I never used to notice the snowdrops.
Appearing in January and February, they are the first flowers to bloom. And I never used to notice them at all.
Until something happened so terrible early on in our marriage, and I have noticed them every year since.
We got married in September 2009, and on the 1st November, when we were still sleeping on a mattress having just moved into our first home together, I remember that blue line that told us that we were soon to be a family of 3! We were so excited. And then I started spotting.
A scan at the early pregnancy unit was inconclusive, and we were told to return a week later. My mum saw how sick I was, and she guessed the reason why, so she came with us to the next scan, where we were told the unbelievable news that we were not just expecting one baby, but two. In a whirlwind of information, we were told they were ‘mo-mo’ twins – they not only shared the outer amniotic sac, they also shared the inner one, making them rare twins, with a very high risk of dying in pregnancy.
When we got to our 12-week scan and they were punching each other, we were told that 12-16 weeks were the ‘safe zone’, after which we would be closely monitored to keep an eye out for twin-to-twin transfusion and other issues associated with twin pregnancies. So when I woke up one morning for a scan at 15 weeks with an overarching feeling of dread, my fears were confirmed when the scan showed no heartbeats. Our very-much longed for babies had died within the last 12 hours, and I was now facing the tough challenge of delivering them, which I did 2 days later. Our sons Samuel Ian and Ashley Simon (aka Sam and Ashley) became our first born children, sent back to Heaven.
Five months later, we found out we were pregnant again, and we again visited the early pregnancy clinic, and were offered counselling from a charity based at the hospital called SPRING – Supporting Parents and Relatives In Neo-Natal Grief. It was a godsend, especially as I was freaking out at being pregnant again, and even more when we suffered another miscarriage, this time at 8 weeks. I just knew this baby was a girl, and we called her Morgan.
The support that SPRING has given us has been completely wonderful, and every year they run three memorial services – the Snowdrop Walk in February, the Wave of Light in October and the Christmas service. We have only ever been on the Snowdrop Walk, and have been every year except one, which was a week after we welcomed by C-section our Rainbow Baby Addie… (Rainbow Babies are babies that are born after the storm of baby loss).
Well, snowdrops are the first flowers to bloom, they often go unnoticed, but they are a sign of life that existed for a short while even if they do go unnoticed. And I have seen them in their plentiful beauty every year since.
The Annual SPRING Snowdrop Walk
Every year except one, we have had glorious weather for this. The first year other family members came with us, since then I think only my mother-in-law came once when she was down for Addie’s birthday, but other than that it is now just the four of us who go to remember our 3 snowdrops, and at the same time Martin’s brother Harry who died in pregnancy and my cousin Michelle’s baby she lost too.
Some years we have released biodegradeable balloons, other years we have blown bubbles up to heaven. And in recent years we have written blue, pink and white gift tags which are tied to a ribbon that is tied around a tree. And in recent years, we have visited the National Trust Kingston Lacy site with its fields of snowdrops, who last year were not as accommodating as they have been in previous years, so this year we relocated to Upton House at Upton Country Park in Poole, who were delighted to have us.
I reckon there were over 100 parents, children, grandparents and other relatives there today, and we did something a little different. Firstly, now that the children are writing (Bear is getting there with letter formation, Addie is getting there with spelling and neatness, although we are still practising a lot!) all four of us wrote messages to our babies.
This took some time, but the organisers waited to get started until the last one was tied on to the ribbon, and we headed out onto the grass to hear the Snowdrop poem and a couple of others read out. It always brings a tear to my eye as I well up remembering the missing pieces to our family, and even though I know we will be reunited one day, those three very distinct missing pieces are felt greatly.
I didn’t take photos of the people there, out of respect to their privacy.
We then proceeded on the ‘walk’. And to the tree where our dedications were tied around.
There were a few snowdrops here and there along the way, nowhere near the amount at the previous location, but this was different… for the first time, we were there to plant the snowdrops, creating a legacy in memory of our babies that generations will enjoy for years to come. They will become a big attraction at Upton House, and there is something very magical and comforting about that. Even though many people don’t realise the snowdrops when they bloom, there will be a marked feature that thousands and thousands will notice forever more, and we created it in our babies’ names.
Our children loved planting their bunches, and Bear told Nanny later that he had been planting ‘raindrops’, which was cute.
So, now, when you see those first signs of life in nature’s calendar, wonder at their beauty and majesty. I hope that everyone notices, and celebrates that small life, no matter how small, and wonder at the beauty that is… the snowdrop.
Suffered from baby loss? Here are some links if you want to get help…
If you are local to Bournemouth and Poole, here is the SPRING Support website. If you have suffered any loss of a baby in pregnancy, birth or neonatally, they can help and support you, regardless of how long ago your loss. You are not alone. https://www.springsupport.org.uk/