Before I go on with my list this year, clearly the most life changing moment of 2019 was losing our Baby, Charlie in November. Having lost another baby, Sophie, only 12 months previous we were/are in total shock and having to go though the same feelings of grief, despair, depression and hopelessness again. I don’t want to belittle what’s happened by including it in this list but I also feel its appropriate to acknowledge it before I move on.
The thought of trying to write a post about things that have changed my life this year has been very, very difficult but if I don’t do this I break 10 years (’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13,’14,’15, ’16, ’17, ’18) of tradition and even though grief rules our lives right now, I’m trying hard to do things which bring back an element of normality and help focus my mind on things I’m grateful for. So although this blog is tinged with undertones of sadness, there really are positive things for me to focus on and move into 2020 with.
Here goes then:
1). The Fetal Cardiology Dept at Bristol Children’s Hospital (esp our consultant Patricia)
From September this year we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in Bristol’s Fetal Cardiology Dept and formed very strong bonds with our consultant Patricia who was on the journey with us as we learnt about Charlie’s heart conditions, that ultimately proved to be too much for him in late November. It’s impossible to document all the ups and downs, twists and turns we had on this journey in a short post but Patricia was there for us to the end and we can’t thank her enough for that support. We also received amazing support from Exeter’s Fetal Medicine Dept lead by Miles and Helen, two of the senior consultants who also shared our journey over those months. Exeter even sent a couple of the team to Charlie’s funeral (a small family only affair) which showed just how close we’d grown to them in that time. We’ll never forget the support we’ve had from Helen, Miles and Patricia and the teams around them. The work they do is incredible and I’ll personally be looking at ways I can support them through the skillset I have in 2020 and beyond.
2). My Wife Lizz
Last year, when I wrote this post, it was just after we lost Sophie and I commented that our kids were too young to know what happened. This time they weren’t. When I saw Lizz tell Oscar that his brother hadn’t made it, it was heartbreaking but showed what an absolutely incredible woman my wife is. Less than a few days after her C-Section and losing a baby, she was able to deliver that news to our 4 year old and be there for him when he needed her most. I don’t think I would have been strong enough to do that. Once again she proves she’s the most amazing mother and woman I know and I’d be lost without her.
After the year and a bit we’ve had, you can forgive us for having wobbles, having dark days, really wondering what it’s all about and why life can be so cruel. I’ve always listened to podcasts and read business books and for the last few years the topic of meditation has come up time and time again but I’ve largely dismissed it. This year I decided to look into it. Now the word meditation sounds a bit cooky if you ask me but when I looked into it, at the most basic level, its very far from it. Mindfulness is about being more aware (mindful) of yourself, your surroundings and the life you lead. Being grateful and appreciative for what you have and not letting the fears and anxiety that many of us live with day in day out consume us. I’m no master by any means, so I can’t give further counsel than this (maybe next year) but I can tell you that when I manage to make time for it, 10 mins of mindfulness a day can make a very big difference to your mental health. I’ve been using the Calm app which you can download from the various app stores but I know there are many others on the market so if you’re struggling with anything life is throwing at you, I can heartily recommend making space in your busy schedule and integrating a bit of mindfulness into it.
4). Harry Potter Books
Ok so I know I’m late to the party here, perhaps 30 years too late in terms of age but I don’t care what people think, this epic series of books changed my life this year, no question of a doubt. I’d watched the films when they came out and I remember liking them but when I was talking to a friend about having trouble sleeping and I explained I used to check my phone last thing at night, they suggested I get into a good book instead. My in-laws had always raved about the series and had them all so I asked if I could borrow the first one and within a week I was completely hooked. I read the whole series from book one to seven in a few months. You might think saying this changed my life is a bit over the top but it did in so many ways. It introduced me back to reading (books not audio books) again and how pleasurable that can be. It helped me escape from day to day challenges into a different world. It helped me fall asleep again! Thank you J.K. Rowling, I just wish you’d write more!
You can buy all seven of the books here (aff link): Harry Potter Collection
5). Tisserand Sleep Balm
Along the same lines, another product to aid sleep. After losing Charlie, a very kind friend knew that Lizz and I would be having trouble sleeping, so they bought us this pack from Tisserand. When you’re walking around in a daze, you try what you can to get by but I don’t think either us realised just how good this product would be. I’m seriously considering writing to them asking if I can be an ambassador or something! The pulse rollers allow you to put the calming essential oils onto your skin and pillow and almost everyday I’ve used it, as my head has hit the pillow and been encased in the calming scents, I’ve fallen asleep within minutes (aided of course by dreams of witches and wizards flying around on broomsticks). If you struggle closing your mind off at the end of a busy day, I can’t recommend this highly enough.
You can buy this here (aff link): Tisserand Little Box of Sleep
6). Smart Lights
I’ve actually had smart lights installed for a couple of years but in truth they’ve acted more like standard light bulbs, being turned on and off by the main switches – nothing too smart about that. I don’t know why, perhaps laziness, perhaps I just didn’t get it. I decided this Christmas to sort it out. I bought a load more bulbs and set motion sensors up in key places such as our landing. I got strips to go under our breakfast bar and I got fully into the app, setting up routines I never realised were possible. Now, for example, when we need a bathroom break in the middle of the night, there is no fumbling around for the light switches, they come on automatically and because its the middle of the night, they turn on using a dim setting which means you’re not left cowering like you’re looking straight into the sun or waking the entire household up. I know material items like this aren’t exactly important in the grand scheme of things but as they turn themselves off when we’re not in the room and are more efficient than normal bulbs, I like to think that the benefits are not only purely for us but there are also some small environmental benefits as well.
Here is a list of the items I’ve bought for my setup:
7). Oscar Starting School
I know every parent says this: “I can’t believe how quickly they are growing up”. Nothing demonstrates this more than when your first born goes to School for the first time. It’s also possibly the most gut-wrenchingly difficult thing to get through as you leave your child in a strange room with people they don’t know, as they cry their eyes out. That said, we were very lucky and Oscar soon got over his initial fears and started to really enjoy his new friends and routines. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is watching him learn new things everyday. I’ve loved hearing how excited he was as he learnt his first facts about animals, his first letters of the alphabet, how to add and subtract using his tiny hands and now he’s beginning to be able to read short stories himself! It melts my heart every time and reminds me that with everything else that’s gone on this year, watching our two children grow up is one of the main reasons for being. Now I just need to wait for him to want to read the Harry Potter books 🙂
So there we have it, my round up of 2019. That’s TEN whole years of doing this!
As always, it’s good to reflect back on what’s happened to you, so you can take stock, appreciate what you have, learn lessons and move forward. Once again for Lizz and I it’s been a horrible year but we’re trying our hardest to take small positive lessons from it so we can grieve, grow stronger and move on.
How has your 2019 been? What have you learnt, experienced, found that has positively affected your life? I’d love you to share so we can learn together. I wish you all a very, Happy New Year! Here’s to a new decade!