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A letter to... Me as a new mum, five years on

When Dawn Hart’s twins were born at 26 weeks, she was thrust prematurely into her role as mother and, ultimately, carer. Dawn looks back at a photo of her and daughter Grace taken in June 2010, and writes a letter to herself as a new mum.

Dawn Hart June 2010Dear Me,

I look at that positive smile and I know you are putting on your ‘brave face’. Behind that mask you are really scared of what is going on. I can’t tell you not to be scared because it is this fear that will both drive you mad and motivate you to get up in the morning.

I can’t tell you that it will all be over soon because it takes 14 months to get your beautiful daughter home. I can’t tell you that this picture will be one of many of you holding Grace as she gets well because it won’t be. She becomes so sick that you only get to hold her 10 times in three months.

I can’t tell you that there will be lots of support and help from friends and family, because there won’t be.

What I can tell you is that you will experience a pain in your heart like there is a knife in there. It will take you two years to realise the knife is your grief and anger knotted together, and it will be another year before your Buddhist faith helps you to gather yourself together and learn the art of letting go.

My advice? Be present with the day to day, and a new stronger you will emerge that sees the world with a different eye.

You will learn to be a nurse, a paramedic, a doctor, a teacher, a physio, a therapist, social worker and lawyer, and ultimately a carer. As for being a MUM, that role has to take second place, and you will shed many tears over this.

This role that you’re about to embark on is a job for life with appalling pay, loads of unpaid overtime, and no holiday. You’ll be reduced to a quivering wreck before you get an ounce of support from the system.

On the bright side, you learn to choose your friends more wisely. You learn that there are so many amazing parents just like you who feel that same guilt, grief and exhaustion. And while your caring roles bring different challenges, you understand each other in a way that nobody else can.

You learn to get up off the floor and stand up for your rights and those of your children. Not a naturally positive and confident person, you learn that life is too short and it is important to seize the moment whenever a beautiful one arises.

You learn that disability does not mean inability, it just means learning how to do something a different way. It won’t be easy and there will be times when you fall in to a heap of tears, but there will be amazing little miracles every day. Your children will show you the world in a way that you could never have imagined.

And remember that doctor on day two who said your son might not walk and talk and might be deaf or blind? Well, the doctor got it wrong. By age five Ethan can’t stop talking. Yes his brain is a little different, there are challenges, I can’t hide that from you. But five years from now, you will have made it over the first hurdle, you are now accepting that your life is that of a carer: a little of the old you is still there, but you will learn to like the new you a whole lot better.

Love, and great strength, from me to me. And prayers, lots of prayers.

– Dawn

  • A former features editor with the British Journal of Photography, Dawn Hart is a writer, Buddhist Chaplain and carer. She blogs about her experiences of life as a carer at
  • To read Dawn's story in full, click here.
  • This article first appeared in Caring magazine issue 39. Packed full of news, information and features on all things caring, the magazine is out four times a year for Carers UK members. To get your copy, join us.

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