This week I have found writing for you impossible. Nothing I have written feels right, because this week I have felt overwhelmed with sadness. The reason for this sadness has been the loss of one of the kindest and most loving women I have ever met. On Saturday we laid this lovely lady to rest and so many friends came to say goodbye. I felt initially that to write about her would be inappropriate somehow. However, everything I set off to write would eventually return to her and the kind things I have witnessed her do for others. Therefore, I have decided to tell you my experience of her and what she meant to me. How she made Coffee, Cake and Cuddles so important.
I first met Heather through my brother who is married to her now husband’s sister (does that make sense?). She was gentle and friendly and more than a little besotted with my children and those of my sister. Over time we would meet at family occasions but never more than polite conversations, as my monkeys created havoc around me. I began to know Heather better after we announced simultaneously that we were both expecting babies, myself BM and her their first little monkey.
Heather was thrilled with her news, however, whenever I saw her she was full of questions and concerns over her fitness as a mother. I reassured her, being allegedly ‘old hat’ at these things, now on my third attempt to get it right. Now I wish I had said more, in fact I wish I had written her a book titled “You will struggle but it doesn’t mean you are getting it wrong” or “Please ask for Help” or even “Sit tight, this will get better”.
When our babies were born, we chatted over social media and, aware of Heather’s ongoing anxieties, I pointed her towards mother and baby groups. Unable to attend with her, due to school runs and MM not being allowed to come and trample all over other people’s non mobile infants, we remained in touch online. Then one day an invite popped up in my inbox. Coffee, Cake and Cuddles, a new group organised by Heather and her husband. A place to meet other parents, get a hot cuppa and a homemade cake. She charged a small fee but it was more than worth it. I helped raise awareness of the group and the first week exceeded the capacity of the room available.
Coffee, Cake and Cuddles
Within 4 weeks Heather had a large following. As she ran around keeping people happy and making coffees with her husband, her beautiful baby was passed between the mothers in attendance. More than happy to engage him with their own. The atmosphere was perfect. Mothers chatted about sleepless nights, teething, sibling’s tantrums, sick and smell nappy explosions. Most of all though, we laughed about these things, took comfort in our shared experiences and learned from each other’s remedies for all sorts of issues. Did you know that Snuffle Babe applied to baby’s feet will work wonders on their stuffed up nose?
There was no pressure to sing nursery rhymes, engage in messy play or endure loud noises that drill into your sleep deprived brain. Don’t get me wrong, All of these groups have their place and I attend many, but sometimes mummy needs mental stimulation too. Heather had tapped into something we all needed. Company and the need to feel less alone in the parenting wilderness.
How could this happen to someone so kind?
Heather seemed so comforted by the group. Often concerned that everyone was ok, at times fragile and overwhelmed by the mothers and their kind words. She appeared no different to any of the rest of us. Struggling with a new born baby, but coping as best she could. So, when I was called by my brother a week and a half ago to tell me that Heather had passed away. That overwhelmed by post natal depression, she felt that she couldn’t go on, I was overcome with anger. Anger at myself and the situation. How could this happen to someone so kind, so smiley, so clearly in love with her husband and besotted with her baby? I still cannot find an answer to this question and I doubt I ever will.
In the days that followed and still now, I am amazed at the messages that have been posted on Social media for Heather. I have recieved private messages from mothers I didn’t even know, passing on kind wishes and support. Stories of Heather’s impact on others. Pictures of charity events. Smiles and times she helped and supported others. Furthermore, in amongst them all, others supported each other. A professional photograph taken by a friend, was complimented over and over and he was encouraged to do more. A charity post for Raindrops to Rainbows supporting those suffering with post natal depression and their families, was shared again and again. Even in her passing, devastating as it is, Heather has created a swell of positivity that washed over all who had known her. In itself a wonderful legacy.
Imagine life is a huge ocean…
Before I finish, I would like to make a plea to all of you out there reading. Please be kind to one another. Whether you are a parent or not. Whatever someone else’s choices, respect them. If someone is quiet or distant, don’t dismiss them as rude. Be aware of how other people might be feeling and offer a smile. It costs nothing.
Imagine life is a huge ocean. If you are in the water, being drowned by the waves, look for help and support. Reach out to others. Do not be embarrassed or think yourself a burden. To those of you sailing comfortably, do not take your position for granted and seek out others in the water. They may need your help or comfort. Reach out to them and take them on board your life raft. It may not take much to save them. It could just be a coffee, a cake and a cuddle that makes the difference.