Three years and counting

It’s been exactly a year since I last posted here and I wish I would have more time to write more about Olivia, pregnancy after loss, parenting after loss and the general ups and downs life has. The reality is I haven’t. That being said, June starts in two days and with that I’m starting my awesome June in inviting everyone who wants to take part in it.

I’m back at work now and when I’m home I try to really be present in life and take full advantage of the privilege that is witnessing Eloise grow up. So I feel like putting the calendar together was even harder this year! Thankfully I have some amazing friends that gave me a few ideas and Pierre also contributed a prompt for a day.

Three days ago, the stress of not having it done or it not feeling perfect got to me I had a long talk with Pierre about the importance I put on the flowers every 19 and the calendar every June. It wasn’t the case, but I got the feeling that he seemed to be under the impression that because I generally love organising things “like this” I actually enjoyed both activities. The reality is, I hate planning a calendar and I hate that I have the flower tradition every 19. Of course I love the idea of making a stranger smile or giving some good to the world! I mean, who doesn’t like to make a difference in the world?! But I hate that I have to come up with ideas on how to keep Olivia’s memory alive to the external world when I know nobody is even asking me to. I want to be planning a  birthday party and then complain that it is too much money and that they won’t remember. I want to be able to post celebratory monthly pictures for two girls and not flowers for the oldest one. So yes, I do all these things because frankly I need to do something tangible that will make sure the world knows Olivia is in the best possible way front and center of my life. I am afraid that if I don’t talk about her the world will forget she even existed. I know people don’t mean bad at all when they talk about Eloise and they don’t mention Olivia (it happens sometimes in passing conversations, mostly your first child or a lot when I was pregnant). I know those people are honestly just talking and tend to feel a bit bad when I correct them (because I always will), but I feel the need to remind the entire world constantly about Olivia, so even once a month they remember.

The calendar specifically is also a way to try and shield myself from all the conflicting emotions June brings, I haven’t always succeeded and I sometimes don’t want to do a single thing. But I do, because just like I have to do a million things I don’t particularly want to do at a specific time for Eloise, I want to somehow do the same for Olivia. Also, what’s the alternative, acting like June is another month? Some people might think it’s crazy that I take the day off on Olivia’s birthday, celebrate in any way and plan to eat cake with some family and friends. But what am I supposed to do, act like nothing important happened on that day? Would you do that to your living child? I certainly would because I love birthdays and I know what a privilege it is to be able to celebrate them. So as much as I’d like to be organising a birthday party, I can’t, so a calendar of awesomeness for the entire month it is!

Now then, I truly hope everyone reading this will take part in having a month celebrating the most amazing things in life. You don’t have to do everything and you might even want to change a few things, whatever it is and however many days you wish to take part in, I hope you enjoy it. I believe that we each can make a difference and if we share our magic with others then they will too feel hopefully compelled to do the same. I’m sure we can all agree that the world needs more magic, no?

Happy June everyone and I’ll try to post as much as possible on my Instagram page with whatever is it we get to do in the next 30 days (31, seeing as I’m posting this on the 30th of May!). I hope you all have a great and mindful month and that this helps you and everyone around you see all the goodness life has to offer.

June calendar 2019

Two Years of Olivia

A lot has happened since the last time I posted something here (19th of September 2017). Eloise, Olivia's little sister, was born safely at the end of November and our lives have never been the same.

I've been wanting to write many times about all the insane ups and downs of pregnancy after loss, hoping that someone out there might feel comforted by reading what they are most likely feeling. I survived those 9 months by holding on to those success stories and now that I finally had a pregnancy with a living daughter to take home to, I wish to do the same for others. I just simply haven't had the time or headspace to do it.

There are a million things that I've been neglecting since Eloise was born, Olivia's second birthday won't be one of them.

This year I've changed a few of the prompts and made them less about Olivia and more about general kindness towards ourselves and others. I didn't have the capacity to print, prepare and send packages like last year, but I did manage to create the actual calendar and that deserves a high 5 on my book!

For those of you who are new here, HELLO AND WELCOME! On the 19th of June 2017 my first daughter, Olivia, was born. Unfortunately, she had died three days before due to placental insufficiency. My life is literally bittersweet since that day, and everyday I juggle to strike a balance. June, however, is all about the sweet side that Olivia brings to my life. I have created the idea of a June "calendar of kindness" to celebrate her birthdays. Olivia's death is by far the worst thing that has happened to me, but I will not let her life be defined by her death; instead I want to try and spread the happiness and smiles that she brings to my life.

If you're up for it, please be a part of the "Olivia Project" and during the month of June follow the daily prompts and make the world a better place. I don't think I'll be able to write much in here, but I will promise to post one picture a day on my Instagram account. You don't need to send me or anyone the things you do if you don't want to; this calendar is all about kindness that doesn't need to be flashy or it can sparkle and have glitter if that's what you want. Whatever your style, I hope you take part so that Olivia feels the great things that happen because of her existence.

Happy second birthday Gasinettica amada!

* Every 19th of the month, we leave yellow flowers on Olivia's bench with an inspirational quote for a stranger to find and hopefully bring a smile to their faces. This 19th of June I invite you to do the same and drop flowers somewhere special to you

*Every 19th of the month, we leave yellow flowers on Olivia's bench with an inspirational quote for a stranger to find and hopefully bring a smile to their faces. This 19th of June I invite you to do the same and drop flowers somewhere special to you

About Olivia

Finding time to write during June has been harder than anticipated, and as I was telling Rory's mum today (Jayne), I feel very guilty about that. I've wanted to write daily as I truly have so much to say and share about this month last year, but life, work and grief get in the way and I just find myself with less time to be with Olivia in this way. You know how when a living child is sick their parents have to leave work early to spend time with them and take care of things? I wish it was that simple for me to carve out Olivia time to just write and write about her, or just rock up to her bench. Don't get me wrong, I have Olivia time every second of my day, but I hope you know what I mean about truly having time to do something as simple and fulfilling as writing something here.

Today's calendar task is to tell someone about Olivia, and I told three people this morning and I'm also planning on writing a letter to our lovely neighbour. But above all, I decided I wanted to publicly share more about my epic Olivia. The weeks after she was born were a blur and between the bad news of our pictures "not working" and the constant reminder that we were Olivia-less, there are certainly more things I'd love to forget than to remember. During those days I wrote a lot about all the things I wanted to remember: The amazing pregnancy I had, the entire labour process as viewed through my eyes and, most importantly, the hours we had with Olivia. 

I want to share a few things I wrote in those days about Olivia and what I remembered from those perfect hours. Unfortunately for some, it's very much in Spanglish (more Spanish than English) therefore it might be a bit confusing for some; but I hope you can understand it...

"Tu carita es la cosa más bella que jamás vi, tu barbilla redondita y perfecta (pensé que tenías una verruguita pero después me di cuenta que era un blister), tu papi muy orgullosamente decía que eras igualita a mi because we had the same lips and nariz (perdón por la nariz!) pero yes, everything looks perfect on you so your naricita was the cuttest naricita de la vida entera y tu boquita Chanel (patentado por tu papi y gozado por tu tía Bl) was indeed like the pronounced top of mine... Tus cachetes que tanto esperé to squeeze were indeed THE BEST cachetes del mundo and I just wish I could kiss them non stop (sorry if I would've been an overbearing mami que te da too much affection like Elvira en Animaniacs!). I keep wanting to write more about your face pero I can't stop thinking about your piecitos, aaaaay esos piecitos! I unfortunately didn't see them as much porque te pusimos mediecitas y me daba miedo moverte algo - Pero I have that image in my mind and I, again, want to just bite you and make you laugh saying fuchi at your mini lanchitas (si gordita, también sacaste eso de mi... unas patotas GIGANTES!) pero on the plus side, we would've been able to share shoes! Then there was your hands.... I still don't know why I'm so hung up on your hands pero I am and having your deditos grabbing my right index dedo gives me all the security in the world, as if you are protecting me and calming me down (I know its supposed to be the other way around pero YOU made me feel safe and that everything was ok as long as you were holding my dedito con your deditos). Tus ojitos estaban como pegados so I was scared of moving you mucho pero the way you looked after with your sombrerito was awesome and a bit of, like I told your papi, a RBF (resting bitch face) perdón por el insulto y grosería gordi! pero si, you were making a brava face and, as I've said muchas veces already, you would've never taken shit from people and I'm certain que you would've ruled the world in your sleep and nobody was ready for so much power!..."

There you have it world, a little insight into Olivia from my eyes on the hours that we were together.

This is an unbelievably amazing birthday present Olivia got from her tíos Ben and Claire (aka, Meatball) and her cousin Milo

This is an unbelievably amazing birthday present Olivia got from her tíos Ben and Claire (aka, Meatball) and her cousin Milo

Something to remember me by

Today has been a day full of last year I was doing x, last year I was doing y. I don't want to think that way but avoiding that is nearly impossible given the situation. 

June 15 2016 was spent, for the most part, in the hospital. I called worried because she wasn't moving as normal and they said to go at 10:30 so we did and we didn't leave until 5:45pm. That entire day was spent monitoring Olivia's heart rate and very different movements. I asked Pierre to take a picture of us whilst we were there with straps and machines on so we could "show it to Olivia when she was older and tell her how much she scared us". I also took a picture of Pierre sleeping besides me as he was crazy tired. The entire day was being documented so we could show her everything about her arrival.  I don't really look at those 2 pictures because they make me sad, but they don't make me angry.

There is another picture that I wish never existed because I get angry at myself just knowing that we took it.

Both Olivia and I LOVE food, she was way more into sweet things than I was and I think by now almost everyone knows that her go to happiest thing ever was the celebration snickers. During my pregnancy I didn't really allow myself to eat a lot of sweets or unhealthy food in general as I wanted to be as healthy as I could. That day all bets were off and I just needed Olivia to dance like she normally did, and she was always up for a party when I ate. So I spent most of that day in a hospital bed eating pizza (that I shared with the midwives), a massive snickers and a massive ice cream that is documented in the picture that I hate.

After a scan with the aim to reassure us that everything was fine (it did quite the opposite when I was told her weight) where we could finally see that she indeed had my nose, we were told to go home and go back on Friday to talk about a possible induction. 

From all the scan we had before, doctors told us Olivia was going to be around the 3.8 or 4Kg mark; so when we were told she was at 2.7Kgs (normal for a baby girl in the UK at 37 weeks), we rushed to Petit Bateau and Baby Gap to get newborn things and wash them that same night. After we bought a few plain ones and a super cute one we decided to have an ice cream in Amorino of Sloane Square. I asked Pierre to take a picture of me eating it so he could send it to my mum so she could see that I was doing everything in my power to get Olivia dancing. I hate this picture and the stupid face I'm making and the fact that it exists. Instead I wish someone would've heard me all the times I said that even though everything looked normal Olivia was behaving nothing like herself. I wish that picture didn't exist because it reminds me that whilst my daughter was potentially fighting for her life I was concerned about having outfits washed with organic soap for her arrival and that I had the nerve of stopping for an ice cream in the meantime... I've fought my feelings on that day for a long time.

Until my friend Salina, Inaaya's mum, helped me look at it from a very different perspective. I stayed in the hospital all day, I got a scan, I trusted the experts and I did everything that I thought it was right at the time. The extraordinary part is that for the whole of Olivia's life that might've been her favourite day because I spent the entire day eating all her favourite foods without caring about calories and her Papi played her some Pink Floyd and her song as we all went to bed. I often think of my last day on earth and I always go to: what will I eat?! Well, I know all Olivia wanted is sugar so that day I gave her exactly what she wanted. That was the last day I ate a Snickers.

I haven't been able to eat my sweet thing today because I break down each time I try... I want to eat a Snickers, but that was Olivia's thing, not mine. Maybe I'll be able to eat a banana!

I haven't been able to eat my sweet thing today because I break down each time I try... I want to eat a Snickers, but that was Olivia's thing, not mine. Maybe I'll be able to eat a banana!

June is hard

This month and particularly this week have been quite the struggle. Frankly, I didn't want to accept that I wasn't coping well with life, but as we know, life has a way of telling you everything, even what you don't want to hear. A friend at work and I crossed our cables and understood different things before a meeting and when we sat down to talk about it I, quite literally, had a meltdown. So after quickly talking to her whilst she was being awesome and telling me that she can help with things, it was back to being locked in the big bathroom crying for a while and then hiding in places where nobody can see me to finish the work I had to do. The weekend hasn't been any different, especially in the mornings. I'm typing this on my phone, in bed on Sunday at 6am because I have been awake (again) with a head full of struggling thoughts that won't quit.

My mom arrived on Friday and after not seeing her for ten months all I needed really was a hug from her to feel that everything is as ok as it can be. The issue is, that lasts as long as she's actually hugging me and I can't quiet my mind even then! When we get our day going I seem to function quite well; but then after the work fiasco I must force myself to slowdown and accept that I am walking on very thin ice and no amount of saying "I can do this" will help.

Unfortunately, doing the activities for Olivia's calendar hasn't helped me personally as much as I had been counting on. Besides a few days where Pierre and I mostly laughed at each other, my actual activities have been received with very mixed emotions. I'm sharing pictures of a few of them on my Instagram and in this post (I think here you need to click to see the next picture). Don't get me wrong, I love making the world feel special, I LOVE feeding people so a lot of homeless people are benefiting from random acts of kindness and, in general, I love spreading joy. Based on that, I thought I was going to run excitedly to the calendar every morning and check what the activity was and plan my day around it. The thing is, I am in autopilot lately. I was telling Pierre that I think we survived last year because institutions and people around us moved us through stages. What i mean is, the hospital had a goal: deliver a baby so they did what they had to do to make that happen. Then when we left, our friends had a goal: make sure they have food to eat, so they made that happen. The hospital and crematorium had a goal: make sure this baby gets a service and that the parents get what they need; and the amazing Natasha at Mortlake Crematorium made that happen. We just had to show up and do our part that was very specifically given to us. Don't get me wrong, showing up was hard enough and then having to plan your baby's service (aka, funeral) is something that I don't wish upon the worst people in the world. But, nobody expected us to think much, they just told us exactly what they needed from us moment by moment and that is everything we needed then. Sadly, that's how I'm feeling lately and how I walk to the calendar almost every morning, I have to do it and although I am happy when I'm actually doing it there is no excitement or less pain because I'm doing this, there's just the having to do something besides going to work, that gets me out of bed.

What consistently has made us smile is friends sharing their activities with us, when they send pictures or just a text telling us they've done something my life lights up. The idea that someone else is smiling and that other people are having brighter days or moments because of her calendar makes the two months we worked on this worth it. I might not run eagerly to the calendar each morning but I do run to my phone when my friends text and call and I do smile when they tell me they've done something. So, THANK YOU to everyone that has been taking part in Olivia's month so far, I know that not everyone shares or does every day, and that is ok, but just THANK YOU for doing something nice for the world and yourselves in the name of Olivia, or anyone else you're dedicating your actions to.

I've been wanting to share some myself but the little dark cloud that's following me lately is only getting bigger and I need to stop subconsciously acting like it's not there or that I'm dealing with it well. The reality is I'm having a really bad time and I need all the help I can get to get through this month. How can you help? I have no idea! That's the thing, I have no clue how anyone can help besides asking God to please move time forward so I can skip the 16? Or maybe can I please have someone that can read my mind and speaks for me during the next week or for as long as I need i?  Unfortunately none of those things are possible and I can't ignore the dates that are coming and trying to do so only makes it worst. For the mind reader part, I do think I can count on some people to anticipate certain things for me at work and at home and I'm asking for their help tomorrow, so we'll see.

It's crazy that I wake up every morning and the thoughts are all around the same thing, the day Olivia died. Why can't my brain somehow focus on the joy and peace I felt when I first held her? Or Pierre's face looking at her when he held her? Those are the memories I live for! I know it's important to deal with things and not hide the bad with forced good, but I hate that I can't go to a happy place when I wake up like I used to. It takes me a good 3 hours to stop going through the worst days of my life until I'm numb for a bit and then I'm just functioning. Yesterday for example, I woke up at 6am and had a crap morning until Pierre and my Mami woke up. Then we had a great day with some of our best friends and we even did our O's and visited Olivia's bench. Yesterday was a great day... but it took me a while to get there and here I am, back in the crap again... 

The last time Pierre's mum and Jacques came to London in their car to bring us things was the 5th of June, the day after the only party Olivia will ever physically attend, her amazing babyshower. Mamie, Pierre's EPIC grandmother came along and I showed them all of Olivia's presents and her room and we had such a great time preparing everything and walking around Bishops Park. Let me have a parenthesis here to say that I have been very very lucky on the in laws side of things, Pierre's family is amazing. He has an awesome support system (mostly commanded by strong women) that all love each other a lot and aren't afraid to show it (everyone in their own ways, like Mamie's millions of cakes!). Olivia is talked about all the time and not with a sad tone or caveats around her. Caro, her Tata, sends us messages when she gets winks and we know she talks to Paul (our nephew Godson and Olivia's twin cousin as he was born 2 months before her!) about her all the time. Christine, Pierre's mum, messages us almost every day with loving words, emojis or little videos from her window showing us the weather and telling us about her plans for the day. She's an amazing artist and she made for us a beautiful sunflower painting that is in our bedroom for us to see every morning. Pierre's mum was also the first familiar face I saw after Olivia died and the first person who, face to face, told me not to forget that I am still her mum and that we are very much parents now.

Well, the last time I saw them all (minus Caro as she was taking care of a recently arrived Paul), we were all in London eagerly awaiting Olivia's arrival and planning all the things that we would do when she arrived. The last thing I said to them as they were leaving on June 5 2016 was: Next time you come we will be three!!!!

Those words were on repeat when Christine arrived on the 17th of June and later when her and Caro returned on the 1st of August for Olivia's service. There were no three, at least not physically, and I hate my self for being that person that excitedly counts down everything. 

Today Jacques and Christine are coming back for the first time together in the car since that day. We have a day of eating ahead of us and I am so excited to see them because I truly believe that thanks to them, my mum and Pierre we will have another great day. I just can't stop thinking about my words, how they will never ever be a tangible truth but how denying that is just wrong. Because, in a way we are very much 3, you just can't see our third musketeer.

An Epic Month for an Epic Person

I still can't believe we're back "here", almost a year from the moment your heart stopped beating and mine kept going. The good and the bad of June mesh all in one and at times I feel like I'm actually going to be sick if I think about it too much. Nothing can prepare me and your Dad for a lifetime without you and nothing can prepare us for how June 2017 will be.

But, as you know Chiquita, I am a planner and I love birthdays and making people feel special and celebrate them for everything they are and will be. So, we have put a lot of love, time and effort into your birthday and I am finally very happy with what we came up with. Here it goes...

In order to try and keep smiling for you in June, your Papi and I created a calendar of activities that we think will give the world an idea of the amazing impact you have in our lives. Some of them we took from things that we were doing with you last year and some of them are just feel good things that people deserve to give and receive. As you know Olivia, sometimes it is VERY hard to see anything good around us so I'm hoping that for those that are also living in storms, your activities give them even a minute of light.

As expected, I went overboard and sent a few hundred packages to people so that they would have an actual invitation for your birthday along with some cool things to help them celebrate (like what we did for your Papi's birthday this year). Not everything has arrived, but I'm glad to report that the response has been overwhelmingly amazing from those who have gotten their packages. They are all excited to do some good for them and for others and to send you and their own people in "magic land" some love.

To everyone that reads me, the Landriau Saraceni family would love to invite you in a month of celebrations for Olivia's first birthday. 

The idea, as I've said to Olivia and to others, is to try and spread some of the love and happiness Olivia sends us every day from "magic land". We hope that you take part in as much or as little as you want and overall we just want to make people smile a bit.

There is no plan here in terms of sharing, hashtaggings or anything like that (although if you want to share things with us or the world please do!), we just thought everyone could use a bit of colour in their lives sometimes and hopefully this can add to that.

I will be posting some explanations, pictures and others here and on my Instagram account, but please make this month your own and dedicate it to anyone you like here or in "Magic Land".

Pichona, we hope you like this and we know that you will be watching us every day and waiting for the Olivia moment of the day to hit so you can get all the love we wish we could give you if you were here.

We love you more everyday that passes and being your parents is the greatest honour we have, regardless of how that parenting comes.

Naricitas forever,

Mami & Papi

30 days of smiles for the little girl that brings us the biggest smiles!

30 days of smiles for the little girl that brings us the biggest smiles!