So today is my birthday and I’m 41 years old, or should that be 41 years young – you decide. Today has been a strange day, I was hoping to book the day off work and spend it relaxing, possibly having lunch with my Dad and catching up with some of my family. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, as I got a promotion a few weeks ago at the firm of solicitors where I am working and every month I have to present a report to the Senior Partners, and the meeting for this is in the middle of every month and yes, you’ve guessed it, today was the board meeting, my first one since my promotion.
I also had to go to a business breakfast networking event in Worcester, something I like to do as often as I can. I’m quite well known in the business community in Worcester, so it is good for me to go to some networking breakfast events, talk to people about what I’m doing at the solicitors I work for and also talk to businesses about Frankie’s Legacy and where it is at as a charity. We are 3-4 weeks away from hopefully getting our registered charity number, and I know that will open up so many more doors for the charity and our fundraising efforts.
I was woken up this morning when my alarm went off but instead of me going downstairs to let my dog out and make a coffee like I usually do, my husband was already awake and ordering me to stay in bed. He let our dog out and made me a coffee, and came back upstairs with my cards and presents. To my surprise he bought us tickets to see Status Quo in December, my all time favourite band, flowers and a lovely card. It brought a huge smile on my face.
After the networking meeting I had paperwork to prepare for my lunchtime board meeting, my phone was going like the clappers with notifications from Facebook with so many lovely people wishing me a happy birthday. I smiled every time I saw a new notification. And then I realised something – many of you who posted happy birthday wishes to me on Facebook I didn’t know at all this time last year. My Facebook friends list was full of shallow, superficial people only interested in using me to bolster their own inflated self-importance and egos. I had just come into contact with the Cleft Lip And Palate Association as Frankie had been diagnosed with his severe cleft lip and palate, and through talking to everyone there and lovely parents on the CLAPA Facebook support group, I got to see first-hand what it was like to talk to genuinely lovely people who had no agenda except wanting to help a mother to be who was scared out of her mind at the prospect of her son being born with a cleft lip and palate. I’d been burnt so badly by people that I was beginning to think that such people didn’t exist.
How wrong I was.
The vast majority of you who have posted on my Facebook page today weren’t on my Facebook friends list this time last year. All the angel mummies, all the parents who have been through early pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death, all the parents of children with chromosome 15 duplication syndrome, all the parents who have children with a cleft lip and palate….I could go on. You are all people I have got to know in the last year, many of you I interact with on a daily basis and who say to me when I’m having a really bad day, “It’s OK, because I’ve been there too”, and I don’t feel so alone. Some of you I have only got to know in literally the past few weeks because of The Butterfly Awards, but you have all already enriched my life and helped me in ways you will never know. I am so grateful that you are all in my life, and I don’t know what I would have done without you. I can’t thank you enough for being there, listening and telling me that despite what happened everything would be okay. You have all restored my faith in humanity and you are lovely, lovely people.
I look out for a lot of you on a daily basis on Facebook. Sandra*, for example, has a son who has chromosome 15 duplication syndrome and at the age of 19 he has just started having very nasty seizures. I worry like mad that something will happen to him, and I feel for her having to see her son suffer so much. Then there is Dawn, a truly lovely lady who rang me when my ex-husband and I split up and talked to me each evening in the very early days of that, and who knows what it is like to lose much wanted babies. And Lindsay Condefer, who is over 3000-odd miles away in Philadelphia USA, makes my day every day when she posts updates and photos on the “My Name Is Lentil” Facebook page of Lentil the French Bulldog who was born with a cleft lip and palate. Then there is Martin, who I met in person at the Cropredy Festival in 2007 and who lives in Utah USA, who comments on my posts every now and then. Devan, who lives in Malaysia and who I got to know when we used to play a Fantasy Formula 1 game together with a group of others online over ten years ago, and who was the first person to wish me a happy birthday because it was October 14th in Malaysia before it was October 14th here, I will never forget that. And Tony, who played a practical joke on me by ringing me earlier this year saying he was a researcher from Endemol Productions who wanted me on Celebrity Big Brother. I told him to f**K off before I knew it was him, but oh boy did that make me laugh! He also sent me some DVD’s for a raffle when I had the launch event for Frankie’s Legacy, which was really kind. And Leigh Kendall, who I have only been talking to for a few weeks, but who I had the pleasure of meeting in person at The Butterfly Awards and I can’t wait to get to know her a bit better. These are just a few examples, you all know who you are, and I honestly can’t remember my life before I knew you all. Some of you I have never met in person, nor am I ever likely to given the distance, but I still look out for you and I still consider you all friends and part of my life.
Unfortunately since I lost Frankie I have still encountered one or two who haven’t been so nice, or who wanted to know me to bolster their own self-importance, but I’m better at spotting these types now and saying, “thanks, but no thanks” and walking away straight away. I’m a big believer in gut feelings and if it doesn’t feel right, I won’t do it. And while most charities I’ve interacted with have been lovely, helpful, not competitive and freely gave out help and advice on becoming a charity, best practice and hints/tips, I also encountered one or two who see Frankie’s Legacy as a “threat”, which is a huge shame. I’m not out to compete, I just want to do the very best for my son and I will help, support and encourage any charity that has similar charitable aims as Frankie’s Legacy – if they want the help, of course.
I know that Frankie wouldn’t want me to mope, or be sad or upset. I know he wouldn’t want me to dwell in the past or dwell on what happened. I can’t change what’s happened, nor will I ever forget, I will think of Frankie every day for the rest of my life no matter what. He was the closest I ever got to being a proper mother, and through him I experienced what it was like to carry a much wanted baby, to feel him kicking and moving inside me, and to experience giving birth. I was only able to hold him for a day, but he gave me so much.
Despite losing my precious Frankie I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful husband who I love with all my heart. I have amazing parents who I appreciate more than they know or think and who I also love with all my heart. I have fantastic family and friends, and I’m happy to have got to know everyone who I talk to online through social media, particularly on Facebook. We are all united in a way we wish we weren’t – we have all lost a much wanted baby either in the early stages of pregnancy, through stillbirth or through neonatal death or we are united through cleft lip and palate, chromosome 15 duplication syndrome or through circumstances or chance encounters over the years, such as with Martin from Utah and Douglas from Minneapolis. I met both at the Cropredy Festival in 2007, and I still keep in touch with them today, as I do with others who I have met at Cropedy in the past.
So today, I reached a little bit of a turning point. I actually feel a little bit like myself again. Not my old self, I will NEVER feel like I did before I lost Frankie. That person is gone forever. It is hard to explain, and I think only someone who has been through it will understand what I mean when I say I feel more like myself again, but not like my old self. I am so grateful for what I have in my life, and for who I have in it, and what the future holds.
Despite trying again my husband and I have yet to go down the road of having our rainbow baby. I have been through another loss and suffered the heartache of getting a positive pregnancy test only to lose it literally a handful of days later, a “chemical pregnancy” my GP said, too early to even be called a miscarriage. I’m back with a fertility specialist and I’ve been referred to Professor Siobhan Quenby at Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital. I don’t know what’s going to happen there, only time will tell.
It is only now though that I am starting to feel OK about not having children, if that is what happens. It is by no means over for me yet, my husband I will keep trying every month until either we get too old and things start happening with me or we get told by the experts that there is no way it is going to happen. In the meantime though I am going to live my life as normal, I’ve put SO much on hold in the quest to have a baby and I’ve missed out on so much and so many experiences. And if it is not to be and we don’t have another baby, then Frankie’s Legacy will be my baby, and I will do my very best for that baby every day of my life, just as I would have done for Frankie.
I am not ready to dismantle his room or have him put to rest with his Great-Granddad. That will come in time, I’m sure. I know I am still going to have bad days where I get tearful and sad and can’t think of anything else but my Frankie. I have more milestones to cross, such as his birthday next month. But for now I’m happy just to feel a bit like myself again after the saddest, most turbulent and devastating year of my life.
And that, to me, is a HUGE turning point….