Friday, 25 November 2011

An angel for my angel

This week must be my lucky week! I feel so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people who show me in very special ways that they are thinking of me all the time. Jeanette surprised me today with a little angel figurine. 

I was never really much of a figurine person before all of this. To be honest, I also didn't really "get" angels. I mean I thought it was a nice concept to have a celestial being watching over you, but post-Pip angels have a whole other meaning. Do babies who die become angels? I don't know, but it's a comforting thought that even if they don't, they live on in heaven and are being cared for by angels. 

Every year we have a tradition of adding a special ornament to our christmas collection. Having been lucky enough to have lived in some interesting places, we have managed to collect some pretty special things over the years. And so this year, like every other year I'm on the lookout for lovely ornaments to add to the collection, but this year unlike every other year, I'm searching for a very special ornament to symbolise a very special person. 

This year I've been on the lookout for an angel to add to the collection. It's been so hard to keep walking into shop after shop and looking at ornament after ornament that should symbolise a happy beautiful event, but in my heart symbolises the beautiful girl who couldn't stay. So many shops and yet not one ornament seems "right" as yet. 

The search for the 2011 Christmas angel ornament continues. But in the meantime, I am grateful for beautiful people in my life who think of me when they see something special. I do love the upturned wings and the wavy hair on this little cherub, thank you Jeanette.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

More fabric love and transfers

My mother-in-law popped in to see me over the weekend and brought some fabric love for Pip's quilt. I love the pink fabric with it's design of the trees and leaves and the gorgeous baby aqua blue. There is also a pack of angel transfers because I told her that I haven't been able to find any fabric with angels on it yet that I could add to the quilt, so she got these in case I wanted to add to the embroidery on the quilt. Hmm...ideas ideas! 

I'm not sure where I'll use it yet. Still haven't settled on a design for the shooting star block, but I'm sure it will make an appearance somewhere. Have I mentioned how much I love that pink? Thank you Liz, (best mother-in-law ever).

Monday, 21 November 2011

Our first Post-Pip Christmas

Every story has a beginning and an ending. Most stories usually have one significant event that changes the course of the lives of all affected by it, or many little events that make up the story itself. Whatever the story, I think that most stories also have a "pre" and a "post" and so it is that our story of Pip has a pre and a post to it also.

I've always loved Christmas. There really is no two ways about that, Christmas has always been an event in our household ever since we were married. It's a time when our family comes together, or while we were living overseas, it was a time we spent with close friends usually alongside a Christmas feast which takes almost ten times as long to cook and prepare as it takes to eat it all. We love our presents, not for what is contained in the gifts themselves, but mainly for the fun of going out and picking or making something that will give the other person joy, a laugh or two and something they may even treasure for a while.

All of the above is of course Pre-Pip.

I remember hoping last year when we'd first started trying for a baby that I would have some lovely news to share at Christmas time. What could be a better gift than knowing that a beautiful little person is growing inside you and will soon join your family? December 2010 came and went without that news I was hoping for, but despite the disappointment we had a great time together as a family and I took it in stride. 

So when I found out that we were pregnant in July this year, I was so excited about what this Christmas would be like with our little one this time. If everything has gone well, I'd be around about 5 months pregnant at Christmas time. It would also have been around the time when our baby would have started to move, dance and kick in the womb. I couldn't wait to feel that for myself and I know my family would have fawned over every little thing with this baby. 

In a Post-Pip world, Christmas will come and go as usual. There will be the usual Christmas feast with the usual suspects. But there will be one little person missing from the picture. I don't think Christmas will ever be the same again for me. For the first time in what feels like forever, I'm not looking forward to Christmas. At all. Where before there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation, now there only seems to be an empty bleakness.

Loosing Pip was like being hit by the grief and loss freight train. Most days I'm surprised that I have barely survived. At first there is nothing but numbness. Then comes the incredible pain which is all consuming. Then slowly by slowly I've started to learn how to take that pain and live with it. Now I feel like I'm getting ready to start doing all the things I've done normally before, only knowing that life will never be the same again. This is my new normal.

And so as Christmas rolls around this year, somehow quite by accident I've just realised that I'm part of 4 different Secret Santa's. One for work, one with a bunch of my special girlfriends and the other two are for two separate baby loss networks I'm a part of. The handmade holiday gift exchange with the girls at Grieve out Loud (GOL) and the other is a baby loss mama's group on facebook.

The handmade holiday gift exchange appeals to me because it's handmade. These past few months have had the recurring theme of handmade. Pre-Pip I'd lost my connection with handmade, but Post-Pip I've slowly started to rediscover that connection and how much I truly love making things with my hands. 

Now I'm both excited and scared about what I will be making to exchange which I joined at the last minute by the grace of my lovely penpal at GOL. But therein lies the miracle. Where before I wasn't looking forward to any part of Christmas, now there is a little glimmer of hope and something different. Maybe Christmas will never be the same again, but maybe like my new normal, it may just take a little bit of getting used to.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Learning to live with the pain

Hi baby girl,

These past few weeks have been different. I'm starting to find that these days I have more good days than bad days.

When I say "good days", that doesn't mean a day when I don't think about you, because I can't see that happening anytime soon. I think I will always find you in the little things - a pretty flower, the flutter of a butterfly's wings, a rainbow... There isn't a day that has gone by when I haven't thought about you. The difference is now I can think of you and begin to smile, knowing that you are transformed, living a life that is pain free, I hope you are living it up in Heaven and rocking with the angel baby family you have up there.

At first, not feeling the same deep, deep sadness that I felt at the start made me feel guilty and sad. But I know that everyone grieves differently. Just because I'm not a sobbing mess anymore doesn't mean that I love you and miss you any less. It's not like any of this makes any more sense. Not at all, I still don't get why things had to happen this way. I still wish with all my heart that you were here and growing bigger and stronger every day inside me. I don't think that wish will ever change.

How do you grieve for someone you've never met, yet love with all your heart? I don't know, so I had to find my own way. My way has been to honour your memory by talking about you to anyone and everyone who will listen. By finding other mummies who live everyday without their precious babies, just like daddy and I live everyday without you.

My way is to pour all the love I have for you into creating something special and beautiful just for you. My way is to dream about you while I sew another little stitch into your very own quilt. Do you like the colours I've chosen for you? Do you like the patterns and the shapes? I hope so. Maybe one day you can tell me exactly what you think of it.

I know that you wouldn't want me to be sad forever. Daddy said that to me the other day and so did some of the other angel mummies I speak to often. Most days are good, but some days are still bad.

The other day I drove past the hospital where I went to see the doctor for you. The thought that if everything had gone well, I'd still be going there for you brought tears to my eyes. Then another day, a lady I work with brought her newborn granddaughter in to work. It broke my heart to hold that tiny, beautiful little girl and know that I will never get to hold you like that. Nor will your grandmother, who was so very excited about being a grandmother, get the chance to introduce you to her friends like that. 

Yes, some days are still bad. But most days are good. I still love you and miss you every single day. I still wear the necklace I had made for you and it helps to know you are symbolically near, even though I know you will always be in my heart.

Another angel mummy said that this means I'm learning to live with the pain. I want you to know that while that learning process is still hard, painful and awkward, I'm getting better everyday. I don't like the thought that you may be worrying over me or daddy, because you're a beautiful child of heaven and should be happy and free without worries. So know this my love, I will never stop loving you but very, very, very slowly I think that great big gaping hole in my heart is starting to mend - ironically, with the very thing that makes it hurt so very much. My love for you. 

It's a swelteringly hot day here today, I hope heaven has ice creams with chocolate sprinkles for you. 

I love you always and forever my baby girl.
You are always in my heart.
mummy xxx

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Angel hearts

This weekend I finally had a nice long block of time to sit down and sew. I only managed to get two blocks done, but it's a start. 6 more to go. 

I'm really glad I swapped around the fabric I used for the pieces that make up each section of the wings in each block. Adds a bit of visual interest without detracting from the generic pattern of the blocks as a group, I think. 

Also glad I picked red thread for the blanket stitches - red for love. Before I started, I wasn't sure if it would give enough definition to the outline of each part, but I really like how it's all turned out.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Water Child

We lived in Japan for a few years, but sadly I don't know enough about Mizuko kuyō, a Japanese ceremony that commemorates miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. I remember visiting temples where I had seen rows and rows of tiny statues that looked like baby Buddhas. When I fine-tooth-combed my photo archives I only found three photos I'd taken from one such temple in Kamakura, near Tokyo, but distinctly have a memory of seeing more. 

At the time, my local friend explained the statues as a way for parents to pray for their babies who had died. I remember thinking it was wonderful that grief lived so openly in what some see as a culture that is not always open.

Mizuko (水子), literally translates as Mizu (water) ko (child) - water child. It is a "Buddhist belief that existence flows into being slowly, like liquid. Children solidified gradually over time and weren't considered to be fully in our world until they reached the age of 7". For those who are interested, Peggy Orenstein, a NY Times journalist wrote about experiencing a miscarriage in Japan while on assignment there and explains Mizuko clearly. 

I think I love the thought that regardless of where we are from, who we are as a people, a culture or a nation and no matter where we are in the world, most people would feel the very human pain of loosing a child profoundly. It's not something that you "get over". But I hear that time helps. So do rituals of healing, such as a Mizuko kuyō. Most grieving mothers I know in the Western world have done something at some point as part of their own healing ritual or journey. Some release balloons or butterflies, some light candles, some make cakes on the 1 year birthdays of their children who have died and on other birthdays that follow. Some even have a mizuko statue in their gardens.

My pictures don't really show it, but Mizuko statues in Japanese temples and shrines are usually dressed in red bonnets or red bibs. These are usually handmade, it's hard to see in this picture, but those red beanies are hand knitted. I love the idea of making something for my baby and can only hope that those parents found some healing in making those items in memory of their babies.

The red bonnets and bibs are also left along with gifts of flowers, clothes, toys and pinwheels. The vases depicted in the picture below hold the pinwheels and/or flowers. Sometimes parents also write a message to their Mizuko. I love how all the elements of nature can be represented in this simple ceremony as well. Wind in the pinwheels, earth in the flowers, water which is poured over the statue to symbolise rebirth and the cycle of mizuko and fire when a candle or incense is lit.

In my brief research of the topic it was obvious that there are many views on Mizuko kuyō. Some see it as an exploitation of vulnerable and grieving family members (as some temples ask for a fee when performing the Mizuko kuyō ceremony). Others may have a religious opinion about it. Be that as it may, I can't help but keep coming back to the fact that every statue that is dressed or adorned with gifts, represents another grieving family.