‘Nourish’ yourself with Sara Campin

September 29, 2018

Sara Campin is a mum of 2 (a girl aged 6 and a boy aged 3), a personal and professional development coach, strategy consultant and founder of Nourish. Here, she tells us about her soon-to-be-launched mobile app, which has been designed to support, motivate and inspire all mothers to thrive. Sara’s contribution to #thebigselfcareshare also covers the steps she’s taken towards finding a daily practice that works for her.

Sara Campin self-care

What’s brought you to where you are?

Nourish is a social enterprise tech startup focused on maternal well-being. We’re developing a new mobile app to support and inspire mothers to not only proactively look after their mental health, but to give them access to tips and tools to navigate the emotional turbulence that parenthood brings. We believe that with easy access to a range of evidence-based tools for self-care, all mothers can find greater joy in their motherhood journey.

I’ve struggled with my emotional wellbeing many times during motherhood, not only as a new mum but also in juggling the stresses of work and two sensitive kids. It is my own journey with self-care over the last couple of years and the positive impact it has had on me and my family that has driven my passion to help others.

How would you define self-care?

I’m a strong believer that self-care is healthcare and that it can not only help us better navigate the tough times, but help us find greater joy in each and every day. For me, self-care is anything that tops up my emotional wellbeing and helps me find greater emotional balance. It’s therefore multidimensional and different from one moment to the next and depending on my needs and what’s accessible to me at that time. Let’s face it, we would all love a long massage or even a nice long run along the river every day, but that’s just not realistic given our busy lives and our budgets!  There are however some types of self-care that for me have been game-changing. These are mindfulness, yoga and self-compassion.

With all of my self-care having a compassionate mindset is key. The last thing we need to be doing is beating ourselves up about it.

I try my best to find 10 minutes a day for mindfulness – either first thing in the morning, once the kids are in bed or last thing at night. If I can’t find 10 minutes I try to find 3 and if that fails I bring my attention to my breath whenever I remember to throughout the day. Even for a few moments.

I used to be a runner but started exploring yoga a year ago. I’m not at all flexible and love the anonymity of my own house, and I find those short, daily practices both soothing and energising for my mind and body. Luckily, my hubby now knows how important that time is to me and so he tries to make it work. So if it’s impossible, I try to at least do one round of sun salutations before my shower. If I fail there – I make a conscious effort to have a mindful shower. With all of my self-care having a compassionate mindset is key. The last thing we need to be doing is beating ourselves up about it.

Can you share a quick self-care tip that could be used daily?

One of my top self-care tips is getting into the habit of setting an intention or doing a mini mindfulness practice as soon as you wake up in the morning. My eldest is a nightmare in the mornings and has always woken up on the wrong side of the bed. This can be a pretty brutal way to be woken up prematurely, and things can escalate very fast without treading gently. But if I check in with myself as soon as I’m woken, take a few deep breaths and set an intention for the morning, it can flip the whole morning around. Some examples might be – “be kind to yourself”, “go gently”, “today is going to be a good day”, “try to be patient and empathetic” or just “you will get through this”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always get through it without tearing my hair out or indeed without an eruption. But the ride is generally much smoother if the first thing I do when I wake up is to take those few moments to check in with myself and set an intention.

Loving these self-care tips! Thank you, Sara, for taking part in #thebigselfcareshare, and for telling us more about what inspired you to develop your mobile app. I’m proud to be part of the founding circle following its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and look forward to supporting and using it in the future! You can find out more about Sara by visiting Nourish on Instagram and the Nourish website.


Daily self-care with the NIPS team

September 28, 2018

Today on #thebigselfcareshare we have Lauren Burlinson and the team from NIPS. A small, grassroots organisation based in Brighton, they travel around the UK running educational events to improve knowledge on a range of subjects to support communities. Currently, they’re running a series of mental health and children seminars.

NIPS self-care

Tell us about NIPS.

I run NIPS in my spare time when the children are at nursery/school or in the evenings when I’m in my pj’s and they’re (supposedly) asleep in bed. My husband is the NIPS designer, he’s top notch, and I have a loyal team of women crusaders who work with me at each seminar; looking after the audience, compering the event, making sure our tech is working and creating playlists to ease everyone into a happy place before we start learning! We also have an awesome film crew which we use at each seminar called DVA Films.

I used to run the seminars alone, and adore being part of a group now. We all strive to make NIPS as useful as possible and support each other in the process.

What does self-care mean for you as an organisation?

The term ‘self-care’ gets a lot of stick, but if you break it down it’s such a basic thing which people rushing around trying to accomplish everything by sundown tend to ignore and forget. Other things take priority. Who you are as a person and what makes you relaxed and centred gets pushed off the to-do list.

We need to consider self-care as a preventative fixture which keeps us from delving into stress, depression and anxiety.

If we don’t look after ourselves, we can’t function properly, our mental health worsens and we definitely aren’t supportive enough of those around us. We need to consider self-care as a preventative fixture which keeps us from delving into stress, depression and anxiety.

How does each of you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?

Lucy Hetherington – I practice daily self-care by challenging the negative thoughts that can cloud my mind. I do this through meditation or being mindful. Sometimes, busy days and busy heads make it difficult to dedicate time to meditation, so I try to immerse myself in something practical whether it’s exercise, cooking, really listening to music or being in nature. Having something else to focus on gives me time away from those meddlesome anxieties.

Sophia Clifford-Sanghad – Between the hours of about 5.30-8pm I put my phone away. I try and focus on the kids and being present, which is something I actually have to concentrate on as I am all too often thinking about work; like replying to an email or what I have to do in preparation for the next day. Being present is really important to me, there are so many distractions in life that sometimes it’s easy to forget and not appreciate what you’ve got in the moment.

Maya Milani – Being outdoors, even when it’s horrible weather. Just having the incentive to use my body, whether it be skateboarding or dancing funky to my jam on Spotify. It opens up my world, because I’m in it, instead of thinking about it. Everything inspires me then and all I want to do is create and that’s what I love most.

Lauren Burlinson – Remembering how important it is to move – I feel awful if I don’t exercise, and try to do something every day even if it’s just 10 minutes of yoga, a walk or dancing in the kitchen with the kids. It clears my brain and gives me a feeling of release. Also, realising that exercise doesn’t have to be a solid hour at the gym or an intense 8 mile run is important – especially if you don’t have that time to give. Small things add up and make parenting, work and living much easier.

Being present is really important to me, there are so many distractions in life that sometimes it’s easy to forget and not appreciate what you’ve got in the moment.

James Burlinson – I guess I hadn’t considered it a form of self-care until now, but I feel my most carefree when playing sport, and it’s brilliant for stress relief and giving you that general feeling of warmth and well-being. The combination of socialising and moving your body works a treat.

Beth Dawson – If you find that you’re cursing yourself at any point of the day, stop and spend some time observing and rationalising those thoughts. Try speaking to that negative inner voice like you might a friend if they presented those feelings to you. What can you learn from the supportive words you might easily give to others but find so hard when caring for yourself.

Hannah-Jayne Smith – Practice gratitude daily. Often, we chase the big things; the promotion, the car, the house and holiday. But my belief is these are all well and good, but only bring temporary satisfaction, because the car will get old, there will always be someone more senior, and there will always be another place to visit. If we stick to the daily things, that are easily accessible, we will have a stronger sense of fulfilment and a happier life. Practising what I’m grateful for helps this, and makes me realise that life is incredibly beautiful – even in the mundane moments.

Clare Burlinson – I’ve got three things I think are important for me (I’m terrible at all of them but trying to get better!) – saying no to people without guilt (I take on too much) – talking to colleagues that I trust when I have a difficult day or upsetting case at work instead of trying to deal with it alone (problem shared is a problem halved!) – allowing myself to do ‘nothing’ on a day off without guilt (still haven’t mastered this, I’m good at the doing nothing but not the no guilt part!)

Thanks to the NIPS team for being a part of #thebigselfcareshare! It’s been great to have you all aboard and thinking about self-care as well as sharing what works for you.

You can follow NIPS on social media at:



Yasmine Camilla on learning to care for yourself

September 27, 2018

Something I’ve been really keen to touch on this week is the process of cultivating a self-care practice at home and in work, which doesn’t always come easily to us as Yasmine Camilla explains today on #thebigselfcareshare. What I love about her valuable contribution is that it highlights what it’s like to be on the sometimes steep learning curve towards taking better care of yourself.

Yasmine Camilla

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a London girl in my thirties with two small children and a full-time job as a Project Manager for a major retailer. I’m also a lifestyle blogger and general Instagram rambler, a coach and mentor and someone people generally turn to for advice when they want to make things happen.

I have a broad range of experiences both from my upbringing, personal life and work that make me pretty intuitive when it comes to people, their ideas and what they can do to make them a reality.

With no formal education beyond A-levels, I started my retail career on the shop floor selling shoes, within 4 years I was managing a department in a famous London department store. I moved into lots of different roles, gaining skills all the time if I was learning something new and being promoted I thought I’d be happy.

Eventually, the long working hours, lack of sleep, partying and generally not looking after myself came crashing down on me. I was in a dark place, needed therapy and rehabilitation. I was lucky to find people to guide me through recovery as well as having my supportive boyfriend by my side.

I’m actually an introvert and need calm in my life to keep myself well. These days my priority list is long, but easily sorted.

Later, after a few years of being sober and having therapy, we decided to have a family. Being a mother brought so many new challenges to my life. I discovered that I can be rubbish at multitasking and that being emotionally there for others takes a lot out of me. I also discovered, despite being the life and soul of most parties, that I’m actually an introvert and need calm in my life to keep myself well. These days my priority list is long, but easily sorted.

What do self-compassion and kindness mean to you?

They don’t come easily to me, never have. Suffering from an extremely low self-esteem in my childhood, teens and early twenties I never had any practice in caring about any part of me. I wasn’t given the tools as I was growing up to care about myself and respect my health, body and mind.

I wasn’t given the tools as I was growing up to care about myself and respect my health, body and mind.

These days I know what I need to do, I can read the signs of what my body or mind needs a lot better than I could. However, I still struggle to put into practice for myself what I could so easily advise someone else on. I’m constantly fighting against my natural instincts when it comes to looking after me, I can find all the time in the world to do something for someone else but even lying in a bath for 20 mins relaxing feels impossible sometimes to me.

How do you incorporate self-care into life and work?

I have recently been diagnosed with dyslexia, lifelong anxiety disorder and OCD. In some ways, these diagnoses have made it easier for me to practice self-care. I’m open and honest about what I need and I am able to clearly articulate why. I find this works really well at my day job because once I’m clear with people they accept it, they appreciate knowing and are supportive. However, I shouldn’t need a diagnosis of anything to be explicit in what I need as a person. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy in the workplace for people to be open.

I’m open and honest about what I need and I am able to clearly articulate why.

I have to balance work and life. It’s so important to me, I’ve had a very hard last 18 months where I’ve really learned just how important that balance is to both me and my family.

I now try hard to make sure there are times in the day when I am totally present in the moment, it’s really hard when I have so many plates spinning but I don’t beat myself up about anything any more as I am always trying my best.

Can you share any tips?

Think about how you can build self-care into your whole life, not just time at home, or at the weekend. Try and take small moments, whether you’re at home or in work, to unwind and get in touch with yourself and what you need. Use train journeys for mindfulness or listening to your favourite podcast. Whatever it is, get it into your routine. Be really honest about what you need and with others to ensure they can support you in achieving it.

Thank you so much for your openness and for sharing your story, Yasmine.

You can follow Yasmine on social media at:


And visit her website:


Mark Shayler explores why self-care matters

September 25, 2018

Today on #thebigselfcareshare we have Mark Shayler. He loves moving and thinking and the latter gets better when he does the former. He’s a thinker, speaker and author, one half of Ape – a sustainable innovation company – and Founding Partner of The DO Lectures.

Mark Shayler self care series

Tell us about yourself, Mark.

I started as a bit of a hippy, I became a corporate slave for a couple of years and am now happily hippy again. It’s 30 years since I went to university (for free – remember that), 27 years since I got married, 24 years since we had the first of our four kids, 18 years since I set up my business. I work with big companies to help them think small and small companies to help them think big. I work with individuals to remind them which way is up.

How important is self-care to you?

Everything starts with self-care. You can’t love and be loved if you don’t love yourself and totally accept yourself. This is, in my experience, the key to a happy life. It’s about being curious about who you are and why you are.

It rolls out like a wave to the mental stuff – accepting your weirdness and taking time to meditate. Then the physical – yoga, running and swimming. Then the food – eat less harm. Eat less food that harms others. Eat less food that harms you. Then focus on the relationships with people that are good for you rather than those that harm you. Then, and only then, can you begin to look at what you do with the main part of your day.

…focus on the relationships with people that are good for you rather than those that harm you.

How do you earn your money? We can all earn money in many different ways but the ones that bring us the most joy are the ones least like work. In my book ‘Do Disrupt – Change the Status Quo or Become it‘ I talk about how to find the thing that you need to do. I talk about the need to be patient with this and wait for your Kairos time rather than panicking about Chronos time. We get really het-up about what we do. It isn’t surprising really as it’s how we introduce ourselves, how we define ourselves and it’s often the first question we ask of others. This is because it is a totem for wealth. Try asking someone you’ve never met before “tell me about yourself” rather than the usual “what do you do”. Totally different question, with the opportunity for a totally different answer. Many won’t take that opportunity. Our self-applied labels are fascinating and ultimately create a set of constraining beliefs for ourselves.

How do you practice self-care?

I get up early. Around 5.30. I go for a cycle with a friend three mornings a week and often head to London on the early train the other two. My weakness is food. I eat too much and I want to start eating breakfast much later but at the moment I don’t. So I eat at around 7.30. Usually eggs from our chickens, our roasted tomatoes and spinach with toast. And a coffee. I really want to kick this out. Not because it is “bad” for me but because I lean on it. I sometimes use it as a reward for meditating. Maybe that’s how I’ll progress.

Like most people, I never do my best thinking sat down. I do it walking or running, or biking or showering.

During the day I take many breaks – I’m a big fan of the pomodoro technique of working in 25-minute blocks. Then taking some thinking time or meditation time. Like most people, I never do my best thinking sat down. I do it walking or running, or biking or showering. Our most creative brain state is reached around the hypnogogic state. I try and do yoga every day but am struggling to prioritise this now. I spend time talking to the kids as often as I can (two have moved out now and two are still at home). I go to bed earlyish – around 10. And I am really trying to not use my phone after 9. It’s hard.

Can you share a self-care tip?

I find meditation a massive benefit. I used to be really hard on myself until I came across a simple meditation technique called RAIN (Recognise, Allow, Investigate, Non-identity). I have a simple process and it really works for me.

I also listen to music, dance, do yoga and make love with my wife as often as possible. Sometimes altogether.

Thanks so much for your honesty, Mark! As someone who has twice read and benefited from ‘Do Disrupt – Change the Status Quo or Become it‘ I can wholeheartedly recommend the book.

Mark has kindly shared his process for RAIN meditation in a separate bonus blog.

You can follow Mark on social media at:


And visit his website:


RAIN meditation with Mark Shayler

September 25, 2018

Mark Shayler is a thinker, speaker and author, one half of Ape – a sustainable innovation company – and Founding Partner of The DO Lectures. As part of the #thebigselfcareshare he shares his method for RAIN, a simple meditation technique that really works for him.

Mark Shayler self care series

Recognise, Accept, Investigate, Non-identity

Get absolutely soaking wet. There are many reasons why we get stressed or get stuck. Often a simple re-set is all that is needed. The way we think about ourselves can be harsh and judgemental. We can, and do, create our own self-limiting beliefs by the way that we perceive ourselves. I use a simple meditation process called RAIN.

Begin by focusing on the breath and breathing into the abdomen. When you are comfortable and focused on nothing/everything go through the following steps in your mind.

  1. Recognising. Recognise what is happening in your mind. Give it a name. Anxiety. Fear. Stress. Give it a name. This is Fear, I recognise it. Where do I feel it in my body? Tight chest. Tension, Heart rate. Recognise it and give it a name.
  2. Allowing. Don’t push it away. Don’t criticise ourselves for feeling this way. If we add a second layer of negativity to already feeling shit it gives the feeling more power. Whatever we feel is okay. Allow ourselves to feel the emotions and physical stuff. Don’t add anymore judgement on top.
  3. Investigating. Give the experience the kindness of your attention. What is calling for attention? What is dominant? Notice it and accept it without pushing it away. How does the body feel right now? Where is the tension or movement? Are the sensations changing? Investigate how you are seeing things. Can you allow what is happening or are you looking through a filter or lens? What opinions are you placing on the situation?
  4. Non-identifying. It’s best not to see this feeling as 100% part of ourselves. Otherwise, we have no space away from it. Observe it with balance, don’t identify with it. Relax the mind and think of the sky/cloud metaphor. The sky doesn’t change as the clouds pass by. The sky is not the weather. It is the sky. Your mind is bigger and different from the things within it.

You can read Mark’s full contribution to #thebigselfcareshare over at ‘why self-care matters‘.

You can follow Mark on social media at:


And visit his website:


Understanding self-care with Suzy Reading

September 24, 2018

The first in our series of self-care posts for #thebigselfcareshare is from Suzy Reading, Psychologies Magazine Mind Editor and Neom Organics Psych Expert. She is also a Speaker and Author of The Self-Care Revolution.

Suzy Reading self care series

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher and Health Coach. All my professional qualifications combined with my life experience lead me to my current offering. I’m passionate about empowering people with the tools of self-care, which is the one thread that draws together all my different training and therapeutic modalities. I love to help people better manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance.

It was my life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of my father that sparked my passion for self-care which I teach to my clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges.

I love flying the flag for self-care and relish the opportunity to be a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics. My first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ came out this year and I’m very excited to have more in the pipeline.

What does self-care mean for you?

I think we need a crystal clear definition of self-care so we can fully embrace it both as a concept and a practice. There’s an awful lot of confusion out there! I define self-care as health care. It is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body.

I define self-care as health care. It is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body.

There’s a second part to my definition that helps us choose the most nourishing action in the moment and that is, self-care nurtures you in this moment AND nurtures the person you are becoming, your ‘Future Self’ so to speak. Self-care is not always easy or comfortable, sometimes it is the last thing you actually feel like doing, but the true act of self-care is the choice that is genuinely life-giving and nourishing. Sometimes that might be a pampering, soothing practice, sometimes it’s stepping up in a way that might feel challenging. Self-care helps us to cope in the moment, to heal and recover from times of stress, loss and change, it provides us with a protective buffer against future curveballs and it gives us access to our best self… it really is the ultimate win-win.

How do you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?

I absolutely love this question because while we all know what we need to do to feel healthy and vibrant, it’s another thing to actually make it happen! There are several approaches that I use to make self-care a part of daily life.

The first is thinking of self-care as ‘micro-moments’ of nourishment. Nothing grand or elaborate is needed, it needn’t take long! Self-care can be tiny little ways to de-stress dotted through your day, like using scent, the breath, your posture, a single yoga pose, tuning in with nature, or using a mantra.

The second is turning everyday actions into self-care. What are you already doing that you can make more nourishing? The way you greet the day, the way in which you dress, how you shower, how you eat your meals, the way you talk to yourself? You can turn these into a ritual of nourishment with awareness and choice.

What are you already doing that you can make more nourishing?

The third is to make mindful use of my downtime – it’s easy to fritter away precious spare moments. Choose carefully how you use your spare time by using the prompt, what do I need now?

Share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on your path to being kinder to yourself.

Build your own calming toolkit:

Think of any challenge you are facing right now and come up with a path of action. Humans thrive on certainty, so even if you can’t guarantee a particular outcome, having a defined toolkit of things to try can be a powerful coping strategy. Think along the lines of ‘when ‘X’ happens, then I will ‘Y’ – these primer statements become even more potent when written down and I keep mine in my journal. Creating this toolkit can diminish anxiety and will help you take swift, constructive action when challenges arise.

Some ideas include:

  • When I am feeling overwhelmed, then I will… take a child’s pose, be with my breath for one minute, make sure I have eaten something life-giving in the last hour, repeat the mantra: I soften into this moment.
  • When I can’t sleep, then I will… try a brain dump with a pen and paper, scan through my day and think of three blessings and why they happened, use my magnesium oil spray, make my exhalation longer than my inhalation…

I hope your toolkits serve you well! And if guilt about engaging in self-care pops up (it is a tenacious creature) remember, it’s not me FIRST, it is me AS WELL.

We’re in it together.

Wow. What a way to kick off #thebigselfcareshare. Thank you so much for your valuable contribution, Suzy, and for teaching us that small steps can help us make big changes. You can join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at:


And visit her website:



September 23, 2018

Tomorrow sees the launch of #thebigselfcareshare, a series of guest blogs from those who inspire me, and who I know will inspire others, to be a little kinder to themselves each day.

My hope is to gather and share advice and stories that demonstrate how simple it is to integrate self-care into our daily lives. Whether at home or at work, the path to creating a healthier life and cultivating good habits isn’t easy at times. And that’s why I believe it’s important to talk about it.

For me, it all started with a journal. I would write about my experiences and occasionally post about them on Instagram. And then something interesting happened. The baby loss and fertility communities were interested in what I had to say; some of them bought their own journals, others were curious about making lifestyle changes and, over time, I stopped seeing looking after myself as some kind of luxury. I began to appreciate just how much the act of writing has helped me. Spotting behavioural patterns that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to identify. Emptying my thoughts onto paper that in turn empowered me to make big decisions. Learning to accept that the course of my life will sometimes be out with my control. It’s a mindful practice, one I’m learning more about each day.

So far, Bide & Bloom has given me a safe space to talk about the loss of my son, recurrent miscarriage and secondary infertility. And while I’d like it to continue as a blog and resource, I’d also like to expand it and share the steps I’m taking to look after my mental health. This is something I’ll touch on more in the near future, but for now, I’m going to make a commitment to bringing about some positive changes in my life right now.

Are you with me?

Slowly but surely, I’m seeing the benefits of taking better care of myself. It’s not easy – some days are REALLY hard – so I’m looking forward to learning more about what it means to embrace self-compassion and self-kindness as part of #thebigselfcareshare.

Do join in and comment or share the posts if they strike a chord. And let others know how you’re getting on with self-care by using the hashtag #thebigselfcareshare and tagging me @sarahjrobertson in your posts and stories so we can see and share them too.

Sarah x

Our story Baby loss

When is enough, enough?

August 31, 2018

When is enough, enough?

In recent weeks I’ve got to thinking about where I am on our ‘journey’ and how important it is for me to accept that it could end this year. It’s been an emotional time and so yesterday, for the sake of my mental health, Jonathan and I made the decision to press pause.

While our experiences of secondary infertility and recurrent loss have taken place over a relatively short period of time, the last 26 months have seen us experience back to back losses and anniversaries. And I’ve gotten so attached to each of my pregnancies. It’s in my nature to make connections with people and try and build relationships and it’s no different with the little lives that began inside me. And so when those pregnancies end it’s devastating. So devastating in fact that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to articulate precisely how it feels to see two lines then one, heartbeats then stillness, life then death. Harris was a wriggly little baby, the image of his big sister in his scans, and then he was gone. I believe it was Jamie Anderson that said “grief is just love with no place to go” and I honestly feel that way at times. So full of love and yet so pained because it’s trapped inside.

Poor Cora is smothered beyond belief and I’m beginning to fear losing her, which isn’t healthy. Added to this her recent fascination with what it means to be dead and I’m having to tread quite carefully, for my own benefit as well as hers. Cora understands now that mummy had a baby boy in her tummy called Harris and that he died, we made the conscious decision to remember him and involve her in that. But when she asked “am I going to die too?” it brought so many emotions to the surface. Feelings that I hadn’t been aware of and so have never really tended to. You can read more about her curious nature and my approach in my blog: helping children understand baby loss.

Something that our experiences have got me thinking about is the bigger picture, of our whole lives, and the other things we wish for. And being completely honest with myself, I don’t think I have it in me to continue down this path. I’m pretty clear on my boundaries, on what’s healthy for me personally; both mentally and physically.

But until I know for certain, it’s time to be kind and gentle with ourselves, to focus on the family we’re lucky to have, the beautiful home we’ve created, the successful business we’ve grown, and to count our blessings. Even the little ones, our stars, who have taught us so much about ourselves.

I’m conscious that for some this might seem easy to say when I have a living child but, for me, it’s incredibly difficult coming to terms with the fact my family looks nothing like I thought it would. My grief isn’t limited to the little ones we’ve lost. I also grieve for the future that will never be.

That’s not to say my future won’t be a bright and happy one. I know it can be. It’ll just be a different kind of bright and happy.

Sarah x

Baby loss

Helping children understand baby loss

August 7, 2018

My daughter has thrown some pretty challenging questions my way lately and sometimes it’s hard to satisfy a curious little girl who’s trying hard to understand the world around her. After all, here I am with 30 years on Cora, trying hard to do the same.

A few weeks ago, shortly after the second anniversary of her baby brother’s death, she asked me a fairly innocent question. But it was a question I wasn’t quite ready to answer.

“Mama? Am I going to die too?”

I was driving at the time and had stopped at the lights, so could see her inquisitive little face in the rearview mirror. While I felt out of my depth I managed a short reply: “Not anytime soon, you’re a young, healthy girl!” Or words to that effect.

She seemed content with the response. But I felt like I’d dodged this really important question. And I kept asking myself if I could have worded it in a better way or explained more about life and death. Only I’m not sure there’s a perfect way to reply to the big questions. Will I ever have all the “right” answers?

In the spirit of trying not to be too hard on myself (something I’m continually working on) I got to thinking that it was an honest and painless response. Probably just what an almost-four-year-old needed to hear.

Reading material

Around the time of Harris’s second birthday this year, and before Cora’s recent fascination with death started, I came across a campaign for a book called These Precious Little People. Written by Frankie Brunker and illustrated by Gillian Gamble, it’s designed for children affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

These Precious Little People book

As far as I know, the book is the first of its kind and there’s nothing else in print that tackles the subject of explaining baby loss to a child, so I’ve pledged to support it. The contents, which I’ve had the pleasure of reading and seeing, explain death through rhyme and images in such a beautiful way, and they encourage talking and memory making. It’s so in touch with my own approach to parenting Cora and her many questions have highlighted the need for this ‘tool’, something that can support children at a time when grown-ups might struggle to find the words.

Frankie, the author of These Precious Little People, was kind enough to point me in the direction of a few other reads. Books that could help me with my conversations while she continues to raise the funds needed to publish her own title.

What Does Dead Mean? by Caroline Jay and Jenni Thomas looks at some of the ‘big’ questions children often ask about death and dying, and Lifetimes, by Bryan Mellonie, gently explains how all living things must die. Lifetimes is a really beautiful book and Cora enjoys looking at the pictures and learning about different animals and insects and their lifespans.

There’s also a recently printed book by Joseph Becker called Annabelle & Aiden: What Happens When We Die? and it was funded through Kickstarter in just one day, which is pretty incredible.

Discussing loss

Books offer a good opportunity to start conversations. But I often try to draw on my own experiences when explaining life and death to Cora.

Much of this is shaped by my own childhood; the loss of my dad when I was just seven, which affected me most in my teens due to the nature of his death, and my granda in my twenties, a father figure who was a big part of my life when I was growing up. These losses have impacted upon me in different ways, but I’ve always tried to face up to what’s happened and talk about my feelings, and I think this has taught me the coping strategies I needed to tap into when my son died during pregnancy.

I’m still finding my way after the loss of Harris and I try to involve Cora as much as possible. And while there are times when I need to grieve alone, I have a responsibility to help my little girl understand that death and the feelings surrounding it are okay to talk about. I suppose this extends to our conversations in general, which, as mother and daughter, I hope will always be open and honest.

Memory making

As a family, part of our grieving process has been to introduce memory making, something that was first encouraged on the day we left the hospital after I gave birth to Harris.

Simpson’s Memory Box Appeals (SiMBA) is a charity with a simple aim. To honour babies who have died, been stillborn or miscarried and to help gather timeless memories. And they gifted us with a small memory box, which we occasionally take the time to go through along with Harris’s other little things. For Cora, it’s a chance to fold his blankets, read cards with me and she might ask a question or two about who the gifts are from.

We also join SiMBA at an annual memorial event to release butterflies for all of our babies gone too soon, and SiMBA’s trees of tranquillity give us a quiet place to go at other times of the year. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be particularly hard, as well as Harris’s due date in December. But for us, the very act of honouring these little lives, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, make our thoughts and feelings much easier to process.

On Harris’s birthday, his special day, we enjoy some family time. It might be a trip to the beach or local gardens and we buy a balloon for Cora to release. I’ve found that the lead up to days like that is usually harder than the day itself and we usually have a lovely time. Bittersweet.

Sometimes, Cora might ask if she’s going to have another baby brother or sister, which is perhaps one of the harder conversations to have because I simply don’t know. So I just say “I hope so” or “maybe not”. And if she presses, I explain that not every family can have or even wants more babies. It’s important to me that Cora understands that every family is different, that there’s no “perfect” set up.

Of course, Cora doesn’t know the details of our losses, only that she did have a little brother. We’re choosing to leave that until she’s older, perhaps because it’s a part of our journey that isn’t complete, something I’m personally finding quite difficult to come to terms with. But also because I think it’s possibly too much for a little one to take in. A conversation for another day once we know what our future holds.

Sarah x

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help a child cope with baby loss, whether it’s the loss of your own baby or a baby in the family, please do check out These Precious Little People. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and you can pledge here.

Baby loss

A tribute to Harris

June 29, 2018

On this day two years ago I heard the words that no expectant mother wants to hear. “I’m sorry.”

My baby, gone before I had the chance to say hello.

I used to think people were being dramatic when they talked about rooms spinning as devastating news was delivered to them. But at that moment I felt so overwhelmed by what I was seeing and hearing, so crushed by the pain of it all, that I could barely breathe.

My baby, wriggling around just weeks before in my 12-week scan, the baby I’d bonded with and taken my first bump photos of, now still and silent. We’d been so excited about telling our daughter the news she was going to be a big sister and had waited months to share it. Now there was nothing to say to her. Only bad news to share with our family and friends.

Strangely, I hadn’t been so open about the pregnancy, and I often look back and wonder if, deep down, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I’d been experiencing backache and had a temperature in the days leading up to the private scan. On the morning of the scan itself I had other symptoms that suggested things weren’t going to plan; pink spotting, waves of nausea, radiating pains. What I hadn’t realised is that I was in very early labour. And that day marked the start of my secondary infertility journey, only I didn’t know it yet.

The sonographer called triage to arrange for us to go in and have the news confirmed. And a midwife was waiting to quickly take us past all the anxious and happy pregnant women waiting for their 12 and 20-week scans. I remember wishing I was them, hoping that the sonographer had somehow just got it all very wrong. It felt like a nightmare, it just didn’t seem real.

After the loss of our baby had been confirmed we were sent home with instructions to come back in two days for an induction. I would need to give birth and it’s something I really struggled to get my head around. Despite having given birth previously, I didn’t know what to expect. All I could do was take it one step at a time.

As it happens I went into full labour the following night and I delivered our beautiful son on 30th June 2016. The rush of love I felt for Harris when I first saw him was no different to how I felt the very first time I set eyes on Cora. I was in shock, I was in pain, but I was in love.

And I would give anything for just one more second of carrying Harris, of believing everything was okay, of feeling at home with him inside me. I miss that feeling. I miss cupping the soft curve of my tummy. I miss Cora snuggling into my wee bump.

And if there’s one thing Harris has left me with it’s the ability to enjoy little moments, to find the good in every day. While I experienced a great loss, it doesn’t mean I can’t learn to appreciate a good life.

Harris may be gone, and his time here was short, but he taught me so much.

There are of course days where the anger and pain are all consuming. Some nights I still curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. Some days I beat a pillow and let it all out. And there’s still that silent scream, the deafening kind where you open your mouth and you hurt so much inside that no sound escapes and the pressure inside your head can make you feel like it’s about to explode. Those moments are the worst.

But I believe that bad days build better days.

And tonight as I write this, I’m aching but I can breathe, I’m hurting but I can feel. The longing for Harris will never leave me and that’s okay. That’s just how life is for me and my family.

Tonight I read these words by Helen Keller. They really spoke to me, capturing everything I’m feeling right now, and her words might speak to you.

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

She also wrote:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

And I know that so many of you will resonate with this.

Harris, I miss and love you, and you’ll be forever in my heart. Goodnight, baby boy. Goodnight, all little stars.