Wednesday, 16 May 2018

#StillOurBaby Florence.

Okay, so something very exciting is happening! I've been asking members of the baby loss community if they'd like to share their baby's story, be that their birth story, life after their child, whatever. And I've had an overwhelming response. Before Jonah was born I actively avoided reading about stillbirth and miscarriage. I genuinely believed there was absolutely no way I could survive if it happened to me. And then it did and I had no choice but to survive. The baby loss community have welcomed me with open arms and it's only right that I use this space to share other people's babies as well as my own - so here is my new series #StillOurBaby. Our children's stories deserve to be heard and their name's need to be spoken, so this series will be dedicated to all our beautiful babies who don't have their own voices. Let's keep the conversation and break the silence around baby loss. 

I've given parents pretty much free range over their posts, so photographs will be included in posts, if they wish. There will be a trigger warning before each post. 

My first story comes from Kerry, Florence's mummy. Trigger warning - Please be aware this is discussion of stillbirth and photographs are included in this post. 


"Thank you so much Katie for giving this opportunity to share Florence’s story. 

Hi all, I’m Kerry, Mummy to our angel Florence, partner to Mark and Step Mummy to Lois. 

The 11th September 2017 will be a day I never forget, it was the day we found out we were expecting our first baby together. It came as a huge surprise as although we weren’t being careful and hoped it would happen, we didn’t think it would without some professional help as I have Polycystic ovaries and investigations were due to start regarding Endometriosis too. 

We were so excited and blessed we had fallen pregnant and at our 12 week scan our little baby was growing so well, and continued to do so at our 20 week scan too. We had chose not to find out if we were expecting a son or daughter as we were grateful for the chance of becoming parents together and couldn’t wait for the surprise. After the 20 week scan we began to start buying bits for our baby's arrival, storing them in a cupboard where they still remain. 

Fast forward to the day that will haunt me for the rest of my life, at just short of 30 weeks pregnant. The 13th February of this year, it was the day we heard those dreaded, heartbreaking words of ‘Sorry, there’s no heartbeat’. I can still hear my scream and sobs and repeatedly saying “how are we going to tell Lois our babies dead” She was so excited at becoming a big sister. I felt so guilty we were now going to have to break her heart too at just 6 years old. Telling her was so tough, and hearing her say “I didn’t know babies could die in their mummy's tummy” broke my already shattered heart some more. 

Two days later, although so tough and emotional, I’m not sure how I even got to back to the hospital - (well I do, that was down to the support and strength of Mark). Despite being one of the hardest days knowing our baby was going to be born silent, it will always be so special, it was the day we got to meet the beautiful baby we had created. 

On the 15th February 2018 at 16.06 hours we got to meet our beautiful daughter weighing at 1lb 7oz. To see her perfect little face looking so much like her sister and daddy, I literally thought my heart was going to burst, I’ve never felt love like it. 

When she was born I just looked at her beautiful face and we knew her name had to be ‘Florence Gwen Gromnicki’. Florence means flowering/blossoming so she instantly became our little Flower and her middle name of Gwen is after my amazing and inspirational Granny who never once moaned before she died despite living with Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years. We loved the thought of having our girls ‘Lo & Flo’. 

Myself, Mark and Florence spent the next 22 hours together in the Primrose Suite at Stoke Mandeville hospital. We created the only memories we could together. I’m so grateful for that time we had with Florence, I hardly slept as I just wanted to take in every inch of her beauty knowing I would never get the opportunity again and spent the time talking, singing (poor poppet I can’t sing for toffee) cuddling and giving her a millions kisses. I smiled at how beautiful and perfect she was, she defiantly took after her daddy - just had my long feet - poor poppet! 

The last 3 months have been the hardest of my life. From planning my future with our baby to suddenly learning our baby had died, being told I’d still have to go through labour and having to leave the hospital with empty arms, to planning our daughters funeral. 

Learning to parent Florence from a far is hard and grief really is like riding the never ending waves. You experience emotions so strong they’re hard to describe and so painful, from one minute being ok/numb to the next minute where the sobs take over and you can’t even catch your breath. 

But I can talk about Flo with such pride too. Florence is already leaving her legacy and making us so proud. She has already raised over £200 for Tommy’s The Baby Charity and nearly £2500 for the Bereavement Room in which she was born so we can help improve things when Parents find themselves in this heartbreaking journey. 

Something that’s always said with all baby-loss parents I’ve met in the last 3 months, we all wish we could stop anyone else from becoming part of this community. But I’m so grateful for the kindness, honesty and support the Instagram baby-loss community gives, it’s really saved me along with family and friends. Especially when you are faced with the moments when your daughters existence is ignored.  Conversations that you have unexpectedly sometimes in which you say you had a baby that died, they say nothing, ignore what you have said and move on. If you are reading this and have never experienced baby loss and someone says they lost a baby, please don’t ignore it, say you are sorry, that you have no words but ask them about their baby - we all love to talk about them too, our babies existed - my Florence existed. 

We are still waiting on Florence’s Post Mortum results, the wait I can only describe as torture, the constant blame on myself - if I did or didn’t do something to harm her. But I just hope she knows how much she is loved and always will be. 

Florence will always be the missing piece of our family, my heart is always going to be so broken that I’ll never get to see her reach her milestones through life but I promised her I would make sure she still went on adventures like she did in my tummy, she will always be so so loved and talked about and everyday I put one step in front of the other is all for her. 

I’m so proud to be Florence’s mummy. 

Thanks for reading. 


You can follow Kerry on Instagram @our_flower_florence

Thank you so much to Kerry, for sharing beautiful Florence. If you'd like to be a part of this series, please send me an email or message on social media. 

Katie xx

Monday, 7 May 2018

Help Save a Life.

When I was 17 and applying for my provisional driving license, I distinctly remember receiving a leaflet alongside the form, asking for young people to sign up for blood donations. I'm pretty sure I rang the following week and booked in my first appointment. Over the years, I managed to make 9 donations. I so wish this was more, but without all the excuses, life got in the way. I probably put it off more than I should have but I'm so proud to say I helped save someone's life with those donations. 

In January, after losing 9 litres of blood, I received 16 pints. That's 16 separate donations, from 16 incredible people. Alongside the blood I also received two bags of plasma and two bags of platelets, also donated selflessly from strangers I will never meet. The only reason I am here today is because of those donations. Without people taking a small amount of time from their day to book and appointment and donate, people like me wouldn't survive. Those people are the reason Violet still has her Mama and Jonathan still has his wife. 

 Just to put into context, this is what 16 pints looks like! Image from Google.

If you've never been before the whole thing takes around 20-30 minutes. That's from arrival to finishing your donation. It's a really simple process, from signing a form, having a little pin-prick blood test to ensure you have enough iron to donate and then you're ready to donate. The time it takes for donation varies from person to person, but it's usually between 5-10 minutes. After that you're all done and ready for your drink and biscuits! There is a whole page here about the process. 

There is a lot of information on the NHS Blood Donation website, around who is eligible to donate and where your nearest donation centre is. You can find it all here and can register online too. And if you'd prefer to speak to a human, you can call on 0300 123 23 23. 

I am incredibly grateful and lucky that this blood was available for me. And I hope by raising awareness and sharing my story I can encourage people to go and make a donation and help save someones life. 

Katie xx

Sunday, 29 April 2018

5 Things; Parenting After Loss.

I think the topic of parenting after loss is something that doesn't really get the attention it needs. I guess we were lucky(?!) in a way that Violet isn't old enough to know exactly what has happened. However I'm under no illusion that she doesn't know anything. V is very aware that something has changed, not only in my physical appearance but also the way we behave as a family unit. Violet had to live without her parents here 24/7 for the whole week I was in hospital. That has certainly had some impact on her and even now, three months down the line, she can be incredibly clingy to both of us. I can't imagine the difficulty of parenting a child that is also grieving for their sibling, as well as coping with your own grief as a parent. But I wanted to touch on the difficulties of parenting after loss the we've experienced, because it is by no means plain sailing.

1. You HAVE to get up in the morning - This is a godsend in someways but one of the hardest things to do, particularly in those first few weeks. Having Violet, meant we had to get up and get dressed, even if we didn't want to. And believe me those days have been many. Some mornings I wake and just wish I could hide under the covers until it's night time again. Some days all I want to do is sleep and simply getting washed and dressed feels like an achievement. I hate that she has seen me cry more in the last three months, than in her whole life. Don't get me wrong, not every day is like that, but they do happen. V is so perfectly innocent, she is the motivation to get me up. She is priority and her days have remained as 'normal' as they can be and that's so important for both her and us.  

2. There are babies everywhere - Okay, pretty obvious, but just think of the places Violet and I hang out. Parent and toddler groups, soft play, museums etc. there are babies, quite literally, everywhere. Even at swimming last week, there was a newborn experiencing their first time in the pool. I realise that there probably aren't any more babies or pregnant ladies, than before we lost Jonah, but I'm so much more aware now. 

3. Every milestone is a reminder - Every first Violet experiences, every birthday, every celebration; is a reminder of what Jonah will never have. So far we've survived Jonathan's birthday, Mother's Day and Easter without our little boy. We can have the most wonderful day exploring and learning new things,  and then suddenly it hits like a tonne of bricks, Jonah will never get to do this. And we have to celebrate for Violet, but it can be so so difficult at times.

4. Socialising with other mothers - If you know me, you'll know I'm not a shy and reserved person. However, finding new parent and toddler groups after Jonah died, I suddenly became far quieter. I imagine for fear of someone inevitably asking 'do you have any other children?' or 'do you think you'll have any more?' - this is the type of chat at most toddler groups. In fact, it's the chat in the line at the Post Office or the queue in the supermarket. Some days I think I'm strong enough to answer any questions that may come my way, but it's the ones that catch you off guard that really shake you up. I was recently at a group and two ladies were discussing baby names, I couldn't think of anyway around the conversation so told them about Jonah. It was good to talk, I felt brave and empowered but haven't felt up to going back. 

5. Watching your child with other children - Violet is one of the most loving, caring, generous little girls I know. I realise I may be a little biased, but she truly is. She adores other children and loves to play with her friends. Every time I watch her interact with other children, I think how much of an amazing big sister she would be. 

The hardest thing of all for me, is accepting our new 'normal' and realising that Violet will only ever remember the Mama after Jonah. She will never remember the person I was before, because I'm not the same and never ever will be. I just hope that she will always know how incredibly loved she is and that although Jonah isn't here in person, he will forever be a part of our lives and will forever be her little brother. 

Katie xx

Monday, 23 April 2018

Charity Focus: 4Louis.

I'm hoping to start a little series of posts focusing on charities that we've accessed or have supported us, since the loss of Jonah. I'm thinking a monthly series, chatting about some of the charities I'd never even heard of before we had Jonah, as well as the well-known charities that have been a lifeline to us. So with that in mind, I'm going to start this week with 4Louis.

Image from here

Many of you may never of heard of this incredible charity. 4Louis were the first charity that helped us, literally hours after Jonah was born. Jonah's memory box was provided by 4Louis and has meant we have precious memories of our little boy. They also provide vital Cuddle Cots - one of which meant Jonah could spend 5 days with us in the hospital, meaning we could make even more memories with him. 

A little bit of background information - 4Louis was set up in memory of baby Louis, who was born sleeping in 2009. Kirsty, Louis' mum founded 4Louis and went on to set up the charity, to help other families going through the loss of their baby/child. The charity provides hospitals with memory boxes for families who have lost babies, for those that lost due to early miscarriage, stillbirth, as well as infants and older children. As well as memory boxes and Cuddle Cots, 4Louis provide Moses baskets and photography equipment. Every memory box and piece of equipment that 4Louis provide, are donated to hospitals free of charge which is just amazing. 

Okay, so what's in a memory box? There is a whole video of the boxes here
- Clay Casting Kit for Foot and Hand prints
- Inking Kit for Foot and Hand Prints (which fit in a little card)
- SD Card for additional photos
- 'Guess How Much I Love You' book
- Glass Angel
- Candle
- Acknowledgement of birth 
- Lock of Hair Box
- Blanket
- Balloon to Heaven
- Flower Seeds
- Two Teddies (one for Jonah and one for us - we swapped them just before we left the hospital, so we now have Jonah's and he had ours)

Image from 4Louis Facebook Page

This is such an amazing charity, that do such vital work for grieving families. We actually donated a box in Jonah's memory at Easter, which was a lovely way to give back. If you want to find out more about the chairty or donate, you can find the link here

Katie xx


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Losing my Womb.

 Image from here

I'm not really sure where to start. Probably because I never thought I'd ever be in this situation. However I felt I need to give some insight, into what it feels like having a hysterectomy at 27. And not just a hysterectomy, but an unplanned, life-changing hysterectomy, that I had absolutely no control over. 

I guess most ladies can prepare for this type of operation. I imagine the majority have planned the surgery with their consultant and discussed options and a way forward. Of course, this wasn't the way things happened for me. And in the space of a few hours, my life had been turned upside down and my whole future had changed. 

So first things first; I had a subtotal or partial hysterectomy. This means I still have my ovaries and cervix, it was just my uterus that was removed. I guess this is best case scenario for me, it does mean I currently don't require any hormone replacement therapy and I am able to have my eggs retrieved and frozen. But of course, it also means I am now infertile. That hasn't quite sunk in yet, even seeing it written down is just so hard to comprehend. The psychological affect of infertility is far greater than the actual surgery. I stumbled across a pregnancy test in my bathroom cupboard earlier, and it literally hit me like a tonne of bricks - I will never have to even think about using one again. I'm not entirely sure how you process the loss of a body part. I'm grieving for my little boy and also grieving for my fertility. I'm grieving for all the babies that could have been but never will be. 

Aside from the obvious lack of uterus, having a hysterectomy leaves you with an incredible amount of physical pain. The recovery from my c-section was nothing compared to the recovery from this. The surgeon used my c-section scar from Violet, to re-open me up, but I now have a smaller 5p piece scar from the drain I had inserted during surgery. My uterus being removed, means my bowel and ovaries will have shifted in their position, which causes an insane amount of pain - particularly in the bowel area. This may be TMI - but sometimes the internal pain it can be so bad it actually brings tears to my eyes. 

I wasn't under the care of any gynaecologists at any point during my stay in hospital, so any questions I had about the surgery were answered from a little leaflet. My first thought, which on reflection was probably a little silly, was would I still have a period? Of course, I don't. Most woman would celebrate the fact they never had to buy sanitary products again, but I would give anything to still have a period. However, I do still ovulate. This means I still get all the hormonal affects of ovulation, boob pain, horrid skin, rubbish mood and it's all for nothing. Just another monthly reminder of how different my life has become. 

I'm not sure there is much else to say on the infertility topic. Other than, sometimes its actually harder to accept than losing Jonah. You know from the start of your pregnancy that you are not guaranteed a baby at the end. I knew my pregnancy was far from plain sailing and I knew there was a real possibility we would loose Jonah. However, losing my womb never even crossed my mind. I miss my little boy more than words can describe, but I also miss the possibility of more children. And knowing I will never get to grow a baby, to feel them dancing around and have that magical connection again, is truly one of the hardest things in the world. 

Katie xx


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Problems With My Placenta.

I've said it before, Mr A and I went into Jonah's pregnancy naively thinking it would be pretty much the same as Violet's. How wrong we were. If you've been keeping up to date, you'll know I had issues from the get-go and my pregnancy was far from plain sailing. I did promise a post with a little more information about the two conditions I was diagnosed with, which ultimately led to a stillbirth and emergency hysterectomy. Bearing in mind, there is very little information on Placenta Percreta, particularly in the UK, so I will write as I interpret the information I received from my consultant. But lets start with Placenta Previa as this was the initial diagnosis I was given.

Placenta Previa (low-lying placenta)

At 18 weeks, I was diagnosed with partial Placenta Previa. Which, in a nut shell, means the placenta is partially covering the internal os (or the babies exit, as I like to call it). This is a pretty common diagnosis, particularly before 20 weeks. Often as the baby grows, the uterus stretches and in turn moves the placenta up and away from the internal os and no longer causes any issues. If previa is present at 20 weeks during the scan, an appointment will be made for around 32 weeks to determine if the placenta has moved out of the way and therefore a vaginal delivery is safe. 

In my case, I'd already made up my mind and was opting for a planned c-section but still would have required further scans to see where the placenta was and where it would be safe for an incision to be made. 

When I was scanned on the 29th January, after the first large bleed at home, I was told that I now had Complete Placenta Previa, meaning the internal os was completely covered by the placenta. The CPP was now thought to be the cause of my bleeding. Previa can cause painless bleeding throughout pregnancy and in my case contributed to an antepartum haemorrhage. Previa is also a risk factor of Accreta. 

Image from here 

Placenta Accreta

Okay, so this is a little more complicated to explain and as I said before, there is very little information on the condition in the UK. Accreta is broken down into three stages; Accreta, Increta and Percreta. Confusingly, Accreta is also the umbrella term for all three conditions. 

The most common is Accreta, and is 75-78% of cases. From my understanding, this is where the placenta embeds deeply into the uterine wall but does not move through the wall. I have attached a little diagram to explain more clearly. 

The second most common is Increta, which accounts for 17% of all Accreta cases. This is where the placenta attaches and begins to move through the uterine wall, but does not break through the other side. 

Finally, the least common and most severe form of Accreta is Percreta - the diagnosis I was given. Percreta accounts for 5-7% of all cases and is where the placenta moves completely through the uterine wall and out of the other side. In lots of cases, it then attaches itself to nearby organs, generally the bladder or bowel. My placenta was attached to my previous c-section scar and the outer lining of my bladder. My surgeon explained, in all cases of Percreta, a hysterectomy is generally required and if my pregnancy had continued, I would have had to have a section of my bladder removed. 

Image from here 

The risk increases after every caesarean delivery. Any damage to the uterine wall, gives the opportunity for the placenta to embed deeply and Accreta to occur. The risk of Accreta after a c-section delivery, is still small at around 0.4-0.8% risk - but it's still a risk and it does happen. A previous section, combined with placenta previa, increases the risk further to 3% and continues to increase after every c-section. 

I was very, very unlucky. This isn't something that happens to everyone with a previous section delivery, but it's something women need to be aware of. From the reading I've done, I had all of the warning signs, yet Accreta was never once suggested. If you have had a previous section, have a diagnosis of previa and are actively bleeding, the question needs to be raised - could this be Accreta?

As I've said, I'm no expert on the condition, but I really hope just talking about it can help prevent diagnosis being missed. Accreta doesn't always end the way my pregnancy did, again I was unlucky, but it does pose lots of risks to mother and baby. Accreta is life-threatening, yet it's not talked about and I really need to change that, one blog post at a time!

If you want anymore information, here is the link to the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecologists guidelines on the conditions. 

Katie xx


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Dear World; A Letter From Mr Atkinson.

Dear World, 

On 30th January 2018 our world changed forever, when Katie and I lost our beautiful son – Jonah George Atkinson. From this moment until now and probably for ever and always, life has been a bit of a blur so I thought I might try doing what Katie has been doing so eloquently and write down my thoughts – I am a beginner, so please bear with me! 

There are major factors to this story, each as important as the other so I have decided to explain each one and I am sure you will understand why things are not ever going to be how they were before this 30/01/2018. 

We lost our Jonah: For reasons that I will never understand, our son was taken from us too soon and when I look in books, online and speak to people the inevitable ‘too precious for this world’ nonsense is everywhere – I appreciate that this may be comforting to many (I am yet to speak to one of these people) but if this is the case, I would have happily taken a slightly ‘less precious’ son if this meant that he got the chance to know his Mam, know me and to know his wonderful sister, Violet. Anyway, I digress, because in losing Jonah it has shown our little family (#teamatkinson) that Katie, Violet and I have amazing people in our lives, people who have taken the time to ask how we are, lend an ear when one is needed, offer to look after Violet, drop their plans at a seconds notice just to ‘be there’ AND it is this love and support that has helped us to carry on. Thankfully, Violet is too young to understand what has happened and we somehow have managed to keep her in routines and take our moments away from her (but when she does catch us having a little cry, she always comes and gives us a big cuddle along with an audible ‘awwwwwwwww’). 

Where things have been very difficult – beyond the obvious of having a dead child – is dealing with the following: 

1) Jonah was my son too: I must be very careful not to make this in anyway sound like a ‘me, me, me’ post from someone with a terribly fragile masculinity BUT it has been difficult that many forget that Jonah had two parents and we are both grieving. Katie has had a horrific ordeal and should always be the priority when asking how we and if I am honest, when people have asked how I am first or not asked how she is it has really annoyed me BUT over the last few weeks I have noticed that people don’t ask how I am getting on anymore and in some cases have almost prioritised their grief over mine – I am sure that this not intentional but it is bloody annoying. I am lucky that I am a teacher because when stuff gets rough, I can go in to ‘teacher mode’ and power through– this does not mean I am ok, this just means I want to deal with things my way and not your way (though I as write this I feel more positive than I have in a while). 

2) People can be knobs; Last night I stood staring at the table plan from our wedding and it brought about some great sadness as it was a who’s who of people that we have lost touch with, people who shouldn’t have been invited in the first place and people we have been let down by in our biggest time of need. Katie and I have always approached everything as TEAM and if we are honest, haven’t called on people for help when we should have but in the back of your mind you always think that there are people who would support you if you needed them – when people let you down this is hard and it has been made harder as I have been thinking over things that people have been through and I wondered if I had been there enough (some I had, some I hadn’t). On top of everything else we are dealing with we are also having to re-evaluate our relationships and decide who we want / need in our lives and most importantly, who we want to be involved in Violet’s life. Going back to our wedding seating plan – there is a point to this – I couldn’t help feeling sad about the people who weren’t on there, those who only entered our lives after we were married, for example; the person who abandoned her date night and her annual leave to look after Violet, act as a taxi service and clean gallons of blood from the bathroom floor or the person that abandoned work halfway through her shift to come and see me in the hospital, give me a hug when we went to see Katie in intensive care and direct traffic at home or the person I called first, the person I sobbed to much at the morning and the person who gave me the time I needed to get my head together before making some really hard phonecalls – these people know who they are. 

3) Men can’t talk: I am lucky that my best friend (Katie), the majority or my friends and colleagues are women as, byenlarge, men don’t / can’t talk about feelings. I will leave this one there.

4) I was very nearly a single parent: Violet is 20months old (I hate it when people give ages in months) and she loves her Mammy more than anyone, Violet was very close to spending the rest of her life not knowing how amazing her Mammy is and how she would give anything just to keep her safe and happy. As I sat alone in the butterfly room (the room for bereaved parents) at Royal Bolton hospital in complete denial about what was happening, one of the nurses sat me down, held me and told me how bad things were and that I needed to get family to the hospital quickly. Katie had lost 16pints of blood and was dangerously unstable, many professionals had tried to get this across to me but they couldn’t get me to see sense – for this reason I will be eternally thankful to Kirsty for being only the third person ever to get me to see reason (1. Katie 2. Mam 3. Random anaesthetic nurse). I sobbed for most of the day; I sobbed for Violet and her Mammy; I sobbed for me and my wife and I sobbed because I couldn’t remember what song Katie wanted playing at her funeral – Googoo Dolls (Iris) or Train (Drops of Jupiter). Thankfully Katie is a medical miracle and survived but how close we came to losing her is very scary and the sight of the blood gushing out of her; the sight of her in a coma and the guilt of going home after being told to by the Midwife, are things that will not leave me for a long time. But she is here, and Violet and I will just have to hold her even tighter and wrap her up in cotton wool (at least for a little while). There is definitely more to say about this but this is about all I can manage at this stage. 

5) Our parenting plans have changed: To save Katie’s life, she had a hysterectomy, and this is something that is exceptionally difficult for Katie and I to process and to be honest, I don’t think that either of us has started to deal with this extra level of shit, after all how many 27year old have to have this procedure? I would imagine not many. But Katie is strong, we are strong and we will get through. 

Anyway world, we have been dealt a shit hand and it really does feel like the shittest of hands but we have each other and #TeamAtkinson will be ok in the end. There are lots of 
hard times ahead; lots of ‘firsts’ to deal with but I know that Our Jonah will be watching out for the three of us. 

Yours truly, 

Jonathan Atkinson (Husband of a medical miracle and Violet and Jonah’s Daddy)

Sunday, 1 April 2018

5 Things About Late Miscarriage.

Like most people I assume, I didn't know a lot, if anything about baby loss prior to losing Jonah. In fact, embaressingly I would say I actively avoided the subject. Not because I didn't think it should be discussed, but because I was frightened of ever being a part of that world. Then suddenly you're thrown in at the deep end when the unthinkable happens and you do lose your child. We've learnt a lot over the past few weeks, about ourselves, other people, but most importantly about this whole new world of life after Jonah. I thought I'd share a few realities of what really happens when you have a late miscarriage.

1. You've Given Birth - This may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but I do think sometimes people forget. I assume because you don't have your baby at home and the focus is around that loss, the physical birth seems to get left behind. No matter the delivery, you still require some recovery. In my case, I had the exact same recovery procedure as any other c-section delivery, with the addition of a hysterectomy too. I had major abdominal surgery and I even have to remind myself sometimes to slow down and rest. This also means no heavy lifting or driving for weeks, which was a challenge in itself. I have a toddler that wants cuddles and being stuck in the house with just your thoughts, is not ideal. And guess what? You don't have your bundle of joy to make it all worth while, instead the pain and discomfort is just a constant reminder of what could have been.

2. Your Baby Looks Like a Baby - Okay, I know this maybe another really obvious thing, but I had no idea what a baby would look like at this gestation. Jonah was a picture of Violet, just smaller. He had ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes and was perfectly formed, but just arrived far too early. His eyes were formed under his eyelids, but not quite ready to open. And he was just my very tiny, precious little boy. 

3. You Still Produce Milk - Yep, even at 21+4 weeks I got a full milk supply. I guess I assumed that milk production wouldn't have been in full swing since I hadn't even reached the third trimester, clearly my body had other ideas. I was given some medication the day of Jonah's birth to prevent lactation, but it didn't seem to have any great effect. Just like my experience with Violet, my milk 'came in' on day 5 and was incredibly uncomfortable. Thankfully it only seemed to stick around for a week or so, but again something I could have done without. 

4. You Cannot Register the Birth - Giving birth in the second trimester but before 24 weeks puts you in a bit of a grey area. Legally, Jonah's birth was classed as a late miscarriage however because I was over 20 weeks I went straight to delivery suite not the antenatal ward. I will always describe Jonah as being born sleeping, no matter what the legalities are. However, because of the law, Jonah was not able to be registered as a birth or death, almost as if he never existed at all. I know there are huge political debates about this topic at the moment, so hopefully it won't be too long before the law is amended so Jonah and other babies can have a birth certificate. 

5. You Have to Plan a Funeral - I'm not sure many 27 year olds will have had to plan any funeral, let alone their child's. We chose cremation for Jonah and only had one request, that the ceremony was short and sweet. Thankfully we had an incredible funeral director, who couldn't have made the process easier. The thought of putting one foot in front of the other, just after losing you baby is hard enough. Planning a funeral is a whole different challenge. 

I'm sure they're 101 other things I've not mentioned, but I think these are the ones that surprised me the most. I so wish I'd been a little more prepared, but how do you prepare yourself for the unimaginable. 

Katie xx


Monday, 26 March 2018

Guilt & Grief.

I'm not a big fan of describing grief as a "journey", I guess it's because I never wanted to have to embark on it. My counsellor has a better description and explains grief as "waves" of up and down moments. I much prefer this idea of waves, some days I have my head above water and other days I'm only just staying afloat. Some days I can laugh and smile throughout the day and others I'm drowning in this overwhelming sadness. But that's okay. It's okay to laugh and it's okay to scream, because that's all part of riding the waves. And eventually, not anytime soon, the storm will settle and I will learn to live with my new "normal". 

It's still less than two months since Jonah's birth. It's a very surreal feeling, it almost feels like years ago because so much has happened but at the same time it feels like yesterday. I'm no expert at this grieving process, I'm just doing what I need to do to get from one day to the next and survive. And some days all I do is survive. I make sure Violet is kept busy and enjoying herself, but we do sometimes just spend time outside where I need not talk to anyone else and can shed a few tears if I need to. 

Grief brings all sorts of unwanted gifts with it. Sadness, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and guilt. And I have a lot of guilt. Guilt for what happened to Jonah, guilt that I'm not with him and guilt for not appreciating that I am with Violet and she still has her mummy. I felt my whole pregnancy that I was torn between my two children. I wanted to protect Jonah so much, that I couldn't do the things with Violet that we had always done. Towards the end, I wasn't able to lift her or carry her and that was really tough on her and me. But now I'm still torn between them both. I'm here with my precious little girl, however the price I paid for that was loosing my little boy. There was no option to keep Jonah alive, but that won't stop these feelings haunting me. 

As a mother your instinct is to protect your children. I would walk on hot coals for my babies. They are and always will be my number one priority. So what do you do when you're no longer able to protect your baby and to prevent the worst from happening? The moment I signed for my surgery plays over and over in my head. I had no choice, I know this, but it doesn't make it any easier. My body failed me and more importantly failed my little boy. I tried so very very hard to protect him, to keep him safe and I wasn't able to do that. I guess that's the thing about grief, it makes you irrational. I had no control over what happened but I do and always will feel responsible. This is something I'm really working on with my counsellor. 

And then the guilt creeps in again. This time the guilt for not appreciating that I'm still alive. Not appreciating that I'm still here for my beautiful girl when she needs me and not appreciating that amazing work the surgeons and staff did to make sure I lived to tell the tale. I am appreciative, so so appreciative to those wonderful people who gave me their blood and saved my life and made sure I got to see Violet grow up. I will always be thankful for that but it will never bring my little boy back. 

It will get easier because it has to get easier. The worst has happened and I'm somehow still standing. The days will be brighter and filled with more hope. And I know someday I will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But for now, I'm just riding these tidal waves in the hope that I can stay afloat. 

Katie xx

Monday, 19 March 2018

Jonah's Birth Story: Stillborn at 21+4 Weeks.

I'm sat up in bed at 6:30am on a Monday morning, attempting to start writing down Jonah's birth story. It's long and far from glamorous and I'm not entirely sure how long this will take me to write down. Please be warned, this isn't a magical birth story. There is no Hypnobirthing or wonderful water birth. It's real and raw, there is lots of blood and I'm not going to apologise for saying it how it was. This is how my precious boy arrived in the world, and he deserves me to tell the story the way it happened. Because if I could have changed the outcome, I would have in a heartbeat. 

I'd had a pretty regular, quiet Monday. V and I had been to Parent and Toddler group that morning, as it meant I could spend two hours sitting and she could wear herself out. We went home, Violet napped while I rested on the bed. Fast forward to 8pm. Again, I was lying on the bed (apparently I did a lot of that during this pregnancy), watching Grey's Anatomy. A few minutes into the episode, I turned to Jonathan and said "I'm bleeding". I had been spotting the whole way through but this felt a trickle, much like a period, so knew immediately and rushed to the bathroom. I then had a large gush of blood, much like the bleed I'd had at 18 weeks.  Jonathan called Triage and I somehow calmly, managed to speak to the midwife who had asked if Jonathan could bring me in. I agreed and put down the phone.

A few seconds later, another gush of blood, this time with clots and I vividly remember this weakness suddenly rushing over me. I could no longer physically sit up properly and had resorted to resting my head against the wall, whilst still sat on the toilet. Of course, the next step was to ring 999 and get an ambulance. The operator advised getting me onto the floor, so I laid on several towels, for 45 minutes until the ambulance arrived. During this time I'd soaked through them, but could still feel Jonah moving around and I had no pain at all. 

The paramedics put up some fluids and managed to get me up into a chair and carried me down the stairs to the ambulance. It was the longest journey to the hospital I've ever had, despite being blue lighted in. The paramedics estimated around a 2 litre blood loss at home. I specifically remember them saying "we're going straight to delivery because she's over 20 weeks". We arrived at maternity and I was wheeled on the stretcher to Central Delivery Suite.

By this point, the bleeding had calmed and was more like a heavy period. I was greeted by several midwives and Drs, who brought in the portable scanner to see what was going on. I knew Jonah was fine even before they scanned, and sure enough there he was kicking away on the screen. At this point, they diagnosed Complete Placenta Previa (I will go into all these conditions properly at another  date), this diagnosis was different from 18 weeks and meant the placenta had moved further down into an undesirable location. As soon as I was settled on the ward, Jonathan was sent home.

At 4am, I began to bleed again. I soaked through the bed sheets and my gown, but the bleed seemed much less than the previous one. I passed several small clots but nothing significant. I was given two units of blood and some more fluids to ensure my blood pressure wasn't dropping too low. The now familiar, weakness came over me. I vomited several times and remember not feeling like I could physically even roll over. I was nil by mouth and was shouting "I'm thirsty" over and over again - of course I was, I'd lost a lot of fluid. Jonathan was on his way back to the hospital and arrived during all the chaos. I specifically remember the midwife saying "if you were over 24 weeks pregnant, they would have got him out by now", this is something that has played on my mind over and over again. The bleeding slowed down and I attempted to get some rest, hoping the worst was over. 

A few hours later, at 7:45am, the bleeding began again. This time the bleed was huge. Like nothing I'd ever seen before. The bedding was soaked and it was just coming and coming. I felt like I was in a bubble, with all these people rushing around me, lifting my legs and putting more blood and fluids up. This is where everything becomes a little patchy and surreal. I was in and out of consciousness due to the blood loss, but told I was being taken to theatre so they could manage the situation more effectively. I was wheeled around to theatre and surrounded by 15-20 medical professionals, each trying to tell me what was happening and inserting more lines into my veins to ensure they could give me everything they needed to. The blood was still coming, clots the size of my fist were being passed over and over again. I was told we were waiting for the surgeon to arrive and he would explain what was going to happen during surgery. At this point, I knew Jonah would be born in the next few hours.

Around me were anaesthetists, doctors, midwives, nurses, but I remember one specifically. She held my hand, looked me in the eye and said "all of these people are here to save your life, you are going to be okay". I was asked to sign a consent form for the surgery and the consultant arrived and explained that they needed to get Jonah out as quickly as possible and that a c-section was the only option at this time. I nodded and signed the form. The last thing I said before being put to sleep was "I'm frightened, I need to see my little girl", I whole heartedly believe Violet is the reason I pulled through and I'm sat here today.

Surgery was predicted to last 90 minutes, I woke up five hours later. This is when I realised something massive had happened in theatre. At 8:50am on 30th January, Jonah George Atkinson was born sleeping peacefully weighing 13oz.

Unfortunately, surgery hadn't gone as smoothly as predicted. The surgeon was unable to stop the bleeding from my placenta, which had grown through the uterine wall and attached itself to my previous c-section scar. This was the rare diagnosis of placenta percreta, the most severe form of placenta accreta (I will do a whole post on this at some point). After attempting to stop the bleeding with the usual methods, they were left with no choice but to do a hysterectomy.

In total I lost around 9 litres of blood. I received 16 pints of blood - twice the amount in your body, 2 bags of plasma and 2 bags of platelets. I was put in an induced coma for two hours, whilst I was stabilised before being taken to the high dependency unit for 24 hours. I have been told by lots of the staff from theatre, that I am very lucky to be alive.

The rest of my stay in hospital was spent in a private room back on Central Delivery Suite. We were incredibly lucky to have a cold cot, which meant Jonah could stay with us for the whole time I was in hospital. I am so thankful for those days, so we could make some memories and spend some time with our precious little boy. I will forever be thankful to the bereavement midwife who pushed us to have some photos with Jonah from medical photography, we now have a very special album of his pictures. We were also given a memory box from a charity called 4Louis, which allowed us to have hand and foot prints done.

Leaving delivery suite without your baby, is hands down the worst thing anyone can ever have to do. A midwife walked us out to the car and suddenly reality hit that I didn't get to take Jonah home. Our family will always have an empty chair at the table, a missing piece. Violet's little brother will forever be in our hearts but not our arms. But I'm going to do absolutely everything in my power to make sure Jonah's name is spoken and his memory is kept alive. I will make you proud little man, I promise.

Katie xx


Sunday, 18 March 2018

A New Chapter: Wild Flowers.

A little explanation...

If you don't follow me on social media, you may not know that I've had a pretty difficult six months or so. This in turn, meant my blog took a backseat while my mind was preoccupied elsewhere. So where do I start? 

On 27th September 2017, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. A very much planned and longed for addition to our family, a sibling for Violet. We were incredibly excited about our new addition but also apprehensive after finding out at just four weeks. Our excitement was short-lived as I began bleeding on the 1st October. A few trips to Early Pregnancy Unit, to find two weeks later, our little peanut was happily growing, and the bleeding brushed off as being a clot they'd seen on the scan.

Unfortunately, the bleeding never subsided. I bled every day for 21 weeks. That takes its toll on you. We were in and out of EPU and then when I reached the 16 week milestone, trips to triage became the norm. Every visit we were told our little boy was growing well, there were no concerns, and the bleeding was 'just one of those things'. By this point I was really taking it easy, not picking Violet up unnecessarily and making sure I was resting as much as possible.

At the beginning of January, I hit the 18 week mark. I woke up to find fresh, red blood, so immediately called triage, who asked me to come in. Trust me, I have never been more thankful to have friends that could help me out with Violet, sitting in triage with a one year old is not fun. This time, I was kept in overnight to monitor the situation. Bump was doing great, heart beating away but I was still having this unexplained bleeding. During the night I experienced a much larger bleed, which again subsided and I somehow managed to get some rest. The following day before I was discharged, I was scanned and diagnosed with partial placenta previa - this must be the cause for all this trouble?

Two weeks later on the 29th January at 21+3 days preganant, I bled again, this time at home. A very significant bleed. Which eventually would lead to my little boy, Jonah George Atkinson, being born sleeping peacefully, at 21+4 weeks gestation. I want to dedicate a whole post to Jonah's birth story, because he absolutely deserves his own, just as Violet had hers. My diagnosis after Jonah's birth was complete placenta previa and placenta percreta - both of which I knew nothing of.

Without writing all the details right now, this is pretty much a whistle stop tour of my life the past six months. This blog is now going to be an outlet for me to share my story, raise awareness of late miscarriage, stillbirth, baby loss and placental issues. I want this to be a safe place for others to share their stories too, if they wish. This will be somewhere to laugh and cry and just talk. Baby loss needs to be spoken about, we need to break this silence and talk about our beautiful babies, who never got their own voice.

We scatter wild flower seeds for Jonah with Violet, hence the name behind the rebrand of my blog. There is something about going through grief that really connects you with nature and for one reason or another I feel closer to my boy when I'm outside.

So this is for you Jonah bear, I love you to the moon and back, always always always.

Katie xx

Monday, 12 March 2018

Back to Basics.

As Violet has got older, we've been really lucky with nappy rash. In fact, I can probably count on my hands the few times she's suffered with it. I'm not sure if it's down to the products we use or the cloth nappies but her bottom usually rash-free and I have a happy toddler. Except when she's teething. 

I assumed it was an old wives tale, that babies get a sore bum when they have teeth coming through. Well for us, it's definitely not a fable and poor V can get quite sore. Despite that, thankfully she gets pretty much, no other teething symptoms.

Of course, we've used all the nappy rash and barrier creams to try and combat a red bottom. They all have their perks and we definitely have a handful we prefer. Ive recently been reminded of the wonders of Bepanthen* so it's become out go-to cream the past month or so. It ticks all the boxes for us at the moment and it's really been doing the job. 
I've know about the wonders of Bepanthen, long before I had Violet. I used to use a super thin layer when healing tattoos and it was brilliant. I assume it's the Vitamin B5, within the cream that helps to recover the skin when it's been damaged, which makes sense for it to work perfectly on my skin and Violet's bum. 

I really appreciate that a little goes a very long way. There is one culprit in the nappy rash world that is unbearable to use because it's just so messy - Sudocrem, I'm looking at you. Bepanthen doesn't have that super thick feeling, nor does it manage to get on every surface within a ten metre radius. It's clean, easy to use and does the job and that's all I really want from a barrier cream. 

You may remember over the summer of last year, Violet had a really awful time with her skin. She takes after her mama and is very sensitive. Cue anything with a fragrance is an absolute no-no. Thankfully Bepanthen is fragrance free so we can use it happily on V, knowing it's not going to make her bum any worse. 
One thing that's great too, is Bepanthen didn't seem to stain her nappies either. If you use cloth nappies, you'll know some brands can leave marks on nappies which can affect the absorbancy. However we've not had that issue with these barrier creams so that's definitely a plus for me. 

So if you have a tube of Bepanthen hidden away in your cupboards, it might be worth picking it back up and giving it a good on that pesky nappy rash!

Katie xx
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