In Appreciation of All That Is Good

A post in appreciation of the positive things that have happened this week:

– Lazy day on Monday.

Self-care time on the sofa with my Kindle

Self-care time on the sofa with my Kindle

The reason for the lazy day wasn’t so good: a very low mood, unsure of what to do with myself. Fortunately Monday was my no-work day this week so I was able to do some self-care. I read my book: some fiction on my Kindle, and the amazing Flourish Handbook by Cheryl Rickman, which contains these words of wisdom I thought you, dear readers might appreciate too:



IMG_20150713_114526 (1)

I also settled down to watch a film I had wanted to watch for a long time, the classic All The President’s Men. Which leads me to my next point:

– Google!

I am old enough to remember life before Google and social media, but watching All The President’s Men gave me a reminder of how much we now take this technology for granted, and how quickly we forget life before having so much information at our fingertips.

If you haven’t seen the film, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the Washington Post reporters who uncover the Watergate scandal of 1972 that led to the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. They hunt for evidence, leads and sources using telephone books, and have assistants poring through clippings files for sources’ backgrounds. So much legwork that could be done today in a matter of minutes.

(There is another point to appreciate: such vibrant newsrooms for print media are rare, sadly, with the growth of online news).

– My work (‘proper job’) and my colleagues

My dread of returning to work made me feel incredibly anxious, but thankfully so far the anticipation was much worse than the reality. I call it my ‘proper job’ because #HugosLegacy and #MatExp are like jobs in themselves, but the ‘proper job’ is the one that pays the bills!

I feel very fortunate working on patient experience projects – my love, my passion – and to be making a difference as part of my job. A privilege. I am also privileged to work with wonderful, caring people who love me for being myself.

A meeting with the wonderful Kath Evans yesterday was thoroughly appreciated, too. I really enjoyed the opportunity to chat in person, and left bouncing with positivity and ideas I can’t wait to tell my colleagues about – and get in to action at work.

Kath and me

Kath and me

– #HugosLegacy and #MatExp

Hugo’s Legacy grows more and more by the day. Wednesday brought a trip to London to attend a neonatal clinical outcomes meeting as a parent representative: I was pleased to make a positive contribution, and for that contribution to be appreciated.

This week I received a number of emails and social media messages from readers saying how much my writing had touched them, or helped them in their own grief journey. Why We Need To Reconsider How We Engage With Bereaved People, and Moving Forward, Not Moving On seem to have been particularly resonant. To know that my writing – and therefore Hugo’s Legacy – is appreciated and having an impact is wonderful.

To date, #HugosLegacy has had nearly 100,000 impressions on Twitter (‘impressions’ means that tweets bearing that hashtag have been delivered to that number of timelines), which means (in combination with trending on Hugo’s first birthday in February) the message is getting out there.

#MatExp is growing all the time, too – to date #MatExp tweets have had more than 152 million – yes, million! – impressions, and it was trending this week, too. It’s amazing – I am so proud to be involved. From the feedback we are getting from many sources it seems that health professionals and users alike are appreciating the value of our grassroots, JFDI (just effing do it!) campaign.

A very kind friend sent me some star-shaped buttons because she thought I would like them - greatly appreciated!

A very kind friend sent me some star-shaped buttons because she thought I would like them – greatly appreciated!

– Another year older next week

Birthdays don’t hold the same level of excited anticipation as birthdays as when I was a child. Last year’s birthday – the first after Hugo – was kind of just another day, I didn’t have the heart to celebrate. This year, I am going to try to make more of an effort for no other reason than to appreciate the fact I have lived another year, and that I appreciate the value of growing another year older.

What have you appreciated this week?


Mums' Days
The Reading Residence

Sunday Thought July 12, 2015: Always With Us In Spirit

Hugo, while no longer with us physically remains with us always, so I like to think. Feeling that Hugo is with us in the butterflies, flowers, birds and the bees is a comfort to me.

There are times I feel I see little signs – such as a star on the pavement, or this The Boss sign in a window in my old university halls.

Last night, Martin and I went to our friends’ home for a barbecue. Our friends have two young daughters, aged 7 and 4. After we’d eaten we settled down to play some board games, one of which was Scrabble.

This Scrabble was a Disney version for children, and characters’ names are allowed as part of the rules. That rule led to all sorts of rule bending, particularly as we decided Star Wars should now be included – and surely one of the thousands of stormtroopers must have been called Joe?

Anyway, we were split in to two teams – two adults and a child each, with the elder daughter on my team. Towards the end of the game, she picked out four letters…an O, a G, a H. She placed the letters on the holder, and I held my breath as she then pulled out a U.

20150711_205312I had a little moment, feeling rather emotional.

There was even the perfect place to put the letters in our next go.


An especially wonderful touch was the seven year old saying she likes to think Hugo is with the angels. Having been in so many situations with grown-ups being unsure what to say, seeing a child being comfortable talking about my son with no hesitation or embarrassment was absolutely lovely.

There are 100 tiles in a Scrabble set. Not being terribly good at maths I have no idea what the probability of drawing out those letters, and in that order is. Complete chance, maybe.

But I like to think it is Hugo’s way of showing us he was with us yesterday evening, enjoying a special evening with very kind, supportive friends and joining in the fun.

I wish more than anything that Hugo was with us still in person. But it is a comfort to know that Hugo is always with us in spirit.

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!


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.



Could ‘Before Sunrise’ Happen in 2015?

Before Sunrise was released in 1995. That was 20 years ago! It beggars belief. I watched it again at the weekend, and was struck by the thought of what such a film would be like in 2015 – and whether such a scenario could even be possible?

If you haven’t seen it, Before Sunrise begins on a train travelling through Austria. American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) gets chatting to French student Celine (Julie Delpy). They feel a connection and Celine agrees to join Jesse when he has to get off the train in Vienna, rather than continue on her journey to Paris.

Jesse and Celine spend time wandering around Vienna talking about life, the universe and everything until early the next morning, when Jesse has to leave for the airport to take his flight home. Celine boards a train to Paris. They agree to meet at same train platform exactly six months later, but don’t exchange phone numbers or addresses, preferring to leave things to fate instead.

When I first saw Before Sunrise I was 18, and at university. Basic internet and email. No social media. No mobile phones. Almost a world away from today.

It got me thinking: would Jesse and Celine even have struck up a conversation with each other on that train? In the film, they are each reading a book (made of paper!). Today, on a long train journey you are possibly more likely to be watching a film or playing a game on your tablet; listening to music; typing away on a laptop. You might still be reading a book, but it may be a Kindle rather than one with real pages.

Today, we are often far too engrossed in our online lives, especially on public transport to notice other people. In fact, often it helps us avoid having to interact with our fellow travellers.

On arrival in Vienna, Jesse and Celine wondered what to see, and ask a random couple of guys on a bridge. In 2015, say they had struck up a conversation on the train. They would have missed the bizarre conversation about the strange play the guys were in (possibly not a bad thing) because they could have found a free wifi zone to check online tourist sites, or asked Twitter for people’s recommendations.

Jesse and Celine spend the hours wandering the city talking about all sorts. They barely stop talking – except for their moments of passion, that is.

In 2015, many of us can’t stop ourselves checking texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp notifications. What would that have done to the flow of conversation? It seems these days it is difficult to have a conversation for that long without a quick check of our phones.

Do you remember the scene in the bar when Celine and Jesse pretend to call their friends to tell them about the wonderful person they had just met? I wonder whether today, they wouldn’t indulge in such make-believe, instead messaging their friends or posting a status to let them know about the crazy thing they had done in venturing around Vienna with a complete stranger.

They would have probably been taking Instagram pictures of their journey around the city, loads of selfies.

About half way through the film, Jesse makes a comment about technology saving time, but what do we do with that time? His example is a word processor like it was a fabulous thing (which to be fair it was in its time!) It prompted a mirthful laugh. I remember my old word processor from university – great clunking machine with a small green screen that showed only five lines at a time, and an integrated printer that sounded like a machine gun.

Jesse made a good point! Technology can save us time. It can connect us, enable us to collaborate and make friends with people we might otherwise never have met. Technology provides excellent opportunities for procrastination – but we’ll find a way to avoid doing something with or without social media.

We can’t deny our addiction to social media, though – and while it can save a lot of time if we’re not careful it can sap it, too (how many evenings have been spent ‘just quickly checking’ Twitter, and several hours later…)

No spoilers, but social media could have given Celine and Jesse a happier ending. They depart, having fallen in love during the past few hours, with the promise of meeting again six months later. Dear readers, that meeting doesn’t happen…

If only they had today’s technology they could have kept in touch by email, exchanged declarations of love via regular Skype calls…and probably obsessed over each other’s social media statuses. Who are they with? They’re having fun without me?!

Swings and roundabouts, then. Happy endings are never that simple.

Technology doesn’t solve everything: Before Sunrise belongs in 1995. Even if you could suspend your disbelief at getting off a train in a strange city with a complete stranger, the events of the film just would not translate to 2015.


Preparing to Face the Fear

What do you do when faced with having to do something you fear?

a) Fear? What’s that? I fear nothing!

b) Run away!

c) Hide and hope it will go away.

d) Face it head on – show it I’m not scared!

e) Do everything you can to best prepare for everything it may present you with.

Really, I suppose your response is going to depend on the situation. For example, I am terrified of spiders so faced with a huge one of those my response would be b. Run away, fast. I’m someone who thinks people who call the emergency services to help them deal with an eight-legged fiend in their home are perfectly reasonable.

Anyway, this is not a post about my arachnophobia. The fear I am facing is returning to work next Tuesday. Saying it’s a fear sounds strange. It’s not like it’s something that makes me jump in terror like seeing a big spider scuttle across the floor.

I have been away from work since early February, 2014. That’s a very long time. In that time, Hugo was born, Hugo lived, Hugo died. I had to recover from my illness. I had to find support to help me deal emotionally with my illness, Hugo’s too-short life, and his death. It took me a very long time to find that support, and in that time I developed coping strategies that helped me survive but that were not conducive to being out in the big, bad world. Those coping strategies involved being in control. Staying at home, usually; it felt safer. Controlling who I saw, spoke to and when.

Finally, the support I needed transpired. Another tough journey, scabs torn off, wounds reopened. But progress made.

An acknowledgement that any progress is good. Self-compassion, self-care. I have to be kind to myself. There is no cure for grief. This is forever.


Eventually, finally, I felt as ready as I ever will be to return to work.

And what is there to fear, rationally? It’s only work. It’s not like I’m in the armed forces, in the firing line. I work in a hospital, and not on the front line.

The problem? I will be returning to work with a couple of new companions: grief and anxiety. They can take up lots of energy, needle you with self-doubt, taunt you by sending you in to a spin of a deep, dark, mood.

Frustratingly, they do not understand rational thought. Telling myself there is nothing to fear does not remove the fear.

So, I am focusing on option e. Doing everything I can to prepare.

Being compassionate towards myself for those times when grief or anxiety take over. Making time for self-care so I have more positive energy to help cope with the dark moods. Teaching myself to resist negative energy, to focus on what it is important, to know my own limits.

Remembering that one step, one day at a time is all I need to do.

Remembering that I have dealt with so much worse in the past year. And survived.

Remembering that I work with so many wonderful, kind, compassionate people, many of whom I am proud to call friends.

Remembering that by remembering my self-care and self-compassion tools, I can remain in control of many things.

Remembering that some people will not know what to say, meaning that they may look at me like I am a leper, ignore me, or say the ‘wrong’ thing. That does not make them bad people. I have handled all sorts, I can handle this too.

Remembering that moving forward with my life does not mean moving on from Hugo. Hugo is still with me. In my heart, in my mind, his legacy in everything that I do.

Remembering that this is a landmark moment marking the end of the most beautiful, the most harrowing, the most wonderful, the most heartbreaking, the most eye-opening, the most challenging period of my life.

Remembering that while I wish with every cell in my body Hugo was still with me, I am the stronger for everything that has happened.

Preparations for facing the fear of what is next. But knowing that surely, what is next can never be as bad as what has come before.


Word of the Week: Preparation

Prompt word: Fear

The Reading Residence