For X, H and Mr O. 

When you deliver your babies early, or experience the loss of a child you farewell a whole raft of experiences, emotions and plans. I’ve written about this a lot over the last year but today I felt something for the very first time since I became pregnant. I felt normal.
As much as people try to comfort you, and make you feel welcome and comfortable there is this constant feeling of detachment, of just not quite fitting in. The sense of belonging that you had hoped for in a multitude of groups has sadly been completely destroyed. 

I didn’t feel like I fit in with the pregnant women, they seemed happy, comfortable. They moved quickly, continued their normal everyday tasks; they walked and baked and worked and socialised. I didn’t feel any of that, I was miserable and in pain, I was ill and if I’m being completely honest there was more than one time that I wished it would be over, so I didn’t have to feel this anymore. I don’t fit in with the mums in my friends and family, we have lived through different experiences, and I will be forever envious of that. I can’t manage the breastfeeders very well, I’m sad and jealous and angry. I don’t hang with the solids eaters either, I’m sad and jealous and angry again. I’m a world apart from the twin mums because I was so very nearly part of your gang and then it all got torn away. There’s no coffee group when you missed half of your antenatal classes and then watched them all start the life you had dreamed of. There are no infant group activities because it’s simply not worth the infection risk. The normal things that had seemed so sure now seem like something everyone else gets to be a part of, but not us.

But today was different.

We got up early and we packed the bags, the feeding pump and syringes, bottles and medications, the flannels and multiple clothing changes for the inevitable vomit that would follow us. We thought about the timings and the practicalities, and we made sure that our destination had the things we needed that we couldn’t bring. We packed it all into the car and we drove north.

We arrived and we unpacked it all. We spread everything over coffee tables and dining tables and we set up camp for the day. But we were not alone.

We were with two other families that we had met in the NICU and who had travelled similar, but not exactly the same, journey’s to ours.

We sat. We talked. We ate (we undid our trouser buttons…just me?). We laughed and we played with our miracle boys. We drew up calogen and gabapentin, we rinsed giving sets and changed pump doses. We watched in awe as one of our three crawled on the floor, and as another clapped his hands, while the third babbled aloud. We breathed together.

We breathed together and we finally, even if only a little bit, felt our shoulders relax and our chins rise up a little higher. I watched as smiles increased over the day, as the laughter became more frequent and the tension just melted away. Three exhausted, sad, lost families who are constantly trying to find some driftwood to hold tight to in this churning sea of preemie parenting. And today we found it. We found a place where we truly belong.

This is a place where words don’t need to be said aloud, and nothing needs to be explained because all three families have been there, done that. I find there’s a tiredness that comes from being with people, from the talking and the thinking and the reacting. I find it exhausting the vast majority of the time. I was tired today, from getting up early, and after the long drive, but I was so astonishingly energised from spending time with these people. As we packed the car to head home and we held each other tight, we cried for each other, for the complete and utter injustice of it all, but we also cried for the sheer joy of having found our place, the place where we fit in.

This doesn’t mean we don’t want or need the other groups around us, because we do. But it means that every once in a while (hopefully more often) we need to just be together, to remind ourselves that there is a place for us in this world after our earth has been torn open and our hearts have been broken. There is a group to which we belong.

These three boys have changed our lives. Their parents are courageous and fierce. And, you’re right, I think these actually could be the top three most gorgeous boys in the whole wide world.


The Weight of Grief

The weight of grief is so, so heavy. 

You feel it in your shoulders, your back, I feel it in my stomach, my throat. Somehow you get up everyday and you carry it around with you, an invisible load. 
The weight of grief is so, so heavy. 

You sit beside it at the table, and tuck in with it at night. I soak it in the shower and share my cup of tea with it. Somehow I smile at people and laugh with them, an effective mask. 
The weight of grief is so, so heavy. 

You hold it in tight and distract. I let it out and collapse. Somehow this works and the days roll by, a healing of time. 
The weight of grief is so, so heavy. 

You know it won’t pass, you own it for life. I fight it and search, for light, for air. Somehow we survive and breathe through the shakes, an endless battle.
The weight of grief is so, so heavy. 

You smiled today and it stayed a while. I held my head up, stood tall, shoulders back. Somehow it’s a balance, an ebbing and flowing, and this is life. 
– If all you did today was breathe, remember sometimes that is enough. 

Sculpture: The Weight Of Grief, Celeste Roberge

When you go on ‘holiday’ with children….

So we have been away for 4 weeks now and have one final week to go of our glorious holiday and I thought I’d reflect on that time and see if I can’t offer a little insight into this whole holiday with a child thing. Just in case any of you were thinking of doing it anytime soon (maybe don’t..).

Here’s a little list of how awesome it is to holiday with a child. It’s just like before kids, trust me….

1. Holidays are about exciting transport. That tingly feeling you get in airports because you know you’re about to go on an adventure? No that tingly is pins and needles in your arm because of all those bags you have to cart with you. It’s having a 10 minute ‘discussion’ with the airline hostess as you try to convince her the 10 items of hand luggage you have are actually only 1 piece of hand luggage. Would she prefer it if you didn’t bring all these things and the child screamed the entire flight, or you bring all the things and said child screams for just 3/4 of the flight? Up to you hostess, I know which one I’d choose. Or is there option C and we could maybe pick up the kid on our way back? 

2. Holiday are about sleeping in. You know those holidays when you were young and carefree? Where you could really take the time to catch up on all that sleep you miss out on when you work 9-5 and ‘only’ get 8 hours a night? Yeah that’s gone. You know how you only get 5 hours of broken sleep a night at home? It’s less on holiday. You think your kids don’t sleep well at home? There’s now a million new reasons for them not to sleep. That’s not my cot, I ain’t sleeping woman. It’s darker here, I have to stay awake. It’s lighter here, I can’t sleep. Yup, it’s my linen but ‘something’ isn’t right, it’s a trick, nice try dad, I’m not sleeping. People used to see you after your holidays and say how rested and refreshed you look, now they will see you after your holidays and say how you must be looking forward to your break coming up. Feel free to hand them your child and get back on the plane.

3. Holidays are about eating out. Yup, absolutely, if you’re happy to eat the meal one at a time while the other one distracts the child with one of the 20 thousand toys you packed into the nappy bag, one of the 5 million different snacks that the child doesn’t want because he wants what is on your plate, even though you know he won’t like it. If you’re lucky enough to find a cafe with a high chair then you may be able to eat your meal hot, but that’s in between picking up the 20 thousand toys 598 times over 30 minutes because, you know, that’s the best game in the WORLD. Thankfully New Zealand has a lot of fish and chip shops. Go on, you know it’s easier. 

4. Holidays are about an empty suitcase and shopping. Yeah it’s an empty suitcase, as in its empty of anything that’s yours and chocka block full of the ridiculous amount of crap that needs to go everywhere with your kid. A suitcase per night that you’re away for is about the right amount I’d say. Don’t you dare forget that monkey, or that spoon, or that pair of shoes because didn’t I tell you mum? I can’t sleep without that monkey and I won’t eat off any other spoon and there’s no way I’m letting you put THOSE shoes on my feet!! And you thought they made a lot of washing at home? Think again. Mess is attracted to holidaying children, don’t ask me how, something to do with some science and stuff. It’s facts. And I’m not even going to talk about shopping. Don’t even bother. 

5. Holidays are about seeing the sights. What can I say? Thank god most kids under 5 get in free, because they truly couldn’t care less about that historic landmark or that spectacular view. And obviously it’s really relaxing to stop and just breathe in the landscape, the hills or the water or the sky. But don’t take more than 36 seconds okay because then he’s going to need food/toys/nappy change/distraction/picking up/putting down/throwing around/cuddles/sweater on/sweater off/help finding his shoe/hat/mittens/toy…you get my drift. 

6. Holidays are about doing things together. (Especially after 8 nights of fish and chips…). “I heard there’s this really lovely walk up to a view point, shall we check that out today?” Sure, absolutely, do you want to go this morning and I’ll go this afternoon? Oh, bless, you thought we could all go together. *sigh and a head shake* (you know the one). Maybe it’s just our kid and his feeding issues that brought this one up, but i’m sure if you stopped and thought about it you’d realise how much nicer that activity would have been if you’d just gone on your own, right? You want it to be this fantastic family outing, but you know all your kid wants is to bash that balloon around and definitely NOT sit in the car seat thank you very much. 

7. Holidays are about getting back some of that intimacy with your partner. Hahahahahahahaaaaaa hahahahaaaa. 

8. Holidays are about family time. This one is legit folks. It’s 100% family time. There’s no grandparents to come and give you a break, no friends popping in with cake and coffee, no playgroups to wear out the kids, it’s just you guys. No break, no rest, just family all day and all night…

So before you buy those tickets or book that hotel just stop and take a moment to change your expectations a little bit, and maybe call it a ‘family change of venue’ rather than a ‘family holiday’. 

In all honesty though we have had the most amazing time, but each and every one of the thoughts on this list passed through our minds at some point or another. It’s not a holiday like it used to be, but if you can let that go, it’s totally worth it.