Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Red Thread...

Last week, I braved the shops...and Christmas Madness has begun already...
You know...people pushing in front of you at Medicare...people sideswiping your shoulder and you stumble back with the reverberation of their impact...people who, with hungry, mad eyes, grab the last Buzz Lightyear figurine and elbow you in your pregnant bump to do so. People who shove in front of you on the escalator.
Ha, actually, that usually happens, but I must tell you of the escalator situation that I found myself in last week. Myself and another woman reached the escalator at the same time. I ushered her to go first (because otherwise she'd be stuck behind a waddling thingimijig forever) and she ushered me to go first and we stood there for a bit, doing the Dance of Escalator Etiquette. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: You go first
Her: No, you go, you're the one with the baby
Me: Thankyou! (I get on the escalator)
Her: Is it your first?
Me: No, third
Her: Ohhhhh, those last few weeks are the worst, arent they? Especially in the heat
Me: Um...I'm only 26 weeks
26 Weeks? Day-amm, girl!
Her: (Stumbling to cover up): So, what do you have now?
Me: I have a little boy. And I have a little girl who was stillborn, just in April
Her: (Full of sympathy): Ohhhhhh. I am so sorry. I had a stillbirth too. At 27 weeks
Me: (My turn for the sympathetic face): I am so sorry
Her: Oh, I cant imagine what a term stillbirth was like. 27 weeks was bad enough
Me: Sybella wasnt quite term, she was 34 weeks
Her: (Shakes her head). Just terrible. What was her name? Isabella?
Me: Sybella
Her: That's beautiful!
Me: Thankyou
Her: Is this baby a boy or a girl?
Me: I dont know. I planned on finding out, and decided against it at the last minute
Her: And you know what? This baby will bring you so much peace and happiness, no matter what the sex is
Me: Exactly!
Her: Best of luck and have a wonderful day
Me: Thankyou so too.

Okay, so a fairly unremarkable conversation. That happens, perfect strangers start talking at the shops. Common thread, and all that.
What struck me, though, was out of all the people there for The Christmas Madness Extravaganza (Proudly Brought To You By December! Early November Session On Now!) I happened to strike up a conversation with someone else who had experienced a stillbirth. Although she down-played hers, due to her gestational stage, I understood how much grief differs between people. But I didnt think she needed to down- play it, for my benefit, anyway, because I am 27 weeks, and if I lost my baby now I would howl for the rest of my days.
Perhaps though, she was at peace with it. She was very pragmatic. But of course, I only met her for 5 minutes, and maybe to her I seemed pragmatic too. I dont tend to get overly emotional in public, even with people I am close to, and she was probably the same. I was just so saddened to meet someone else in The Club.
There is a Chinese proverb that reads:

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance.The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.

That is how I feel about most babylost mamas I meet. Maybe she is someone who I may not have associated with normally. Maybe she is someone I wouldnt normally like. Maybe we are part of different religions, cultures, or have different values or beliefs. Maybe she is 20 years older than me, or 10 years younger.

But when you lose a baby, none of that seems to matter, does it?

Rainbow Baby

Just a shamless plug. Sorry.
Rainbow Baby gets hardly any traffic!
Just in case you didnt know that I document my current pregnancy, I do so over at Rainbow Baby. I understand that many babylost mamas who are not yet experiencing a subsequent pregnancy probably want to avoid that blog, and I get that. For sure.
But I just wanted to out the word out for any Pregnancy After Loss mamas who read Born Still, or let people know that Rainbow Baby is there, if they may not have known.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend. We put up our Christmas tree! And Jack and I made our own wrapping paper out of newsprint and Christmas shape sponges dipped in Christmas coloured paint. We made a GIANT mess!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Achievement! And One Forgotten Prop...

Back in September, I turned 30 (yowser!) and I held a Bears of Hope drive to raise money to purchase bears for families affected by infant loss.
I am SURE that if you are a babylost mama, you have heard of Bears of Hope. In addition to their distribution of bears to bereaved families, they offer support and counselling. Their mission statement reads:
"Bears Of Hope offers support and guidance for parents who experience the loss of their baby during pregnancy, birth or infancy. Through the donation of a bear of hope, parents are provided with the comfort of knowing they are not alone from the very beginning, and offered significant ongoing support to heal their broken hearts. This includes loss through miscarriage, genetic interruption, multiple loss, stillbirth, neo-natal & infant death."
Instead of pressies, I asked people to donate money via my fundraising page to Bears of Hope. The money, then, was used to buy bears that all have a card attached to them with Sybella's name and birthday on it. When a new family who have lost their precious baby leave hospital, they will receive a bear, with Sybella's name, so that they dont go home empty handed.
I have two Bears of Hope that sit in Sybella's cot right now. The little babies that these bears were donated in honour of are Sophie and Brock.
Having these bears helped me enormously because, for one thing, they helped me feel like I wasnt the only one who had gone through this. (Sounds horribly selfish, I know. But in the early days, I felt so isolated, like I was the only one who had been through a stillbirth. Of course, I is NUTS how many mothers I have met in grief. It is TOO TOO heartbreakingly common. I wish it wasnt.)
Anyway, I loved the thought that these baby's legacies continued to be perpetuated through the bears, and wanted to do something like for Sybella.

With the help of friends and family, I raised $1085 for Bears of Hope. That translates to approximately 43 bears with Sybella's name on them! Toni Tattis from Bears of Hope sent me these photos of the bears that were purchased.

Thank you so very much for your donations and support. I appreciate it more than you know.
As I mentioned, there are many Bears of Hope support groups. I was invited to the relatively new group that had been formed by my beautiful friend Emma. Now, how I forgot to give her props in my last post, I do not know. I am mortified, though. Emma, good grief, I am so sorry. Yikes.
Before either of us got handed our membership to this club, I found out I used to work with Emma's mother! Small world. Emma contacted me shortly after Sybella died, and I learned of her Ethan, who died in 2008 at 33 weeks. Only 2 years is still relatively fresh, I feel, when one has lost a child, but Emma has taken me under her wing, looked after me, listened to my tears, my anger, incredibly selflessly. She rings me just to see how I am, just to check in. She knows how I feel and is incredibly compassionate and understanding. Much more than I am. I hope in years to come that I will find the inner peace that emanates from Emma. I'm not there yet. I am comfortable with myself, but still deeply broken over my child's death. Emma is too, of course, but has seemed to find some serenity and purpose amongst her grief. One day, that will be me, I hope.
So, giving props to Emma tonight. Hopefully she reads this!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Props

Giving Props:
Slang term for
"accolades," "proper respect," or "just dues."
E.g: My four-year-old son is the king of 
Snakes and Ladders,
but punk neighbor kids won't give him his props.

I had a rough few weeks and wasnt my normal, lovely, composed self ;o)
I put it down to sick husband and child, no sleep, resurgence of intense grief, pregnancy anxiety (read: irrationality), hormones. What else? Hunger. Yes.

I have to give props to some people who have been completely unwavering in their kindness, understanding and support.

Big Ups to:

Maddie: A beautiful soul with a heart of gold, who checks in, offers a shoulder to cry on and seems to understand EVERYTHING I am going through.
Meredith: For remembering Sybella on the 24th, despite dealing with the 11 month anniversary of her own daughter's death.
Sally: For her maternal way of "watching over" me. Her words are like a bowl of warm soup and a cosy pair of slippers on a chilly night. She comforts me.
Kimberly: For her feisty protection of me and and reassurance that my grief is still valid, even after 7 months.
Merrill: For giving me a free pass, for letting me not be myself, for just understanding my crazy, crazy head.
Mithra: For her sense of humour, her capacity to make me laugh, even on my dark days. For her consistent support of my writing and her fabulous build ups.
Stephanie: For allowing me to vent, unload without repercussion, without judgement. For knowing what I am going through.
Belinda: For her constant check ins, her unwavering interest in my life and for not caring when I forget to ask her about her.
Kylie: For her tongue in cheek beratement of me for not calling her for help. She's like a mum.
Hayley: For listening to me bang on about the same things every week and never acting bored. For alleviating my anxiety regarding rashes and other terrible things.
Damn, I am lucky to have people like you in my life.

Thank you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anyone Got Cotton Wool? Can You Wrap Me In It?

I am spent. I am emotionally overwhelmed. I know many of my posts have been rather intense lately and I am very very aware that I probably sound indulgent/dramatic/attention hogging.

I assure you that I don’t want any attention. Seriously. I want to go to ground, hibernate from the world and wake up when this nightmare of being a babylost mama is over. Except that it is never over. I want my "normal" life life where my most intense emotion is shittiness at Kelvin for not emptying out his pockets before the laundry load. The intensity of the emotions I feel these days are so overwhelming at times that I sometimes wish I was an inanimate object so I can’t feel anything. Then again, I feel so incredibly lucky that I got chosen to experience these emotions, as they can be so rich. Sybella has enriched my life in so many ways. I have changed as a person. Some changes are good...and some are bad.

Lots of people don’t understand these changes. Or they wonder why I am "behaving" this way, when it was a "whole 7 months ago that the baby died. Geez." Or even worse, not the baby..."the foetus."

The thing is, I am weary. Tired. Battle bruised. Grief doesn’t get easier as time goes on for me. It gets heavier. Foggier. Plus I am walking around with the physical burden of another 26 weeks worth of pregnancy right now and all the fear, trepidation and anxiety that goes with that. I think I just want to be understood. But I get that it is hard for an "outsider." I can’t expect it all the time. However, when confronted and challenged, which I have had an alarming number of these types of interactions this week, I feel like screaming "just be nice to me! I am in pain! My baby is dead. Just be nice to me! Please!" I want the special treatment. Not the attention. Just the understanding. I realise though, that in this world, where everyone (myself included) is so wrapped up in their own bubble of problems that it is hard to give anyone else a break. Angela writes at Little Bird about her daughter Charlotte who died just after Sybella. This particular paragraph leapt out at me and Angela has given me permission to reprint it:

Grief is selfish. I am selfish. I want everyone to bend themselves around my life and my grief. I want the apology without asking for it. I want to vent anger without repercussions. I want to speak her name without carving a swath of awkwardness around me. I want to feel less isolated. I want to remain motionless so that she can always find me if she wants to stop by and say hello. I want her to know I am always here, and I will always love her, even if I am the only one who remembers her short life.

The bold, large text was done by me. That is how I feel. I have so much to say at the moment and have a massive problem with things that are unfair or that demonstrate injustice. Lately I have been speaking out, when normally I'd do the polite, correct thing and nod my head "mmm, I see your point. Thanks for that insight." Then I'd go home and try to reconcile a point of view that wasn’t necessarily mine. Because that’s what reasonable people do.
I’m not reasonable anymore. Now I buck up without thinking, and say whatever my thoughts are. Sometimes the consequences of this are disastrous. Sometimes they are liberating. Sometimes it sends me into a panic. I was a mess last night in particular, after being told to “mind my own bloody business” by a person who I don’t even know, in response to me teasing my best friend on Facebook...teasing in a light-hearted, tongue in cheek way that best friends do. My friend knew I was joking. However, this random stranger didn’t. At being berated by her, I fell apart. “Don’t you know I have a dead baby?!” I wanted to shout. “Leave me alone!”

I am not walking around picking fights, I assure you. The problem lies in my new reactions. In the past I kept my head down, acted intelligently, tried to see other perspectives, keep a cool head. I’m so tired of doing that. I am capable of having an intelligent conversation about something that I don’t necessarily agree with, sure. I’m not saying I jump down the throats of people who don’t vote what I vote, who don’t immunise, don’t breastfeed, or whatever else. What I do now, is defend myself when I feel challenged or confronted. I would never stifle anyone’s opinion, belief or value or tell them they are wrong if they don’t prescribe to what I believe. That’s just arrogant. But if I feel unfairly maligned, I will let it be known. It’s just that I’m not always good at it. There is a trite quote from Marilyn Monroe going around at the moment. It seems to be on everyone’s Facebook page. It says:

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."

Okay. I used to read this as “I give myself permission to behave however I want and I don’t apologise for it. But I’m so awesome that all that crap is worth it when I do decide to behave myself.”

But not anymore.

Now I get it.

If you can bear with me while I work through the death of my baby...if you can give me a free pass at this time in my life...if you can understand that I'm not myself, and may say or do things that you dont like...
...the day will come when I can give it back to you. Ten-fold.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remains Of An Angel

May be upsetting for some. Contains details of Sybella's remains.

Well, I wasnt expecting that.

Today was the day that Kelvin and I transferred Sybella's ashes into her new urn. It was a painstaking and overwhelming and heartbreaking experience.
The urn arrived and was tiny. You cant tell from the picture, but it fits in the palm of my hand. Yes, just one hand. When the urn arrived in the mail, I was surprised at how small it was. I wondered if it would fit all of her. I wondered if the person who had wrapped it in bubble wrap and posted it to me felt sad that they were packaging an urn for a baby. I wondered if they wondered about the baby that the urn was going to hold. I thought about the person that engraved her name on it. Did they think it was such a beautiful name, and did they engrave it lovingly and with reverence? Did the staff at Urns Online have any experience in child loss, or was it just a job to them?

So began the process.

We decided to do it outside, for some reason. When I opened the plastic box that had housed her ashes for the last 7 months, I wasnt expecting a ziplock bag inside, half ashes, half crushed bone. I really did not expect to see bone. I even tried to fool myself, and showed Kelvin: "look. It's bits of the coffin." I wanted him to agree, so I could "believe" that it was wood, not bone. But Kelvin shook his head. "That's bone."
I was silent. He tried to show me the silver lining. "Steph, at least we know its her, and not just bits of timber."
I guess so. I just hate the thought of her precious little bones in a box.
If it were just ashes, and not the bone, Sybella would have fit into her urn with no problems. But the bones made it difficult. We funnelled the remains from the ziplock bag into the urn slowly. The bone made the funnel stop up, and we had to shake it to get the remains to slide into the urn. This was difficult. As we did this, pieces were spilling on the table, the floor, and my hands were covered in dust and ash. I became quieter and quieter as the reality set in of what I was doing. I had my daughters ashes on my hands, under my fingernails. I was picking up single pieces of her bone and placing them into a pewter box. In the background, Jack incessantly asked "can I help? Can I help?"
Not one of my finest moments, but I snapped at him, feeling completely overwhelmed with sensory and emotional overload. Fortunately, my snapping at Jack doesnt worry him at all and he just rolled his eyes and went to jump on the trampoline.
The efforts continued and it became clear that we werent going to fit all her remains in the urn. We have about one quarter of them left, still in the original box, and will order another urn to put them in. Kel thought we should scatter them in the garden, but I hate that idea. Because the neighbours cats crap there.
The excercise took more out of me than I expected. I ended up sitting in the shower afterwards, to escape the noise and heat of the house and think about what had just happened. Now Sybella is "split up." Part of her is in the pewter urn, part in a ziplock bag. Other parts have blown away into the atmosphere, some has fallen onto the back pavers. Some of her is on my clothes, and will be washed away with the next laundry load. I am glad that she is now in a beautiful, engraved urn, that is elegant and simple. But I am sad that some of her "got away." I guess that was to be expected.

It's just her body. It's just her body. It's just her body.
It's not her soul.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Out Of The Mouths of Babes

Trish from My Little Drummer Boys posted this a little while ago, and I was enchanted!
Sorry, Trish, but I just had to steal it...I hope you dont mind.
Her answers made me laugh, and so I tried it with Jack.

The following is a question and answer series between Jack (4) and I. We were both eating icecream at the time.

What do you want to be when you grow up ?
A big giant monster

How old is grown up?

How do you know when you are in love?
I love Papa

How big is an elephant?
Its tall and it stomps up high

What's your favourite colour?

Name something that is bigger than Australia?
A bridge

Where does dust come from?

Who's the most famous person you know?
A policeman

Why do people go bald?
They cut the hairs all off...cut cut cut cut cut

How do we get rain?
From outside

What do you do to make yourself feel better when you're scared ?
Stop crying

What comes next in this sentence ?

You can't teach an old dog to ...paint
If at first you don't succeed... you finish your game
Boys are ...happy
Girls are ...happy
Boys like ... girls
Girls like...mud

Why do mummies yell?
You have to stop shouting in the bedroom or I tell Daddy

If you were an animal what would you be?

What is your favourite place?
I want to go to the dinosaur beach

What won't you leave home without ?

Too funny. A bit of lightheartedness in the wake of a shocking week. I'll be posting about that on Rainbow Baby soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wings of Butterflies

I got into a panic the other day while looking at Sybella's shrine. It was starting to look hectic and jumbled. If you know me in person, you know I hate hectic and jumbled. I like chaos-free, Spa Music channel on Foxtel playing (which Jack has become accustomed to, actually!), clean lines, peaceful energy and fresh air.
In my panic, I started to "Redesign the Shrine."
I went on to Redbubble  where my favourite photographer and fellow babylost mama, Carly Dudley (she does the names in the sand) advertises her photography work, to find some images to give Sybella's shrine a peaceful and tranquil energy. However, I couldnt find any in the correct size to match my frames. (Seriously, check it out for beautiful photography from Carly...the link takes you straight to her page).
I emailed her, asking if I could purchase jpegs of the specific images so that I could resize them to fit my frames. I happened to catch her just before she was off to Mullaloo Point beach to write some more names, and she cheerfully told me that she would be happy to email me some jpegs when she returned.
When she got back, she emailed me (at 3am, I'll have you know!) to tell me she had something special for me from the beach tonight. The picture above.
Carly thought of my Sybella, on her own, and drew this intricate, beautiful butterfly for her. Then she sent me the picture. Seriously...I cannot remember the last time someone who I didnt even know, did something so kind for me. I was so touched that Sybella was being honoured on a beach...on the other side of Australia, by a gorgeous woman, who carries her own grief for her own lost son. Carly took the time and effort to do something for a stranger...just to be kind.
It simply amazes me.
Here I am, completely overwhelmed by my life, grieving Sybella, coping with the anxiety of a new pregnancy, tending to a sick child with a 40 degree temperature. Then I receive this picture...and I smiled again.

The thing about that she does this kind of thing all the time. She must be an angel in disguise.

Share The Love

November 13th was World Kindness Day. I only found that out today.
I think kindness is underrated. I mean real kindness. It is also fairly rare.
Have a think about the word "kind." It conjures up images of comfort, of safety, of smiles...not frowns or grimaces.
How often do you experience it? How often do you demonstrate it?
I havent always been great at it. I'm a bit strong willed at times, and have to catch myself and ask "is it more important to be right...or to be kind?"
I teach kindness to Jack. He is a very kind child (and on the mend, now, thank goodness). He demonstrates a lot of care towards others. At Kindy, his friend, a girl, was crying. When I picked him up, I watched him...he had his arm around her, and he patted her while she cried. Later he told me "she wanted her mummy, so I cuddled her." On the weekend, Kelvin slept most of Saturday away, having been camping the night before and on nil sleep. Jack just sat next to him, and patted his face. He didnt leave Kelvin's side...except to get a teddy bear and tuck it under Kelvin's arm. That boy of mine has kindness ingrained in him, and for that, I am proud. It takes a brave person to show kindness these days. Kindness, just for the sake of it, with no motive, or anything required in return.
I was flabbergasted at the amount of kindness our family received after Sybella died. It was amazing. I wasnt always up to receiving it, and much of it just washed over me. Those early days were a dark haze and I dont even remember the first six or seven weeks. But I know I was swathed in kindness from others.
In gratitude, I have tried to give it back, as much as I am able in this relatively fresh period, only 7 months since Sybella's death.
I held a balloon release, not just for Sybella, but for all the babies and their families. And I asked for donations to Bears of Hope instead of birthday presents. I thought that was kind.
Arent I awesome?! Ha! Not giving myself a rap here, readers. Well, maybe a little bit....just trying to point out that I do try my best, which must count for something.
In my next post, I will reveal why the concept of kindness has struck such a chord with me today.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Fear

I live in a constant state of fear and "what if" right now. My life is measured in moments and I am afraid that as each moment passes, I am getting closer to that "last" moment.

Probably sounds so morbid.

Jack is sick.

He spiked a fever on Saturday night, woke up on Sunday completely fine. Sunday night, his fever spiked again, it felt like he was on fire. His skin burned. I felt so guilty for only having one pair of clean sheets on the bed, that were the flannelette ones. He needed cool, cotton sheets, but instead, my boy had to suffer through icky, sweaty, flannelette sheets with a temperature.
Upon waking this morning, he seemed okay after a dose of children's panadol. He told me he "wasnt sick!!!" and that he could go swimming! We did the grocery shopping, and he told me he was happy. That was nice to hear, especially in the bread aisle. When paying, he chatted to the checkout lady ("excuse me, I am Jack, and this is Steph, she bought me Dora yoghurt.")
Unpacking the groceries at home, he crashed. Lying down on the floor, he started to burn up again, become irritable, listless...completely out of the blue.
Jack crawled onto the couch and promptly fell asleep. I managed another dose of panadol while he was in the twilight zone, but two hours later, it hasnt lessened the fever.
Now, I sit next to him typing and I havent left his side since he fell asleep. He sleeps fitfully, waking up every so often, complaining of an "ow." He has a doctors appointment at 4.30pm and I am itching to ring and make it earlier.
All kids get sick, I know. But I am so scared. I really am. It's horrible. I think if worse case scenarios, not because I'm a weirdo, but because I cant imagine a scenario where I am lucky to have things go the way I want them to. I NEED them to. I have lost one child, and am constantly terrified of losing my other, as well. On top of that, as I sit here, I urgently poke and prod my belly to get Rainbow Baby to move.

All three of my kids put the fear of God into me...I just want them to be okay. I want them to all know how much I love them, need them with me, happy and secure. I want to spare them from pain, fear and other awful things.

I watch my sick little boy. I just watch him.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zahra Baker

Zahra Baker has kind of broken my heart.

I followed her story as much as I could, from a selfish standpoint, I had trouble listening to the speculations of what had happened to her, and even more so, that her parents (well, father and stepmother) were the ones in custody for her disappearance and suspected murder. I tended to turn off the TV when stories of Zahra came on, because it was too sad for me.
I hated that about myself.
On the News tonight, it seems to have been confirmed that Zahra is indeed dead. I think that two sets of bones were found and some genetic material that matched DNA from her mattress, and this was enough evidence to make the call that she had died.
She was only ten.
In ten years, Zahra had already beaten cancer, she had lost part of her leg and some of her hearing, I believe as a result of the cancer. She had moved with her father to the USA, so he could marry a woman that he had met a month before on the internet.
It is believed, that after a dodgy ransom note was discovered, that the stepmother was either responsible or involved in Zahra's disappearance. And now her murder.
How does this happen?
I have said before that my emotions run much closer to the surface these days and stories such as Zahra's have the capacity to bring me completely undone. I would have looked after her. I would have loved her. I mean, she could have easily been a student of mine at one stage, you know? Just a normal, ordinary little girl that a horrific, terrible thing happened to.
She was only ten, and had suffered cancer, survived that, sustained disabilities, then senselessly murdered.
I dont even know why I am writing about this. I guess I just have such a new, huge ability to feel such heartache over these kinds of tragedies. For some reason, Zahra's touched me more than most. Perhaps it was her beautiful, smiling face, innocently looking out of the picture, and I couldnt imagine how anyone could hurt such a gorgeous girl. Perhaps it was the macabre thought of wondering about her last moments. Was she scared? Was she in pain? Was she cold?
I have an unrealistic but very strong sense of wanting to "save" her. Be her "saviour." I wish I could have protected her. Of course, I couldnt, she was on the other side of the world. But my heart aches for Zahra, all the same.

Maybe she's with Sybella?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Well, I Bought An Urn For My Daughter Today...

At the moment, Bella's ashes sit in a little white plastic box on her shrine.
I just then, a few minutes ago, found the courage to shop online for a proper urn. I had planned to go to the place where she was cremated and get one from them, but I couldnt handle someone watching me while I spent time choosing a container for my daughter's remains. It's not the same as choosing a pair of shoes, or a dress for her, is it? This is her Forever Box. She wont outgrow it, like she would a dress.
Anyway, I found a beautiful one on the internet, it is heart shaped, brushed pewter and I had her name and date of birth engraved on it. When it arrives, I will take it to a funeral home and ask them to switch the ashes to the real urn.
The next order of business is whether to have a plaque made for her. You know, a special plaque with something nice inscribed, that sits in the Baby Rose Garden at the local cemetery, that we can visit on special occassions. Kelvin doesnt think it is necessary. I tend to agree, but I wonder is it still something you "do"? If I dont have a plaque made and put in the cemetery, does that mean I dont care enough?
Personally, I dont feel the need to "go" and sit somewhere to connect with Bella. She lives in my heart and my head anyway. And I hate the thought of a plaque sitting in the middle of a cemetery with her name on it...all by itself most of the time. We would visit at birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas et cetera, but what about the times that we arent there? What about night time? Night time is scary in a cemetery. I dont want her memorial plaque sitting all alone in a cemetery at night. That probably sounds strange, because it is just an object, isnt it? But it would be one of the few objects that we have that bears her name and memory, and all of those that we do have, I want to keep close. I dont want anything of hers to be where we arent.
I think I probably just answered my own question about the plaque...but am interested to know what other babylost parents have done in regards to their child's ashes/burial.
I've never done this before.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


For some reason, my grief has returned with a vengeance.
This post will most probably be some non-sensical rambling because I dont actually have a topic in mind, I just feel melancholic. Why even bother being mature and using big words about it?
I feel crap.
I am starting to come to terms with the fact that Sybella died 29 weeks ago, and I am weeks 24 pregnant.
My goodness, I am so in love with this baby. I feel so so lucky that on top of everything else, I didnt have to spend 18 months trying to get pregnant (like I did with Bella) and that it just happened. One small mercy. A big surprise, but a lovely surprise.
However, somehow, I feel like my main grieving time was "interrupted." I couldnt focus on processing my feelings properly, because I had another (happier) focus. I never put Sybella aside, or forgot her in light of my new pregnancy, but I was physically unable to concentrate on grieving...mostly because I had my head down the toilet. And was majorly preoccupied with anxiety and fear.
This pregnancy wasnt even confirmed until I was 7 weeks. Experiencing implantation bleeding led to an ultrasound, where I was told that the embryo was non-viable, my sac was misshapen and to expect to miscarry in a week. I was 7 weeks before my proper obstetrician quashed that scenario and threw me a jar of Blackmores Pregnancy Gold.
Anyway, as a result, it is only now that my grief is resurfacing, when I stop and realise that I am a mother with a dead child. It was always my greatest fear, for a child of mine to die. And it happened. It happened to ME. I think it is Hope's Mama says her grief makes her feel "dirty" and "tainted." My God, I get that. I feel forever stained, that my baby passed away and I will never escape that stamp. Forever and ever, I am someone with a dead child. That concept is completely surreal to me. How can it be? I will never rid myself of the pain, I will never able to rid Kelvin of his pain. I look at that man, mowing the lawn, tying his tie and think "his daughter died." He aches, I know it. I think of our life as a couple, dating, buying our first house, getting married, going on holidays. Back then, this life now seems unbelievable. Two young adults, getting drunk on a Saturday night, a lifetime ago before children, mortgages and the like...who were those two? Those two (shinier, thinner, more attractive) people, who, in a few years time, are going to share the worst possible experience of grief that a couple can share?
It's the same with Jack. When I was 4, the worst thing that happened to me is that I burnt my hand on the iron. Jack is 4 and has already experienced the death of a sibling. He has a sister who isnt alive. That breaks my heart. He is only a baby himself and has experienced grief that he doesnt even understand. It's so damn unfair.
Today I went to Dick Smith's to have the photos of Sybella's birth, her name in the sand and the balloon release printed. Finally. After seven months. I have a scrapbook...a beautiful white leather bound album ready, filled with handprints, footprints, hospital bands, cards, messages, funeral service booklets, even medical bill receipts and hospital discharge papers, for God's sake...everything that was ever connected to Sybella, to be lovingly compiled into a book of her life. All I have of her is a book. I dont want the damn book. I dont want to have to make a damn album of memories. I want HER. In the flesh, alive and pink and babbling away, I want people stopping me in the street, like they did when Jack was a baby, telling me how beautiful she is. I want them to ask me what her name is. I want to say "her name is Sybella." The name we kept a secret because it was SO beautiful that we wanted to unveil it with the utmost grandeur..."here is our beautiful daughter, and her name is Sybella Eve." I got robbed of all that.
All I get now, is the woman at Dick Smith's asking me what is the word written on the sand in the photo of the beach sunset. I tell her the word is "Sybella." She looks at me expectantly, to expand on this. I sigh. "She's my daughter. She died." As if Kirsty in Dick Smith didnt know that. She printed out the name in the sand, and asked me what the word said. If she saw that photo, then she saw the rest of them, the coffin photos, the birth photos of Sybella's beautiful but discoloured face, the 137 photos of the little girl who never has her eyes open. She sleeps in every picture.

How can I have a baby and not even know the colour of her eyes?

Monday, November 8, 2010


Why did I choose, after 7 months, to now post the birth photos of Sybella?
Because since she has entered my life, I have felt so proud. And I wanted to share that with everyone.
Proud of this little girl, who never drew a breath, for changing my life.
This little girl, who I am totally and completely in love with.
Her strength shines out from each picture, I think, and I wanted to show you.
I wanted to show her off.
I never got to, you know.
Isnt she beautiful?

This Is Sybella

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Light and Shade

Wow, thank you everyone.
I have had a brain-imploding week. It's been rough. I have been trying to articulate my point gently but stay true to myself and my daughter at the same time.
To everyone who allowed me the freedom to say what I meant, I cant thank you enough. To everyone who sent messages of support and encouragement, I felt your love and understanding and it truly helped me. To even the people who challenged my ideas, I thank you also. Because not only did I have a massive learning curve and the opportunity to delve into issues of language, quantifiability and existence, but you helped me really cement my convictions and get them across in a strong but gentle way.
Drawing on memories of Sybella's death has really taken it out of me and I have begun to feel a raw grief all over again. I will continue that privately, for the moment.
Might have me a little blogging break for a few days. Blow some bubbles with Jack, or something.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I have been misunderstood.
I need a thicker skin.
I take my blog seriously and am honoured that so many women have written to me, saying how much I have helped them.
I try to blog responsibly, respectfully and diplomatically.
At the same time, I try to say how I really feel about things.
At the end of the day, although I appear strong and that I am coping, I am a grieving mother, who cries all night as I remember my daughter's blonde eyelashes. Some days, all I can think about is the creases on the palms of her little hands.
I am soft inside and the smallest things will bring me undone, even now.
I have been misunderstood and that makes me sad.

In light of Lily Allen's stillbirth, there has been debate over the difference between stillbirth and miscarriage.
Airing my thoughts on the difference between the two has prompted some feelings amongst others. I am going to explain my position on the difference between miscarriage and stillbirth one more time, as clearly as I can. Remember: you do not have to take this on board. I am not an expert. I am simply using the medium of writing to process my still very palpable grief.

My friend Haidee is newly pregnant after 3 years of trying to conceive and 3 cycles of IVF. If she miscarries her baby (and you wont, Haidee, I can see him in your arms) I am not going to say to her "my grief was worse." You know why? Because I dont know if my grief is worse. I am not Haidee. Haidee's situation is unique and if she were to miscarry, I would cry for her, for her hopes, her dreams, her efforts and all that goes with it. The journey that Haidee has travelled to get where she would make the event of her having a miscarriage (which she wont) an utter tragedy.

That is the same for everyone. Every woman's experience of loss, whatever the gestational age, is unique. Every woman has connected with, and bonded with her child, even in the embryonic stages.

I would never presume to tell anyone that their grief is wrong or invalid. I would never say "my pain was worse because my baby was older." I am not one to play games of one-up-man-ship. I dont want to "win" at grief. I am not a grief hog. It is not who I am.

That said, I have to put it forward that stillbirth and miscarriage are very different experiences.
In my opinion, (but of course, I have no bearing or influence over this) there should be four stages of pregnancy/infant loss. Miscarriage, Second Trimester Loss, Stillbirth and Neonatal Death.
Language is important to give each stage the recognition and acknowledgement it deserves and is the first step to understanding the gravity of what it means to lose a child.

I will say one more time: Pain is personal and I am not measuring grief.

However, this is what I think of when Sybella's stillbirth is referred to as a miscarriage, or when someone tells me they know how I feel because they had a miscarriage.

I think of Sybella being wheeled away. Not to the nursery. To the morgue.
I think of her limbs swishing in the water of her first and last bath, as if she were alive and just floating.
I think of the early days, weeping milk and tears.
I think of the midwife handing me her birth certificate. That may as well have been a death certificate.
I think of Kelvin and I choosing a coffin. A tiny white coffin.
I think of handing over Sybella's funeral gown to the director in a white bag.
I think of doing up the buttons of her gown the day before her funeral.
I think of explaining to Jack that his sister isnt coming home.
I think of Jack asking the parent of every newborn female baby he sees in the shops if that baby is Sybella.
I think of the hours spent howling like an animal over the gaping hole in my life that will be there forever.

That is my pain, I own it. I dont know if it is worse than anyone else's. But it is mine and it is personal.
I must say though, that if Sybella were miscarried in the early days, my life would be extremely different right now. It is my subjective belief that although one cannot measure pain or grief, that what Kelvin and I went through, and what other parents of stillborn babies have to endure is very different to the experience of a miscarriage. It just is.
I think perhaps that much of the pain accompanying a miscarriage is the lack of acknowledgement of a much loved baby. That could be why women who have miscarriages want the same rituals that stillbirth sufferers "get." So they feel their grief is justified, so they dont feel silly for mourning what others think is just a bunch of cells or tissue.
To the women who have had miscarriages or second trimester losses and have been upset by anything I might have expressed in the past: I am not dismissing your grief. I do think your child is real. I respect your pain, your experience and your baby, however old it was.

Please respect mine.

I hope I have no longer been misunderstood.

I have tried my best to be gentle. Please be gentle with your responses.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Walks Of Life

Lily Allen. I love her. I always have. Her music and personality are gutsy and fabulous. She gets pissed and swears at Sir Elton John at award shows...which is probably not ladylike or savoury, but hilarious all the same. Her smile is illuminating and she has no fear. She has brilliant clothes.
You think celebrities are untouchable. Hardly anything bad ever happens to them (I mean, tragically bad...not a string of divorces or a drink driving charge). I googled "celebrity stillbirth" when Sybella died and came up with nothing, except for Katie Sagal (from Married With Children)...a most obscure celebrity anyway.
As you have probably heard, Lily Allen  and her partner Sam Cooper lost their baby yesterday (I believe it was a little boy, but am unsure on this). Lily had an early miscarriage in 2008.
Reports have stated that Lily went to hospital with pain after picking up an infection. She was under observation for three days, but sadly, her baby died yesterday. I am not sure whether the baby died before, during or after delivery. From what I understand, the infection is the most likely culprit. There are a string of nasty viruses that result in stillbirth, such as CMV, Rubella, Listeriosis, Varicella and Toxoplasmosis. Media are reporting her loss as a "miscarriage" although this is inaccurate. I am fairly sure that Lily was more than 24 weeks pregnant, indicating viability of the foetus, and therefore the correct terminology for her loss is "stillbirth" or "neonatal death" (in the event of death occurring after delivery). I wont get into the "stillbirth" vs. "miscarriage" debate, as most know how I feel about comparisons between the two. I will say for the record, miscarriage is a tragedy I understand the sadness that accompanies this loss. But it is a very different experience to a stillbirth and unless you have experienced a stillbirth, it is hard to understand. That is all I will say on the matter. I am not sure why the media is reporting her loss as a "miscarriage." Is that less "offensive" or confrontational for readers?
I am very sad for Lily. No more sad for her than any other babylost mother, just because of her celebrity status, although it must be terribly difficult to endure this in the public eye. I remember my intense desire to hibernate in the days and weeks after Sybella's death. I had the luxury of being able to. No doubt, Lily will be hounded by media and paparazzi, which is the utmost in cruelty during this time. If anything, though, one day, when Lily is starting to find some peace and strength, she will hopefully help bring awareness and attention to stillbirth and neonatal death.

As we see today, stillbirth affects all walks of life and does not discriminate. I hope Lily and Sam find some gentle days ahead. It's a long road.