Project Update #5, 28.01.20

Since my response to SSNAP, I have been back and forth via email with Caz. This has resulted in sending her the consent form with the view of her and anyone else from her team to sign. When I asked her for an update as to what she thought would be written by her and/or SSNAP, she responded with the below:

START

  • Kerri Knibbs, SSNAP Chair is very happy to contribute to the book, her focus could be about what the Charity does.
  • Nicky Boughton, SSNAP Director & Clinical Psychologist (working as a Volunteer in NCU) would like to write a piece about the link between SSNAP and psychology.
  • Amit Gupta , Unit Medical Director is very supportive and can also write a piece or help us edit.
  • Christine & I will  be delighted to cover our roles in the family care team and how we support families.

END

I am delighted with the interest from all the members of staff and think all the features above could be a great insight into SSNAP’s world, but also educational too. What I thought could be a small feature at the back of the book could now be more of a significant one. This is with Dominic, one of the consultants, replying to my email to him as well – he too is interested in writing a feature. However, he would rather wait to see how the book shapes up first before deciding what to write and how to write it.

In speaking with Dominic, he recommended someone to check out: Annie Janvier. I have since ordered her book, Breathe, Baby, Breathe! – I am waiting on its arrival. In the meantime, I have found the links below – written by Janvier:

Finally, as an update on the features from family members and Gemma, I have received a draft from both my parents, and Gemma is still writings hers – which has reached two thousand words. It is great to see people like my father and Gemma writing, because they have never written like this before. And for the latter to reach two thousand words voluntarily is great. Comparing what she has written so far to that of my father’s or mother’s (both shy of one thousand words), a noticeable difference is the depth of emotion and/or thought. In Gemma’s, she goes deeper into how she has felt and still feels. This could simply be down to word count – however, it could also be down to parents not wanting to reveal too much to their child.

In trying to find explanation through research, Jeffrey Bernstein’s articles below did not allude to this specifically, but highlight the dilemmas parents face as they try to juggle what is right for their adult children and how best not to feel guilt or to hinder their conscience. Perhaps this is why? Perhaps my parents do not want to go deeper as to not show me, their adult child, a side to them that they feel would not be beneficiary? Do they think that, if I read the extent of their hurt, it will add to my own struggle?

Other articles found, but do not directly relate to the questions above, are:

The latter one, wherein Brigit Katz talks about parents passing anxiety onto their children, touches on the reasoning here: ‘Witnessing a parent in a state of anxiety can be more than just momentarily unsettling for children. Kids look to their parents for information about how to interpret ambiguous situations; if a parent seems consistently anxious and fearful, the child will determine that a variety of scenarios are unsafe. And there is evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves.’ Though I am an adult, and not a child, could the same theory apply? If I read two features wherein my parents show the extent of their own pain and fear, then would I be likely to succumb to the same emotions knowingly and/or unknowingly? Even if this is not the case, are my parents still in a position where they think I will do as ‘kids’ do?

Project Update #4, 09.01.20

As I said I would, I have sought contact with SSNAP in hope to get the ball rolling with the project. I wanted to 1) confirm that they were still interested in writing features for 9 months, my arse, and 2) whether or not they wanted to write one feature on behalf of SSNAP, or write multiple features, giving them the opportunity to write from their own POV too.

Meanwhile, my father has started writing his feature before signing the consent form – he started writing yesterday (08.01.19), seeing it fitting: the 8th was to be Elijah-James’ due date. Texting me, he said that he: ‘Found writing helped’ and ‘Nearly finished, just seemed to flow once I started.’ I am yet to read or know what he has written – but his feedback is enough to know that the feature is finding purpose, providing a platform for those invited to partake in the project to get their thoughts onto paper… something I have found helpful through the grieving process myself.

This helpfulness and sense of healing is only expected, given that Fiona Sampson’s chapter, Writing as ‘Therapy’ in The Handbook of Creative Writing, tells us how “creative writing in British health and social care has developed as a publicly-funded practice” – proven to work in healing members of society. Writing helps put thoughts onto paper and give the writer – the patient – clarity and a chance to analyse and become aware of their feelings.

Project Update #3, 07.01.20

Gemma and I went to Oxford for a medical update on Thursday 12th December 2019. Rather than call SSNAP, we agreed to see them when we went up. After our meeting with a doctor, we went to SSNAP and met with Caz (who I had been emailing) and Christine – the two members of SSNAP who dealt with us while we were at the hospital as patients in September 2019.

We talked over the project in more detail, discussing the longer-term plan for 9 months, my arse – to which, they were extremely excited about and amazed that we wanted to do something like it. Regarding features, they were open to ideas: whether it be one feature from SSNAP as a charity, or multiple features from individual members of the charity – or a combination of both. I said that I would get back to them in the new year and try and finalise something with them.

We also got the chance to have a quick conversation with one of the consultants who looked after us during our time as patients in September 2019: Dominic. Having talked about it first with Caz and Christine, we asked Dominic if he would be interested in writing a feature for the book too. Excitingly, he said he would be happy to do so. Again, this was left with the agreement for me to make contact again in the new year. However, due to Dominic’s schedule and the shorter notice and less detail in which I gave him regarding the project, it may be too much to ask to have him write it in time for the Writing in the Community assignment deadline.

Within the next few days, I will write back to SSNAP about the project and finalise the premise for the features with them.

Project Update #2, 11.12.19

On Monday 9th December, around 5.00pm, I made my first approach to SSNAP regarding the project discussed in the first blog post – for 9 months, my arse.

Tuesday morning, I received a reply, expressing that they were excited about the projects I have planned – one of which being the assignment project, the features for the book: 9 months, my arse, and the other being a song I plan to release late next year, To You, Our Son.

Initially, they asked for a phone call. But, as Gemma and I are returning to Oxford tomorrow (12.12.19) for an appointment at the hospital, I have suggested to speak to them in person there.

Project Update #1, 05.12.19

It has been a couple of months now since the unit has started. Before the summer, I had planned to use the Writing in the Community unit to practice my copywriting. However, a lot changed for me personally in one summer: Gemma (my partner) got pregnant and our son came early at 23 weeks and 4 days. We had 8 days with him, before he passed away. Since then, I have found a sense of purpose in my writing: I want to raise awareness about 1) what can happen during pregnancy, 2) the male’s POV during pregnancy, and 3) the grief around the loss of a baby. This resulted in an idea for a book: 9 months, my arse – something I started writing a couple of weeks after returning from the hospital in Oxford, back in late September. All the while, I kept in touch with my course leader at university, not wanting to fall behind in my third year. Around this time, the idea for my Writing in the Community project completely changed.

9 months, my arse had initially been an idea to capture mine and Gemma’s story, plus the aftermath/grief. However, when I decided that I wanted to emphasise the male’s POV too, it dawned on me that I could open-up to having the likes of my father, plus Gemma’s father, to write features for the book too. Thus, running the idea and getting it approved by my course leader, my project changed to invite my father, Gemma’s father, Gemma herself, and my brother to write features for the book. I would also approach The John Radcliffe Hospital’s charity, SSNAP, to see if they could write a feature too.

Since the idea game to fruition and got okayed, my course leader had met with the ethics committee at the university to see if the project was ethically OK. We proceeded to agree that the word count for the features would max at 2K words, with no real minimum – aware that the four people being invited to write have never written creatively before, and that the subject would be extremely personal. Personally, it will be difficult for me too. Where the creative process will include me editing their features, I will be reading family members’ words about an emotional subject. Knowing the power of writing, there is a high chance that through the features, my family members may mention feelings and thoughts that they have not mentioned to Gemma and myself previously.

Importantly, however, I am hoping that the sense of purpose and the therapeutic qualities that writing offers will help myself and those involved complete the features despite the sensitivity of the subject.

Next up, I have to email and/or make contact with SSNAP to see if they are happy, and that it is possible, for them to write a feature for the book; to get the project officially approved (with the decided word count) by the university’s ethics committee; and to formally ask the four family members to write the features. Meanwhile, I have been writing the story for 9 months, my arse – this will help me discover the voice for the book, thus making the editing of the feature’s clearer too.