Firstly, let me start off by saying that this is probably one of the most controversial posts I’ve written to date. If you’re worried by me stating this there is a little “x” button to close the window to this blog on the top right hand sides of your screens. On your phones or tablets, use the back button.
Now that’s out of the way, I’m going to talk in this post about something I’ve been observing for a while now. There are a myriad of different baby loss and support charities out there all over the UK. Some provide memory boxes, some provide support, some fundraise for their local hospitals and some do all these things. The work they do is absolutely fantastic, and is MUCH needed and all the founders of these charities and groups do a sterling job.
However, I’ve noticed something within these charities especially ones based locally, and it is this – the relentless way they work in the name of the precious babies they have lost. I totally, totally get it – after all, the first thing I wanted to do was to do as much as possible to keep Frankie’s memory alive, and that’s where Frankie’s Legacy as a charity came from. I’ve written time and again about how relentless I was in that pursuit, often to my detriment.
At first I thought I could change the world. I wanted to provide support, run support groups, provide memory boxes, fundraise for the hospital – I wanted to do it all and thought I could do it all. I only had a very short period of maternity leave after Frankie was born, and thought I was doing the right thing there. I’ve also written about all the death and loss I had to endure since losing Frankie, so I won’t dwell on it again.
But I guess because of all the death and loss I’ve been through I’ve come out of the “other side” and realised that running myself ragged and into the ground is not the best way for me to keep Frankie’s memory and legacy alive. Now that I have taken that step I can see things a lot more clearly, and one thing I have observed painfully is the relentless way others who run baby loss charities are working, sometimes years after they suffered their loss and with other children who have been born since their loss.
Let me stress again that I think what these charities are doing is amazing. But when I heard of one where the guy who runs it with his wife was worrying about whether a support meeting could go ahead because his wife was about to go into labour any day, and he missed his other son’s first big school sports event because he had a commitment to undertake for the charity, I couldn’t help but think that the priorities were skewed there. Now, I don’t of course know the full story but children are very observant and the boy is very likely to remember that Daddy wasn’t there for his first school sports event, even if Mummy was there. We all have things we have to do in life that gets in the way of things – work takes up a huge amount of our time every week – but hearing this made me feel really uneasy.
The charities where the founders have gone on to have other babies are the ones that I think about the most. It is wonderful that they are doing so much great work and fundraising, but any subsequent children will grow up in the shadow of the baby who died and while it is right that they should know about their brother or sister who grew their angel wings and be incorporated into their lives, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of the child who is now living.
The reason I’ve chosen to merge the fundraising work I do with Towards Tomorrow Together is that I see absolutely no evidence of this from them. Everyone is lovely and volunteers/helps in their own time, without rushing around like mad and relentlessly working themselves into the ground. I’m not quite ready to jump fully on board yet, but I hope to in the coming months.
To the charities out there who are doing such amazing, sterling work – please keep it up, and please keep doing what you need to do to cope with your grief, because we all cope with it in our own individual ways. But please, I urge you, stop and smell the roses occasionally, pat yourselves on the back for what you do and spend time with your nearest and dearest. For we never know what is around the next corner, and you know what? It is okay to take time out, in fact, I’ve realised that it is absolutely essential. I know you want to change the world and do as much as possible in your baby’s memory, believe me I was right where you are, but through the grief and loss there is still life. And life is for living.
So look after yourselves folks, you only have one life….live it.