Almost a year

 

We are now into May, the Month we lost Rory last year and his angelversary is fast approaching.  When we lost Rory, time seen to stand still and the days and weeks seemed so long.  Now this year seem to have flown by in a blur and caught us in a bit unawares.

 

It was so strange at the turn of the year saying to people that we lost our son last year, soon we will be saying we lost him over a year ago.  I think because at the moment I still think back to this time last year, we had Rory with us and we were decorating the nursery and we was so happy.  

 

I think his anniversary makes it seem so final, that he’s gone forever and we won’t be able to think ‘this time last year’ anymore.

 

Before his anniversary I have one more hurdle to negotiate.  Weeks before we lost Rory I was working at one of my clients and found out that one woman there was also pregnant and she was due exactly a week before Rory.  So most of my time there was spent talking about babies, dirty nappies and lack of sleep.

 

However, I’m due to go back there this week and feel myself getting anxious thinking about it.  I don’t know if she had her baby girl ok and I don’t know if they know about Rory.  Am I going to get the akward questions or will the subject not come up because it’s too difficult for them to talk about. The thing is, I want to talk about Rory and I want to know that she took her baby home and what they named her.

 

Also we are now thinking about what do we do on Rory’s anniversary,  we think of if as the anniversary of when we lost him and not his birthday, as Rory wasn’t due until 23rd June and probably wouldn’t have been born in May

So how do you mark the occassion? Obviously we will be going to his resting place, what we call his garden.  We would like to release some balloons, but do we do it alone or do we invite all the family? We don’t want to make our family feel that they’ve got to go, we would rather like them to visit Rory’s garden because they wanted to. But if we don’t invite them, they might feel like we don’t want them there, it’s so difficult.

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Rory’s colourful garden

Another idea we would like to do is visit Lullingstone Country park and drop some flowers of petals into the river.  On the weekend before we lost Rory we visited the park for a short walk and sat on the bench by the river.  Whilst sitting there Rory was moving loads inside Mummy’s tummy and I think of it the last place we visited together, as our little family.

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View from ‘Rory’s’ Bench at Lullingstone Country Park

Maybe I’m just over thinking everything and shouldn’t put any pressure on ourselves. It’s just that we want to do something special for Rory to show him how much love him and how much we miss him.

 

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Did it for Rory -Antwerp Marathon 2016

Antwerp 10 miles and MarathonI did my first and only other marathon 4 years ago and forgot how tough marathon training can be, but when you also factor in that you are grieving for the loss of your unborn son, it is even tougher.  Grief consumes most of your life and thoughts and can be very tiring, so doing anything physical is tough.

 

The reason why I decided to take on the challenge was to raise money for SANDs and raise awareness of stillbirth and babyloss in memory of our son, Rory.  It was the fact that I was doing it for Rory drove me to ensure that I stuck to my training plan and that I never gave up.

Sands Profile Pic-2

Throughout my training I kept doubting that I could actually complete the 26.2 miles in the 6hr time limit.  During my training it didn’t feel it got any easier but I did start to notice that I was recovering quicker, which made me think that I must be getting fitter/stronger.

 

In the last few weeks leading up to the marathon my running felt a little more effortless and I started to think that maybe I can do this.  I did my last run on the Thursday before the marathon and had a great controlled pace run, then had to finish packing for the next morning.

 

On Friday morning my wife, Jo, and I got the eurostar to Brussels from ebbsfleet, there was also a number of my feĺlow runners from my running club, Dartford Road Runners, on the same train as us.  At Brussels we got a connecting train to Antwerp central station.

Antwerpen Central Station

Antwerpen Central Station

We had a short walk from the station to our hotel.  We and the rest of the group were staying in the Mercure Centrum Opera Hotel.  After checking, in me and Jo had a wander around Antwerp and were very impressed, there is so much to see.  I almost forgot that we was there for the marathon and felt like we were away on a weekend break.

 

On Saturday morning we made our way to the marathon exhibition to collect my race number.  The exhibition was where the marathon start area on the other side of the river Scheldt.  The west bank of the river can be accessed via the Sint-Annatunnel, which is open for pedestrians and cyclists.

Picking up Number

Collecting my race number

 

The exhibition was very modest and consisted of a large marquee. Unlike the London Marathon there was no queue to collect my number. Then I went outside to collect my T-shirt, which was included in the entry price.  Whilst outside I had some photos by the start line in my SAND’s T-shirt and Vest.

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We then took a slow walk back through the tunnel and back towards the cathedral and the old town. After stopping for lunch in the old town we went back to our hotel room to rest for the afternoon and to get my running gear ready for the morning.

The Sunday morning was soon here and I was up at 6am having breakfast with the rest of the runners, which consisted of cereal, toast with jam and a couple of bananas.  Cooked breakfast was available, but i didn’t think it was good preparation, even though I would have preferred to have eaten that.

 

After breakfast I was making my last final preparations in my room and then we took a slow walk to the tunnel and made our way to the start line.  The rest of the group got a tram to the start to save their legs, however I didn’t want to risk getting on the wrong one and missing the start.

Tunnel

Sint-Annatunnel

The Marathon in Antwerp is a low key event their was only around 2,000 runners, it felt like I was lining up for a local half-marathon such as Paddock Wood.  It did seem real that I was actually going to run a marathon and hardly had any nerves.  I made my way to the very last pen on the start line, alongside the 5hr pacers.

Start

As soon as the race started the heavens opened up, Jo waved me off and wished me good luck I then concentrated on getting into my rhythm and try not to go off too quick, so I decided to stay with the 5hr pacers. Only a few kilometers into the race we were entering a motor tunnel, after getting drenched I started to feel quite cold and thought maybe I should have put a base layer on.  The tunnel is over 2k in length and felt like we were running through it for a long time.  Eventually we go to the other side and it was nice to see some daylight and feel some warmth from the sun.

 

As we exited the tunnel we headed towards the old town, passing the Steen Castle and were approaching 6k.   This is where Jo was waiting to cheer me on, after this point the crowds disappeared as we were going away from the city centre.  I was running well at a comfortable pace and found myself between the 4.45hr pacers and 5hr pacers, I thought if I could keep this up I would be extremely pleased.

6k Point

6k point, with Steen Castle in background

I soon crossed the 10k checkpoint and I remember looking up and saying to Rory  ‘Daddy has done a quarter of the race and now I’ve got three quarters to go’.  I managed to keep to a good pace and the kilometer markers were passing quite quickly.  There were plenty of water stations, they were approximately at every 2.5k, so i made sure I took on plenty of fluids.  Some parts of the course wasn’t that scenic and we had to negotiate several road and tram crossings,  thankfully there were loads of police stopping all the traffic.   

 

I reached the halfway point around 2hrs 20 mins, which was good for me, as this was 10 mins quicker than what I completed the Dartford Half Marathon in early March this year. I could feel my pace started to drop and could feel my hips getting tighter. I was hoping to keep my pace under 12 mins per mile, which I managed for the next few miles until mile 17.

 

The next few miles were really tough and I made the most of each water stop, by having a little walk whilst taking on fluids and focused on running in between each stop. I eventually reached the 30k check point and could see two Darftord Road Runners Vests ahead up the road, which were Mike and Mary.  I could see that they were also walking and jogging, I just tried to keep them in my sights.

 

I slowly caught up them and found that Mary was struggling as she had been suffering with a cold for a few days before the marathon.  I gave her some words of encouragement to keep her going, we had a little walk and then after she had composed herself we started to jog again, however I started to flag behind them both.

 

At the 32k point there was a welcomed sight of the DRR supporters, which gave us a massive boost.  Now I only had 10k to go, I thought to myself ‘only two parkruns to go’ and just tried to keep plodding along, while Mary and Mike were pulling further and further away.

 

The next drink stop and my next walking break was at 35k, it was this point that I was passed by the 5hr pacers and I knew that sub 5hrs was out of reach.  I had to re-evaluate and thought if I could keep my current pace I would still have a chance of achieving a personal best.

Cathedral

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerpen

I had to dig deep for the last 7k and just kept going for Rory.  In the distance was a welcomed sight of the cathedral, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer.  The rest of the route was a blur, until I recognised the Steen Castle up ahead and I knew I was very close to home.  Soon after passing the castle the route turns left towards the old town, this Is where I saw Jo waiting to cheer me on, I then turn left to see the finish line by the Brabo Statue in front of the Old City Hall.

 

I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it, I could see the line and could see the clock was at 5hrs 11mins,  I knew I had bagged myself a PB and for some reason I did the ‘Mobot’ as I crossed the line.  Soon as I crossed the line, I looked for Jo and we both gave each other a massive emotional hug.  We had done it, we had done it for Rory and all the other angels gone too soon.  We then headed to the nearest bar for a well earned drink or two.


I was so proud that I managed to complete it and was so pleased that I achieved a personal best with an official time of 5hrs 8mins & 24 seconds.  I am so grateful for everyone who sponsored me and help me raise over £1,000 for SAND’s.  I only hope Rory was looking down and watching his silly Daddy and that I made him proud too.

Medal

Did it for Rory xxx

Running for Rory

Last year was the most challenging year of my life after losing our son Rory in May at 36 weeks.  Since losing Rory my wife and I have received and will continue to receive lots of support and comfort from our local SANDs group.

 

Attending these groups gives us a forum to discuss our emotions and feelings without any fear of being judged.  From speaking to other bereaved parents it made us realise that our feelings are ‘normal’ and that we are not going losing the plot.  

 

We have met so many strong and amazing people who have given us advice and much needed support, who gives us hope that things will get slightly easier in the future.

 

At the hospital after Rory was delivered I made a promise to him that I will make him proud of his Daddy.  As part of that promise I wanted to undertake different challenges in memory of him and to help raise awareness about stillbirth and babyloss.

 

The first challenge I wanted to do was complete another marathon and raise money for SANDs.  I really wanted to participate in the London Marathon but I failed to get a ballot place.  I then contacted SAND’s and applied for one of their gold places, but sadly I wasn’t selected.

 

Hardly any of my running friends got a place for the London either and then talk begun about doing a different marathon instead.  Antwerp was one of the races suggested and it sounded like a good idea. 

 

After a little research, we booked our hotel for the weekend and our eurostar tickets.  Just recently I entered and booked my marathon place and have registered the event with SANDs.  

 

So it is now official, I will be running the Antwerp Marathon on 17th April 2016 in support of SANDs.  Let the training commence!!!  If you wish to sponsor me, please visit my just giving page https://www.justgiving.com/Ben-Sowden

6 Months Angelversary

No one ever forgets the birth of their child as it a momentous occasion. However, will we never forget for the wrong reasons.

6 Months ago today our Son, Rory, arrived into this World at 23.34 on 30/05/2015. He was a healthy weight of 6lb 3oz, he had 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes.  In fact he was perfect in every way apart from that he never took a breath.

My wife, Jo, gave birth naturally to Rory and the only pain relief she had was gas and air.  I was by her side through the labour, I timed the contractions and when Rory arrived I got to cut the cord.  This all sounds like a normal delivery, however the difference was that we already knew two days before that our unborn baby had died.

We didn’t know what to expect and was scared what we would see, but there was nothing scary at all.  Rory was a beautiful little baby boy, with long legs like Daddy and a cute button nose like Mummy.  He looked so peaceful and just looked like he was asleep.

The only image that haunts me from that day was seeing the Knot in his cord, that had tightened, which caused our Son to pass away at 36 weeks & 2 days.

We got to spend a short time with him and held him a few  times, but couldn’t pick him up too many times as he was so delicate. Rory stayed in the room with all us all night in a cold cot. Jo couldn’t stop looking over him and holding his tiny hands and fingers. All the time we were together I didn’t feel sad, we were a family all together, with our baby who was sleeping.

The next day some of our family came to visit to meet Rory but eventually the time came when we had to say goodbye to him and leave hìm behind. We were saying goodbye to our Son before we even got a chance to say hello.

Leaving Rory at the hospital was the most hardest, painful and heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to do. Instead of leaving holding our bundle of joy, we left with broken hearts holding a memorial box.

Life is like riding a bicycle

Whilst out shopping with my wife, Jo, I came across this sign in one of the shops.

‘Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving forward’

At the time I thought it was very motivational quote and thought it was very poignant for us, as my wife and I are grieving the loss of our Son, Rory, who was born asleep at 36 weeks.

It wasn’t until I got home, looked on the internet and found that the quote was made by Albert Einstein. I then started to think about the quote even more.

When we were young, we would have stabilizers on our bikes to help keep our balance until we were able to keep our balance unaided.

So when you are grieving a loss, there is nothing wrong with taking support from friends, family and support groups to help keep your balance.

Also if you are having a bad day, it’s only a wobble, just be gentle on yourself. Write it off and think tomorrow is a new day.

Hopefully, slowly but surely we will be able keep the pedals turning and one day reach a happy place.

 

What a difference a year makes

This time last year my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child.  From that day on we knew our lives would never be the same again, but we never expected our lives to change so drastically.

Once you get a positive pregnancy test you can help but start planning things in your head and think about your future as a family and not just the two of us anymore. But you don’t get too carried away because you read that miscarriage is likely to happen in the 1st 12 weeks. So you decide to keep a secret until after the 1st scan.

I remember going into the ultra-sound room feeling nervous, hoping that our baby was there and everyone was ok. As soon as we saw the image of our baby, watching it’s tiny heart beating away, gave me a sense of relief and everything seemed more real.

We decided to wait a few more weeks to announce our pregnancy to our family and surprise them all on Christmas Day. Both of our families were so excited and were delighted with their extra Christmas present.

Us two celebrating New Year together.

Us two so happy, celebrating New Year together.

In the New Year we then broke our news to work, friends and other extended family.  We were so happy and couldn’t wait for our bundle of joy to arrive.  In the January sales we bought a few items for the baby and the nursery, but didn’t want to get too much before our 20 week scan.

We had our 2nd scan and everything was fine. We had decided to not find out the sex of our baby and wanted to keep it a surprise.  After having the scan and everything being ok, it was our license to carry on with the rest of the planning and preparations.

Baby Sowden's 21 week Scan.

Baby Sowden’s 21 week Scan.

Normally, we are not very organised people but wanted to do everything we could to give our child the best start in life.  We started to de-clutter our apartment and re-decorated our bedroom as we thought that our baby would be in our room in their moses basket.

Then we cleared out the spare room and turned it into a nursery.  We both worked very hard on it making it perfect and ready for son or daughter. The purchases continued and we even changed one of our cars for a more suitable family car, which I nicknamed the ‘Dad Mobile’,

In the meantime my wife has been to different routine hospital and midwife appointments, which I accompanied her on many occasions, and were told that everything was perfect.  The thought of losing our unborn child never entered into our thoughts.  You can’t help planning your future as a family.  My wife used to joke about how our little one and mummy would wave me off to work in the mornings. We was even thinking about where we could go for short break away later on in the year.

As each week passed we were getting excited reading about how big our little poppet was getting.  We used to talk and play music to the bump and when we could feel our baby move and kick it was so magical.

We wanted the best parents we could be and together went to different classes at the hospital, learning about labour management and how to care for a young baby.  This gave us a bit more confidence about the birth, as my wife was completely dreading it.

I don’t know how my wife managed to deliver our baby, knowing that they was not alive, with little pain relief.  She was incredible and I’ve never been so proud of her.  At the birth we found out that we had lost a Son and decided to call him Rory Teddy Sowden.

It’s been over 5 months now since we have lost Rory and our lives has been turned upside down since that day.  We are both heartbroken and trying to do normal everyday thing is now a huge task.  I really find it difficult getting ready for work in the mornings, especially as our Son is not here to wave us off.

Now 5 months on, things doesn’t seem to get any easier, it seems like everyone is carrying on as normal, like nothing ever happened.  It feels like that other people think that because it is over 5 months that we should be ‘over it’.  I don’t think you could ever ‘get over’ losing your child that you had so many hopes and dreams for.

We are both really dreading christmas, as it would have been Rory’s first christmas and our first christmas as a family together.  We don’t really want to celebrate christmas in a traditional way this year and find myself getting angry or frustrated with anyone mentioning the ‘C’ word, especially when you hear it mentioned in October.

A year ago we were getting our heads round the fact that it was no longer going to be the two of us and was going to be our last christmas alone together.  Today we are trying to come to terms that Rory has gone and it’s no longer going to be the three of us together.  It’s back to being us two here together, but with broken hearts and empty arms.

We are still a Mummy and Daddy and we are still a family. Our son did exist and he did have a life, his womb life, the 8 months he spent growing and being nurtured inside Mummy.  Rory may not be in our home or in our arms, but he is always in our thoughts and in our hearts!!!

Gone, but never forgotten.

Gone, but never forgotten xxx

Lullingstone Park Runner of the Month July 2015

This morning I woke up to a very nice e-mail from Parkrun, informing me that I had been chosen for Lullingstone Parkrun’s monthly award.

Congratulations Ben SOWDEN
You have been selected as the winner of this month’s Sweatshop Prize at Lullingstone parkrun.
Please print the attached certificate and present it to the manager of your nearest Sweatshop branch to claim your prize.

I am so pleased that I had been selected, especially as Lullingstone holds a special place in my heart.

Our son Rory was sadly born asleep on Saturday 30th May 2015.  The weekend before our tragic event, I remember that he was moving loads inside Mummy’s tummy and I had felt him kick on many occassions.

On the Bank Holiday Monday 25th May 2015 we finished off putting up the Winnie the Pooh Wall stickers in the Nursery.  Then In the afteroon Me, my Wife and Baby Bump  (I say Baby Bump, because at the time we did not know what sex our baby was) visited Lullingstone Country Park and had a nice walk along the river Darent.

After losing our Son I stopped going running for a while and the first run I ever did was on Saturday 20th June at Lullingstone Parkrun.  I found myself being drawn to there and before the event I went and sat on the same very bench us three had sat on almost 4 weeks before.  I was thinking back to when we last sat there ‘everything was perfect’ we had just finished the nursery and we were so happy and so excited about becoming parents.

View from 'Rory's' Bench

View from ‘Rory’s’ Bench

I had always really liked Lullingstone Parkrun, even though the course is tough, I really like ‘off road’ runs and views at the top are stunning.  I used to alternate between Lullingstone Parkrun and my home parkrun Shorne Woods.  I have purchased a parking permit which can be used for both Country Parks.

So, on the 27th June 2015 I went to Shorne Woods to see some familiar faces and then 4th August 2015 I was drawn back to Lullingstone.  I have ran there every week since and since returning I have tried to improve on my times every week. My PB is currently 30:37 and the closest I’ve got was 30:50 on Saturday 1st August.  My aim now is to improve on my PB and get a sub 30 mins.

Attempting to sprint at the finish.

Attempting to sprint at the finish.

When I run now, I always wear my Sports Band with a special message from our Angel Rory, I always think of him when I’m running and try to do my best to make him proud.

Running in Rory's memory.

Running in Rory’s memory.

It feels amazing to be rewarded for doing something that I really enjoy doing and that helps me feels closer to my Son.  Thank you Lullingstone Parkrun and thank you Sweatshop.