There are also many other stories from bereaved parents that can be found on the Sands blog, which can be viewed here
Gemma Rose was born on the 30th May 1999.
She did not have a heart beat and she was not breathing, all due to her thin cord being crushed and the placenta coming away during my last few minutes of labour. The doctors got her heart going very quickly but her resuscitation took 20 minutes. That was too long. My little girl had received no oxygen for too long a time.
It has been a very long, sad, draining journey for the last 12 months, and I know that this journey will never end - it will continue to change 'til the day I meet my little Gemma again.
I have had to learn to give myself permission to take time out; to slow down and feel the feelings, and let my emotions take me where I've need to get to. I've read lots, taken lots of long walks on the beach with Andrew, and sometimes just sat and watched the trees rustle and the birds fly past. For the last 11 months I have craved calm days.
I have faced every "first" front on - I was not going to let grief take me into a depression I did not want. I have confronted seeing my first newborn and survived, confronted the baby shops and survived, confronted the Christmas pageant that I took part in and survived. I have confronted many more "firsts" and survived, and I know that I can continue to confront many more and I will survive them. I am proud of me.
On several occasions friends or family have said "you are so brave", and for a while I could not understand what they meant. Then a friend of mine put it all into place. She said "you are brave because you chose to continue and not give up; you chose to talk about Gemma and your feelings to others straight away. You have made many people feel comfortable when they have cried for Gemma in front of you and you are very open about her loss."
I miss my little girl some days so much that I just cry and cry. I am learning to put Gemma aside at times so that I may have some of my time back and it feels OK. I look at it as her being "baby sat".
As Gemma's birthday gets closer I'm getting sadder and sadder - the tears come more frequently again, the shock of it all returns. I find myself looking at her photo's more and more, and I feel that I'm losing what little control I had regained. On my really bad days I feel like just hiding from the entire world and rocking myself to and fro. But I also know that I will survive her 1st birthday, and have both sad and fond memories of my little Gemma.
I just needed to tell you that, although there are going to be many times when you think you won't, you too will survive.
Rosi (Gemma's Mum)
It's not getting any easier. I still feel the numbness, the hollowness inside. Sometimes it seems that you never entered our lives. You were with us such a short time, that it seems to be almost a dream. The eight days we had with you all blur together. And then I see one of your photos, or I walk past what would have been your room, or someone mentions you - or I just concentrate on my current emptiness - and then I remember.
I remember holding you on my bare chest, and feeling your breaths. And wrapping your little fingers around one of mine in your tight grip.
I remember stroking you and massaging you and kissing you as you lay asleep in front of us.
I remember staring at you for hours, not wanting to leave your side. I remember the proud feeling when we named you in the delivery room, when we were told we had a little girl.
I remember the fear and feeling of helplessness I had when you were born, when I knew something was wrong, but not what, and I couldn't share my worries with your mummy because she was still drugged and didn't comprehend what was happening. I remember the hope I had for you, when we were told that you were breathing by yourself, and when we saw your little feet or hands twitch.
I remember the pessimism I still held deep down, while I tried to be positive on the outside for you and your mummy.
I remember praying at night for you, and crying myself to sleep. I remember the crushing blow when your doctor told us that you weren't getting any better, and that we needed a miracle for you to live. I knew there wouldn't be one.
I remember the tears - I've shed more in the last year than in the rest of my thirty.
I remember your room at the hospital, filled with flowers, toys, and music. And love. I remember hugging family and friends and sobbing.
I remember holding your Uncle Peter when we came home to pick up some things, and I cried heavily and screamed and yelled. And Peter cried too.
I remember your last day. I remember our father/daughter dance.
You are gone now. I will never get to dance with you again. I'll never get to watch you take your first steps, or run in the park with you. I'll never listen eagerly for your first words, or make you laugh. I'll never get any smiles, nor hugs and kisses.
I'll never watch you grow to a toddler, a girl, a teenager, a woman. I'll never get to help you with your homework. I'll never teach you to drive.
And I'll never have the honour of walking you down the aisle, and dancing with you at your wedding.
I hope you are at peace Gemma Rose. I miss you with all of my heart. I would have been a wonderful, loving and caring father to you, and I'm sorry I'll never get to show you that. I hope you felt it.
I love you, Daddy.
If you don't mention my baby's name
If you don't acknowledge her existence
If you don't say that you miss her too
If you don't mention her in conversation or
change the subject when I do.
If you don't love and acknowledge my precious baby who is a part of me
Who I love
Who I acknowledge
Who I miss
Whose absence I cope with every day and will never accept
Then you must understand that I will come to the conclusion that
you don't love me
because you see it is not possible for you to love me and not to love my baby.
Written by Sandy
Our oldest daughter, Aliya was 3 and half when we lost Liam, 20 weeks into his pregnancy. The 'experts' say to tell your children the whole truth but we decided to tell Aliya only what we thought she would cope with. We never lied to her, just simplified things and told her what we thought she would understand at her age.
For example, we haven't told her yet about his disabilities and that it was our decision to end the pregnancy. We did share our tears and sadness with her. And we still talk about how much we love him and wish we had him here. We talked about how scared we were when I fell pregnant again and how wonderful it was that her baby sister didn't get sick and die like Liam.
Aliya grieved very openly after we lost Liam. Probably because our family did too. She often thought or dreamed about him at night. For many months after his death, she would wake us up, in tears and want to talk about him. As time passed, the dreams did too. She would then get up in the morning and tell me about the games she had played with Liam in her dreams.
Liam is very much part of all our lives. Aliya talks about him a lot (often at really awkward times, such as standing in a crowded checkout at Coles!), and Kira will grow up knowing she had an older brother who died.
Eventually they will both be told all the details, either when I think they are old enough or bit by bit as questions come up. They need to know before they decide to have children so they can make informed decisions and talk things over with their health professionals.
I asked Aliya if she would like to tell people about Liam. After a few open ended questions to get things started, below is what she told me to write down.
There was a Liam at Kindy. Our Liam was in Mummy's tummy and he was very sick and he died. Mum needed to go into hospital lots of times. He went up in the stars. Once in the night I woke up and cried because I wanted Liam to come back. I missed him.
He is 2 now. We went to the cemetery for his birthday and put a windy toy on his grave and a rose I helped Mummy pick out of the garden. Only his body is in the grave, his alive part is up in the stars. I look at the stars at night-time and I sing songs about him and that makes me remember him. I think he was nice. I still feel sad sometimes.
In Aliya's own words - (aged 5 and half years).
My husband and I first came in contact with Sands after the death of our first baby Nicholas at three days and 22 hours, a beautiful little boy who would now be three and a half. At the time I thought the issue of children and Nicholas' death was not a topic we would have to deal with. We had no small children on either side of our family and we were the first of our friends to begin a family.
Eight months after our son died, we were lucky enough to fall pregnant again, and after what seemed a very long pregnancy, we were again blessed with another beautiful boy, Bradley, who is now a very active toddler (and the apple of our eye).
Now the issue of children and grief has begun in our family. We have 'photo's up in our family room of Nicholas and a very interested little brother pointed out not so long ago "baby sleeping".
What a shock I got! I had often thought about when we would tell him about his older brother but I had expected we would sit him down in a few years and explain.
Now I hope that Nicholas will just be a part of his life as he is ours. He will see the photos in the family room, hear his name mentioned in conversation and come to the cemetery with us.
I know that in the next few years that many questions will be asked and we will have to try to be prepared to answer them.
We will do our best and be honest and hope that we are doing the right thing for him and for us.
A cold early June morning, thirty years ago, 18 years old and facing a pile of post-holiday washing. Tired, heavy with babe and 6 weeks to go. Must get on with it!
Babe felt 'tight' last night. Probably aftermath of jolts and bumps on rough, dirt track leading to Thurlga Station, visiting my pregnant cousin. She's due a month after me, so we exchange our thoughts and feelings about our forthcoming births and babies.
The visit was great. Photos, big bellies and big smiles. Home now.
'Oh, my God'. Blood! More blood., soaking thick stockings, slippers. Clean-up. No 'phone. Telephone exchange. 100 yards up road. Girls doing early day shift . Knock at door. Blood again. Hot, soaking, down legs.
'Oh my God' Ring her husband, Ring hospital, country hospital.
Bells ringing, wheeling beds, curtains pulled. Nurses, Sisters, quick, quick, hush. The pains begin. "Where's husband? Where's Doctor?" Together, for quiet chat. Vomiting, diarrhoea, pain comes again. Husband gone 50 miles to get blood for transfusion.
Needles, drip, messed bed, pain, worried. Too much happening. Too much pain, crying. Need my Mother. Not here. Don't know what's wrong. Don't care anymore. Anesthetic. See what is happening. Maybe a caesarean. Chaos.
Jenny, Jenny. Wake up (Blurry). We are sorry Jenny. We had to do a caesarean. We are so sorry Jenny. Your baby passed away. It was a girl. Only lived for a little while. Breathing abnormalities.
Hazy, drugged, not true, enormous weight on my chest, go away, cold, shivering. Lonely. Oh so lonely.
What did she look like? Can I see her? No! It's best if you don't. Why, was she deformed? No, she was a lovely little baby. Hush, Jenny, be a good girl. It will be ok.
Husband gone to get a coffin, white, I think. Fifty miles away.
Change dressings, drip out, tight bandage around breasts to stop the milk.
"IT" has to be named, registered and a "real" burial. Do it while she is still in hospital. 14 days all up. Can't remember visitors. Hushed talk, sideways glances.
Everything's going great. You can go home. Don't worry, you will be able to have other children and the next time you won't feel guilty, because you will already be married. Won't you dear. Pat, Pat.
I'm frying chops and boiling vegies again. Who am I? No-one talks about "IT". Am I a mother? The crib is ready. Still. The mosquito net with the lace trim is still draped over the pretty white bassinet. I'm cold in this old rented flat. My husband is at work or is he out riding one of his horses somewhere.
I go into the "spare" room and feel the little singlets and the little booties that the Nana-to-be knitted, and the little coloured bunny rugs that I bought on special. I guess I will put it all away soon. Soon.
Life goes on. My scar is healing. I go shopping, aware of the stares, muffled whispers and people I know, trying to avoid me. Did I do something wrong?
I go into the "spare" room because I heard my baby cry. I lift the lacy mosquito net and look into the crib. I'm sure I heard "IT" cry. Am I going mad? I must not tell anyone about this. Now, is the time, to put it all away.
I feel lonely, scared and hollow. But in the back of my mind I can hear people saying "she's a strong girl", she's a survivor", "put it all behind you", "get on with life".
Now 30 years later, I realise how wrong they were. I didn't survive nor was I strong. I just lived my life with unresolved grief.
My husband and I divorced after 10 years of marriage, nearly costing me my lovely daughter and two handsome sons. I have since been blessed with a marriage to a wonderful, caring, gentle man for 12 years.
It is only this year, the year 2000, 30 years on, that I have faced my unresolved grief and it's consequences, now realizing the profound ripple effect of the past, is still affecting myself, my second husband and my adult children.
With courage, love patience, support and education, I am going to smooth out and stop the ripples.
By the way. HER name was DIONNE RACHEL.
The anniversaries and birthdays of our precious babies are always times of remembering, reliving, reflection, pain and heartache. Mother’s Day will also be a much anticipated and sad day for many. It reminds us of what might have been, what should be, and of the emptiness we feel without our babies to share in the day. Unfortunately with all the publicity and hype that surrounds Mother’s Day it is difficult for us to ignore and our own pain and sense of loss is accentuated by those around us ‘celebrating’ the day together.
On my first Mother’s Day we said goodbye to our beautiful Matilda who was born the day before. Her birthday therefore fell on Mother’s Day the following year. The whole build up to her first birthday and Mother’s Day was incredibly stressful and painful. I couldn’t move but to be faced with images of motherhood, the thing I yearned for more than anything but could not physically fulfill. I was a mother but this wasn’t acknowledged. Unfortunately I was not prepared for the overwhelming pain and anxiety that I would feel.
Now, approaching Matilda’s 5th birthday and another Mother’s Day without her I feel some sadness but none of the excruciating pain, emptiness and anxiety that I initially felt. I have plans in place of how to spend those days so that my family and I can share the memories and enjoy them. I would like to share some strategies with you for dealing with these difficult times.
Being prepared for how you might feel and having plans for how to spend the day can help relieve some of the anxiety and apprehension that arises as the day approaches. Although still sad, the significant day might then become a day of healing and beauty to share with loved ones rather than a day of pain and stress that you dread.
Most importantly you need to give yourself permission to think of your baby and relive memories. Many people think this is morbid and that you are “only upsetting yourself”. This is not the case. The baby is part of you and your life and will always be, just like any other member of your family. Shutting the memories away and not talking serves only one purpose—it means that those around you don’t have to think or talk about something that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is not only natural to remember but it is also important to your healing, it helps ease the pain and accept the reality.
As the significant day approaches make plans of how you can spend the day, of ceremonies or rituals you may like to perform and who you would like to share it with. Give yourself time as you might have in mind something special that may take a while to find or prepare.
Ideas for things to do:-
· Allocate a set time for reflection and remember, this time might include-
· Looking through photo albums
· Reading through the funeral service
· Looking through any memorabilia associated with the baby—footprints, hospital bracelets, locks of hair, hospital records, ultrasound photos or videos, bunny rugs, video of your time with the baby etc.
· Play music that helps you think about your baby
· Light a special candle
· Burn atmospheric or calming essential oils
· Prepare a memorial garden, plant a tree
· Donate money to a special charity in memory of your baby
· Buy a gift, plant or trinket to add to your collection of memorabilia
· Share the day with your other children by planning a small birthday ‘party’, or even a birthday cake
· Prepare a small ceremony
· Light candles
· Release balloons
· Read poetry or a reading from the funeral
· Play a significant piece of music
· Buy or pick a special bouquet of flowers
· Plan what time you will visit the cemetery or burial place, what to take with you and what you will do whilst there
· Write to family and friends explaining the significance of the day and how they can support you through it
· Talk with some who knew your baby or with a SANDS Support Worker who can understand your feelings
My best friend had a little girl 9 days after Matilda was born and she is incredibly special to me. It has become very important for us to share her birthday together. We have a small party for the children and visit the cemetery together. Matilda’s birthday is now a day I actually look forward to when I can set aside the time to focus on her, celebrate her life and reflect on her impact on my life.
I feel for everyone who is suffering and is dreading Mother’s Day or another anniversary. Grieving for a baby is an incredibly painful process, you have every right to feel the way you do. Don’t have any expectations, rather allow yourself the time and freedom to do what you feel will help in adjusting to and accepting the death of your precious baby.
In loving memory of Matilda May
Born still, May 10th 1997
After the excitement of discovering I was unexpectedly pregnant had worn off the shocking thought that I was going to become a mother set in.
Of course there was no reason why I shouldn't become a mum. My husband and I had been happily married for a number of years and were living in our own home. But somehow we always thought we would start our family "next year".
After the initial shock was over I discovered that our baby although not planned, was definitely wanted.
I started to read.
I read everything I could get my hands on. I needed to prepare in order to become the perfect mother I pictured myself to be.
Although overweight I had no medical problems and after discussing things with my doctor I knew, that I need only worry for about the first 12 weeks. If after this scare period was over everything was still ok, then everything would be fine.
Our excitement became too much at about 8 weeks and we told our close family, we just couldn't hold it in any longer.
Following my first ultrasound (at approx 17 weeks) my expected day of arrival was changed. Baby wasn't the correct size for how far along I was. Not to worry they said, it often happens, you probably didn't fall pregnant exactly when you thought you did. So I never worried, as our baby wasn't planned I hadn't been keeping track of when it exactly could have happened.
Eventually I felt pretty secure about it all and started spreading the news further abroad. Because of my size not many people had guessed yet, and it turns out that was a blessing in disguise.
On the 7th of August 2001 I visited the hospital for a routine check. After checking my blood pressure (which was fine and hadn't moved since being pregnant) the midwife listened for my baby's heartbeat. After about 5 minutes of checking with a Doppler she decided to try an ultrasound machine, with doctor in tow they came to have a look.
At this stage I wasn't worried, last time it had taken ages to find the heart beat because baby was higher and more central than the midwife had expected. Not to worry, once the ultrasound machine was placed on me, they would find my baby safe and sound.
I couldn't be more wrong.
As soon as the baby appeared on the screen, I knew something was terribly wrong. Baby just wasn't moving around like last time.
Then the Doctor broke the devastating news, I am sorry, but it doesn't look very good I am afraid. I am going to send you up to the ultrasound department for a better look.
The midwife then rang my husband and asked him to come to the hospital as soon as he could. Explaining to him not to panic I was fine, but we needed to do an ultra sound on baby and that I want him to be there.
So I waited.
I waited for my husband to arrive, and I waited to find out the news.
Following a further look in the ultrasound department the official verdict was handed down, I am sorry but your baby's heart has stopped.
OH MY GOD!
How could this be, I hadn't had any indication, no bleeding I hadn't felt sick, no pains surely I would have known something.
After being placed into a quiet room a councillor came to speak with us and discussed our choices. I couldn't believe it; I was still going to have to give birth to my dead baby. Somehow this just hadn't occurred to me, couldn't they just make it go away!
We was sent home to discuss if we would rather induce the pregnancy, or wait for mother nature to realise baby was dead and start things moving on her own.
After enormous amounts of anguish, discussion and tears, we decided to have the baby induced.
The following day (8th August 2001) the hospital was called and told of our decision.
On the 9th of August 2001 I entered the hospital at 8am in the morning and was shown to my room. Unfortunately we were on the maternity ward but they had placed me in my own room with bathroom etc., so I wouldn't be seeing any of the happy mums with babies.
We then had lots of people visiting. The social worker, anaesthetist, midwives etc, all discussing the birth of our baby and what they expected might happen.
Then they started the procedure.
This basically involved sticking some tablets near the cervix and waiting for something to happen.
Eventually it did. At 10.02pm our tiny baby weighing 210gms and measuring only 25.5 cm in length was born. Due to the length of time that had passed since baby's heart had stopped our tiny baby was also an odd colour. The midwife had discussed this with us previously, but it was far different from what I had expected.
One of the things that sticks with us most, is the fact that the midwife couldn't tell us what sex baby was. How in the hell could they not know? Looking at baby I was thinking girl, but all the forms were filled out with sex unknown.
We were able to spend some time with our baby, take some photographs and the hospital even dressed our baby in a tiny handmade smocked dress.
After a long time we asked the midwife to take our baby away and eventually we fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke feeling lost and alone. My husband was there for me every step of the way, we did everything together, but I just felt so empty and hurt. We also decided that there was no way we could leave that hospital without knowing the sex of our baby and of course we wanted to give baby a name. The hospital social worker was a big help with this, as soon as she discovered our problem she was off to find out for us. Before long she returned announcing that our baby was in fact a little girl. We named her Jessica.
Following the stillbirth of our first born Jessica, we then needed to make arrangements for her. So while the grieving started, so did the arrangements for a service. We found ourselves having to make hard decisions when we least wanted to be. Fortunately we had some wonderful help and support during this process.
On Wednesday the 15th of August 2001 we held a beautiful service for Jessica.
So many of our friends and family came to support us and to say goodbye to baby Jessica that they never had the chance to know. More tears were shed and more understanding of our grief formed in that short service than could ever be put into words.
I have shed many tears, been angry, hurt, frustrated and have taken some of it out on my family and friends. But thank goodness they have stood buy us, helped us through and supported us.
It has now been over 6 months since that dreadful day and somehow I still manage to find myself thinking of Jessica every single day. Although now I try to think of the nice things, the joy and surprise of finding out we was pregnant. The Joy of seeing her moving around inside me the first time.
Empty arms do feel ever so heavy but the old saying "What doesn't harm us will only make us stronger" seems to stand true in this situation.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story, I hope in some way it helps you get through.
It was only a few weeks ago , at a social gathering that I was asked the complex question ..." How many children do you have?" for any bereaved parent this question can trigger a range of emotions and often poses difficulty in its response. I am the mother of 5 children, 2 living, 3 in heaven.
I have suffered the loss of 3 babies, a miscarriage at 15 weeks and one at 8 weeks and the loss of my beautiful daughter Dominique Grace Rose stillborn at 38½ weeks.
For me, it has been a very challenging time, one of heartache that has made me question my values, my faith and my priorities.
Dominique's pregnancy was one with many complications, but nothing, not even my two previous miscarriages could prepare me for the devastation of her loss. At 38 ½ weeks I noticed that my usually active baby had not moved, and so as a precaution my husband and I took ourselves off to the familiar emergency room for a check up. This is where my world changed, after failing to find a heartbeat we were sent to Ultrasound to discover that our daughter had died. I will never forget how numb I felt, the disbelief was incomprehendable. I was induced within the hour, and thanks to the support of 3 amazing midwives I was able to give birth to her. I remember feeling for them also, as I was beside myself and unable to cope with what I was going through, their support, genuine care and kindness will always be remembered and treasured. Just before giving birth, I recall thinking that they had somehow got it wrong, that my baby was going to prove them wrong, but when silence followed her entry into this world, no words can describe my devastation. After 20 hours of labor, there was no sweet reward of a living baby, just the emptiness and grief that never seems to go.
Konrad and I spent time holding her, bathing and changing her. My family came in to meet her and share in her blessing. I spent the night with her and most of the next day, telling her everything I knew I would never get the chance to. I found the question of Autopsy very difficult, but in the end decided to go through with it. The experience of leaving the hospital empty handed and knowing that I was never taking her home will live with me for a lifetime. Having to come home to a house full of her belongings, that she could never use, and organize a funeral tore me apart.
I once heard that the reason there is no name for a bereaved parent as there is for a widow or orphan as it is too devastating for society to explain it. I know that I have found my greatest support in my family and friends and at my SANDS meetings. Having people understand my loss, know the grief I suffer helped me to keep going.
The thing I find hardest is when people forget to acknowledge that Dominque is indeed part of my family and was a reality for us. I recognise that it is hard for people to know what to say, but pretending she did not exist makes the grief for me so much more real.
I used to wonder what kind of God would take my baby, but now understand it is the same God that gave me Dante and Gabriel, and who gave me the honor of knowing Dominique, if only briefly and gave me the strength and courage to continue my life and make the most of what I have.
I will spend my life mourning her but also celebrating what she has given me. Those brief moments I spent with her will remain the quintessential moments of my life. I will never be able to physically hold her again, but she remains a permanent fixture in my heart and my life .I am the greater for having her, and although I will spend eternity missing her, she has given me more than I could possibly imagine.
I now appreciate the little things so much more, I belief I am a better parent to my two boys (although a little smothering at times), and truly value how precious children really are. The insignificant things no longer bother me; it is hard to get upset about a scratch on a car or a smear on a window when you have held an angel in your arms.
Dominique will always be part of me; she is a member of our "fambily " as my son Dante points out.
I am blessed with having carried 5 children inside me, and my knowledge that I have 3 children in heaven looking over my family comforts me daily.
I would like to conclude by reading some verses of the song "Angel " by Sarah Mclachlan, I played this song at Dominique's funeral, and find that it gives me comfort:
" Spend all your life waiting for that second chance,
For a break that will make it ok,
There is always some reason to feel not good enough,
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction, some beautiful release as memories seep from my veins,
I feel empty and weightless and need to find some piece of mind
In the arms of the angels, far away from here, from this star cooled room and the endlessness that you feel,
You are brought from the wreckage of your silent revelry,
In the arms of the angels, may you find some comfort here....
So tired of the straight life where everywhere you turn vultures and thief's at your back,
Your internal stone keeps on twisting,
How do you make you make up for all that you lack?
Doesn't make a difference trying to escape all the time, its easier to try and believe
This sweet madness, this glorious sadness that will forever bring me to my knees,
In the arms of the angels, may you find some comfort here."
Dominique Grace Rose, my precious angel, you complete me.....
My first baby, my little son Jonah who was born at full term and perfectly healthy prior to labour, is dead! My life, our life, our families' lives and our friends' lives will NEVER be the same! Jonah was a live human being, not an object that can be replaced. He should have spent the last couple years growing up knowing the love of his mum and dad. He should be running around with his cousins now. He should be going to school in 2 years time with my sisters' in laws children and friends' children who were all born around the same time. He should be playing soccer and learning how to scuba dive with his dad in a few years time as his father had dreamed.
Instead we walk out of the hospital with empty arms isolated from the world that does not understand our grief. We wonder what our little boy Jonah would have been doing. We yearn to hug him daily and wonder what we did wrong or what we could've done to protect him. I think as a parent I must have been able to save him, I should've known what the doctors ignored.
It is three years since our world turned pear shape when our first son Jonah collapsed shortly after birth and was placed onto life support. We only had him with us for three short days but that time has been the most significant time of our lives. At the time it was impossible to imagine returning to a place without the pain and rawness of emotions that we were feeling at that time. Our lives can never be the same as they were before, we had Jonah and although we cannot physically have him living here with us, he will always be a part of our family and our lives.
This is a compilation of reflections written by my mum Ros and shared at Jonah's memorial service.
We were fortunate that the neonatal intensive care staff were very caring and compassionate and supported us through our short time with Jonah by allowing a group of close friends and family to remain with us in our own space. Our families drifted in from Sydney and Adelaide over the next couple of days after the birth, and one by one they met our precious little baby son. Together we laughed and cried as we shared our hopes and dreams for his life.
Mark and I met our precious grandson, Jonah Pete Owens, at about 1.30 am on Thursday morning, but this meeting was nothing like the celebration we had planned. Bron and Pete had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion shortly before we arrived and we felt we didn't want to wake them. We walked to the neonatal intensive care unit to meet baby Jonah.
There we saw our perfectly formed precious little grandson. He had Pete's shoulders and feet and Bron's chin and lips. He was hooked up to tubes and monitors and his nurse told us that he was critically ill. Pete's parents had driven up from Sydney earlier on Wednesday to meet Jonah and to be with Pete and Bron.
We were fortunate to have a huge community of loving and caring friends who supported us with caring messages, a florist shop of flowers and thoughtful acts of service. Even though Bron and Pete have found all these expressions of love and care painful and often have been unable to respond, it is these very things that have helped them through this very difficult week. Out of tragedy we have seen the more beautiful side of humanity where people band together and live in community as God intended.
It is difficult to speak about the events over the next two days as they unfolded in a timeless manner where everything felt surreal. Pete has explained it as sitting on the edge of a bowl looking in. Some of us feel as if we are actors in a badly scripted movie where we are waiting for the producer to call cut, and say no this is just way too sad and silly a story.
Let's just redo it and this time with a happy ending as was originally planned.
Pete's and Bron's families drifted in over the Thursday and Friday to meet their newest nephew: Uncle Dan the tower of strength, Aunty Mel the spoiler, Aunty Ros with the soft heart, Aunty Tracey the spiritual adviser, Aunty P the nursery designer and Uncle Benno the cuddler and playmate. As painful as these moments were for Bron and Pete, they also are the moments where they shared their dreams and plans for their precious little son. They are also the memories they will hold dear of those precious few days they spent with their precious little boy.
An event such as this rocks our world and challenges everything we believe in as we have multitudes of questions.
Is there a God? If God is a God of love how could he allow this to happen? Would Jonah still be with us if the staff had offered a caesarean section? But most of all why did this happen? God, you gave Bron such a good pregnancy. We watched them both prepare for this baby. They had formed a bond and they were so looking forward to bringing this baby up to love you and to serve you. Why? Why? Why? Answer; I don't know. Many of us have watched Bron and Pete and thought what beautiful loving, caring parents they are.
Pete and Bron along with others are asking these questions and there is no point in pretending that we don't have questions or even doubt God at this time. Our Abba Father is our big Daddy in Heaven and he knows our every thought, he sees our hearts, he sees our pain, he feels our pain, but he is here with us.
This drama is being played out on two levels, there is the physical and the spiritual. Some aspects of the spiritual are the ones that perhaps make the most sense and at least give some comfort in this situation. Bron and Pete have both expressed that they know Jonah is in Heaven, safe in Jesus arms, for all eternity. He will have been met by his special Great Nan who passed earlier this year and my beautiful sister, his Great Aunt Margaret, who passed a couple of years ago. He will be praising God and rejoicing with them. For Bron and Pete it is the great pain of having their precious son taken away that they are trying to deal with.
The road Bron's and Pete's families have walked with them over these days are places parents never want to see their children tread as they were confronted with the devastating news that Jonah could not survive without life support. Again ambivalence is the word closest to describing the despair and hope as they walked through this process. It was a tragically beautiful picture of baby Jonah lying on his mummy and daddy's lap with family and friends drawn tightly around as the inevitable had to happen and the inner strength that enabled them to worship God in the song 'With all I am', the first line of which says, "you hold my world in the palm of your hand and I am yours forever". This song holds special significance for Bron and Pete as it was sung on their first journey together as husband and wife and Bron has sung it to Jonah often during her pregnancy. This song was Bobba's mummy's prayer for her precious little baby. All of us who were present in that room will always remember Daddy Pete's heart-wrenching prayer as he offered his firstborn son up to God.
One of the saddest parts of this tragic story is the unfulfilled hopes, dreams and desires of Bron and Pete for their dear little Bobba. They had planned their world around Jonah and their new family life close to Bron's family in Adelaide. They had plans for spending Xmas with Pete's family in Sydney and again before driving over to Adelaide, allowing plenty of time to travel with a tiny baby. There were dreams of spending time with family in SA, camping and yabbying as well as Pete later taking his new little mate diving.
Not only were Bron and Pete excited but almost daily we got updates from Uncle Benno. Do you guys know what is happening in 4 weeks? No? I mean do you really understand that Bron and Pete and Bobba will be living here and I've got open visiting rights. Pete also had regular little chats with his unborn baby and had formed a strong bond.
That anticipation has turned to heartbroken sadness as now Bron and Pete are at every turn reminded of their unfulfilled dreams. As I walked from the hospital on Friday everyone was carrying on with their lives as if nothing had happened. I just wanted to scream out, don't you all know that we have just lost a baby? Our precious little baby has just died and yet life was just carrying on around us as if nothing had happened.
Everywhere there are reminders of their dreams, a gingerbread house on the dining room table, that was going to be eaten to celebrate Jonah's birth, wrapped presents under the Xmas tree with Jonah's name ready to be added, an empty capsule in the car, the nursery with a menagerie of toys and clothes that all held special significance and an army of friends having babies that they had shared their pregnancy stories and dreams with.
For us, the hospital not giving us answers as to what may have caused Jonah to have a cerebral bleed made the grieving harder. The coroner's inquiry that attributed Jonah's death to forceps being misapplied has bought a degree of closure and helped us to stop blaming ourselves for not being able to protect our baby. We had to fight for a coroner's inquest. The last three years have been extremely difficult! We now have a daughter and a son but the joy of pregnancy has been stolen from us and many things that we took for granted we now see differently.
It has not been an easy journey but others did say to us back then that it would get easier and it was hard to imagine ever moving out of that very dark place. Jonah will always be a part of us.
Happy 3rd Birthday
our precious little Bubba J
With hugs and all our LOVE FOREVER
Mummy Bron, Daddy Pete,
your little sis Katie and brother Timmy xxxx
They say that time heals and it seems that for everyone else that is how it is. It is four years now since that dreadful event and although everyone is still affected by the memory they are no longer appear to be trapped in the emotion as I am. For me although it is only November I am already starting to fear coming home for Christmas and wonder how I will cope. It will be the first time since 2008 we will all spend Christmas day together.
On the one hand I look forward to spending time with my family but there are so many reminders of how it should have been. This year Jonah would have turned four and I like you would have been excited about him starting kindy along with his cousins Alice and Chris. My emotions are strong and mixed up and all rolled up in a crazy ball that bounces round and round in my head. I feel guilty for my thoughts, I am scarred, I want to be whole and join in the family celebration of Christmas but I am alone, different. Christmas is always hard but this year coming back to where it all began, makes it all raw again, and a part of me will always be missing. My son is missing and it feels as if my heart has been ripped out and raw flesh is left jagged and numb and bleeding. I feel angry that you were allowed to keep your children, cheated, why was my son not allowed to live. I feel such guilt for even thinking such thoughts for I know the pain of loss and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I feel angry for the times you have not acknowledged my son. These thoughts keep going round and round in my head, sometimes it feels like I will explode, like I am standing on thunder.
It is difficult for me to write this letter but if you at least know how difficult it is for me it may help you to understand if I am distant or silent or not as you would like me to be. I don't want you to treat me as though I am fragile, for I am strong and resilient and sometimes I am quite normal; if indeed there is such a thing. Please use my son's name and don't feel afraid to speak about him as it hurts if we forget that he did live, even though it was for such a short time. All I have left are memories and our dreams of what it would have been like. It helps a little if you acknowledge him and mention his name for he is still our precious son even though he is no longer with us. We still love him; we still grieve for him and yearn for the time when we will be together again.
I feel naked writing this letter to you as I am exposing myself and making myself vulnerable to being judged by you. Indeed if I had not spoken to so many bereaved parents who feel just as I do, I myself would believe I was going crazy. Maybe that is partly why grief is so isolating. Thank you for the times that you have been there for me and please remember to mention Jonah's name to me this Christmas.
My first baby, my little son Jonah who was born at full term and perfectly healthy prior to labour is dead! My life, our life, our families' lives and our friends' lives will NEVER be the same! Jonah was a live human being, not an object that can be replaced. He should have spent the last 4 years growing up knowing his mum and dad's love. He should be running around with his cousins now. He should be going to school in a years' time with my sisters' in laws children and friends' children who were all born around the same time. He should be playing soccer and learning how to scuba dive with his dad in a few years' time as he had dreamed.
Instead we walk out of the hospital with empty arms isolated from the world that does not understand our grief. We wonder what our little boy Jonah would have been doing. We yearn to hug him daily and wonder what we did wrong or what we could've done to protect him. I think as a parent I must have been able to save him, I should've known what the doctors ignored.
It is four years since our world turned pear shape when our first son Jonah collapsed shortly after birth and was placed onto life support. We only had him with us for three short days but that time has been the most significant time of our lives. At the time it was impossible to imagine returning to a place without the pain and rawness of emotions that we were feeling at that time. Our lives can never be the same as they were before we had Jonah and although we cannot physically have him living here with us he will always be a part of our family and our lives.
How did you feel when you heard that your son Jonah had died?
When Jonah died I couldn't understand how or why this could have happened to us. I couldn't make sense of anything. First I felt numb, then I felt like I was just existing, I may almost be past that. I cope. I can talk and love to talk about Jonah. He occupied my thoughts almost every minute of every day for the first year. My husband would say 'you weren't listening, someone else just said that'. I tried to explain to him that maybe I am not in 'la la' land but in 'Jonah Land!' Life seems to still pass by whether we're ready for it to or not. I was absolutely devastated. I would cry myself to sleep and then wake up crying again. It was such a heartbreaking experience, our lives had been shattered never to be the same again, and it physically hurt. The pain was so raw. Four years have passed and the pain is still very raw now but just not every day anymore.
How are you feeling about approaching this Christmas without Jonah?
Jonah died on December 12th 2008, so just before Christmas. I find Christmas really hard every year. It's been almost 4 years since he died and still as Christmas approaches I begin to feel more and more emotional and sad about having to go through what is meant to be a happy family time with one of my precious family members not here. There are so many thoughts and feelings to process. So many mixed emotions. Jonah has two living siblings 'Katie and Timmy'. As we celebrate Christmas with Katie and Timmy every second thought flicks to Jonah who is not here and should be. One second I might enjoy a moment with Katie and Timmy smiling and having fun at Christmas and the next I have tears running down my face as I imagine how Jonah should be there and the interactions that might have played out between my 3 beautiful children. I have 2 sisters in law who both have children who were born a month before and a month after Jonah died. As we plan to go to Sydney to spend this Christmas with my husband's family I am filled with absolute sadness, anger, hurt, emotion...... as I imagine sitting around watching our nieces and nephews play together. I watch and hear about two 4 year olds who are about to go to Kindy and my heart sinks and I gulp as I imagine what my Jonah would have looked like at this same age. The Kindy experience we will not be doing this year as my Jonah, my little boy is dead. The unfairness is truly overwhelming. It surrounds and strangles you like a skivvy that's far too tight around your neck.
When you were pregnant, did you imagine what Christmases with Jonah would be like? How do you feel now that those dreams are no longer possible?
When I was pregnant with Jonah we didn't know whether we were having a boy or a girl. I wrapped presents ready for Christmas and had left a space on each of the gift tags to add his name. We came home from the hospital with empty arms and everywhere we walked there were reminders of our dreams, a gingerbread house on the dining room table that was going to be eaten to celebrate Jonah's birth, wrapped presents under the Christmas tree with Jonah's name ready to be added, an empty capsule in the car, the nursery with a menagerie of toys and clothes that all held special significance and an army of friends having babies that I had shared my pregnancy stories and dreams with. Jonah was due a couple weeks before Christmas and so we had planned Christmas 2008 to be a very special Christmas with our new little family member.
We had planned our world around Jonah and our new family life close to my family in Adelaide. We had plans for spending Christmas with my husband's family in Sydney before driving over to Adelaide, allowing plenty of time to travel with a tiny baby. We imagined doing all the things we'd usually do at Christmas but with a new little special addition to enjoy it with. Now that Jonah is dead and these dreams are no longer possible it makes every Christmas and all special events including birthdays and anniversaries hard. They are often bitter/ sweet. While I might enjoy a part of a day or an event my thoughts always move to Jonah who is missing and it feels like there is a part of my heart missing.