In 2003 a friend handed me a video. “Watch this,” she said. “It’s devastating.” Devastating didn’t come close. What I watched that afternoon was “Losing Layla” – a documentary made a decade ago by filmmaker Vanessa Gorman. The film was intended to be about Gorman’s pregnancy and the impact a baby would have on her life. What it ended up being, however, was something vastly different. Gorman’s much-wanted daughter, Layla, died eight hours after birth. Consequently the film became a heartbreaking, up close study in raw grief. I remember watching it with a strangled heart. And the whole time I wondered how any parent could cope with the intense pain of losing a child.
Five weeks ago I found out.
My own beautiful baby daughter Georgia Grace was stillborn at 37 weeks. Ava’s little sister entered this world without taking a single breath. Without seeing the love in my eyes or feeling the warmth of my arms around her. Without knowing how deeply she was wanted by Brad, Ava and me.
I’ve tried to write this column a hundred times in my head. And I wish I could write something beautiful and wistful but the words won’t come today. All I can tell you is that our hearts have been broken. That I have been profoundly changed in ways I can’t articulate. And that we would do anything, give up everything, to have our little girl – with her button nose and her chubby cheeks and her dark hair – back.
Grief is a strange beast. I’ve gone through the textbook stages of denial and anger, guilt and despair. I’ve talked to strangers online but avoided seeing close friends. I’ve worried that Georgie’s death will end up defining me. And then been terrified it won’t. And every day my heart aches for a little girl I never got to know.
And yet there is so much for which we are grateful. We have experienced nothing less than a tidal wave of support from family, friends and from you, Sunday Mail readers. We have been flooded with cards, flowers and emails of love and concern. Lasagnes have appeared on our doorstep. Cleaners have been paid for. One friend simply posted me a beautiful new handkerchief. And then there’s Ava whose beaming smile and demands to do the hokey pokey give us a reason to get out of bed.
For this month’s First Sunday Club I’m nominating Stillbirth Foundation Australia. Every year approximately 2000 babies, like Georgie, are stillborn and often the cause of death is never known. So in honour of Georgia, I’m asking you to donate $10 to them to help continue their research.
You can donate your $10 at www.stillbirthfoundation.org.au or send a cheque to PO Box 9, Willoughby NSW 2068.
As for Brad, Ava and me, we are coming to terms with Georgie’s death and walking into the future determined to find ways to honour her life.