Friday, 9 November 2012

8th birthday reflections

Monkey would have been 8 today and I have not cried.  I think I've had less time to be self indulgent coupled with the fact that all of our photos are still in storage.  But I am sad.  Really really sad.  I think the tears are inevitable, they're just not forthcoming right now.

Having moved to a new area, it's been hard being surrounded by people who never knew Monkey and didn't know me in a Monkey world.  But there are some lovely people here and I have told a few people about my boy and two of them sent me a lovely message today.

It's been a year of change.  Change that would not have occurred without Monkey.  I no longer have a full time job, I pick my boys up from school every day, I help in their classes and I'm practically a fully qualified Homestart volunteer.  If it weren't for having Monkey and then losing him, I would not be where I am today.

Thank you beautiful boy.

Friday, 12 October 2012

And then I cried some more

So I'm training to be a homestart volunteer.  Inspired by monkey, I want to be able to make a difference to someone who might be in a similar situation to us a few years ago.  Homestart are a charity who match families with volunteers who help them in their home once a week.  The training is good; thought provoking.  At the first session we were asked to introduce oursleves to our neighbour.  I did and I told her about Monkey, Pickle & Wotsit.  When it was her turn to introduce me to the group, she didn't mention Monkey.  I completely understand why she may not have felt comfortable doing so but I now feel a little odd.  A bit like I'm denying he was ever here.

So this should be resolved next week.  The organiser has asked me to read a passage about how it feels to have a child with special needs.  There's a reading about planning to go to Venice but ending up in Holland.  I read it a few years ago when we had Monkey.  I thought it was good - it describes the sense of loss you might feel but also helps you to realise that Holland's not a bad place; just a different place.

I think I cried when I read it for the first time but after a while I thought yes, I like Holland, but I'd like to go to Venice too.  And that's when Pickle came along.

Anyway the point is, I've not read it for a while.  I think since before Alex died.  So I read it again.  Except I wasn't quite prepared for my reaction.  You see, I feel a bit like I've been banished from Holland, a place I once loved to be but now I don't belong there.  I can't go there.  Not in the same way.

Cue quite a lot of tears.  Good ones though, necessary ones.  Keeps me sane and helps me remember.

The good news?  From next week (whilst I may have cried in front of 14 women I barely know) I will at least no longer feel like I am denying Monkey.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Yesterday I cried

I'm driving the boys to the station to collect Daddy.  Wotsit has Alex bear with him (named after Alex the lion you understand). 

"Mummy, how old is Alex?"
"Alex bear?"
"No, Alex who would be our brother if he was alive."
"He'd be 7 sweetheart, nearly 8 - his birthday is just after Pickle's."
"That's not fair, he won't get any presents."
"Yes, he will" says Pickle "we can send him a balloon up in the sky."
"But how will it know which platform to stop at?"

Love you boys, all three of you.

Friday, 10 August 2012


Unintentionally, I reached for one of my favourite tops this morning.  Comfy, slouchy GAP t-shirt.  I noticed a few holes in it (but wore it anyway).  It was only later today that I remembered I bought the top in my first shopping trip post Monkey dying.  It was noteworthy as shopping (like sex) was one of the frivolous activities that I couldn't bring myself to do for quite a while.  I made an exception for this top though as emblazoned across the front it said 'honoured'. And I felt honoured to have been Monkey's Mum.  And I still do. 

It's 5 years to the day since Monkey died. Ouch. Ouuuuch.  It's no wonder, the top has a few holes in it.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A little less like neglect

So.  A few weeks ago, I returned to the house we were selling (also known as the house where Monkey last was) to empty it.  We'd moved in a bit of a hurry (our house sale fell through, we weren't going to move then Pickle got into a good school so we decided to move anyway) and had been emptying the house in dribs and drabs.  I knew this was going to be the penultimate visit to the house (subject to everything going to plan!) and was a little apprehensive but I was focussed and okay.

Then the new purchasers popped over to measure up.  They're lovely.  We vaguely knew them before.  I knew that they had a duaghter who was stillborn and had empathised with them previously but hadn't mentioned Monkey - it was too raw at the time.  I was in the playroom with Liz (some of the playroom used to be Monkey's bedroom) and she pointed to where his bedroom was and said that was going to be her yoga room.  I really wanted to tell her about Monkey but couldn't speak.

Finally, we were all chatting in the kitchen and Liz mentioned that she's on a rota to mow the churchyard and I burst into tears (in a snorting kind of way) and had to leave the room.  She came after me (my husband didn't notice!!) and was lovely.  She knew about Monkey and had wanted to offer to place flowers on his plaque at appropriate times of the year if I wanted her to.  I don't need her to do that but occassionally wiping the grass away - that would be good.  To be honest just knowing there's somewhere there who knows his ashes (well some of them) are there is a good thing.  Feels a little less like neglect.  Thank you Liz.  And we have an open invite to pop in for tea if we are visiting.  It is nice to feel that I am not letting go completely.  Or at least that I don't have to if I don't want to.  Although the reality of going back in the future is a bit strange and I think that maybe there are only so many times I can say goodbye/cry.

We returned a couple of weeks later as Pickle wanted to say goodbye to the house properly and to go to the church.  I went with the boys to the churchyard and we left some beautiful orange gerberas.  I left a note which I read to the boys and Wotsit asked why I was talking strangely.  Pickle said he knew why and gave me a mammoth hug.

However much I tell myself that you are not there Monkey, it hurts.  It feels like a step away from you and I'm sorry.  If you'd been here, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have left.  I don't think I could have changed your care again.  But you're not here and I know it's okay that we've moved.  Things are going well and your brothers still talk about you all the time.  Wotsit is so like you and so interested in you (and dying generally!).  In some ways you are most definitely still with us.  

I love you beautiful boy. I miss you x

Monday, 7 May 2012

Perceptive Pickle

I miss our old house Mummy, not just because that's where Alex lived with us but because...

I think I tuned out at this point (sorry Pickle).  You went on to say something about how it was nice to come upstairs at night time if you had a nightmare so I could come back down and tuck you into bed.  Which I have to say surprises me a little given our current sleeping arrangements where you sleep with your brother and we're right next door - particularly given you are not all that brave.

Anyway, I know you are perceptive (I've said it before) but this surprised me.  Monkey died when you were 9 months old.  I thought you were attached to the house because you had a big bedroom, we had chickens, you had an awesome playroom, a massive garden, a ride on tractor, a lovely school and lots of friends nearby.

I wonder if you've heard me say this.  It's possible but I don't think you have.  I have said it a lot but I've always tried not to say it in front of you as you are a sensitive soul.  Plus you may have used it as a reason to persuade me to stay and I'm not sure I would have coped well with that.

Anyway, just so you know, I like that you said it.


Friday, 4 May 2012

Where am I now?

So, having reconciled myself to moving in the last post - helped a bit by a friend who said this "Guess re Alex, he isn’t here (physically), but he is here (in the way you/others have been influenced by him being him). However, he didn’t particularly influence the house. Therefore, although you’ll have lots of strong associations between him and the house (and finding ways of treasuring those is v important), equally important to acknowledge that the things he had the most impact on (you) aren’t changing, they’ll just be somewhere else geographically." - everything went pear shaped with the move!!

The day before exchange (only 3 people in the chain) the sale fell through.  Our buyers' buyers changed their minds!  Why the day before????  Can't remember all the emotions.  Definitely gutted.  I'd packed the entire house.  The boys had said goodbye to schools and nurseries.  I'd cried a lot about leaving.  We'd taken Pickle to see his new school.  We'd spent quite a lot of money on surveys, legal fees...  For the next few days, we hoped it might all come back together but no such luck.  

We'd rented a house in the area back in January to ensure we could enrol the boys in schools but had given notice on the property once the sale looked like it was going through.  That property was re-let the day the sale fell through!!!

The upside?  We hadn't been able to get both boys into the same school and I'd had no idea how we were going to manage that.  And we were buying a bungalow with the intention of making it two storey on a very limited budget.  Both things had been making me feel a bit sick.

So, after a lot of reflection, we decided to stay where we were, at least for the time being.  I was happy.  Pickle was very happy.  After the Easter holidays, I was going to phone Pickle's old school and ask if they would be happy to have him back.

So, we packed to go away on holiday, stopping in at our in-laws for 2 days on the way.  They live close to the rental house and husband went over to rescue his scooter which had been parked there.  He checked for post whilst he was there.  Amongst the parish council mags and solar energy flyers was a letter from the school we had really wanted Pickle to go to offering him a place after Easter.

Decisions, decisions...

If we were even going to move to this area, having the boys at the same school would be a big bonus.  But we'd told Pickle we weren't moving (albeit temporarily) and we had nowehere to live.  The offer of the school place was on the proviso that we lived at the rental property and I am, apparently, too honest for my own good so felt uncomfortable about living somewhere further away from the school and accepting the place.

That said, we decided we were going to try to find another property (hopefully closer to the school) and accept the offer.  So, the day before our holiday we drove home and collected Pickle's school shoes, grey trousers and husband's suits.  Worst case scenario we would stay with family until we found somewhere to live.

We went on holiday and had daily ups and downs as we tried to find a house.  Finally our letting agent took pity on us and let us have the rental house back (sorry other people who had thought it would be theirs).  I broke the news to Pickle knowing he'd be upset but also knowing he was having a fabulous holiday and that would get him through.

We left holiday to take up home in the rental property and Pickle cried a lot saying he wanted to go home to his house and to his school.  I comforted him but every inch of me was crying out "me too, me too".

Week one was very tough.  Day one, Pickle visited his school and we bought the uniform.  Day two, he started.  He was fab and, as expected, has settled well.  I cried A LOT.  Missing home, work, friends, some time alone, routine, a sense of purpose...

Husband was worried that he'd persuaded me to do something I didn't want to do and even though I was being reasonably irrational, I knew that wasn't true.  I think the ambiguity of the situation was making me unhappy.  If we'd sold the house, I'd have no option to return there.  I'm reasonably good at dealing with things and moving on when needs be but ambiguity isn't really my strongpoint.  I like certainty.  And I need a home.

And now?  I have a home (in fact, you could argue I have two!).  It's where we all are.  It's a well designed 2 bed semi.  It's small (smaller heating bills and less cleaning - yay) and homely.

We'll be okay.  Broke, but okay.  Let's hope we don't have to pay rent and a mortgage for too long...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Week Without Work One

My first week without work has come and gone.  It was an emotional week with lots of goodbyes.

I mostly packed the house up and cried a lot.  I cried every time I walked past the church where most of Monkey's ashes are.  I cried every morning when I dropped Wotsit off at nursery.  I cried when I sat in the garden and looked at the view.  I cried when I went to the park and it was everso everso peaceful.  I cried when a friend who lives nearby dropped in.  I cried when we went swimming for the last time ast the Special Needs School which Monkey woould have gone to.

The boys said goodbye to school and nursery.  I was very proud of them both - they will be missed by quite a few people.  And Pickle has his first Pen Pal.

We didn't exchange on the sale of our house and I have to confess to hoping that it falls through so that I don't have to leave but, after a lovely weekend with Husband and boys, I'm remembering that it doesn't really matter where we are.  We'll be okay.  There were good reasons to move and those haven't changed.  Losing connections with Monkey is by far the hardest thing and somehow I have to store them away (probably here) so they are not lost.

So, now I'm hoping it doesn't all fall through or I may be in trouble for wishing quite so hard...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Wotsit's views on parenting skills

Collected Wotsit early yesterday so we could watch Pickle's Easter Service together.  Loved the conversation we had on the way:

Wotsit:  I hope they do Away in a Manger
Me:  Unlikely darling, they tend to only sing that at Christmas.  

Wotsit:  Will Baby Jesus be there?
Me:  No sweetheart.  Christmas is when people celebrate Jesus being born.  It's coming up to Easter which is when people remember about Jesus's death.

Wotist:  I'm not going to die Mummy.
Me:  Everyone dies sometime darling.  Not usually until they are quite old though.

Wotist:  Beckly's old Mummy (Becky's 20!).
Me:  Laughter

Wotsit:  She's definitely old mummy, she's older than you.
Me:  Why do you think she's older than me darling?
Wotsit:  Because she's better at looking after me. (Ouch.)

Me:  Why's that Wotsit?
Wotsit:  Because she lets me do whatever I want!!!  (That's not strictly true).

Wotsit's last day at nursery today.  Becky and I haven't been able to look at each other all week for fear of crying.  I'll be taking the tissues with me to collect him later.  But I'm pretty sure there'll be laughter on the way home...

In Pickle's own words

Goodbye (proper) work.

Well it certainly was an emotional week but maybe not quite as tearful as I thought.  Thursday night was lovely and managed to get through Friday without falling apart.

My bossfriend did a fabulous leaving presentation and even managed to shed a tear himself.  He'd managed to find my graduate application form from 1996!  I'm not sure how, on the basis of that form, I even managed to get an interview. (The person I admired most...  Nelson Mandela.  My biggest achievement...  saving up to go to Australia.  Example of influencing people... during my teacher training degree (which I dropped out of) I often had to influence the children to do what I wanted to them to!).  He also read out snippets of my performance reviews from years gone by.  They were lovely to hear and at the time I believed I was doing a great job.  Not sure when that feeling stopped - think probably when I had the boys and I couldn't give the job my all and maybe when I started working with people who were a lot cleverer than me!  I had some beautiful gifts and the whole thing was topped off by a delivery from the Milk Tray man (aka one of my team (very handsome Portugese boy/man) in a black polo neck jumper!)  I held it together throughout and only lost it a couple of times later in the day.  Hardest of all was saying goodbye to those people I probably won't see again.

Whilst I'm pretty sure I should be measuring my success over 16 years based on customer retention or profitability.  I hope what I achieved was to make a difference to some of the people I've worked with in the same way that they have done for me. 

To top it all off I went to the opera and intermittently fell asleep!

Goodbye (proper) work.  Goodbye salary!


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Let the tears begin...

The week ahead will be my last week at work after nearly 16 years there (with a few maternity leaves in between).  The week after that we're moving further south.

Up until last week I was still convinced that this was the right thing for me; for us.  And now I'm starting to wonder.  To be honest, I think leaving this job and spending more time with the boys whilst doing some freelance work from home is the right thing for us (if we can afford the mortgage!).  But I will really miss the people.  Not my good friends; those I'll stay in touch with both virtually and really.  But there a lot of people who mean more to me than they realise - individually and collectively.  And I'll miss them.  And I'll miss the challenge of my job too (some days).

I think by Friday, I'll be a complete mess (and not just because of the cocktails I think it's highly likely I'll consume on Thursday night).  I've wobbled 3 times already in the last 2 days.

Wobble 1:
A colleague in the department left on Friday - early retirement.  He walked the floor with a hug, kiss or handshake and kind word for everyone (how I wish I could do that).  He sat at my desk and we talked about what was in store for both of us.  We talked about our upcoming house move until I could talk no more.

Wobble 2:
Husband's family here for the weekend.  As my sister-in-law was leaving yesterday, she said goodbye to the house.  And I wobbled again.   This house and all that has gone on it means the world to me.  I know it's the people and not the house but it's been a happy home (even when it has been sad) and it is the last place that Monkey was.  And however much I tell myself that he is not here; that he is with me, stuck in my heart forever.  A small part of me feels that I am leaving him behind.  I have not yet written down all my memories  like I said I would.  The memories that I can feel when I am here as I wander around the house.  And I'm running out of time (although blogging is proving a handy distraction from packing).

Wobble 3:
This morning my mother-in-law told me that when she collected Pickle from school on Friday, she stopped at the church.  To be honest, it didn't occur to me that she'd go there which is pretty rubbish of me really.  She said she thought that I was being very brave and tried to hug me.  I mumbled through my tears that 'he's not there' and pretty much ran away to sniff out and squeeze a child.

I knew that leaving work and moving away from the area a week later was going to be tough.  And I know we are doing it for the right reasons.  But boy, I'm packing the mascara tonight as I think wearing any this week may be reasonably pointless.

Wish me luck.  

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


I have thought about writing this post many times. 

I don't think it's my fault that Monkey died.  Not really.  Hindsight's a wonderful thing and maybe I could have prevented it but you don't live your life like that do you?  It doesn't stop me feeling guilty though, about so many things.

Guilty that we didn't persist in asking for a sleep system which might have meant you'd have been better positioned the night you died; you might not have rolled over.  Guilty that you didn't have a breathable pillow - that it didn't even occur to us that you might need one.  Guilty that I put you to bed that night and left you when I knew you were uncomfortable.  Guilty that your monitor wasn't near to me.  That I left you in the house that night for 5 minutes - your dad was there in the garage - and went to look at a house in the village.  That I didn't check on you sooner.  Guilty that I once read a post from a Mum whose severely disabled child had died and wondered if that might not be easier in the long run.  Guilty that I didn't pay you more attention when you were here.

When I first saw the bereavement counseller, she asked me how I felt.  "Guilty" I said.  "Perfectly normal" she replied "as a Mum it's your job to look after your children; to keep them alive".  I'm not sure it made me feel better but I was very grateful to Judith for her straight talking and for letting me know it was okay to feel guilty.

Rationally, I don't blame myself.  We don't even know for certain if that's why you died.  I know that had I had a monitor with me, I probably wouldn't have heard anything which would have made me come in to you (you made lots of noises).  Perhaps that would have been worse.  You were often uncomfortable.  Waiting until you were comfortable could have meant not leaving you at all. Popping out the house made no difference to when I came to see you and your dad was close by. The other things?  I think they are human nature - it was hard to play with you all of the time and I definitely didn't want you to die. It was just sometimes hard being your Mum.

I loved you Monkey, more than anything.  And I'm sorry.  I tried my very best.

Skyping Heaven

"Mummy, can we Skype Grandma please?" We try Grandma, she's not there. "Can we Skype Granny S?" She's not there either. "Mummy can we Skype heaven and talk to Alex." Now there's an idea...