Dear Orla

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

Photo: @dear_orla

The following letter was written by Michelle whose blog Dear Orla is dedicated to letters written to her daughter Orla who heartbreakingly was born still at 37 weeks in May 2016. Michelle started writing letters to Orla as a way of navigating through the grief and as a way of making sense of the thoughts and feelings that come with this devastating loss.

Michelle is currently pregnant and due to give birth any day now. She wrote this poignant letter to mark a significant point of her pregnancy and to capture her thoughts to share not only with Orla but also her sibling in the future.

The letter is part one of a pair and you can read the second letter to Orla’s new brother or sister here.

You can also follow Michelle and her family’s story on her blog Dear Orla, Facebook and Instagram.

Dear Orla,

Today marks eleven whole months since you were born: eleven months of loving and missing you with all of my heart.  I can only imagine what sort of first birthday party we would be planning, what food you would be eating and the personality that you would be developing and changing daily.  I can only imagine what you sound like, how you would smell and what the colour of your eyes would be.  I try so hard to remember as much as I can of you from the limited time we had together; your folded over ears, your long feet, your dainty face.  But as I knew when I said my final goodbye – when I held you close and tried desperately to memorise how heavy you felt against my own body, when I cried hot and heavy tears onto your face – I knew that it would be impossible to remember this completely.

Today marks eleven months and two days since we found out that you were gone: the day that our world fell apart and the day that marked life before and life after.  The day that I turned 37 weeks pregnant.  And strangely, today is also the day that I have turned 37 weeks pregnant with your brother or sister.  A beautifully poignant link between my two much loved, much wanted babies.

For the past eleven months, your daddy and I have written you a letter every single day – 335 letters in total.  They have ranged from general updates, musings and wonderings about who you would be and what we would be doing, to gut wrenching outpourings of love and pain.  Of grief for never knowing and always wondering.  Letters that show how you are always carried in our hearts and minds and how you have altered our lives and us as people.  How you have made us parents, who have learnt to parent in creative ways that honour your existence.

But today calls for something more; a letter that I want to share with you and your younger brother or sister in years to come.  A letter that will show you how loved and wanted you both are and how proud I am to call you my children.

Orla, despite the loss of you breaking my heart into a million shards, I need you to know that I wouldn’t change having had you.  You were longed for and loved from the moment we knew you existed, which is why losing you has been so life altering.  Bringing your brother or sister into the world will never change how much I love you.  It will never change that you are my first-born child and the one that gave me the honour of calling myself a mother.  You will always be my daughter and I will always talk about you.  You will forever be counted when I am asked how many children I have and your place in the story of our family, the story of our lives, will always be secure.

Having more children will expand my heart rather than shave off what is yours to share with them.  You will have a unique piece of me, as they will too.  Your siblings will speak your name and know your face.  They will be as proud of you as I am.  And I will be proud of them too for loving you.

I will always wish that things could have been different – that you could have stayed with us.  But I am infinitely grateful for everything you have taught me about life, love and motherhood.  Your lessons have enabled me to grow into the person I am now, and this is a person that I am starting to like – maybe even love.  A person who can recognise and share her vulnerabilities, her mistakes, her fears, but can learn and grow from them.  And that is a special gift indeed.  So thank you my precious girl.

All my love for always,

Mummy xxxx

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Dear Baby

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

Photo: @dear_orla

The following letter was written by Michelle whose blog Dear Orla is dedicated to letters written to her daughter Orla who heartbreakingly was born still at 37 weeks in May 2016. Michelle started writing letters to Orla as a way of navigating through the grief and as a way of making sense of the thoughts and feelings that come with this devastating loss.

Michelle is currently pregnant with her second child and due to give birth any day now. She wrote this poignant letter to mark a significant point of her pregnancy and to capture her thoughts to share with her baby.

The letter is part one of a pair and you can read the first letter to Orla here.

You can also follow Michelle and her family’s story on her blog Dear OrlaFacebook and Instagram.

Dear baby,

My second born child.  Today is the day that you have reached full term and you have been growing inside of me for 37 whole weeks.  This was how long your older sister lived inside of me for too, and for that reason, we are going to be encouraging you into the world a little earlier than maybe you would have chosen.  We hope that this isn’t too much of a shock for you and have done everything we can to ensure it is as smooth a transition as possible.  We are doing this to keep you safe, whilst also helping us to be in the best position we can to look after you when you’re here.

Although we hope that your arrival will in some way help to heal our broken hearts, please know that this is not your job or purpose.  It is for us to learn how to heal, for us to piece together the shattered shards of our hearts and for us to grow into the people that we now are, following the loss of your sister.  We know that having you here in our arms will bring so many complex emotions and thoughts, but these are for us to manage.  All that you need to understand is that you being here, safe and well, will bring us nothing but joy and happiness.  All other feelings are for, and about, circumstances separate from you.

Please always know that you are as loved and as wanted as your older sister.  Your arrival may be earlier than it would have been if Orla had lived, but you would certainly have arrived very soon nonetheless.  You are not here to replace anyone – you are you and I cannot wait to meet and get to know who that little person is.  I look forward to seeing your unique features and personality develop and to continue learning about who you are and who you want to be.

Although my pregnancy has been fraught with worry, please believe that I have done everything I can to keep you safe and well.  Since my heart has been hurting, and part of my attention has been focussed on grieving for your sister, I have slowed down in other ways.  I have taken time to just be with you; to feel your kicks, to listen to your heart, to get to understand your unique likes and dislikes.  You have already shown us that you are your own individual being and I feel so incredibly excited to meet you in the outside world.  Although at first I was scared to love you, through fear of losing you too, I remember that overwhelming love hitting me when we saw you at your 28-week scan.  There was no denying then that you too had captured my heart in equal measure to Orla, and although this exacerbated my fear, it was a moment that I will never forget.

I cannot wait to share the story of your sister and her legacy with you; to show you what impact she has had on other people’s lives and what other people have done in her name.  Equally, I cannot wait to tell Orla about you in our letters to her; to describe the ways in which you are similar and different and to imagine how you would have played and grown together.  It hurts to know that you will never meet in person.  Yet I know that her presence in your life will be equally special.

We are so excited to meet you little one and we feel so very close now.  Stay safe and warm until we can wrap you in our arms.

All my love for always,

Mummy xxxx

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Phenomenal Woman.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Photo:@akapeachie

This letter was written by the creator of Letters To Loved, Charlotte for her daughter.

 

 

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I knew we were in for a rough night when you didn’t eat your chocolate biscuit.

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

Darling Girl,

I knew we were in for a rough night when you didn’t eat your chocolate biscuit. You never leave a chocolate biscuit.

And so here we are, your little feverish body tossing and turning around the bed. Me, contorted into an unnamed gnarly yoga pose, hanging on the edge by a butt cheek. You’re always so vehemently independent and rarely come to me for cuddles anymore, so it’s heartbreaking but lovely all at the same time to have you want me so close to you at all times now. Through the pins and needles and endless googling of childhood illnesses, I’ve texted grandma to cancel our plans tomorrow knowing that she will remember all to well what we are going through right now. There was a time that she lay with my hot little sweaty head cradled in her hands too.
It made me think that one day you might find yourself lying in the dark next to your poorly child and if you do, there’s a few things to remember.

Trust your instincts.

You know your child better than anyone and whilst you might not have medical training, you will see the signs that something is not right. Most of the time you’ll know the difference between run of the mill and when its more serious. The more you use your instincts, the stronger they get.

Let go.

The world will wait. It’s easy to feel bad about cancelling plans and looming deadlines whilst already feeling horrible. But let it go. You are exactly where you need to be right now.

Breathe.

It’s one of the hardest parts of parenting but it’s inevitable. So take a breath and then another like one foot in front of the other and you’ll get through it.
Because we wake up in the morning, you the battle worn little trooper and me, although a shell of a woman, I’m a happier.

In the morning things almost always seem easier.
I know that however painful, I am helping you develop the necessary resilience you need for life. And in helping you I’m also learning to develop resilience I need to watch you go through the pain you will go through in life, pain that I can’t always take away.

But like these rough feverish nights, I’ll always be beside you. We’ll ride it out together.

Until things seem better in the morning.
Love Mum

x

Written by Charlotte Peach creator of Letters To Loved.

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Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

The following excerpt is from Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou, a series of essays imparting wisdom to the daughter that she never had.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.

Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.

Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.”

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