Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pregnancy Loss Week Blog Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Pregnancy Loss Week Blog Carnival. Please join us at Fertility Flower for the week of August 23-27, 2010 where we will be featuring articles, posts and artwork about pregnancy loss.

Mommy's Promise
By Cassandra Wright Fields



It broke my heart when you couldn't stay
Because I felt your presence right away
And my womb swelled with pride and joy
For you were to join us and our little boy
I'd made plans for you and I
And dreamed of how time would fly by
Ever so gently your soul touched mine
There will be no heartbeat or picture and that's fine
Because you've left enough love behind
Though it pleased God to take you away
In my heart you will always stay
Bundled up safe and warm in Mommy's heart
When we are together again we will never part

....And dreamed how time would fly by
Though you were mere
I love you, Dear
Ever so gently your soul touched mine...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Trusting Instincts

Before I had Sybella, I was an intensly perceptive person, but naive. I often had vibes and feelings about certain situations, people, or places, that could be either positive or negative. I never trusted the feelings and didnt have confidence in my perception skills. Especially the negative ones. A negative vibe that I experienced would produce feelings and thoughts from me that MY perception must be wrong. As a result, I perservered with relationships and jobs and situations that in actual fact, were not conducive to a peaceful and happy life. I did it because I thought if I tried hard enough, I would get something positive from the situation, despite the overbearing feelings of tension and discomfort.
Sybella has given me permission to give into my perception skills. She has shown me that in most cases, my instincts have been correct. Now I trust my positive and negative feelings in response to aspects of my life and I go in the direction that feels the most comfortable, easy and "right." It is quite liberating. I feel like I dont have to justify my reasons for refusing something (I know I am being general here, but there are so many different facets that I refer to, that it would take forever to explain them all) because I've already had the greatest challenge in the world handed to me, and I wont willingly accept any more. I dont want challenge, and I dont deserve it. I have seen the true colours in many aspects of my life. The good and the bad. Sybella has shown me what I should embrace and be thankful for, and what it is I need to let go of.

3 Months

Yesterday, July 24th, marked 3 months since Sybella's birth and death.

3 months since my life stopped
3 months since I took a breath
3 months since my heart broke

3 months since I saw pure innocence

3 months of tears
3 months of anger
3 months of fear
3 months of guilt

3 months on a rollercoaster

3 months of love
3 months of being a mother of two




Saturday, July 24, 2010

At Our Beach


Here we are at our special beach. This was back in March. It was still warm, but the weather was cooling in the evenings. Despite this, Jack still ran into the water without thinking, and had a ball!
I was about 31 weeks pregnant with Sybella. You cant see me, but I can promise you, it was one of the last times I felt carefree and happy. Of course, I didnt know that my life was about to be changed forever in about three weeks time.
It was a lovely evening, probably about 5.00 or 5.30 and all was right with the world. I'd do anything to get back to that place in my life.

Carly Dudley


Carly Dudley has quickly become one of my idols and main inspirations. She writes names in the sand for parents who has lost precious babies. She also is the one who has organised Day of Hope on August 19. She is one of the most beautifully creative people I know. Her art and photography is breathtaking. I wish I had her gift of transforming everything around me into something beautiful. She channels her grief so gracefully into her art and it is clear just how gentle and organic she is as a person.
Carly lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband Sam and their three daughters, Scarlett, River and Ocea (a name which I love, by the way. It sounds like sparkly waves). Carly's second child and only son, Christian was stillborn. He is her inspiration for the Names in the Sand project, and many of the other gorgeous art projects she undertakes, I'm sure.
Carly provides advice, support and healing for all babylost mothers through The Grief Effect (see sidebar). For me, her blogs are places of healing and comfort. If I am having a bad day, or even a bad moment, "visiting" her beach, looking at her photos, reading her poetry will help me immensly.
I have a special beach too. Carly has inspired me to spend more time at my special beach...To bundle up Jack, rug him up in warm clothes, and drive to the little piece of tranquillity that we are lucky to be twenty minutes from. I went last weekend and it gave me peace that lasted all week.

If you are a babylost mama, I urge you to visit The Grief Effect, To Write Their Names In The Sand, and Love Reign Over Me, all blogs of Carly Marie Dudley. If you are like me, the beauty of her work will make your heart ache, but your eyes smile.

Blessings xx

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Post Mortem Results

Today I received a phone call from the head doctor in charge of Sybella's case. She had the results of the postmortem studies.

 
  • Blood tests from me (viral serology) ~ Nothing detected
  • Blood tests from Sybella (viral serology) ~ Nothing detected
  • Swabs from me (skin and mucus membranes) ~ Nothing detected
  • Swabs from Sybella (skin and mucus membranes) ~ Nothing detected
  • Placenta studies ~ Normal
  • Umblical cord studies ~ Normal
  • Autopsy (full organ study) ~ Normal

 
There is no reason why my baby died.

 
I'm crying now.

Thoughts

This post is in part related to the last one.

I have stated before that Kelvin and I experienced difficulties conceiving Sybella. One of my biggest fears, apart from the fear that we would NEVER conceive, was the fear that the age gap between Jack and a new baby would be very great. I am going to discuss this fear in greater detail in a future post, but for now, it serves as an opening to this particular story.
I am a teacher. I dont work anymore, but when I did, one of my duties was morning playground duty. You know, supervising that kids arent falling out of trees or throwing glass. One particular morning (during the phase of infertility in my life), I noticed a pregnant woman, probably in her second trimester, dropping her daughter off at school. Her daughter was in Kindergarten, so five or six years old. I was comforted by the fact that this woman obviously had a large age gap between her children, by the time her baby came, her older daughter would be nearly seven. Okay, so I felt better about that. I wasnt the only one.

Time went on. The woman had her baby. A little girl. She was sweet, I saw her most mornings in the pram. By this time, I was pregnant with Sybella. As time dictated, Jack was going to be 4 years and 4 months when she was due to be born. That age gap was okay with me.

After Sybella died, I found myself fearing age gaps again. By now, Jack will be at least five or six by the time we had a third child, maybe even older if we experienced infertility again. I found myself thinking more and more about the little girl at school, who was in Year One now, and her sister, who would be nearly a year old. I thought about them to comfort myself about the age gap fear. In fact, I thought about them A LOT. I would sit outside in the sun, and think about these girls. They popped into my head all the time. It was strange, because I hadnt given them a moment of thought since I finished teaching to have Sybella. It started to become strange, even to me, just how often they would pop into my head, especially the baby. I thought about the baby often.

A few weeks after Sybella died, I was having lunch with a friend, who was a teacher at the same school. She asked me if I remembered the little girl (just out of the blue...my friend didnt know that I had been thinking about her) and her baby sister. I nodded. My friend went on to tell me that the baby had died the week before, at approximately 10 months old. I immediately got goosebumps and my heart ached for that mother. How do you keep going after losing a baby at nearly one year of age?
I now wonder if the reason the baby had kept popping into my head was because Sybella was sending me a spiritual message. Maybe she had welcomed the baby into Heaven, and was looking after her. maybe she wanted me to know that she and this baby were all right, together.

Why else would I think and think and think about this little one?

Insights

I've mentioned before that I am in awe of how well Sybella looks after us, and although I am grateful for her spiritual care, it saddens me that it isnt the other way around. It saddens me that she is looking after us, when I should be looking after her.
I have an insight, based on signs that Sybella watches out for us, into her personality. I think she is caring. I think she is a girl who looks after everyone around her. I think she puts herself second and others first.
But by golly, do I wish that she were here so I could put all her needs first. There is something indescribably sad about being watched over by a guardian angel that is a baby.
At her funeral, I was told by one guest, who viewed Sybella in her casket, that she looked strong. She was a baby with strength, he could see it in her face. She had courage. Combined with all the signs around us that she was looking after us, I constructed her personality in my mind as fearless, brave and strong. But also a nurturer. And a carer.
I had dreams and visions, that as other little babies died, or were stillborn in the weeks or months after her, Sybella would be the one who met them in Heaven, took them under her wing and looked after them. She would be their welcome wagon and tour guide. She wouldnt let the new angel babies be afraid or alone.
This is a real comfort for me. I like to think of Sybella as a caring leader. I just really hope, with all my might, that someone is caring for her, and tucking her in every night as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Apologies

At the moment I am having terrible trouble accessing the computer. Jack has discovered the 1939 Walt Disney cartoons of Mickey Mouse on Youtube and will not give up the laptop for anything. Not for chocolate, not for Buzz Lightyear toys.
Needless to say, I havent had an opportunity to blog for ages, so I apologise. Tomorrow is preschool day...hopefully I'll get a minute to post something!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Boss

Tori had put me in touch with her magnificent mentor. Apparently he was keen to see me, which was fantastic, seeing as it was impossible to get an appointment any other way. He was taking no new patients...but apparently, I was special.
Now, my reason for seeing The Boss was threefold: post-natal checkup and grief counselling, pre-natal counselling and preparation (for subsequent babies) and taking time to establish a relationship with this man prior to him hopefully undertaking my future antenatal care. I also wanted him to investigate my fertility, to see whether I would have problems conceiving next time around, like I had with Sybella. We werent anywhere near ready to start "trying" (gosh, I hate that word. It sounds so forced) but I am a planner, an organiser and I like to be prepared. So I made an appointment with The Boss.
On the day of my appointment, I met Tori beforehand for a coffee. She ended up coming up to The Boss's rooms with me and waiting with me for the hour (trust me, he is worth waiting for) before we got in.
It was finally my turn. The Boss walked right out of his office, over to my chair. He shook my hand, smiled and looked me right in the eye. "Come in, Stephanie," he said. He turned to Tori and explained that he had another student in the office with him, but he might ask her to sit out in the waiting room with Tori. I told the Boss that the student didnt need to do that, I was happy for her to sit in. The reason for this, is that medical students, particularly those majoring in obstetrics and gynaecology, need to be aware of the prevalence and effect of stillbirth and pregnancy loss. I suspect that many young doctors probably go into their specialty thinking it will be lovely to be surrounded by life and birth and possibilities. And for the most part, that is what the job entails. But there is the small element of tragedy when it comes to obstetrics and I like to think that I did this student a favour by letting her hear my story. Of course, I am grossly generalising when I say obstetric students go in thinking it is all pink babies and fluffy clouds. These ladies and gentlemen are clever enough to become doctors in the first place, I am sure that they have enough awareness to know that there arent always happy endings. But my point is, that I thought it was important for the student to see the other side of the coin. So I allowed her to stay. By that token, I asked Tori into the room too, for education's sake. She was so thoughtful that she said to me, "no Steph, this isnt about me learning, I am coming in purely to support YOU." Which I was thankful for.
In the room, the Boss sat at his desk across from me. He leaned across the table, took my hand in both of his and looked me in the eye. "I am so sorry for your loss" he said with utmost sincerity. He stayed like that for a few more moments, to cement his message of respect and condolence. It was very moving.
We discussed many things during our appointment. The Boss had suspicions that if Sybella had been born alive, there would be a high probability that she would be a very sick little girl, and possibly wouldnt have survived the first year. This was in spite of the fact that we still havent had the post-mortem results returned to us, but I trust that he would know best. He would have seen a lot more situations like these than I have.
I relayed my concerns about infertility. He assurred me with conviction that the reason I had experienced infertility was indeed because of uterine adhesions, and since they had been removed, I shouldnt anticipate any other problems in this respect. He wrote me a referral for a sonohysterogram to check my tubes and uterine cavity. He asked me to have that performed after my next period. He told me that I could get pregnant as soon as I wanted, and medically, there was no reason to wait. But to be very very sure that I had grieved for Sybella before I embarked on another pregnancy.
He asked me what kind of antenatal care I planned for my next pregnancy. With Sybella, I had used the public system, and had regular clinic visits in the Outpatients ward every four weeks. Each time I would see a different doctor or midwife. I feared having to go through this system again, seeing a different doctor every time. I didnt want to be my own advocate. I didnt want to fight for extra ultrasounds or foetal heart monitoring, having to explain my story at each visit. I didnt want, like last time, tell a different doctor that my baby's movements were weak, and be dismissed, because even though they were weak, I was still having ten a day. What I wanted was one person, who knew my whole story. From Jack's ceaserean, to having a retained placenta, to infertility, to treatment, to Sybella's pregnancy, birth and death. Who had all my results and scans and blood tests in front of him. Who had access to Sybella's post-mortem results. Someone who would do whatever I needed in light of my anxiety.
I told this to The Boss. He nodded in agreement. Then HE asked ME if he could be my doctor. He explained that he understood if I wanted to return to the Clinic for any reason (e.g. to relive the same antenatal care and have a happy outcome this time). I was stunned, because I had never assumed that he would undertake my future antenatal care...I had hoped, but I didnt know what his books looked like. But here he was, asking me if he could look after me. I felt so special. It was probably then, that I developed my little crush...
I assurred him that I would be thrilled to be his patient. I gushed a little, and probably batted my eyelids too. Just kidding...
The Boss said that during my next pregnancy, we would do whatever I needed to get me through. He said that if I had experienced anxiety before, it was nothing compared to how I would feel next time. I was told I could have as many scans as I wanted. He has a little machine in his room, so I would probably get to see teh baby each time. I could call anytime I needed, 24 hours a day. I could come in whenever I needed to, between appointments. At the end, I could have foetal heart monitoring daily, or even have a little stay in hospital before the birth to get me through the last weeks. I could be induced early, or have a c-section early (37-38 weeks) if I wanted.
Well, this was most reassurring. It made me think my next pregnancy would be a breeze! I would be coddled and wrapped in cotton wool...which I think all pregnant mothers should be anyway, but here I was, lucky enough to have it actually happen. I left the appointment feeling lighter than I had in weeks. The fear of another pregnancy had dimmed somewhat. I had put my trust in this man and I knew he would see me through successfully.
You know what? I think Sybella sent The Boss to me also. She knew how distressed I was during her pregnancy and how I feared the worst. And she knew I would have more children, so that Jack wouldnt be an only child here on Earth. She wanted me to feel safe again. She wanted to make sure my next (and probably last) pregnancy was enjoyable. I love this about her. I love how good she is at looking after us, even though I should be the one looking after her. I really think that if she were here, and got to grow up, have birthdays, get married and have children of her own, she'd look after everyone around her. She'd be caring like that.
So thankyou, my Sybella, for sending me this doctor, to look after me and your future little sister or brother. Such a beautiful big sister you are already.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tori


Tori: to.ri (noun) tawr-ahy, tohr-ahy ~ 1. medical supremo 2. superstar/charismatic to the max 3. Steph's hero.

That's her. She's my brother Sam's girrrrrrlfriend. And I love her.
I never had a sister. And I've had old boyfriends whose sisters weren't....very nice to me. There is nothing worse than feeling completely unwelcome and intrusive and unimportant, a feeling brought on by the treatment of someone else your OWN age!
So I swore black and blue that when my brothers had girlfriends, I would be welcoming, and kind, and interested in them. I think I've done okay so far. They'll have to vouch for me.

I met Tori in April 2006. Jack was 7 weeks old. It had just been discovered that some of my placenta was left inside my uterus, I had just had the D&C (that had rendered me infertile for 18 months) to remove the tissue, and had arrived at my mum's house for some TLC. Kelvin, Jack and I were walking down the driveway and Sam and Tori were backing out in the car. I saw this cute little blonde haired girl poke her head out the window and exclaim "are you okayyyyyy? ....so nice to meet you!"

I liked her immediately.

Fast forward four years. She and Sam are still going strong. She has watched Jack grow up. She has become my friend irrespective of her realtionship with Sam. I consider her my friend, independent of him. I am not nice to her because she is Sam's girlfriend and it's polite. I love her because she is nice, and she is cool and funny. She is warm, she makes an effort with everyone she meets. Her charisma is electrifying. There are no games. She is accepting, non-judgemental.

She is the first person who sent me a text message after Sybella died.

The photo of the two of us above was taken in December 2009. I was 18 weeks pregnant with Sybella....and a tad...puffy. Even my face was retaining water! I cant believe how bloated I look. Our family had gone to Bluey's Beach over Christmas, and we were spending the day at the beach. Tori looks beautiful, as per usual.

Tori is about to finish her degree in Medicine at Sydney Uni in September. She's smart.
She has done her Obstetrics and Gynaecology training a few years ago, I think. In the process, she considered one of her doctors so progressive and talented, and basically the best in his field of obstetrics and gynaecology, that she considered him her mentor. She worked under him, building a relationship and learning as much as she could in this field.

Now, this doctor IS considered the best in his field. I think he's a little famous in the pink and squishy world. I wont name him because I'm not sure if he'd like it. So I'll call him The Boss.

Tori organised for me to see The Boss shortly after Sybella died. Now, The Boss is so dang popular and sought after that you cant get in to see him if you are a normal plebian. But thanks to Tori, I was a shoe-in.

Because of Tori, I was about to embark on the safest medical professional relationship I have ever experienced. I was about to feel the most comforted and coddled that I ever had. And it was exactly what I needed.

Thanks Torasaurus xx

Considering More Children

I deliberately named this post Considering More Children, not Considering More Pregnancies, because as the time comes to think about adding to our family, Kelvin and I have been talking seriously about adoption.
Not just adoption, though. I definitely want to be pregnant again and give birth to a biological child, if nothing else, to put faith back into my own body. And to give life again, to welcome a new baby that we have created, to experience the midwife placing a warm, wet, crying baby on my breast. I need to do that.
But Kelvin and I are also very much aware of countless children in the world who are without families. So I am going to divide this post in two parts, one dedicated to adoption, one to pregnancy.


Considering Pregnancy Again
When Sybella was first born, and after we left the hospital, I was flooded with hormones and instincts. All new mothers experience this, and it's normal, of course. But I didnt have my baby to nurture (physically). She wasnt here. So my thoughts led to desperation to get pregnant again as soon as possible. All I wanted was a baby in my arms. I felt empty. I was full of milk and tears. When I started my cycle again exactly a month after Sybella's birth, I took it as a good sign that my body was ready. But then I panicked. What on Earth was I thinking? I didnt want a "new" baby, I wanted Sybella. I read somewhere that you arent ready to get pregnant again until you can differentiate between wanting a new baby, or wanting the baby that died. And I still wanted the baby that died. So I wasnt ready. But I was struck. Struck with fear. Fear that I'd never have another baby. Fear that we'd experience infertility again. Fear that my next baby will also be stillborn. Fear that Jack would be an only child. When you are by nature, a maternal entity, someone who has known from a young age that they only wanted to be a mother, and who dedicated their studies and profession to children's education while I sat, biding my time until I could have a baby of my own, these fears are paralysing. And considering another pregnancy is paralysing. I cannot feel my grief lifting, so how can I put myself through another pregnancy? What kind of toll will it take on me, physically and emotionally? I guess the only thing to do is to wait. Wait and see. It WILL happen, I know.


I see that little blonde boy so clearly. I think his name is Ned.


Considering Adoption
Back when we were trying to conceive Sybella, and having trouble, Kelvin mentioned the idea of adoption. I was surprised. It had crossed my mind, but I didnt think he'd be up for it. Biological family ties and blood relations are very important to Kelvin, he places much importance on his family name and so does his family. But I guess he has shown me that biology plays a part in families, but there is an element to him that wants to give more of himself. I believe in families, and they are incredibly important. But I am definitely a believer of nurture over nature. I dont agree that blood and biological ties are the only things that make a family.
Ever since reading Confessions From An Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran, I have a deep desire to adopt a little girl from China. In China, male babies are highly valued, especially in rural areas, quite simply because males are needed for physical strength when farming. Due to the One Child Policy, baby girls that are born are either abandoned and left to die, left at orphanges or killed shortly after birth. As a result, Chinese orphanges are teeming with baby girls. Kelvin and I have often discussed taking this route to build our family. Not because of some romantised ideal to be another Brangelina, or Charlotte from Sex and the City. But because we cannot stand to think of these children, without homes, without families. Kelvin, Jack and I can give a little girl a home and a family. We have the love. We have the resources. I am still a little hesitant. Kelvin is the one here cheering this notion along. I'm really proud of him. I'm proud that he has so much to give. And that he is willing to step outside the box, to create love from his own pain. It will be a few years before we investigate this. Nothing may ever come of it, I dont know. But it is a serious option for us.


So there you have it. They are just ramblings of a grieving mother at this point. Who knows what life has in store for us? I have learned very lately that you can plan till the cows come home, and do everything right, but you still have no control over God's Will.


This time last year, I had no idea that I would be a Babylost Mama by now. So who knows what this time NEXT year has in store?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stephanie and Madeline


Stephanie Paige Cole's story of her daughter Madeline's birth.
Stephanie is the founder of The Sweet Pea Project. She is also a superstar.

After forty weeks of excited anticipation my due date was finally here. But Madeline didn’t seem to realize that this was the day the doctors had predicted her arrival, and was quite content to stay snug in my belly for a little longer. On Tuesday I went to see my doctor. He examined us, Madeline and I, and said it was up to me. We could induce if we wanted, we could wait if we wanted. We decided to stick it out for a few more days. I trusted my body, it would let me know when the time was right. Madeline would come when she was ready. On Wednesday I lost my mucous plug. Any time now labor could begin! But I was still pregnant when I went to bed that night. “This is all completely normal,” my doctor told me. They were not at all concerned, and neither was I.

My pregnancy was uneventful and complication-free, and I loved every second of it. Sure there was morning sickness that lasted all day, fire-like heartburn, and constant runs to the bathroom- but the discomfort all seemed to melt away whenever I felt my little girl move inside of me. And she was an active little monster! Madeline had regular dance parties every night. She would begin to kick around 11:00pm and would go nonstop until she tired herself out. It was my favorite part of the day. Eating peach ice cream was another surefire way to get her going. A few bites and she was kicking up a storm. Madeline also had very predictable hiccups every morning right around 8:00am. Her hiccups were so predictable that towards the end of my pregnancy I stopped setting an alarm clock, relying completely on Madeline to hiccup me awake every morning. On Wednesday night, after her dance party, my husband read Maddie her bedtime story, just like he had every night since we first found out I was pregnant. After the story we got ready for bed. He gave me a hug and Madeline kicked me so hard that he felt it through my belly into his, and we joked that she was jealous of me hugging her Daddy. That was the last time either of us felt her kick. I woke up to unusual movement a few hours later. It felt like Madeline was twitching. I woke Richy up and we considered going to the hospital. The twitching stopped, and I wasn’t cramping or anything, so we went back to bed.
On Thursday I didn’t wake up until after 10:00am. No hiccups. That should have been my first sign that something was wrong. I ate ice cream for breakfast, hoping that the sugar rush would get her moving. I had heard that babies tend to slow down a bit right before birth, so I thought maybe labor was about to begin. I took a shower and rubbed my belly and sang to Madeline. Nothing. I was getting pretty nervous as I got out of the shower, and was on the phone with the nurse from maternal fetal medicine before I had even gotten dressed. She said I should come in just to get checked out, just to ease my mind. I called my husband as I was getting dressed, but he said he couldn't leave work. I sat on my bed and noticed that my belly looked different. Madeline seemed to be lying sideways. I called my husband back and told him that I thought maybe he should come with me, but he said that everything was fine and that I could call him if I needed and he would leave work right away. I didn't protest. I called my mom to let her know that I was going to the hospital. She offered to meet me there, but I told her there was no need for that, I would just call her later and let her know how things went. I grabbed my pillow and the camcorder, just in case I did end up going into labor, and headed out to the car. My hospital bags were already in the car. One bag with our stuff for labor, and one with clothes for all three of us for the hospital stay. Those bags had been waiting patiently in my backseat for weeks.
The hospital is about a forty-five minute drive from my house. I spent the entire ride rubbing my belly and alternating between singing to Madeline and begging her to move. At one point I started to cry and pleaded with her to please just kick once for Mommy. "It doesn't have to be a big kick Sweet Pea" I told her, "just let Mommy know you are alright." Nothing. I stopped at a red light less than a mile from the hospital and just as the light changed to green and I began to make a left turn I swore I felt her move a little. I breathed a sigh of relief and pulled into the parking lot, parked my car and walked upstairs to Labor & Delivery.
Telling the L&D nurse that I was here because I hadn't felt movement all day made it seem more real, and a little scary, but I convinced myself that it was going to be okay. At this point my worst case scenario was that something was wrong and they would have to do an emergency c-section. My mind never even drifted to worse possibilities. After forty-one weeks of complication free pregnancy, I thought Madeline was a sure thing. The nurse had me give a urine sample and then led me to a small room. She tried to find Madeline's heartbeat with the Doppler. She wasn't able to find it, but she said that the Doppler was acting up and asked me to wait one minute while she got the ultrasound machine. My mom walked in just as she was about to do the ultrasound. My mom is such a good mom. I am eternally grateful to her for ignoring me and coming anyway. The nurse began to do the ultrasound, but stopped after just a few seconds. She turned off the monitor and again blamed the machine. This ultrasound machine is so old and useless, was the lie she used. She told me she would take me across the hall to a newer machine, she just had to go make sure it was available. When she left the room my mom looked at me with worried eyes, she looked so much more worried than I was. She said she thought we should call Richy, that he needs to come now, and she stepped out into the hallway to call him. They took me across the hallway and I was still so oblivious to what was about to happen that when we walked into the room, I smiled. This was the same room where we first learned that Madeline was a little girl. I loved this room.
The head of maternal fetal medicine came in to do the ultrasound, along with the attending nurse. They had been the ones to follow me throughout my pregnancy, so it was nice to see faces I knew. The nurse stood by my side and I noticed that she looked very worried. I asked her if everything was okay, if she thought something was really wrong. She told me that they just wanted to be sure, but didn't really make eye contact. She must have already known. I think by that point, everyone knew but me. The doctor began the ultrasound and turned to me, "I'm sorry Mrs. Cole, the baby is gone." It didn't make sense to me. I told him no. I told him to do it again. He put the wand back on my belly and turned the screen to me. He pointed to her heart. It was still. I have no memory of seeing it though, I think I had lost my vision by that point. I had also lost my ability to process information. I felt like I was falling, I was dizzy, I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to breathe. Nothing made sense. The nurse began crying and my mom rushed over to me and started stroking my hair and talking to me. I pushed them both away and, trying desperately to get hold of myself and remain calm, I turned to the doctor and said "Okay, so what can we do now? What do we do?" He looked at me sympathetically and began talking to me quietly and gently about inducing labor. Oh my God, I still have to give birth?!? "No, no. We need to fix this. How do we fix this? How do we get her back? What can I do?" Everyone just stood there looking at me with such sadness, offering me nothing but their own tears and broken hearts. Still lying on the ultrasound bed with goo all over my belly I took my mom's cell phone and called Richy. I was so consumed by shock and disbelief that when he answered I just flatly said, "She's gone. Madeline's dead." Then I handed the phone back to my mom. I wasn't the only one who couldn't process the truth. My mom had to repeat it a dozen times before Richy stopped saying, "Wait, what?" He was in a car with a co-worker about an hour away from the hospital. His co-worker immediately began driving to the hospital, with Richy sobbing uncontrollably the entire way.
Back at the hospital, someone had led me to a small windowless room somewhere in the L&D wing. I don't remember getting off the ultrasound bed or walking to the room. I only remember being there. I do remember someone handing me a gown and telling me to change into it, but I refused. I just sat on the bed, completely still and silent, and stared at the walls. My mom stood motionless nearby. At one point I told her I was going to kill myself. She closed her eyes and whispered, "I know." When Richy finally arrived our doctor was waiting for him at the elevator. He brought him to my tiny corner of hell and left us alone for awhile. My mom stepped out and Richy and I collapsed into each other and cried and cried and cried.
Eventually it was time to move to a Labor & Delivery room and begin the induction. It was about 7:00pm at that point. My body was shaking so hard that they had difficulty putting in the IV and getting everything started. They gave me blankets, but the chill was coming from inside. No amount of blankets could warm me, nothing could stop my shaking. When I started to feel contractions they gave me an epidural. They didn't want me to have to feel pain. I couldn't have cared less about contractions at that point. I was numb. I was dead. Richy lay on a cot next to my bed. My mom curled up in a chair in the corner. Nobody spoke. Nobody cried. We all just lay there hoping to wake up from this nightmare. At one point I thought I felt a kick and I made the nurse use the Doppler. Of course it was nothing, Madeline was still dead, but the nurse got the Doppler out and checked for me. I rolled back over and cried quietly into my pillow. After nineteen hours of labor it was time to push. I didn't cry out or groan or yell or any of that dramatic garbage. I just did what I had to do. I pushed for two hours before they finally resorted to vacuum extraction. They told me they just needed me to give one more push and I quietly said, "No. I can't." The nurse stroked my arm and told me I was doing so well and that I was almost there, but that was the problem- it was almost over. One more push and they would take her from me. I wanted to keep her with me, in my body. I didn't want to give birth to death, I just didn't want to do this anymore. I wanted to stop and go home and come back tomorrow and have it all be different. But my body betrayed me and pushed her out. I felt my daughter being pulled from my body, and then delivery was over. She was out, she was dead. It was 2:11pm, Friday January 5th, 2007. No one spoke as the nurse carried Madeline over to the warmer, where my mom helped to bathe her. The doctor gently told me, "It was a girl." Was. He said WAS. Richy was sobbing uncontrollably in the corner of the room. He had doubled over as they pulled her out. I looked over and saw him standing there sobbing. "I could feel my soul being pulled out of me" he whispered. That is exactly how it felt for me, only mine was physical- my daughter, my soul, was pulled from my body. He says his felt more like burning, but it was the same- she was a part of us, and when she died it killed us.
My mom walked across the room, holding her first grandchild in her arms. She handed Madeline to Richy and I watched as his face crumpled. He bent his face close to hers and whispered, "I was going to call you MadeLION." They were still stitching me up, so I couldn't hold her yet. Richy stood next to me and cradled his daughter against his chest and told her how much he loves her and how beautiful she is. Then he handed her to me. My daughter is in my arms. This is the moment I had been waiting for since before I ever even conceived, but it was never like this. I looked down at her; really saw her for the first time. She was so beautiful. What struck me most were her eyes, tightly shut but still so gorgeous- big and almond shaped like her daddy's. The nurse later told me that they were brown like mine, I never got to see that. She had my high cheekbones and my ears, my little sister's nose. She was perfect. There is something about holding your child for the first time, especially your firstborn... there aren't words to describe the overwhelming rush of love that pours over you, the feeling that this is exactly what you were put on earth to do- to be the mother of this baby. All of those emotions flooded over me as I stared at her in awe. I couldn't believe that we were capable of making something, someone, so beautiful and perfect. It only took a few seconds before reality settled in. Yes she was here, she was beautiful and perfect and amazing and mine, but she was also dead. We had a few hours with her at the most, and then we would never see her again.
After an overnight labor that lasted 21 hours, I was completely exhausted, but I didn't dare close my eyes. It was so hard, my eyelids were so heavy and I had to fight to keep them open. I knew that this was all the time I would ever have with my daughter, and I didn't want to miss one second. I cradled her in my arms, her head resting in the crook of my left arm. I snuck my index finger into her fist, her tiny little fingers wrapped around mine. I told her how beautiful she is and how much I love her, I told her how sorry I was that I couldn't protect her. I sang "Oh Sweet Pea" and "You Are My Sunshine" to her. Sometimes I cried a little, but mostly I just stared at her. The nurse took her out of the room to take some photographs, and then brought her back to me. I held her for awhile longer, until Richy said it was time. Her skin was starting to get cold and her mouth was getting red. Her body was letting go, and it was time for us to do the same. I didn't want to, but Richy said we had to. I needed him to make that decision. If it were up to me I would probably still be holding her. We each kissed her one last time and told her how much we love her. My body shook as the nurse gently took her out of my arms and walked out of the room with her. I never saw her again.
They told me it was time to move me out of labor & delivery and into a recovery room. Once in my room, the nurse told us that dinner was over and gave Richy a voucher for the cafeteria so that we could get some food, and then began to explain how to use the television's remote control. I stared at her blankly, who cares about food or TV? Nothing had ever seemed more ridiculous. They kept me at the hospital for the weekend. Richy was anxious to go, but I didn’t want to leave. I wanted nothing to do with the outside world. The idea of leaving the hospital and reentering the world was horrifying. As they wheeled me out to the car I clutched Madeline's little green elephant and covered my face with my hands. I didn't want to see anyone and I didn't want anyone to see me. I felt stupid, leaving without my baby. I felt like I failed. Driving home was hell. It felt so wrong to leave the hospital without Madeline. Walking back into our house without her was hell. Facing her room, her crib, her clothes, it was all too much. For the first week I stayed on my couch with the lights off and stared into space. Blood, breast milk and tears flowed from me and I stared with disgust at the saggy emptiness of my belly. As the shock lifted, the depression took over. I hated my body for not protecting my baby, I hated myself for being alive.
Somehow slowly, too slowly even to notice, I began to come back to life. I was different, definitely, but parts of me started to come back a little. Sometimes something was funny, and I smiled. Sometimes I even laughed. Nothing ever went back to normal, but life continued on and slowly I began to participate in it again. Madeline never left my mind, but I was able to see outside of the darkness of her death a little. I was able to look at her pictures and smile at how beautiful she really was. After a few months Richy and I decided that we were ready to try to have another child. We were scared out of our minds, but we were determined not to let fear control us. Madeline was never meant to be an only child, and we were ready to bring her little sibling into the world. Plus, it had taken a year to conceive Madeline so we thought starting soon would be a good idea. This time it only took a couple of months. The pregnancy was a stressful, scary, and emotional time for me- but it was also a gift and I treasured every second. We induced labor two weeks early because I was getting very nervous toward the end of the pregnancy, and after a long labor and emergency cesarean, Madeline's little brother Ben was born healthy and alive. It was six days after his big sister's first birthday. His cry was the sweetest sound I have ever heard.
Madeline would be two and a half by now, and there is still not a day (or an hour, or a second) that goes by that I don't think of her. Some days are harder than others, but most days truly are good. I have learned how to exist in this new life I was forced into. I created the Sweet Pea Project to reach out to other bereaved parents, and I find that helping others does wonders for me as well. I am pregnant again with another little boy, Nathaniel, and I am still as nervous as ever about the pregnancy- innocence and naiveté are not things that can grow back with time. I am, however, full of hope and I do believe that this baby can and will come home with me- something I was never fully able to believe while pregnant with Ben.
I am at a place now where I am comfortable with who I am, a mother to children both living and dead. If someone comments on my belly I always tell them it is my third. If I am asked if Ben is my first I always say, "No, he has a big sister." Sometimes it goes no further than that, but I no longer dread the follow-up questions the way that I used to. Madeline is my daughter and I am proud of her. It is Mother's Day as I sit here writing this, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the little girl who first gave me the beautiful title of Mother. I am madly in love with all of my children, but ask anyone, there is always a special place for the first born in a mother's heart.

Perspectives

I am in the process of collecting stories from other babylost mama's, that I will post here so that you can gain some other perspectives, not just mine, day in and day out!
Hopefully it will be therapeutic for these wonderful ladies to write their stories, and hopefully all my readers can gauge a collection of different experiences.
If you are a babylost mama and you would like to donate your story to be published here, leave me a comment, or email me (address in profile).

August 19 ~ Day of Hope


Carly Dudley, of The Grief Effect (the same beautiful lady who wrote Sybella's name in the sand) has launched Day of Hope in memory of her son Christian and other babies who were taken too soon.
Day of Hope involves making a memory box, filled with momentos, cards, candles, blankets and other beautiful things and donating it to a hospital, for another family who experiences stillbirth and will otherwise go home empty handed.
Carly hopes that on August 19, Day of Hope, memory boxes will flood hospitals around the world.
I will be making a few, and donating them to the hospital where Sybella was born.
To be involved, click here for more information on how to participate. Alternatively, contact me through an email (address found by viewing my blog profile), or visiting my Facebook Fan Page for Born Still.
I sincerely urge everyone to participate in this beautiful cause.
Blessings xx

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I Want To Be Ordinary


Why, after a particularly peaceful and content day, is the next day dreadful?
I started out okay. But again, it was a grey, benign day, rain intermittent, and I am sad.
I wandered around aimlessly, half completing household tasks and falling onto the couch every ten minutes. I'd sit and stare into space, then get up and wander around again. I felt leaden and heavy. My eyes felt like they had sand in them.
I am afraid I am getting depressed. I dont think so, because I have these types of days sometimes and I always come out of it. But all I wanted to do was sleep. Everything is an effort. A supreme effort. Kelvin tries to joke with me, to snap me out of it. But all I can manage is a watery smile.
I dont even know why. 
All the newborn baby, or emerging baby bump photos on Facebook sends my stomach into a knot. I quickly scroll past those pictures and invest my time reading stupid fan pages, entitled "How Does A Bus Driver Close The Door After They Get Off The Bus?" or "I Hate It When I'm Making A Milkshake and Boys Just Show Up In My Yard." I cringe at the banality, but am jealous of the creators of these pages, because their lives are probably (probably, not definitely) free of a recent tragedy.
I spent time thinking of Sybella, especially her little hands, and I have stroked Jack's little toes, a larger version of Sybella's. I looked at Sybella's photos, just born, sleeping peacefully and ached for her. I worried for her. I wondered about her last moments. Was she scared, did she fight and struggle for her life or did she just go to sleep and not wake up? I freeze at the thought that she might have been scared and alone, wondering what was happening, while I, her mother, was probably doing something trivial like folding laundry or picking up toys, completely unaware that my daughter was dying.
I say to Kelvin that I wonder what today would have been like if she were here, like she should be, 5 weeks old (if she'd been born at term). I'd be breastfeeding, and probably reprimanding Jack to be gentle with his sister as he tried to pick her up. I'd be exhausted and sleep deprived, and knee-deep in laundry, snapping at Kelvin, most likely. As you do when you are overwhelmed by the day to day. It probably doesnt paint a pretty picture, the ordinary suburban predictability of a young family. But right now, it seems like bliss. I want boring, I want suburban, I want predictable. I want to be the quintessential mother, married, one son, one daughter who's biggest worry is what to make for dinner and how we will pay the car insurance. I dont want to be different, I dont want to stand out.

I dont want to be someone who's baby has died. But I am. For the rest of my life.

I just miss her. Sybella. I just miss her.

PILARI

PILARI (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Research Institute) has released some information about what family and friends can do when someone they know has lost a baby. This is copyrighted, so I cant copy and paste the tips, but you can click here to view the page.
I am guessing that this is what Kimberly may have been asking about in my previous post Any Questions.
I have also added some of my own tips here, well, things I am glad that people did, of which I was immensly grateful for.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Today

Just a little uplifting post. Today the three of us had a particularly gorgeous day.
Jack stayed with his grandparents last night, so Kelvin and I had a night to ourselves. Well, he watched football and I read and blogged, but we sat in companionable silence, his arm around me.
We got a sleep in, pottered around in the morning, tidying up and whatnot. Then we went down and picked up Jacky, who was most pleased to see us. Apparently he was telling Papa and Nana that mummy was his best girl and daddy was his best boy. That's pretty cool.
So we took him to Macquarie Centre, had some lunch and watched the ice skaters. Then, highlight of the day, we watched Toy Story 3. What a top movie! Granted, someone was in our designated seats, so we sat in different ones, only to be severely reprimanded (!) by another patron for sitting in their seats! Ah, we had a laugh about that. It's all you can do. Then Jack flicked a tantrum switch when the movie had 15 minutes to go, and we had to leave. Bummer. That's okay. He's only four. Came home to find a surprise Buzz Lightyear toy waiting for him.
This evening, I got to sit on the computer and blog, while Kelvin lit a fire in the back room, toasted marshmallows and watched a movie with Jack....Toy Story 1, to be exact. Cue companionable silence again. Everyone happy and tired and content.
As I write, Jack and I are in bed, he's watching Bunny Town, leaning into me, snuggled up with Buzz Lightyear. Bliss.

Thank You


So far, I am astounded at all the positive responses I have received about my blog. I just want to dedicate a HUGE thankyou to everybody who reads, writes comments, follows or joins my Facebook page. Your support means the world to me. To those who have requested to publish parts of my blog on their site, newsletter or other media source, I send you my deepest gratitude. You are helping to cease the silence surrounding stillbirth and spread the message out there.
My supporters are the ones who, through the perpetuation of knowledge and information, will ultimately help other families who experience this tragedy.
Once again, thank you. xx

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coping With Grief

I am not someone who is prone to falling into a pit of ongoing depair. My grieving ritual involved bursts of unbridled rage (mostly aimed at the coke bottle thrown against the wall, or the multi-vitamins being chucked in the bin) and heaving sob attacks where I couldnt catch my breath for tears. In the early days, I wandered around in a foggy haze, interspersed by said rage and tears. The rage and tears episodes became fewer and fewer as weeks went on and my mood is now on an even keel, with occassional moments of crying and sadness, done in private, late at night as I look at Sybella's photos. I am going on with life...dinner needs to be cooked, laundry needs to be washed, but there is a heaviness and a sadness about me now that is always attached and will never leave, I believe. A cloud follows me everywhere. My emotions run much closer to the surface now. I am outraged when I hear stories of child abuse or neglect (I always felt that, even before Sybella), I want to take all these children into my home and mother them. I want to wipe their noses and tuck them into a warm bed. I sponsor a child through World Vision from Chile. He was involved in the Chilean earthquake a few months ago, and though I keep calling World Vision about his welfare and fervently writing to his mother, I have not yet gotten an answer about whether they are okay. He is only 3 and I lie awake sick with worry about him. I desperately hope to hear from his mother soon.  Despite the cloud, I keep on going. I gave myself projects, once the raw grief settled.
The day we moved into our house was the day I found out I was pregnant with Sybella. It seemed like a sign, that life was starting afresh and positive after a tricky couple of years prior. Because I was pregnant, I did not throw myself into home decor for fear of hurting the baby. I didnt paint or replace anything because of dust and fumes. So when I wasnt pregnant anymore, I went a bit beserk. In the space of three weeks, I had painted the shed (with Kelvin's supervision because I am an ordinary painter) planted a flower garden, replaced the shower, replaced all taps in the bathroom, replaced the cupboard doorknobs and painted the mailbox. I also had plans to get a new front fence and replace all the doors in our house, but those projects need to wait until I get my tax return! All of this helped. I like beautifying things, it makes me calm. My surroundings are important to me. I am not materialistic, but I need my home to be a haven. It is very important that it is calm and soothing and comfortable. I cannot have chaos because it makes me anxious. Funnily enough, Jack and Kelvin are the same. They like the comfort of the home that I have maintained. They appreciate it. I think it makes them feel safe. And I like being the nurturer. Our home is a good balance of comfortable yet ordered. It is in no way sterile. There are always toys on the floor, finger prints on the windows. Jack's preschool paintings hang in the kitchen and the walls are covered with pictures and photos. But I digress. I think that what I am trying to say is that my home helped in the midst of my grief, I had a haven to come to, that was comfortable to be in while I experienced the depths. And the beautification project helped me, not to distract, but to channel my grief in a different way. In a motivated way, if that makes sense. I weeded the garden with tears running down my cheeks, asking God how he could let a weed grow so abundantly, but not my daughter. I slapped paint on the mailbox and felt proud of myself, like I was accomplishing something. I carefully tended to my flowerbed and watered it daily, projecting all my pent-up mothering instincts into growing my flowers.
It's all symbolic in a way. Kelvin said last night that Sybella has given us a beautiful gift. She changed our lives more than any other event can or will. And after she died, it's like all the beauty of her soul flooded into me, and I felt the primal desire to beautify everything around me. So now, when I look at the shed, or the shower, or the flowerbed, I see Sybella. I see her beauty.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lucky #2

I am so dang lucky to have my beautiful Jack.

Giving Thanks

I guess when one is writing about stillbirth and the loss of their baby, it is easy to become negative. I wrote a post called I Wish They Wouldn't, all about the things I wish people wouldnt do and say. Kimberly asked if there was anything I wish people would have said or done. I guess I should start by apologising for not focusing on the positive support we received, sooner. My explanation (not excuse) is that when you are swamped by the negativity of your situation, it's hard to appreciate even the little things.

Anyhoo, this post can be divided into two sections: appreciation and thanks for the support we recieved and things I wished or hoped people would have said or done (although there isnt that much).


Giving Thanks ~ I loved how:


• People sent flowers. It was a true recognition of Sybella's birth. If she had been born alive, we'd be inundated with flowers. So I loved that we got flowers, even in sympathy, but I saw them as congratulatory.


• Same goes for cards.


• People called. They called and called and called. Granted, I wasnt always in a position to speak. Sometimes Kelvin fielded the calls, sometimes I didnt answer. But people wanted us to know that they were thinking of us. And if I didnt answer the first (or even second or third) time, they still called. And their messages were very comforting. It was nice to know that Sybella was in their thoughts.


• People tried to protect my feelings whenever there was a pregnancy or birth announcement.


• I got the most beautiful blessings and messages from people who I barely know, or speak to often.


• People really thought about what they were going to say or write to me. Almost all messages were heartfelt, sincere and well thought out.


• Barb came up one weekend, brought dinner, washed clothes and cleaned.


• People thought to ask after Kelvin and Jack. Some even went so far as to take Kel out for an evening, to a football game, seated in a corporate box, just so he had something to look forward to.


My Hopes and Wishes ~ I hope and wish that:


• People begin to learn more about stillbirth, now that is has affected someone they know.


• People understand when I dont have the strength or energy to respond to phone calls, facebook messages or emails straight away.


• People will donate a teddy bear to Bears of Hope when my 30th birthday rolls around in September, in lieu of gifts.


• People will always count Sybella as a person. I hope that she will always be included and remembered by others.


I will be posting more information on Bears of Hope in a future post. To read about it before then, click the Bears of Hope text above.


Wishing all readers a gentle day.
xx

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Any Questions?

At this point, I thought I'd give readers the opportunity to ask any questions they may have so far.
If you know me in person, you know that I will answer just about anything. I feel that it is very very important to lift the silence surrounding stillbirth and make it a topic that is spoken honestly and openly about.
I knew nothing about stillbirth before it happened to me. Maybe if I knew more about risk factors, symptoms and signs to look out for, kick counts, etc, it wouldnt have happened.
So I am lifting the lid. Ask me anything. (Hopefully I'll get some questions. How embarrassing if I dont!)
Either leave your question in the "comments" section, or drop me a line (email address link can be found by viewing my profile).
Peace and strength xx

Strength

Some wonderful people have told me that I have amazing strength, and they wonder where I get it from. The word "strength" has been used countless times in regards to how I am dealing with Sybella's death. It is so wonderful to hear, and a lovely compliment. But it baffles and bewilders me. Because I dont think I have strength. And it worries me, that if I am demonstrating this "strength," do people think that I am not sad? Do they think I am not feeling anything? Do they see me as cold and heartless? I have been thrown into this situation and I have had to struggle to stay afloat in unknown waters. People ask me how I do it. How I cope. But what choice do I have?
Here are my innermost thoughts and feelings regarding my response to Sybella's death.

I am a fairly resilient person. That does not mean that I "get over" things easily. It means that I am able to go on with life, despite overwhelming pain. Two very different concepts. I think that having a child already helped me to keep going, and stopped me falling into a hole of grief and despondency.
I worry because although my heart is being crushed every second of every day, I cant explain why I still am able to have a laugh, a joke, a smile. Some people look at me and I wonder if they think I am being inappropriate, by smiling, when my baby is dead. I have been told, once, when I was having a particularly good day, that "I must be over it by now." And I said to that person, that you never get over the death of your child. Never never never never never.
And of course, I feel guilty. How can I joke when Sybella is not here? What right do I have to enjoy life, when my daughter never even got a chance to start hers?
It just seems to be the kind of person I am. Like I said in my post, Label Jars, Not People, there is no drama here. So you will never see me wailing and beating my breast. That is not to say that I DONT wail and beat my breast. I do. Often. But I do it in private. Or I do it with Kelvin, who sits and supports me, and listens, and brings tissues. My grief is much like my marriage. In that same post, I described my marriage as solid and that our deepest and closest times are between just the two of us. Just because someone doesnt see us being close, doesnt mean we arent. My grief is the same. Just because I am not seen losing my mind and crying helplessly into pillow, doesnt mean it doesnt happen. I will project something different to the general public because I dont feel comfortable letting them see me being vulnerable and exposed. I guess that's where people see my "strength." I let them know I'm sad, that I'm having a rough time and that I miss Sybella. But my deepest grief is raw and personal.

I am not hiding my grief. I know I said that I take issue with those who project a different affect to who they really are, so what I just shared might sound hypocritical, but it's not. Because I am honest about who I am as a person, and the affect that I project is consistent with my personality, but this single aspect of myself is something I choose to process privately.
Someone once said that grief is like lifting weights. On the first day you pick up that 50kg weight, you might collapse with pain and effort. On the first day your child dies, you wonder how you will ever pick yourself up and keep going. But you keep lifting that weight. You dont have a choice. And by the same time next year, that weight is still heavy, and you still feel pain when you lift it. But it is much more tolerable.
So even though I am smiling, or having a joke, or enjoying a movie, remember that my heart is still cracked and heavy. Remember that I am carrying deep pain. No matter how much time passes, I will never be ready to put Sybella aside. It doesnt matter if I have another baby, because that baby, although a beautiful and precious blessing, will not take away my pain of losing my second child. There will be no replacement for Sybella.

Remember, in a years time, or twenty years time to ask me about my daughter.
When my next baby is born, continue to talk to me about Sybella.
Say her name with me.
And we will find strength together.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jack

I thought I'd post about Jack's response to Sybella's death, to give him a bit of a look-in, and also, to help anyone out there who has an older child experiencing the stillbirth of a sibling.
I've gone over some of the basics of his response...his inital lack of understanding of the concept of death, the way he chose to process it, his overwhelming grief at Sybella's funeral.
Upon coming home from hospital after Sybella's birth, Jack was still wanting to rub my stomach and kiss "the baby" that he thought was still in there (needless to say, I still had a touch of Mummy Tummy). He was able to tell us that Sybella had gone to help Jesus, she had gone to Heaven in a rocket, and she couldnt come home. He seemed accepting, but I put this down to Jack thinking that death was transient, not permanent. It wasnt until the funeral, where he had his little silent meltdown that I think it hit him that Sybella had died and what that meant. I am sure that he thought we were supposed to take the baby with us, and the reason I think this is because of his subsequent behaviour at preschool. When it was time for him to return to preschool, he panicked and cried when I dropped him off. This was new behaviour. He never cried during the drop off, he loved preschool. I think that his concept of permanence was cemented by his sister's death. His teacher, Jon, wondered if Jack was scared that I was going to leave him at preschool, the way I'd "left" Sybella in the chapel. He thought Jack was scared that I wouldnt pick him up again. That seemed like a good explanation, except it has been about ten weeks now, and he is still crying when I drop him off. So I figure that Sybella's death has affected him more than he lets on.

At night, immediately after returning from hospital, I would say good night to Sybella, and Jack would listen to me. After about a week of this, when we got into bed, he said "Mummy, talk to Sybella." He wanted me to talk to Sybella, say goodnight, tell her I loved her. Since that night, he has made sure every single night, that we say goodnight to Sybella. It has become a ritual. He talks to her too. He tells her that he wants to buy her a pink dummy, and some toys to play with. He says to me "Mummy, you miss Sybella. And I miss Sybella. She's my best girl." And it breaks my heart. He is such a fantastic big brother, and his sister isnt even physically here. I am sure he is bewildered by the whole thing, and I feel so sad for him that he doesnt have a sibling to play with. Because he is so ready for a sibling. He loves other kids. He is kind and gentle with them, he cares about them. I have picked him up from preschool and he has told me that "Amity was crying, she wanted her mummy, so I cuddled her." He has such a nurturing side for such a little boy. He loves babies. His best friend Samuel has a brother, Lachlan, who is 8 months old, and Jack is besotted with him.
Sometimes I hear him in the backyard, singing a song he has made up about Sybella. He loves watering her plant.
Jack was breastfed until he was 26 months old, and as a result, he has an...affection for boobs. He likes to put his hand down my shirt for comfort sometimes. Of course, this is not appropriate and I often tell him that boobies are only for feeding babies and giving them milk, not for big boys. I told him this while I was pregnant with Sybella, whenever he tried to cop a feel. He obviously took notice, because last week, I found him lying on my bed, shirt pulled up, boy nipples exposed. I asked him what he was doing. "I am showing Sybella my boobies, because then maybe she will come back down." It was such a powerful moment, and I laughed and cried at the same time.
I am very lucky to have Jack as my son. He has been my blessing and my guiding light in the depths of grief. He, alone, kept me going. He isnt perfect, but who wants a child that is perfect anyway?! I like them with a bit of spunk. Makes life interesting. He is light and breezy and happy-go-lucky. And as far as I'm concerned, he is Brother of the Year.

Label Jars, Not People

This post is off the subject. But thought it might help you understand who I am a little better.

Being pigeon-holed is a pet hate of mine. I am complicated. I have many levels and layers. Who I am and who I can appear to be can be very different projections. This is who I am.
  • I am a Virgo. That means that I have certain traits of the star sign and have the potential to be a perfectionist. This usually manifests in times of stress. But mostly I am a normal person who has a messy car.
  • I love hospitals. They are safe and clean and sterile. People are there to look after you. I trust doctors, not blindly, but I respect their knowledge and experience. When it comes to childbirth and antenatal care, although I am in tune with my body and my baby, I concede that the doctor probably knows better and I will listen to him/her. I guess I am lucky that I have had great experiences with doctors so far.
  • Although I enjoy the sterility of hospitals, I practice attachment parenting. Sometimes it may appear that these two things dont marry very well. But I wore my baby (Jack, at the time), co-slept and breastfed for 2 years plus. I practiced attachment parenting after my wonderfully safe and comforting hospital delivery.
  • I am an advocate for mother-led birth choices. I am also an advocate for baby-led birth choices. Here is what I mean: Every mother has the right to give birth in whatever way she feel most safe and comfortable. With rights come responsibility. Every mother, then, has the responsibility to ensure that her birth choice is the safest for her baby's situation. I had a c-section when I delivered Jack. At the time, I was 24. I was 57kg wringing wet. Jack was breech, and nine pounds. So, at the doctor's recommendation, I delivered via c-section. It was safest for me, it was safest for him. I spent a lot of time beating myself up for not having a "trial of labour." But I gave that up once I realised I had done the very best for my baby. My point is, no-one has the right to question or put down someone else's birth choice. If my best friend Merrill told me she wanted her baby to come out her nose, I would say "best of luck, hope it goes well..."
  • I give people the best of me. I make an effort when meeting new people. I usually, then, expect the best from others. And become very confused and bewildered when I dont get it.
  • I am impatient. I dont like waiting. I like efficiency.
  • If someone hurts my feelings, especially if it is uncalled for or unfair, I find it hard to forgive.
  • I am not a game player. I wear my heart on my sleeve. What you see is what you get.
  • I take issue with people who project a different affect to who they really are inside.
  • I often feel misunderstood. I often feel like a child. I crave acceptance and do not understand when I dont get it.
  • I often feel that some people have a perception of me that is incorrect.
  • I am a pragmatist. There is no drama here.
  • My marriage is solid. We've had our moments. But they were OUR moments. We dont take our relationship too seriously...well, we do, of course, but what I mean is that we laugh, joke and tease each other. That is us demonstrating our security. We dont need to advertise our love by being overly affectionate in public. We look after each other, and most of our deepest and closest moments as a couple are when we are alone. I dislike it when people assume we arent close because THEY dont see us in action.
  • I am a magnificent teacher.
  • I love cleaning, but I hate chemicals. I clean with vinegar and bi-carb soda. Natural.
  • Apart from Jack, Sybella and Kelvin, my brothers are my favourite people. They make me laugh and understand me wholeheartedly.
  • My children are my life.
I guess my point is, that there is so much that makes up who we are. I like to take a bit from here, and take a bit from there and mix it up into a solution that suits me. Life is not a template and neither are personalities. There are no "corporate" boxes, "perfectionist" boxes, "hippie" boxes, "sporty" boxes.
People are facets of many many different values, beliefs, practices, talents, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Right, then. I'm off to re-organise the saucepans while listening to whale songs.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Update

When I first started writing this blog, I had bucketloads of feelings and thoughts to get out and so blogged three or four times a day. The more I wrote, the less pent up I felt, and my need to write so often lessened. I am blogging once every couple of days on average. Sometimes after I write I feel light and free. Other times, after particularly emotional and involved posts, I am leaden with sadness and memories, and so need a break from writing and remembering.
I guess what I am saying is that the length of time bewteen posts can be inconsistent and so I hope I am still holding your interest. Rest assurred, I still have heaps to share.
Wishing you all a gentle day xx

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Teeny Tiny Dolly Clothes

We received these clothes after Sybella's cremation, they are the ones that she was wearing before we changed her into her funeral gown. I just cant believe how tiny they are.

Jinxing It

One of the worst things to happen in the immediate aftermath of Sybella's death, was the day we came home from somewhere to find a great big box out the front of our house. Upon opening it, I remembered that two weeks before, I had searched the internet high and low for a specific-sized plastic baby change mat. The website that I finally found it on also made gorgeous toys, and so I spent way too much money on a bear and a rabbit. Coming home, to find that my order had arrived for my baby that wasnt alive anymore was terrible. It made me see just how much can change in two weeks. It showed me how life goes on for internet companies and Australia Post, while my life had ground to a screaming halt. And they werent to know.
Funnily enough, when the order arrived, two bears and a rabbit were sent, instead of one bear and one rabbit. I was not charged for this extra bear, so I wonder if there was some kind of divine intervention? I was able to place one bear and the rabbit in Sybella's casket, to watch over her and keep her company. I was able to keep one of the beautiful bears as well, as a reminder of how ready we were for her to come home. And boy, were we ready! You can see a picture...the clothes that were washed and folded, one day before Sybella died in my womb. The new lampshade that my father in law fitted over the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, so that the light wouldnt be too stark for her. The woollen sheepskin, handwashed and dried, and the head support, placed in the pram, so she could be as comfortable as possible. I was particularly worried about her head lolling about, because when Jack was a newborn, his head rolled around in the car seat, the pram and everything else...I had no idea about head supports! I wasnt going to let that happen again, and so I was super excited that Sybella's head would be firmly supported!
One day, I was with Merrill, in Target or something, browsing in the baby section. I found some pink cellular blankets to buy. Merrill told me about a friend who wouldnt accept any gifts for her unborn baby, or would she buy anything herself, until the baby was born. Merrill said her friend said it was bad luck, and knew a girl who had everything set up, ready for the baby, and the baby died. Merrill and I scoffed at this piece of superstitious nonsense. "Gosh," I said "the baby didnt die because she accepted gifts and bought things. The baby died because there was something wrong." To prove my point, I not only bought the cellular blankets, but load of other baby paraphanalia as well. My baby wasnt going to die because I purchased blankets!
I wonder if I am "the girl" now, who is referred to in a hushed whisper, that bought all her baby's things, and the baby died? "Do you remember Stephanie? She had everything ready, and her baby was stillborn. You dont want to jinx it....."

Am I the moral of the story?