I wasn’t going to write a ‘year in review’ post, and then I was, because I wanted to talk about awareness-raising. I then changed my mind because I wish so much I had no need to have written the majority of the posts. I do feel proud of what my blog has achieved, but feel so uncomfortable about the success for that reason.
In late April, less than a month after Hugo died, I had an overwhelming urge to write. It was an urge to express my feelings, to tell the world about my special boy, to raise awareness of the illness that nearly took my life, talk about baby loss and to improve communication for parents with a baby in a neonatal unit, as well as women who have experienced a traumatic birth. I had no particular plan to achieve these aims besides writing my blog, and using my years of experience in health PR to get my messages out there using the appropriate channels. Hurrah for Twitter, on that count.
Then WordPress sent a snazzy report this morning. It’s pretty (there are stars in it!), and while seeing all the numbers in the report was interesting, I felt conflicted. So I thought I need to write about my blogging year: the highs, the lows, the challenges, and the achievements – even though (especially because!) I struggle with the latter word. There is no false modesty: I know I am a good writer, and I feel privileged to use my gift to help myself, and others.
The report tells me my most popular posts in terms of stats this year are:
Creating Precious Memories: Baby Bereavement Photography. The report tells me that this post gave me the busiest day on my blog, with more than 10,000 views (it has had in excess of 17,000 views to date). I was amazed at the spread of that post, but find it difficult to be excited about because it was motivated by my biggest regret of Hugo’s life and death: not having a photograph of his beautiful face. The response to the post also generated so many comments, on the post and on Facebook with other bereaved parents sharing their own stories of baby loss, which was emotionally gruelling. That’s not to mention the Facebook comment that read “Anyone else feel uncomfortable looking at photos of dead babies?” I didn’t respond, the person really wasn’t worth it. On the positive side, as a response NNU staff have said they will review their practise, meaning other parents will benefit. A result.
For the babies who didn’t make it home: Neonatal Remembrance Day. This post is one that kind of wrote itself, and grew its own legs. With more than 10,000 shares on Facebook, I am sorry that it resonates with so many other parents. Too many other broken hearts, too many dreams shattered.
HELLP Raise Awareness. I had never heard of the illness that nearly took my life and that took Hugo’s before I was diagnosed, and I thought I knew so much about pregnancy. While this terrifying condition is thankfully rare women can and do die from it, so it’s vital people are aware of the signs and symptoms. This, and other posts specifically about HELLP have had more than 7,000 views collectively, meaning that at a minimum that number of people now know about it.
Start a Conversation about Baby Loss was written in response to an insensitive comment. I had got really fed up of people not knowing what to say, and making insensitive comments – a result of our culture’s fear of death. I have had messages from people saying that thanks to this and other posts, they have responded to loved ones who have suffered baby loss in a better way than they might have otherwise. I hope the post has helped spare bereaved parents from additional stresses, and receive the support they need.
An open letter to the staff who cared for Hugo. The staff who work in a neonatal unit are very special indeed. Everything possible was done to save Hugo’s life, and I will be immensely grateful always. Most stories about premature babies in the media feature babies who make it home, and I felt it was important to show the other side to the story.
Stats aren’t everything of course. The Bloggers’ Hierarchy of Needs was the most commented on post, despite receiving comparatively few views. The comments, many saying the post had given them a needed boost, were the icing on the cake of a fun post that I really enjoyed writing.
I am proud of each and every post on this blog. Each one represents how I have been feeling when it has been written, whether it is sad, frustrated, or positive.
I am especially proud of posts I never knew I could write. I’ve even dabbled in poetry, for the first time since school. I have particularly enjoyed being involved with The Prompt and Word of the Week, because they have enabled me to see things differently. Some of my favourite posts have come from the Prompt: the poems A World Gone Up in Smoke, and The Letter from the War that Shattered the Peace; and the short story The Second-Hand Bookshop. These have helped demonstrate my diversity as a writer.
When I started blogging, I had no idea about the parenting blogging community. Kind people on social media introduced me to Mumsnet, BritMums and Tots100. I have made so many wonderful friends through these networks, some of whom I have been pleased to meet at blogging conferences this year.
Two of my posts have featured on Mumsnet’s front page, and I’ve written a guest post for them. I’m currently number 267 (out of about 8,000) in the Tots charts. Yes, charts aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, and they are not the only measure of success, but considering the topic of my blog I am proud to show that parenting blogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome.
This year, I have been shortlisted for a national award. I have had guest posts on Bliss, the Royal College of Midwives, Honest Mum, and The Smallest Things.
Through my blog, I have made connections with all sorts of wonderful people. Health care professionals I have got to know on Twitter deserve a special mention for listening, and helping support my blog and Hugo’s Legacy.
I am proud to be a blogging ambassador for two amazing charities: First Touch, and the MAMA Academy.
The annual report also told me who my top commenters are. I’m grateful to each and every person who has taken the time to read and comment on my posts: I know many of them are not easy to read. I’m also grateful to everyone who has liked and shared my posts on Facebook and Twitter, and sent me messages through these platforms. I have felt so loved and supported, and it has been a small comfort to know that Hugo’s memory lives on through my words.
Everything my blog has achieved this year has been the result of a lot of hard work. Tears, too. I have spent hours at the laptop so I don’t have to be alone with my feelings, which often were too scary. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it: the sense of purpose it has given me, sense of achievement (no matter how uncomfortable I continue to feel about that word, I know I have a lot to feel proud of), community, and helping make a difference to other people.
My most special achievement remains my beautiful boy Hugo, who lives on through the blogosphere, and in our hearts and minds.
In time, I may become more comfortable with feeling proud of my blog, and my writing.
I am trying to see it as Hugo’s gift to me.