When I Found My Fierce …

Harriot Lane Fox 

I’ve been tall all my life. I mean really tall. 5’11” since the age of 11. It’s been something I have had a love hate relationship with from an early age so when Harriot said she’d write a piece about being tall, it sang to me. This wonderful piece makes me nod, laugh and scream in equal measure. Enjoy!

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I was scary long before I was fierce. Not on purpose. I didn’t growl or glare – that often. I just grew taller and faster than my friends. When I was 15 a teacher took me aside to warn me people were frightened of me. She said my being 5ft 11ins and a bit meant I had to be especially…nice, was it? Fluffy, girly, cosy? It was the spoonful of sugar that would make me go down better with my peers.

Hearing that as a self-conscious teenager was a whumph in the solar plexus. At home I lived in a tall world; Mum’s family cheerfully described themselves as ‘Brobdignagian’ after the giants in Gulliver’s Travels. My grandmother was 6ft 1ins and my grandfather and uncles were all 6ft 6ins plus or minus half an inch.

I suppose it was useful to know how we were viewed from the outside. I didn’t want to be scary. So I learned to spot when my height was a problem and to dial up the twinkle to compensate – then didn’t think about it any more. Until my daughter began worrying that she was scary too. Whumph all over again! I was instantly frantic, furious, fierce.

She and her friends are eight and nine. Hormones are beginning to trickle through their systems so friendships are more operatic than ever. I suggested she spend time away from her group and make new friends; it’s a big school. This well-meaning mummy advice was more than usually unhelpful. ‘Kids who don’t know me so well think I’m a bully,’ my daughter said.

Whaaaat?!

D is growing like grass after rain, She’s one of the tallest kids in her year (as I always was) despite being almost the youngest. At nearly 145cm – 4ft 9ins – she’s taller than a chimpanzee and in the 99th centile on official growth charts. Her peers are still slight and fragile but our lovely funny girl is a prize-winning calf; bright-eyed, wet-nosed and beautifully made, running around long after others run out of puff.

 

 

She and we are so lucky. But there’s not much I can do to make those scaredy kids see that. So I want to get fierce with cultural programming and with thoughtless grown-ups.

We went to the newsagent after D’s bombshell. They’ve known her since before she was born. The chit-chat is always the same; how much ‘bigger’ she is than their nephew. On and on they went, despite me trying to deflect, redirect, stifle, get them to bloody well SHUT UP.

It’s not just them. Height is the last bastion of okay-to-make personal comments. Our eyes and lizard brain automatically register anything different from ourselves. Most of the time social conditioning and a better awareness of diversity means we don’t put the noticing into words. Yet it’s still fine to say: ‘Gosh, you’re tall.’

 

 

The system promotes it too. New parents are potty-trained to track their baby’s dimensions, to compare and contrast. I still have D’s red book, with little crosses curving across the growth chart above the top centile. And we expect aunts and grannies to pat our children on the head and coo, ‘my, how you’ve grown!’ They look at my husband (6ft 4ins) and me and say, ‘I can see where you get it from.’

Children may not mind at first, or even notice. But ‘tweens’ certainly do as they become more aware of their bodies. D’s teacher says she has been watching it happen. And average height is increasing by 1cm a decade so your children are likely to end up 3cm (one inch) taller than you. So, before you make another careless ‘tall’ comment – press pause, please. And don’t pat kids on the head.

At home we’re going for kick-ass positive reinforcement. My email address as a freelance journalist used to be @talltale.co.uk – until I was hacked and started spamming people I vaguely knew. I really do LOVE being tall. Love love love it! D looked surprised the first time I said it (I was being deliberately nonchalant).

‘Do you honestly, Mummy?’

I didn’t sugar-coat it. There are times when being tall is crap – shopping for clothes, for instance. I have a waist where a waist should be, boobs too and hips, all the bits that constitute a female human. It’s just they’re further apart than high street fashions allow for. Swimsuits, wetsuits, jumpsuits all slice me in half; most dresses are unintentionally empire-line; shoulder pads turn into earmuffs when I lift my arms. And 99% of all trousers look as though they’ve shrunk in the wash.

Tall people swap shopping tips and learn to make accommodations. God bless maxi dresses, I say. And I’ve just bought my first ever pair of cropped trousers. Not peg-legged, which make summer-plump ankles look like a squeeze of toothpaste, but wide and flappy. Still, revealing my ankles on purpose was torture at the start.

Leg room is always a problem: flying economy, cheap seats at the theatre, most medium-sized cars. We need crash helmets not to get concussion in historic houses. And boys are especially tricky, particularly at agonising early teenage parties. The girls are riding the puberty rollercoaster before the boys have even bought a ticket. At an epically ghastly birthday party, where I knew no one, my cousin kindly bullied a friend of his into asking me to dance. The look of horror on the boy’s face as I stood up and up and up…

But there are lots of upsides too. You can see how long a queue is without losing your place; reach the top shelf in supermarkets (so why was I turned down TWICE to be a shelf-stacker at M&S?); find a friend in a crowd; get a clear shot over the top of upstretched mobile phones. When you’re feeling grungey, you can put on a pair of heels, throw your shoulders back and strut through your troubles so that no one knows.

I have NEVER tried to downplay my height as Princess Diana used to do in flatties next to Prince Charles. It doesn’t work; in fact it has the opposite effect. Tall people can’t be inconspicuous. Instead, we have to embrace conspicuousness and own it.

 

 

D loves my high heels too, has done since she could stand up for long enough to put her feet into them and totter across my bedroom floor to admire herself in the looking glass. My job is to give her the confidence to wear her own 4in stacks, if that’s what she chooses.

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Harriot is a journalist and social media bod and you can find her being fierce and fabulous in the following places:

Instagram: @Upfrontsocial

Blog: medium.com/@hlanefox

 

When I found my Fierce…

Sadie From Letters to Robin 

Even before Sadie offered to write her story here for us, I knew I wanted her to be involved. Losing a baby through a termination for medical reasons (TFMR) is still a bit of a taboo subject. I came across Sadie and @letterstorobbin after sharing my own story and her honesty in sharing her own story is not only fierce but totally amazing.  Here it is. 

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To look at me, “Fierce’ may not be the first word that comes to mind. I’m 5ft tall with mousy blonde hair and a bit of wonky smile.  The definition of fierce is ‘strong and powerful’, I look like the opposite of both of those adjectives but we all know perceptions can be deceiving .

I know the day I found my Fierce . It was the day I gave birth to our son Robin. The day I had been living in fear of.

At our 12 week scan our baby had been diagnosed with Anencephaly a neural tube defect where the skull and brain don’t form as they should. Sadly babies with this condition cannot live outside the womb. Some babies make it to term and some live for a few minutes or hours. Me and my husband were utterly broken by the news. I felt like it wasn’t happening to us. That I was watching the storyline from the wings.

Everything seemed to move so quickly. We were met by a wonderful midwife. She understood that our baby was very much loved and wanted. After a long and painful week of going through our options and deciding what would be the best for us. We decided to bring the pregnancy to an end. This is a decision I still struggle with five months on but I know that in my heart of hearts it was the right thing for us to do. We decided to go for the medical management route. I needed to meet our baby and spend time with them. I asked my Mum to buy pyjamas and supplies for my hospital bag because I had no idea what I would need and I didn’t think my heart could handle the reality of what was about to happen .

On the 26th November 2017 I was induced. I wish I had been prepared for the Labour. The midwives described it as “just bad period pain” I’ve since learnt that Labour pains are just as intense if you are 40 weeks or 4 weeks pregnant. I wanted to go through the experience medication free. I wanted to feel everything as it was the only decision I had control over,  but after a couple of hours in labour and the emotional pain of knowing this wasn’t the birth story I had imagined, I took the pain medication. We watched our wedding video during the Labour. It felt the right thing to do. I needed this to be a happy memory. Not one that I would block out of my mind. Whatever the outcome this was our baby. Our baby was not going to be defined by a fetal anomaly. They would be brought into this world with love. Surrounded by love.

After 4 hours of labour I delivered Robin. He was so tiny at just 13 weeks and 3 days gestation but he was just perfect. He was placed into a tiny moses basket. The hospital didn’t have small enough clothes to fit him. He looked just like his Daddy. We had no boy names picked out as I was convinced I was carrying a girl. We decided on Robin because of a trip to the lakes we took early on in the pregnancy. While we were there a little Robin came up so close to us and stayed with us for a while. It was such a special moment. One that has always stayed clear in my mind .

During the Labour I had this overwhelming sense of calm. Yes the pain was intense and the heartbreak unbearable but I don’t think I cried until we had to say goodbye to Robin at the hospital. There is an unspeakable sadness about leaving those labour ward doors without a baby in your arms. My arms physically ached for Robin. The people with balloons entering the Labour ward as we were leaving, a cold reminder of what I had lost. I wasn’t pregnant anymore, my baby was laying in a cold cot in the bereavement suite. Never to come home with me and his Daddy. I am so grateful for the calm I felt before that moment. It’s not a feeling I’ve ever felt before and I don’t think I’ll feel it again. Perhaps it was just denial, my mind protecting me from the trauma I was facing. Maybe that was the beginning of my Fierce. I had survived the hardest day of my life. Amongst the rubble I was still here. Still breathing.

My love for our son is fierce ‘strong and powerful’ I would have moved mountains for our boy. From the minute the pregnancy test presented itself as positive I was a mother. A fierce mother whose child filled my every thought. If love could have saved Robin he would have lived forever. I’ll never know why Robin had Anencephaly. There are lots of theories about neural tube defects but I’ll never know when it happened, the exact moment or why. This is something I’ll always battle with. Was it something I did? Or didn’t do? Something I ate? I think it’s only natural for any Mother to blame themselves in these situations. But I keep telling myself that I am a good Mother and I did everything to protect and love my baby.

I’ve started telling our story over on Instagram @letterstorobin. Being honest about my grief has led me to speak to some amazing women who have gone through similar journeys. It’s helped me to heal. Me and my husband Liam have stared planning some exciting fundraising ideas to help the charity Arc. The charity support families who have been diagnosed with a fetal anomaly during pregnancy. They support that we received from them with Robin has been incredible. Non of this could of been done without finding my fierce.

We are all fierce Mothers. Whether we are parenting a child in our arms or a child in our hearts.

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Sadie lives with her husband Liam and our cat Nelly in Yorkshire and works in a school as an Early Years Practitioner.  She writes about her grief for their son Robin who was diagnosed with anencephaly. Follow her on Instagram  @letterstorobin. 

If you are going through something similar ARC Antenatal Results and Choices offer support to families faced with an antenatal diagnosis. You can find them here.

When I Found My Fierce …

Gary from Daddy Dilemmas 

 

I stumbled upon Gary on Instagram (You can follow him here @daddy_Dilemmas) and instantly knew he was a gem.  His honesty around his own experiences of depression has had me in tears and his determination to help others is awe inspiring. He’s a modern day super hero in our eyes and definitely a fierce father. We feel honoured that he agreed to share his story of finding his fierce here. 

 

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The amazing Rachel @owlandtheteapot asked me to do a blog about “When I found my fierce” When I started to think about this I thought why me ? I am far from fierce but that thought quickly disappeared when I looked up the meaning -furiously eager or intense. This has described my year and recovery to a tee. For those of you that don’t follow me or know my story here it is.

I am a father of two incredible girls Lily (4) & Ivy (2) and very lucky to be married to my beautiful wife Suzy. I am a mental health advocate and have suffered from depression for several years. It was truly kicking my ass and it took me down a really dark path. That path nearly took my life. I couldn’t deal with my own thoughts and it led to me trying to commit suicide.

Luckily this attempt was not successful and it opened my eyes and truly began my road to recovery. Depression takes so much from a person from their happiness to their own personality. The hardest part for me was that I am a father. My girls are my world and I would cry each day thinking of the burden I was placing on them. Thinking that my sadness would be noticed and would effect them. So much so that my warped sense of protection led me to think they would be safer and happier if I wasn’t here. Depression and mental health in general brings the sufferer and intense amount of guilt. Guilt in how you are feeling and guilt in how you believe you are making other people feel. This is not the case; you should never be guilty of your feelings.

Realising this was my first step to finding my fierce. So how did I get to here. The answer to this question is short but has so much to it. Instagram, Yip Instagram has been the best medication I have taken for this black dog we call depression. Suzy pushed me into Instagram as a way for my to let out everything that has been building inside of me. As a way for me to tell my story and find a new beginning.

This was the hardest thing I have ever done. Putting myself out there for people to judge and scrutinise but guess what they didn’t. The toughest thing about depression is that its a vicious cycle of addiction. It begins to feel uncomfortable not feeling depressed. This then makes you feel guilty for being happy which intern makes your depression worse. What Rachel is doing with this series is incredible. I think we focus too much on the struggle and not what we get out of it.

So when did I find my fierce ? I found my fierce the day I tried to commit suicide. Now in no way am I saying I am glad it happened or that its a good thing but if you have read my blog on “The luckiest day of my life” you will know that when I woke up after the attempt I felt free. All I could think about was my girls and how I am going to fight even more than I thought I had been to see them grow, To be there dad again. My depression had in-prisoned me as a father and made me hid everything to try and protect them. I know now that this was doing the complete opposite. So each and everyday since that day I have told myself “Its time to be a there father again and win this fight” and thanks to Rachel I am now focused on being there fierce father and currently kicking depressions ass.

Signing Off

Daddy Dilemmas

 

When I Found My Fierce…

Jess from The Legacy Of Leo 

 

This lady doesn’t really need any introduction from me but suffice to say I found her through her instagram account (Follow her here @thelegacyofleo) and I think she is the epitome of fierce. I’m so honoured that she said yes to writing this piece to kick off our series and am delighted to be able to support all that she is doing by donating funds from the sale of our ladies Fierce sweats and tees to her fundraising for Tommy’s Baby Charity, in the name of her son Leo.

 

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I found my fierce the moment that I realised I could either become utterly consumed by anger (rather tempting and very justified) or I could utilise that anger and turn it into an energy. 
It is that energy that I have lived, and at times, thrived off since my son died in 2016. His stillbirth was a turning point in my life – it drew a permanent, thick line in my history, marking a before and an after. I changed. There was no avoiding that. I changed, in some ways for the better, and in others, for the worse. The good is the impact that Leo’s life had on me, and the bad is the impact of his death. I see the two as very different, very separate things – with independent effects on my life, and the person that I am now. 

 

 

Since Leo died, I would describe myself as being somewhat consumed with a restless energy to create a legacy that he would be proud of. Had he lived, I would have had the same restless energy in making sure he had an upbringing full of love, pride and comfort. I would have worked hard to teach him the things that are important to me – to have respect, to show compassion, to have a conviction in your beliefs, to strive for what you are passionate about, and to love deeply. His death doesn’t change those things, so I continue to create a legacy that echoes that – a legacy that respects others, that shows compassion, that has conviction, that is bred from passion, and importantly, reflects love. 

 

Many people say to us ‘its so wonderful that you have turned a negative into a positive’, or ‘when life gives your lemons…’ – but these overused sayings just don’t really sum up my fierce. They just aren’t quite right. There is no turning death into a positive. There is no making lemonade from the lemons that death gives you. There is, however, an anger, a bitterness, and a resentment. I will always hold those feelings, even if just slight – and it is these emotions that drive me to do what we do. I am not making anything a positive. Leo’s death will never be positive. I would never trade his life for what his legacy has created. I never wanted him to have a legacy – not yet anyway. But I understand that this is our reality, and therefore, I must continue to parent Leo in the same way that I would have should he have lived. I must still create the impact on the world that I would have hoped he, as a young man, a grown adult, a father, a husband or a grandparent would have created. That impact is what I am creating. Or at least trying to. And that is what creates my fierce. 

 

 

 Will we ever stop? Simply, no. Do you ever stop parenting? Even when your baby is no longer here? No. Not for us anyway. Parenting from afar is often visceral, and overwhelming. It can be wrought with guilt, fear, anxiety and grief. You never know if you are doing it right, or doing enough, or perhaps too much, or the wrong kind of things. But as long as I miss, long for, grieve, wish that it could have all been different, I know I will feel that I owe him this. And I owe the cause of ‘baby loss’ this. This is so much bigger than Leo, I understand that. And so, we have to do our bit. It will never feel enough though, it will never balance out, so we will just continue. 

 

What does it all look like? For me, its a range of things. It’s doing anything in Leo’s name. For example,  fundraising, or working with charities. In Leo’s name, over £27,000 has been raised for various baby loss charities, and most recently that focus has been on Tommys, the Baby Charity, as a way of ‘paying back’ the support that they provided us during my subsequent pregnancy with Leo’s little brother. We have just finished an auction, raising approximately £3,000 bringing our Tommy’s total to £10,000. 

 

In order to live up to the desire to create a legacy of compassion, at the start of the year, we started #BabyLossHour on Twitter, in order to give people affected by or invested in baby loss an opportunity to come together and discuss a range of topics, with the support of experts or charities. With that, I also created the #LGBTBabyLoss blog series as a way of shining a light on the complexities involved when LGBT families are  affected by miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss. 

 

 

I look forward to utilising my inner-fierce, and helping others find theirs, through our latest project – Ignite Your Lion Heart. We have only recently set up this challenge as a way of tackling the unsettled feeling we have when people call us ‘brave’ at facing something that we had no choice about. I am asking others, and myself, to tackle the thing that you don’t feel brave enough doing, and to feel empowered by the choice you have to go and face the fear. I will be swimming the Serpentine lake in London, and taking on Go Ape – a huge challenge for me. But others will be doing the things that they’ve always avoided, in order to ‘ignite their lion heart’, join in on the challenge, and help raise more funds for Tommy’s. 

 

My relentless energy – or my fierce – will never dwindle. It will just change what it looks like, who it works with, and what it can create.

Whatever we do, Leo will always be at the centre of it.

 

He is what makes us fierce.

 

 

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Jess lives in Berkshire with her wife Natalie, and her 10 month old son, Eli River. His older brother, Leo Phoenix, was stillborn in 2016 and since then they have blogged about their experiences in life after stillbirth through ‘The Legacy of Leo’. With this, they have volunteered and fundraised for charity and raised awareness for the impact that stillbirth has. 
You can find Jess’s own blog here 
and also find her on 
and Facebook 
 

When I Found My Fierce…

When I Found My Fierce…

I don’t know when it was that I found my fierce but it’s a question I ask myself often. Are we all born with it or does it appear from some other place when we need it most. Courage is often found in the strangest of places, isn’t it and often spotted from afar rather than identified from within. I suspect though, that it’s hidden in the depths of all of us, dormant, just waiting for a moment or opportunity to reveal it’s power.

Growing up I was certainly a force to be reckoned with. I grew from a toddler who knew her mind to a teenager who spoke it. Perhaps my fierce is my mum’s fault. She’s certainly a determined woman with her own brand of fierce. Not in the all singing, all dancing, jazz hands kind of way but in that stoic, unassuming, quiet, immovable kind of way. She’s a woman who, against the grain, went to university at the other end of the country to educate herself in the way she wanted. She’s a woman that knows loss, having lost her dad and her sister far too soon. A woman who knows a battle, having fought and won her own fight with cancer too. She also had two children and yet still dedicated much of her life to educating the children of others. She’s pretty amazing. I only realised just how amazing she was when I tried to emulate her and found it impossible. Perhaps by modelling fierce, she handed some to me.

I’ve always been accident prone. Clumsy some say. From going over the handlebars of my bluebird bike and skinning one side of my face as a youngster to finding myself alone and flying over the handlebars of a scooter in Mykonos 15 years later, I’ve often ended up in emergency departments being sewn back together. Perhaps consistently crashing, dusting myself off and carrying the scars onto the next adventure helped build my inner fierce. Perhaps being knocked down and rising again has steadily become part of who I am.

There’s been many moments in my life that have required grit and determination but did they create the fierce or was it there all along? There are many times where fierce also seems to have forgotten me. Where was it hiding then and why could I not summon it from it’s depths? Who is there to help when our confidence falters? How can we feel less alone?

Perhaps, moving on from a heart-breaking loss, helped me to find my fierce. Through our experience of losing an unborn baby due to an antenatal diagnosis and subsequent ‘termination for medical reasons’, I met a community of fearless women, who, despite their own grief and loss manage to reach out and support the women around them. Here I think I found my fierce by osmosis. It is definitely contagious.  Without those women, I could not have gone in search of my rainbow baby. Although the relentless vomiting of two hyperemesis gravidarium pregnancies does not a fierce feeling give, determination to see it through to the birth of a child deserves more credit than it gets!

And so does becoming a mum. All mothers should be celebrated. The yummy ones, the scummy ones. The cool ones and the old school ones. The mumsy ones and the clumsy ones. It’s a bloody hard job.  I couldn’t do it without the support of all of my fabulous fierce female friends. Most but not all are mothers themselves. They are my team. But that got me thinking. What would I do without my tribe, my family, my support network?

I’m lucky. I’m privileged. I get it. I’m in a position where my life has allowed me many opportunities that others simply do not have access to. There are many people who would love to be able to access their fierce but it isn’t as simple as reading an inspirational quote in fancy lettering, or taking a hash tagged selfie. So, the fierce sweatshirts and tees were born. My aim? To help support other people, less fortunate than myself to find their fierce. To help be their support network, their tribe, their family. By donating a small amount to charity from the sale of each of these sweatshirts, I hope to help other women unleash their hidden power. I’m pretty sure its waiting inside of all of us.

And so this blog marks the beginning of the #WhenIFoundMyFierce Blog Series. What will follow will be a collection of very special and inspirational people who have found their fierce in very different ways. Fierce can be big and it can be small; there’s room for everyone.

#TeamFierce, I salute you all!

 

What to get involved?

You can help support our charities by shopping our sweats and tees here.

If you’d like to write a piece for the blog series and tell us your story, please do get in touch here.

If you’d like to be one of our charities of the month and benefit from our fundraising, please get in touch and tell us all about you and your charity.