Last year, for Leo’s first birthday, I really struggled. I really struggled to work out what you do for your baby’s first birthday, when your baby isn’t actually alive. How do you ‘celebrate’? It tormented me for weeks, and was kindly coupled with questions of ‘how do you ‘celebrate’ his first Christmas?’ – its just such a cruel trick of the calendar. I settled with ‘it can never feel right, so you just have to do what you can’
This year, I’d like to say that I coped better – but I’d say I coped differently instead. I still struggled in parts on the lead up, but I mostly felt more settled with working out how we could ‘celebrate’. I felt stronger and more confident in my ideas of what it could look like, so I’ll take that as a bonus.
I’m really proud of what we were able to do, and as with anything we do for Leo, I wanted to write about it and mark it as a record.
Cake, Coffee and a Walk
On the weekend before his birthday, we invited some close and local friends and family over for some cake and followed it by a walk. I’m never really a fan of inviting anyone to anything (just incase no-one turns up) but it was actually really lovely on the day despite us having a major crisis of confidence even on the day! The days before, I’ll admit – we got stressed and emotional. Wanting everything to be perfect, and for some reason, loosing all ability to cook a blooming Victoria Sponge.
We made party bags, complete with a candle for people to light for Leo, a sweet, and some #ALeoBitOfKindness Cards which we have started recently, with one ready to go for people to leave somewhere that week if they’d like. We had plenty (read, way too much) food, made a slideshow of all the things we have done for him, hung up pictures and put out his first year photo album for people to look at. We also got a balloon for him which I really wanted to do – because everyone should have a balloon on their birthday.
It was essentially a birthday party, with most of the trimmings, except the birthday boy, but he was very much there in spirit and in name. It was lovely to be able to introduce people who have supported us throughout the years to each other and our families, and most of the group headed for a walk in the afternoon.
This was something that I really wanted to do last year – I wanted to throw a beautiful birthday party – but I just didn’t have the courage. I didn’t have the courage to ask anyone to come and find out that people didn’t really like the idea of a ‘dead baby’s first birthday party’ after all (I mean, it doesn’t really sound like fun, right?). I wasn’t confident enough in our emotions and strength to be able to cope with it, despite my heart wanting to. So I was really pleased that we found the courage to do something similar to that image – similar enough, but not too similar that it was just cruel.
And as a bonus, our kind friends and family helped us raise £133 for Tommy’s too!
A Grave Revamp & a Birthday Card
One thing that we really wanted to do for Leo’s birthday, was to revamp his grave. It’s looked increasingly tatty, sunken and full of weeds lately. Whilst I try not to let it bother me, it was getting a bit frustrating that we just couldn’t keep it neat and tidy anymore. So we placed some stones down, and did a bit of a makeover. It looks SO much better, and we are really pleased with it. We had always set out to do ‘something’ but before you know it, two years have disappeared.
We weren’t able to go and see Leo on his actual birthday (I’m sure he doesn’t mind?) so we took his card, and read it out to him whilst we were there. It’s a tradition that I hope to keep – to always buy him a card, and get a photo of us there with it. We keep all the cards that we get for Leo in his memory box from other people, and I also made sure that again, we took a picture of those that we received. It was lovely to have them out in the house and just have things for Leo on display for a few weeks.
Brighton for Cake
For Leo’s actual birthday, we road tripped down to Brighton. Being at the beach last year was perfect, albeit a tad cold! With being in Brighton, we spent most of the day at the Sea Life Centre, but had chips and homemade birthday cake on the pier, and had a few goes in the arcade. It was rather windy and choppy out there, so we didn’t last long, but the weather otherwise was lovely and it always warms my heart to be able to take some more ‘Leo pictures’.
Whilst I never want to set ‘traditions’ that end up not being able to happen for whatever reason, and then upsetting us – the idea of cake on the beach every year sounds doable! Making him a cake is really important to me despite not being much of a baker, it just feels like such a mum thing to do. By the time we got to making his mini cake (in a 10cm tin!) we had cried all the tears of baking frustration that there was – so this year, even though it isn’t the prettiest cake ever made – there were no tears!
We also left our first #ALeoBitOfKindness gifts around, and heard back from someone who found one of them on the way back home.
We didn’t manage to blow Leo’s candles on the pier (there was no point even trying!) so we lit them in some leftover cupcakes when we got home and said Happy Birthday to our boy.
This one is a bit of ‘coming soon’! We had planned a day at Marwell Zoo with close family, just as we had done last year, but the weather suggested otherwise – so we have rearranged it for April. It will be nice to have a day later in the year all for Leo, and as disappointing as it was to have to rearrange, we were really proud of what we did manage to achieve this year.
Overall, I am really proud of us this year. We created memories, we shared the love with others, and we were able to take a whole new loads of Leo photos. All of that means the world to us right now.