Thursday, 15 March 2018

Walking on Water by Alison

Five weeks after loss #5


I knew it was coming. Self-predicted sludge. You’d think that would make it easier to navigate through. Always after losing a baby the mud is the third step for me (survival, determination, mud). My heart has been broken enough times to know this. It’s the suffocating stand-still I finally realise my life has come to. Only this time it’s different. This time I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’ve failed and it’s over forever. My body simply cannot sustain a pregnancy to full term - although it’s quite capable of getting me to the complacent, ‘I’m actually going to have a baby this time’ stage before it tears out my soul. One more horcrux and I’d be Voldemort.

I put strategies in place to prepare for said mud. I’ve started a six-week healthy eating challenge. The first week was great, I lost 2.2 kilos. The second week I gained most of it back without the delicious memory of carbs to show for it. Mud, mud, mud. People will say I should love the body I have. People didn’t put on eight kilos taking auto-immune blocking steroids for a baby who passed away anyway. That’s just the weight I gained in the last pregnancy. I’ve had six pregnancies, not including a chemical pregnancy because apparently that’s not counted. I don’t fit into my old clothes. Not my four year old, pre-pregnancy clothes, they’re a pipe dream. I mean I don’t fit into clothes I purchased last year while attempting to drop all the other baby weight. Literally the only clothes that fit me are maternity clothes and one stretchy skirt that I wear everyday out of principle. Only it’s super short and not functional for modest activities. If I have one cheeky beverage or taste something delicious, my stomach sticks out so much I could still be fifteen weeks pregnant. But I’m no weeks pregnant. Food baby is no longer a witty joke to my strained abs.

My pre-emptive mud strategy was of course to win at life. Look hot, work towards some fabulous job with an impressive title so that I had something else to talk about other than the fact I’ve failed at everything that’s important to me. I’m working in an entry level position because no one else would interview me after having four years off work.

I thought it would be fine. I figured I’d go above and beyond, impressing the executives by doing way more than I’m paid for. Instead I’m told bare minimum is the expected maximum when there’s zero change culture (I’m paraphrasing). Mud.

I have this overwhelming desire to be more than I am, yet that’s overwhelmed by the constricting feeling that I’m incapable of achieving anything. It’s like waves, each one bigger than the last and I’m whitewashed to shit, wishing I was better at holding my breath.

I’m sick of bobbing beneath the surface of my life.

Some nights I spend hours scrolling through the facebook newsfeed as though Mark Zuckerberg is going to jump through my screen, tell me I’ve got all the employable qualities he’s been looking for and offer me fame, fortune and purpose on the spot. But mindless scrolling turns to incredulous rage when I see posts predicting all the names of women who will fall pregnant this year. Thanks for tagging each other, how utterly hilarious.

When friends actually do give birth, I dance the line between euphoria and the overwhelming urge to curl up on my shower floor and bawl. This is the part where I call myself a self-absorbed knob and get internally angry for not being entirely stoked. But according to psychologist #4, calling anyone a knob is judgmental and counter-productive, even if directed at one’s self. Do I get points for at least being self-aware?

It’s funny how losing babies knocks you in unexpected manners, other than snort-sobbing and fits of rage. Self-esteem. The one thing that’s meant to be self-taught is the hardest thing to learn. My body has failed me. My brain interprets this to say I’ve failed myself. So when I sit in the car bawling because my knees hurt when I ran on the treadmill, it’s hard to make the connection.

I know I’m meant to work on my ‘self-talk’, you know, when you tell yourself things like, ‘you’re doing great, babe’, as opposed to ‘Ally, you’re being a festering, self-absorbed numpty? I can manage this occasionally. When triggering conversations occur, you know, like pregnancy, labour and Bonds sales, I often notice glances in my direction. People want to make sure I’m not about to burst into ugly crying. It’s here where I have to consciously give myself an internal pep talk. ‘You’ve got this, answer with a smile, you’re awesome babe’. If I manage to engage in the conversation, in a manner that’s socially acceptable, I give myself an imaginary high-five. Any secret donkey-sobbing when I’m finally alone is inconsequential because I aced the peripheral spotlight.

Incredibly it’s the difference between:

1. feeling deflated that said conversation occurred (and it sucks to be me),

2. thinking, woohoo who’s a resilient little cherry pie?

The flip side of positive self-talk is sometimes it’s as though I’m hearing my internal dialog from a mean fake-friend who bitches about me behind my back and only visits me to eat my cheese.

Actual friends are obviously a great idea to have in my life, I just seem to struggle with the planned visitation rights we’ve put on ourselves. Yes you can rely on a friend to listen, but only on scheduled visits. No one wants to chat on the phone anymore, and I’m resigned to the notion that my friends and I will just tag each other in humorous facebook posts until one or all of us spontaneously combusts. But hilarious memes won’t help me win at life, especially with my crappy internet. Don’t get me started on broadband conspiracy theories. Oh, that’s the other thing. The mud makes me passionate about absolutely everything I have zero control over, thus ensuring I feel further restricted inside my own head.

If you read my last blog post for Sands, you might remember that I’d planned to skydive when the sludge hit this time. The theory was I could prove to myself that I can snap out of anything, by shocking my subconscious with a hit of adrenalin. Psychologist #4 asked me what the point of it is, because after I play my trump card, I’ll apparently have nothing left up my sleeve to give me a rush. She’s clearly never driven a great distance on one bar of fuel. Perhaps it was some messed up reverse psychology, like ‘you won’t do it’, and then I jump and I’m all healed, forever and ever amen. Or perhaps she just hates my guts - which would explain why she also told me that I need a life coach rather than a psychologist. I miss my complementing, expensive psychologist who tells me I’m balanced and talks about Radiohead. I am balanced. But like a seesaw that occasionally has a sack of potatoes weighing down one end.

Unfortunately, the well meaning comments of others can make mud worse. Especially when people with no prescribing authority suggest I go on antidepressants. Thanks, but I’m sad because of the sad thing. Antidepressants have their place, but not to conceal feelings that probably deserve to be felt. Others love to point out the downs, ‘see, I knew you were lying when you said you were fine’ as though they’ve achieved something because I’m donkey-sobbing into my sleeve. Actually, sometimes I am fine and sometimes I’m not, crazy I know, but there you have it.

As I break through the surface of my mental barriers, I notice glimmers of beautiful and it reminds me this mindset is not forever. The moment my three-year-old says something utterly profound, a raven in the courtyard at work with a broken wing who climbs trees by leaping up the branches, a friend who says yes to the spontaneous thing that’s starts in twenty minutes.

Hopefully when I decide what to do with my now pregnancy-free future, I’ll have something to focus on - thus ensuring I emerge from inside my own head and become present with the world around me. As long as it’s achievable and mostly in my comfort zone, or my anxious little mind might have a conniption (evil cheese-stealing self is excited by prospect of conniption).

So here’s where I’m at…

I’ve got two weeks left of this six-week challenge, and luckily I’m too scared of the downfall if I don’t commit to it my all. I might do something crazy, swing from the chandeliers like that Sia song my three-year-old got addicted to before I realised it was about excessive drinking. I have skills in a range of employment categories, and a husband who’s told me I can quit my job to study whatever I want to, or just write for the rest of my life, so I have a world of options. I just have to suck it up and decide where the next path leads. Adapt. Because I know happiness can never be achieved by those who aren’t adaptable. One day I’ll walk on the water that is my life, missing my babies, but knowing they’ve made me who I am (will be). I just hope whoever that woman is, she finds a way for the mud to be worth it. I’ll let you know. Unless I become a secret agent, then I won’t let you know, but I swear I’ll swing by with at least a covert winky emoji so you know I’m winning at life and #SavingTheWorld.


If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637

Ally Pritchard is an author and mother from Melbourne. She writes fictional novels and novellas under her maiden name A. Finlay. She’s lost five babies at eight, twenty-one, twelve, twelve and just recently at fifteen weeks.

Check out Ally's facebook page

Friday, 2 March 2018

My Loss part 2 by Mark

For part 1 see Thomas Portlock.

This is the second child loss that I have had to suffer through and it was no easier than the first in fact it was worse.

After the loss of Thomas my first born we had a daughter named Margaret, and then we became pregnant again with another son who we named David. My heart was filled with joy at the prospect of finally having a son. As we had already lost one child we kept an eye on everything, it was all going so well until that fateful night when my world came crashing down again. My partner was giving Margaret a bath when she slipped and hit her stomach on the edge of the bath. When I heard this had happened I raced here to Noarlunga Hospital where they placed here on the neonatal monitor.

The Nurses checked her out and said baby and Mom are both doing fine and I felt the dread leaving my body, we went home feeling so relieved and slept soundly. We awoke the next morning and my partner said she hadn't felt David move all night so we raced back to the hospital and they connected her to the monitor but couldn’t find a heart beat. The Nurse just looked at us and said they would need to do an ultrasound. Meanwhile my mind is going around and around at a thousand miles an hour and I was thinking oh no here we go again. They do the ultrasound and the Nurse says I need to get a Doctor to look at this.

The Doctor looks at the ultrasound and turned to us and says sorry your baby is dead. It suddenly felt to me that the whole world had just exploded and left me standing not being able to do a thing. He then said we would have to go to Flinders so David could be delivered.  As I couldn't go in the Ambulance I had to ring my best friend for a lift and his first words to me were this is not a funny joke to which I replied do you hear me laughing?

We arrived at Flinders where the Maternity staff met us and couldn't believe that we had lost a second child.  I felt so bad for my partner having to go through childbirth delivering a stillborn baby. When David was born the silence was deafening the Nurses then took David away so they could clean him up and take some photos for us. We spent some time with David and all I could think about was having to go through all this crap again. We also had Nurses from the Neonatal Unit come in as they all remembered us from Thomas’s death. We managed to get everything organised and finished and the last thing we had to do was bury David. We hit a major snag when we filled out the application for burial because he didn't have my last name as he was stillborn.

When we spoke to the Centennial Park Cemetery Staff to arrange a plot and they realised we already had a son buried there they looked up Thomas’s plot and turned to us and smiled.  I was thinking what the hell, when the lady says the plot next to Thomas is empty and we can have the two brothers together. My response was to burst out in tears and to this day both my boys keep each other company.

R.I.P my boys Daddy loves you for ever                       Mark

If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 1300 072 637

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Grief as Time Moves On by Therese

Thirty-seven and a half years ago I miscarried at 16 weeks. I felt this baby growing and knew to be a person in its own right and had been looking forward to seeing its face: I never knew its gender but felt it would have been a boy - after all don't we mothers just know, and of course this was my plan!

People often look at me and I can feel their thoughts: “Why does she still grieve? It's been so long?” and in my mind I reply “So?” Grief is not an emotion that simply disappears with time but rather it is interwoven with life as we now know it, whatever that may be. For some it will be other children and for others it will to never know the joy of watching their baby grow.

What amazes me still (and I don't know why I am still surprised) but no-one ever mentions this lost baby, except on occasion -  my youngest as her partner lost his son at a very young age. Maybe I have learnt to be cynical over the years because those of us who have had a miscarriage or a stillbirth  (though I have never experienced this) that this is always with us; something often buried deep inside to get us through. I always say I have had four babies, not three and because I don't have the breathing fourth child does not mean it is forgotten even now when I am a proud grandma! This attitude of those who know this can still upset me at times. After all this time I suppose people forget but I do not!

Sometimes I sit alone on a bench seat outside, listening to the breeze and sounds trying to find peace in a world that forgets trauma and grief so easily because it is a way of life for so many, which is sad in itself. Losing a baby is something unique and miscarriage again is different from a stillbirth, as in my case I never even got to see my baby. 

Sometimes I think those of us who have experienced the loss of a baby need to be teachers to others who don't understand. We need to let them know about how it is for us, because even though they may never experience what we have been through, they can learn just to listen or just to be there holding your hand.

Even now after all these years I contemplate what may have been and for those who have the support, please use it when you need to; there was no support many years ago. You are so lucky to have a wonderful group like SANDS to offer support and be at the other end of a phone when you experience the loss of your beloved baby. Please feel like you can use them, they understand as they have been through it too! Blessings to all Mums and Dads who grieve for their lost one.

If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637

About Therese

Therese has worked in the field of counselling and community development for over 20 years. She has worked predominantly in the health and welfare field. She has worked in the primary school sector counselling children through a range of loss and grief and traumatic experiences.
Therese has also delivered a number of conference papers on the theme of children’s loss and grief and articles on stress management too. She also worked as a Sessional teacher in the TAFE system and the Private Sector in the Community Services area, including Mental Health Welfare for over 20 years. She is also an experienced Supervisor.
Therese has as a small business conducting Reiki, Inner Child Therapy, Meditation and similar therapies. She is also works as a Group Facilitator and teaches stress management and relaxation techniques within the local community as well as running workshops in the areas of trauma and loss and grief and related areas.
Therese is a published poet and has three children and four delightful grandsons. She enjoys nothing more than a good cup of coffee and the occasional glass of wine or bubbly. She is passionate about climate change and the environment, wanting a clean world for her grandchildren to grow up in and one where any type of violence is not tolerated.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

(Valentine's Day) Coopers Day by Samantha & Paul

This week on the 14th February my beautiful son would be turning 4.  4 years old…wow, even saying that feels weird!

To some people 4 years doesn’t sound like an incredibly long time, but as a Bereaved Mother who hasn’t seen her son for 4 years, it feels like a lifetime.

As a woman who loves love, I have always loved Valentine’s Day.  In all honesty, it used to be my favourite day of the year.  I was working in the city and would see florists running back and forth with beautiful bunches of flowers all day. As I sat on the train on my way home, I would see ladies (and men) carrying beautiful bouquets and wearing big beaming smiles.  I loved everything about Valentine’s Day.

In 2014 everything changed. Our son Cooper Joseph Rowe was born on 14th February 2014 at 10.41 pm at night.  He was stillborn (not breathing upon arrival into this world) and at the time I was all alone as the hospital had earlier sent my partner home.  Cooper was born at 22 weeks gestation so was perfectly formed but just a little too young to survive outside of my tummy.  His arrival and passing was heartbreaking.  It was unexpected and irrevocably changed not only our lives but also the lives of those around us forever.

The first year was tough….VERY tough.  If I be brutally honest, I had times where I questioned my own worth and desire to remain in this world.  I was so full of anger and just couldn’t understand how this had happened to us.  I was also very unwell following Coopers delivery and ended up being re-hospitalised for almost a month and needing lifesaving surgery.  This definitely delayed us being able to grieve the loss of our son.

Eventually I was well enough for release and that’s when our new reality really hit home.  We barely survived each day, it was all one small step at a time.  Those days were full of heartbreak, tears, broken spirits, arguments and most of all deep seeded grief for the loss of our firstborn son.  Everything seemed to trigger me and I would end up sobbing at the drop of a hat.  Everyone else had gone back to their normal lives but for us, we were still desperately missing our son.

As time went on, my partner & I went back to work and did the normal routine things that people do.  We knew that we wanted to honour our sons memory.  We also knew that Valentine’s Day would never be the same.

The following year in 2015, my partner & I made a promise to do something special on Coopers Day, and as such have done so ever since.  No longer do we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we instead acknowledge his day.  It is Coopers Day.  A day that belongs to him alone. 

We have started to take holidays each year in February and make sure that we are somewhere other than home for Coopers Day.  Last year we were in Hawaii, this year, we will be in Palm Cove.  Perhaps in a way it is a subconscious attempt at escaping the sadness and instead trying to find some small amount of joy in his day.  I would give anything to have Cooper back with us, but as that is not an option, I instead settle for making precious new memories each year in his honour.

Happy Coopers Day from Samantha & Paul xx

If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637

Samantha Rowe

My name is Samantha. I am a Bereaved Mother located in Melbourne.

My partner and I have had an incredibly tough baby journey to date. We have lost 8 consecutive pregnancies/babies and are yet to have a living child.

Cooper was stillborn on 14.02.14

Hudson was stillborn on 23.01.15

Emma & Zoe (identical momo twins) tangled their cords and passed away on 30.08.15

I’ve also had subsequent miscarriages on 16.09.16, 31.12.16, 13.10.17 & 16.11.17.

We are commencing ivf shortly to see if that can help us achieve our dreams of becoming parents to a living child.

I run a social enterprise called Memories of an Angel which raises awareness for Pregnancy & Infant Loss. We sell Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness ribbons, pins and a collection of other Pink & Blue items. I am extremely passionate about raising awareness for Pregnancy & Infant Loss and very proud to be pioneering the cause and bringing these special keepsakes to bereaved individuals and families across Australia.

Memories of an Angel also coordinates a variety of events for special days such as International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day, International Bereaved Mother’s Day, International Bereaved Father’s Day etc.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Single Bereaved Mother's and their Ex partners by Emma

As soon as I found out I had lost Lynette, I contacted my ex. 

As soon as I found out I had lost Lynette, I contacted my ex. 
I was in the waiting room at radiology at the hospital waiting to be taken back to the maternity ward to prepare for what was next. I needed him to know. My friend at the time started telling me that this was inappropriate that it could wait. In my head, it couldn’t wait. I needed to tell him. I needed him to know.

I think quite often it’s easy for bystanders to have a say in what we should or shouldn’t do. But its extremely hard when you lose a baby as a single mother. Its just you. On your own. Your world has fallen apart right in front of you and there’s not single thing you can do to fix it. 

Although I felt that my ex didn’t do right by me, I felt the need to do everything possible to ensure that I did the right thing by him for Lynette. I owed it to her to do the right thing by him regardless of whether he appreciated it or not.
My advice for other single mothers who have just lost their baby is to put aside any issues that you may have with the father for one brief moment and put your child first. 

Talk with the hospital and come up with a plan of how you are going to facilitate having them meet their child. I did not want him at Lynette's birth. But I was insistent on him meeting her. The hospital helped me facilitate having him there. I was able to enjoy Mothers Day with her and he came in to meet her on the Monday the day after. I was so protective of her, I didn’t leave her side. 

Don’t expect anything from the father. Men handle grief differently but also acknowledge that its unlikely you will get thanked for including him.

I spoke with the funeral director about different options. I decided on having Lynette buried. I arranged all the plans, invited who I wanted there. I included his family but kept it small. I even hosted a wake at my house afterwards. I did all of this on my own. This was the last time I saw any of them. 

I feel at peace knowing that I did the right thing. 

Weeks went on and a mutual friend informed me that he had posted a photo of myself and him lowering Lynette into her grave onto Facebook. I felt sick. Disgusted. These photos were of a private moment. No place for the internet. 
Grief highlights peoples true colours. It was at this point that I made the decision that I still needed to protect her. 

I arranged the plaque shortly after this. I kept the writing neutral. At the end of the day, he is still her father. He still loved her. I think we need to put aside grievances when we lose someone and focus on what really matters. We had a beautiful daughter Lynette Mary Rose. 

If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Thomas Portlock by Mark

This is dedicated to the Dads who understand this feeling.

This year would have been your twenty first birthday! Where have all those years gone? Hardly a day goes by without me thinking of you.

I remember the day you were born and the first time I held you, never realising that in five and a half weeks you would be gone forever but never forgotten.

You were born premature so your first weeks were spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and we spent many days visiting you and eagerly waiting for the day you would come home. That day finally came and we took you home and you joined the rest of your immediate family in our home. You had only been home a few days when you became sick and you had to be rushed back to hospital. As I was working the afternoon shift I had to ring the hospital to see how you were going and they told me you were in a separate room and were doing fine so I went to bed. The next thing I remember is getting a phone call from the hospital to get there as fast as possible.

When the doctors came into your room and came up to us, they said you have a decision to make. It was the hardest one in my life! You were dying and there was nothing they could do. They said they could turn off the ventilator and you could die on the bed or I could hold you and you could die in my arms.

So I held you in my arms and felt the life drain out of your little body, not believing this was happening. It felt like a bad dream that I couldn't wake up from so when the doctors came over and pronounced you dead I just sat there feeling nothing. The doctor came up to me and said I needed to make another decision, they wanted to do an autopsy. When I asked why they said they don't know why you died and they wanted to find out why so I said yes.

The next few weeks went by and everyone was asking how your mother was going. I kept saying she was ok but everyone seemed to forget that I was hurting just as much but had to stay strong for the family. The autopsy results finally came in and the results showed that you had died from pneumonia that had been brought on by Whooping Cough.

As I had been coughing for several weeks I thought I had it and had given it to you. I spoke to the doctor and voiced my concerns so I had a blood test done and for the next weeks I felt so guilty that I might have killed you. I couldn't talk to anyone about this because back then men didn't talk about their feelings and there were very few support groups for men.

The results finally came in and all I had was a bad cough. Still, the feeling of anger inside me wouldn't go away as I felt so helpless that I couldn't help you as I was the male and I could fix anything. I had to remain strong as the funeral had to be arranged and a viewing as most of the family hadn't met you yet. My life felt like it was running on autopilot.

I still had to work as the bills didn't stop. Your mother still needed support from people and I still had to carry on, thinking to myself what about me. The day of your funeral finally came and I couldn't think any more as there was one more thing I had to do. With the help of friends and family we carried your little coffin into the Chapel. We walked past people and I didn't even notice them as my mind was so heavy.

This is our story.

I sped to the hospital saying to myself stuff the speed limit and got to the hospital. In next to no time after parking in the doctor’s car park we rushed to your room. When we got there the doctors said we should ring our immediate family and get them here as well. When they got there you weren't doing so well and had been placed on a ventilator. All that I was feeling at that time was frustration because I couldn't do anything to help you.                  Mark

This is dedicated to the Dads who understand this feeling.

If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637

Friday, 29 December 2017

Surviving the Loss of Your Baby by Catherine

Through all of this craziness the only moments of calm I had were when I was holding Benjamin.  I had looked forward to holding him for so long but I had never thought for one minute that he wouldn’t be alive when it finally happened. When the nurse rolled him into our room I couldn’t believe how perfect he was, it took my breath away.  He just looked like he was sleeping.  I thought that holding him would be strange and unnatural but it was quite the opposite.  My heart was bursting with love for him.  He was where he belonged, with his Mummy and Daddy.  I think that is where the calmness came from – it is the most natural thing in the world to hold your newborn baby.  It just so happened that ours had already left this world for the next.  

The weeks that followed were the worst of my life.  I would wake up at 5am every morning and wonder how I would make it through to that evening.  Every minute felt like an eternity.  After saying goodbye to Benjamin for the last time at his funeral the desperate longing to hold him again tortured me each day.  The tears would not stop and yet I had this strange yearning to be pregnant again.  Nothing made sense.  Nothing made me happy.  My life felt like nothing.  I had no idea how to live in this new world where I carried my baby in my heart instead of in my arms.  All I wanted was for someone to tell me how to get through the days and how to re-integrate back into life.    

I had no structure to my day and I had no interest in doing anything but I needed to start somewhere.  So I started with small wins.  Each day I would try to do something small.  It started with getting out of bed and having a shower and progressed to blow-drying my hair and even cooking a meal. At the start it was hard for me to do this.  I was so used to my big job and being busy, busy, busy that the small wins seemed silly and trivial.  I had gone from managing the finances for a billionaire dollar business to celebrating blow-drying my hair.  An important thing that I have learnt on this journey, however, is that I need to be kind to myself and I need to be patient with myself.  Most people will never go through as traumatic an event as losing their baby.  Whether we like it or not it takes time to heal.   

I am now 5 months on from losing Benjamin and the small wins have snowballed into big wins and dare I say it a new life.  A life that is very different from what I had imagined but still worth fighting for.  I have good days and I have bad days.  I still cry all the time and I miss my boy desperately.  But I think that by trying to live life again I have found hope again.  I have found an amazing love in this world and the knowledge that my son is always and forever in my heart keeps me going each day.


If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637

Catherine Travers

Catherine was born in Ireland but moved to Perth, Western Australia with her husband almost 10 years ago.  She is mum to baby Benjamin, who was born sleeping in April 2017.  Since losing Benjamin she has taken a keen interest in raising awareness for stillbirth and trying to help those who follow in her footsteps of loss.  Catherine blogs about her experiences of stillbirth and grief at 'Benjamin's Light' and through her Facebook page