Leora’s Story.

Today I’m sharing a guest post by Leora Leboff.

Leora is an Aromatherapist and massage therapist specialising in pregnancy. This special interest was sparked by the devastating experience of losing a baby in 2003. Leora has two children aged 12 years and 7 years old; her two energies of inspiration. Her website is www.auraholistictherapies.com.

I’m taking the step of including a trigger warning here. This is a very sad story of infant loss due to termination, so if you’re not up to reading on, please put your own self-care first. I have close friends and family members who have had to make the devastating decision to end their pregnancies for medical reasons and I hope that Leora’s bravery in sharing her story will help others realise they’re not alone.

In loving memory of baby Harry, who joined the angels ten years ago, today. Sleep tight and sweet dreams.

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Loneliness. It’s been a recurrent theme since losing Baby Harry.

From the moment I was told at my 20 week scan that my baby had a series of anomalies and that I may need to terminate the pregnancy. Not long after I knew I was expecting him, I had instinctively felt something wasn’t quite right. However, it didn’t make the process any less shocking as I wished at the time that my instincts had been completely wrong. When the anomaly midwife sat my husband and me down in a side room, I didn’t know how to process the information I was receiving.

In the coming days I was surrounded by my loving husband and the dearest of friends, but I felt lost and alone. I didn’t sleep for days, my mind buzzing with possible decisions. Or maybe I didn’t sleep as I just wanted to spend more time with my baby.

In the weeks and months after, I found it hard to burden anyone with how it feels to have the bottom of your world swiped away from you in this way. Sometimes the loneliness was welcome. After the termination when I was recovering, often it was almost too much to get out of bed to pick my son up from nursery. I just wanted to stay curled up under my duvet, away from the world and work through the pain.

I did try to keep myself occupied while I was signed off work by organising a 75th birthday bash for my Dad. I’m so happy that I did this for him, as just three months after Harry was born my Dad suddenly and unexpectedly died from a heart attack. Let’s just say it was a truly challenging time as three months prior to losing Harry, my Mum had lost her run in with cancer and also passed on. So when a cuddle from my darling Mum was most needed, she wasn’t there – loneliness. Three different kind of bereavement within 6 months of each other to deal with. My friends were amazing and my husband a huge support, but as I said it felt difficult to burden them with the indescribable intensity and confusion of emotions that were hurtling around. Luckily I started seeing the women’s services counsellor via the maternity unit . She was a darling and literally a life saver.

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Another form of loneliness or isolation has been present for me over the years; something about this particular form of baby loss. Losing a baby through anomaly and termination is often not included with other types of baby loss. I recently sponsored a colleague who was taking part in a charity event for miscarriage, still birth and neonatal death. I sponsored her because it was for a hugely important cause that is close to my heart, but I did feel a twinge if sadness that anomaly and termination was not acknowledged.

Perhaps it is because when you lose a baby in this way you have had to take an active role in the process – to actually terminate the pregnancy. How incredibly hard it was taking the medication that I knew would end the life of my baby. Up to 20 weeks you have to take medication, after 20 weeks an injection is given to the baby to ensure s/he is not born alive.

This is just one of the painful realities involved with termination. How my little boy lived to 20 weeks in utero was amazing; he had brain, heart and kidney anomalies. He didn’t appear to have a stomach and when he was born they were unable to tell us if he was a boy or girl as his genitals were malformed. We had to wait until the results of the amniocentesis came through a week or so after the birth to be able to name him. He had Patau Syndrome or Trisomy 13, a chromosome abnormality. My pregnancy had become a 1 in 5000 statistic.

As the years have moved on, the loneliness has continued as it is socially expected that past events are consigned to the past.

Only recently the full understanding has hit me that our lost babies are not meant to be forgotten. Why else were we given pictures of him dressed in a little angel style outfit, and his tiny hand and footprints? I want to remember Harry; he is part of our family. My daughter never knew her other older brother but my eldest son, who was 2 when Harry was born, cried deeply last year when we went to visit his grave; he cried for the brother he could have shared time with and the older brother he could have been.

It’s not about forgetting. In my experience it is about moving along to a place where it’s a bearable memory and the physical and emotional trauma, which may be unique to this kind of baby loss, is worked through and acknowledged with kindness.

As a massage therapist, I chose to take a special interest in pregnancy and I teach infant massage. When I trained in pregnancy massage, my counsellor asked me, “isn’t working with pregnant women like nails going down a chalkboard?” For me it was the only direction I wanted my work to take. Over the years I have treated and supported women who have experienced still birth, miscarriage and fertility issues. My heart is with them.

Today is the fifth of November and ten years since Harry was born in stillness and soundless.

Harry is buried in a Woodland Memorial near Bristol and we visit him a couple of times a year to see the maturing trees. Strangely the tree near Harry isn’t growing as vibrantly as the others. I recently went there with my son and he commented that perhaps the tree is reflecting that Harry died so young; neither of them can grow up. One thing I do hope, that he’s not lonely.

Yesterday we visited Harry’s grave with a big family cuddle. Today I plan to be reflective and at peace with my experience.

I hope that sharing my story will honour Harry’s memory and raise awareness of this fairly unspoken kind of baby loss.

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The charity Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) is the only charity in the UK to support the 35,000 women a year who are told after screening that their baby may have a serious foetal anomaly www.arc-uk.org. Donations can be made via their website.

Prisms and Peace

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“The more you approve of your own decisions in life, the less you feel the need to have them approved or accepted by others” – Unknown

I shared this quote on my Facebook page last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

One thing I strongly believe is that if we truly have peace with and faith in our own actions and choices, both as parents and human beings, we can take the sting out of almost any criticism and in doing so help to diffuse negative self-talk at the same time.

My breast-feeding story was an example of this. After having my daughter I spent the best part of two years berating myself for being unable to breast-feed her. As a result I was highly attuned to any conversation on the topic and would often find judgement where perhaps there was none intended. I really didn’t have peace with my inability to breast-feed and this clouded not only my interpretation of events but also my opinion of myself as a mother. I viewed every conversation and article on the subject through the prism of my own experiences so was extremely sensitive and self-critical.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy”.
There will usually be someone who you perceive to have or be a better x, y or z than you. Perception is the key word here. I’ve said before that we never really know the struggles others are enduring behind the scenes and anyway, no-one else can lessen what you already are, even if they’re cleverer/richer/thinner/happier than you.
No one has the monopoly on any feeling or any characteristic and comparing our lives with others’, whether to make ourselves feel better or worse is never the healthiest of pastimes.

I belong to several Facebook mums’ groups and I never cease to be surprised (and often disappointed) at the fervency with which opinions are often communicated. I’ve witnesses many openly scathing online attacks on those with different viewpoints, and even more quietly judgemental and passive-aggressive debates turning into conflicts. Each one makes me feel both anxiety and despair at the sometimes seemingly non-existent sisterhood or solidarity amongst certain mothers online.

“What other people think of you is none of your business. If you start to make it your business, you’ll be offended for the rest of your life.”
Deepak Chopra

I genuinely believe that most of what people say is not about me or you, it’s a reflection of them, viewing life through the prism of their own experiences and often their self-doubts, too.

I spend a lot of time observing people’s behaviours. Watching a storm descend online I often pontificate on why people are conducting themselves in such a way…. What drives them? I wonder if sometimes, without even realising, criticism of others is a strategy for boosting a flailing self esteem. I suspect that much of the more embittered denigration of other mother’s methods comes from a place of buried inadequacy. Proving superiority. Knocking others down in order to build yourself up, as it were.

Having faith in our own choices could go such a long way in removing the need to be validated by the approval of others and the subsequent tendency to see an “us and them” pattern with other mothers who may do things differently.

Some choices are easier than others to reconcile and there will always be mistakes. But our mistakes don’t define us, they’re just learning opportunities.

I’m working on giving myself some grace and remembering that setbacks or minor-catastrophes can also be viewed as chances to practice self-kindness and cut myself some slack. Parenting seems to be one huge learning curve and every time you think you’ve sussed it, the goal posts seem to move again.

Rather than always elaborating on the most negative interpretation of events I need to remember that I’m human. Sometimes I shout and sometimes I cry and that’s OK. Because the decisions I make, whether right or wrong, are always made in love and with the best interests of my family heart. I truly believe that the vast majority of mothers out there are the same as me. We’re trying our best. Sometimes our best will be better than other days and sometimes “good enough” will have to suffice, but there is always love.

When looking back on why I reacted in a particular way to a situation, Often, on reflection, I realise that I’ve been looking to others to help me feel good enough about my decisions or choices.

I’ve said before that we can’t control what others say to us, but we can try our hardest to control our reactions. If, for example, your mother-in-law comments that your child isn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold weather you have a choice as to how you react. You can assume she thinks you’re a dreadful parent who doesn’t have a clue what’s best for your child and spend the rest of the day admonishing yourself. Or, you can remind yourself that you know your child better than anyone. You know your little one will get cranky and cross if she gets too hot. You can move on from the conversation and get on with your day by having faith in the choices you make.

The same goes for almost any decision you make for your children; feeding, weaning, co-sleeping, schooling… you’ve made your decisions with love and care. Others are entitled to do the same and it’s no reflection on you or me if their choices are different. Your instincts are usually right for your children and the same applies to other parents, too.

Now, I don’t think I’m ever likely to become to type of person who genuinely doesn’t care what other people think. However, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that by recognising my own strengths I can work towards nurturing a mindset of not needing everyone else’s approval or acknowledgement that I am a good enough person or parent.

Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret; I am a good enough person and parent. And so are you.

Please help spread the Mummy Kindness by liking my Facebook Page!

Ripples and Revolutions

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This past week has been the clearest example yet of how much this blog helps me.
When I wrote my last post I felt I was on the brink of returning to a very dark place again. I wrote it to let some of the thoughts out, in the hope that stating my fears out loud would somehow diminish them. I always feel a sense of release once I hit the “publish” button. It’s a bit like a sigh of relief and almost some closure, as if verbalising what has been running around my head somehow unsticks the record and allows the song to continue without interruption.

This time it was you, my amazing readers who gave me my balance back along with my perspective. You reminded me that there are actually lots of things I do to help make the world a better place. Through my blog and my relationships and generally doing my best to be as good a person as I can.

It’s telling that I could better articulate this point by sharing some of your comments now, but to do so would feel boastful or show-offy which would not sit comfortably with me. You can find some of the messages here, if you like.

My point is this:
Why do so many of us find it far easier to be kinder to others than ourselves? Why is it that compliments are so hard to digest? We seem to have such low opinions of ourselves that we actively remove the healing properties of compliments by discrediting them entirely. Have you ever ignored a lovely sentiment or told yourself that its benefactor is “just being nice” or doesn’t know what they’re talking about? Or noted that they wouldn’t say those things if they knew the real you? I know I have. I do it all the time and it’s wrong. So wrong.

You and I are are worthy of love and respect. From ourselves as well as those around us. I can’t pretend that I have the solution to silence that inner voice trying to drown out kind thoughts with negative ones. But I have a plan, a place to start.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa

I can’t single-handedly stop child poverty, cure cancer or rid the world of debt, but I can affect small change.

This needs to start with me. I need to remind myself daily that I am important to lots of people and that I make a difference. I do, and so do you.

For this reason, I’m hoping you’ll join me in starting a succession of little ripples. A Self Kindness Revolution if you will.

Using the Twitter hashtag #selfkindness I am going to notice and share one self-kind thought a day. Little ripples, you see. I hope that by consciously listening to my one kind thought a day I can start lots of little ripples and I’d like you to join me.

Some days your #selfkindness may be a huge pat on the back for juggling a job, children and a household; Something thousands (if not millions) of women do each day. But that’s not to say that it’s easy. Or appreciated. Other days making a dinner that doesn’t involve a microwave may be a huge achievement. Occasionally your #selfkindness may be to commend yourself for making it out of bed….Or not having a meltdown along with your children….Or somedays simply having a shower or finally washing your hair feels like it deserves a round of applause.

It doesn’t matter what you choose; the idea is to simply pick out one thing you did today and congratulate yourself for it and in doing so remind yourself that You. Are. Enough. Just as you are. To throw a little pebble out and make a small ripple in your subconscious.

My Twitter handle is @mummykindness and I am going to send a reminder out each night. If you’re not on Twitter…join! You don’t even have to use your real name and you don’t need to follow or be followed by anyone else to take part in the Self Kindness Revolution.

I must tell you that this whole idea throws me in to a bit of a self-conscious panic, which I realise is the complete opposite of the intended purpose. Like when you arrange a party and you worry that nobody will turn up and you’ll feel like a friendless fool. This blog is far, far from being the most popular or well-read on the internet. It’s small and relatively new.

However, I’m reminding myself that this doesn’t matter in the slightest. This is not a popularity contest. If only one person joins me in my #selfkindness revolution and starts working towards silencing their inner critic, I’ll have made a ripple.

One definition of a revolution is “Complete change from one constitution to another.” Some revolutions are huge and world-changing and others are quiet and occur only within. In either case, revolutions start with conversations.

This #selfkindness revolution is about a quiet conversation with yourself. Are you in? And are you ready to listen?

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(You can also help share the Mummy Kindness by liking my Facebook page, here if you feel like it!)