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

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