21 Smiles for Patrick is over. I made it to fifteen, but that is all that I will be doing.
I was fine until Easter Sunday and then I woke up and thought, what am I doing? Why am I making other people smile? Will it bring Patrick back and make all this go away? No. The Smiles were a great distraction and a great thing for me to do. I will do it again next year and will give more smiles, but this year, it is finished.
You see, I have come to realise that I hate Easter. Is Easter always at this time of year? A week before Patrick's birthday...great.
Two years ago at exactly this time I went to Easter Mass services at my local church. I remember exactly where I sat. I remember what I wore. I remember that Patrick was moving like mad and I thought, 'this boy is going to be a footballer'. He used to move so much at night time. I was so pregnant and Patrick was so cooked that I was counting down the days. I remember thinking about christening him in the very Chapel that I was sitting it. We had everything ahead of us, everything to look forward too. He had all my hugs and kisses, and smiles and tickles before him. He had a place in the family to fill. And now what do I have? Nothing.
Yesterday I woke up and I just cried. I went to the shop to buy milk and I sat outside and cried. I sat in the car park to the chapel and cried. I sat at the table reading a newspaper and cried. I have started snapping at the husband again; he bears the brunt of my frustration at the world... What utter rubbish everything turned out to be.
This year, we 'did' Easter for Shay. I bought him a Paw Patrol Easter Egg (a favourite) and he was so happy. I did not say anything about the Easter bunny. I told him about Jesus (a man who walked the Earth, died, rose again, and now lives in Heaven with Patrick) and that we get eggs because they symbolise hope and new life. Saying this to him while Patrick's loss sits on my shoulders seemed contradictory, somehow hypocritical.
So, I do not like Easter. Patrick's birthday is on Friday... Maybe I should just hibernate for the whole of April? It has become a month increasingly difficult to be happy with.
I have been thinking of how to get a photo of each smile. Firstly, I seem to forget my camera a lot. Secondly, I do not know if I will always be present to witness the smile that is from Patrick. So, conundrum.
Right, picture the scene...
It was a Monday morning and it was bucketing rain in Enniskillen. If you have ever lived in County Fermanagh, this is not an unusual event. I had been walking around with the children thinking about all the things I could possibility do to put a smile on someone's face - it is harder than you think. I went into a card shop and bought some stuff (for lack of a better word) to give to the recipient of Patrick's Smile. I wanted them to have something that said what the good deed was for.
So, it was bucketing rain and I was sat in my car writing a card to give to the person who was going to receive Patrick's 3rd Smile. I paid for five hours of parking and only needed one so I had four hours to give to someone.
There was a lady at the machine who had been there for a while. I thought I was too late, but she seemed to be having some trouble. I decided to take the plunge, run over, and give her my ticket and note about Patrick.
The note read: 'Hello. You are the recipient of Patrick's 3rd Smile. Enjoy. I have just done something to make you smile. From Patrick's Mummy'. #21SmilesforPatrick (I love a hashtag).
I am super glad I did it, but it was actually really embarrassing. I will get over my reluctance to do this and hopefully be more confident in 'giving out smiles'.
Three days down; three smiles given!
Patrick's birthday is coming up and I have been thinking about what to do for it. Finally, I have decided to do 21 Smiles for Patrick.
Every day for the next 21 days (Patrick's birthday is the 21st of April) I will do something to put a smile on someone's face. I do not quite know what these 21 things will be, but I want to shed some joy into the world.
Today is Day One and the smile has been put on my face simply by deciding to actually bite the bullet and do this 21 Smiles. It is difficult sometimes to put yourself out there and this is me doing that. I will try and put a photo up of these smiles, but today there won't be. Ha! You'll see me another time I am sure.
Just know that the smile is starting. 21 days until Patrick's second birthday, let's see what smiles I can create. If you would like to join in, please let me know.
It was Mother's Day on Sunday; a whole day dedicated to Mothers. It is a lovely idea, but, like everything else, it will never be what it should.
I love being a mother. I honestly do not know what I did with my time before I had children. How did I ever fill my days? This is the first year where we are all together (last year, I was in hospital with Florence for Mother's Day). I did not know how Mother's Day would 'feel' this year. This is the beginning of what all my Mother's Days will be like - Patrick always absent, no more other children.
I find that the emotion of grieving starts days before the actual event and then when the event rolls around, I am not sad or emotional. The grief blindsides me days before something important. Most of the time, I do not realise what is happening and then the penny drops and I re-live Patrick's absence all over again. So, on Friday, I was like a woman possessed. The poor husband. I was so emotional. The actual tears came from something completely unrelated and then ended with Patrick and his absence. I was bereft.
A whole day for mothers and where were my children? We are finally all together, this is what my family will look like forever, but we will never be complete. I always want it to be 'normal', to have a day like all the other mothers, but I cannot. I do try and not 'ruin' the day for the children though. I cannot be sad all the time on these days (Mother's Day, birthdays, Christmas...) when they are supposed to be happy days fill of laughter and celebration. I do not want the children to roll their eyes (they are far too young anyway) because Mum is crying again on their birthday, or on Christmas...
I am sure that they will understand at some point. I would like to reach the point where there can be a few tears and a chat about Patrick, and then the grief can be shelved, and we can go on to celebrate whatever there is to celebrate.
Whether this ideal is actually possible, or whether it will happen this way, I can only wait to find out.
"Patrick, what age will you be when we meet? Will you be a tiny baby and I will see you grow up before my eyes? Will you be a tiny baby? Will I be the same age I was when you died and we will age together? Or, will you be a grown man by the time we meet and I will instinctively know your life even though I did not see it?"
Patrick will be two next month, or should be two next month. I have met mothers over these two years who tell me that they can imagine what their baby looks like, that they imagine their baby to be the age that they should be. I cannot do this. I do not possess the ability to age Patrick. I do not know what he would look like. I cannot imagine him as a two year old boy.
Shay and Florence look so much alike, spitting images of each other, that surely Patrick would have looked different. What would he look like? Maybe he would have dark hair, where they both have light coloured hair. Maybe he would be a rake, where Shay and Florence have chunky wee thighs and tummys.
What would he look like compared to Shay? Would he be tall like Shay, or short? They are eighteen months apart in age. What would that look like in reality? I do not know.
Even though Florence is younger than Patrick, I think of her as older because Patrick was just a wee baby. I still call him, 'baby Patrick'. I cannot imagine him older. He is always listed last on cards because he is a wee baby to me. But, it will be his birthday next month. He will be two. I do not know how to celebrate his second birthday.
"Patrick, how old are you?" I wish I knew what you looked like. I wish I knew how to celebrate your birthday.
I am really feeling it at the moment; am more conscious of Patrick's absence on a second-by-second basis. The last few posts have been written with tears streaming. I do not know why I am having a particularly hard time at the moment.
I am coming up two years and I have empty-arms syndrome. I have such an unbearable desire to have Patrick fill my arms. I have been trying to figure out what I can hold, or hug, or sleep with, which will take away the ache in my arms. It is almost an itchiness.
I wish I had something to rock in my arms. This is what I really want to do. I almost feel like I need to at the moment. Call it a mother's urge, or instinct, or a physical yearning.
I wish I had something with his smell on it. I wish I had something that he wore. I wish I had something that evoked a memory of him. I wish I had anything, anything at all, that reminded me of him and made me feel close to him right now. But, I have nothing; nothing that will give me comfort.
Sometimes photos are not enough. Sometimes, just sometimes, memories are not enough to carry me through this.
It was Ash Wednesday this week and I went to the Mass service.
I have been fine these past few weeks. Although I think about Patrick numerous times in a day, I have not gotten upset like I used to. Sometimes I wonder if this is a 'good' thing, or if it is normal. I wonder if maybe I am not processing my grief enough. Surely, I should break down sometimes? Maybe I am busying myself so much with setting up work that I block out all the emotions which are there under the surface. Maybe I should not think about it too much or analyse it too much.
All this 'composure' went out the window on Wednesday night though. I have not been to Mass for a while so I thought nothing of going on Wednesday night. How stupid of me.
As soon as I step foot into a chapel I get so overwhelmed with everything, so sad about what has happened, and so utterly lost with how to carry this loneliness with me. The chapel reminds me of everything that we have been through. The chapel grounds is where Patrick is buried and where we go most weekends to 'see' him. I hate it. I hate having to go to a grave and stand in the rain. I find no comfort.
During the service I had to talk myself into staying calm; into staying composed. I went down to Patrick's grave at the end and all the calmness was overtaken by loneliness and grief. My poor boy. I would give anything to have him at home, warm, comforted... I will stop. There is not point in carrying on this chain of thought.
It is a mess, pure and simple.
I went up to Portadown on Monday night for a meeting with the Sands Northern Ireland Steering Committee. I have become a committee member and I am very happy about it.
We talked a lot about the coming year and what plans we had. The support in Fermanagh, and anywhere in the west, is very minimal and I want to improve this. I have a lot planned and have started to organise events. Mind you, this would be made a lot easier if organisations replied back to emails...but I will persevere with this.
My plans for Fermanagh are: a walk and balloon release, a Christmas carol service, and to create a memorial or garden. What else could I do to support families and to highlight the Sands charity? I would also like to connect with the Republic and build bridges with the neighbouring counties around me.
I left the meeting feeling very uplifted and very motivated. Excellent.
It has been an interesting week and life is plodding along.
I am talking tomorrow morning in the Ardhowen Theatre about a group that I want to set up called, Growing A Rainbow. This will be a support group for women who are pregnant after experiencing the death of a baby, either through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. I know what I want it to be, but I do not know how to go about it. I want it to have a physical location firstly; I want it to be more than a group on Facebook (although I have set up a group on Facebook). I want to be able to fundraise for it (I have plans to purchase a sonographer machine for scans) and want to be able to apply for grants for funding. The services on offer will be group and individual Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Life Coaching - covering the past, present, and future. There will also be reflexology and other alternative therapies, and relaxation and meditation classes. I want it to be a support group, but also want it to be more than that. I want to provide literature and studies on the mental health issues which mothers and their families experience and want to get rid of the silence around baby death and maternal mental health.
So, with all this in mind, what structure does it take? Does Growing A Rainbow become a support group, a charity, a foundation, a non-for-profit organisation, a business, a community partnership, or an off-shoot of my own private practice?? I simply do not know. I have tried to pinpoint what is best and there is so much out there, so much that is contradictory, that I cannot figure it out.
The talk tomorrow is to brainstorm with other people in my community what they think would be best. It is also about networking and getting the word out there. I have sat on this idea for a long time and am laying the foundations in the hope that Growing A Rainbow will be up and functioning this time next year. The more I talk about it the bigger it becomes, and I haven't really talked about it in a public forum yet. I am excited about this talk tomorrow. Fingers crossed for me...!
I have returned. I am back from two days of training to be a volunteer for Sands. I am glad that the training is behind me, even though I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, I do not know if enjoy is the correct word. It was intense, but not as hard as what I thought it might be.
We discussed many issues around stillbirth and bereavement. We focused a lot of the time on how to actually provide support to a bereaved parent, or couple. I found the talk about communication - both written and in person - very helpful. We talked about body language - always an interesting topic - and how to talk to bereaved parents.
I found it very insightful into the grieving process. Some topics, like embarrassment which people may feel about getting emotional, was helpful for me because it reaffirms the point that everyone is different and everybody responds to grief in different ways. I had not even thought that someone might not open up in a meeting because they would be worried about crying.
The ways that people deal with grief and the emotions that come up are so diverse that I need to be reminded sometimes of other possible ways which people may cope with their situation and their grief. Just because I have not dealt with a certain situation does not mean that it is not out there. And, on the flipside, just because I talk about Patrick and have photos up does not mean that every person displays photos of their child and talks openly about them. There is a myriad of ways which people react to their situation and cope with grief in their life.
It was a very insightful few days. I look forward to moving on with all the work that is in the pipeline for 2017.