It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. This post however is something I have wanted to write since last year, although I have chosen to condense the details. 2014 was the most incredible year for me and my family and this blog post whilst extremely personal, focuses on two areas that have made a huge impact on my life in recent years – cycling, and child loss.
October 9th-15th may not be a week that is recognised or significant to most people but it is infant and pregnancy loss awareness week. The 15th is acknowledged as remembrance day for the families and friends of babies and infants that have sadly passed during or shortly after pregnancy.
Last year myself and my family suffered pain like no other when we lost our 3rd child at 14 weeks into the pregnancy. Our baby was suffering from severe and extremely rare congenital defects which we were told were “incompatible with life”. This meant that in the highly unlikely case of our baby making full term, she would survive minutes after birth. The loss and trauma of a funeral was something I wasn’t sure we would get through – no coffin should ever be so small. But we were strong enough to hold it together. Later in the year after several consultations at the hospital and every reassurance that what had happened during our previous pregnancy was extremely rare, we fell pregnant with our 4th child. However, mid-December our scan detected that our baby boy had down syndrome. In absolute disbelief and feeling empty, we were booked in for a follow up scan on the 23rd of December – sadly our son couldn’t hold on and my wife miscarried at 16 weeks – 2 days before Christmas.
Holding my family together through everything was really hard, but it meant I didn’t have time to think about what we had all endured. Instead when I needed space, I pushed on with my passion for cycling and after beginning the year with a plan to build a website, I launched All About The Ride in May that year. I didn’t know where this journey would take me, all I wanted to do was to write about my thoughts on cycling and products. Off the back of building the website and delving into the world of social media, my cycling went from being a way of getting to work and saving money with the odd ride on a weekend, to having more purpose. On the one hand it was used for testing new products and finding inspiration to write content for my new website. Whilst on the other, it was a chance to reflect on everything that had happened to us. I knew cycling could never provide the answers to my questions I had about losing our babies but it became like a reset button for me. No matter how sad, or angry or emotionally drained I was, I could get on my bike and just ride. All About The Ride soon became more that just the name of the website, it became a philosophy and something I lived by on every time I went out on my bike – no matter how long or short, or fast or slow!
There is something calming about cycling to the sound of your own breathing and seeing your breath on a bright but cool crisp morning.
On both occasions people around us tried to be supportive and I took comfort in the support they gave my wife and children. But on both occasions it was also a taboo subject. I found that people really didn’t want to talk about what we had been through outside of asking how you were feeling. It was amazing how alone you can feel surrounded by people. I think that is why I often chose to cycle alone and early in the morning at the weekends or late at night during the week. There was no pretense or front. I didn’t have to worry in case I made someone feel uncomfortable, or try to tell my wife that the pain she was feeling would ease with a face she could believe. I could just ride and I enjoyed the silence. When you have been cycling for a little while, I think you decide on your favourite times of day and days of the year to ride. I love cycling on an early morning in Autumn. There is something calming about cycling to the sound of your own breathing and seeing your breath on a bright but cool crisp morning. I would reflect, reset, plan and scheme and at the end of the ride, good or bad, I could focus on the important things in my life again.
All About The Ride quickly built momentum and the support and interest through social media was bigger than I could have ever imagined. Having dreamed of one day wearing my own kit, I took a chance and had one designed with the help of Creative Cycling. I wasn’t sure how it would look but knew it had to contain the colours blue and pink. This was to acknowledge the babies we had lost and (although slightly different) to acknowledge the pink and blue ribbon that represents infant loss awareness. Organisations and charities like Sands UK and The Miscarriage Association do an amazing job of supporting and working with families who have experienced the same heartbreak that my family went through.
As well as family and friends, cycling, All About The Ride and people who support us, helped me through something truly difficult. Now I appreciate every minute spent on my bike and make sure it is always all about the ride.
Thank you for reading.