I knew she meant it sincerely and she knew how real Florence was.
I'm not sure what I hope for in the future. The future is a scary thought. All I can really focus on is now, this moment, and if I do that every moment, every day then the future will come, and will just be.
I was feeling quite smug and proud of myself, until I got home, and just as I put my keys in the front door I could hear next door's keys too, my heart rate increased, I hastily turned my key and I was safe inside before anyone saw me. (pathetic I know, but it gets worse.)
I wrapped up the bunny, and wrote the card from *all* of us, then I sneaked quietly out the front door, leaned over the bushes and the fence that seperates our front gardens and silently placed the gift on their front step.
They'll find it eventually.
A little note
I don't think my neighbours read my blog,but I know some of my local friends do, and so it's entirely possible that my neighbours may stumble across my ramblings at some point, which is why I haven't before mentioned the new baby next door.
I'm pretty certain I don't have to point out to anyone how it might feel for me right now to know there is (hopefully) such joy next door, and that I may possibly be a hindrance to that joy being celebrated as openly as it deserves to be.
And it doesn't matter how much I try to say or do the right thing here,it comes out wrong.
I'm sad,I'm heartbroken, but I'm happy they have their baby in their arms to love.
Today Woody and I met with the consultant paediatrician who treated Florence. The post mortem results are still not back (fifteen weeks and counting.),and we still have no date for the inquest,but we all felt we needed to meet and just go over the events of Florence's death to try and get a few questions clear in our minds.
I was really nervous about the meeting, and had a prepared list of questions to ask.
The doctor was absolutely lovely. She talked us through Florence's treatment, and answered all of our questions.
We were a little surprised to hear her say that actually it may not have been a heart defect at all. She explained that they were treating Florence for either an "overwhelming bacterial infection" or a heart defect, as symptoms for both are very very similar, and until the post mortem results come back we wont know for sure if it was her heart.(I hope I understood that correctly.)
She also said, if it wasn't her heart,and was an infection we may never know what it was exactly.
I'm not at all sure what I think about that to be honest.
I do know that speaking with her has settled my mind more than I thought it would.
I told her I'd been worrying about our other children's health since Florence died, and she has made an appointment for her to see them all, and to check their hearts just to put my mind at rest.
I'm not at all sure how to explain to the children, especially the older girls that they need to go to hospital next week to check their hearts. I think they will make the connection between dead sister and check ups. I don't want to scare them. I'm going to have to think on that.
We are waiting to hear from the consultant Obstetrician for an appointment too. I hope that goes as well as today's.
I drove a handful of times, but my enourmously stupidly mahoosive bump (Sid was just under 11lbs!) meant that I pretty soon couldn't fit behind the wheel of the car, and after Sid was born I totally lost my nerve, and basically haven't driven since.
That is until a few weeks ago, when despite my bereavement midwife's concern that I might not be ready for the challenge I booked my self some refresher driving lessons.
It did take me a few weeks to pluck up the courage to even book the lessons, but I finally did it and have been pootling about Stockport under the guidance of my lovely (and patient) instructor,Sue.
One of the reasons I was reluctant to book the lessons in the first place was I was terrified of having that conversation, you know, the "so how many children..." one?
I finally decided though that my need to be able to drive myself to the cemetery to see Florence was stronger than my fear of small talk, prepared an answer just in case and booked the lessons.
So far though, the question hasn't arisen, much to my relief.
Then this morning as I was walking the littlies to school I saw Sue drive past, she waved and I though "oh no, now she's seen (some of) the children she's bound to ask".
(And I prepared another answer in my head just in case.)
Today's lesson was pretty good, and Sue did ask about the children,but not so directly that Florence came up. She also asked me where I needed to drive to in my daily life, and I avoided telling her the cemetery, we even drove past the cemetery and I didn't cry, but then we went past a pub that had a psychic night event on, and she started talking about how great psychics were, and about heaven, and dead relatives, and well, all that stuff.
I was ok, and she's such a nice lady, I couldn't possibly say anything about Florence, it wasn't the right time. She might be embarrassed or cry, or I might cry, and oh heck!
I feel like I'm lying, or worse still denying Florence.
I was relieved the subject hadn't come up, but now, I like this lady and I feel I'm deceiving her, but at the same time it's not intentional, and well, we have a professional relationship, she doesn't need to know everything about me, and oh bugger these silly little social situations are so hard to navigate with a dead baby in tow.
Thank goodness for the lovely lady from school who came to my rescue yesterday and came to my house to cut my hair. I certainly couldn't cope with hairdresser etiquette right now.
I've tried over the past few years to celebrate the winter festivals as just that,but somehow it still doesn't feel right.
Guy Fawkes is coming up this week.Now that should be a simple festival to enjoy,but I can't help thinking that despite Guy Fawkes being a terrorist, did he really deserve to be put to death? And in such a grotesque way? and should we be celebrating that?
Maybe it's being a grumpy old English woman,or maybe it's just my usual way of over thinking everything.
Actually I wonder if it isn't just embarrassment.
I've realised lately just how embarrassed I am by my grief. I already knew I felt shame and embarrassment for not being able to bring Florence into the world whole and healthy,but I've only just realised how embarrassed I am by my own grief.
Most days I try to hide it behind make up and busyness, but that's survival, that's the only way to get through each day.
Here though, on my blog, you'd think I could shed that embarrassment. After all this is *my* blog, I can write anything I want to. My grief is mine alone,(Just as Woody's is his alone.) no one else feels the way I do. No one can tell me I'm wrong, or that I should be anything. So why am I so cautious?
The truth is,this blog barely scratches the surface of the pain and sorrow in my soul. Jess described it perfectly in a recent post on her blog
Sometimes I want to bare my pain and scare the crap out of everyone, to give them the tiniest glimpse of the horror of losing a child,but that would be embarrassing wouldn't it, so I put on my make up, and paste on a smile and I edit my thoughts for my blog to protect the friends and family I love.
I am ok,I'm not falling apart,I'm coping, and I'll keep on coping, but this story doesn't have a happy ending, I'm not going to reach the end of a grief journey and be all better. I'm going to have a hole in my heart forever, I'll pull in the edges and try to fix it,but the stitches wont quite ever be strong enough.
Some days I might just spill some of the contents into cyber space, and other days the stitches will hold up a little better, and well dear readers, I'm sorry, and I'll be blushing, but that's just the way it's gonna be.