Friday, August 30, 2013

Rainbow Baby: Update

About eight weeks ago, I shared the news that our second baby is on the way. Understandably, I've had a lot of questions from a lot of people...mostly the same questions! So I thought I'd update you all on how things are going, and hopefully answer those commonly asked questions!

Q: How are you going?
A: I am doing pretty well. The morning sickness eased quite a few weeks ago and only occasionally rears its head now. An easier pregnancy sickness-wise was one of our main prayers, and we're very grateful that God has answered that prayer.

Q: How far along are you?
A: I am halfway through this pregnancy now! And yes, it is going quickly.

Q: Is everything going alright with the baby? Can you feel kicks yet?
A: Yes. Things are going pretty much perfectly! I've felt kicks for weeks now and it's such a nice feeling. The scans we've had show a perfectly formed little person - ten fingers, ten toes, and a beating heart. 

Q: Is it a boy or a girl and do you have names picked?
A: We have some names picked, but won't be telling anyone what they are until this baby is born. In terms of this baby's gender, we aren't finding out. But it seems the general consensus is that it is a boy - I think my 2 year old niece is the only one to have guessed girl so far!

Q: Do you have extra medical care this time?
A: I am seeing the same midwife I saw throughout Ariella's pregnancy. She was absolutely lovely, and this pregnancy is low-risk, so I am able to have midwife care instead of seeing a doctor the whole way. I'm so grateful for this! It's nice not to have to be at the hospital for frequent appointments (or any appointments really, since my midwife comes to our home for appointments). It's also nice to know that every appointment will be with someone who knows about Ariella and was with us throughout her pregnancy, birth and the weeks afterward.

I've saved the most common question for last.

Q: Are you nervous or anxious?
A: I have to admit this is a fair question, but the answer may surprise you: no, I am no more nervous or anxious than I was at this stage with Ariella's pregnancy. That might seem crazy to you - after all, my first pregnancy ended with an unexplained, full term stillbirth. Surely I must be worried it will happen again! And initially, I was. After all, my one and only experience with being pregnant ended in stillbirth; it was all I knew. I mentioned earlier that one of our main prayers had been that I would not be as sick this pregnancy as last time. The other major prayer was that we would be calm, not anxious, and able to enjoy this pregnancy. God has well and truly answered those prayers. I am not nervous that this baby will die; in fact, I fully anticipate bringing home a living baby in January. 

One of my favourite Bible verses is this:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This pregnancy is teaching me the truth of those words. For month now, we have been presenting our requests [for a healthy baby and non-anxious parents] to God, and He's been answering. I cannot explain the peace that I feel, it certainly does transcend all understanding. As I said earlier, I fully anticipate bringing home a living baby in January.

So there you have it - an update on this pregnancy and my emotional state. I hope I've answered all your questions, but if you have any others, please leave a comment here and I'll answer them in a future post.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Words you never want to hear

There are certain words you never want to hear. When you’re a child, you don’t want to hear the words “no more chocolate” and “it’s bedtime”. When you’re a teenager, those words are “you’re grounded”. As an adult, you don’t want someone to tell you “you’re fired”. Perhaps the words are less serious, like “your team was beaten in the grand final”. There are always things we don’t want to hear. As a pregnant woman, the last thing I wanted to hear was the words “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat”. But sadly, my husband Marcus and I did hear those words and we became something we never expected...

Today I have the privilege of sharing Ariella's story on a blog called Whimsy Wonderings. It's written by the lovely Mary, who has eight children. Six in Heaven, one in her arms, and one on the way. To read the rest of my post, click here.

I adore this picture, which Mary uses on her blog and FB page.

For those who have popped over to my little corner of the blogosphere from Mary's - welcome! Thank you for joining me here. I haven't posted much lately, but I have a stack of half-written posts and some ideas floating around my head that will hopefully become posts soon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Mathias is my friend's first son, and today should have been his third birthday. Instead, today marks both his birthday and his anniversary - 3 years in Heaven. I never got to meet this much loved little boy and was saddened by the fact I was unable to attend his funeral. I remember someone telling me about the service, and how sad it was to see such a small white coffin. They said "they shouldn't need to make coffins that small". I never dreamed that Mathias' mum and I would get to know each other better because of a second little white coffin.

Today marks three years of Mathias living in Heaven and seven months for Ariella. I have no idea how it all works in Heaven, but I hope they are playing together.

Happy birthday Mathias Raphael. You are missed.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I haven't forgotten you!

Hello lovely blog readers,

It's been almost two weeks since my last blog post. Sounds almost like a confession, doesn't it? I do have a good reason...I promise:

I've been too busy saving the world from evil super-villains and just haven't had time to write.

Don't believe me? How about:

I've been to busy being the perfect housewife - cooking, cleaning, sewing - and haven't had time to write.

Pfft. That's even less believable than the first one!!

Truth be told, I just haven't felt like I have a lot to say. Life has been plodding along relatively normally; work, church, grief. Learning to live without Baby #1 and anticipating life with Baby #2. On that topic, many people have been asking me how I am feeling about this next baby. One day I'll write a post to answer all those common questions :) I also have some other ideas for posts... I just need to be in the mood to write, and then they will be done!

Before I sign off for the night, I do want to say thank you to everyone who read and shared my A-Z guide on how to help after baby loss. I've been blow away by the response to that post, and I'm so glad my thoughts have been helpful for people. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13

August 13.

Many things have happened on this day (thanks to the ever reliable Wikipedia for these events):
*1521 - Tenochtitlan, now known as Mexico City, falls to the conquistador Hernan Cortes.
*1792 - King Louis XVI of France is arrested and declared an enemy of the people.
*1913 - Stainless Steel is first produced in the UK.
*1918 - Women enrol in the US Marine Corps for the first time.
*1946 - Writer H.G. Wells dies.
*1961 - East Germany closes the border between east and west Berlin to stop people fleeing to the west.
*1969 - A ticker tape parade is held in honour of the astronauts from Apollo 11.

But without a doubt, my favourite August 13 in history is the one that occurred in 1988. Because that's when one of my favourite people was born.

Alyce, happy birthday!

Alyce is my sister and one of my closest friends.

I was her maid of honour.

She was my matron of honour.

We have a lot of thing in common, such as a love for Josh Groban and the ability to produce cute offspring! :P We even, unintentionally, had the same top while pregnant (although a few years apart)!

The one thing we don't have in common is crafting abilities... I have next to none, while Alyce makes incredible quilts. She made a pram quilt for Ariella as well as a cot quilt, both of which we love.

Ariella's cot quilt, photo taken by Alyce.

And she's got fabric to make a quilt for Baby #2 also. You can see all of her wonderful creations as Blossom Heart Quilts.

Alyce, I love you. I hope you have a wonderful day today and that the Tokyo August weather isn't too disgusting for you!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How to help after baby loss: an A-Z guide

It's hard to know what to do or how to help after a friend experiences the death of a baby (at any stage). So I decided to try and put all my thoughts of what is helpful and not helpful into one post. Some of these may only apply to a late term loss, others are applicable no matter when the loss. Some things are things you need to know to be able to help, other things are specific ideas of how to practically or emotionally help baby loss parents. I hope you find this list helpful:

A - Acknowledge the baby.
Don't pretend the child didn't exist. Don't think that because they are no longer here that they do not count. They do. And they always will. Use the baby's name in conversation and don't be afraid to mention them "in case it makes the parents sad"...they are already sad! Knowing you acknowledge their baby is likely to bring a smile to their face. And don't be afraid to ask about the baby. Ask who they looked liked, what the birth was like (if this is appropriate for your level of friendship), what memories they have with their child. 

B - Be there for your friends.
Please, whatever you do, don't avoid your friends. Be there for them, whatever that looks like. One thing I really appreciated was getting text messages every few days from a friend, or cards  every week or two in the mail from a family member.There was no pressure from them to have to talk, or to be ok to go out. Whatever your friend needs, be there.

C - Cook a meal.
It is very hard to remember to do the basic things when in the initial stages of grief. The sadness is so overwhelming that often the parents won't remember that they need to eat until they are desperately hungry. The motivation to cook can also disappear. As such, it is exceptionally handy to have some meals ready to heat and eat. A few practical tips: keep the food simple (no spicy curries!) unless you know what they like, consider using disposable containers so the parents don't have to think about returning dishes, and be willing to drop the food off and go (don't expect or force a long conversation). 

D - Don't give platitudes.
Sayings like she's in a better place,  God needed him up there or everything happens for a reason are not that helpful. I think my arms would have been a perfectly good place for Ariella, what "need" does God have for my baby up there, and I don't care if there is a reason, it still hurt! I personally dislike the phrase your baby was too beautiful for this earth. Some parents find great comfort in it; I do not. Sure, Ariella is beautiful and she isn't on this earth anymore. But does that make the opposite true, that any future children who live are too ugly to go to Heaven straight away? No. Perhaps you would like me to say I'm sorry your newborn was just ugly enough to stay on earth. I don't think so. So please, don't give platitudes unless you know the parent will appreciate them. And remember, no little phrase will take the pain away.

E - Expect nothing = don't have assumptions.
I found it so frustrating when people expected me to feel or behave a certain way. If people assumed I was going to be upset on a particular day, it would make me feel guilty if I wasn't. Every person will grieve in their own way and every parent has the right to determine for themselves how they feel or behave. Please don't have (or especially convey) any expectations of grieving parents. Allow them to be sad. Allow them to be happy. Allow them the freedom to express their grief however that may be.

F - Flexible. 
Losing a baby turns the parents whole lives upside-down. It's hard to commit to things, so be flexible with your friends. Please don't expect them to commit to events or get offended if they don't turn up to something. Please be flexible with them.

G - Give financially.
This is more applicable for a mid to late term loss, rather than an early miscarriage. Once the baby reaches 20 weeks gestation, Australian law states that the child must receive a proper burial or cremation, which can be costly to the family. The parents will probably be taking time off work too, which can add to the financial pressure (although they may wish to cover these costs themselves). We found it so lovely to not have to worry about money for a few weeks, thanks to some very generous gifts from friends. Obviously not everyone can give financially, and there should never be pressure for you to do so. 

H - Hug them if appropriate.
A lot of people use hugs to offer comfort, and that's great. But be appropriate - not everyone enjoys hugs from people they don't know very well! If you don't know the parents well, ask before giving them a hug. 

I - Invite them to spend time with you.
This one will depend on your friends. Some people will desperately want to be around people, while others will value their privacy more than ever. You will know what type your friends are; the most important thing is that you are there for them, in whatever way is best. 

J - Joyful news can be shared, but sensitively.
Even though your friend's baby has died, chances are they will still want to hear any joyful news of yours. But please be sensitive - don't tell them something exciting if they are in the middle of crying! Also, if your news has to do with a baby, please think carefully about how to tell them. Some friends of ours had a baby a few days after Ariella was born, and they thoughtfully sent us a message before they announced it on Facebook. This meant that we didn't come across baby pictures unexpectedly and had the chance to hide this friend's pictures if we wanted to.

K - Keep in contact.
I know baby loss can be an awkward topic, but please, stay in contact with your friends. I had some people who dropped almost all contact after finding out about Ariella's birth, and that was really hard to deal with. Even if all you can manage is "hello", say that. Don't say nothing. Please.

L - Laugh when they laugh.
Essentially what I want to say is this: one of the best ways to help is to not try to cheer your friend up when they are sad or make them feel guilty for being happy. If they are happy, then join them in that. If they are upset, cry with them. Let them know you miss their child too. 

M - Miscarriage counts. 
Acknowledge that it's a real loss. It is. Don't minimise it; don't say "at least you know you can get pregnant." Acknowledge that they have lost a child.

N - Newborns are hard to be around. 
If you have a newborn and your friend has lost a baby, don't expect anything (good or bad) from them. The parents may want to see and hold your child, or they may have decided that they won't hold a newborn until they have another baby themselves. Personally, I struggle a lot seeing newborns and have no desire to hold one. Other friends of mine have gone to visit newborns and have even held them. There is no rule about how bereaved parents will react to your baby, so please be gentle and don't get offended if they don't want to see your baby.

O - Offer a listening ear.
Sometimes the most important thing is just to listen. Not offering advice. Not trying to make the parents feel happy/better. Just listen.

P - Patient. 
Be patient with your friends; give them time to grieve and don't expect them to be the same people they were before. It's likely that they will never be the same, and that's ok. A large part of their heart is missing, and the last thing they need is people impatiently expecting them to be "back to normal" sometime.

Q - Questions are better than statements.
I mentioned above (under "expect nothing") that assumptions aren't helpful at all. And statements often assume something. "You must be so sad every day" is an assumption that leaves little room for the parents to be honest, and it can make them feel guilty if they have actually felt some joy that day. It's better to ask a question about how they are feeling than to assume you know. 

R - Recognise differences. 
Recognise that every person is different; every loss is different. What has helped me may not help someone else. On the flip-side, what has been hurtful to one parent will often be hurtful to another; no one wants to hear that "their baby wasn't a real person" (oh yes, I've heard of that happening!). Take the time to think about what your friend needs, and do that. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

S - Shop for them.
I found it so difficult to go to the shops after Ariella was born. Firstly, there would always be babies around, a constant reminder of what I no longer had. And secondly, I was scared I would bump into someone I knew but didn't have the capacity to talk to at that moment. Some friends got together to get us a box of fresh fruit and veggies delivered for five weeks, and it was a wonderful gift. It meant that not only did we not have to face going to the shops, but we didn't have to remember to buy fruit and veggies. 

T - Time does not heal. 
Time may dampen the grief, but I don't think it will heal. I'm only six months down the track, but I've heard this from people much further along. So please don't expect the parents to be better just because it's six months, one year or ten years down the track. 

U - Understanding.
Please be understanding, but don't say "I understand exactly how you feel" because you don't. Even if you yourself have had a child die, the circumstances would have been different, and all people react to things differently. Even my husband doesn't understand exactly how I feel, nor I do understand exactly his grief. Don't try to make their grief fit your experience, but let them share how they are grieving, and try to understand.

V - Volunteer specific help. 
In the midst of grief, it's very hard to think about what you need. So when someone says "let me know if I can do anything" it's difficult to come up with an answer! If you can cook, offer a meal (and perhaps offer to store it in your freezer until it is needed). Offer to clean, do dishes, pick up groceries, anything! Just don't be offended if the answer is no. And please, keep asking. So many people offer in the first weeks (when parents are so overwhelmed that they don't know what they need), but by the time parents can think of what they need, there's few offers of help.

W - Write a letter or card.
Texts, emails and Facebook messages are great, but they don't last. A card or letter is something tangible, something that will last and something that can be read whenever, without needing to scroll back through a history of conversation. I currently have a handmade card I received from some friends for Mothers Day still on display in our lounge room and another card in my car so that I smile when I hop into the car and see it. Plus I know exactly where all the other cards are and have picked them up multiple times to read. A physical note, letter or card can become treasured.

X - I don't know what to say.
I have to admit, I really couldn't think of something to say for the letter X. Which just made me think, it's perfectly ok to tell a bereaved parent that you don't know what to say. It's better to acknowledge that rather than say nothing at all. 

Y - You can say congratulations. 
One of the hard things in the first few weeks after Ariella's birth was that very few people actually congratulated us on our little girl. For example, consider sending a baby card instead of a sympathy card. For more of my thoughts on this, read my post about it here.

Z - Zonked.
The parents are likely to be exhausted, so please be aware of that. If the mother has given birth,  that is tiring, and the body takes a while to fully recover, even if it was an "easy, natural" delivery! Probably more so if there was surgery involved. It's likely that the father has to do more around the house because of the mum's physical limitations. On top of all of this, both parents are dealing with the grief over their child's death. Grief is exceptionally tiring! Both parents are likely to feel zonked, so please allow them space and time to regain energy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fab Friday

There's a group I am part of on Facebook that has decreed every Friday to be "Fabulous Friday" - that is, only positive posts are allowed in that group each Friday. I think it took the group a bit of getting used to, but I'm really glad the group admins have persisted and kept it going each week. Because last week, I thought Friday was anything BUT fabulous...

I'd had a difficult week. Too many milestones, not enough distractions (although, if I'm honest, the lack of distractions was largely due to my lack of motivation). On top of my own troubles that week, there were some things going on in the lives of friends that affected my emotions too. I got to Friday, heard some more bad news, and my bad week got even worse. As much as I wanted to vent, I knew that I couldn't do it in that Facebook group, because it was "Fabulous Friday".

Instead of venting elsewhere, the concept of Fab Friday made me stop and try to find a positive in my day. Although I thought I wouldn't be able to, when I thought hard enough, I find my positive for the day. It was so good to have to think of a positive, because there is almost always a positive in each day. Even when my baby has died.

Today, one week later, I've had a much better day. Lots of positives, including having a whole day to spend relaxing with hubby (who had a day off). A picnic lunch. A sleep-in. It's days like today that remind me that life is good. And it's always worth looking for a positive.

What's your positive thing on this Fab Friday?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

She had my hands

When a baby is born, there are normally so many comments about which parent the child looks most like, which feature resembles which parent, etc. Since most people only got to see Ariella through photos, people didn't really get a chance to know what our baby girl looked like, who she resembled most, etc. Some comments were made from the photos we shared, and the majority of people said she looked most like her daddy. I love that! I got to carry her for her life, but she looked like him. Not everyone says it (those things will always be debated!) but it was probably a two-thirds majority :)

In one particular picture that we shared, I think it's so obvious that she has her daddy's nose. But people have only seen a few photos of our girl, and I realised on the weekend that there's so much that people never saw or knew. So please indulge me while I gush about my daughter for a while:

*She had my hands. Long, skinny fingers. You know how newborns will flail their arms around and often you end up getting poked in the eye? I imagine Ariella could have some serious eye-digging with her long fingers!

*She was LONG! She was 54cm (21.25") in length, which is 4cm (1.5") longer than the average (and her weight came in at just below average). Hearing that measurement made a number of things from pregnancy make sense...since my baby bump often seemed to have opposite sides moving at the same time :) Neither myself or my husband are tall, so I wonder if Ariella would have been tall, or if she was just getting a head start on the whole height thing. Her weight meant she may have fit quite nicely in the 00000 size clothes, but her long length meant there was no way that was going to happen!

*I think she had a nose and ears just like her daddy, but her cheeks looked like mine. And she had the same hairline of both her daddy and mummy, since we have pretty much the same.

*Her eyes were blue, but then again, so are the eyes of many newborns! I'll always wonder if they would have changed colour later, but I think they would have stayed blue. Hubby has blue eyes, so I think she would have taken after him.

*She had brown hair. Lots of it. And unlike the old wives tale, I didn't get the crazy amounts of heartburn that is apparently caused by the baby having lots of hair...and for that I am grateful! Seeing her brown hair for the first time was a shock, since both hubby and I were quite blonde as babies! Her hair had a slight curl to it too, which definitely matches my wavy hair, not hubby's perfectly straight hair. I had ringlets as a little girl, and I think Ariella would have had them as well. Who knows if that's true, but that's what I think :)

Thinking about what she looked like makes me wonder what this next baby will look like. In some families, the babies look practically identical while other families can have babies that look completely different! I wonder how long this baby will be, what colour hair and eyes they'll have, who they'll take after most. Only five months until we find out!

Monday, August 5, 2013

I miss

When I flipped the calender to August, two little words that I had written jumped out at me: return capsule. Back in January, we had hired a car capsule to use for six months, and it was due to be returned six months after Ariella's due date. Of course, we returned it much sooner than that, but the note of the original return date remained on the calender. And seeing it made my heart jump.

I miss the days when my heart wouldn't jump unexpectedly.

I miss the days when people wouldn't avoid me.

I miss feeling truly happy.

I miss having motivation to do things.

I miss holding babies.

I miss enjoying meeting new people.

I miss life before January 30; I miss Ariella.
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