Monday, June 28, 2010

Eulogy For Sybella Eve

Sybella was born on the 24th of April, after a very long and anxious eight months. She was greatly longed for by our entire family. Everyone here knows that conceiving Sybella was difficult, and when we finally learned we were expecting her, Kelvin and I were ecstatic. Jack was excited about his new sister that was “spending time growing bigger so that she could come and play with him.” Our family was complete.
The pregnancy was difficult. I was very sick for 5 months. I was enormous. Sybella had some mild kidney problems that we were assured were of small consequence, but we worried for her all the same. Despite all these difficulties, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I would go through those 34 weeks again and again for my little girl. I hope that while she was living and growing in me that she felt safe and warm and loved. I am sure she heard Jack speak to her, and her daddy too. She never kicked very hard, and I tell myself it was she was such a gentle soul, relaxed and calm. I hope she knows I looked after her as best as I could while I was growing her. Well, I tried to. I just wanted her to be happy and healthy and loved and cherished.


Sybella’s birth was the most beautiful event of my life. Despite knowing she would be stillborn, I felt I needed to honour her with a natural birth…although the thought terrified me. Labour began at 12pm. I was told that it could take days. But I knew she would be born before the sun went down. I knew that together, Sybella and I would embrace the challenge of birth and death on the same day, and in this respect, my body did not fail us. Our daughter was born asleep at 4.01pm. I held her immediately. She was perfect. Perfect and beautiful and peaceful. She should not have died. This was an incredibly bittersweet time. Being acutely aware that my daughter was not alive, the peace and serenity in the room was palpable. It was incredibly organic to be lying there with my newborn daughter. I am sure her spirit was still there and she didn’t leave until we had been given the chance to meet face to face. Until she got to have a cuddle and a talk with her mummy. Until her mummy got to give her her first and last bath. Until we had finished marveling at our beautiful creation.


Sybella will always be my second child. As of the 24th of April at 4.01pm, I have two children. Jack and Sybella. If we add to our family, another child will be our third child. Our other children will be told about Sybella. Her birthday will be celebrated every year. We will honour her at Christmas. I speak to her like she is here and Jack and I say goodnight to her every night and we tell her we love her. I open the curtains in her room because she needs fresh air and sunlight. I kiss her blanket that she was wrapped in after birth every night. I worry that she is warm and safe and protected, because that’s what mothers worry about.


Despite the pain and heartache that we feel, I feel lucky. Sybella chose to come to us. She will always be part of our family. I am privileged to be Sybella’s mother. I am honoured to have carried her, felt her move, birthed her and held her. She was born to ME. For someone who never took a breath, the number of lives that she has touched is remarkable. Sybella, at zero days old, has taught me more than I have learned in 29 years. She has shown me more about life and love, serenity and peace than I ever knew. She had a purpose, I am sure. And she will be preserved as a perfect, innocent heart forever. Sybella won’t grow up like other children will grow up. She won’t face the hardships of this world. She won’t experience disappointment or sadness nor will she ever cause us disappointment or sadness. Sybella is a special soul. Her little life will be a memory of nothing but love, innocence and purity.


Stillborn, but STILL born. We see her with the butterflies.


Simply, we love her. We always did. We always will.

Sybella's Funeral

Sybella's funeral was held on the 6th of May 2010, on a bright and crisp Autumn day.
The night before, we had stayed at Kelvin's parent's house, because driving the hour down to Sydney in peak hour morning traffic made me nervous.
I had put a lot of thought into my outfit, and I wasnt sure why it mattered to me so much. I guess it was because I wanted Sybella to be proud of me? Or it was important to respect the profoundity of the day by dressing well? I did know that it didnt feel right to wear black to my baby's funeral, and I cant explain that either. In my eyes, Sybella was a soft, pink, floaty baby, and so I wore a soft, pink, floaty dress.
I had a white basket with all the things I needed for the funeral, such as the music, the soft toys I planned to put in her casket, Jack's painting, flowers and my eulogy.
Yes, I was the one who did the eulogy. I was asked many times by many people why on Earth I felt I had to be the one to give the eulogy. How can you, they asked, get up there and speak about her? Wont you find it too hard? Do you have a back up in case you cant do it? My response was I had to do the eulogy. Who else was going to do it? Who else knew Sybella like I knew her? I was the one who nurtured her, worried for her, felt her move and birthed her. I had to do it. I was her mother. It was my job. There was no other option. No, I didnt have a back up, I would stand there as long as I had to, until I was finished speaking about my daughter and her little life. It didnt matter how hard it got for me, because this wasnt about me, it was about Sybella.
We drove to the chapel with tears in our eyes. I steadily got out of the car, feeling strong until I saw Barb standing there. I walked over, my pace becoming faster and faster, until I fell into her arms and she held me tight as I sobbed heaving sobs. "You look beautiful, you are a beautiful girl" she said softly as I soaked her shoulder with tears. I was completely struck that today was my daughter's funeral. Her FUNERAL. What on Earth was wrong with the world?
Others started arriving and someone gave me a handkerchief. Kelvin and I walked to the chapel's entrance, me whimpering and letting tears drip down my cheeks with no effort to stop them. I stared at the hearse, that I knew had driven here with a tiny white casket inside. I wondered if people had seen the baby casket in the hearse on it's way to the chapel and cried. I wonder if they said a prayer for the little baby inside. I wonder if they thought about that baby's family and realised it was the worst day of their lives.
We were spoken to gently by the funeral director and invited in to see Sybella. We walked to her and I spoke softly and stroked her cheek as I placed the bunny next to her pillow ("this bunny is here to look after you")  Jack's painting at her feet ("Jack did this painting just for you, Bell"), a copy of the poem I Carry Your Heart ("dont ever forget that you are always in my heart"). I stared at her and adjusted her blankets a bit more. I took a seat as other came in to say their goodbyes. We had only close family and friends at the funeral, I couldnt handle a circus of people and feel the pressure to stay strong in front of them. One by one, they came and spoke gently to Sybella, some placed little posies of flowers in her casket. The heartbreaking moment was Patrick, my youngest brother, who is only 19, looking so dapper and handsome in his suit, took one look at the baby and broke down in silent tears, that quickly became heaving sobs. I watched him look at her and cry, I watched him, my little brother, so completely broken by the sight of his niece in a casket. I watched him roughly wipe his face and take deep breaths and collapse into the pew behind me. I turned and patted his leg, feeling maternal and sorry that because of me, my brother was experiencing such pain.
Jack was becoming curious as to what everyone was looking at up on the alter, and so I decided to allow Jack to see the baby and say goodbye. We hadnt thought it sensible to let him see Sybella previously, we just wanted to protect him from a possibly traumatic sight...a baby that wouldnt wake up.
I took him up and allowed him to kiss her and stroke her and say goodnight. Although at this stage, I did not believe that he fully understood that Sybella had died. He thought she was sleeping, and made a great effort throughout the service to stay quiet so that he didnt wake up the baby. This, coupled with the quiet, sad ambience of the room, explained his (unusual, out of character) silence throughout the service.
When everyone had taken their seats, The White Ladies placed the lid on Sybella's casket. I felt an overwhelming urge to run up there and say "I love you" one more time, so that could be the last thing I said to her. I didnt, because I realised that I'd only be saying "I love you" to her body. I'd be able to tell her through her soul that I loved her whenever I wanted. There'd be no last "I love you's."
The funeral began with an orchestral version of a song called "Bella's Lullaby." Barb told me later that while the music was playing, she could see a vision of a little blonde girl in a tutu, dancing to the music.
The minister welcomed us with words and a prayer. I was invited to begin my eulogy and I walked to the lectern, with Kelvin and Jack behind me. They stood with me for support. I stared at the piece of paper in front of me, words swimming, blurred by the tears in my eyes. I began to speak...I think I spoke two syllables before I had to stop again. Eventually I gained the strength from somewhere, perhaps it was from Sybella herself, I regained my composure and began my tribute. My voice wavered, and I broke down a few times. I kept focused on my notes, I couldnt bring myself to look at my family members. Kelvin told me later there wasnt a dry eye in the house. I spoke slowly, and with purpose. I wanted Sybella to feel important and proud.
Taking my seat, Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton began to play. The minister read a passage from the Bible that Kelvin had chosen, John 14: 1-6: that reads:
Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'
Sam then read the poem She Walks In Beauty. He read brilliantly and with reverence. He said a little speech of his own, talking about how he was looking forward to meeting Sybella and getting to know her. About what an important member of our family she is, and will always be. He spoke of outings he wanted to take Jack and her on, about getting into mischief and having fun. He and Patrick are great uncles. You couldnt get better uncles than them. When the minister did a prayer of commital for Sybella, to send her into God's arms for Him to watch over and protect her, I again felt comfort and peace. She was safe, I knew it. God would keep her safe. The leaving music began to play, Somewhere over the Rainbow a version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, that was a soft tune led by a ukelele. It was time to leave the chapel.
Kelvin, Jack and I walked out first, and Jack had the very important job of letting go the six pink and white balloons, for Sybella to play with in Heaven, we told him. He took his job very seriously, and waited until everyone was there to watch him. He did brilliantly.
After his balloon release, Jack asked if we could go back into the chapel. I didnt know why he wanted to return, but we needed to go back and get some things anyway. This is when I saw the extent of Jack's grief at losing his sister. As I said before, I dont believe he understood that Sybella had died, and thought she was just sleeping. When everyone made movement to leave, and Sybella was still in the chapel in her casket, Jack became very upset that we were leaving Sybella behind. He became quite agitated and started to cry, but not in his normal 4 year old way. His tears came from somewhere else, somewhere deep and he became quite adamant that he had to see the baby. I have never before, or since, seen such a display of maturity from him. It was like it had just hit him, what was happening. The baby wasnt waking up, she wasnt coming home, and we had to leave her behind. He became quite devastated at this concept. He spent quite a bit of time arranging a butterfly on Sybella's casket and asking us to make sure that his painting was in her "special bed." After futile attempts to leave the chapel again, he became quite distressed at the thought of leaving her. Once outside again, he stood motionless, hands by his sides, fists clenched, looking at the ground. He attempted to speak, but couldnt get words out. It was like he had forgotten how to talk, and his eyes were panicked as he tried to speak but couldnt. Jack, for that moment, was so completely consumed and overwhelmed by grief, that even he, himself, could not function momentarily. He had been through more in his four years than most people go through in a lifetime.
At the end of the funeral, I had concede, that for a baby's funeral, it was a beautiful service. It was soft, warm and gentle, just like her life would have been.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sybella's Name In The Sand

Sybella's name in the sand has been written by the beautiful Carly Dudly of The Grief Effect.
Please take the time to view it by clicking here:

Thank you Carly.

For more information on The Grief Effect and To Write Their Names In The Sand, click the images on the sidebar.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Are You Crying? Or Is It Just the Eye Drops?

Today I had to see an opthamologist because I had been experiencing flashing lights in my peripheral vision this week. Dr Google told me that I could have a detached retina. My GP was concerned about the same thing, and so sent me to this specialist. Short story shorter, I dont have a detached retina, but have been experiencing stress related migraines, without the headache. Hmmm.
That was good news, but the morning at the opthamologist was terrible. I arrived at 9.40 am for my 9.50 appointment. The surgery was really busy, but I could cope with that. I was seen by a nurse first, who administered drops to make my pupils dilate, which became very unsettling, as my pupils became so big that you couldnt see the coloured part of the eye (iris?) As a result, I couldnt see! My vision was completely blurred, so I couldnt even read a magazine! This sort of distressed me, and I felt uncomfortable. I could see in the distance, but not up close. The entire waiting room was full of people who were 60+, except for me, the young'un. At one point, a woman about my age came in with a...get this...baby girl, about 8 weeks old. Exactly the age Sybella would be if she were here. Good grief, I thought, of ALL the people to come in, I had to be confronted with an 8 week old baby. I know it wasnt the baby's fault, and I wasnt upset with the baby or her mother, just upset for me. And upset for my eyes, which were still experiencing blurred vision...which was probably for the best, because when I started crying in the waiting room, I was able to blame it on the drops. Thank goodness for the drops.

The Rose

We have had floods of rain for the last few weeks. As a result, Sybella's Rose was flooded, and is now dying. Does anyone know a way to save it? I feel immense guilt that I am letting the symbol of her life die, and feel like I am losing her all over again. I'm not too sure what the neighbours think when they hear me crying and apologising to a rose bush.

Tidbits

My initial plan for this blog was to devote a detailed post of each element of our experience of Sybella's life and death. I wanted to pepper in between with posts that were "tidbits," such as present updates, links, peoms etc, so that the story didnt get too heavy to read all at once. Lately, the number of "tidbit" posts between the story posts are increasing, so I hope I am still holding your interest. I still have the story of Sybella's funeral to tell, but I am waiting for a chunk of quiet time to really focus on telling it adequately. As the last formal commemoration of her life, I feel it needs to be told with reverence.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tune of the Moment

On the sidebar, there is a new element entitled Tune of the Moment, where I'll post my favourite songs of the time. It's fun! One Wing by Wilco is there right now, I just cant stop listening to it right now, it's like poetry.

Crash And Burn

Today I crashed hard. There was no particular trigger. Perhaps it was because today is the 24th of June, which marks two months since Sybella's birth. Maybe it was because I spent the day at home, isolated with no distractions. Maybe starting to write this blog has stirred up my grief all over again. I dont know.
I felt despondent and muted, like everything was happening around me, not to me. I lacked motivation and the thought of folding laundry and making dinner was met with a sigh and eye roll.
Today is the worst I have felt since the initial raw grief passed. I have tried to stay strong and enthusiastic for Jack so far, but today saw me sad and blank. I didnt even try to spark up for him. He doesnt mind. He is luckily a child who doesnt require constant entertainment and is quite able to sit and just "be," a rarity amongst many children these days. I feel constantly on the verge of tears, but havent cried yet.
I went to the doctor about flashing lights in my peripheral vision today. I havent seen this particular doctor since I was 26 weeks pregnant and had gastroenteritis. She is a young, enthusiastic doctor who is empathetic and kind. She remembered me, and asked "so, are you still 42 weeks pregnant?" as it must have said on her computer screen. It sounds like a flippant remark, but it was said with kindness and a smile. For all she knew, the baby was at home with someone else. I told her the story of Sybella's stillbirth, and the entire time, this doctor held my hand and listened with compassion. Perhaps it was telling the story again out loud provoked some deep emotions.
Deb de Wilde, a miraculous social worker who is famous and experienced in the world of bereaved parents called me today to see how I was going. She runs a group for bereaved parents every month. This month I didnt attend because Jack had a high temperature and bad cough, and so she rang to see how I was travelling, given my absence. This is the kind of woman she is...she must meet hundreds of bereaved mothers a week, and yet she remembers every single one by name. And their details: she asked me how I was feeling about considering a subsequent pregnancy and asked if I was worred because of the length of time it took to conceive Sybella. I am going to discuss considering a third pregnancy later in the blog and my feelings regarding this, but my answer to Deb was yes, I was worried. The icing on the cake, after everything we have endured so far, is to experience fertility problems again. But in that respect, only time will tell. And Deb has assured me that her and my new OBGYN (who I will also discuss later) will work as hard as possible to get us pregnant within the shortest time frame possible, when the time comes for us to be emotionally ready to try again. Perhaps relaying all my fears out loud to Deb contributed to my mood, I'm not sure. Perhaps admitting the possibilty of enduring another 18 months of failed efforts to conceive sent me into a complete slump. I dont know why, because we are not even close to considering another pregnancy at the moment.
Maybe it was the weather, not sunny, not rainy, just grey and benign. Just like my mood. Who knows?
I do know, that although I miss Sybella and think about her every single day, today was a day where I really missed her and felt her absence palpably. Today I yearned for her, to touch her skin, hear her laugh and smell her milky baby smell. It doesnt matter, though, that the intensity of my grief differs from day to day. She is always my first thought in the morning, and my last thought at night.

Oracle

The meaning of Sybella's name is "oracle" or "prophetess" in Greek.
As I continue to tell her story, it will become clear just how fitting her name is.

Sweet Pea Babies

Sybella's name was also added to the Sweet Pea Babies list by the beautiful Stephanie Paige Cole, founder of the Sweet Pea Project.
You can view Sybella's name by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Carry Your Heart

The following poem encompasses my feeling about both my chidlren, and the ones still to come. It hangs, framed, in Jack's bedroom, it has a place on Sybella's shrine, and I read it at her funeral.

I Carry Your Heart (I carry it in my heart)

By E E Cummings


I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
my heart) I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows


(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart


I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)



Last Night

Last night I had another dream about Sybella. It has been the first time I have dreamed about her since the night in hospital.
Waking up was the worst part. The reason for this is that I had dreamed that she was alive. She was alive, and we could bring her home. In my dream, she was wearing clothes that I had bought...clothes that are sitting in her cupboard right now. Black and white stripy leggings, a pink singlet and t-shirt. It makes me think that wherever she is now, must be warm, because it is pretty cold here in Australia at the moment. Why else would she be in a t-shirt?
So, yes, she was alive and I was holding her, tickling her tummy and feeling utter relief that my baby was alive and well. In my dream, I remember thinking the fact that she was stillborn must have been the dream. It was so vivid, I could make out her chubby little features so well.
Except, I felt utterly aware that even though she was alive now, in my dream, it was inevitable that she was going to die soon. I couldnt let go of the feeling that her time on Earth was short.
This makes me think that it was always Sybella's destiny to become an angel. Perhaps if we had delivered her in time, she would have been a sick little girl who wouldnt have survived anyway. I feel lucky, if that's the case, that she passed away peacefully in my womb, warm and protected, and didnt have to endure tubes and surgery and pain and fear. My heart goes out to Maddie, who had to watch her Matilda endure all these procedures and I dont know where she found the strength to watch her daughter go through all of that.
Again, I feel that this was a visitation, and I feel so blessed to have been able to feel Sybella's warmth, albeit in a dream, and connect with her once again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Sweet Pea Project

One of my babylost role models, Stephanie Page Cole, is the founder of The Sweet Pea Project, that runs entirely on donations to provide blankets to hospitals. The blankets are used to wrap precious stillborn babies, and the parents are able to take them home as a memento of their baby.
Today, Stephanie's book, Still was released, which is a collection of honest artwork and musings from Stephanie herself, who lost her daughter, Madeline. You can view order information by clicking here.
I've ordered my copy!


Planning Sybella's Funeral

Planning your child's funeral is something no parent should ever have to do. That is something we all know.
Kelvin and I took the first step and went to the office of The White Ladies to discuss a date, place and presiding minister for the service. We had decided on a cremation, and to have the service in Sydney. It is a beautiful place, with peaceful gardens and magnificent but simple chapels. Debra was able to book us the East Chapel on the 6th of May, 2010. She asked us whether we would like to nominate our own celebrant to preside, and we were extremely lucky that the Reverend who married us and christened Jack was available to preside over the service. His words were "I'd be honoured." It meant a lot to us that we were able to have this man conduct Sybella's funeral, it gave us a sense of familiarity in a time of utter bewilderment.
I had a bag with Sybella's funeral outfit in it. I had been strong throughout the meeting with Debra, until I pulled out the tiny tiny gown, hat, booties and shawl that Mum had bought. Stroking the items, I broke down in gulping sobs. It just wasnt right that I was here. Debra, such a soft woman, hugged me with tears in her own eyes. "I'm a mum too" she said. "I'm a mum too, and I cant imagine what you're going through."
Debra organised for myself, my brother Sam and my mum to see Sybella one more time. We decided to take the opportunity to dress her for the funeral, and organised to do this on the day before, May 5th.
In the meantime, I kept myself busy by making a disc of songs, choosing readings and poems and writing the eulogy. We had someone come to our house to put together an order of service, which was extremely generous, seeing as we live about a one hour drive away.
I was very conscious of the fact that this was the last thing I would be able to do for my daughter. I feared the time after the funeral, because what would I be able to do for her then? I would no longer have a baby to sing to, or feed or rock or dress. This was my last task as a mother. Now I know that isnt true, because I keep finding things to do for her. I am making a scrapbook of her memories, writing this blog, and painstakingly making sure that she isnt forgotten by other people. I bought a stamp, that has a little angel on it and the name "Sybella" that I use for cards. Cards that have "Love Stephanie, Kelvin and Jack" written on them, and Sybella's little angel stamp in the bottom right hand corner. I wont allow her to be forgotten. She will always be counted. I make sure of that every single day.
We had a meeting with the minister to discuss the running of the service, and discovered that he too, had lost a daughter. His fifth child, the youngest, was born at 28 weeks. She survived a week before she died. At the time he was undergoing his clergy training, and let us know that he had many many questions for God during this time. The minister was gentle and comforting and at the end, he said a prayer with us, which was very touching. I clearly remember sitting there, as he spoke to God for us with his soft voice, and I really felt the presence of God in the room. I felt warm and "swaddled" like there was a big soft blanket around me. It really helped me continue on with the preparations.
On the 5th of May, we went to the morgue at Northern Suburbs Crematorium to dress Sybella. We were warned that because of her autopsy, she would have stitching across her head and abdomen, and because of that, the ladies had already put on her jumpsuit and hat. They had also put a nappy on her, which I appreciated. She was lying there on the gurney. Some of her skin had begun to peel by now, but it wasnt too bad. We had some time looking at her and touching her. I think it had hit Sam hard to see the baby, but I think he is glad he did. The overall sadness was palpable and everyone was thinking the same thing: "this is so wrong." Mum put on her booties, and I put her arms through the sleeves of the dress and was helped when it was time to button up the back...someone lifted her up as I did up the little buttons, and Sam patted my back. Later on he told me that he nearly lost it at that moment, watching me do up the buttons on the dress of my dead baby. He told me that no one should ever have to do that. I havent swaddled a baby since Jack was small, but I hadnt forgotten how. I chatted as I folded the shawl into a triangle, laid Sybella in the middle and wrapped her up. It came back so naturally and I was struck by how I was supposed to be doing this to her, alive, in a few weeks time, not now. We were able to all have a hold of her, and as I nursed her, I found myself patting her and swaying side to side, as if she needed settling. Others told me later how sad they found this, that I automatically went into mother mode, settling a baby that was already settled. I had some time alone and I whispered soft things, mother's words. Sam asked for some time alone also, and he told me later how he had spoken about how he had been looking forward to getting to know her, taking her to the zoo with Jack and teasing me, to make her laugh.
I was offered the opportunity to place her into her casket myself (I still cant say coffin, it has to be casket) which I did. It was so unnatural to be placing my baby girl into her casket, when two weeks before, I had been fitting sheets on her cot. But I did. I tucked her in for the last time, made sure she was comfortable, doing the "mum" thing. I made sure there were no loose flaps of wrap, her head was on the pillow and her legs werent too squashed. I kissed her cheek and wished my Sweet Pea goodnight, until it was time for us to meet again.

Butterflies

On the day that I believed that Sybella died, I was sitting in my loungeroom, watching television. Our loungeroom has windows across the front of the house, so you can see right into the front yard. As I watched TV, something kept catching my eye from my peripheral vision, I kept thinking someone was coming to the front door. It was a type of shadow that kept making me look out the front windows, except no one was ever there when I turned and looked. I did notice hundreds and hundreds of butterflies in the front garden, something I had never seen there before. The front yard was simply teeming with them.
These butterflies must have been coming to get her, I have since decided.
Since Sybella's death, butterflies have flocked to our backyard in droves, beautiful white butterflies. In those early days, they were just about the only thing that made me smile. I said hello to them, because I think that they are her spirit visiting. The reason I think this is because there are so many and they visit so often. One day, a butterfly sat on our back screen door for about twenty minutes, and they tend to come right up and land on Kelvin.
I have placed a butterfly picture on the sidebar, because for us, butterflies have since become a symbol of Sybella, a symbol of purity, freedom and beauty.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Scrambled Eggs

Today, I found a bottle of soft drink in the plates cupboard, and the phone in the fridge.
Grief turns my brain into scrambled eggs.

She Flies With Her Own Wings

My youngest brother, Patrick, has a beautiful (both physically and spiritually) girlfriend named Jamie-Lee.
Jamie-Lee has a tattoo along the edge of her foot, that reads Alis Volat Propiis. This is Latin for She Flies With Her Own Wings. Jamie-Lee has this tattoo to remind herself of her own independence and freedom.
I found these words so beautiful and immediately thought of Sybella. I can just see her flying around, cheeky and giggling, with her own wings.
Thank you, Jamie-Lee.
xx

Making Memories



Kelvin I and I worked hard in the next week before the funeral to ensure there were a collection of items to prove that Sybella had existed. We planted a rose bush in her honour, and named it "Sybella's Rose." I planted a garden for her with lots of colourful flowers. We made a shrine with photos, candles and her birth/death notice. We had her hands and feet moulded, cast and framed. I had a commemorative birth certificate framed, and it hangs on the wall. Kelvin got a tattoo with Sybella's initials and her date of birth. They were just "things" and would never be the same as holding our baby girl in our arms, but they helped.

The Point?

Wandering around the house in a foggy haze, I stumbled across the jar of multi-vitamins I had taken religiously throughout my pregnancy. In blind anger, I threw them into the bin, tears streaming down my face.
"fat lot of good you did!" I shouted at them. It was easy to be furious at multi-vitamins. They wouldnt fight back.

A Mother's Intuition

On some level, I always knew that Sybella was never meant to walk this Earth.
Of course, Sybella was a planned baby, after months and months of heartbreak over failed efforts to conceive. So the fleeting worries that she wouldnt make it here were quite startling. I brushed them away, putting them down to anxiety. I thought I would laugh on the day that I brought her home, and dismiss all the needless worry that I had endured over the last months.
Whilst pregnant with Jack, I started off feeling anxious and by the time he was ready to be born, the anxiety had left. With Sybella, I became more and more anxious the closer I got to her due date.
It began around 21 weeks, and after ruminating for a while, I asked my GP for a scan at 24 weeks, where Sybella's Pyelectasis was diagnosed. From then on, every week was more anxious than the last.

Here is a list of the distressing thoughts I had about Sybella's wellbeing.

  • An overall feeling of dread that Sybella would never make it to her June due date.
  • A strong sense of affiliation with the month of April, which made me think she would be premature.
  • Never being able to "see" Jack playing with her or caring for her.
  • Having fleeting visions of a small, blond haired little boy riding a scooter on our back pavers. This worried me because I could "see" this boy so clearly, yet not "see" Sybella. We hadnt planned on anymore children after Sybella, so I wondered why I could see this boy and not her. I've since decided he must be our next child, still to come.
  • Thinking, as Kelvin stroked and talked to my belly, that he didnt need to worry about it, because we'd never meet her.
  • Feeling sad as I washed her clothes and fitted her pram, thinking that she'd never get to wear the clothes or ride in the pram.
  • Buying a sling on the week before her birth, and thinking "I shouldnt be buying this."
  • Reading an article on stillbirth two weeks before Bell's birth, and just knowing that I needed to pay attention to how this woman, the writer, got through her own experience so that I could employ the strategies myself.

These thoughts were most distressing, and I had worked with my psychologist for a long time, doing cognitive behavioural therapy. I had been prone to anxiety for a long time before, and so worked very hard to dismiss these thoughts, putting them down to haywire neurons and synapses, or whatever. This baby was planned, and already so so loved, so of course nothing would happen to her! The thoughts and instincts were involuntary, they were never something I thought of by myself, if that makes any sense. They appeared in my brain, and left almost immediately after I had registered it. It is only now that I realise that there is a difference between generalised anxiety and a mother's intuition. I wish I had have listened.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Babies With Wings

We added Sybella's name to the Babies With Wings Memory Page. You can view her name by clicking here.
Her name is about one quarter of the way down.
We also added her name to Names In The Sand, and are patiently waiting for her turn. Watch this space for Sybella's name in the sand.

Lost

This is a very difficult post for me to write. The following was almost worse than getting the initial news that Sybella had died.

We gave permission for Sybella to have an autopsy, and were told she was going to a children's hospital for this, as the doctors were more specialised in this area than the ones at the hospital where Sybella had been born.
In the meantime, I had arranged a funeral provider, which were The White Ladies. I chose them because, being run by women, mostly mothers, I thought that their nurturing touch would help make the process a little easier. The White Ladies were brilliant. I cannot commend them enough. They cared for Sybella as if she were their own baby, from start to finish. I dealt mostly with a woman named Debra, a softly spoken, grandmother type, who took me under her wing and did everything I asked. I cant believe my good fortune in the dealings I had with the professional people who were involved in Sybella's birth and arrangements. Like I said, these people had a heavenly touch and I think Bell sent them to me to help me during this time.
Debra organised everything, but the only job I had to do was call the children's hospital and let them know that The White Ladies were picking up Sybella after the autopsy and taking her into their care.
One terrible night, I made the phone call, where I was met with an abrupt clerk who stated that they had no record of a Sybella on the system. They tried again under my maiden name, but she didnt come up.
I started to shake as I realised that I had no idea where she was.
I got off the phone, and burst into tears. Kelvin rushed in to see what was wrong. "They've lost her!" I sobbed. "They dont have her on the system!" He rang them, but even after physically checking the morgue, he was assured that Sybella was not to be found.
I didnt handle it all that well. Lets just say that things were thrown. And it took us a week to find the empty plastic coke bottle, which was one of the victims of the throwing, stuck behind the combustion heater.
I rang the hospital where Bella had been born and explained the situation. The midwife on duty was gentle and calm, and said that she would find out what had happened and get back to me.
We recieved another phone call from the doctor herself, telling me that Sybella had never gone to the children's hospital, she had stayed in the same place for her autopsy. But we had never gotten this news. No one had told us. She then told me that she was aware that the funeral directors were ready to collect Sybella, and she was ready to go. I became extremely confused then, as I had not yet told the hospital who we had nominated as the funeral service provider. Why did they think that the funeral director was picking up Sybella, when it was MY job to notify the hospital that they were coming? I then became convinced that Sybella's body had been mixed up with another stillborn baby, and Sybella had gone with another funeral company, while another baby, not Sybella, would be picked up by The White Ladies. I was assured that Sybella was the only baby in the morgue, and it was definitely her. I was told that the hospital knew about The White Ladies because there is a database that matches up the deceased with the nominated funeral parlour, and that is how the hospital got the information. This was not good enough for me, all I had were visions of another baby's ashes sitting on my mantlepiece.
So we arranged to visit the hospital to make sure it really was Sybella.
We met with the social worker, who took us down to the morgue. There is a small, comfortably furnished waiting room that we sat in while Sybella was brought out. She was lying on a metal gurney, about the size of a breadboard. She looked no different in the few days that we had left her. I was worried she'd be blue and stiff, but she was pink and flexible and just looked like a sleeping baby. She was dressed and wrapped, and I knelt down on the floor to look at her. She looked much smaller than I remembered, but apparently that is something to do with the refridgeration process. I slowly inspected her hands and feet, which assured me that it was her. I will always remember her delicate, feminine hands, and the fact that her feet were identical to Jack's. I had trouble getting her booties back on, and shook as I tried to gently to place them back on her feet. Eventually, the mortuary supervisor had to help me, and we did it together, as my tears dripped onto Sybella's cheek. I was worried that her outfit was different to the one we dressed her in after birth, but I got no explanation for that. I assume she was changed after the autopsy and her outfit was returned to the birthing suite for another stillborn baby girl. That sounds macabre, but in the public system, I guess they need to recycle the clothes and cant keep forking out for new outfits. It comforted me that the hat and the booties were the same as the ones she was dressed in on her birthday, though. I spent twenty minutes with Bell, whispering and stroking her. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was definitely her, as I could feel her gentle soul again. The social worker let me hold her, and took some photos of us together.
Once satisfied that she was definitely our baby, I left and met Jack and Kelvin outside.
I let Debra from The White Ladies know that Bell was ready to be collected and she was swiftly taken into their care. It was time to start planning the funeral of my baby daughter. I had no idea what to do.

Going Home With Empty Arms

We left the hospital with empty arms.
We had a book with Sybella's hand and foot prints, a disc of photos, her hospital band and the pink blanket she had been wrapped in.
I dont remember picking up Jack or driving home, but when we got there, the flowers started arriving in droves. Beautiful flowers for a beautiful baby. I remember feeling so so grateful for these flowers. I knew that if Sybella had been born alive, we'd be innundated with flowers and cards, and I was glad that most people were still acknowledging her birth by sending a bouquet or a card. I got cards from people I barely knew, which was even more touching. The flowers and cards symbolised her existence and acknowledged her life. For that, I was thankful.
By the end of the week, our home looked like a florist and we had run out of places to put the vases. We even ran out of vases!
I wish I could write more about this time, but I truthfully cant remember it. There are a few days that stick in my mind, but for the most part, it was a haze.
Upon arriving home, I shut the door to Sybella's room, such a beautiful room it is. I cleverly did the artwork on the walls myself and spent hours picking out the frilly pink lamp. After a few hours, I opened the door and windows because I thought that she needed sunlight and fresh air. I sat on the pink mat on the floor and cried into her hospital blanket. I talked to her while in there. I told her how I was looking so forward to bringing her home to her pretty, girly, frilly room. I sat there for a while, and the animal grief returned. I had my face in a pillow on the floor and by the end, the pillow was saturated...and covered in snot (sorry). The only reason I stopped crying was that a midwife had rung and wanted to talk to me, so I spoke to her through tears. She arranged a visit for the next day, which was mostly a counselling session, and organised for a midwife to ring me each day to see how I was travelling.
Kelvin organised life for a while. He cooked, washed clothes, bathed Jack and made the beds. I moved from the bed to the couch and back to the bed again, that was about it. I was mute most of the time, except when I was sobbing. I spent some time writing a letter to Sybella. I made a copy to keep, and put the original into a beautiful envelope to put into her casket, when the time came. Jack and I spent some time painting a picture to put into Bella's casket too. That was something that he enjoyed doing. The phone rang a lot, but I couldnt speak to many people. I only really wanted to speak to a handful of people, mainly Mum and Barb, Kelvin and Jack. As time went on, I'd let the phone go to message bank or ask Kelvin to deal with it. Talking made me tired. Even though I couldnt speak, the fact that people were calling and leaving messages was comforting. It was beautiful to know that we had so many people thinking of us and caring for us. I got some gorgeous messages on Facebook and Mamamia, which I have kept, printed and have glued into an album of memories for Sybella. If you were one of these people, please know how much your words meant to me and how supported and nurtured I felt. In a time of turmoil and fragility, these messages were my guiding light.
Eventually I had to start thinking about planning the funeral. I had no idea what I needed to do, as I had never planned a funeral before, let alone a baby funeral. All I knew was that I needed time to make it perfect, my last testament to my daughter. I'd never plan a birthday party, I'd never help plan her wedding. But here I was planning her funeral. What an upside down world.

Names

Kelvin and I couldnt decide on a name when I was pregnant with Sybella. He liked plain names, and I liked frilly names. My first choice for a girl was Helena, and if she was a boy, Ned. Kelvin would give me Ned, but didnt like Helena, or Annabelle, or Sienna.
In a bookshop, I saw the name of an author, which was Sybella. Immediately, I felt an affinity with the name, as I had years and years ago, when Antonia Kidman named her fourth child Sybella. Even back then, I wasnt sure if I liked it, but felt connected to it somehow. I somehow knew I would have a daughter named Sybella one day. As I excitedly told Kelvin about this name, he agreed that he liked it. I was 18 weeks at that stage, and we didnt yet know if Sybella was a boy or a girl. So we had finally settled on a name. Sybella or Ned.
The middle name was trickier, we didnt pick Eve until a week before her birth. I had always liked Rose or Grace for a middle name, but they had already been used by some family members already, and I didnt like to double up. But now I am glad, because Eve was the perfect middle name. Sybella Eve was just such an etheral name and it suited her perfectly.

Here is a list of some of the nick names I had planned to use for Sybella as she grew up:

  • Bella
  • Bella Boo
  • Smelly Belly
  • Bella Girl
Sometimes I still call her those.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Dream

We stayed in hospital for two nights.
On the second night, I managed to get a little bit of sleep and had a fleeting dream.
Now, I am not a big believer of dreams having meanings. I always thought dreams were nothing more than our brain processing the subconcious. But after this, I think that some dreams may have a meaning...not all, because some dreams are downright stupid!
But not this one...

A visitation, I believe.

I was sitting on the bed where Sybella was born. The room in my dream was identical to the actual birth suite itself, in minute detail. Sybella was lying on the bed in front of me, naked. Her back was to me, and I was just watching her. She rolled over very slowly, opened her eyes, which were blue, and stared straight into my eyes. She blinked, very slowly, closed her eyes again and rolled back over, in the same position she had been in before.  

It was such a fleeting, yet vivid dream, and I woke up in a sweat. I truly believe that she used the medium of a dream to come and connect with me, and the connection was manifested in her very deliberate eye contact.

I felt closer to her soul by her visit. I knew she was safe then.

Ask Yourself. Do You Feel Lucky? Well? Do You?

The answer is yes.
Puzzled?
I dont feel as lucky as those who take home a thriving, healthy baby. The best possible outcome from Sybella's pregnancy would have been bringing her home, warm and alive.
But if we couldnt, the next best thing was realising just how lucky we were that Sybella chose us to be her family. That she chose ME to be her mummy. How special am I?! I am the one who gets to be Sybella's mother forever, and for that I feel priviledged and grateful.
There is something very important and transcedent about Sybella Eve, it was obvious from the moment she was born. And forever, I get to be the one who carried her in my womb, birthed her, and be her mother.

We love you, Bella Boo. Thank you for being such a gift xx

I Wish They Wouldn't...

Apologies to Maddie, a dear heart, and fellow baby lost mama for stealing her idea. But when reading her blog, I felt such an affinity with a particular post about how she felt about certain actions and comments in response to a child's death.
I wanted to contruct my own list of things that I wish people wouldnt say and do.

DISCLAIMER: If you begin reading this particular post, please read until the end, so that I can explain and clarify reasons for what I have said at the beginning. I am nervous about this post and do not want to upset anyone. I do still feel a need to be as honest as possible, especially for any other stillbirth mums out there who may be feeling this too. I do know that stillbirth is a very hard situation to deal with for a third party, and many people just dont know what to say and do. Now that my initial despair that my baby was taken from me has lessened slightly, I can respect and understand that most people react in the best way they can, taking into account both our feelings, and their own.



I'd also like to say that the comments below have been few and far between, and the majority of people have been spectacular in their support.

I wish they wouldn't:


  • Tell us that we are still young and can have another one soon.
  • Tell me they know how I feel, because they have had an early miscarriage themselves. (a miscarriage of a foetus, although devastating, is not the same as losing a baby in the third trimester, a baby who has a birth certificate, a death certificate and a funeral). 
  • Tell me that it was for the best, there must have been something terribly wrong, and it was the most humane outcome. (I would have taken Sybella any which way, as long as she was alive).
  • Refer to Kelvin and I as having one child. When Kelvin and I actually have two.
  • Make assumptions that Sybella died because of something I may or may not have done.
  • Suggest external ideas as to why Sybella died.
  • Put a timeline on my grief.
  • Assume that, if I am having a good day because I laugh at a joke or engage in a conversation, that I have "moved on" or "put her away" (One never moves on from losing a child, nor will Sybella ever be put away).


I need to clarify, however, point two. I have a huge amount of sympathy for mothers who have miscarriages, especially recurrent ones. The bond between a mother and a baby from the point of conception is incredibly special and unique, and I hope that no-one thinks I am down-playing a miscarriage experience. I myself, was devastated when I thought I was miscarrying Sybella in the early weeks. A miscarriage is a terrible loss, whether it is at 4 weeks or 23 weeks. A late miscarriage, especially is a heartbreaking experience, particularly if your baby is days away from viability, too early to be considered a stillbirth, meaning you miss out on the recognition of your baby as a human being, not a foetus. And if one has had a miscarriage after infertility, well, that's just an utter tragedy.
But when one is grieving, and their full term baby is compared to a miscarriage, it strikes a chord of unhappiness and resentment. If Sybella had been born alive at 34 weeks, she'd have a fantastic chance at survival. As Maddie says in her comment, a misscarriage is very different to holding a still, silent baby in your arms.
I hope I am clear and havent alienated anyone. I am sure that when people say this, they are trying to comfort me so that I dont feel so alone in my loss, to explain that they too know how it feels to have hopes and dreams shattered. I hope you can understand that my feelings come from a place of deep grief, at the time when a mother of a stillborn baby is angry at absolutely everyone.
This post was not meant to be a personal dig, it is merely an honest expression of how I felt, especially in those early days after Sybella's death.


Please understand.
xx

The Real Baby Thing

Whilst in the hospital, we had midwives doing routine checks every two hours or so, blood pressure, tempertaure, that sort of thing.
One midwife arrived while we had mum and Barb visiting. She stood at the door until the visit finished up. She had a stony look on her face, but I dont think she was cranky, I think it was just her face! She was large, hard, formidable looking woman and I felt rather intimidated.
She began her checks and I apologised for keeping her waiting while I was talking to my visitors. She smiled and said "that's quite all right. I was late myself. I was busy doing the real baby thing."
At first I wasnt sure I had heard right. I did a double take. Had she really just said that? The "real baby" thing? What was my baby? Pretend? Non existent? I looked at her incredulously, but she was quite oblivious to her words and hummed contentedly as she felt my abdomen.
A comment made without malice, and without thinking. I couldnt blame her, she didnt know any better.
I'd have to get used to it. There were plenty more unthinking comments to follow once we were in the outside world.

Animal Grief

I worried about where Kelvin and I were going to stay that night. I was told I needed to stay at least overnight at the hospital, and had a compulsive fear that they would make us stay in the maternity ward with the other new mothers and their babies.
Well, we did stay in the maternity ward, but there is a special room for couples in our situation. The room was right at the top of the maternity ward, but far enough away from the post natal patients that we'd never run into them. The room had a double bed, ensuite, fridge and full access television. It was like a hotel room.
Kelvin mentioned later that night that if the circumstances were different, it would be my perfect holiday...lying in bed, having drugs brought to me and being checked over and coddled by nurses. It was actually a very funny and apt statement. I agreed with him and we laughed.
In the room, I was given medication to stop my milk coming in. Vanessa came to help us settle in. Before she left, I thanked her through my tears. I told her how much I appreciated her demeanour. She took my hand, looked into my eyes and said with genuine respect and sincerity "I cannot say that it is my pleasure. But Stephanie, you are very welcome." It was the best thing she could have said to me.
We had a shower to wash the day off and climbed into bed for a cuddle and a chat. I was so happy Kelvin could stay. I couldnt have endured that night alone. We talked about Sybella and her birth for hours. I would have kept talking, but Kelvin was sleepy. Despite having a sleeping tablet, I wasnt tired at all. I savoured the post natal pain from the birth and didnt want it to go. It was a connection to Sybella and every time I moved or walked, the pain reminded me of what we had accomplished. When the pain began to dissipate, I felt the distance between her birth and present time increasing, and her birth felt further and further away.
At 3.00 am I woke in tears. I started crying, harder and harder, until the noise was an animal-like howl. Reality had set in. No matter what, I couldnt stop crying with such ferociousness. The grief was animalistic, that is the only description. I felt like my heart had broken into a million pieces and could never be repaired. I screamed, yelled, moaned and howled for the next hour. Kelvin worried about who would hear me. I could only say one thing over and over and over: "I want my babyyyyyyy. I want my babyyyyyy."
When it got to the point where I was fighting for breath, the sobs died down to breathless hiccups, and I fell asleep, exhausted by my outburst. I awoke the next morning, puffy and red-eyed, despondent and non-communicative.
Apparently, in my foggy haze the day before, I had signed a form to participate in a Stillbirth Study. Specialised doctors would use the results from the 2000 tests performed on me and Sybella to try and find information on what causes stillbirth. The statistics for stillbirth have not changed since the 1950's and the study hoped to shed light on this. The doctors would analyse my blood, Sybella's blood, the cord, the placenta, an autopsy would be performed and the doctors would take samples of the organs to test for various conditons. One doctor came and interviewed us about the pregnancy, asking questions about whether I smoked, drank or took drugs (no, no, no). She asked about the movements, scan results and my wellbeing in the pregnancy. Whether we had moved house (yes), and whether I worked. We still arent sure of the results of any of these tests, but watch this space.
My very best friend, Merrill had received my message the night before and rang that morning. I couldnt talk on the phone, I just sobbed. She came straight away with flowers and just held me. It was so good that she was there. My mother and my aunt Barb, my favourite person arrived. Barb always knows what to say and do. This was no exception. She held my hand and softly explained that Sybella wanted to be in our family, but couldnt this time around. She spoke softly and gently and with compassion. She described me as heartbroken. While mum and Barb were there, Deb (Toni Collette) came to check on us. I apologised for calling her Toni in the throes of labour, and she just laughed, said it happened all the time.
When Jack arrived with Kelvin's parents, my eyes filled with tears. Here was my beautiful boy. How on Earth would I explain this to him? He ran in, happy to see me, sat with me and hugged me. He immediately put his hand on my belly and told me he wanted to pat the baby. He patted and kissed my stomach while I searched for words. "Jack, the baby is not in there. The baby died." He did not understand one iota. I tried again. "Jack, where is the baby?" "In your tummy!" he answered. Kelvin took him for a walk and I am unsure what he said to him, but when Jack came back, he could tell me that Sybella, his sister had died and gone to Heaven in a rocket! Ah, yes, what style I thought. She didnt float up gently, she went up fast, with a bang! Awesome girl!
We stayed another night in the hospital. I left the room probably two times in 48 hours. I hibernated in that room, until I was ready to leave the hospital without my baby.

After The Birth

Yes, it had started to rain. The sound was soothing. If I didnt have crying and suckling to listen to, the rain was the next best thing. The outside matched my insides.
We held Sybella for four hours. The whole time was a myriad of experiences. I was ultimately aware of the peace in the room. I had never felt so peaceful and organic. My heart was full. I am not sure that it had hit me yet, all that I was aware of was that my newborn daughter was lying in my arms, sleeping. I felt sad, but I decided to deal with the sadness later, and at this time, all I wanted to do was celebrate her and be in touch with the moment, which was pure serentity. I had given birth to a live baby before, Jack. That experience was nothing like this. Jack's birth was full of noise and joy and excitement and possibilities. Sybella's birth was tranquil and quiet. The quiet was palpable. But it wasnt bad, if that makes sense. The quiet just the way it was. Kelvin held her for a time, and I used that time to send a text message to let everyone know Sybella had been born. I felt cheated of making the joyous birth announcement that I had been looking forward to so much. But I made the announcement anyway: "Sybella Eve was born asleep today, the 24th of April 2010 at 4.01pm. Just too perfect for this world" was what the message said.
Kelvin and I then went over our daughter in minute detail, inspecting every inch of her. Her nails, her toes, which were exactly the same as Jack's. Her tiny ears and cherub lips. We marvelled over the curly hair, as Jack had no hair as a newborn. The length of her limbs. The words to describe her were strong, yet delicate. Oh so delicate. My GP came to the birthing suite, which was so beautiful of her. She is such a special doctor. She held the baby and tears rolled down her face. I smiled and said "why are you crying? Look at my beautiful baby." Like I said, the fog had not lifted. My doctor said that the peace I carried was like nothing she had seen before from me. My previous life had been full of angst and agitation. Now I seemed calm to her. My mum arrived also, and held Sybella, kissed and caressed her. She was most distraught. Not only was she mourning the loss of her first grand-daughter, but she was watching her own daughter grieve also. A double whammy for her, I am sure. Mum asked if she could be the one to pick out a funeral outfit. Of course I let her. Later, as she walked out the door to leave, I called out "make sure you buy a long sleeved singlet, so she wont be cold." All I could think about was keeping her warm.
Once Kelvin and I were alone with Bell again, we asked for the midwives to bathe her. Vanessa asked me to help, but initially I refused. Then I gave myself a mental slap. How could I not bathe her? I was her mother. She needed her mother to give her a bath. That was my job. Vanessa carefully filled the tiny tub with warm water and I stood with her as we gently wiped the cloth over her soft skin. Floating in the water, it looked like Sybella was moving. That was most heartbreaking. Vanessa lifted the baby out of the tub and wrapped her in a towel, murmuring softly in her ear the whole time, "...come on darling, here we go, sweetpea..." It was so comforting to hear Vanessa speak to my daughter as if she were alive.
We dressed her in a beautiful white dress, hat and tiny, tiny booties, that looked like doll's clothes, provided by the hospital and wrapped her in a pink crotcheted blanket. We spent some more time holding her. I whispered to her how much I loved her, how sorry I was. I kissed her eyelashes and hands and cheek. I sang a little song.
Vanessa took Sybella into another room to take photos as well as some hand and foot prints. There, they measured her, weighed her and did the head circumference. She was brought back for a bit more time with us, and Kelvin and I said our goodbyes. Once we were ready, Vanessa placed Sybella into the perspex bassinet and wheeled her out the door. Not to the nursery. To the morgue.
I waved and blew kisses until she was gone from sight. 
All I could worry about was that she'd be warm.  

Physical Pain vs Emotional Pain

After giving birth to Sybella, I was amazed at how "easy" it had been. Haha," you think. "Surely she jests."
Had Sybella gone to full term and hadnt died, I had planned another caeseran birth, seeing as I had already had one. It just seemed easier...and I was scared of labour, lets be honest.
I grieved the idea of not experiencing labour, but when having Jack, the decision was taken out of my hands because he was breech. I was thankful for this.
As circumstances dictated, Sybella's birth was a normal vaginal birth. Once finished, I realised how much I welcomed the physical pain as a distraction from the emotional pain. What my body was experiencing was nothing compared to what my heart and mind were feeling. I think, in this respect, my experience of the physical pain of labour was negligable. However, I am aware I am one of the lucky ones...my very first labour was four hours, no birth injuries, minimal pain relief (well, none, to be precise, as the morphine acted more as a sedative for my emotions than physical pain relief). I acknowledge that labour isnt like that for everyone, and I also think that I may have had a different perspective of the physical pain had I not known that Sybella had died already.
Today, I am forever grateful for making the decision to birth Bell naturally. It made the whole situation "real." It helped us to bond. There wasnt a third party involved, performing caeserean surgery, to bring her into the world. We worked together, just us, to meet each other face to face. Natural birth is purifying. The pain is purifying. I definitely made the right decision. For that I am proud of myself.

She Walks In Beauty

This poem was read at Sybella's funeral, by my brother, who did a smashing job, by the way.
It is about a girl whose physical, emotional and spiritual beauty is of utmost perfection. For us, it wholeheartedly encompasses Sybella's body and soul, forever preserved as innocent and pure.
It is a beautiful piece of writing. I can quote it by now, and often say it while I'm hanging out the washing!

She Walks In Beauty

By Lord Byron


 She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!


Friday, June 18, 2010

A Proud Mother

I was so proud of my daughter. I cannot describe the peace and tranquility that came off her in waves.
The saddest thing was, that even though I was the mother, and she was the baby, I felt protected by her. She was the one looking after me. I could feel it. She sent me the perfect midwives for my situation. She worked with me to be born as peacefully as possible, under the circumstances. She helped me by touching me with her gentle soul, just moments after her birth, and caressing my heart with her serenity. She brought clarity to my life.
Sybella looked after me. I wish I could be looking after her right now.

The Birth

We arrived at the hospital at 8.00 am. I had no idea what to expect, I was unprepared for labour but didnt care. We had no bags, I thought I'd be going home that night. I dont know why I thought that.
The midwives welcomed us with warmth and empathy. We were shown to the same room that we had been in the night before. It was far away from the other birthing suites, but not far enough away to not be able to hear the first cries of live newborns being birthed. Each time I heard one, I stiffened. It was a beautiful sound. But like a knife in my gut.
I am not sure I had fully yet come to terms with what was about to happen. I felt removed from the whole situation, like it was happening to someone else, and I was watching.
The doctor came in and explained the process. She would check my cervix to gauge dilation. She assured me I would not yet be dilated. I disagreed. I knew I was. She laughed softly, as if she didnt believe me. She continued to explain that they would give me something to open the cervix, then they would break the waters. After the waters were broken, they would administer cytocin (is that how you spell it?) to induce the labour. The entire process would take at least a day. 12 hours alone, just to get the cervix open. I shrugged with ambivalence. It'd be open, already. Sure enough, the doctor checked and with a surprised look and expression announced that the cervix was open and they'd go straight to breaking the waters. That experience was horrible. I did not like it at all. Even though I knew it was totally necessary, I felt completely "invaded," but not through any fault of the doctor. I just cant explain it. It was as if the whole process had begun, and it was real and there was no turning back. The next time I would leave the hospital I would no longer be pregnant, nor would I have a baby with me. So rupturing the waters symbolised that heartbreak.
The doctor on duty was one of the most caring, sympathetic, nurturing women I have ever met. I cannot commend her enough. She saw me through from beginning to end with respect and sincerity at every turn.
From that point, I started contracting straight away. It was about 9.00 am at this stage. Again, I was told to expect that he labour, being my first actual labour, would be hours and hours. However, again, I disagreed. "She'll be born before the sun goes down" I said to Kelvin. "We'll see this day out together."
As we waited for the cytocin drip to be administered, I forgot why we were there. Kelvin and I joked and laughed. We joked with the midwife on duty, Deb, about The Wiggles and how I couldnt stand them. I told my brother, who was there for support for the early part, about how I commented on his Facebook status update a week ago, and I was half asleep when I did it, which is why it didnt make sense. We had a good laugh about that.
I began to get rather nervous at that stage. I hadnt been induced yet, but the contractions were getting stronger anyway! I asked for some pain relief and was given a miniscule amount of morphine. It did not dull the pain, however. It mainly made me sleepy and less nervous. By the time they started the drip, it had worn off.
Labour began with a vengeance once the cytocin was in. Full on, no breaks, 50 seconds between contractions within two hours. I was told to move around, stand up, let gravity work for me. But moving made the pain worse, and all I wanted to do was curl up and hibernate on the bed. So that's what I did, and it worked for me.
Deb was the midwife who had began her shift with me as her patient. Deb was kind, patient and nurturing. She looked like Toni Collette and as I moaned in pain and she wiped my brow, I was murmuring "thank you Toni." She was softly spoken and listened to me with her full attention. She asked me to try the gas, and respected me when I said it made me feel out of control. My other midwife, Vanessa, was the polar opposite. Down to earth, pragmatic, straight to the point. At first we were intimidated by her "tough" veneer, but as time went on and labour progressed, she showed herself to be encouraging, supportive and completely knowledgable in what she was doing. I appreciated how straight to the point she was, because even though it sounds "unfeeling," the truth is, she was the most sincere, respectful midwife ever. She looked straight in my eyes and told me how well I was doing. She listened to me when I said I needed to push and coached me brilliantly. I had Deb stroking me, holding my hand and speaking softly, and I had Vanessa as the strong, take charge leader, whose honesty and sincerity was incredible.
After Fluffy Midwife from the night before, I realised that I had been given the perfect balance of soft and strong from these incredible women. And I think Sybella picked them for me. She chose the two most experienced midwives, the two that I could relate to the most, and the two whose combined expertise and personality were exactly right for me. I hope I have made it clear how in love I am with these midwives!
Deb was due to finish at 3.00 pm. At 2.50 pm, I went into transition. The labour amped up, and I basically was having one long contraction for the next hour. Because I went into transition at that time, Deb, although it was a Saturday and she had two little boys at home, stayed until Sybella was born an hour later.
Kelvin, too, was a Godsend. He was supportive, encouraging and just brilliant. It must have taken indescribable strength to watch his wife in such physical and emotional pain and be my rock, when he was obviously experiencing his own private pain. But he was just there, for me, putting himself aside for the duration. I was so proud of him. At one point, Vanessa exclaimed "the head is right there!" Sybella was ready to be born. I was coached through the pushing and Sybella, all 5 pounds and 12 ounces of her, slipped out silently at 4.01 pm. Kelvin looked at her, then smiled and looked at me, a silent acknowledgement that she looked okay. I had relayed to him earlier that I was scared of what Sybella would look like, having been dead for three days. But my little girl looked perfect. She was handed to me and I looked at her in amazement. She looked like Kelvin. She was beautiful. At 5 pounds, she was big for her gestation of 34 weeks, but not beefy, just long. She had long, spindly arms and legs, tiny little blonde eyelashes and dark curly hair. Her hands and feet were gorgeous. Long nail beds and delicate fingers and toes. Tiny little creases on her palms. Her lips were ruby red and so were her nails. I think it is because when a baby dies in utero, blood pools in those areas.
I watched her and marvelled. My daughter. I felt such peace. It was her peace, emanating from her soul, which was still in the room.
I knew she would be born today, as I looked out the window and watched the sun go down.
The weather outside had been sunny all day. Now it had started to rain, as I held Sybella and stroked her face.

The Earth was crying for her.

A Sign?

A small interruption. Though I am far from finishing Bella's story, I wanted to let you know about a beautiful cloud angel that Kelvin and I saw last night.
We were standing on the balcony, looking at the cloudy, moonlit sky. Next to the moon was a definite angel shaped cloud. One could clearly make out the head, wings and dress. This vision was lit up by the iridecsent moon and looked quite spectacular and etheral.
"Ahhhh. She's saying goodnight," we decided. We said "goodnight" back and went to bed with smiles on our faces.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Night Before

Funnily enough, and this is self preservation also, all I could think about was the fact that we had tickets for Jack to see The Wiggles the next day. Only the credit card holder was allowed to pick up the tickets at he box office. This worried me, as I didnt want him to miss out. He was terribly excited. At the same time, I was angry at the people in the cars around us, talking, smoking, singing to the radio. How could they go on so normally, when I was about to go through the worst thing that any mother could go through?
We drove home to Kelvin's parent's house. My mum had dropped Jack off there as she had to work night duty as a nurse that night. I busied myself by getting into contact with Ticket Master to organise for my father-in-law, Ron to pick up the tickets.
I went to bed that night and every time I turned over, I felt Sybella lifelessly bump against the inside of my stomach, being sloshed around in amniotic fluid. It could have been mistaken for a kick, had I not known that she had already died. The sensation was disconcerting, to say the least. I didnt sleep much that night. I stayed awake, googling "stillbirth" and crying uncontrollably. My baby. My baby had died. My baby, who I loved, sang to, wished for and talked to. My precious, perfect little girl. For the rest of my life, I was going to be someone whose baby had died. I worried for her. Was she warm, safe? Was someone looking after her? Had someone been there to meet her in Heaven? I apologised to her, to say sorry for not being able to keep her alive. I asked her to forgive me.
Eventually, morning arrived.

It was Sybella's birthday.

Getting The News

So, as I said, I was concerned that I hadn't felt Sybella move for a whole day. Since she didnt kick much anyway, I put it down to her just having a rest. When I started having crampy pains, I thought I was going into labour, and that she was quietening down beforehand, as many babies do. So, for me, the worst case scenario was that she would be born prematurely.
As I fitted the cot and washed the sheets, a fleeting thought entered my mind. "Why am I doing this? She wont get to wear these clothes or sleep in this cot." I kind of shocked myself with such a macabre thought. I quickly shooed it away and got ready for my appointment. In hindsight, it was mother's instinct sending me a message, I am sure. Sybella had died on the Tuesday or Wednesday, and I had this thought on the Thursday.
At the doctor, whilst she tried to find the heartbeat, I wasnt too worried, as sometimes in the past it had been difficult because of her positioning. My doctor didnt seem worried either, but asked me if I wanted a scan, which I agreed to. Just so I could be sure all was well.
I drove to the radiology place, alone. I told Mum, who was minding Jack that I would be back at 5.00pm. I was early, so sat in the car playing on my iPhone, and was very excited that I finally passed a particularly difficult level of "Icy Escort"...a riveting game.
I sat in the waiting room and watched an interesting family that had five children and were there for a scan of their sixth. Good Lord, I thought. Do they know how babies are made? This family seemed frazzled and I thanked my lucky stars that I only had two to contend with. The idea of six pregnancies sent me into a spin! Let alone six children. Now I think of them, and about how lucky they are to have had five full term pregnancies and five healthy children, with a sixth on the way. After my experience, I feel like having a baby a year, because of how precious it is to be able to create a life. I wont, of course, practicality reigns over me, but I do fantasise.
I walked into the room, chatting away to the sonographer, who had a student with her, learning about obstetric ultrasounds.
She put the wand on my abdomen. Now, when one goes for a scan for reassurance, the first thing they show you is the heartbeat, so that you can breathe easy. This lady did not do that. She searched in silence for a while. Then she said she was going to start down below and work her way up. My stomach dropped. Someone knocked on the door. She called out, very forcefully "NO!!" That's when I knew. But really, I already knew, but chose not to affirm it. She did the heart monitor thing, and all I saw was a flat line. And she put her hand on my arm and said the words I will never forget as long as I live "I have some very serious concerns."

I just nodded.

Then started crying, hyperventilating and gagging at the same time. "I cant do this. No no no no. I cant do this" is apparantly what I was saying. I was told later. I didnt remember. I had a desperate need to get off the bed. But I couldnt. The sonographer went and got the doctor on duty, who was very matter of fact. He told me he could see a small puff of air in the heart valves or something, so I hung on to some hope. Maybe I could be delivered tonight and they could save her. If only she could hang on a little bit longer. At this stage, I didnt know what "serious concerns" meant. Did she have two heads? Or what? I still thought she might be alive.
Somehow I found myself in a tea room. I just sat there, for an hour or more.I remember the pitying look of the people in the waiting room, as I , this heavily pregnant woman, was ushered into a tea room, crying hysterically. I asked the sonographer "so...she's not alive?" The sonographer shook her head with tears in her eyes. My phone kept ringing but I stared at it, not being able to register the noise. The clinic called Kelvin, who was on his way. My GP rang, but I dont remember speaking to her. I also called Mum to tell her, but couldnt speak through tears. Kelvin arrived and I kept apologising to him. "I'm so sorry I couldnt keep her alive" I sobbed. He just held me. Cried. Told me it wasnt my fault. I was a model pregnant woman. How could it be my fault? "It was my job to keep her safe. I failed" was my response. And I believed it , too.
Kelvin drove us to the hospital where we were met my a midwife. Now, I have the utmost respect for midwives. But unfortunately, the one I got that night was a bit airy fairy. She had a tiny little voice, and talked about angel babies and fluffy things, such as babies on clouds and how I should take tonight to relish having my baby still in my belly. All I could think of was getting her out. I felt..."crowded" if that makes any sense. And to anyone who knows me, they know that I am a pragmatist, the furthest thing from airy fairy. Everything is practical, ordered and non-dramatic. So this midwife, although she meant well, was not the person I needed that night.
The doctor arrived and requested a confirmation ultrasound, which affirmed that Sybella was not alive. We then discussed birth options. The thought of a vaginal delivery was the cruelest idea imaginable. They werent going to make me go through all that pain without the reward of a live baby at the end, were they? The fluffy midwife told me it wouldnt be a proper labour, just a dull ache, like period pains. She mustnt have had much experience, because giving birth to a 34 week old baby is exactly the same as giving birth to a full term baby. The labour is intense, especially as it is induced. There is nothing "dull" about the pain, it is real!
I was still advocating for a caesarean. I needed to keep the experience clinical, unemotional. That was shock, though. It's self protection in the face of raw, devastating grief.
Eventually, the turning point in making my decision was subsequent babies. The doctor gently explained that I would have two c-sections under my belt with only one live baby to show for it. I had difficulties with fertility after my last c-section and they didnt want that to happen again. That did it for me. I decided on a natural birth, and was organised to come back the following day for induction.