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.