In honour of Baby Loss Awareness Week. In honour of the children we will never raise. In honour of the parents who live without their babies. I humbly offer my experience with the hope it gets us talking.
(image from Baby Loss Awareness UK)
We chose his pram. It was green. We chose his nursery decorations. They were grey and white clouds and stars. We chose his name. Theo Jameson. And then we had to chose the only gift we would ever give him. It was dark grey granite with a heartfelt inscription. His headstone sits in a little graveyard behind our village church, overlooking a field where we take our two older children and our dog for walks. But we always visit Theo first.
From the moment I saw the two pink lines, I started planning. I started planning how I was going to tell Andy that we were expecting. I started planning how we would tell the boys about the new baby. I started planning the birth — to be my third C-section, so I also started preparing my mind for not having any more children. I started planning my maternity leave. I started planning to take my last baby to mummy and me classes. We read the books and blogs. We listened to the midwives. We followed all the advice. I took the vitamins. I avoided the cheese, the wine, the eggs with runny yolks. We didn’t tell anyone until after our first scan. We did everything right. It didn’t matter.
At twenty weeks, the day before we were due to drive from our Yorkshire home to Cornwall for a our last holiday as a family of four, we went for a routine ultra sound, excited to see that little sea monkey, wriggling and making work difficult for the radiographer; anxious to hear the heartbeat and maybe even find if our little bundle of joy was a pink bundle or blue bundle. Instead, as I laid on the table, jeans pulled down and cold gel sloshing on my exposed belly, I felt the radiographer manipulating my tummy more and more firmly. I smiled at her with nervous excitement waiting for her to find our baby’s heart beat. I looked at the screen to see if I could find my baby.
“Have you had any bleeding,” the radiographer asked and then my heart began to race. I tried to stay calm, hoping against the odds that she was mistaken, but I knew with that question that there was a problem. A flurry of moments later, more radiographers, a midwife, a consultant, and two devastated parents — our baby had died.
It’s impossible to say all the things I thought and felt in the moments that followed. It was like all the noise in the world was screeching against itself, like twisted metal, inside my head. I felt like I was going to be sick, like my heart had left my chest, and yet, as always in my own times of crisis I was thinking about everyone else. My poor husband, who had just lost his first born. His parents. The boys. I asked irrational questions, like would we will still make it to Cornwall? I snapped into practical, problem solving mode and asked all the horrible things — what is going to happen next? Where will I have to go to give birth? Will we be able to have more children? And worst of all, I asked why?
I asked why as I swallowed whatever horrible pill the doctor gave me, like Alice and her “drink me” bottle, wishing its consequences would be growing me bigger or smaller or even falling down the rabbit hole, anything besides stealing away the baby still within me, lifeless, but still connected. I asked why when the contractions came. I asked why as I laboured through the night — my husband, my champion, by my side through the pain, the vomit, and the blood. I asked why as our baby boy was born without a cry, caught by my hero of a midwife who refused to leave us, even hours after her shift had ended. I asked why as I held my tiny baby — so delicate, no bigger than a bag of sugar, with his daddy’s lips and nose and mummy’s fingers and toes. I’m still asking why.
We stayed in hospital for another night and day, with our son in a cot that was a bit like a reverse incubator. Instead of keeping young life warm, it kept our son cool, slowing down the inevitable breakdown of his skin, his blood vessel, his organs, his perfect little body. We had precious time with Theo. We held him and we held each other. Taking it in turns to breakdown and to support the other. We read him bedtime stories. I sang him lullabies. We got his foot prints. Some wonderful unknown volunteers had knitted the tiniest hats and blankets for our son and our midwives kept them fresh and clean. We were nurtured in our grief and sheltered from the noises of the labour delivery ward. My heart still swells with gratitude for the team who looked after us in those darkest days.
As the days went on and we accepted that it was time to say goodbye, we found ourselves doing the job no parent ever wants to do — planning our child’s funeral. All the hopes and dreams of new parents, dashed. Every birthday and Christmas, gone. The only time I would stand up in front of our family and introduce my son was in his eulogy.
Two years have passed since we said goodbye to Theo, and I can honestly say we think of him every day. Sometimes we think of him with hope for the future and with gratitude that he was here with us, however briefly. But if I’m being honest (and I always am) I mostly think of him with sadness for all the moments I’d imagined him with us. I accidentally set the table for five all the time. I cry every month I haven’t fallen pregnant. I regularly have panic attacks at the sight of mothers pushing their new babies in their prams. And every child whose birthday is in December 2016, I look at them and think, that could be our baby.
Today marks the first day of Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK, and the fact that such a week exists and we are talking about baby loss, a term which I prefer to miscarriage, fills me with hope. The fog of sadness and anxiety that became my bereavement journey was only traversable because of all the support I had around me. From the midwives and consultants at the hospital, to the community at the church who found space for Theo in a very full cemetery; from the counselling services that were made available to every member of our little family, to the friends who called and brought cake, brought meals, brought hugs, brought wine, brought offers of walks, talks, and respite — it certainly wasn’t in isolation that we survived.
So if you are one of the one in four, please, don’t be silent. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And if you know a family like ours, don’t wait for them to ask for help, because actually, asking someone to reach out of the storm is like asking someone who’s drowning to stop treading water. You might float and find relief, but it still feels like you’re going under. Talking about loss is always the first step in a long journey, but it’s the best place to start.
I have an admission to make and I would appreciate if you wouldn’t judge me. I’m a magpie. I am easily distracted by and attracted to shiny objects. To shiny, luscious finishes, and colours and textures. As a makeup artist, obviously this extends to the tools of my everyday trade -- palettes, perfumes, packaging. So last night’s preview visit to House of Harrogate took me a little out of my comfort zone, but I felt right at home.
The intimate preview event brought together expert and artisan interiors suppliers, decorators, project managers... and me! I can’t claim to be a connoisseur, but I have had the pleasure of gutting and remodelling a house, and we are in the process of moving, so I’m looking for inspiration. I’ve tried the usual channels -- Pinterest being my main source of swoon-worthy, unattainable aesthetic. However, I have enough trouble trying to recreate slow cooker recipes from the social inspiration moodboard site, so the thought of trying to replicate interiors results in my own money-pit, I mean home, fills me with dread and ellicits feelings of both inadequacy and cold sweats in equal measure.
Walking through the exquisite showroom, I immediately felt the cold sweats starting again. The magpie in me flitted from marble to granite, veins of grey and speckles of pink hypnotised me; patterned flooring tiles sent me into a world of decorating whimsy; and rose gold bathroom fixtures and accents were an Instagram dream come true. But what was really inspiring was learning that even in the epicentre of opulent fixtures and details, the team at House of Harrogate are committed to providing their service and unwavering quality to projects of any budget.
Once I realised that some of these shiny things, though aspirational could be within reach, I really started taking in some of the beautiful details. I love the texture and versatility from concrete interior specialist, Relentless Interiors. There's a no to an industrial influence, but no sacrifice of luxury or style. The material is specially formulated and it’s versatility is seemingly endless -- suitable for projects from furniture, worktops, walls and flooring. And it’s more than one size fits all colour choice. Obviously the many shades and tones of grey are there as you would expect, but their palette extends to burnt oranges, deep reds and dusty, duck egg blue to name a few.
The team from Acoustic Pixel put on a serious show stopping performance with their in-home cinema offering. Boasting technology approved by Star Wars’ own George Lucas, the visual and accoustic offering is second to none. Oh, and the rows reclining leather were pretty cool, too. It’s a good thing there wasn’t any popcorn, or might still be there watching the latest blockbusters.
From Hollywood films to Yorkshire firms, a proud host of Yorkshire’s own suppliers were on hand with their wares. The English Cabinet Co., purveyors of hand finished furniture, showcased their Manor Collection -- classic, sophisticated but unfussy functional furniture. Shire Doors of Shipley has more front doors, bifolds, skylights and windows to open, close and let in the light than I could count. And Independent Yorkshire shutter company, Shutter Up Your Place attracted my particular attention. At the moment my windows are clad with wooden blinds, or as I call them the poor man’s shutters. Shutters are one of those aspirational home furnishing items that has always been on my wish list, and with the myriad of colours and designs on offer from Shutter Up, my magpie heart seriously skipped a beat.
I think I could have wandered through House of Harrogate for days, still discovering new details around every corner. If the magpie in you wants your own interiors-inspired heart flutters get down to House of Harrogate tomorrow (Saturday 22 September) from 3 to 7 PM. And make sure you check out the sunken wine chiller hidden in the kitchen worktop by Kaelo, UK. I mean, if you don’t plan one of those into a kitchen redesign, you’re not really paying attention.
Isn't it the best thing EVER when you find a small, independent, local business that provides faultless service and a unique experience? And what makes it better? A cuppa and CAKE. Cakes of endless description, all mouth-watering flavours on offer, with freshly baked aroma seducing your taste buds from the kitchen. (and the lovely lady above is Carrie, the woman responsible for literally dreaming up the flavours of the cakes and scones, as well as personally baking them... among her many roles at the family-run Tea Room).
I had the pleasure of meeting up with the lovely, Sarah of the fantastic SunshineSarahXO blog at this local hideaway. Sarah and I recently met a blogging networking event, but didn't really get a chance to connect properly. So we did what most Northern Lasses would when we needed a grown up playdate -- we made a date for a brew and a chat.
A recent social media post has seen a real boost in customer traffic at the Harrogate Tea Room's popularity. Until that post depicting a very quiet Tea Room (spotlessly clean and stocked to the brim, just waiting for eager customers) devoid of diners, did the rounds on Facebook and the like, it was completely unknown to me. It's almost hidden away in the Westminster Arcade in the centre of Harrogate, and well worth a visit.
They'll happily serve you some of the best scones (or other baked treats) in town and a vast array of teas and coffees. The decor is homely, the service friendly and your contribution to supporting a local business and the Harrogate community means you'll leave with only a good taste in your mouth.
I came for the Darjeeling. I left with a lovely Monday morning catch up and the feel good factor.
I realise this isn't strictly about makeup or hair or beauty. And for that, I refuse to apologise. Because though those things take up a huge amount of my time, both personally and professionally, they aren't the be all and end all. Time with friends -- old and new. A good cup of tea. And something sweet. I can't think of a nicer way to start the week.
Until next time Harrogate Tea Rooms!! Can't wait to see what baked creations you have in store for us.
This post is shamefully overdue! It's the end of June and I'm only just posting these gorgeous photos.
So, back in May I was asked to contribute to a styled shoot, and I'm so pleased with the end results. We were so fortunate with the weather -- the Sun Pavilion in Harrogate looked positively glorious.
If I'm being honest, it was a bit of whirlwind shoot, as so many editorial experiences can be. It's in times like this, that you really do have to engage all the experience you've acquired through the years. I had 15 minutes to create this look (well, 20 because I begged the taxi driver to give me a touch extra time). As I blended eyeshadow and contoured cheekbones, I had a flashback to a particularly gruelling interview/ presentation that went spectacularly wrong. But like good entrepreneurs, instead of seeing the failure (I did not get the job), I decided to focus on what I could learn.
That presentation, which obviously still haunts me occasionally, taught me to always focus on the most important elements of the look I'm creating and if I'm under time constraints, get those one and perfected first. It may seem simplistic, but like most professions, makeup artistry can become repetitive. We all have our preferred order of application. But the difference between a proficient makeup artist, and a great one, can come down to the ability to prioritise in order to masterfully execute a brief.
At any rate... I'm waxing a bit poetic. Here are some of the photos from that day.
http://www.victoriabakerweddings.co.uk/Credits to all those involved:
Victoria Baker Weddinges
The Sun Pavilion, Harrogate
Laura Lindsay, Venue Dressing
Eternity Bridal, Ltd.
Hair by Helen Baxter
Model: Amy Finnigan Jones
Yesterday, I was super priviledged to be featured on one of my favourite local Blogs -- www.theyorkshirebridal.com. Now, I'm not always the MOST tech savvy. Remember, I spend most of time working with brushes, not buttons; mascara not macs; glitter, not gigs... ok, I'll stop. Just one more, eyeshadow, not iPads. Right, I'm actually done now.
So, I REALLY wanted to share the blog post directly from the website to my blog, but apparently, that's not a feature Weebly (my website builder) currently supports -- come on Weebly, if I need it, surely 1,000's of other users must, too! So, I've included the link and crossed my fingers that I've done that correctly.
Have a read -- it's a Q & A with me, because you just CAN'T get enough of my opinions and sass! The team at The Yorkshire Bridal, really do put so much effort into highlighting some of the incredible talent in our area and I am so grateful to be counted among that talent. It's a privilege to do this job and live this life. So thank you Yorkshire Bridal for the feature. I've posted the text of our interview below.
Thank you again for highlighting me and my business!
Tell us all about your business
My business offers brides and their bridal party premier makeup and beauty service direct to them. Hiring a professional makeup artist can feel daunting in the current, busy marketplace. When you choose to work with me, you will feel completely confident that you will look like you, on your very best day.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I started my professional journey in Malibu, California and though I’ve traded in flip flops and sandy beaches for Wellington boots and the Yorkshire Dales, I still retain that sense of effortless, Boho glamour. I have been a working makeup artist for 10 years, serving clients across Yorkshire, the UK and internationally.
While completing my beauty qualification I was asked to instruct the lesson on makeup, and from that moment I was hooked on empowering others through training. In addition to my many bridal, special occasion and editorial clients, I was an elite artist and trainer for Laura Mercier cosmetics.
I specialise in bridal makeup -- helping my clients feel like themselves, but on their very best day. I create looks that are fresh, timeless and refined, and am constantly striving to stay abreast of the latest products, trends and techniques.
What makes you different from other suppliers, what sets you apart from the competition?
Makuep Artistry has become a massive industry, and just as different photographers have a their own unique view on the world and how they visually communicate beauty, so do makeup artists approach creating a client’s ideal look. As a Bridal Makeup Specialist, it is my job to get to know my client’s individual style and create a look that is more than flattering -- it should be the reflection of that person’s very best self. That can only happen when your makeup artist captures your identity in your look, because only then will you feel your most beautiful. All to often I hear stories of brides who, while impressed with a look an artist created, felt uncomfortable, because they couldn’t see themselves anymore. My brides know that I have the tools and techniques to create any look they desire, and they feel secure that the look I create will be timeless, flawless and beautiful.
What's your highlight to date?
In addition to working with numerous brides through the years, it is my privilege to work with bridal couture designers, as well. Having the opportunity to work with Jenny Packham and her backstage team on a runway event was by far one of the most fun moments of my career. Her elegant, yet unstuffy style is chic, modern and fresh -- words that I would use to describe my own work, too.
What questions do brides ask you most often?
What products do you use and What do you charge?
The first one is easy. I use the best quality products for my individual customers. Being a trainer for a brand like Laura Mercier, commitment to quality products, especially to suit different skin colours, textures and types is non-negotiable. There is a lot of Laura Mercier in my kit, but you’ll also find Charlotte Tilbury, Bobbi Brown, Cover FX, Nars and Hourglass. When it comes to colour I like to mix it up, but it’s still all quality pigment.
When it comes the second question, What do you charge, I say this a little bit tongue in cheek, but actually, it is one of the top questions brides ask all makeup artists. Everyone has a budget to stick to, obviously. And in today’s economic climate we are all faced with making difficult financial choices. The problem with choosing a makeup artist or hairstylist based on price alone is it’s a bit like walking into a gorgeous clothing store and heading straight to the sale rack without really considering if any of the bargains are a good fit. You may find something in your size, but if you have to compromise on the fit, is it really a bargain? That’s not to say my prices are unrealistic, I simply believe in offering a valuable service to my clients.
If you could give future brides one piece of advice, what would it be?
I have two - 1. Try not to stress. Planning your wedding is a unique time in you life, and every detail should bring you joy (even if it’s the kind of joy where you compromise on something, because of the happiness you know it brings your partner). Your joy will translate to enjoying your special day, to your photos and to your memories of this time.
And 2. look after your skin. If you don’t know what your skin type is or if you’re questioning your skin care routine, book in with someone like me who can give you some insight and unbiased recommendations. I say the same thing to runway and editorial models. The more you look after you, the better the results will be.
Do you ever feel like you’re just sort of bouncing from one sugar excuse to another? I kid you not, we still have Halloween candy hidden in a cupboard somewhere. My small people didn’t get through the fun size sweets before Advent started, and darn that Elf-on-the-Shelf -- he must have run out of interesting mischief to get up to, because he brought a lot of candy canes (and dairy milk. and after eights. and chocolate oranges. and biscuits.). So we’ve survived the high fructose sugar bonanza that is Christmas, not mention the fizz fest of New Year. Before Hotel Chocolat had even sold through their discounted holiday crackers, the heart shaped sweets have been exchanged and suitably scoffed, and now, with the annual chocolate egg-stravaganza on the horizon I have a less than sweet question. What is all this sugar doing to my skin?
You know that saying that ignorance is bliss? Well, honestly, when it comes to your consumption of the sticky, sweet stuff -- ignorant or educated, you are going to feel the effects. There’s no shortage of input regarding the effects of sugar on our waistline. The government, the naked chef and every other cookbook at Waterstone’s is ready to dole out guidelines on minimising our daily sugar consumption. And it turns out, weight concerns aside, limiting intake of the sugar is a good idea for our complexion.
This not-so-sweet wake up call should not really be a huge surprise. A simple Google search for sugar + skin very nearly results in bullhorns, alarm bells and flashing lights. That same search will teach you that the most obvious result on the skin of consuming sugar, especially the refined version, is inflammation. That word looks pretty unassuming doesn’t it? It’s not the kind of word that looks like it’s going to beat up on the way to school and take your lunch money, but it might taunt you a bit. Sticks and stones may break my bones... but inflammation is definitely going to kick you in the end.
In addition to being a makeup junkie, a key ingredient afficianado, and a true technique pedantic, I’m also a self confessed word nerd. You don’t have too vocabulary vehement to see that within inflammation the word FLAME is contained. So sugar is a fuel to the fire of our metabolism. Think of a fire consuming a dry, woody landscape -- in almost an instant the fire can scorch miles, travelling at uninhibitted speed, and with incredible temperatures. That’s the effect of refined sugar within the body. And where do we visibly see these effects -- the skin.
It gets better (and by better, I mean super-interesting, but not great news if you’ve got an insatiable sweet tooth). Inflammation irritates every condition within the body, especially the in the skin, so acne and rosacea sufferers are likely to find that their skin can become especially angry. And due to a process called glycation, digested sugar attaches to collagen in your skin. What does that mean? Imagine the collagen in your skin is a slinky, and sugar (or “advanced glycation endproducts” -- AGEs -- the harmful byproducts of consumed sugar) are a kettlebell. The collagen-slinky should be springing, bouncy and able to walk down the stairs of its own volition. Chow down on that last box of Ferroro Rochers that you’ve been hiding from the rest of the family since Christmas (ya, I’m looking at you), and you’ve attached a sweet, sweet kettlebell to your favourite toy (fun for a girl or a boy). Not only does your slinky not walk down the it stops making that slinkety sound, the AGEs weight permanently distorts the springy shape and it stops bouncing back the way it used it. In short, the elastin, and therefore the elastic, bounceback quality of the skin, is damaged. So not only does become red, inflamed and angry, we are also causing it to age prematurely and unneccesarily wrinkle.
I know what you’re thinking -- it’s just the one Easter egg. You’re right. A single incident isn’t going to have catastrophic effects, but recurring sugar consumption, particularly in what can only be described as clinical amounts will inevitably create long term damage to the skin. And, it doesn’t stop at chocolate and Haribo (or Jelly Babies, or your cavity-causer of choice). Let’s not forget the sugar content of alchohol. The effects of alcohol on the body, especially the skin is whole separate blog post -- but you know how that story is going to end, right?
Did you know, however, that the sun essentially acts a magnifying glass on the skin, when it comes to these AGEs and the subsequent havock they cause on our superficial top layer? True story. Exposure to UV rays accelerates glycation, further ageing the skin. Which, frankly, really puts a dampner on plans to lay by the pool, soaking up the sun and sipping a strawberry daquiri. Good job I live in England where I can stay inside my kitchen watching the rain, slurping down hot cups of tea! No sugar in mine, thanks, and no, I really don’t want a biscuit with it. Maybe just one.
So it’s not just my skinny jeans that object to my sugar-laden indulgences. And really, if I’ve invested real, hard-earned cash in my skin care routine, which believe me, I have, then why leave that investment unprotected and undo all my hard work? Well, for one, the instant endorphin release of chocolate is way easier, and less sweaty work, than going for a spin class. But ultimately, that would be a better source of endorphins and it would increase the efficiency of cellular activity, so my skin would look more energized, plumped and radiant. So do we have trade in our Snickers for yoga pants and green juice? Maybe not everyday. And definitely not on Easter Sunday. But armed with this knowledge, maybe it’s time to stop bouncing from one sweet excuse to another, and stop the sugar cycle in it’s tracks. Your skin will thank you.
When I started trying my hand at blogging six years ago or so, I really struggled to fill the page. I had positioned my blog around the career I’d started carving for myself as a makeup artist, beauty therapist and massage therapist. Seems like plenty to keep a person busy with topics. I mean, how many reviews, tutorials, step-by-steps on contouring, cut-crease or winged liner have you seen? And while I live for a good makeup blog, vlog, insta or snapchat (totally lying here... I’m with the recently social-media outspoken Kardashian clan... do we really open SnapChat any more?) -- I couldn’t get my cyber pen to paper on a regular basis.
Now, you should know something about me. When I put my mind to something, I’m incredibly disciplined and dedicated. I’m that nutter of a co-worker who can be three weeks deep into a sinus infection with two children sick at home, a husband working away in China for six weeks, and I’ll still manage to rearrange my life (and that of anyone I can bribe, guilt or beg to babysit) and make it to work; probably just by the skin of my teeth. So the notion that will power alone couldn’t get me to change the way I work and commit to taking an hour a week to sit and type my thoughts on the latest Urban Decay Naked palette, despite helpful reminders pinging at me on my phone, my watch and my both my kids’ iPads, was more than a little worrying. Like many challenges, I tried. I tried harder. I worried. I worried about trying. I worried about giving up. I tried not to worry. I worried that I was worrying and trying too much. You get it. I had completely gone down the rabbit hole self-inflicted stress. And ultimately, I dropped it like it was hot. I figured when I had something worth saying, the words would just come.
Well guess what? The words have come and it’s not because I didn’t have something say before. It’s because I had so much to say. I had too much to say and it wasn’t all about the beauty industry. And some of the things I wanted to talk about weren’t that pretty. Plenty of what I have to say is related to the Beauty and Wellness Industries that I am incredibly proud to be a part of, BUT that’s not my whole story.
So now, as I finally sweep off my world wide welcome mat and open the doors of my mind to any of my potential virtual visitors, I would like to start with a few words of explanation. This website is a showcase of my makeup artistry. It is also where I market my beauty and massage services. It is also my sacred space for sharing my thoughts on all things mama-hood and my experiences as a card-carrying member of the smaller subset of mamas out there -- special needs mamas. And I’ll tell you a secret -- we may be a small subset but we are fierce. But I digress. That happens with me.
This is a place where my ongoing battle of the bulge may be updated occasionally. I might share my musings on great wedding venues and wonderful local businesses, because as a freelancer I have the incredible privilege to work not just with wonderful women on special days of their lives, but I also get to network with some incredible vendors and entreprenuers, as well as experience some extraordinary locations. Equally, this is a place where I may rant about the differences between the USA and the UK, because as an American-alien in a British world sometimes you just want to declare, “I want Target, a drive through Starbucks and a box of Twinkies that won’t cost me a significant portion of my mortgage payment.”
There may be a few other random thoughts that crop up from time to time, but I promise to scatter as much beauty throughout my blog as possible. Because really, beauty, like love, really is all around us. And that’s what I’m after: love & beauty.
"Look like you on your very best day."