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 it...like 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...