Sunday, June 30, 2013

Five months


Every now and then, I stop and realise how much life has changed since the end of January. The grief is still with me, it still hurts just the same, but I can think about it less. It's not at the forefront of my mind all the time. And that is nice. People sometimes say to me that I should think about what Ariella would want for me.

Would she want me to keep going with life? Yes. 

Would she want me to get up and go out, even though it's hard? Of course. 

But would she want me to take care of myself, taking time out when needed? Absolutely

There are still some things that I find incredibly hard. And to be honest, some of them are things that "should" be easy. But I'm ok with not being ok. It's only been five months. In the scheme of things, that's not that long. Not when my baby's died.

Five months today, baby girl.


This post is dedicated to baby Corbin. He shares the same birthday as Ariella, and
joined her in Heaven two and a half days later. Very loved and very missed.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Welcome

I had the honour this month of sharing Ariellas story in the Sands SA newsletter. My blog link was also shared, so I wanted to quickly post to say welcome to anyone who has come as a result :)

I haven't posted a lot in the past fortnight, but am usually posting regularly. Feel free to look through the archives, to discover more of Ariella's story and our life since her birthday in January. I also have a few posts aimed at friends of baby loss parents (what to say, what not to say,etc) that you might find helpful to show friends.

If you read the Sands newsletter because you have lost one or more precious children, I am so sorry for your loss. It's a club that no one wants to join, but I hope you find some comfort through Sands or this blog.

Larissa

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Flashbacks

(Trigger Warning - In this post I'm sharing about my experiences of flashbacks, including flashbacks of a car accident I was in. Please only read further if this will not cause you any flashbacks. I don't want to hurt anyone.)

My first introduction to flashbacks came a few years ago, after I was in a car crash on a country highway. I wasn't injured too badly (which was a miracle) but emotionally I was a mess. It was a long time before I could travel on country roads without flinching or crying, especially if the intersection we were approaching resembled the accident site. It was worse if I was a passenger, as I had been a passenger in the crash. Sometimes all it took was the bump of a car tyre hitting the curb to make me jump. And sometimes I could smell the accident - the rubber of the tyres, the smell of the air bag, etc. It was awful. And while I'm mostly ok these days, I do still struggle at times, especially when travelling on highways.

This year I'm having flashbacks of a different kind. 

Flashbacks of leaving our daughter in our hospital room, of the nerve-wracking drive to the ultrasound where her death was confirmed, of having to tell family that our baby had died. Sometimes I remember the Saturday...day 3, when baby-blues normally set in. Curled up in a ball on our couch, crying the most I'd ever cried and thinking I must be going crazy, only for my midwife to remind me that day 3 is always the tough one, and that of course it was going to be tougher for me. I flashback to the agony of laying our baby girl into her coffin, and walking out of the room.  Of feeling like I'm a failure because I didn't deliver a living baby. 

Flashbacks. Flashbacks. Flashbacks. 

Why is it that I rarely flashback to the better memories? Of seeing her for the first time, the two days we spent with her, or the hilarious moments during pregnancy when she made my belly into all sorts of crazy shapes? What about eating pizza with my husband and our pastor, a nice distraction during early labour? Or the ultrasounds when we could see her happily wriggling about? Why can't I remember THOSE moments? 

Instead I hear a song that was of great comfort in that first week, and instead of being comforted I am confronted by flashbacks of raw grief and empty arms. I drive past the hospital going to and from work, and flashback to just how scary it was to drive there on the Monday not knowing if our baby was alive or not. I see newborns in  their parents' arms and flashback to walking out of the hospital room and funeral home with oh-so-empty arms. 

It's hard. So very hard.

I assume I'm not the only person who struggles with this. So if you also struggle, I want to offer you some encouragement - it is possible to get through the flashbacks.

A few months ago I was really struggling with guilt; I was feeling as though it was my fault she had died. And that is ridiculous. It's not. For me, every single test that was done came back saying her death was unexplained. But that didn't stop the guilty thoughts from creeping in. There's a verse in the Bible that I valued a lot at that time. In 2 Corinthians 10 it says that we are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. When the guilty thoughts came in, I had to take them captive and make it obedient to Christ, which for me meant lining it up against what I knew to be true of the situation and God (He did not say it was my fault, nor did the tests). When I did that, I was able to move past the thoughts of guilt and not get stuck in them.

I think the same applies for the flashbacks. If I take them captive, I am not letting them control me. If I take them to Christ, I can trust Him to comfort me and replace them with better memories.

It's not just positive thinking. That relies on our own strength, and I know for sure that I do not have the strength for that. I'm as weak as can be. But my God is strong. And by taking my thoughts to Him, it is possible to overcome. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

I miss her

I feel like I don't have a lot to write about lately. I've started posts but never finished them, I've even opened up new posts and not written anything. It's as though life has settled into a non-blogworthy (totally a word!) routine. Each week seems the same now, it's as though I have reached an even greater level of the "normal" that I wrote about back in March. Except there's one thing - no matter how normal my life seems, there's always something lurking in the mind and heart. Sometimes it's pushed to the back and at others moments it's so much at the front that I can't see past. I miss her

I go to church each Sunday. I go to work during the week. I might catch up with friends. I can smile. I can laugh. When I meet new people, there's no way that they'll know just by looking or observing me that something is always so, so wrong. I miss her.

I never knew I could miss someone so much until I met my baby girl. I never knew I could live with such an ache in my heart. I wish I had something more to say. Something that might encourage you, or point you towards the reason I can continue (Jesus and a relationship with Him). But today I've got nothing. Just I miss her.





Saturday, June 15, 2013

She literally backed away

If I wasn't already convinced that we need to break the silence around stillbirth, I am now. Recently I met a lady who I hadn't seen since before Ariella was born. I don't know her very well, and we don't share many of the same social circles. As she was walking past a room, she saw me inside and came over to where I was sitting. She excitedly said "you've had you're baby, haven't you?" and of course, my heart started pounding. I hate having to tell people the bad news, because I feel like it ruins the conversation. So I said to her that yes, I did have our baby. She then asked me what we'd had, and I said that we'd had a girl, but she was stillborn. She very awkwardly said she was sorry, and then starting backing away. Literally. She was still looking at me, but taking backwards steps away from me. It's always hard having to tell people about Ariella's death, but I'm not sure I've ever felt as awkward as I did at that moment, watching her literally back away.

Stillbirth isn't widely talked about, so many people don't know how to react when they hear about it. If you hear about a stillbirth (especially an unexpected one) consider asking what the child's name is, or when their birthday is. If you believe in prayer, maybe tell the parents you will be praying for them (but make sure that if you say this, you follow through and actually pray). Tell them that you are sorry that this happened to them and that you will be thinking of them. Depending on your relationship with them, perhaps you could give them a hug...but ask first! If nothing else, admit that you don't know what to say

I know it's hard to hear about a baby who was stillborn. When I hear of a friend's loss, it hits me hard. I feel as though I stumble backwards in shock. It's ok to feel that, just please don't actually do that. Please don't back away...


Friday, June 14, 2013

Held Your Whole Life

Held Your Whole Life is an organisation in the USA that make necklaces for people who have lost a baby due to miscarriage or stillbirth. If you're in the US, it's completely free, while those outside the US only have to pay for postage. I put my name on the list in May, and I received my necklace this week. It is absolutely beautiful!

Ariella's necklace: photo by Held Your Whole Life

All of the necklaces they make say "Held Your Whole Life" around the outside, and the name (or date, if that is what you'd like) is hand-stamped by volunteers. I got to choose the butterfly and the little heart - they have a variety of options to choose. About two weeks after I had requested my necklace and chosen the heart, I received this key-ring from a friend...which has a similar heart!

One thing I do want to highlight is that to receive a necklace, your baby must have been lost to miscarriage or stillbirth, not newborn death. And it must be the parents who request the necklace, you cannot request one for a friend (they used to do that, but received complaints, so have had to stop). They open for requests on the first of each month, and my necklace was posted within a month. It came in lovely little origami box and it was such a delight to see the package in my letterbox after I came home from work!

I do already have one Ariella Jade necklace, which some very generous friends bought for me. This necklace will not replace that one; it's a different style and now I won't have to be worried about wearing the other one so much that the writing disappears (as I have a habit of fiddling with the necklace, which has begun to slowly wear out the letters)!

If you know someone who has lost a baby and would appreciate a necklace like this, please share with them about Held Your Whole Life. They do a wonderful thing by providing mementos to bereaved parents; I know I am thankful :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Things I Wonder: Heaven

Some days I wonder how Heaven works. Is Ariella a baby, little girl or older girl? I don't know, but whenever I imagine it, she's a little girl, perhaps three or four years old. I also wonder who she has met (aside from Jesus, I know she's met Him)...

Do her and sweet Evie Caris dance among the flowers? Has she met handsome little Samuel, and do they tease each other like many little boys and girls do? Did precious Jonah Pete show her around, since he's been there for longer? What about Desiree Amelie and Lucy Ann? Do the three of them sit and giggle together? Do Ariella and Baby Pierce smile at how they have brought their mums closer? 

Those are just the little ones. Has she met Geoff and Steve - two amazing men of God who would have been so excited to know that I was pregnant? 

I kind of hope so. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Help

Asking for help. 

I don't know why, but that is something that I find very hard to do. I've been thinking about why I find it so hard, and I've come to a conclusion: it's because I don't want to burden other people with my needs. 

Yes, I know. That's ridiculous. When someone asks me for help, or even vaguely mentions a need, I start to think of ways I can help. I don't react by thinking they are a burden! So why should I assume that people would do the same for me? It's not fair to my friends to think that, because it means I am underestimating their care and compassion. So I want to say this:

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to ask widely for help. 

On Sunday I asked (via Facebook) if any friends could make us some meals, because I struggle to cook (side-effect of grief) and Marcus is working everyday. I hate knowing that he's going to come home from a full day of work only to have to both look after me and cook. I wish I could make it easier for him, but I just cannot handle having to cook. It's strange, but true. So, after having sporadically mentioned to friends/family that I needed help, I realised that wasn't enough. So I asked broadly. I was blown away by how many responded, and by who responded. It wasn't just the people that I see regularly, it was also people I haven't seen in years! I felt truly blessed by people's offers of help, and I know Marcus will enjoy the break from cooking the meals will bring. 

Initially, after Ariella's birth, we had almost too many offers of help - we didn't know what to do with them all. I was saddened to realise a few months later that we hadn't accepted offers from some our closest friends. People wanted to help then, and although 4.5 months have passed, I shouldn't have assumed that people no longer wanted to help. 

Asking for help. It's hard. It's humbling. But I'm learning that it's worth it. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Wonderful Present


My mum has made a cross-stitch for each of her grandchildren, and yesterday we received Ariella's completed one. Isn't it lovely? Mum picked the design and Marcus and I picked the yellow matting and white frame. It's now hanging in her room, and it makes me smile whenever I think of it. A perfect addition to our little stash of Ariella items!

Thanks Mum!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Struggles

I read an article on the Still Standing website today that was quite good; it was called Letting Death be Your Teacher. It's somewhat confronting to read my own thoughts, but written by someone else in a much more eloquent way than I would be able to:
I know death has changed me when prayer is war. How do you love and praise Someone whom you feel so deeply betrayed you? Or, perhaps worse, seems to have forgotten about you?
I know death has changed me when life seems like the exception, and death seems like the rule.
I know death has changed me when I choose to fight with God in prayer. I give Him my pain. My betrayal. My anger. And I place my bruised, bleeding heart into His perfect hands. He doesn't heal my hurt. But He does always hold it for me.
The author lists a number of things, but these three are what got me. Sometimes I worry that I come across as not having any issues with the fact that God didn't heal Ariella. That because I say "his love is deeper still" or "God is still good" that somehow I'm this perfect Christian, even though I've been through the worst thing a parent could.

It's not true.

I struggle. A lot. More than I care to admit sometimes. I've never once doubted that God is still God, or that He is still good. He is. And that's why I have problems. If He wasn't good, I could not have expected Him (or even asked Him) to re-start Ariella's heart. But He is good. Therefore, I (subconsciously) expect Him to do what I say is good. 

And that's why I have to fight with God in prayer, just like the quote above says. Because I am in pain. I do feel betrayed. And I do feel angry. My heart is bruised, and sometimes I worry that it will never stop bleeding. But the reason I can do that, the reason I can come to Him, is because He is still good. He is bringing good out of this situation. And I'm thankful for that. For example,  the makers of Return To Zero - the movie I blogged about here - were hoping to reach 50,000 pledges before the meeting with Hollywood. They reached 56,000+!! Ariella's death is helping to break the silence surrounding pregnancy loss. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for the friends who have told me how their life has changed since January 30, because of Ariella's story. I'm grateful for the people I have connected with in ways that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. Sarah. Heather. Brittany. Annika. Marsha. To name just a few. Precious friendships God has brought into my life (or deepened) because of Ariella. 

Don't get me wrong, when it all boils down, I'd rather have my daughter in my arms still. I don't have that, but I do have God, who, despite my pain, anger and betrayal, is still good. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A New Morning

My friend Annika wrote a beautiful poem yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you all. She dedicated it to our Ariella, as well as all the other babies lost too soon. Part of me wants to comment on which bits I find particularly applicable, but I will restrain, and just let you read this beautiful poem.

A New Morning - Annika Pearce

The dawn of a new day breaks
The horizon a hewy peach
The sun peaks over the mountains
Igniting the first morning without you

It feels like you were with me for a lifetime
It feels like you were never really here
Not ever mine to keep forever
A precious gift to look after for just a short while

Maybe God chose me because I am strong
I used to be strong and now I feel like I will crumble
He chose me to grow and nurture you
And now he has the most precious angel

The sun is sitting high in the blue
Surveying the landscape before me
Its light will never touch your face
Nor warm the coolness that overcame you

My love for you makes me cry
My smile is lost in a deep empty ocean
The jealousy stabs my heart a thousand times each beat
My arms ache and my heart is heavy without you near it

The sun falls, the blue is darkening
The world is preparing to sleep and I wish for it to never come
Sleeping stillness, that silence has defeated me forever
On that first day without you

Monday, June 3, 2013

Break the Silence

I've written before about the shocking statistics of stillbirth - more common than SIDS, more common than road accident deaths, etc. They are truly shocking, and yet it is almost never talked about. It is a difficult topic. I know that more than most. It's difficult to hear a doctor tell you that your unborn child has no heartbeat, it's difficult to tell family and friends. Words do not explain how difficult it is to say goodbye to your precious baby, knowing you won't see them again this side of Heaven.

Stillbirth is difficult. It's confronting. 

But the silence needs to be broken. 

People need to talk about stillbirth; it needs to lose the stigma that is attached to it at the moment. And one thing that is working to break the silence is a film called Return to Zero. It's based on a true story of a couple whose baby boy died before he was born, and it follows their journey through the heartache, an almost broken marriage, and a subsequent pregnancy.

The thing is that there is no guarantee Return to Zero will make it to cinemas. Hollywood needs to be convinced there is an audience for this film, and that is why the film's makers have come up with the Pledge form. If this movie makes it to cinemas - would you go see it when it is released? If you would, will you sign a pledge saying so? The film's makers are meeting with people in Hollywood on Thursday morning (US time), and are hoping to have 50,000 people pledged to see the movie. This meeting could determine whether the film is released to cinemas. It needs to be shown; the silence needs to be broken

The link for the pledge form is here. There is a spot for your "local leader" - you can put my name (Larissa Genat), even if you don't live local to me. Will you sign up? Will you help break the silence around stillbirth?

I wanted to let you know that I don't receive anything from the makers of Return to Zero for this blog post; I am writing simply because I believe this film needs to be seen. If a certain number of people pledge to see it, and put my full name as the local leader, I do receive a little gift. But I'm not encouraging you to sign up because of that, I can't even remember what the gift is! I simply believe that this film will be helpful to break the silence. That is the sole reason I am encouraging you to sign up and see the movie when it's released.

Together we can break the silence


 
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