Sunday Thought July 26, 2015: Two Perspectives, One Half of the Same Whole

At first for today’s Sunday Thought I was going to choose one or the other of the pictures below. Both appeared on my Facebook timeline this week, and summed up perfectly my feelings.

After a while, I realised I couldn’t choose between them because they are two halves of the same whole – so I chose both:

AngelaMillernew

For anyone who thinks that grief has a time limit, or that you ‘move on’ from the death of your child. There is a Hugo-shaped hole in my heart that will always remain. I feel the ache from that hole every day, I feel the pain of the void his absence has left in our lives. I feel the frustration when people don’t know what to say for the best, or do not mention Hugo.

But – oh, I feel such a proud rush of love when people do mention Hugo. When they admire him for the gorgeous, feisty baby he was. When they observe the work that has been done in his memory.

That is because Hugo’s Legacy comes from that pain, that void. As Angela Miller says, the love that oozes from it gives me the power to use my experiences to help others, to make others sit up and listen, to challenge.

To change the world.

MeganDevine

This is something I have difficulty with.

Since Hugo died I have discovered the very best of people: people I knew before, some I have met since. Such kindness, empathy, warmth.

Through my blog I have made the most beautiful friendships. Some are fellow loss mamas, others are not. We share in common a passion for sharing with others our feelings and experiences through words, a determination to give comfort to others, reassure them they are not alone.

Through social media I have made the most wonderful friendships. Professionals from all fields. Kind, compassionate, determined people willing to listen and take account. People willing to help me get involved, use my skills, collaborate to make a difference.

Through my blog and social media I have been given fantastic opportunities. Opportunities to get dressed up, have fun, be me; opportunities I never thought I would have.

Opportunities I never thought I would pursue, or do: speaking in front of large audiences, and with a clear voice too. The power of that love for Hugo gives me the strength.

Many beautiful moments.

All opportunities that came because Hugo died. Yes, these opportunities have come as a result of a lot of hard work, but the motivation for the effort comes back to the same reason.

Friendships, relationships, opportunities. But no son. No offence, but there are no prizes for guessing which I would prefer.

While I have a better sense of comfort with the opportunities I have been offered in the past year, I doubt it will ever sit well with me.

I would give it all back to be another mummy with the everyday trials and tribulations of caring for an energetic, willful 13 month old little boy. Who knows what our lives would have looked like in reality, but it would have been full of beautiful moments. Beautiful moments of a different sort. The wonderful moments of motherhood, the frustrating moments.

But what is done cannot be undone.

The way forward is to move forward. Reflect on the beautiful moments I had during those 35 precious days with my beautiful boy. Wish for more, so many more; no amount of time can ever be enough.

Hold on to those beautiful moments, and look to the future. Forging more wonderful friendships, generating more opportunities, creating more beautiful moments.

Hugo will always be a part of them.

Friday Favourites: Things About Blogging

This week my Friday Favourites post is all about blogging!

Blogging is wonderful, in my humble opinion: what began as a hobby and an  outlet for my creativity has become a lifeline through living with grief, and provided me with a sense of purpose during the darkest days.

In no particular order of importance, here are my favourite points about blogging:

I can write my words, my way, and in my own time.

It’s my own little corner of the internet! No one is required to sign off what I write, which is refreshing! Provided I am happy that what I have written is for the right reasons, factual and accurate, and that I am not causing any offence (intentionally, at least) I have carte blanche to do as I like.

No one telling me what to do, no direction, no deadlines.

If I want to write, I write.

If I don’t want to write, I don’t.

Freedom!

Exploring different ways of writing

The majority of my posts in the last year have inevitably focused on Hugo, what happened around his birth, life, and his death, and dealing with what came after.

These posts have had a range of styles: some are stream of consciousness, some are commentary and opinion – I have even explored poetry as a way of articulating my emotions.

Over time, I have felt able to write about what makes ‘me, me’ with more frivolous posts including a bit of humour, contemplating life, the universe, and everything. Oh, and bags and dresses.

Just like with the point above, I am free to write what I want to write, according to my mood or feelings that day – and in the way I want to write it.

The freedom to explore different styles of writing has built my confidence as a writer – if you tend to stick to a particular style, why not experiment? You can always write drafts and not publish things until you’re happy with them.

The opportunities I have been given.

My blog is my platform for Hugo’s Legacy, to make a difference to other families in his memory. Through it, I have met the most incredible, inspirational people; been invited to speak at events; learned how Hugo is helping influence health care professionals’ practice.

It really is wonderful to behold.

Friendship and Support

While it may seem cheesy, the blogging community is wonderfully supportive to one another. We provide mutual support, and I have made wonderful friends. I’m fortunate to have met many of them in real life, too, such as at BritMumsLive a couple of weeks ago.

Bloggers – as well as others who visit my blog – have provided me with so much love and support, helping keep me going and giving me valuable reassurance that my Hugo will never be forgotten.

I feel privileged to be a part of the community.

Blogging also means I am able to provide support to those who are only just beginning their journey after birth trauma, neonatal care, or the death of their baby – the importance of knowing you are not alone cannot be underestimated.

IMG_20150619_151119-1

Above and below: Some of my lovely blogging friends.

Friends1

Without blogging, my life today, my outlook on life, and my view of the future are likely to look very different indeed.

Thank you all.

Mums' Days

BritMums Live: What A Difference a Year Makes

I went to BritMums Live with a few simple goals: to tell people about #HugosLegacy and #MatExp; to learn how to extend their reach; to get some tips on getting my book published; to spend time with my friends and to enjoy myself.

This year’s event was a world away from last year, when I arrived not knowing a soul and felt terribly overwhelmed because everyone but me seemed to have friends to hang out with.

What a difference a year makes! I had a very long list of people to see and to hug – I feel privileged to know so many lovely people. The event was so hectic I didn’t get to spend as much time with some people as I would have liked, which was a real shame.

On the Friday, I felt fabulous in the gorgeous dress kindly gifted by Kaliko while on Saturday I wore my lovely versatile White Stuff dress. Dresses

I find such events a little over-stimulating – so much going on, so much to look at, and listen to. I often worry I am being rude when talking to someone because my eyes keep flitting around the room, and I felt awful too when I didn’t straight away recognise a couple of bloggers I regularly chat to.

The lovely Carla from Random Thoughts of a Twenty Something kindly let me bunk up with her at the Travelodge, and we travelled down together from our hometown.

I chatted to so many people – some of the photos we took are in the collages below.

With Vicky (Single Mother Ahoy) and Carla; with Sara (Mum Turned Mom) and Heledd (Running in Lavender); Hannah (Budding Smiles); Kiran (Mummy Says); Susanne (Ghostwritermummy).

With Vicky (Single Mother Ahoy) and Carla; with Sara (Mum Turned Mom) and Heledd (Running in Lavender); Hannah (Budding Smiles); Kiran (Mummy Says); Susanne (Ghostwritermummy).

With Katie (Pouting in Heels; Vicki (Honest Mum); Amy (Mr and Mrs T Plus Three); Michelle (Bod For Tea).

With Katie (Pouting in Heels; Vicki (Honest Mum); Amy (Mr and Mrs T Plus Three); Michelle (Bod For Tea).

Waiting for the BiBs awards to start: Beth, Kathryn (Bumps and Grind), Louise (23 Week Socks), Oana (Mama's Haven), Vicky, Carla; with Hayley (Downs Side Up); with Carla; with Kat (Beau Twins)

Waiting for the BiBs awards to start: Beth, Kathryn (Bumps and Grind), Louise (23 Week Socks), Oana (Mama’s Haven), Vicky, Carla; with Hayley (Downs Side Up); with Carla; with Kat (Beau Twins)

Gorgeous ladies: with Katy (What Katy Said), Katie, Hannah, Aby (You Baby Me Mummy)

Gorgeous ladies: with Katy (What Katy Said), Katie, Hannah, Aby (You Baby Me Mummy)

I was so pleased to be able to give Oana from Mama’s Haven the huge hug I have been saving for her since we started chatting on Facebook last summer. Oana’s beautiful little boy Georgie sadly died from leukaemia last July, and we were able to sit and chat about our boys. We bereaved mothers have a sort of shorthand that others are very fortunate not to know. It’s the first anniversary of Georgie’s death shortly, please help Oana and her family celebrate this special little boy’s life by doing something for Georgie #LiveitforGeorgie.

Me and Oana

Me and Oana

BML was like the first anniversary for me and beautiful Beth. At last year’s event, Beth saw a tweet I had made about an insensitive thing someone had sent to me and from then on looked after me. I am proud to call this wonderful, generous, and kind woman a friend and I’m pleased we were able to spend time together.

Me and Beth

Me and Beth

There were people I wish I had more time to chat with – Susanne (Ghostwritermummy, and one of my #MatExp partners in crime). I was pleased to meet her beautiful daughter Elsie though. Elsie enjoyed grabbing my fingers and appeared to be entranced by my sparkly nail polish – clearly a girl after my own heart! Katie (Pouting in Heels) and I didn’t have nearly enough chatting time (and as our lunch in Leeds proved, we sure can talk. And talk….) Diaries at the ready for another meet-up, Katie! Renee (Mummy Tries) sadly couldn’t return on the Saturday, and I was really sorry to not have spent more time with her. And Tim (Slouching Towards Thatcham)! One of the few dad bloggers. We kept saying hello to each other but seemed to be unable to manage more than pleasantries. So pleased I gave you a big hug though, Tim.

I loved meeting and exchanging hugs with so many other lovely people, too.

To be honest, for me the social side of the event outshone the sessions. The event felt really friendly and easy going to me; I thought it was because I was comparing it to my experiences last year, but others echoed that. That’s as it should be, I think – it doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many views your blog gets, we’re all human beings.

The icebreaker session turned out to be a world record attempt for the number of people dressed up as tissue paper mummies. We achieved it – by one! I felt bad for the mummies towards the back of the room who must have been sweltering in their toilet roll swaddling while they were waiting for the adjudicators to arrive. Despite our initial reluctance, the exercise was great fun – and we all got to say we’re record breakers. (Except I now have Roy Castle’s theme tune from the classic ’80s show in my head). Kudos to Michelle and Carla for volunteering to be our table’s mummies.

Mummies being mummies...

Mummies being mummies…

My favourite sessions were Women’s Voices; Digital Activism; and the support from blogging round table led by Hayley.

As talking about Hugo and about #MatExp were two of my goals at the event, I was pleased to be able to stick up my hand during the Women’s Voices and Digital Activism sessions to talk about Hugo and my work with his legacy, and with #MatExp. Women deluged Susanne and I after the #MatExp event wanting to get involved, which was fantastic. I’ve taken away some actions and ideas, which is brilliant. A lovely lady even told me her mum in South Africa would be so pleased to hear she’d met me, because her mum follows my blog – incredible.

I was also delighted to find out that I was Mumsnet’s Blog of the Day for my post about what I wanted the National Maternity Review to know.

Blog of the Day!

Blog of the Day!

Talks

I also loved Victoria Wright’s fantastically moving and brilliant speech.

The bloggers’ keynote rounded off the event. I had entered my own post – A Celebration of Life – and was disappointed to not be chosen. However, I was pleased to learn that Louise from 23 Week Socks had been selected to read Twinkle Twinkle. This is an incredibly emotional, moving post about the death of a baby that is so similar to Hugo’s last moments it is uncanny. There are so few such stories around it naturally had a particular resonance for me, but it is also so beautifully written. Louise’s beautiful post is a tribute to all babies who didn’t make it home, and the staff who care for them and their families.

I had read Twinkle, Twinkle so many times I thought I could cope with listening to Louise reading the post, but I was wrong. There were some emotional posts preceding Louise that had already started to choke me up, but Twinkle Twinkle was far too close to home and I started to sob. Wracking sobs, in fact. It made me realise how foolish I was thinking I could have read my post about Hugo’s funeral. No chance.

I was grateful for the love and support of wonderful friends at my table who held on to me and didn’t let me go as my heart broke all over again. I am so grateful too to the wonderful friends came up to me and squeezed me with love and hugs after the keynotes had finished. Thank you all.

At first, I thought it was a shame that an event I had enjoyed so much ended with me sobbing. The sobbing wasn’t good, of course, but it also served to remind me that so often the lows come after the highs. Grief is always lurking under the surface. Just as importantly, I left feeling so loved and cared for by genuine friends who I can laugh with and cry with.

Blogging really can be amazing.

There was wine, there was yummy cake, I talked about my Hugo and #MatExp, I am blessed to have wonderful friends.

My business cards were hugely popular, and I have only a couple left! I’m glad they were a hit.

Some of my fabulous business cards.

Some of my fabulous business cards.

I allowed myself to enjoyed myself, and enjoy myself I did. What a difference a year makes.

 

 

I’m Going to BritMums Live!

It’s nearly time for BritMums Live… I’m really looking forward to the two-day blogging conference. It promises to be a brilliant event, with the chance to catch up with so many of my friends, and get lots of tips from the sessions.

Please do come and say hello!

Name: Leigh (you pronounce it like you would ‘Lee’)

Blog: Headspace Perspective

Twitter ID: @leighakendall

Height: 5′ 4”

Hair: It’s naturally dark brown, and I have some blonde highlights. In fashion jargon I believe my current hair colour is called ‘bronde’.

Eyes: Green. I may wearing contact lenses or glasses.

Is this your first blogging conference? No, I was at BritMums last year. Since then, I’ve attended Mumsnet’s BlogFest last November, and BlogCamp in Birmingham last month.

Are you attending both days? Yes! I’m staying in a Travelodge with my good friend, lovely Carla from Random Thoughts of a Twenty Something.

What are you wearing? On the Friday I will be wearing this beautiful gifted Kaliko dress. Saturday will no doubt be another dress of some description.

DSC_5683

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? So much! Most of all, I am looking forward to catching up with so many wonderful friends during the two days. Some friends I have met before and am so excited about seeing again, while others I am really looking forward to meeting for the first time. This is significant progress compared to last year’s event, when I arrived not knowing a single soul and was ready at one point to walk out and go home because everyone but me seemed to be surrounded by friends.

Besides the social side of the event, I am looking forward to being inspired by the sessions, and to leave with lots of ideas for my blog. I will be particularly looking for ways to further extend the reach of Hugo’s Legacy, so will be making sure I have a place at the digital activism session. Vicki (Honest Mum) will as always have fantastic tips on how to be a successful blogger in a way that is relevant to me (and you!). I am writing a book, so I will be making a beeline for the session on how to market myself and my writing.

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? As above, ideas for generating further awareness of Hugo’s Legacy. I am also writing more posts about what makes me, ‘me’, and I often gain inspiration from talks at these events, as well as from exchanging ideas with other bloggers.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? The event is huge, and can be overwhelming especially if you don’t know anyone as I discovered last year. The insta-walk taking place before registration is a brilliant idea, and will help break the ice.

Smile and introduce yourself to people. I know this can seem really scary, but the vast majority of people are kind and friendly.

It can be really noisy and overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to take regular breaks away from the hubbub to recharge. Not every session will tickle your fancy, so take the time to make the most of spending time chatting with your friends (and drinking wine!).

Phones and cameras are a must – and their respective chargers. I recommend wearing layers; even on a warm day, the venue’s effective air conditioning can be a bit chilly. Oh, and flat shoes for all the walking and standing around.

A small notebook and pen, and your business cards. You don’t need as much stuff as you think – you only end up lugging it around. Don’t forget the goody bag at the end of the conference is generous – and heavy!

This is what I look like with my specs on!

This is what I look like with my specs on!

Mums' Days

Friday Favourite – Me!

Today’s Friday Favourites post was supposed to be a light-hearted one about my favourite TV series. I had it all planned out in my head: it shouldn’t have taken long to write. Light-hearted or not, though, my heart just was not in it.

I was in a low mood anyway, and couldn’t summon much enthusiasm.

I procrastinated, tried to make myself write it, reasoning that I had already missed one Friday Favourites post (I wrote about the result of the General Election last week instead) until I realised that, of course, it does not matter. No one is going to be any worse off for not learning what my favourite TV shows. Probably no one cares, or noticed (not fishing here, I’m being realistic about people’s busy lives!).

Such a post – or any blog post, for that matter – cannot be more important than my own emotional well-being.

So, I switched off the laptop and snuggled on the sofa under a blanket (it was chilly this morning) and read my new book on resilience that arrived yesterday.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that for many months after Hugo died I would force myself to write, to work on my blog irrespective of how I felt as a form of punishment to myself. Self-care was something I really struggled with back then, but it is something I am now making a conscious effort to invest in, make time for.

Resilience is about understanding life will not always go to plan, and about having inner resources to deal with adversity, and getting on with life in a different way. That does not mean forgetting whatever has affected your life – I shall certainly never, ever forget Hugo – to me, resilience means looking after myself. Looking after myself means putting less energy in to things I cannot change, and investing more energy in to things I can.

More energy helps me cope much better.

Back to the book I was reading – it’s called The Little Book of Resilience, by Matthew Johnstone. It’s excellent, and I can recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about it. The text is engaging and down-to-earth. I’m a very visual person, and it is full of humorous illustrations.

IMG_20150515_113731

Reading the book, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment: I should make myself the topic of my Friday Favourite post. Not in a narcissistic or self-centred way; in a self-care way.

I enjoyed giving myself time out to sit and read the book rather than forcing myself to write a post my heart wasn’t in, it would have been rubbish as a result, and that wouldn’t have helped my mood!

In that reflection was a lesson.

So, I made myself my favourite. My reasoning is that you treat someone or something that is your favourite with extra care. It is about time I treated myself with extra care, especially now I have evidence of the benefits that I can remind myself about if I’m tempted to work through the fog again.

As a result, I made a few promises to myself:

– To write only when I’m feeling inspired, in the mood, ‘in the zone’

– To remember that self-care comes first

– To listen to my body more

– To trust my instinct

– To find time every day to practise self-care – even if (gasp!) that means turning off social media for a while so I can’t get distracted

– To be compassionate to myself about my feelings, meaning to practise self-care if I am feeling low rather than ignore them or tell myself off for feeling that way

– To have perspective about my blog (that’s part of the title, after all!)

– To not worry too much what others think, and remember most people are caught up with their own lives to notice what I am or am not doing

– To remember that not everything has to be done ‘now’

– To stay true to myself

There will probably be some other promises I add to the list too. What would be on your list of promises if you made yourself your favourite?

 

____________________________________________________________

Word of the Week – Me

The Reading Residence

The List

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk
Beau Twins