Spoiler alert!! For anyone who doesn’t want to read the whole post … Joe and I are relocating!
We’ve been living in Sheffield (minus our time away travelling) for eleven years but it finally feels time for a new adventure.
“Where are we moving to?” I hear you ask…
Well actually, we’re moving back in with my mum and dad (yes at 30 years old) who live in North Wales, but the plan is to buy in Chester once we know where Joe will be working. Our house has been sold and now for the long wait for the solicitors to do their bit.
I was actually born and raised in a lovely village on the outskirts of Chester and it’s safe to say (like most kids I imagine), I didn’t quite appreciate how beautiful my hometown was until I grew up and saw a bit more or the world.
To be totally honest with you; I couldn’t wait to get away (not from my family I should say). I’ve always had itchy feet and was keen to spread my wings and explore.
Joe and I met at University in Sheffield in our second year and we were pretty inseparable from day one. Apparently, Joe rang his brother the day after meeting me (his brother mentioned this in his speech at our wedding) and said he’d met the woman of his dreams *swoon*.
We rented our first flat in Sheffield after University and after two and half years together, we headed to France for a holiday with my family. During a day in the mountains, he walked me up a hill with incredible views and got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Of course, I said yes and we chose to have a two-year engagement and had so much fun planning our special day!
We always said we wanted to travel and had booked flights to Thailand for our honeymoon (we’d spent a month in Vietnam the summer before and had had the best time so wanted to see more of Asia). While chatting one night about when the best time to travel would be, we decided that there is never the ‘right’ time to upheave your life, so why not do it after the wedding (we don’t tend to dwell too long on decisions and we were super excited by this plan). So, the day after the most perfect wedding day, we hopped on a plane to Thailand and didn’t return home for over a year!
We travelled around ten countries in Asia and Australasia and then settled in Sydney for ten months where I worked as a nanny and in a childcare centre and Joe worked at Taronga zoo. We lived with my brother and his family in Sydney and it was so special getting to spend quality time with them and watching my niece grow into the kindest little girl (pic above of us dancing at my wedding). We had the time of our lives on our once-in-a-lifetime trip!
When we finally returned home, we thought we would live at my parents while we looked for work but Joe ended up being offered a job back at his old work so we happily headed back to Sheffield. Joe worked his socks off to become an accountant while I worked for an educational publishing company (I’d been a primary teacher before we went travelling) and life continued ticking along nicely. We felt really settled in Sheffield and three years after returning to the UK, we were expecting our first baby. We spent lockdown getting so much sorted around the house and we made the most of our time at home with my intense nesting hormones.
On the 18th July 2020, 10 days overdue, we went into hospital ready to meet our baby. As I’m sure most of you reading this already know; we never got to bring her home. Our darling, Cora.
We’ve asked ourselves many times since she died, if the tragedy we’ve been through is life’s way of balancing out the happiness we’ve had in these 10 years together. Maybe each person is only entitled to a certain amount of happiness in life and we used all ours up early on. I know we’ve been lucky to have had more love and happiness in our years together than some people get in a lifetime, and for that, I am truly thankful. But I know that’s not how life works; bad things happen to good people, not everything happens for a reason and happiness isn’t limited to a certain amount.
When we first arrived home from the hospital, it’s safe to say that our house didn’t really feel like home. All the baby items we’d excitedly placed around the house had been hidden in the nursery and the door remained firmly shut for over two months. We spent one night at home after we left the hospital and then my parents drove us back to their home in Wales where we spent a couple of months being looked after by family members.
When we did finally return home to Sheffield and felt strong enough to open the door to the nursery; we spent a teary weekend packing items away in the loft and tidying the room so it looked as beautiful as it did before Cora’s arrival. We wanted it to be Cora’s space and a special room for us to feel connected to her; and it did exactly that.
Apparently, when you experience the loss of a child, most people react strongly to their home; it either acts as a painful reminder of who you’ve lost so an intense need to move occurs; or it acts as a tangible part of your baby (somewhere they lived while growing in your womb) and so you feel like you never want to move.
For the first few months, I was so drawn to Cora’s nursery I told Joe we weren’t leaving this house until we’d brought a sibling home for her. I needed to sit with our baby in the nursing chair I’d imagined breastfeeding in a thousand times before and choose a book off the shelves Joe had lovingly created.
But as time seemed to pass, although it still felt like our much-loved home, the pain we had experienced seemed to have seeped into the walls of the house and everything felt different.
I’d made some lovely mummy friends in Sheffield while pregnant, and while their little ones continued to grow and change, other friends became pregnant and it felt like life was moving on and I no longer belonged. The feeling of not being a part of the ‘mummy gang’ is intense when you’re grieving a baby. Not that I don’t love seeing my friend’s and their babes, but after losing a child, I can only describe it as feeling like your life has been put-on hold. Our life had been changed to the core yet we were continuing with the same routine in the place where Cora was meant to be.
We spent two months at my parents’ house over Christmas (a very tough time when you’re grieving) – I was still on maternity leave and Joe was working remotely due to Covid. We felt safe and at home there and each time we talked about heading back to Sheffield we felt sad. And so, the discussions of where our life was going and where we wanted to be began.
After the new year, we finally headed back to Sheffield and as we arrived into our beautiful city, for the first time in eleven years; it no longer felt like home.
I’m fully aware that ‘home’ probably doesn’t feel right anywhere since there’s a huge part of our heart that will forever be missing, but I wonder if Sheffield is now associated with so much pain that it started to become suffocating? Or maybe, because our life felt like it had taken such a drastic turn, we couldn’t keep plodding along in the same place doing the same thing. Our lives had been changed forever and we needed something around us to represent that and not just continue like nothing had happened.
Does it sound like we’re running away? Well, maybe in a way we are. But when you can’t escape the emotional pain; I think it gives you every right to try and physically escape it. And do you know what – for the first time since Cora died, we’re actually excited about something. We’re finally looking forward to the future again and planning for it. My Pinterest boards are filling up again, my mind is busy with ideas and our conversations are based around the future – which is a huge step when you’ve previously felt stuck in the past. And I’m so looking forward to being able to just pop round to my parents house for a cup of tea or a Sunday roast at the weekends.
Of course, the guilt and worry I feel for leaving Cora’s nursery is something I’m having to come to terms with. Even though it’s a nursery she never used, when a mother’s arms are left empty, tangible things become a representation of their baby and that’s what her nursery feels like to me. A room created with such love and excitement, filled with items bought and handmade for our perfect little girl. I know that her memory is kept alive by the way we (and others) talk about her and include her in our family but it will be hard to leave that nursery knowing that we never got to bring a baby home to it.
I’ve referred to this move as a “fresh start” a number of times and I actually think I hate that term. It implies that we failed at something and need to start over again. No matter where we move to, even the other side of the world – which was a genuine discussion we had with that Aussie sun calling us – the love we have for Cora will still be part of who we are and it’s about learning to live comfortably with our love and grief. So instead of a fresh start, I prefer to think of the move as a new chapter, hopefully a happier and exciting one without any more plot twists! (And if it’s not too much to ask, a beautiful home with a nursery that we bring a baby home to).