Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012...the year of picking up the pieces

It's been a year since I posted my first blog entry.  I didn't know then that it would help me so much!  A reborn love of writing has bloomed in me, and I get some peace from this.  A small blessing, but one I'm grateful for.

2012.  The year that the anaesthetic wore off, and I had to start putting things back together.  I feel a bit like that chic at the end of a disaster movie who finally gets to sit down and rest; covered in blood, dirt and alien slime, and in need of someone to give her a big hug.  I have been trying really hard to pinpoint the moment when I started feeling like the battle was over and I was ready to start the rebuild.  But sometime over the past few weeks, I've started to find myself feeling braver.  Stronger.  Better.

Now, I am not saying I've regained all my sanity.  I am still likely to lose my shit over stupid things, swear more than I ever have, possibly break a few more plates (I have too many anyway...), but I feel like I have some semblance of control over things again.  Grief is a very weird thing, and it takes so much of you.  It's not just feeling sad.  Grief, real grief, consumes you.  I have found that I couldn't cope with anything going wrong.  I couldn't cope with changes in plans.  I couldn't manage situation where I might meet new people and they might ask questions I wouldn't know how to answer.  I felt like a bottle mostly filled with sand and even a small scoop of anything more was enough to push me over the edge.

I feel different now.  Something has changed in me; the dam broke and some of the sand in the bottle has slipped away.  I have things.  For life.  For love. 

The past year has been hard, and there have been times when I have wondered if I could survive it.  If my marriage and my friendships and my job could survive it.  But somehow, mostly through the patience of the wonderful people in my life, I withstood being swept away with the storm of my grief.  I faced losing my child and I have learnt to manage the pain.  I'm a bit astounded, actually.

As the year comes to an end, a year with so many ups and downs I wondered many times if I would permanently feel a bit seasick, I thought it would be a good time to take stock of all that's happened.  So here goes...

  • The feeling of being so alone and frightened, and wondering if I would ever feel part of the world again
  • The physical pain that went with losing Poppy, and the fear and anger that consumed me at times
  • Trying to help Xav through his own grief and understanding of death
  • Hamish (my gorgeous nephew) battling cancer, undergoing chemo and losing his leg
  • Nana Grace passing away
  • Wondering if I could ever do my job well again
  • Losing touch with some people who didn't know what to say to us
  • Being hurt by people who didn't know what to say to us
  • Feeling like a terrible wife, mother & friend
  • The people who reached out, who didn't stop calling, who didn't stop inviting me to things, knowing eventually I would start going again
  • Knowing that not everyone would forget Poppy, and she would mean something to many people
  • Learning that my family would stick by us though thick and thin, and I would always try to do the same
  • Hamish being cancer-free :)
  • Meeting many new friends who know and understand the grief of losing a child
  • Managing to work, and still do a good job
  • Finding I work in a great place with great people
  • Knowing I have real friends, who have been there for me
  • Using the time Poppy gave me to learn cake decorating
  • Beginning to try harder to be a better wife, mother and friend
  • Learning to stop stressing over the small stuff. 
  • Being less compassionate and more compassionate at the same time
  • Learning the things about myself that I don't like, but needing to know them so I can begin to be better at them
  • Wanting the joy of another baby, but being frightened of having one, or replacing Poppy
So, I don't know?  What do you think?  Good year or bad?  Maybe I should rename the year 2012 the "Year of Learning".  About myself, about others, about grief.  A year to begin healing my little family.  We're not done with that.  We still need a little longer, maybe we'll never be totally healed.  But I, for one, feel like I can start the process. 

On the eve of 2013, I make a new promise to myself.  To be well again.  To want to live again, and make the most of this little life I have.  I'm excited for 2013.  I hope we can make it a lucky one for all of us.  'Cause let's face it, we ought to be due for a good year.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Happy 1st Birthday, My Darling

It's been a while since I wrote a post with tears in my eyes, but if I told you that was true of this one, I'd be lying.  I plan to spend today howling.  Because, frankly, a year ago my daughter died.  And it still hurts like hell.

Tomorrow is the 15th of December.  It is a day I've been dreading for a year.  It's the last of the firsts.  There will be no more firsts.  I will never see Poppy's first anything.  No first smile.  No first step.  No first day of school or first boyfriend.  This is the very last one.  Her first birthday. 

I am trying really hard to not think of all the things I should be doing today.  Wrapping presents for Poppy to tear open tomorrow, no doubt with the help of her adoring big brother.  Decorating a suitably ginormous princess-themed cake.  Hoping for nice weather tomorrow so she can enjoy her first go on a jumping castle, like Xav did on his first birthday.  But I'm trying hard not think of those things.

We've tried to do some things we might have been doing.  We went and picked out a pretty dress for Poppy.  We argued when the one we all liked wasn't available in a size 1, and then giggled about why in the hell does it matter?  We're shopping for our daughter who will never wear it.  I'm making a cake, but not the cake I would have made had Poppy been here to blow out the candles.  We're having a celebration of sorts, but not a jumping castle, or balloons, or gifts.  Not at all the shindig I'd been planning since I got pregnant with my baby.  We're trying to capture a little bit of the magic of a first birthday.  But it will never, ever be enough.

Maybe it will be a good thing, having the last first behind us.  Instead of this feeling of waiting and wanting.  Maybe, it's moving forward.  But I just wish it were different.  I wish I had been able to have Poppy here.  I wish I was sitting here saying, "I can't believe how she's grown!"...

Instead my tears fall.  And fall.  And fall.

There is no light hearted, meaningful ending here today.  I am allowing myself today for my loss.   Tomorrow, tomorrow is for the joy of my daughter's creation and what she gave us.  But today, I think I'm allowed to cry.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


I realised recently that I spend a lot of my time feeling generally peeved with life.  I am at times very dissatisfied with what life has dumped at our doorstep, the path our world has meandered this past year, and the pain it has brought us.  And it got me to thinking; how does one become so bitter?  How do you move on from the anger that boils in your blood?  How do you get back to loving the life that once fulfilled you?

I realised I find very little joy in my world.  I try, I really do.  There are things that make me happier, many things.  But I'm always filled with this insatiable thirst for joy to come back into my life, even though it's me and my selfish pain that's preventing it.

"No more," I said to myself this morning.  "Today I make the effort to be better."

Obviously I didn't say this out loud, G puts up with enough crazy from me.  But I'm trying to flip the switch back to being grateful.  Replace grief with acceptance.  Anger with hope.  Yearning for more with need for the simple things.

It may seem odd to you that someone who knows the pain of such loss can be ungrateful for what they have.  But I am consumed with what I lost.  The daughter I wanted so badly, and felt I had suffered so much to deserve.  I feel robbed of what I worked for.  After being determined to not be filled with hate and anger, for Poppy to not always equal pain, I feel exactly that.  I turned her short existence into a shroud of 'It's not fair!'.  And it's not, really.  No death is ever fair.  Someone must always suffer the pain of being left behind.

But today I decided to make her mean more.  Make me see the joy in my life again, the goodness that is there.  I would be grateful for what I have.

So I started by laying watching G sleep, marvelling in the fact that for some strange reason this man chose me.  Chose to be in my life.  I am grateful for this man.

Next, Xav came bundling in at 6.51am, and I am grateful he is well enough to bundle out of bed so early and be excited about the day.  And when he whispered, "Mummy, thanks for giving me my dragon toy yesterday, I love you,"  and I'm grateful that he is so kind and tries so hard to be good.  I am grateful I was given the job of being his mother. I am grateful for my son.

I made some breakfast, and after my cereal was finished, I was grateful at the fact that the milk was still cold and I was able to have as much as I liked.  I am grateful we always have enough to eat.

I thought about seeing my friends last night, and how wonderful it is to have friends who don't treat me weird, despite my weirdness.  I am grateful for them.

I got the cupcakes ready for work for tomorrow, and I am grateful that I work in a place where I feel comfortable, and there are people who are great friends and they supportive of me.

I thought about catching up with my family later today, and how great it is that I see my family so much, and we love each other, support each other and always (despite all those little arguments) end up respecting our values and differences. I am grateful I married into much an great family.   I am supremely grateful for my family.

I am grateful for the beauty of the sun light streaming through the curtains, and the leaves on Poppy's tree.

I am grateful for the fact we are strong enough to bear what we have been through.  I am grateful to understand to medical jargon that was thrown at us, and have people who could and would answer our questions.

It turns out I am grateful for many things.  I have love in my life, all around me.  I guess it's not that I am ungrateful, I am just broken.  The love could not stay in a heart so broken, but not because it isn't there, just because the whole contraption isn't working properly right now.  But once I fix it, once it's mended, I think the capacity for love will be more; endless.

I guess a heart needs to stretch in all directions, bear both tremendous heartache and immense joy, to help it become big enough to hold the love that can now fill our life.  Poppy has brought us both: in her creation and death. 

I am grateful for Poppy.  I am grateful.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Filling the void

You know that big hole in my chest I sometimes talk about?  I realised that I don't feel it so keenly anymore.  It's still there, still a big part of me, but I've begun to find ways to...fill it?  Live around it?  I'm not sure how to describe the feeling of knowing it's there but not acknowledging it all the time.  I guess I can control the feeling better than I could a while ago.

I've filled it with many things.  My beautiful Xav, and making memories with him, learning more about what he's thinking and feeling.  Work fills time, and it takes energy.  Trying to make time to spend with G.  Birthdays.  Anniversaries.  My family.  Cake decorating.

But really what I yearn for is another baby.  Not to replace Poppy, but to fulfil this need I have to have more living children than angel ones.  But that is a long process, and may take some time to achieve.  How do I manage in the mean time?  This has plagued me for awhile, ever since I decided that I wasn't quite ready to embark on the trying to conceive journey just yet.  I desperately want another baby, but I'm not ready for the rest of it yet.  The months of attempts, which should be fun, take all the intimacy out of it.  Timing things to fit in with cycles, injections, what I ate today, what G washed his jocks in, phases of the moon, and possibly applying some sort of herbal mix in my bellybutton and under G's left armpit, take all the spontaneity out of things.  Since I can't even seem to remember what I'm doing between standing up from my chair and taking the next step, I figured I wasn't quite ready for the schedule of trying again.  Not to mention the stressful pregnancy, and the barrage of testing I will need once I am finally up the duff.  Anyway, I digress.  How was I to cope with needing the baby but not yet ready?

Hamish.  My sweet little nephew Hamish, who should be growing up with my Poppy, has been an endless source of joy for me.  My amazing sister who lets me completely over mother him, and live outrageously vicariously through him.  He's an absolute sweetheart and despite enormous difficulties in his own little life, he is a ray of sunshine for all of us.  So I guess through Hamish I get a lot of the baby stuff.  I change nappies.  I shower him in cuddles and kisses.  I watched dotingly as he cut his first teeth, tried his first foods, crawled for the first time.  I even looked after him for a whole weekend, and Xav and G and I got to pretend for a little while.  It was nice, and it strengthened my resolve that maybe the time had come to really start to move forward. 

So with a weekend with a baby under our belts, and not major accidents, illnesses or injuries, we thought it was time to give it a go full time.  So I did two things.  I started back on fertility meds, and...we bought a puppy.  Ostensibly, the puppy was for Xav's 6th birthday.  But he is also a piece of puzzle filling the void we feel in Poppy's absence from our lives.  We picked what sort of dog we wanted, I found a breeder who had a litter ready to go, and off we went.

We picked up our new fur baby on a Sunday.  Ironically, I was violently ill the whole way to get him. Pseudo morning sickness maybe?  I was nervous.  I had the 'puppy bag' packed, the paper work ready, I'd set up a space at home for him.  I read every bit of info I could find about helping him settle in. 

We met the lovely breeder in a Macca's car park in Albury.  Not quite the glamour befitting our newest addition, but what can you do?  We presented him to Xav, who reacted with the surprise and excitement we had hoped for, and after some consideration decided to name him Thor.

My first cuddles with Thor involved me rocking him.  Upon realisation that I looked absolutely ridiculous, I reminded myself he was not an actual human baby and rocking was probably not necessary, he snuggled up under my chin and promptly fell asleep.  I have to say, at that point, I was hooked.  This cute little puppy became another fluffy little piece in helping us heal.

Within two days we were all madly in love with Thor, despite the fact we have to get up through the night, clean up messes, shop for puppy things, live without a phone as he's chewed through the cord... We've started some basic training and Xav and I hate leaving him at home when we go out.  Thor cries and snuggles and plays.  All the things we'd probably be doing with Poppy about now. Our little fur baby.

It's nice have a new member of the family.  But more than that, it's nice having something to be happy and excited about.  Nice to share a picture of our new 'baby' and not feel pain.  I am glad he's in our lives.  If we have to have this void, I'm so glad he's here to help us fill it.

Welcome to our family, Thor.  I can't promise a smooth ride, but I can promise endless love and support.  We hope you like it here. 

So, Thor makes 5.  Hopefully we'll make 6, someday soon.

Xav and Thor <3

Sunday, 9 September 2012

My New Normal

Baby loss has become a big part of my world. I guess when you've lived through something so horrific, it is our nature to seek out others who understand. Parents with boys seek out other parents with boys, mums of multiples seek out others with multiples. And those of us who have known the pain of our child dying seek out others who know the same pain.

But there are days when I realise I am not desensitised to it. Every now and again I read another mums story which mirrors my own so much, my heart breaks all over again. On Friday I opened a link to one such story. Another mum who was expecting to introduce her baby to his sibling only to have to break the news that he had gone to heaven and wasn't coming home.

This mum is has chosen to write her experience down right from word go. She has scribed her journey for all to read. And I admire her for doing so. It's not always easy to jot down your inner most fears and feelings for others to see. There are times I write things I am not proud of feeling. There are times I know what I write might be misconstrued. I try to tell myself I don't care what others think. But truthfully, I do care. I don't write to offend or to cunningly indicate the things I don't like about the way others act. I write to share who I am now. Not just to let you know, but to help me know. I just want to be accepted for the new person I am. For I am forever changed, I think. I miss feeling included. It's not that anyone deliberately excludes me. I just feel apart from the rest of the world. Like an alien, but slightly less green.

If you told me 12 months ago that I would be used to seeing pictures of babies who had died, I would not have believed you. I am ashamed to say I was a little freaked out by it. But then I held my own silent, beautiful baby girl. And I realised that she wasn't scary or upsetting. She was stunning. How could I be afraid of her? What was I scared of? Now I understand that I was scared of death. I had never seen someone who had died. I was scared of seeing what I imagined death looked like. In reality, there was nothing to fear.

I am changed. I honour the births and deaths of babies who are taken too soon. I look at their pictures and notice that in this one she looks like she is smiling, and in that one he looks cheeky. Because I know the bitter pride the parents of these children feel. Proud that they brought someone so beautiful into this world. And so sad that the world will never know them.

Some days though, like Friday, when I read this woman's story, I realised how much I had changed. And the reality that I know this pain really hit me. I know how she feels. I am not the one who can write, "I can't even imagine your pain." I don't need to imagine. It's in my memory, it's what I live. That fact floored me. This is my life now. I am...this. I know the stories and names of at least 50 ladies who are also this. I know their babies names. I see their precious children’s' photos. I grieve for them and with them. My new normal includes this.
Am I better for it, or worse off? I sure wish I didn't know the pain. I wish I had a baby girl crawling around at my feet and was too busy to write heartfelt blog posts. But I guess I realised I am better for knowing. I won't be the one who avoids the bereaved mother in pain. I won't be the one who scoffs when someone posts a pic on facebook of their beloved, precious baby who was born sleeping. I am stronger now. I can be better at not being afraid of death. And maybe with time I will stop being so afraid of life. I will live in this world again. I will be less alien. Green is not my colour anyway.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Elephant In The Room

You walk in to a room filled with people.  Momentarily some people turn to see who has entered, and quickly look away or whisper a quiet word to the person next to them.  As you move through the room, a few shoot a quick smile your way and then hold a murmured conversation in hushed tones about you behind your back once you pass.  Many walk the long way round the room so they don't have to pass you and risk having to talk to you.  Those who are brave enough, venture over to say hello with a wary look on their face, careful not to talk about anything that might set you off.  We all sidle around the elephant in the room; 8 months ago my child died.

It's not that people intend to be nasty. In fact I'd say it's generally quite the opposite.  They are trying to be nice and ensure I don't have to think about my grief.  Because they haven't walked my path, they don't know that I think about it every moment of every day.  I try really hard to pretend I'm not thinking about Poppy.  But really my pain is like an old warn blanket that shrouds my shoulders where ever I go.

I hate going out.  I hate the fact that I make people uncomfortable.  I hate that people either expect me to be a weeping mess or to be better.  I hate the "I'm sorry" look and the whispered conversations behind my back and the fact that people are judging me always.  Even when they say they are not.  Just like I have many times past when I didn't really understand what someone was going through or why they were acting in a certain way.  I used to be 'people'. Now I'm on the other side, and I wish I was back over the fence.

The prelude to any outing in my house involves a delicate dance.  I get nervous, so I get grumpy.  G carefully tried to encourage me to not be nervous by reminding me why I'm going.  I adamantly refuse to go, mumbling more and more feeble excuses as to why I shouldn't go.  Usually I stomp off to the bedroom to finish getting ready and cry my anxiety out.  Then I cling to G, and he reassures me that I will be OK, and he'll look after me.  And we head off to be the social lepers we are these days.

It's all this stuff I find the hardest.  The stuff that hasn't actually changed; simple my perception of it has changed.  Like the idle conversation in the staff room at work which frequently brings about fits of panic when the topic turns to babies or pregnancy.  Or the birth announcements, or first birthday invites or new pregnancy scans which pop up almost daily on Facebook or in the mail.  It's not that the world has changed.  It's just me, and my dodgy insides gurgling anxiously.

I will admit I've never been a huge fan of big social occasions.  I don't enjoy making conversation with strangers.  But now it's like almost everyone is a stranger and we have to find common ground without mentioning 'that'.  Sometimes that takes a lot of work to do.  I really try not to bring people down.  I try to be 'normal'.  Often I fail miserably. But occasionally I manage a virtuoso performance.

Maybe it's all in my head.  Possibly I'm just becoming a little paranoid, I'm willing to concede that.  Some people are wonderful and give me time to talk, and realise I'm always putting on a brave face and try not to judge me.  But you don't have to worry about mentioning our loss or Poppy or babies. That's up to me to deal with.  It's much harder to deal with being a social pariah.  To have people avoid me or make decisions about my grief and whether they feel I should be better or not.  Or if I'm too better according to them.  I can live with losing Poppy.  It's bloody hard and I wish it were different, but I'm surviving.  I am not sure I can live with being ostracised.  It's a lonely world when very few people talk to you normally.

Here's the thing.  I quite like my elephant.  He's a lovely bloke and he really gets me.  But he needs a break.  Maybe next time I go out I can leave him at home, and try to manage without him.  But I can't do it alone.  I need a little help.  My elephant would appreciate your help, and so would I.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go...

Next week I go back to work.  Not the lovely '4 days a week, no meetings, leave at 3.45' work I have been doing for the past 6 weeks.  Real, honest to goodness, full time work. And to say I'm shitting myself would be an understatement.

In my mind I imagined by now I'd be OK.  Maybe not good, but definitely OK.  6 months is a long time, I figured.  Plenty long enough to get my life back in to some semblance of order, get Xav settled into school and generally be back to normal.  By the time I was due to start work again, I'd be able to manage.  Obviously, I was kidding myself.

I guess it all stems from this need we humans have to compartmentalise time.  Put a limit on things or phases.  From the terrible twos to the horrific teens, to 5 year plans and 10 year time limits, we like to know when things will end.  I guess in my head, my grief for Poppy would be manageable by the time I went back to work.  So imagine my surprise, as this deadline inched closer, when I was back to hysterical crying, no sleep and bursts of anger and depression.  Not at all how I expected to be feeling right now. 

6 months was a time limit I had for a number of things.  Returning to work.  Lose 10kg.  Begin trying for another baby.  Get back to where we left off when our life was shattered.  So as this milestone arrives I find I am not ready to be back to normal.  I am still struggling to just be, most days.  I am better at putting on a brave face, and I can walk through a supermarket without gasping out loud at babies or pregnant women.  But I'm certainly not as good as I thought I'd be.  And after 6 months of focusing on my healing, I find I'm not as healed as I thought.

I'm terrified I'll lose it at school.  Come across one stumbling block too many and make a fool of myself.  Be 'that poor woman whose baby died and is clearly not coping, poor dear'.  Not have the chance to just have a 'wallow in my own misery and pain' day and refuse to do anything except eat chocolate and cry.  Can I cope without those days?  Can I still be a dedicated, hard working teacher when the fire in me has dimmed so much?  When my head and heart aren't always in it like they were before?  Will I have the energy to keep it all together and still do my job well?

So it comes down to fear again.  Fear of what people will think of me.  Fear of how I will be judged.  Fear of myself and how I'll cope.  Fear of being afraid forever.  I've let fear back in, after it chased me down and caught me.  And it's slowly eating me up, invading my life and stopping me from moving forward.

It's not as easy to evade fear as it is to evade those pesky tram conductors who book you if you don't buy a ticket.  Fear sneaks up on you, and has you doubting whether you can do anything.  Fear and I are old enemies.  Frankly I wish fear would take a long walk off a short pier.

This is where I would ordinarily make a 'stand up to fear' final statement about how it won't get me, blah, blah, blah.  Well, guess what?  I can't guarantee anything.  But I can say I will try to face my fear bravely and with a new knowledge of myself.  I know I can live through some really bad stuff, and survive (albeit battered and possibly a little lopsided).  Surely I can survive going back to work without this blind terror?  I'm not certain, but I'll give it a go.  'Cause I decided a while back that fear would not rule my life.  It can have a room, somewhere down the back of the house, but it's certainly not moving into the master bedroom.  Part of me, but not in charge of me.  So if you see me walking around muttering something about 'F off, fear' or practising my air punches singing 'Eye of the Tiger', you'll know who I'm battling.  Feel free to cheer along, I might need some cheerleaders.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Lessons Learnt...

All of a sudden another month has slipped by.  Next week we would have been celebrating Poppy's half birthday.  It seems impossible it's been almost 6 months.  I feel like I always start with that, but seriously, I am overwhelmed by the feeling of time galloping on, and life passing me by.  But I'm learning to live with it.

So, how does a bereaved mother feel 6 months on from the death of her baby? I wonder that myself, actually.  I feel...numb.  Still numb.  I guess if I really let myself feel everything, I worry I would become catatonic and you'd have to visit me locked up in a padded cell somewhere 'restful'.  Everyone in my position is different at this point.  Many people who lost babies around the time we lost Poppy are already pregnant again.  Some can't even fathom the idea of trying again.  But I still feel shocked that it happened to me.  Dubious that the whole pregnancy, her birth and death, all of it, even happened to us at all.

I live, though.  I've started working again, and as much as I find it hard I have great support there.  People who were there through my whole pregnancy, some who helped me through my previous losses, and who stand by me as I make the very difficult transition back to the real world.  My beautiful kids I've taught over the years who always say hello with such excitement that they got to see their Prep teacher.  Parents who go out of their way to come and say hello.  But on the flip side, there are those who go the long way around to avoid me, and the kids who blurt out, "Did your baby die, Rebecca?" with such innocence that I usually just say, "Yes, sweety," and walk away.  At work I switch off to all of my home stuff, and that includes my grief most of the time.  I have my game face on.  I call it 'surface living'.  Going through the motions like life hasn't completely changed.  Then at home, I am free to just be.  Frequently that includes crying.  Also, shouting.  And a bit of insomnia thrown in for good measure.  You can imagine how much Xav and G love being around me.

Many times, however, I find myself gazing at nothing and thinking about things.  Trying to find some reason in the madness, some calm in the chaos.  Trying to learn the lessons I'm hoping I'm meant to learn from all this. 

I reckon having kids is the hardest thing we women do.  Probably the hardest thing for men too, but probably in a different way.  I always imagined I'd be the mum of a brood by now, with structured play activities, menu plans with balanced dietary requirements, encouraging creativity and diligence and a desire to be kind to others.  Some of this I am, but I am not the mum I thought I would be.  I am more the harried, time short, stressed out, full time working mum.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It's just not who I thought I'd be.  Over the past 6 months, I guess I've had time to evaluate my performance as a mother, and sadly I've found myself noticeably lacking.  I always thought it would be me shaping the lives of my children, but in reality it is me learning from them.

What lessons have I learnt?  There are many, and some aren't yet complete.  From Xavier I've learnt that I can't protect him from everything.  Buy a safety trampoline and he still falls off and breaks his arm.  Try to protect him from the worst the world has to offer and then introduce him to death and grief at 5 years old.  I've also learnt that he will be who he is, no matter what I say or encourage.  He's a joker, and a hyperactive boy, and I can't force him to not be.  He will play rough, and enjoy lemonade on the odd occasion.  I am not his mother to force him into a mould that I envision for him.  I am here to help him discover what is acceptable in society and what isn't.  I have learnt that I am not the calm, collected, patient mother I thought I would be, and that he still loves me.  I have learnt that he can break my heart with just a few words, and I can break his just the same.  I have learnt that he likes hanging out with me, even if it doesn't include a doughnut for him.

What have I learnt from Poppy?  How could I have learnt anything from someone so sweet, small and silent?  I think the lessons I learnt from her are far deeper.  I discovered that pregnancy is joyous from beginning to end.  I learnt that joy can be found in the worry.  I realised that I needed to stop and enjoy life now instead of planning what will happen 6 months from now.  I became aware of my shortcomings as a mother, and most importantly, I learnt to accept the kind of mother I am.  I learnt that Xavier was and is a miracle, and I had to have and lose Poppy to really know that.  I learnt to take nothing for granted.  I learnt that I have lots of amazing people in my life.  I learnt I have an amazing husband, who is also a great father.  I learnt that bad things happen to good people, too many bad things, but also that good things can happen at bad times.  Like the people who have come into my life, or become more important in my life, because of Poppy.  Overall I learnt to live better because of her.  I learnt that life doesn't need to be long to be important.  I've lived 32 years and not touched as many hearts as Poppy did in 9 months growing inside me.

I guess you could say that Poppy taught me to be a better mother to Xavier.  She taught me that, no matter what, life is precious.

Where is a bereaved mother six months on from the death of her baby?  She is looking forward to the rest of her life, with a child in her hand and an angel on her shoulder.  And glad that, however awful, she had the chance to see her life for what it is; blessed in so many ways. The lesson was hard.  Hopefully, she'll get an A+.  Because, let's face it, she's still a perfectionist.  That's a lesson for another day.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Closing the last door

It's been a while since I've posted.  Although 4 months ago it seemed impossible, life has begun again in earnest, and I've been busy.  The vast expanse of empty time to be filled before I return to work is now filled with the humdrum happenings of life. 

Poppy's 4 month anniversary passed without most people noticing.  I thought even G had forgotten, but I was surprised when he immediately identified my teariness leading up to the date for what they were; the lonely reminders of my daughter's tiny life and that the pain still rages.  I'm not saying that I haven't healed a bit, I have, I don't feel that ache quite so keenly now, it rarely takes my breath away, but the abyss of grief is still in me. 

4 months seems like such a little amount of time, but it's hard to remember what life was like before.  It's seems like another life, someone else's life, in a sunnier, rosier place.  People tell me time will heal all wounds, but I wonder if I want to be healed.  The pain is what reminds me what Poppy meant to me, to our little family.  Truly I don't believe anyone really heals from this type of grief.

It's seems odd that it was 4 months almost to the day that G and I trooped off the our fertility specialist again.  It was a journey I longed to never take again, a reminder that our triumph in conceiving our second child didn't become the squirmy little bundle of joy I was hoping to one day take to meet the amazing doctor who made her possible.  A reminder of my failure to get her here safely, although I know in my head that's unrealistic.  In my heart I think I will always wish I had done a thousand things differently.

Anyway, off we troop to see Dr Kate, who is an amazing, no-nonsense, wonderfully up to date, reproductive endocrinologist.  And I knew I would have to tell the whole story from the start, once again.  Kate was kind and more than a little shocked at how unlucky we had been to lose two pregnancies to two unrelated and equally rare conditions.  One in a million, I am.  Great.  Why couldn't I be the one in a million who gets nice rewards like lotto wins, or major prizes in raffles?  No raffles for me, just rare medical conditions.  So we make a list of things to get tested before we even think about reembarking on the baby making journey.  It looks a little like this;
  1. Test for Genetic Disorders (done with very little feedback.  What can be ruled out, has been)
  2. Test for Viruses which make have caused Poppy's heart problem (Done, Adenovirus results positive, but we don't know when I had it, so not really that helpful)
  3. Test for Hormone levels (always been fairly average, but worth a try)
  4. Test for Anti Ro/La antibodies which cause at least 50% of the condition Poppy had (been tested, negative)
  5. Test for various other rare, unlikely disorders (because, lets face it, with my track record...)
  6. Get all results and reports from my OB, Poppy's cardiologist, and any other Tom, Dick or Harry that was involved in my care, and
  7. Lose weight, because we know that helps me get pregnant and stay pregnant
OK.  Do all that and come back in 2 months.  Before leaving, Kate looks me straight in the eye and says, "we're going to get you a take home baby."  I was, up until this point, still a little whishy-washy on whether I wanted to embark on trying to have another baby.  The fear was enough to make me want to vomit, but I am trying to not let fear run my life.  But still, was I strong enough to do it all again?  But with Kate's words, I realised that what I wanted, more than anything, was another baby.  A little sister or brother for Poppy and Xavier.  A little person to heal us all, and give us hope. 

So after arriving with a sense of dread, I left with a sense of hope.  Maybe, just maybe, we might be able to make this happen.  With about a thousand doors to close so the draft doesn't blow up my skirt at inappropriate times.

I have entered 'make it happen' mode.  Booked in to the Immunologist to make sure there are no nasty immune problems happening: Check.  Booked in to a Geneticist and discuss what little there is to know about the condition Poppy had:  Pointless, but Check.  Get OB to fax info and test for viral infections: Check.  Start exercising and being a little less reliant on chocolate: Difficult, but check.  Book in to see Cardiologist and discuss anything else we should be doing to prevent this happening again...the last door to close.  Here goes nothing.

I should point out that the limited information we have on EFE (Endocadial Fibroelastosis: the heart condition which claimed Poppy's life) was gathered through on line medical journals, my OB's limited knowledge, and a Geneticist who had clearly googled the same studies I had.  Primary EFE, in the absence of structural injury, is almost never seen now days.  And when it is seen in babies as little as Poppy, it is almost universally fatal.  So obviously, we are keen to prevent it if we can.  Lance, the cardiologist, is hard to get hold of even as a patient, and given we are not really patients of his, it took ages to get in to see him. 

Closing that last door seemed like it was never going to happen.  We couldn't get in to see Lance quickly, and all the options seemed to clash with something.  We booked a time and ended up having to squeeze it in between a couple of other things.  We arrived half an hour late to a 'FULL' sign on the hospital car park.  Not a simple procedure to sat the least.  But a very kind Lance said he would still see us.  So in we went.

"I disagree with the findings of the report," he announces.  "Well, I believe there was more at play here that just Primary EFE."  Lance goes on to explain that the EFE was likely the result of Poppy's heart beating slowly for so long.  "It's basically a fancy word for scarring."  He describes the main problem, the one that is likely to reoccur, is the Fetal Heart Block that was his initial diagnosis.  It's between 20-50% likely to reoccur, but we can watch for it and treat it to prevent it getting worse.  We know what to watch for and what to treat for with heart block, and it's fixable after a baby is born with a pacemaker.  Still scary, but better than a death sentence.

G and I sit, feeling a bit gobsmacked.  It makes sense.  It fits with what we know about Poppy's heart.  It gives us a chance. 

I walk out feeling lighter, and calmer.  We agree that it's the last door, closed.  No more drafts up our nether regions.  Everything that can be checked off, has been.  It doesn't change anything.  Poppy is still gone.  But it gives us hope for the future.

Time to open a few more doors.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Finding the right way

Master Xavier has been finding it a bit hard to cope with things.  At 5 years of age, we never anticipated having to tell him that his sister had died after he so patiently waited for her for all that time.  We were very unsure about how to manage his grief, whilst we were still struggling to cope ourselves.  Now, almost 4 months on, we can see a bit more clearly, deal a little better, and the time has come to really try to help our big little man.

When a baby dies, no one knows what to do or say.  And we are the same.  G and I are often lost for words in how to reply to peoples often sobbed expressions of condolences.  I usually murmur "thanks" before hurriedly changing the subject back to them.  Likewise, we didn't know what to say to Xav.  Our parents had to tell him Poppy had died, since they were looking after him when she was born.  He fronted at the hospital saying, "I understand everything mum.  The baby died.  But we will have another one."  He didn't want to see her, and we didn't want to force him.  He actually thought the whole thing was quite exciting initially; staying at Grandparents, lots of visitors, a big party.  To a 5 year old, I can imagine how great all those treats must have seemed.

What is the right way to explain death to a child?  Xav is a bright boy, and remarkably in tune with the feelings of those around him.  He knew something bad had happened on the day Poppy died.  He will often curl up on my lap when he knows I am having a tough day.  We can't hide our grief from him anymore than we could hide the pregnancy.  But what is the right way to help him cope?

Initially it was about him understanding what had happened.  He knew Poppy was sick.  And when she died, we told him her heart was too broken to work and she died and went to heaven.  In his head the baby Jesus comes and picks up people who die, kind of like a heavenly chauffeur, and we are OK with that.  We have given him a general understanding of the main parts of Christianity, I suppose, but we try to let him make sense of it.  To him, God and Baby Jesus are there to look after us when we die.  We read him, "We were going to have a baby, but we had an angel instead", which is a great book aimed at his age group and as we were happy to call Poppy an angel, it worked for us.  Poppy brought Xavier a pink bear, his Poppy Bear, which he can cuddle when he misses her.  And we have a memory box with her special things; her clothes, her hand prints and footprints and casts, some photos and a few other bits and pieces.  He likes looking at that.

But beyond that?  We give him a chance to talk.  Most nights he sits on my lap and we have 'Question Time'.  He can ask me anything he wants to know about, no holds barred.  And he has asked some wonderful questions, and we thought we were getting him through.  Until 2 weeks ago when he said to me, "Mum, why didn't I get to hold Poppy?  I want to cuddle her and play with her."  Bam, back to square one.

Did we make the right choice, not having Xav meet Poppy?  Did we give him too much choice?  Maybe we should have encouraged him a little more to see her, at least.  But truthfully we were relieved he didn't want to see her.  We were worried he would have the image of his dead sister in his mind forever.  What should we have done?  But it's not like we can change it now.  But I can regret it.  And Xav might too.

My big little man, who has been our enduring strength through all of this heartache, who deserves so much better than having to deal with this, is trying his best.  His school counsellor thinks he's not grieving at all, and just responding to our grief, like a naughty little boy, playing up to get attention.  I disagree, I have to say.  She doesn't look into those big blue eyes and see the sadness at not having a playmate at home, at not having Poppy here.  Sure he responds to our grief, but I think he responds with a little of his own.  When he says, "Mum, I hope our next baby doesn't die," I grieve the innocence he should have, that I wish I had.  When he's old enough to have children of his own, will he remember this and his joy at being a father be marred by the loss of his little sister so many years before?  I wish I knew.

All I know is that I don't know if I'm doing this the right way, because there is no right way.  Xav, G and I are finding the way that's right for us.  It's an awful, awful path to walk, and I am hoping that by walking it together, that will be right enough.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Club

I don't know about you, but I can't believe it's been almost 3 months since Poppy grew her wings and flew to heaven.  I am astounded that it seems to have been forever without her, yet time still moves at the amazing pace it sets when you're a grown up.  When we were kids time seemed to take forever; from Christmas to Christmas seemed an eternity!  Now three months have passed in the blink of an eye.

Three months ago, I joined a club that I barely knew existed.  The one that people like me join in the depth of their despair.  When the hello becomes a goodbye.  The stillbirth club.  I didn't know that 6 women join it everyday in Australia.  That 2,500 families enter this nightmare every year.  Now I had joined and I wish I hadn't.

At Poppy's funeral, person after person whispered their condolences in my ear and added, "we've been there too."  Many, many of my loved ones and cherished friends had grieved through the loss of a child that wasn't shared with the world.  Grieved almost in silence, and often encouraged to move on and have more children to ease their pain.  I was shocked at how many people I knew who had suffered through what we had suffered and I didn't know.

When Poppy died, I knew one other person who had also recently lost her little girl at full term.  A person whom I'd never met, but for online.  Almost a year ago, when I was celebrating my nephews second birthday, she was saying hello and goodbye to her precious daughter.  When I heard what had happened I cried, and thought that I was not strong enough to deal with that.  How could I ever lose a child?  That doesn't happen very often anymore, does it?  I saw her photos of her precious baby, longed for and waited for and loved so much.  She grieved her child publicly, and I admired her for doing so.  She was proud of her little daughter, and so she should be.  She was beautiful.

The brave mum reached out to me when I was felt very alone.  She offered me a place where I could talk online to other mums who were grieving their angel babies too.  It was a life line.  Many of them were members of the club too.  I didn't feel so alone.  In our grief we were united,  which sounds super corny, but is true.  We can be not OK, whenever we like.  We post our photos of our babies and share our stories and everyone understands what we are going through.  We have even seen our first round of Rainbow Babies; babies born after the storm of despair that is losing a child, to be the ray of sunshine afterwards.

I wish you could meet these amazing women.  But I hope you never do, because it would mean you had joined the club too.  It's a club I wish I didn't know existed.  But now I know, I can't unknow, it will always be part of my life.  I write this knowing that of the people I know, the people who read this, many will have gone through or will go through or will know someone else who goes through what I've been through.  I hope they can find the support I've found.  I hope they have the amazing family and friends I have who have listened and shared and read my blog to try to understand better.  Because if people can understand the grief, they will understand the healing better.

Which I why I am sharing my story, which is really Poppy's story.  Because her birth and the grief we felt at her death has changed me.  I will never be the same.  And I want it to mean something.  So, I have decided to be a big more public with my pain, with my journey towards readjusting, to hopefully help someone out there who is going through or knows someone who is going through what I have.  And I want to make that a tiny bit less painful for them, just by understanding.

I will share Poppy, because I am her mother, even though she isn't here.  I often wonder who has blocked me from the FB news feed because my ongoing pain is something they don't want to read about.  But, by reading this, I know you have chosen to remember her too.  And if you know of another mother whose pain is unbearable, you will chose to speak her babies name if she wants you too, and recognise that seeing other peoples babies will be hard, and stupid Target catalogues full of smiling children will be painful for her.  And if it helps you help her, now that she has joined the club, then Poppy will mean something.  And that's what I need to help me heal.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


In all honesty, I probably haven't been in the best head space for the past few weeks.  I guess the emotional anaesthetic has finally worn off, and the pain of losing Poppy threatened to overwhelm me.  So I've just been going through the motions and losing it completely quite regularly. 

I think I've hit anger.  I'm just so pissed off.  I'm pissed off that we worked so hard to get pregnant with Poppy and then didn't get to keep her.  I'm pissed off that I'm currently being, at best, a mediocre mother and an even worse wife.  I'm pissed off that my life that I loved, the life I couldn't wait to include Poppy into, is now a barren wasteland of hopelessness, grief and sadness. 

On Thursday I smashed a bowl.  Well, two actually.  Because I was so angry and frustrated at everything.  I scared the bejesus out of Xav, and it was totally unfair to do that.  But I guess I realised that I am entitled to be mighty peeved at the world.  I need to accept the anger instead of trying to keep it down.  The frailness of the calm exterior is becoming evident, and it's time to release some of the pressure.  Those two bowls (annoyingly enough, I liked them a lot) are the victims of my healing.  I hope they are the only ones.

I realised today that I am a bit better than I was even last week.  I was wandering around Highpoint doing some shopping and passed a little baby in a capsule, being carried by a harried looking new mum.  The baby was about the age Poppy should be.  This vision has managed to send me into full fledged panic attacked quite regularly as recently as last Thursday at the supermarket.  But I looked at this cutie and I smiled at her.  It still hurt, but I could still breath, I was still standing.  Wow. 

On the way home, I was concentrating so hard on getting home in time for school pick up, that I accidentally look the route past Baby Buntings.  Baby Buntings used to be my most favourite store.  I could spend hours in there.  But I connect those days with being pregnant with Poppy, and I just can't look at the place anymore.  I realised about a block before the store that I couldn't avoid it.  It might seem silly to avoid even driving past a store, but we do what we do to cope.  "Oh, God..." I thought as it came into view.  A fleeting thought of popping in to have a look popped into my head.  And I didn't spontaneously burst into tears at the thought.  I thought how much I miss not buying baby things.  Wow again.  No panic.

So I guess accepting my grieving has helped me not be so afraid of it.  I am not OK, but why should I be.  My sweet baby is still in heaven.  But I am getting better, something I was sure couldn't possibly happen.  Poppy is with me in the thousand thoughts I have of her every day.  In my wishes for us all to get better at life without her.  In my dreams for the future and having a new little brother or sister for Poppy and Xavier. In being the best that I can be at any time, but not more than I can be. 

I guess in acceptance, my healing has begun.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

I just feel so alone

"Look, to be honest, I'm not ok, even when I say I am.  Please don't call me strong, and that you couldn't cope in my shoes.  It makes me feel like you think I don't love my kid as much as you love yours.  And please don't stop being there for me.  It's still really hard, and I'm struggling."

I almost posted this on my facebook page.  But I felt too guilty.  But it's all true.

This last week has been really hard.  Now that G has gone back to work, X is at school, all my friends have started their sports and hobbies for the new year, and here I am; all alone.  I know there are people around me.  And I really appreciate the people who are supporting me.  But I feel as though it's almost to the time where people are starting to think; 'When is she going to be ok again?'.  The more I get this impression, the less I talk about Poppy and my grief and the more lonely and isolated I feel.

It's not just that I am physically alone most days.  I feel isolated within myself.  Like I've got an invisable glass screen around me.  Sometimes it keeps people out (like when someone says, "You're young, you can have another one," like Poppy was some sort of a practice run), but more and more often it is keeping the real me in.  Like when someone asks how I am, and I say, "Good thanks, and you?" when what I really want to say, "I feel like shit, what do you think?".  Hardly good manners to swear in someones face though, my Dad would be mortified...

And this barrier has caused a whole new problem.  People don't speak their condolences anymore.  They just ask expected the usual answer.  So I keep saying I'm fine and people are believing it.  So I reinforce my own aloneness.  This clear case has become my protection and my prison, and I hate it.  But I can't get out, because I still need it.  Stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Or a glass box and the black hole I might sink into if I don't have my armour on when I venture out into the world.

I don't know how to fix this problem.  I like to fix things, find solutions, make things better.  I cope best when I know I am in control and can get the solution I want.  But there is no solution to this.  Poppy grew inside of my, was born and now she's gone.  And I'm broken.  But I can't be fixed.  I've patched myself up the best that I can; a bit of cellotape, rather a lot of glue and some laquer to prevent the biggest bits falling off, but it's the best I can do.  That barrier around me is holding me together.

I just want someone to make it all go away.  I want to be happy again with my beautiful boy and my hubby.  Not feeling like someone is missing all the time.  But that would mean I'd never had Poppy.  To be honest, sometimes I almost wish it hadn't happened. But that is so unfair to her.  I love her.  I miss her.  I felt her living.  But I wish she were here, instead of the puzzle peice in our family that been lost.  Why did God let her grow in me only to take her away?  But that starts a whole other internal conflict, so I'll leave that one alone for now.  I can't believe that this was what her life was meant to mean.  Pain and sorrow, instead of joy eternal.

I think I need some support. I have great online support (you guys know who you are) but I think I need to talk to people face to face.  Because sadly, I'm not alone.  Too many others have suffered through what I am suffering.  Maybe I'm ready now to sit down with some and talk about how to get by.  How to keep going when you think you've reached breaking point.  I have a flyer on the fridge for one such support group, and I'll ring the number and go.

Because I can't live in this isolation booth forever.  It's getting a bit grotty in here, and I reckon the glue will dry better in the fresh air anyway.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Last Friday we got the call that we had been both waiting for and dreading.  Autopsy results are in.  Hopefully we can finally find out why Poppy was taken from us so soon.  I never thought I'd be in the position of making an appointment with my OB to discuss a post mortem report for my child.  It shouldn't happen.  No one should ever have to link works like post mortem to their babies.  But I do need to know why. So we booked in to see Dr W on Monday afternoon, the soonest we could get in.

All weekend different scenarios played in my head.  The doctor yelling at me, "It's YOUR fault," was the worst, closely followed by, "Well, actually there was nothing wrong with her...".  Any answer was going to be devastating.  And no answer was going to be worse.  G and I prepared ourselves for the possibility that we would not find out why she died, other than what we already know; her heart stopped beating.  By Sunday night I was beside myself with anxiety.  I'm not sure why it had hit me so hard.  Maybe I was simply nervous.  But I just couldn't take it anymore. 

When I get worried, I get snippy.  I admit it.  I can't help it.  I snip at anyone; G, Xav, the checkout chick, stray cats, whatever is near by.  By 6pm on Sunday evening, G couldn't take it anymore.  "Stop snapping at Xav, Bec, he's not doing anything.  What's your problem, anyway?"

I could have punched him in the face, to be honest.  What's my problem?  My baby died.  And I want her back.  And she isn't coming back.  And tomorrow I find out if I killed her.  But I didn't say those things (or punch him in the face...).  Instead I went to my room and threw a crying, snot dribbling down my face, kicking things, tantrum.  It's all just too much.  How am I meant to cope under this amount of pressure and grief?

G was a bit scared to come anywhere near me.  But after some time I calmed down enough and he held me together, like he always does.  Xav's little face pops up at my elbow, asking me why I'm crying.  "I'm sad, buddy, very sad," was all I could say, and then apologise for my grouchiness.  I explain my fears to G who (as usual) takes the sensible line of "We'll take it as it comes."  My problem has always been my brain racing off in advance of what is sensible.

Monday is also the day G goes back to work full time, after being at home with me for 8 weeks.  I guess part of my problem is that I feel like everyone else is moving on, getting back to reality, when I'm still sitting here in limbo.  I never imagined I'd be spending 2012 sitting at home by myself.  I thoughts I'd be exhausted, looking after my daughter all night and day, doing the school run with a capsule in hand.  What I wouldn't give to be showing her off to anyone who would look. 

So Monday was a long day.  G at work, Xav at school and me at home.  My sister brought little Hamish around and we chatted the morning away which I really appreciated.  1pm, 2pm, 3pm...almost time to go.  I finally get sick of waiting and take the long way to get to G's work.  4.20.  Our appointment time, but of course Dr W is running late so we sit with all the pregnant mums and their partners and wait.  One heavily pregnant lady waddles by and quickly glances my way with that knowing smile on her face.  She thinks I must be newly pregnant, too early to be showing yet.  "I HAVE A BABY!", I feel like shouting at her.  My beautiful girl was here and now she's gone. 

I manage to refrain from yelling obscenities at the nice pregnant ladies, and finally we get called.  We sit down and Dr W gets the report out.  "Good news!" he says.  Good news?  Sorry?  Unless you are going to tell me you have Poppy hidden under your desk, there is no good news.  He continues with, "we found out what was wrong with the babies heart.  She had endocardial fibroelastosis."  OK?  And that is?  Apparently it's quite complicated, very rare and almost always fatal in newborns.  And it's unlikely to be passed on to another baby, according to Dr W.  However, it's possibly genetic so we need to go for further testing. 

The news sinks in.  I didn't kill her.  She was never meant to live.  God gave her to us for such a short time only to take her away.  Why?  Now we know why, but why?  What did she do to deserve such a fate?  What did we do to deserve such heart ache after everything we've been through.  Dr W is positively beaming.  I guess he's so glad it wasn't his fault, almost as glad as I am, I suppose.  "It's positive news," G whispers.  I wish I agreed.  I do, I guess.  I just wish it wasn't so.  We leave, clutching the report, and referrals to Genetic counselling, Immunology and blood tests for a small number of viruses which might have caused the EFE to develop.

I guess we got our why.  I just can't help but think that it raises a whole lot more questions that it answers.  We need more information.  But maybe, just maybe, we are now a tiny step closer to Baby number three.  With a little bit of luck, anyway.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Just love those kicks in the guts...

A 'Big W' catalogue.  That was what set me off.  The bumper baby edition which I used to look forward to.  I LOVE buying baby clothes, you see, it's my thing.  I adore those tiny little dresses and cute jumpsuits and tiny hats and socks.  So when I got the mag in the mailbox I initially thought, 'Great!' and then (in the few steps back to the door) realised that the last thing I really wanted to look at was baby clothes.  Kick in the guts number 9057...

I'm getting a bit sick of these kicks, I'll tell you that now.  It's bad enough that we have to live without our daughter, why can't the rest of the our lives continue?  Every time I look at a mum with a baby in a pram; pow!  A pregnant lady; pow!  Nappies in a trolley at the supermarket; pow!  Forget walking into Target or Big W or Pumpkin Patch, all my old haunts, it's just too much.  I can't even drive past a baby shop any more without that familiar ache redoubling it's efforts to puree my insides.  Puree; yet another thing I can't walk past in a supermarket...

I've had a few kicks in the guts recently.  My big little man Xav started school last week, and we had been looking forward to this for months.  I wasn't sad about it.  It was exciting, and he was so looking forward to it.  We rock up and stand out the front of the classroom with all the other nervous mums and excited kids.  A couple of the kinder mums from last year avoid talking to me.  Pow.  One of the other mums is pregnant. Pow.  Three have little ones in prams. Pow, pow, pow.  G and I walk Xav in to the room, the classroom I taught in for my whole pregnancy with Poppy.  Pow.  We settle Xavi in and say goodbye and head for the door.  I get halfway across the oval before the biggest kick.  We should have Poppy with us.  She should have been one of the babies in the line of prams heading into the classroom, and Xav should have kissed her goodbye. 

The paper thin resolve I have left crumbles and I burst into tears as we leave the school.  I'm sure other parents just thought I was one of those mums who was shattered to be leaving her little boy at big school.  But I was shattered because I never imagined I would leave my only child at school.  I imagined I'd be busy with a newborn, chatting to other mums and asking after the kids I'd taught in previous years.  But instead I am walking away empty handed.  Again.

When you lose a child, something inside of you breaks.  But what I am finding the most difficult to deal with is the ripple effect of that break.  It's like when a window shatters and the spiderweb of cracks spreads in so many directions.  You can't predict which way those cracks will go.  I never expected to not be able to face supermarket shopping, or junk mail.  That I would live in constant fear that I might run into someone I haven't seen for ages and they ask me how I am and I might tell the truth instead of putting on the facade of ok-ness, or I'll meet someone new and they'll ask how many children I have.  These are the unexpected effects of the shattering of my heart.

There are some positive things that were unexpected.  I wasn't expecting that my husband and I would become closer than we have ever been, and become better at understanding one another.  I wasn't expecting to meet some amazing women online who know what I'm on about when I lament the arrival of the newest Big W catalogue.  Or that I would find out that my boss appreciates me at work and that many of the families of kids I've taught over the past few years thought highly enough of me to send cards and flowers and attend Poppy's funeral.  I am more thankful now for my family and my son, and the friends who make the effort to dig me out of the big black hole I often live in and ask me out to things.  But I knew I had great friends and family, I just appreciate them more now.

I guess I just wish life was normal again.  I wish I was happy, and that G and Xav were happy.  I wish we had Poppy with us.  I don't wish she wasn't born, because I value what she taught me.  But I wish we had never had to experience such a traumatic event in our lives.  I wish buying bread and milk wasn't an event I need to prepare for emotionally.  I'd like to be able to walk to the mailbox without worrying what I might find in the junk mail.  It would be great to feel happy for people having babies instead of jealous of them. 

I can't change what's happened but I can refuse to accept that my whole life has gone to the dogs.  And I can make sure one of the kicks the guts doesn't happen.  I might just stick a 'No Junk Mail' sticker on my letter box...

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


It's been a big few weeks in our family.  We went on a short holiday, starting planning some renovations to the homestead, we went to our first SIDS and Kids kids holiday program, we went for my six week check up with my OB.  And my sister had her much anticipated fourth child.

I'm not going to lie.  I've been terrified of her baby arriving, so soon after Poppy died.  They were due just 10 days apart.  They should have grown up together.  But they wont, and it kills me a little every time I think of it. 

It's not that I'm not happy for her and her family.  I am so happy for them.  Babies who arrive safely are a blessing, we know only too well.  But I've been robbed of the chance to be totally happy for her.  Whenever I see her baby, I'll think of mine.  And it just shouldn't be like that.  It's unfair on all of us.  My sister is worried about upsetting me, and I'm worried about her being worried about me.  When life should be simple, it just isn't.  People have babies and everyone is happy for them...but not in my world.

My first panic was whether to go and see her at the hospital.  I wasn't sure I had the strength for that.  I wanted to see her, but could I cope with a brand new baby, wriggling and crying, when Poppy was so still and silent?  Would it be terrible for my sister if I broke down in tears and couldn't stay?  Would I just grab the baby and make a run for it? (I thought about it)  G was wonderful, as usual, being guided by my rapidly changing decision of 'I need to go'/'I can't go'.  "Whatever you want to do," he assured me, which was very gracious given he desperately wanted to see the new baby.

I cried all morning.  I didn't want to hold my sisters baby.  I wanted to hold my own.  I ached for Poppy, to hold her, more than I had for some time.  I did all the things I usually do to help me feel near to her.  I cuddles her teddy, and cradled her clothes.  But this time, it just wasn't enough.  I was missing out.  Missing out on being the one who got to make everyone happy.  Missing out on being a new mum with bleary eyes and spew on her shoulder.  And I realised that having another baby wasn't going to make it better.  I would always be missing Poppy, no matter how many other children I have.

And I guess that was the turning point.  I realised that holding my sisters beautiful baby wouldn't be the same as holding Poppy.  It could never be as amazing as holding my own living, breathing baby.  But it could be wonderful seeing a baby who was here to stay.  Hopeful.  Gut-wrenching, but hopeful that it can happen.  There are no guarantees, that's for sure, but mostly babies make it.  I wish our baby girl had made it.  We were robbed of her.  But I would not be robbed of meeting my nephew.  Enough has been stolen from me.

So, off we went to the hospital.  My parents and G watched me with a slightly worried expression, as if they were waiting for me to crack under the pressure and pain of it all.  But I was oddly calm, having made my decision.  I would see this through.  First step:  Get out of the car.  Sounds so easy... Get in lift and press the 5.  Listen to terrible music for 11 seconds.  Step out and ask which ward my sister is in.  Head for said ward.  Realise it's the same ward I was in when I had my ectopic.  Turn onto ward and get faced with...poppies.  Painted poppies on ever wall.  Pink ones. 

I stop dead.  Oh, shit.  Wasn't expecting that.

Poppy is here, I decide.  She saying, "I'm here, mummy!  It's OK!" and I am comforted.  20 steps, 10 steps, 5 steps (that's the room I was in, on the right), 3,2,1...

And there he is, cradled in my sisters arms.  I give her a kiss before I look at him, in case I can't after I look down.  Here goes nothing...

He's breathtaking.  So little, with beautiful dark hair and olive skin.  And I want to hold him.  My nephew whose birth is joyous regardless of what pain we have felt.  I feel that little bit of hope in me flair that I might get this again.  The chance to grow another human in me.  Not instead of Poppy, but for her.  Because life is precious.

"Hello, Hamish," I whisper, "I'm your Aunty Bec."  And I give him one of my newborn baby kisses.  One I realise I was keeping especially for him.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Due Date

Friday 20th January is a date I've been dreading.  Poppy's due date.  In retrospect it seems silly because we knew she wouldn't be born on this date, since we were having a planned c-section at 39 weeks if everything had gone well.  But as much as I've been dreading it, I've also been waiting for the magic baby fairy was coming to bring Poppy back that day.  That little part of me left over from when I was 5 years old, that still believes in magic was so hoping maybe I would wake up from this nightmare and have my baby in my arms and live happily ever after.

Funnily enough, the baby fairy didn't visit me on Friday.  And I was angry.  SO angry.  Mostly because of the unfairness of it all.  I just want my Poppy.  My girl, who I'd waited for patiently for 3 years and would have looked after and loved with all my heart.  But instead we have an empty nursery and a small box of precious things.  So I did what most people do when they're angry...I threw things.  I kicked things.  I shouted.  And I cried.  I'm getting a bit sick of the taste of tears.

We decided we needed to do something to commemorate Poppy's due date since we knew it would be a hard day anyway.  We decided when we had Poppy cremated that we didn't want an urn in the house.  I know everyone is different, some people can't imagine not having their baby with them, in whatever form they can.  But for us, we worried that it might be too hard to always worry about someone knocking Poppy over.  Xav with a ball or a guest with an over enthusiastic gesture or my nephew climbing onto something...we just couldn't manage it.  So we asked my dad if it would be okay if we interred her ashes with my mum's grave. 

Friday morning we picked up Poppy from the funeral home.  It was the first time we'd had her in the car out of my tummy.  When we got to the shopping centre on the way home, I worried about leaving her in the car, which seems silly now, but I didn't want her to get stolen!  G convinced me it would be fine, and what was I going to do?  Carry a box of ashes in my handbag...(I probably would have if G hadn't been with me!)?

We bought a lovely tiny perfume bottle; crystal with a pink butterfly on top, to keep just a tiny bit of Poppy's ashes at home.  The lid screws on, and it sits on Poppy's little shelf.  It was a little strange putting Poppy in it, and trying not to scare Xav about burning bodies and the like.  We bought an angel candle holder to put on Poppy's grave (photo attached) and some beautiful scented candles to burn when we go to visit her.  And lastly, we bought a pink prairie rose to plant on the grave so she and mum and my brother Nathan are always surrounded by pretty flowers.

The service was nice.  I was so numb, I couldn't cry any more.  It was only small this time, just our parents and my sisters with our minister.  We poured Poppy's ashes into a small hole and each of us put some soil in with her.  We prayed for her to fly free and be happy with God.  But I couldn't cry, and neither did G.  'What sort of grieving parents are we?  I asked him when we wandered around the beautiful, peaceful cemetery after the service.  'Why didn't we cry as our child was buried?'

Sometimes G surprises me with his insight and lately he's been amazingly insightful, I must say.  'Becasue,' he replied, 'this grief is part of us now, and we know what it feels like.  Today was no more painful than yesterday was, or tomorrow will be.  It is who we are and what we live.'

And I realise he is right.  Poppy's due date was no more than another day in our grief.  It didn't feel worse or different to any other.  I was afraid of it.  Afraid my pain would be worse on that day.  But my grief has already filled me up.  There is no room left for more.  More longing, yes.  More wishing, more regret.  But grief is full.  It already hurts so much I ache with it.  I am an empty person who is full of grief.  But I am who I am.  I won't apologise for it.  If I don't cry, that's fine.  If I do, that's fine too.  Because there are no rules in this grieving parent business. 

Now the day is done, and I am a little relieved.  Because I don't have to worry about it any more.  I can stop waiting for it.  And stop secretly pretending Poppy didn't die and will arrive any minute.  There is no baby fairy.  And the pain will not swallow me because I won't let it.  I am a grieving mother.  I will always feel like Poppy is missing because she is.  I just hope that I can, someday, be whole again.  Changed, but whole.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

I'm not liking those odds...

Yesterday G and I headed off to Poppy's peadiatric Cardiologist.  He rang us a few days after Poppy died and offered to talk through with us what he thought happened, so we thought we'd have a chat.  I was more nervous than I've been for a long time, since I am terrified that it was my fault she got sick...but anyway, on with the story.

Dr L was at Poppy's birth, and we'd met him a few time prior to her birth for consults on management.  And he remembered most of what we told him.  He talked us through everything that had happened since bubs was diagnosed at 29 weeks with the Foetal Heart Block, and why each decision was made.  He outlined what normally happens in FHB cases, although again outlined how rare they are.  Dr L said they only see maybe 1-3 each year in Victoria, and management in each is slightly different but usually babies survive.  He said Poppy was rare in a number of ways.  Firstly, she showed no signs of distress we would normally see prior to complete heart failure.  No hydrops (swelling), or poor growth.  She was above average birth weight for her gestation.  Secondly, Poppy's heart block seemed to progress differently to most.  Her heart should have had normal function and rhythm in the top part, since we knew the bottom was compromised.  But her heart began showing poor rhythm in the top and on the day she was born, everything was compromised; the four chambers, the heart muscle itself, everything.  Complete foetal heart failure.  Which Dr L assures us doesn't normally just happen over night.  But she gave us no warning.  Which was why we were too late.  He also says he has NEVER seen this happen before, so fast.

He answered the question we were too afraid to ask.  Would she have made it if we'd delivered earlier?  "It is possible," he says, "I know that's not easy to hear."  And it's not.  But who knew?  The best of the best doctors were on the case, and no one predicted this would happen.  So we ask the only question we really want answered.  "Why?"

Dr L  talks to us again about what can cause FHB.  The two causes are either maternal antibodies which attack the electrical circuitry in the babies heart, or structural heart defects, neither of which Poppy appeared to have.  He says we'll need to wait on the results of the autopsy to ensure there are no structural defects, although he's pretty sure there weren't.  Dr L suspects that I may have one of the rarer antibodies which weren't tested for, and I should go to an Immunologist to get it checked out.  He explains that he believes the antibodies must have continued to attack Poppy's heart until they had affected so much of it that it just couldn't beat.  He assures us that if there was any function left in it, the pace maker they fitted at birth would have worked.

Our last question, the one were pinned all our hopes on.  Risks to future babies?  If it is maternal antibody related we have a 30-50% chance of having another baby get the same condition.  Without the antibodies, 15-30% chance.  So were back to odds again.  15% chance of another ectopic pregnancy.  up to 40% chance of early miscarriage.  And now a 1:3 chance our baby would have a heart defect...

Dr L says if we choose to have another baby I will need to be monitored weekly/fortnightly from 16 weeks to watch for signs of FHB developing.  He says they can manage it better if they catch it early.  There are steroids I can take that might slow it down or ever stop it.  I can have a dialysis type thing which will wash my blood and take out the antibodies.  "Most babies with this condition do well.  They don't die.  If we are on top of it right from the start, and we can slow it down."

G and I leave feeling like we are armed with a lot of new information.  It takes me until we are sitting in the cafe downstairs to realise that I killed my baby.  My body killed my baby.  How can I be selfish enough to want another child?  G is shattered too.  "It's a big risk..." he says.  I can't imagine our lives without another child.  Having Poppy stiffened, rather than shattered, my resolve.  I NEED another baby.  I can't live with the empty nursery, the pram that's never been used, the rocker I bought just for her, in my house if I'm not going to have another baby.  But am I that selfish?  "No, it's not selfish," G says, "it's courageous and brave." 

Having another baby is what keeps me going.  I will always be the mum of two, but parenting one, without another baby.  So we decide we'll keep our options open.  A new baby might have the same condition as Poppy, but not her sentence.  We are fore warned, and that is fore armed. 

The question is, am I brave enough? 

Thursday, 12 January 2012


It appears I have become rather dependent on my hubby.  Not financially, since I do the finances :) but emotionally.  I find it really hard to let him out of my sight, which is rather odd for us, since we've always liked to do things independently of one another sometimes.  We enjoy our family time, but our apart time is just as important to us developing as people.

So, since Poppy passed away, I guess it's only natural that we would want some more family time, which has been great.  We've been living in one another's pockets.  But over the last week, I know G needs to get out with some other people.  But every time I think about him going out, it brings all of the pain and fear back 3 fold and I'm sobbing and hyperventilating.  Then the poor bloke feels so guilty, he stays home, and I feel so guilty I'm making him stay that I am even more upset.  And then round we go again.

We've started seeing a counsellor at SIDS and kids, and she's great.  I spoke to her about this 'dependence' thing, and she suggested that many people regress to an almost childlike state to deal with their grief.  Maybe that's the case...I don't know.  It's more that I feel as though when G is there, when I have a panic attack, or find myself sitting in Poppy's room crying my heart out, he's there to pick up the pieces and hold me and comfort me.  If he's not there, maybe I will just break.  At some point, I might lose the ability to keep my grip on reality and just be absorbed by my grief.  So I cling to him and let him look after me, which is so unfair, when he doesn't seem to do that to me.

G and I have always been equals.  We approach our lives in this way.  We both work, we share the household responsibilities and we share parenting.  I've never been the one who needs looking after, indeed I abhor needing to be looked after.  So this is all new to me.  I feel like I'm trying to find my feet as a whole new person.  Well not whole, since I don't really feel whole.  Actually I feel like I have a big hole in my middle, a hole which threatens to overtake the parts of me which remain, and I feel like I'm always fighting to hold back the gaping chasm.  Using G as my shield.

The counsellor asked my why was it so bad that I was being looked after.  And I guess essentially it's because it's just another thing I'm trying to get my head around.  I never viewed grief as something that could change me so completely.  Maybe I should chronicle my life as Before Poppy's Birth and afterwards.  Maybe I need to stop expecting life to 'get back to normal'.  Maybe I just need to accept a new, more painful, normal.  But for now, dependence is my normal.  I'll see where my normal lies next week...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Poppy's photos

Some people have asked to see some photos of Poppy.  Please don't open link if you don't want to see them, but rest assured they are beautiful images.  Poppy is our little angel, born sleeping at 35 weeks.

Link: My beautiful Poppy

The password is poppykate

Monday, 9 January 2012

2011...the year that, well, sucked

It seems as though the best place to start is to get all of the terrible, awful stuff that happened last year out on the table, so you know what you're getting into.  It gives you some perspective as to where I'm coming from.  Don't get me wrong, my life is definitely not crap.  I have a wonderful husband, lets call him G, and he's my soul mate and my strength.  Not to mention the love of my life :). We have a little boy, Xavier, who is known by many nicknames, including 'X', 'Xav', 'Xavi' and 'Trouble'.  He took a bit of work to get, 2 years of TTC and 6 months of the fertility drug, Clomid, before we fell pregnant with him.  Xavier is now 5, and about the start school.  We have a great extended family, G's parents and my dad and his partner all live nearby, along with a couple of our siblings.  Everyone else lives near enough that we see them often and we have an array of nieces and nephews (even a grand niece!) who Xav loves playing with.  We have great friends and workmates, who are a big support to us and lots of fun to hang out with!

So, 2011.  So many terrible things happened.  But most of it begins with our journey to try to conceive our second child.  I have an 11 page document on my computer which outlines things in detail, but I'll save that for another time.  Here's the abridged version...

1st January, 2011: I found out I was pregnant after 3 previous miscarriages at around 5 weeks in 2009 and 2010.  We had been trying to conceive for about 2 years at this point, and we had just begun injectable fertility meds.

19th January, 2011: I was hospitalised with severe abdominal pain, and was found to have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which would claim my life if not removed.  My left fallopian tube was damaged beyond repair.  I couldn't believe I could be that unlucky after 3 m/c to lose another baby.

February 2011:  I still feel 'pregnant', so I head back to the doctors and get my HCG checked.  Hope momentarily spiked when it is shown to still be rising.  Ultrasound reveals a 'blighted ovum' (a sack with no baby) and I have a D&C.  I had had a Hetrotopic Pregnancy; twins with one in uterus and one ectopic.  There is a 1:30,000 chance of this occurrence.

March 2011: I struggle with depression after my most recent loss.  We struggle to decide whether to continue TTC.

April 2011:  We begin TTC #2 again.  We approach with extreme caution!

May 2011: BFP!  Baby number 2 is due 20th January, 2012. Scan reveals baby is in the right place and growing well!  We are very excited, although cautious...

June/July 2011: We have scans regularly to check things are going well and manage to get to 12 weeks!  We haven't managed this since Xavier.  Relief is what I feel.  Home free, I thought.

August 2011:  I have severe abdominal pain and get hospitalised for a day, although no cause can be found for it.  Another added worry

September 2011:  We find out our baby is a girl!  For Xavier's 5th Birthday we head to the Gold Coast for a family holiday.  I get the pain again, with a bit of bleeding.  When we get back to Melbourne, I head to the OB, but still no cause can be found.

October 2011:  I paint the nursery.  White on three walls and a pale pink and dusty pink striped wall.  We buy the last few things we need, although most things we still have.  My sister and I halve the baby clothes (she's pregnant too, 2 weeks behind me.  She's having a boy), and I start organising nappies and things.  All quiet on the pregnancy front...the calm before the storm.

6th November, 2011:  We attend my newest Goddaughters Christening.  Whilst there I get the pain worse than I've ever had it, and Glen takes me to Mercy Hospital for Women.  The pain settles down, but an anomaly is picked up with our baby's heart.  She is diagnosed with a Foetal Heart Block, and I stay in hospital for 5 days for monitoring and steroids in case she needs to be delivered.  I'm 29-30 weeks pregnant.

9th December, 2011:  34 weeks.  Our biggest milestone, because the baby can be delivered now as soon as her condition begins to deteriorate.  And it looks like it's happening sooner rather than later.  The decision is made to deliver her at 36 weeks.  She is now monitored every second day instead of once a week.

12th December, 2011:  The decision is almost made to deliver her due to a decreased heart rate.  But CTG seems to indicate an improvement, so home we go.

15th December, 2011:  The worst day of our lives.  The baby looks bad on the scan and it seems as though her heart may have other problems.  The decision is made to deliver her via c-section, but we need to wait for the cardiologist so he can fit her pacemaker immediately.  We've gone from 90% good outcome to unknown...
2.12pm:  Our daughter is born.  She doesn't cry and we don't see her.  10 medical staff try to revive her.  They can't.  Our world crashes down.  I blame myself for not coming to the hospital sooner, for not knowing she wasn't doing as well as she had been.  G cries and holds our silent, peaceful child.  She is beautiful and we name her Poppy.  Her middle name is Kate, after my Mum.  We marvel at her perfection and are shattered at the knowledge we will never see her smile or hear her laugh or look into her eyes.  We grieve and our families and friends grieve with us for the precious baby they had watched grow in me, but will never meet.

16th December:  Gavin Blue from Heartfelt, an organisation which takes beautiful photographs of children and babies who are critically ill or stillborn, spends an hour with us whilst we dress Poppy and hold and cuddle her. These are some of our most precious moments.  Mary from Pastoral Care does a blessing for Poppy and we get a lovely box which holds everything we will ever have of Poppy's.  Her blanket and first outfit, her teddy, her handprints and footprints, a lock of her hair.  Later we will add her hospital bracelet, and her birth certificate.  All in one little box.

19th December, 2011:  I am due to leave the hospital and leave Poppy.  She is to be taken to The Women's for her post mortem today, and I wait until she leaves before I do, so I don't feel like I am abandoning her.  Mary makes sure she gets safely to her 'ride'.  I leave in tears and the tears will never stop, it seems.  If my eyes are crying, then my heart is.

23rd December, 2011:  Poppy's funeral.  Almost 200 people attend.  Amazing that one short life, one little girl who no one met, could cause such an impact.  I did Poppy's obituary, outlining her short life and everything I knew about her and what she meant to us.  G sang 'Blackbird' by the Beatles, and my sister read a letter to Poppy.  We played 'Smile' (Chaplin) and 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' (Hawaiian version).  We planted a tree for Poppy, a beautiful Crepe Myrtle, and released 100 pink balloons.

31st December, 2011:  The last day of 2011.  My only wish is that we had been able to bring a healthy baby girl home.  My new years resolution?  To make 2012 a better year, if I can.  And to start a blog, in memory of Poppy and as a record of our lives without her. 

So with hope for the future, I began 2012.  Let see what is in store for us now...