Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Is Me

This is one of the most amazing blog posts I have ever read. This spoke to me in volumes. Carly Marie does it once again. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

October 15 2011 ~ Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

On October 15, 2011, it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Last year, Kelvin and I hosted a candlelit balloon release on the beach for all the families who had lost children. We had dreams of hosting a large gathering every year, and wanted to be able to give these families an opportunity to commemorate their babies annually. However, this year, with a new baby and a little boy who was still finding his feet at school, we opted for a smaller, more intimate event with close friends only. It was lovely, and I was able to honour Sybella and really be in the moment, be in touch with my much as I enjoyed hosting last year's event, I didnt get much time to focus on Sybella myself. I was very busy making sure everything was running smoothly. So it was lovely, this year, to just have a little picnic with some other babyloss parents, then move to a secluded little area and release balloons for our babies. The weather was gorgeous, a light breeze blew, and it was comforting and serene. After our little gathering, I went home with my family and we spent some quality time together. Just being together, feeling the profundity of the occassion and remembering the little girl who is such a huge part of our family but just isnt here with us. At 7pm, we lit our candles for the Wave of Light and we kept it burning for one hour. I always get especially emotional when I light a candle for Sybella. I am not sure why. Perhaps because the fragility of the flame reminds me so much of her little life. Just snuffed out in the blink of an eye.

On October 14 2011, the NSW government officially declared October 15 as Pregnancy and Inant Loss Remembrance Day across the state. While this is an enormous step forward and a key moment in ceasing the silence of infant loss, the next move is to have this day recognised across Australia. PILARI have begun an initiative to achieve this recognition. If you would like to join the initiative, you can click here to sign the petition and email your local MP.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kristina and Caroline

Last night, Australian Story on ABC1 featured Kristina Keneally, former Premier of the Australian Labor Party. Kristina gave birth to Caroline, who was stillborn. Caroline had a fatal birth defect and died upon delivery. The episode was compelling and powerful. This woman is an inspiration, not only to babylost mothers, but to women everywhere.
I have always found her to be very dynamic and have liked her strength and fearlessness. This was before I was aware that she had suffered the stillbirth of her daughter.
What resonated with me the most, was again, just how much I could relate to the things she was saying about her experience. I find it truly remarkable that so many women who suffer infant loss say exactly the same things.

Kristina's husband, Ben said: "A few days later we went back to the hospital. It was very strange being in a maternity hospital and knowing that there were children being born all around and that that wasn’t going to happen for us."
Oh snap. I was hearing the first cries of babies being born in the birthing suite next door as I laboured with Sybella. I had a hard time believing that my own baby wasnt going to make a sound when she came out. It was an intensely painful feeling.

Kristina comments: "I do remember coming home and there was that damn vacuum cleaner. I just threw it and I broke it. Before I went to hospital I had been there with my normal life doing normal things like vacuuming - and when I got back my normal life was still there, but it wasn't. It was so vastly different. And that vacuum cleaner just seemed to symbolise all of that."
I remember leaving for my routine 34 week appointment with my GP. As I walked out the door, I noticed a giant bird dropping on the outdoor steps. I rolled my eyes and made a mental note to get Kelvin to scrub it off. Of course, it was at that appointment that I learned that Sybella had died. I didnt return home again until after I had delivered her and spent some time in hospital. That was about four days. When I got home, the bird dropping was still there. I looked at it incredulously, wondering how on Earth things had changed so much since I last looked at that damn thing.

Kristina goes on to say: "The absolute sadness of becoming the mother of a stillborn child, of Ben and I becoming the parents of a stillborn daughter. We felt like we were entering a club we didn’t know existed. We felt like we didn’t want to become members of this club..."
It is a horrible club to belong to, yet, some of the women I have met through our experiences have been the most understanding, gentle yet strong women I know. Each and every one of them fight for their child's memory. They dont allow their child to be forgotten, just because that child isnt physically present. These women are the most beautiful mothers I know. Isnt that bittersweet, that the most beautiful mothers are ones who dont have their children in their arms?
The palpable sadness of being the parent of a dead child stays with you every day. You are reminded all the time, at all the special occassions...Christmas, birthdays. You never stop wondering what your baby would be doing at that time, if they were here. It's just so sad.

One particulalrly poignant question that Kristina asks is: "It’s the biggest question women ask themselves - Why did this happen? Why did this happen to my baby? Why did this happen to me?"
How many times have I asked myself that? I spent Jack's entire infancy trying to protect him from harm. SIDS terrified me. The thought of one of my children dying (before it had actually happened) sent me into panic and I couldnt bear the thought of it. I read stories in magazines about women who had lost children, and I often cried. I couldnt imagine it happening to me. So why did it? Why was I chosen to be a babylost mother? I dont think it is fair. It's not fair that children die at all. I've learned just how redundant it is to ask 'why?'

Kristina says this, and this is self explanatory. She echoes the thoughts of probably every woman who has lost a baby. "Stillbirth is a was most remarkable to me how much I could love a tiny little baby who had never drawn breath. It’s impossible to compare the loss of Caroline to anything else I’ve experienced. The loss of a child stays with you forever."
I couldnt have said it better myself. Sybella's death was such a defining moment for our family. And the worst thing that has ever happened to us. Nothing else comes close.

Her final and most profound comment is: "I know something you guys don’t know. I know something about me that you guys don’t know and that is that I am tougher than you understand. I am tougher than you think because I have been through something truly awful and I have survived it. I’ve come out the other end."
It's true. You can deal with anything once you've dealt with this. It makes you so tough. Sometimes being that tough is tiring. But it makes you a better mother, I think. It makes me fiercely protective of my living children, which is why I advocate so strongly for childhood vaccinations. It makes me careful and aware of their safety at all times. It makes me live for their happiness and security. And it gives me the voice and the inclination to spread awareness about stillbirth and to keep the memory of Sybella alive. Because stillbirth and infant loss make some people being tough ensures that I can keep on keeping on in regards to my daughter and her memory.

You can read the full transcript or watch this episode of Australian Story here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I havent written in a long time, I know. It has nothing to do with not needing to write, or that I dont think about Sybella. I need to write just as often as ever, but as those of you with babies know, there is barely time for a bathroom stop, let alone blogging at the moment. Archie is a happy, cuddly, smiley, babbly baby. But he doesnt SLEEP! And so I am exhausted beyond belief. Sometimes to the point of tears. This evening was one such time. Last night, I dont think I had any real, deep sleep at all, but was in the "twilight" zone. My mind was in a dream state, I was partly awake the entire night as Archie fussed and fed.
Me and sleep deprivation dont go together. At all. When I get to the point where I'm crying, I have to mentally slap myself to remind myself that I have a baby who is alive. That's all that matters. And one day, I will sleep again.
Archie and I had a bath tonight, and I got into bed at 7pm, started to breastfeed him and catch up on the second season of Offspring, an Australian television show, about Nina Proudman, an obstetrician.
Some of you may know the significance of Offspring, especially Season 2, Episode 7, 22 minutes and 23 seconds in.

A baby is stillborn.

Offspring got it right. For those of us who have lived through it, we were that mother. I felt like I was living it again. I felt like I was on the screen, I felt like I was watching myself. I was paralysed with stomach churning anxiety while the events played on the screen, until Nina Proudman, upon being asked by the mother if she could see her baby, walked down the corridor of the hospital, swaddled baby in arms while a song played, the lyrics as apt as can be:

I told you. I told you I'd be here.
And I feel you. I feel you disappear.
I'll give you... I'll give you all you want.
 I'll watch you.

Then I couldnt help the tears that fell from my eyes, I cried so hard, that to call it "crying" isnt even right. It was face-soaking, gulping, blurry, temperature raising, grief and I could hardly bear the pain that was swirling in me. Salty tears dripped onto Archie's head and I buried my face in his soft neck while Kelvin stroked my arm. For that moment, I missed her like I couldnt believe and I wondered how on Earth I had gotten this far without her.

When the mother learns the news, she looks around in bewilderment, she begins to shake. The mother sobbed. She heaved with sobs. She swings between hyperventilating and holding her breath. I did that. I couldnt catch my breath. I remember, with every millisecond that passed after I had the information that Sybella had died, I couldnt believe it. All I wanted was to go back to the moment before I lay on that ultrasound table, when my world was normal again. How a world can change in the space of 30 seconds.

When she meets her baby, her expression swings between despair and grief but amazement and wonderment and pride at what she had created. How did they know? The Offspring people? How did they know that we screamed and beat our breasts and grieved our dead babies but still wanted to show them off? "Look! Look what I made! She isnt alive, but isnt she beautiful?"

It takes something like that, even though it is a TV show, to refresh the feelings, smells, and ambience of that time in our lives. Humans are made so that initial levels of new and fresh grief and anxiety have no choice but to dssipate in their intensity, as we cannot survive with those high levels of emotion. I'm constantly sad and miss Sybella crazily, but I havent felt that raw, trembling grief in nearly 18 months. It left me drained and wrung out and exhausted. But I am glad I had the opportunity to "feel" it, because it took me to a space of just her and I.

It was an impressive effort from Offspring, and I commend the writers, producers, directors and actors involved in that particular episode. I thank them for their courage at tackling such a "taboo" topic so respectfully and gently.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Walking Her Down The Aisle

A while ago, Kelvin and I attended a wedding. It was lovely. I love weddings.
The bride's father's speech went something like this: (Paraphrasing here)...

"When J was born, my wife asked if I wanted a boy or a girl. As a man, most would think that I wanted a boy. But I didnt. I wanted a girl. When my wife asked why, I explained that on the day of my daughter's wedding, I couldnt wait to be the man who got to walk her proudly down the aisle. I considered it an honour and a priviledge to have daughter that I could walk down the aisle."

I listened to this and my heart melted. I felt my husband reach for my hand and when I turned to look at him, his eyes were filled with tears.

He'll never get to do that.


I am a long time sufferer of anxiety, long before I lost my baby girl. I deal with anxiety constantly, and have done for a long time. It is debilitating for me, and difficult for those close me to understand and validate. I dont choose to be anxious, it is an innate facet of my personality. I dont choose it and I dont enjoy it. However, I also dont give in to it. Well, I try. I am not always successful. But I consciously work extremely hard to run my anxiety out of Dodge, and some times are more successful than others. I refuse to say this, though: "It is who I am. Deal with it." I refuse to let anxiety win. But it is two steps forward, one step back. Always.
Yes, anxiety is a huge part of me. But I constantly challenge it. It doesnt always seem like that to the outsider. But for me to physically manifest an overcoming of an anxious compulsion, it takes an incredible amount of work inside my mind first.
So, for someone like me, the experience of a stillbirth is so terribly unfair. Because now I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder too, and this manifests itself in a panicky fear for the wellbeing of my children. I am incredibly vigilant regarding the health and safety of my sons. I am perpetually fearful that one or both of them will die too.
Right now, a Whooping Cough epidemic rages in NSW. There is not much that I can really do about this, except vaccinate Archie on time (even early), restrict visitors who havent had a Pertussis booster, restrict Archie's trips outdoors, and when I do have to go out with him, cover him in the pram.
Many people think this is over the top. My own husband included. And my psychologist.
I have spent many years appraising my anxiety, calculating risk, cognitively assessing actual threat and deciding whether my anxiety was warranted. Many times it wasnt.

Not this time. This time it is valid.

I resent the fact that because I have a history of anxiety, I am now "tainted" as though "the boy who cried wolf." Anxiety was not something that I liked about myself. My fears, even though they seemed stupid to someone else, were very real to me. And as I slowly got better, I saw that my fears were silly. But now, when I am presented with a very real threat, and a viable risk, like Whooping Cough, I am treated again as if I am overreacting. It is thought that it is my anxiety disorder shining through.
Well, it isnt. Yes, I have anxiety. Yes, I see that my fears may have burdened you in the past. Yes, I take responsibility for the fact that you may not take me seriously now.

But I have a new baby. A new baby, born after a stillbirth. A new baby who spent 4 days in Neonatal Intensive Care with respiratory distress. A new baby who was hospitalised at 8 weeks old with Bronchiolitis.
My fears about Whooping Cough are valid. And realistic. I am a mother who will protect my children at any cost, even if it seems dumb to you. If you havent lost a baby...if you havent held your lifeless child in your arms...if you arent a wont get it.

If you urge me to take the cover off my pram "to challenge myself and see that nothing will happen"...I wont.
If you urge me to let a stranger hold my baby in a resturant...I wont.
If you are a selective vaccinator and think it is unneccessary that I got myself a Whooping Cough isnt.
If you think I am militant and fanatical...I am.

Because they are my children. And I cant lose another one.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Whooping Cough

Some might be put off by what I am about to post. But I am at the end of my tether. I have no patience left, I have no tolerance left. I have no more polite "ah, yes, it's all a parent's choice, innit?" benign smiles left.
A serious Whooping Cough epidemic rages and I have a three month old baby. A baby who has only been eligible for one Pertussis vaccine so far. He isnt due for his next one until June 21st. Let me tell, you, I am crossing off the days until then. He isnt fully protected from Pertussis until he is six months old. How horrible and wrong that I am wishing away my baby's youth, I am pushing and hoping for the day that he is six months old and can receive his Pertussis booster because of misinformation, lack of education and unfounded fears regarding vaccines. I cant enjoy this beautiful period, I live in fear that he will contract Whooping Cough and I am desperate for him to be older so he can be safely immunised.
I fear every time I take Jack to school. I tense up every time I hear someone cough. Am I paranoid? Am I overreacting? Maybe. I take precautions to protect Archie. I limit my social life to keep him indoors. When forced to go out, he stays in the pram with a cover over the top.
Recently, Archie was in hospital with Bronchiolitis. He currently suffers a post viral cough. Here is what I do: I document the time of every cough and the number of coughs per coughing episode. I have had him swabbed for Pertussis, just in case what I think is a post viral cough is actually the start of this insidious disease. I have a script for prophylactic antibiotics on standby, just in case. I stupidly google the stories of Carter Dube and Dana McCafferey, newborn victims of Pertussis, to see if Archie is exhibiting any symptoms that those babies began with at the start of their illness.

If you are a parent who has lost a child, you may understand my anxiety. Going to extreme lengths to protect your other children from a potentially life threatening illness may not be unreasonable. Others may think I'm a lunatic. Or overprotective. Thank God I have never watched my baby cough for one minute straight, experience apnea, cyanosis and I never want to. Tragically, as vaccination rates drop, chances that more and more newborns will contract Whooping Cough rises.

Here I go:
If you dont vaccinate, you are responsible for the decrease in herd immunity. The prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases increases and this is on your heads and your heads alone.
It is your fault that parents with new babies fear going out in public. It is your fault that social lives are stunted, anxiety is increasing and babies are getting sick.
Prepare to be ostracized as disease rates increase.
By all means, do your research. Anti vaxxers bleat that they've done their "research." Unfortunately, their "research" is not evidence or science-based. It more often than not comes from dubious, unsubtantiated sources such as Natural News and Dr Tenpenny, two of the most dangerous and frighteningly diabolical sites for vaccine information. People who trust these sites lack critical thinking skills and even basic intelligence. Offensive, perhaps, but I firmly believe it. Google is not a research tool.

Please get your Pertussis booster. Many dont realise that this immunity wanes after ten years. Anyone in contact with a new baby needs this booster if they havent had one in the last 3-5 years, to be safe. Our family is completely up to date. It is the best gift we could give Archie. Dont be worried about "toxins". None are are dangerous as the Bordetella Pertussis toxin, that causes the coughing episodes may leave babies not only breathless but without oxygen. Infants are also at high risk for secondary bacterial pneumonia. They are also at risk for neurologic complications such as seizures and encephalopathy as a result of hypoxia from coughing or possibly from the bacterial toxins.

Get your booster. Immunise your kids. If you dont, you are a fool.

Broken Hearts - Finnan's Gift to the Royal Children's Hospital

Please donate to Finnan's Gift
Support through Finnan’s Gift will play a vital role in securing the new echocardiography scanner for the Cardiology Department at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Out-Grieve Me

A Letter

Thank you. For telling me I could rely on you. But I couldn’t.
Thank you. For earnestly telling me to call you any time, day or night with any problem. But when I did, it wasn’t okay.

You pretended that you understood what giving birth to a dead baby was like. You had no idea.

If you did understand...

You wouldn’t have told me my anxiety in my subsequent pregnancy was abnormal. It wasn’t abnormal. What IS normal when your baby is dead and you carry a new one? Your body and world are filled with fear and grief. And a smidgen of hope. Just a smidgen.

If you did understand...

You would have smiled more. In a nice way. Not the smile you did as you joked about what a pain I was.

If you did understand...

You would have known when I had given birth to Archie. You never even checked.

If you did understand...

You wouldn’t have told me that other babylost mothers didn’t act like me.

You would have seen I was struggling and taken it seriously.

She was my baby. I knew her from the inside. She died. Her birth and death damaged me in a way that will never heal.

You have five children and never, thankfully, had to have a funeral for any of them. Lucky you.

You don’t understand.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sybella's Birthday

On the 24th of April, 2011, Sybella turned one. Except she's our Forever Baby. I wonder what she'd have been like, running around here at age one. I wonder who she'd look like. I wonder what her laugh would sound like. Would she have curls? Brown eyes? Shy or outgoing? Soft little voice or loud like her big brother? Would she enjoy quiet activities like painting and tea parties, or would she zoom around at a million kilometres an hour? Creative? Musical?

Who knows? I just have to imagine.

We commemorated her birthday on a quiet Saturday afternoon at the beach. We threw some petals in the ocean and let one pink balloon go...each year we will release the number of balloons that correlate with her age. This year was one. Next year will be two. And so on. I feel there is something beautifully melancholic about that symbolism.

Happy birthday, my Petal. We love you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers Day

On this Mothers Day of 2011, I wish to thank the three incredible children that allowed me the privilege of becoming a mother:

And the man who gave them to me:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What IS That Feeling?

At the risk of sounding smug and/or corny, it's happiness.
Pure, unadulterated happiness. Contentment. Peace. Serenity.
For the first conscious time in my life, maybe.

I am filled with love and smiles, despite enduring a parent's worst nightmare. It's like she surrounds me like a cloak and her heavenly, pure love infiltrates my being and our family.

Everything has a silver lining now. Torrential rain? Time to curl up and cuddle with those boys of mine. Sky high electricity bill? A thankful nod that I have a clothes dryer with a newborn. Sleepless newborn nights? Doesnt bother me one iota.

It sounds strange that I could feel like this, when I have a dead child. How can you feel ultimate happiness when you have a dead baby? But I answer with: She sends us the happiness. She must.

For once in my life, I dont have a "goal." I'm not reaching for something. I am content to just "be." Everytime I complete a "project" I look forward to the next thing to accomplish. Married? Now to have a baby. Baby? Now to move to a bigger house. Bigger house? Now to have another baby. That's where I got stuck. The "another baby" part. After enduring infertilty, a full pregnancy and a stillbirth, I thought I'd never be able to give Jack a sibling. It was an exhausting time in our lives, and devastating. And pretty much all up to me, as the woman and childbearer. My body and my emotions.
It is disconcerting, however, not to have another immediate "goal." We do have more to accomplish, but we are not in a position right now to do it (travelling/renovating.)
Out of habit, my mind started to think about the next thing I could do. Since Archie is such an easy, placid baby, I naturally started to think that I could have more children. I always wanted lots of children, but after post partum anxiety with Jack, a stillbirth and an intensly torturous anxious pregnancy with Archie, I dont think I have the emotional resources to go through it once again.
A very wise friend said to me, as I confessed my desires: "Not many of us experience the utter contentment and peace that you are experiencing right now. Dont use this as a launching pad for something else. Just be present with it." Well, we dont call Gary the Grand Poombah for no reason.

So, I cook dinner while I listen to Jack read. I walk past the baby and smile as I watch him smile in his sleep. I lie on the grass with both little boys and point out cloud figures. I applaud Jack as he writes a sentence on his own. I sit and rock Archie to sleep as I look out the window. I enjoy coffee (decaf!) and spending time discussing awesome topics with my friends in a hilarious manner. I relish Clean Sheet Day. I move slowly, and no longer rush.

It's the little things, isnt it?

And I realise...all I wanted...all I strived for...was to get to a place in life where I didnt have to strive anymore.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Road MORE Travelled

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 - Robert Frost
I wish this were true of me. In reality, I did everything by the book, in the right order and didnt spend much time having a lot of "fun." I finished Year 12 after studying crazy hard. Got a great result in my HSC, and went straight to Uni to study Education. I didnt have a gap year, and I went straight through my course without any time off. I finished University, and by this time I had met Kelvin, we had bought a unit and were living together. We dated the appropriate amount of time before we moved in together. We lived together for the appropriate amount of time before we got engaged. We had a traditional wedding, I fell pregnant with Jack within three months, and through this time, I was working as a Grade 1 teacher. We lived in our unit for a while, sold it, and moved to a townhouse. After two years, we sold that and moved to our beautiful home. I had a lovely, comfortable, predictable life and I was happy. But it just wasnt all that interesting. I didnt have children out of wedlock, I didnt run off and bartend instead of getting a degree, I never travelled, I never crashed a car, I never even maxed out a credit card. I was Responsible with a capital R. And boring.
When Sybella died, I wanted to rebel. I wanted to do things differently. I wouldnt have changed my life for anything or the way I had pursued my goals, because I think that the road I took led me to having my beautiful daughter who changed everything, for better and for worse. But NOW, I was desperate to break the mould. I wanted to shave my head. I wanted to forget about the mortgage and live in a teepee. I wanted to change the world for families that had stillbirths. I wanted to write a book and study midwifery. I would be good at it. I was stuck in this mentality that I didnt have permission to deviate from the norm. I had done everything the "right" way and I suddenly wished that I was brave enough to stop worrying about money and just do what I wanted to do. It sounds a bit selfish, I guess, to ask Kelvin to support me while I ran off and had an Eat Pray Love moment, and I never ended up doing it anyway. I wanted to, though. And I still might. I might, if the opportunity arises, go and study midwifery. I might write a book. But in all seriousness, what will probably happen is that I will continue to mother my two beautiful boys and go back to work as a teacher when Archie is old enough. Then Kelvin and I will probably moved to a bigger, nicer house and think about travelling around with our boys.
My life is not at all mediocre, and neither am I. My family are incredibly special people and I have been touched by an experience that gave my character even more depth than it had already. That sounds self absorbed, but I am being truthful. I have always been a thinker, an observer and have been different from most people.
What I am trying to say in an incredibly muddled way is that although my life and my decisions have been fairly ordinary, they led me to a place, and to people (my husband, my sons and my daughter) that are particularly extraordinary.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sing You Home

Have you read this? Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite fiction writers. Her subject matter is both controversial and able to hit home to the deepest part of a person's psyche. I read and often wonder what I would do in her characters' position.
The synopsis of the book is as follows (taken from

Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and after multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true – she is seven months pregnant. But a terrible turn of events leads to a nightmare – one that takes away the baby she has already fallen for; and breaks apart her marriage to Max.

Zoe has a stillborn baby, born at 28 weeks, due to a placental abruption and rare clotting disorder. The stillbirth part of the novel is actually very short, but my goodness, does it hit home. I dont believe Picoult has had a stillbirth herself, but she must have done a damn lot of research to be able to convey the feelings of the character and the stillbirth experience so adeptly.

Reading this chapter brought it all back. The thing is, I cant write the feelings of that time. I can write about the experience and I can describe what happened, but that time of my life has an ambience attached to it that cant be written. Simple things, like the type of weather at that time of year and how it made me feel (crisp, bright autumn weather), smells, perspectives. I cant write those.
However, Picoult could write it. And when she did, it all came rushing back. It's like it was happening to me all over again. I smelled the smells, I remembered the ambience. I was back in April 2010, not April 2011.
It broke my heart.

The book is worth reading, however, especially for survivors of infant loss and those who endured infertility, in particular, IVF procedures.

I wish I could sing her home.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Alisa, Oliver and Finnan

Alisa Campelin, Olympic gold aerial skiier, and her husband Oliver lost their little boy, Finnan on March 20. He was only 10 days old. Finnan was born 6 weeks premature, had a heart defect and endured a number of surgeries in his short life. You can read about their heartbreaking loss here.

I am a stillbirth sufferer and I have said this before, but my God, what we went through was bad enough...but to watch your child fight, connected to tubes, enduring surgeries, then to finally hold them and watch them close their eyes and take their last breaths...unimaginable.
I am even stronger in my opinion and feelings after witnessing the brave families in the NICU while Archie was in there. Premature babies, babies with serious health problems...all tiny, all attached to monitors, tubes. All their parents living day by day in a world of fear, when things can change suddenly and nothing is guaranteed. Strongest, bravest families I have witnessed in a long time.

Everytime I hear of a "new" family entering the world of baby loss, I feel the raw pang of pain all over again. It stabs my heart, tears flow as I think of another tiny life taken. It stabs at me as I imagine the impossible days ahead for that family. It feels like me all over again.

Wishing for Sybella to meet Finnan in Heaven and help him settle in with the other angel babies. I know she will look after him.

He Saved Me

He's Heaven sent, this boy. I had no idea that I was able to have, and even deserved to have, a happy postnatal experience. Because I have never had one.
When Jack was born, I suffered from severe post natal anxiety. Not depression, but anxiety. I was a wreck of nerves, in disbelief that I had full responsibility for this life and somehow had to keep this baby alive. I couldnt fathom the fact that my life had changed forever and this made me incredibly nervous. I couldnt eat or sleep. I sat awake all night watching Jack breathe. I had heart palpitations whenever I crossed the road, sure that a vehicle was going to send me and the stroller flying. I was convinced that Jack would be a victim of SIDS and I wished the first six months away, wanting him to get to the "safe" age. Eventually I fell in step with motherhood, but it was a good two years before it even occurred to me to have another baby. A second baby simply hadnt registered on my richter scale, the idea was as foreign as me not vaccinating (ha!)
So when I had trouble getting pregnant, I felt worried that I would never have another chance at experiencing early motherhood in a positive way. When I was pregnant with Sybella, I ensured I had all strategies in place to enable me to transition into motherhood easily. By now, I recognised my anxiety triggers, had a great psychologist, was in a better financial position. I didnt expect to experience post natal anxiety with the same intensity as I did with Jack. But Sybella died. I was robbed of my chance to make up for that awful post partum period I had with my first baby. My first post partum experience was a mess of anxiety, my second one was a mess of grief and guilt and all that goes with it.
I became convinced I would never be able to enjoy a new baby in the beautiful, Huggies-advertisment way that I had wanted to.

But I did. It started on February 21. I fell in love, immediately, with a bald, fat, screaming male.

I expected to crash and go through the same anxiety as I did in 2006. But it never came. I returned from hospital, on an even keel. I had little bouts of anxiety (what was that mark? Why is he coughing? Is it Whooping Cough? Why is his poo green? Is he anaemic? Is his glucose high enough?) but eventually, I started to tell myself that this boy, this little baby, was sent to us and that he is whole, healthy and strong. Because he is. Didnt I deserve to enjoy him? Didnt I deserve to be a "normal" mother with a new baby, who thinks "nothing bad will happen to me"?
You see, stillbirth and neonatal death ruins a person. It damages you and your confidence. You have absolutely no faith that you will be the one to get the happy ending. You constantly think that if anything terrible can happen, then it will you. If a baby can get Whooping Cough, then it will be mine who does. There simply was no other option. Before Archie was born, the idea of a live birth was foreign and surreal. The natural outcome for me, in my messed up, broken mind, was that most babies are born dead, and you are lucky if you get a live one. What the shit is that about? Certainly not normal.
Eventually, with a lot of work and cognitive thinking, I started to believe that God and the Universe didnt have an agenda, they werent out to smite me and me alone, and maybe...just maybe, I was about to have a beautiful and organic postnatal experience. Archie keeps thriving, he's happy and fat and schmoopy. I have never felt more at peace. I have never felt more content. It is an unsettling feeling! Only because I am not used to it. For once, the world is my oyster. Everything is within reach. I have two beautiful boys and an angel daughter. Archie is a particularly easy baby. He feeds within ten minutes, knows night from day already and...get this...he sleeps! All I have to do is wrap him, stick a dummy in, and he is out to it. Opposite to Jack, who needed rocking for hours.
Finally. I got my happy ending.

I love him. He gave me back everything that had been taken from me in the past. He saved me.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Jack and Sybella's brother, Archie was born on February 21. You can read his birth story here.
As it stands, he is a beautiful little boy who has given our family its peace back. Sybella brought us spiritual peace, but this is different. This is an accomplishment, a feeling of contentment, a crossing of the finish line. The weeks preceding his birth were some of the hardest of my life. Up there with the weeks following Sybella's death. Both those experiences tested me beyond what I ever thought I could endure. He is here now, safe and sound and I feel complete. I feel happy. I also feel a hole...Archie's presence serves to remind me that Sybella isnt here. But I feel philosophical about it. Sybella had a purpose. She served her purpose, only by gracing our family for a short while. If we hadnt conceived Sybella when we did, and had she not have died, we wouldnt have Archie. Archie's body and soul were obviously meant to walk this Earth, but Sybella's wasnt. I have no place to question that, it is the business of God and/or the Universe. Of course, there is an element of bittersweet-ness about this concept. Two of my children couldnt be here together. One had to die so another could be born. Kind of heart-wrenching. To think I easily could be chasing an 11 month old little girl around, but not have my newborn son...or the reality, which is that I have my newborn son but my beautiful daughter is dead, forever to be a newborn herself. She should be 11 months old...but she isnt.

Her birthday approaches. How does one commemorate the first birthday of a child who died before she was born?

I do know that we will all spend it together...Kelvin, myself, Jack and Archie. We will do something simple but pretty. Our two beautiful sons will grow up knowing all about their sister. Jack will remember her. Archie will learn about her.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Packing Her Away


As our Rainbow Baby prepares to be born, I had to begin thinking about clearing out Sybella's room that we had so lovingly set up for her early last year. I had to clear out the cupboard, full of her freshly washed and folded clothes. I put this task off for as long as I could. Then one day, without even thinking about it, I walked into the room and just started doing it. I pulled pictures off the wall, sheets off the cot. I unplugged the lamp and pulled all the clothes out of the cupboard. I did all of this in about ten minutes, as brutally as ripping off a bandaid as quickly as possible. I didnt let myself think about what I was doing. That was probably a bad idea, because later on, the guilt flooded in and I sobbed as I apologised to Sybella for "packing her away." I had a large plastic box on wheels and all of her belongings went in there. All her beautiful, girly things. I dont know what we will do with them. A few neutral items are able to be reused for Rainbow Baby, so I put them aside for him. In the VERY UNLIKELY event that we have another baby, and it happens to be a girl, I have no problem reusing Bella's clothes for her. Otherwise, after waiting an appropriate length of time (like, ten years), I will probably donate the items to charity. Or maybe I'll just keep them forever and bring them out occassionally to smell and cry over.
The funny thing is, even though Rainbow Baby is eleven days away from being born, we still say "Sybella's room." Maybe it will always be her room.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Restricted Access

Mmm, so I have had to change the status of Born Still from open to restricted/invited readers only. I'll briefly explain why, and the reason has outraged me.
Okay, so it is no secret that I am staunchly pro-vaccine. I post, with other like minded parents, doctors and scientists on a certain pro-vaccine fan page on Facebook. My posts and comments, although sometimes have an air of frustration towards anti-vaccinationists, are never rude, insulting or threatening. I do not think that vaccinating is a matter of choice, because it is a community health issue. A decision not to vaccinate affects vulnerable members of the community. However, I still respect that people who dont vaccinate are still people, and parents who want to do the right thing by their kids. Therefore, I merely try and put forward correct, science and evidence based arguments to these people and try to debunk the flurry of misinformation swirling around, with the help of other extremely intelligent pro-vax participants. I do so in a polite and reasonable manner. So do my compatriots. It is something that we are proud of.
On the flipside, the anti vaccinationists who challenge us have proven themselves incapable of holding an intelligent debate, have resorted to name calling, threats and insults in an attempt to try and further their anti-vax stance. Obviously, trying to participate in a debate with people who use these particular tactics is futile.
Amongst my comments on this fan page, I have made it known that Sybella was stillborn, and that as a parent of a baby who has died, I advocated for vaccines because I shudder when I hear of infants dying of Pertussis when it is thoroughly preventable.
However, some anti-vaxxers have since stated that I paraded around on the fan page, claiming that Sybella died from a vaccine preventable illness. They stated that I lied about the way that Sybella died for no other reason than to strengthen my pro-vax stance. They have searched me on Google, found this blog, and directed all their anti-vax cronies over here to stalk my dedication to my daughter, my online memorial, my deepest, most personal raw anguish. I dont want their nasty, unempathetic, uncompassionate words muddying up Sybella's site. So I have had to restrict access. Unfortunately.
And, of course, I have never said anything that suggested Sybella died from a vaccine preventable illness. I stated outright that she was stillborn. I have the thread links to prove it. These grown women are simply targeting a vulnerable person, who they dont even know, without any knowledge of what I have been through...just because they can. Just because I dont agree with them. Just because I vaccinate and they dont.
Grown women. Huh. It's kind of revolting to read what they have written about me.
Rest assured, they were all on the receiving end of my anger when I read their posts. And do they apologise? No. Do they attempt to defend themselves? Yes. Do they remark that I have blown things out of proportion? Yes.
Sure, ladies. I'll sit back as you accuse me of lying about my daughter's cause of death, call me sick and ask "what kind of person does that??" Well, since I didnt do it, I have nothing to say about it.

So that is that. The lack of humanity is frightening. I am just so glad that I went ten months before I "met" people like this.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Have A Daughter

You have to excuse my lack of posts of late. I'm on struggle street, emotionally and physically. My posts will probably become more and more infrequent as the baby's birth draws closer. I hate that this time is taken away from Sybella, but I am so completely paranoid that I need to concentrate on being vigilant about this baby's wellbeing.
I am finding myself at the hopsital every second day or so for CTG monitoring. It is the only time I feel relaxed, those 20-30 minutes or so where I can actually hear the regular thumping of our baby's heartbeat.
I turned up the other day for a CTG and had to have it done in the recovery section, as the normal room was occupied. There are 4 beds in recovery, mainly for women who have just had a cesearean. I was lying in my little curtained-off section, listening to the heartbeat, when a fairly young woman was wheeled in with her new baby. She was accompanied by her mother and partner. I couldnt see her, but I could hear her tinny, very young-sounding voice.
"Ohhhhhhhh. I have a dauuugghhhttterrrrrrrrr!" she emphatically exclaimed. Over and over and over she said this. "I cant believe I get to keep you!!!"
Then came the phone calls and the desperate attempts to post her news to Facebook. "Hello? I have a dauuugghhhttterrrrrrrrr! She's perfecttttttt!" Cue: vivid and detailed explanations of her new baby's appearance. "Black curly hair! Beautiful fingernails!"
I lay there, listening to this. I'm not an unreasonable person. I know that: 1. She didnt know I was there. 2. She didnt know my situation. 3. Even if she did, who cares? She was entitled to gush over and celebrate her baby.

But it was still cutting to listen to it.

When she said:  I have a dauuugghhhttterrrrrrrrr! I thought: "Me too."
When she said: She's perfecttttttt! I thought "so is mine."
When she said: I cant believe I get to keep you!!! I thought: "You lucky, lucky woman."