Ask me his name – a book review

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My to read pile has, of late, looked a little bit too much like Stacey’s Mum’s reading pile in Gavin and Stacey. After battling through a biography of Mary Greenhow Lee (I wanted a sweeping life story and instead got a collection of academic essays each having the same thesis) I had lost my mojo for reading. Rather embarrassingly it was the latest Dan Brown that really got me reading again. I recently read a parody review of Dan Brown and after reading that the actual book Origin was hi-lar-i-ous.

My mojo firmly back I set about ordering books: “Ask Me His Name”, “Life After Baby Loss”, “This Is Going to Hurt” and “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” – cheery selection right? I’ve tried to link all the books and I’ve linked them to a website called Hive. The website is on the easyfundraising website and when you order through Hive your order comes from an independent seller and a percentage of your spend goes to another independent retailer of your choice in addition to the donation generated when you click through from easyfundraising – honestly Brownie points all round!

So right onto “Ask Me His Name”. I’ve followed Elle ever since she was featured on Rock My Style and Rock My Family (the same blog that hosted my original posts about Alexandra and Ophelia). From reading her posts the Rock My blogs, her own blog and her Instagram posts I was struck by how honestly she wrote; how she seemed to launch her words right into me – she was writing was I was struggling to say sometimes. I sent her a message through her website after that Rock My Family post and she graciously responded. She didn’t have to especially when I’d done the internet equivalent of basically being very much a fangirl: pllleeeeessseee beeee my ffrriiiieeeennnd.

The book arrived a couple of days before the publication date – who knows why? Despite initial nerves (I really wanted to “enjoy” it and for it to be “good”). We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but it’s so prretttyyy. I love a good little hardback. A nice size print and stars everywhere yay! Stars are how I sign Alexandra’s name on the rare occasion I actually write a card. Elle does this too. See we’re meant to be bezzies obviously (calm down McLennan).

If I didn’t have an actual “normal” life; you know having to get up for work; entertain child, husband and dog I would’ve read it one sitting. It’s that good; hooked in straight away. I think this would be the case if you weren’t a loss parent too.

I cried. I laughed. I swore. I got angry. I shouted “yes! Absolutely bloody right love!” so many times. So many aspects were the same to our story. Our babies being resuscitated for 18 minutes; those words of “you’ve got a very sick/poorly little boy/girl”.  The anxiety at the thought of leaving the safety of home; the shine being taken off the naivety of pregnancy. The fear of seeing other’s pregnant – would their babies come home? Those bloody “grief thieves” – yes disappointingly they exist. I know I wanted to scream in their faces “it’s my baby that’s died; no it doesn’t compare to your loss and yes I will keep bloody well talking about her – I don’t care that it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

I really liked the sections written by Teddy’s Grandma, Daddy and Elle’s friend. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to remember a lost child. I also found the interviews with the alternative practises useful. What I found especially useful were the signposts to charities and tools. My friend Emma was reading the book at the same time and we swapped a few WhatsApp messages about how we were just devouring the book. Elle is absolutely spot on in that the “Loss Community” can’t be an echo chamber we have to reach out to everyone around us.

Her struggle to find her own way I found mirrored my own experience. I wanted to grieve but also find some positives and find practical ways to remember our Alexandra. I’m in awe of how much Elle has been able to raise for the NICU that cared for Teddy and For Tommy’s. In the end Elle is right – you don’t move on; you move forward.

So from one Mum to another: Elle; thank you and I will continue to be a cheerleader in your corner in the Instagram masses for your work.

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