As it turned November, I was hit by a deep sadness and realisation – this month is my stillborn son’s first birthday. How do you even begin to process and acknowledge such a significant event?
I wasn’t really sure how I felt about Guy’s first year almost being over. What did it mean for my life after loss journey? I have spent the last year learning how to navigate life without my son, who should be here. Who should only be 9 months old, not 12. I have learned how to keep Guy’s memory alive and how to include him in our lives in the most positive way we could.
Of course, I will continue to do this, always. But will people expect me to behave differently now the grief isn’t ‘new’? Will they be less supportive of my efforts to remember him now his first year is over? The way I grieve and share my grief may have changed as I’ve found my new ‘normal’, but the pain of Guy’s death is still raw. The memories are still vivid and can bring tears and deep sadness if I allow myself to think about it for too long. But to everyone else whose lives continue to move on, my fear is our loss is not ‘new’ anymore, and Guy will be forgotten.
Teddy Bears Picnic…
We have done a fair amount of fundraising this year in Guy’s memory. Martin ran the Manchester 10K in May and we had a baby sensory coffee afternoon in July, all raising funds for Tommy’s. It felt only right that we mark his birthday and end the year with one final fundraising event.
For the past few years, I have participated in the Macmillan coffee mornings. As these usually run at the end of September, I decided to miss this year in favour of hosting a Teddy Bears Tea Party in aid of Aching Arms just a few days before Guy’s birthday.
If you have read my other blogs, you will know that I became a volunteer for Aching Arms earlier in the year, and supply comfort bears to two of my local hospitals. These bears are given to other bereaved families by the midwives. It felt right that I do some personal fundraising for this charity. What a beautiful birthday gift it would be to get more bears out there with Guy’s name on so he can comfort other families whose arms ache for their baby.
As I began planning the tea party, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Just setting up an event page and receiving RSVP’s released a huge wave of emotion. The realisation of what I was planning for suddenly hit me. If this is how it felt just planning the event, how was I going to feel on the day hosting it? A whole new level of anxiety set in.
To be honest, the week leading up to the Tea Party was so busy. The adrenaline from having so many things to do kept me focused. I had little time to think too much about why I was doing all this. If I allowed my thoughts to linger for too long, I knew I could end up down a dark hole that would be difficult to climb back out of. The preparation for the tea party was a welcomed distraction, only giving focus to what needed to be done.
The tea party was a huge success. There were cakes galore (baked by myself and my mum), some picnic sandwiches from my mother in law, my sister was tea lady. A few people had supplied us with raffle prizes too which were so kind and generous. We raised over £300, just incredible!
The Big Day…
The build up to Guy’s birthday brought a lot of mixed emotions and anxiety, but the day itself was not as bad as anticipated. Of course, we felt deep heartache with the memories from the year before. We felt heartbroken that this is our life; celebrating the son we’ve lost, not the toddler he should have been. But, as with everything else this year, we got through it together, supported by family and friends who understand the journey we have been through.
This past year, the attention has been on Martin and I. How ‘strong and brave’ we are. It felt really important to us that Guy’s birthday was about him. It was his day to shine, his day to be remembered and celebrated. So we chose to spend the day with our closest family and had a private gathering at home.
Of course, we wrote Guy a birthday card from us, his Mummy and Daddy. Aside from trying to find a card fitting for our butterfly baby, writing it out was probably one of the hardest things we did that weekend. I find I can speak about Guy quite easily, but speaking to Guy – well that completely chokes me up. I also couldn’t resist getting Guy Bear a new T-shirt for his birthday. He looked mega cute!
We were so touched to receive cards and gifts from family and friends. Seeing someone else write your baby’s name is incredibly special, so it filled our hearts with love to see messages written to Guy.
A few months back I had decided I wanted to do a balloon release. These balloons would be released on his birthday in his memory, but each balloon would be dedicated to another baby gone too soon. I posted on my Instagram page that I would be releasing up to 40 balloons and invited people to send me their dedications. Overwhelmingly, within a couple of days, all the balloons had been dedicated. It’s heartbreaking to know that all of these babies have died, but I know how special it is to have your baby included in things. So it was nice to know this small gesture made their parents smile for a moment.
I actually found it quite therapeutic making and putting together the dedication labels. My sister and I made a little display of them to post for all the parents to see the names.
We chose orange balloons with black ribbon for the release, as we like to think orange is Guy’s favourite colour seen as he always sends us orange and black butterflies. After a stressful detangling (and a little added help from other balloons), we headed outside with the family to set them all free. 40 orange balloons dedicated to Guy’s friends, and one big orange star for Guy which said: “Love you to the moon and back”.
It was exciting and magical watching them all float off into the sky. Some of them got so high so quickly – Guy’s star staying in the middle of the crowd the whole time. Everyone loved it. We all stood for ages and watched in sheer wonderment. There’s a little video too if anyone would like to watch.
I made a little blog post and video and invited everyone to participate in making an origami butterfly and posting it on their social media on Guy’s birthday, 13th November.
I have to say, I was overwhelmed by the amount of posts I was tagged in. So many people had attempted the origami ones, and many created some impressive displays too! Some people had given the origami a go, but instead send me their lovely butterfly interpretations. I loved each and every one of them. My heart felt like it was going to burst with love and pride looking through all these at the end of the day.
As physically and emotionally exhausted as I was at the end of Guy’s birthday week, I am so glad we took the time to celebrate. It could have been really easy to lock ourselves up at home and hide away, but I feel we would have missed the day. By having the tea party, family day, balloon release and #ButterflyForGuy, we allowed ourselves to create memories and honour our son. He may have only met a few of us, but he was Still born, he is loved and he is deeply missed by us all.
Happy 1st Birthday Guy!
Love you to the moon and back,
Mummy and Daddy.