Me Too

Lisa

Elle from Feathering The Empty Nest is quite simply the most brave and inspirational lady. Since her baby boy, Teddy, passed away in May 2016 she has been raising awareness of the issues affecting those who have lost a baby and it’s how we came to learn that this week is Baby Loss Awareness week.

Elle is back today to talk about coping with grief and how she learnt to look after herself after losing Teddy.

This year Baby Loss Awareness week has brought up an overwhelming amount of intense emotions for me; understandably so as you might imagine. I think it’s because the focus this year is about the support that bereaved parents receive; how can they be helped at the start of their grieving process? Of course, the idea that you will “move on” is not one that I can ever, or will ever, believe to be true. I always tend to tell people that I am doing my best to move forward, but never on.

Support is a huge part of being able to move forward in your life when you are faced with the loss of a pregnancy, child, or any loved one. It’s the things around us, and the people around us, that help us to see a way through; a crack of light in the darkness. A quote I have used before and will continue to use when I write about my loss of Teddy and how I came to realise there must be a way forward is this; “There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in”. Those were words that spoke to me on some of my darkest days; that told me it was ok to be grieving and to be placed in this new life that was far from the perfect family one we had envisaged. Those words told me that I could find happiness again, in some form; but that I just needed to allow that help and support around me let the light back into my life.

I have reflected hugely on the things I have done to help myself since May 2016. The things I have been drawn to doing; consciously or unconsciously to start to help heal my broken heart. It’s not that there wasn’t support there for me when I needed it; the hospital, the doctor’s surgery, the midwives, the hospital who cared for Teddy; everyone offered it. I just didn’t feel like I, personally, wanted to “talk to anyone” (in a professional sense), and that I couldn’t face any groups of bereaved parents; not just yet. I wanted to find my own way, to do the things that made me feel like, well me, again. A process of healing myself when I felt like no one else could.

It’s no secret to anyone who has read my blog, or previous blogs here that I used our home as my creative outlet in which to focus my mind. Losing Teddy made me feel purposeless; my arms were empty and my heart was beyond heavy. The life we had planned hadn’t come to fruition and I found myself catapulted into this new existence; one where I was a mum, but I didn’t have anyone to look after. With that as my reality, I knew I had to find a focus and a purpose somewhere; so, the house got it, big time.

We had already been renovating and making changes to the house, but with me staring down the rest of the year on maternity leave and no real plan of how I would even contemplate to return to my career, the house became my “thing”. It was always a passion, but now I had the time (let’s face it, more bloody time than I could have ever imagined) to get on with doing everything I had wanted to do. I painted, I upcycled, I sewed and I hunted through antiques markets. It stopped my mind from racing and kept my hands busy; I felt as though I was achieving something. Yes, there were the moments where my grief engulfed me once more and it took everything within me to swing my legs around to the side of the bed and actually get up in the mornings, of course there were.

It was fairly early on in this process of grieving for Teddy that I realised after the initial shock is over for everyone else, and the cards, phone calls and messages stop flooding in; you are left to live out this new life and you have to make the best of it. With my husband back at work after just three weeks following Teddy’s death, I spent my time filling my days and time so that I wouldn’t be left with nothing to do. I have always been such a busy person, and had such an intense job that involved rushing around. I have never been a “sit on the sofa all day and watch box-sets” kind of girl; in fact, I don’t even think I have watched a box-set in my life? (I hope we can still be friends?) For me, sitting and feeling sad just wasn’t the answer. I needed to feel as though I was doing something; and this home saved me, more than anyone will ever know.

Of course, in grief it is so easy to focus on looking after our mind and our emotions, that we often forget to look after our physical body. Full term pregnancy, and labour, was hard on my body. It didn’t feel like my body anymore; and I know that lots of women say that after they have had a baby. I often describe it to people as feeling as though I had been taken apart and put back together again, except the pieces were all in the wrong place. Add grief, shock and ragingly confused hormones on top of that, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for body-confidence disaster. I quite literally hated myself when I looked in the mirror. Having Boris (he’s a pug/ best friend by the way), gave me a reason to get out every day. So, we walked, and we walked; and the more fresh-air I got the better I felt. At first our walks were slow and I felt tired; emotionally and physically (and some days I still do); but we picked up our pace, and we walked a little further each day. After a few months, we were back to walking for over an hour each day. The time on my own (well, with Boris) gave me time to reflect and just enjoy the outside world; away from screens and people. We would walk through woods and fields; sometimes I would cry my eyes out, and other times I would reflect on how lucky I was to have been blessed with Teddy at all. It was clear to me that the more I walked, the better I felt; physically and emotionally. I couldn’t be without that time now.
I ventured back to yoga about three months after losing Teddy. My yoga teacher had become more of a friend since I had told her about Teddy, and she encouraged me to come back to classes when I was ready. My physical body didn’t feel ready for much I must say; but I went back nevertheless. She told me about a class that she taught locally that was on a Wednesday morning in a village hall; very different to the yoga-studio-come-café environment that I had been used to. The class was small, everyone seemed a fair few years older than me; most were my parents age. Although I was terrified walking into a room full of strangers; fearful of the questions they might ask me or conversations they might start; I did it. I felt like I had to do something for me again. Soon I was going to classes twice a week again. I’ll be honest, I relished the anonymity; the chance to just be “me”, not the lady whose baby had just died. No one knew, apart from my teacher, and I was actually really happy about that. Yoga has been so healing, and has helped me so much to strengthen and nourish both my body and mind. I honestly do not know where I would be without it, and I never imagined in a million years I’d say something like that; but here I am. I guess, what I am trying to say is that if you want to, and you haven’t yet tried it; just give it a go? You can thank me later.

Lastly, and I shall call this “My Ode to Instagram”; social media saved me. Yep, that very platform that we all love to hate at times; that was what spoke to me in my darkest hour. I know, I can’t believe it either?! The thing is, I felt alone; so alone. Whilst I had tentatively shared a couple of photos, quotes and our fundraising page on my Instagram page; I hadn’t realised the community that were already sharing their stories through Instagram. A community of women who would come to be my “real life” friends; people who truly understood my feelings, for they were living it too. I began to follow a few feeds of women who had lost their babies in the six months or so before me; by searching hashtags. After that Instagram thankfully got the gist of what had happened in my life and started throwing suggested feeds my way. On a day that I must have been feeling particularly brave, I reached out to one of those women who was already writing about her loss (Michelle @dear_orla) by commenting on her photo; it was a simple “Me too” kind of comment. Her daughter, Orla, had been stillborn two weeks before Teddy was born; and my comment prompted her to get in touch with me by sending me a direct message. She was setting up a WhatsApp chat group; for seven of us; all had lost babies very recently, and she asked me if I wanted to join. We called ourselves “The Warriors”, we still do; because we are. These women reached out to me and understood my darkest moments; they became confidantes, a place to rant and quite simply a place where I could say something and I knew that the answer would be “Me too”. As we all began to talk more, and write more on social media, more women appeared. “Me too” was the resounding message that rang in my ears. Women who had lost a baby, or their friend had, or their Mum had lost their sibling years earlier, or their sibling had just lost a baby. So many women; all wanting to talk about it, because they needed an outlet and a place to do so without feeling as though they were the only ones. It was Instagram and The Warriors that encouraged me to write more; to start my blog and share on blogs like this one. To use my words not only to help me heal, but as a way for thousands of women to feel like they are less alone, and to perhaps start their healing process too. That’s human nature, isn’t it? We want to find common ground, we want to know that there is someone out there who has been through what we’ve been through and has the same understanding of what our situation feels like. When we stand in a crowded room and yet we couldn’t feel more alone, we simply want someone to raise their hand, open their arms and say “Hey, don’t worry. Me too.”

Elle x

A report by MBRRACE-UK in 2016 showed that 15 babies die every day in the UK (Stillbirth or Neonatal Death). The 40 charities involved in Baby Loss Awareness week are dedicated to reducing that figure, and to improving the support and resources for families who experience the loss of a baby.

You can find out more about Baby Loss Awareness Week at www.babyloss-awareness.org

25 Comments. Leave new

Me too. 💖
Alexandra 29-30 September 2015

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Thank you Claire. Sending hugs x

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Elle the way you write is beautiful and you conduct yourself in such a strong and calm manner. You’re a far braver and better person than I’d be if I had to deal with what you’ve been through xxxxx

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That’s so kind of you to say Fern. Thank you so much for reading.
xx

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Village hall yoga has a Tao of its own. Those older ladies are a pretty cool gang. One very elderly woman in my old class had serious back issues but she just kept on keeping on. Inspiring.

And dogs should be prescribed to people having a tough time. Nature, movement and unconditional love are great creators of those cracks of light shining in the dark.

Thank you so much again for sharing your feelings so beautifully and I’m dying to know the big news you couldn’t tell us yet yesterday after your trip to fancy London Town!

💛💛💛💛💛💛

And, though not the same, #metoo #iam1in4 Ectopic babe due 4/12/16 💛

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Thank you for reading and for sharing Lucy. Village Hall yoga crew for life! xx

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Elle, you are just amazing.

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Thank you Kirsty, that’s very kind of you to say. xx

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Gillian Taylor
12th October 2017 1:30 pm

As always Elle I am filled with admiration for you, your wonderful love for Teddy and your grace. You words will I am sure help many mums in similar situations and you must be very proud of the comfort and hope you bring. I think of you often and hope all your dreams for the future will come true xxxx

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Thank you for continuing to follow our story and for your kind words. xx

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What beautiful words. I recently was diagnosed with a molar pregnancy. They are very very rare, and resulted in me having an ERPC at ten weeks, only 4 weeks before my wedding! Now the wedding is over, i feel like i have lost the thing that was helping me cope with my grief. The 2 weekly blood and urine tests will carry on for the next 5 months whilst we wait to see that it hasnt turned into a spreading cancer. Im currently scouring the internet to find myself a new hobby to help!

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Thank you for sharing your story Laura. Sending love and positivity to you on your journey to becoming a Mama! xx

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Elle you are an incredible inspiration I love your posts and your blog

Although not the same #metoo #ectopicpregnancy 18/03/18

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Thank you for reading Louise. It is just an issue that affects so many of us, I had to share. Sending big love xx

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So beautifully written Elle, your strength just blows me away constantly (as does the photo of Boris and the pumpkins! 😍) so much love to you 😘

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That’s really kind of you to say Sarah. Boris does love a good pumpkin! xx

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I read this with tears streaming down my face. Elle, you are amazing, brave, strong and inspirational. All the love. x

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Thank you for reading Angela. xx

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Elle – you write so beautifully about Teddy and what you have/continue to go through. You truly are inspirational. Thank you to RMF for making me aware of this lovely lady when I was going through a miscarriage earlier this year – thank you Elle for being so brave, by talking about baby loss you, and other warriors, have helped me so so much.

Much love to all the warriors Xxx

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Sending big love to you Ally. I am so sorry to learn about your loss, and thank you so much for continuing to follow our story. xx

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So moving, so strong, thank you for sharing x

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Thank you so much Natalie xx

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Elle – you put so beautifully into words feelings I have had and just not been able to express. I lost twins at 6 months pregnant and after the initial grief period I felt like everyone had moved on and expected me to have done so too. Thank you for being the voice for so many people and helping those who haven’t been through it get a little bit closer to understanding how it feels. Xxx

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Thank you so much for sharing your story and your twins with me. I am so glad when I hear that women who might need my words are reading them, that means the world to me. Sending all the love and positivity to you. xx

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Elle, you write with such emotion and it gets me every time, I’ve been avidly following your story and thinking of you. You are a magnificent and strong woman, a warrior indeed. Lots of love from a fellow Pug owner xxx

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