Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Six months, baby girl

I'm not a fan of the end of each month. There are too many dates that hurt.

27th - the last time I felt Ariella move and, I believe, the day she died

28th - the day our hearts shattered when we discovered our baby had died

29th - the day I was induced and labour started (although I didn't mind labour and this day normally hurts simply in anticipation of the 30th)

30th - the day we met our sweet Ariella

31st - the day we walked out of the hospital with empty arms

Every month, those dates hurt. But this month they hurt more than normal, because it's now been six months since our Ariella died and was born. SIX MONTHS. I struggle to think that we've made it through half a year without her with us. It seems crazy. I didn't think I could live without my baby girl and with such heartache. But it turns out you can.

I've had a tough few days in the lead up to today, and I did wonder if the anticipation of today would be worse than the actual day. I think it was. I didn't have to go to work today (for unrelated reasons), so I took some time for myself this morning, then grabbed some lunch to go eat with Ariella. They were mowing the lawn when I arrived, so I sat in the car for a while, observing all that was going on. 

Two of Ariella's grandparents had visited earlier, and left some gorgeous gerberas. I added the white daises, and then headed home.

I may not have done a lot these past few days, but I'm pretty proud of the fact that I simply got out of bed. I even got a load of washing done today. I had heard that a lack of motivation is a normal part of grief, and I'm definitely feeling that lately. Sometimes I feel like I should be "doing better" by now, as it's been six months. But it's ONLY been six months. That's no time at all really. So on a hard day like today, when I get out of bed, get dressed and even get some jobs done, that's good enough for me.

Also, just wanted to say thank you to our wonderful friends and family who have messaged today and yesterday. We're so grateful to know that Ariella is loved and missed by others too, and that we aren't forgotten.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


This year has been the hardest year of my life and I've come to realise even the good things are not fully enjoyable. Instead, they are bittersweet.

If I wake up tired, I can sleep in (unless it's a work day). And I'm grateful for that, as morning sickness is always worse if I'm tired. But while I enjoy getting to sleep when I need it, it's bittersweet. I'd rather be up at strange hours and sleep deprived because Ariella was crying.

I have a pretty enjoyable job and feel blessed that the perfect job for me came up without me even looking. But going to work is bittersweet. I'd rather be stuck at home with a sick baby, going to mother's groups, or just spending time with our baby girl.

Immediately after birth I fit into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes. Within a few weeks of birth, I was able to fit into all of them. It was nice to wear some of my favourite clothes again. But it was bittersweet. I would have rathered be stuck in maternity clothes a bit longer and only be able to wear feeding-friendly clothes.

I can go out with friends or to our Bible study group and not worry about missing out because of the need to stay home or come home early to put a baby to bed. But while I thoroughly enjoy those times, they are bittersweet because I'd much rather miss out due to a sleeping baby.

HRH William and Catherine had their baby boy. The world rejoices, but for me it's bittersweet. So happy and relieved that little George arrived safely, but it's so hard to see the photos and videos of the happy family outside the hospital. The look on his parents' faces, the look of pure joy and amazement, I never had that. My look was not pure joy, it tinged with sadness.

I've met some pretty incredible women who have also lost children, and have become closer to some of my existing friends as a result of Ariella's death. But every now and then, when I think about those friendships, it feels bittersweet. I'm so thankful for each of those ladies, but how I wish our friendships could have developed in different circumstances.

The people at our church have been so wonderful since Ariella was born. They've provided so much support, but also given us space when we needed it. But going to church on Sunday is bittersweet. There are babies there. Some who were born very close to Ariella. It's hard.

Speaking of church, our church ran a Kids Club in the holidays. I don't know if I could have been there if Ariella was still here with us. I might have been able to, but it might have been too tricky. It was so much fun to help out, and I loved being there. But it was bittersweet.

People say that Marcus and I should "make the most of this year" before the next baby comes along: go out for dinner, see a movie, make spontaneous decisions. And they are right, those things should be much harder next year. But doing them now is bittersweet. Those are the things we did last year, anticipating that they would be hard to do them this year. I feel as though we have a second chance to do things that we didn't get around to last year. But I don't want that chance. It's bittersweet.

This year, life in general is bittersweet.


PS - I've added a new page to my blog, called Songs for Baby Loss. It's my list of songs I have found helpful this year, and other bereaved parents might find it helpful too. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Where else would I go?

Having a child die is always going to be awful, devastating and difficult. But I wonder if there's an added dimension of difficulty when faith is involved.

You see, I'm a Christian. I fully believe that Jesus is God, that He died so that all the wrong things we do won't have to separate us from God, and that He rose again to prove that death no longer has power. I also believe that God can and does perform miracles. Once, the doctors were convinced I had appendicitis, and it was just a matter of waiting a couple of hours for a blood test result to come back before they performed surgery on me. During those hours, my mum prayed for me. When we went back to get the results, I had no pain at all. The doctor almost didn't recognise me because I was smiling and laughing, as opposed to doubled over and crying in pain. Miracle? I believe so (and, for the record, so did the doctor).

I grew up with flat feet and needed orthotics so that my ankles, knees and back wouldn't hurt when I ran. But around eight years ago at church, a friend's mum prayed for me, and arches developed in my feet. Before that prayer, I had never had arches. After that prayer, I've not need orthotics or had a problem with pain while running. Miracle? I believe so.

I could go on to list other miracles that I have either seen or experienced, but I won't. The point of me sharing the two miracles above is that I wanted to show that God can and does perform miracles today.

So why didn't God step in and restart Ariella's heart? Why, at the time when I felt most desperate for a miracle, did God not perform one?

I don't know. 

It could be tempting to say that since God didn't answer my most desperate prayer, and the desperate prayers of the family and friends who knew, that I'm going to give up on Him. At first glance, it looks like He failed me, so I could very well give up on Him and few people would judge me for that. But this scenario just reminds me of the time I was in a nasty car accident. About 5 minutes before the crash, a group of us had prayed and asked for God's protection as we traveled. For a few weeks after the crash, I struggled with the fact that God hadn't answered that prayer - how could we have been in a horrible crash if God was protecting us? But then I remembered something. When I arrived at the hospital, the nurses told me that they had seen photos of the crash and were expecting someone with much greater injuries than my slightly cut little toe and bruised hip.

Even though we had crashed, God kept me safe within that crash.

By all accounts, I should have had worse injuries. But I didn't. My lack of injuries was laughable (and indeed, a paramedic did laugh when I showed him that the only visible injury I had was a tiny cut on my little toe). God had protected me in an awful situation.

The thing is that people will fail you and they will fail me. But God won't. I said earlier that I don't know why God didn't restart her heart. I completely believe that He could have, and yet He didn't. And do you know what?

I am ok with not knowing why.

Some people may believe it is foolish of me to continue trusting in a God who didn't answer the most desperate prayer I've ever prayed. But all I can think of is this:

If I turned away from God, where else would I go?

The Bible records a story of Jesus asking His disciples if they were going to walk away, just as much of the crowd had after Jesus had said some things that were difficult for them to hear. But one of the disciples, Simon Peter, responds by saying "Lord, to whom shall we go?" That is how I feel - life has been difficult this year, but if I was to turn away and leave God, where would I go? To whom would I go?

Sometimes life doesn't go to plan. Sometimes awful things happen, and it's so easy to question God. You may have been in a car accident, you may have been hurt by family, you may have even had a child die. And I am so, so sorry that you've been through pain. If I could sit with you over a coffee (or hot chocolate) and just be with you in your pain, I would. But I can't, because even if time allowed, many of you don't even live near me. That's why I pray for you. Because when I can't be there for you, God is. And when I don't have the capacity to comfort you, God does.

And that's why I am still believing and trusting God, even after Ariella's death. After all, where else would I go?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why I feel letdown by TV's 'Offspring'

Last night I decided to watch Offspring for the first time. The show was going to touch on baby-loss, and I wanted to see how they did it. For my non-Australian readers, Offspring is one of the top rating Australian TV dramas. It wins awards every year, and is watched by a lot of people. When they touch on an issue, it raises awareness. Given the frequency of baby-loss (25-33% of all pregnancies) and the lack of public awareness, I thought that perhaps this show would finally bring it to the forefront of people's minds. And it would do so without a real-life family experiencing the devastation.

But by the end of the show, I was angry and disappointed. Here's why:

Throughout the past week, all the ads for the show have basically been centred around Nina, the seven-months pregnant main character, telling her friend "I can't feel the baby move" and going for an ultrasound. For an entire week, that has been on television. Whenever I saw it, my heart would start pounding and I'd remember going for that ultrasound myself. Occasionally the ad would bring me to tears, and I know that I am not the only person who went through that. Yes, I could have muted the TV or changed channels, but I wanted to watch the show and so felt that watching the one minute ads was preparation for watching the one hour show. I wanted to know how they would portray one of the scariest moments of a pregnancy and perhaps, depending on the ultrasound's result, how they would portray the very worst thing a parent could experience.

At 8:30 last night, my husband and I sat down to watch it, with the tissue box within arm's reach for me. At 9:30 last night, the show was over, and I felt letdown. After being the climax of the adverts, only about 5 minutes of the show really focused on Nina's potential loss. And of course, she had a happy ending. The baby had "moved to a position which made the movements difficult to detect" and was actually perfectly fine.

Imagine if Nina's baby had in fact died. Imagine if millions of Australians saw the horrible reality that happens more than people realise? What if the loss of a fictional baby actually made people think about what it would be like? What if people began to care, to research, to support, all without a real person experiencing the horror?

I wouldn't wish the death of a baby on any person. But I would wish it for a fictional character on one of the most watched shows in Australia. Why can't awareness be raised without a family having to experience the devastation?

I feel like the potential loss of Nina's baby was used in the ads to create drama and draw viewers, yet it really didn't add anything to the actual episode. If the episode had been about suicide, they would have added a note at the end, saying "if you or a loved one is struggling, call Lifeline or Beyond Blue". Even though Nina's baby lived, why couldn't they have added a note at the end saying "if you or a loved one has experienced the loss of a baby, call Sands or Pregnancy Loss Australia" and given information for those two wonderful groups. But no, all they did was show the preview for next week's episode about Nina's sister having to confess to her husband that she'd cheated on him. Really?? That's how you end an episode that was promoted with baby-loss as a central theme, an episode that had baby-loss mums and dads anxious and upset for a week? After a week of adverts centred on the potential loss of a baby, the story moves on with no acknowledgment that up to one third of pregnancies don't get a happy ending?

Maybe I'm overreacting because I didn't get the happy ending in January. But I really think they could have handled it better.

You let me down Offspring.

Monday, July 15, 2013

If only life had a DRS...

Any cricket fans out there will probably know of the DRS - the Decision Review System that allows players to review umpiring decisions that they think were wrong. It's on my mind today given the result of the England v. Australia match that finished last night...with a win to England after they used the DRS to successfully challenge the umpire's decision.

Sometimes I wish life had a Decision Review System. When someone says something inappropriate, I could just ask for a review and they would be forced to take it back. Or when someone does something hurtful, I could refer that action to the DRS and they would be told by a higher power that their decision was wrong and that they need to take it back.

But then I think, it would have to work both ways. At one point or another, it would be my actions being referred. That time I was grumpy? Sorry, not the right attitude - take it back. Or when I lost my patience with someone? Not the right thing to do - go back and try again.


The more I think about it, the more I realise that as a Christian, I do have something along the lines of a DRS in my life. I believe that God the Holy Spirit lives in me, and He is the one giving the little nudges I feel when I get grumpy, lose my patience, or do something else wrong. Being a Christian doesn't make me perfect - far from it! But it does mean that I do have someone prompting me when my decisions and actions need reviewing. It's pretty humbling to have to apologise for something a few days later, after realising it was wrong. But I'd rather be humbled that way, then live knowing I was in the wrong and did nothing to clear it.

The part I find hardest is when I am on the receiving end of someone else's comment or action that was wrong or hurtful. Let's just say that people often "put their foot in it" when it comes to stillbirth and subsequent pregnancy. Sometimes I wonder if being open with somethings on my blog make people think that any aspect of my life and emotions is up for discussion. It's not. I'm actually a fairly private person, and unless you are one of my closer friends, it's unlikely that I want to go into detail about things with you...especially if I haven't written about it on my blog. So why is it so hard to tell someone "I don't actually want to discuss that with you" or "I was hurt by what you said"? It's times like that when I really wish I could just signal for a decision review and have someone else jump in to tell them they need to change what they said or did.

But I guess life's not cricket!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rainbow Baby

The above definition is the best I've heard to describe the term "rainbow baby". When I first heard that term, months ago, I didn't like it. I don't really know why, but I didn't. But then I read the above definition and suddenly I liked the term. Built into the term rainbow baby is the idea that a pregnancy/baby after loss does not negate the loss; that idea is very important to me. And here's why:

I'm pregnant again.

My husband and I have known for weeks now, which means we have had weeks to decide how to tell people. Many pregnancies are filled with pure joy and a longing to tell everyone about it. But a rainbow pregnancy is different, because the innocence of pregnancy is lost. I didn't look at the positive test and think yes! In nine months I'll have a baby to bring home, it was more like wow, I really hope I get to bring this baby home! Of course, I know that it is highly unlikely for things to go wrong, but I also know just how wrong things can go. This pregnancy, which we are so excited about, will always have an element of concern. As happy as I am to be pregnant with this little bub, I'm not going to be 100% happy or excited until they are in our arms, breathing, moving and crying. Which means that it was hard to tell people, because their first reaction is pure excitement, which is obviously better than them being upset! But it was confronting, because it seemed at times that people were more excited than I was!

We ended up telling some people in person, but most found out via a simple post on Facebook today. If you were one of the people that we called or messaged with news of Ariella's pregnancy, but didn't get a call or message this time, please know it's not because you're less important to us this year. Not at all. We just weren't really up to the emotion of telling too many people individually. I hope you all understand :)

Like any pregnancy, people have had some questions. So to answer some of those common questions:

*I am due in mid-January (which puts me about 12 weeks along). So yes, this baby will be here before Ariella's first birthday.
*No, we will not be finding out the gender, and no, we don't have a preference.
*Yes, we have some names in mind, but no, we won't be telling anyone what they are.
*Yes, I have been sick, but not as bad as last time (I'm very thankful to be able to get more sleep this time).

For other loss mums who read this blog, I want you to know that I don't plan on changing this blog to be all about this pregnancy and baby. My posts will still be similar to what they have been, and so please don't feel like you have to stop reading if pregnancy is a hard thing for you to hear about. I don't plan on blogging about it very often at all.

So there you have it. I'm pregnant. We're excited. Not too anxious. But very much praising God for this second little blessing. God is good!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Twenty things

This week I'm helping out at a Kids Club that our church is running, and today I had to tell the children three things about me including one thing that was a lie. It was pretty funny to see their guesses as to which statement was a lie (I'd say half guessed correctly), and it made me think of some other random things about me that people may or may not know. So here you are, twenty things about me that you may not have known:

1) I used to be able to break-dance. Not a lot, but after six months of lessons, you pick up a few things! But that was five years ago, and I haven't done any since...so don't ask me to perform for you!

2) I have never been on a roller-coaster. The closest I've come is the old Mad Mouse ride at the Adelaide Show, but I really don't think that counts. There was no loops and it didn't even go that fast. But I have to admit, I don't have a strong desire to go on one!

3) I've been fishing four times. Twice I caught nothing, one time we were fishing for tommies, so they were quite small. And one time I caught an 81cm, 7kg barra! People don't often believe that one, so here's the proof:


4) I have sung on stage with the Grammy Award winning band Audio Adrenaline. Sure, it was only one chorus of one song, but nevertheless...I was pulled onto the stage at a concert about 8 or 9 years ago, and go to sing a chorus of the song Beautiful while the band played. It was quite exciting, as they were my favourite band.

5) I hate singing in front of people. Alone in the car or shower, I love singing and do it a lot. But stick me in front of people, and I'm terrified. I don't know exactly how that fits with the last point, but I guess the excitement of the moment got me through!

6) The most unique thing I think I've ever eaten is kangaroo tail. It was chopped into sections (fur still attached), wrapped in foil and placed under the coals of a fire. It was exceptionally hard to peel off the hot fur without burning my fingers, and after I managed to do that I discovered that I really didn't like the taste. Oh well!

7) I have been to Uluru (Ayres Rock) but chose not to climb it. Instead, we walked around the base, and that rock is incredible!

8) I have been to extremely remote parts of the Philippines (up in the mountain ranges, where the Japanese were stopped during WWII and also where they signed their official surrender), but I have not been to Sydney.

9) There is a joke in my home town that no matter where you go, you will run into someone who knows you or knows a friend. Even in a city of 1 million people, this seems very true. When I went to the Philippines in 2008, we travelled to a rather remote village (see point 8), and I met an older lady named Lumen. When she heard where I was from, she seemed quite interested. It turns out she knew a lady who lived here. And guess what... I knew her too. I had travelled 10 hours by plane, and another 14 or so by bus away from home, and STILL met someone who knew a friend of mine. Crazy!

Sitting with Lumen at a dinner celebration

10) I don't keep a lot of non-practical clothes, but I have four formal dresses, two bridesmaid dresses and one wedding dress. Other than a couple of the formal dresses, they've all only been wore once, but I do not want to get rid of them!

11) I learnt on my wedding day to be careful how many faces you pull, because there will almost always be a camera pointed to you. For example:

*sigh* What was I doing??

12) I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that my sister was going in for a c-section with my nephew; that phone call is clearer in my mind than the one we received telling us that he had arrived! I was with her and her hubby for my niece's birth, so no phone calls to remember for that one!

13) Many of you would know this, but there are three things I detest: coffee, bacon and swans. And friends have a habit of taking photos of swans and tagging me in them on Facebook. Alyce and Naomi, I'm looking at you. Thanks...not!

14) I would love to go diving with a great white shark, provided I was in a cage. But I think the closest I've come to doing something like that was holding a crocodile...a baby one...whose jaw was tied shut...

In Broome, Western Australia

15) There is no way you could ever convince me to bungee jump. But I'd absolutely love to go sky-diving!

16) I'm allergic to dishwashing liquid. Seriously! So if you ever ask me to wash the dishes, I will flat-out refuse, unless you have gloves for me to use.

17) I always said I'd never be a teacher. Both my mum and sister are teachers, so I wonder if that had anything to do with it. But what do I do for a job now? Homeschool teacher. Dad seemed to think it was pretty funny, and so do I. I still have absolutely no desire to be a classroom teacher though.

18) I love reading and do so pretty quickly. Just this afternoon I read an entire book, and it was quite good! I read fiction much quicker than non-fiction, unless it's a biography. That's my favourite genre.

19) One of my closest friends and I disagree on many theological issues, but I don't think it has ever impacted our friendship. It can be quite funny, and we've had a number of pleasant discussions about our differences. Neither of us will change the other one's mind, but lunch breaks at college would always be more interesting if we were doing an essay on one of those issues!

20) I feel pretty blessed to be able to say that I don't have one "best friend". I have a number of close friends, without whom my life would be very different. I'm thankful for all of them, especially my sister. I know that not everyone has a relationship with their sibling like I do with mine, so I'm very grateful.

Love you Alyce!

Friday, July 5, 2013

When the evening comes: in memory of Tom Salt

The past six weeks have been difficult for my extended family. My sister's grandfather-in-law Tom Salt, aka Poppa, became very sick. I can't remember all the details, but he ended up in hospital with seizures, swelling of the brain and a few other things. Miraculously, after just five weeks he was up and walking and able to go home to his beloved wife Pam, aka Nanna. 

On Sunday night he had a massive heart attack, and was once more taken to hospital. This time it seemed certain that it would be the end of life here on earth for Poppa. On Thursday morning, Poppa died. He got to go meet his Saviour Jesus, face to face. What an experience that would have been. 

Tom with his beloved wife Pam

I didn't know him very well, but had the chance to get to know him a little while my sister and her family lived with him. He seemed like a remarkable man - full of love for his family and very generous. He was quite involved in his church and did a lot of community work with them. What I noticed most was his love for his great-grandchildren, my niece and nephew. He was always keen to tell me the latest thing they had been doing, and they adored him too. My little nephew would happily spend hours (or as long as Poppa would stay!) throwing a ball with him. No wonder little J has such good ball skills now! When Ariella died, he and his wife sent us a very cute Baby Girl card, and it is still one of my favourite cards. Since my sister's family moved to Japan, I didn't see him very much. And I missed him. I guess I should have just popped in for a visit every now and then, since I knew they wouldn't mind.

One of my current favourite worship songs is 10,000 Reasons, written by Matt Redman. My favourite parts?

Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

And on that day
When my strength is failing
The end draws near
And my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more

During his last week at home with his wife, Tom told her that he was at peace and not afraid, as he knew he was going to a better place. When the evening came for Tom, his soul was singing God's praise. I hope the same is true for me whenever my evening comes.

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