Babyloss awareness week 2017 is a very poignant week for me and my partner Steven, as it marks our baby girls first birthday since she was stillborn on 12th October 2016. The sad thing is we’d never heard of Babyloss Awareness Week before Avery; something I feel guilty about as it means so much to us now. I guess we were just two of the millions of people who are completely oblivious and naive to the world of stillbirth and pregnancy loss – oh how things have changed in one year.
This time last year, our world was turned upside down when throughout the day on Monday 10th October I noticed I hadn’t felt my little wriggler all day. I went home after work and tried all the tricks in the book to get her kicking, but it just wasn’t working. Trying to remain calm, we went to triage at St Mary’s where those words no one ever wants to hear became real “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.” She’d slipped away and changed our lives forever in a few shorts hours.
That night was and always will be the hardest night of our lives; having to go home and try to sleep knowing Avery was inside me still causes us flashbacks and nightmares. We said our goodbyes to my belly that night and did our best to be strong for the next few days that followed. Those days will be in my heart forever, like a warrior I delivered her and we soaked up every second with her – it will never be enough time, but it was enough for her to steal our hearts forever.
The next few weeks that followed were a blur, I rarely got dressed – I was a textbook griever in a world of denial. I remember lying on the floor one day having an ‘episode’ as I call them, thinking I will never get over this. I was so angry at the prospect that this was my life from now on. I was so sick of people telling me that it was going to get easier!
Christmas was hard, but on Christmas morning something changed for us. We went for a walk just the two of us and we talked about what we could do to help ourselves, not only as a couple but individually – and that’s where Avery’s Purpose was created. We made a plan to create a little legacy for our angel, as what good was hating the world and not celebrating her life going to do for us?
I am so proud to say that we have certainly made the most of her little legacy; Steven has spent the past year doing a challenge a month to raise money and awareness for stillbirth charities. He’s made the press with his ridiculous efforts to raise money for Tommy’s which include pushing a car the length of a marathon and the Three Peaks Challenge whilst dieting for a bodybuilding competition. The pride I feel every time he talks about Avery or raises another £1000 helps to heal my soul that extra little bit – his dedication to #AverysPurpose fills my heart with love as I know she’d be so proud of him.
I took a slightly different route in my path to healing – I think that’s important as whilst it’s crucial you work together and communicate often, you also need to find your own coping mechanism. My platform has been to write, and support others in their time of need. I started my blog just 5 weeks after Avery as a way of me not bottling up my feelings, but then loss parents started reaching out to me saying my blog had helped them in their time of need and I realised it was so much more than that. Helping others by being honest and raw about every feeling, thought and experience has given me a sense of confidence in myself again; it’s given me a reason to carry on and helped me to see that everything I feel is normal – every single loss parent feels it – we’re absolutely not alone.
For me, realising you’re not alone has been one of my biggest strengtheners as there’s always strength in numbers. This tragic but inspiring community of grieving parents has become my second family and I’m so grateful to Avery for guiding me to them. Every time someone reads my blog or listens to our story, is another person who knows about our beautiful daughter. To know our story has helped someone in their time of need is all I ever wanted; hearing that Avery has touched someone and inspired them to come out of their grief pit on a dark day is more of a legacy for her than I could ever ask for!
It’s crazy to reflect on how much has happened in a year, and if somebody had told me I’d be where I am today I would not have believed them – but I am. I have grown more as a person in this last year that I had in my 25 years prior. Of course I still have bad days, that’s a given and always will be, but they become farther in between with every one and I am proud to say I am a strong, positive loss parent, standing proudly next to my fiancé who has helped me through every step of the way.
My biggest bit of advice? Ironically it’s what I was sick of hearing people tell me but – It does get easier. Find your mechanism and do it in your own time, seek friends who understand; social media is the biggest and most supportive community of loss parents in the world so reach out to them – drop me a message anytime! Communicate with your partner or someone close to you – don’t bottle it up. And most importantly, don’t put a timeline on your grief, wake up each day and take it as it comes, ride the storm and eventually you will start to find clarity and hope for the future.
One day at a time .. XO Nicole