First Sunday Club November 2010: Stillbirth Foundation Australia
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.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.
I am so sorry- I cried for your family when I read your column this morning. I wish you could hold Georgia in your arms. So sorry and sad. No-one should have this happen to them.
Words fail me. Take care Bec and hold those you love close. You are brave and thank you for baring your heart to us. My thoughts to Brad and all those who know and love you. A virtual hug, Sue
I cried reading what you wrote. I too found out how a parent copes with the pain of losing a child. I found out three times. I found out that they don’t really cope at all. I found out that giving birth to a child changes you profoundly. Even if that child doesn’t live. ((hugs)) to you. I’m glad you have Brad and Ava. And that you have Georgie in your heart always.
I too cried when I read your column. I don’t know what to say, there is nothing I can say to try and ease your pain. All I can do is pray for your family.
My heart was heavy and my face wet with tears yesterday after reading your about your loss. I cannot begin to imagine what you and your family are going through and the strength that you had to write your column. Absolutely noone should have to experience what you are going through.
I have made a donation to the stillbirth foundation. Hopefully my little bit will contribute towards some answers.
May you and all the little angels find some peace.
First off, I would like to say how sorry I am to hear of the loss of your precious baby daughter, Georgia Grace. It is surely the most devastating situation we will ever have to endure. There are no words to ease the pain. The path becomes a little less rocky as time goes on but the valleys and peaks remind us of the long soulful journey we all must make. I would like to share my story with you.
“Now, I am in the same situation as you, thousands like you — like us — dealing with the loss of a child. The reasons may differ but the result is still the same, pain and heartache.
I am an RN and my husband is an Emergency Room MD. I have four children and never thought anything of it. I had heard of stillbirths but thought they occurred during labor when there was a complication. Why should I think anything different? The medical profession has hidden the details and frequency from us all.
Then came my son and my daughter in law. Their first child, a daughter, was born still at 36.3 weeks on June 28th, 2009. Danielle noticed no movement — for a baby that was very active a lot of the time – one Saturday. She had read the books which reassured her and my son that the babies slowed down at 36 weeks –that was normal. My son, now a resident, was a medical student at MUSC in Charleston at the time. We got the call on Saturday night, “We lost the baby.”
I was in utter disbelief and total shock. What — How — What Happened? Bob told us it could be genetic, it could be an infection, it could be the cord, it could be a lot of things. My mind raced and was paralyzed at the same time. The ultrasound was done, there was no heartbeat.
My precious granddaughter, our first, was now an angel. My heart ached and tears could not come. My daughter, Nicola, had just gotten married in Charleston on May 1, 2009. Danielle was the pregnant bridesmaid and so beautiful. We were all set to welcome the newest member to the clan on July 24th.
I think our angel was going to be Chloe Gabriella or Lillian Bleu – depending on her features and who she looked like. But we welcomed our precious Roberta Rae on June 28th with all of the love our hearts could hold, as well as, all of the sorrow. Bob, short for Robert, had nicknamed the baby, Roberta, after himself! That was what everyone called her and that was the name she had been hearing for eight months while Bob spoke to Danielle’s tummy. So, Bob and Danielle decided to call her the name she knew, the name she kicked to, the name she swam to and the name she danced to. Her “in utero” name was totally unplanned yet fit her perfectly.
My husband and I are now committed advocates for the stillborn. We will do whatever it takes to enlighten the medical community and parents to be, as well as, to find a cause as to “WHY” when there are or are not any answers.
I don’t know if you are familiar with Dr. Jason Collins of The Pregnancy Institute, http://www.preginst.com, in Louisiana. He has been researching the issue of Umbilical Cord Accidents (UCA) for over 20 years. According to research by Dr. Collins and like minded Obstetricians throughout the world, the cord is a definite risk factor contributing to stillbirth and a definite catalyst for stillbirth from 28 weeks onward. In the words of Dr. Collins, “Why is no one talking about this?”
My brother was killed by a drunk driver when he was 12 back in 1967. I don’t think my father ever got over the loss. My mother was amazing. Of course she was filled with grief, but she gathered up the pieces and made our lives as children wonderful. She didn’t skip a beat. She laughed, cheered her baseball team on the TV and life went on. I want it to be that way for me, for Danielle and Bob, for everyone who experiences the birth of a precious sleeping one. I don’t want the grief to consume us. I want us to be able to smile when we hear the name, Roberta Rae.
As my dear friend says, “This is a club we never would have joined. We were chosen.”
Perhaps my sweet stillbirth mom, Kristina, said it best on Facebook, “You don’t get over it, you just get through it. You don’t get by it, because you can’t get around it. It doesn’t get better, it just gets different. Everyday…Grief puts on a new face.”
Big Love, Hugs & Blessings, (BLHB)
for The Star Legacy Foundation
http://www.starlegacyfoundation.org (beautiful new website under construction)
Chairman, Family Advisory Council
On Blogspot ~ familiesneedtoknow.blogspot.com
On Facebook ~ Star Legacy Foundation: Families Need to Know!
On Twitter ~ BabieBeat
I often read your column in the CM. I read this only recently.
I am so deeply sorry that your beautiful daughter and Ava’s little sister, Georgie, died. I am sure she was as beautiful as you all are heartbroken. I wish I had some comfort to offer, some words that would ease the pain, but there is nothing that will heal this wound in your heart and in your family’s lives.
The only cold comfort that I can offer is that you are not alone, and there are many of us bereaved parents who ‘walk amongst’ the living. I don’t say that in a tongue-in-cheek way but rather a matter of fact way. The death of your child, your beautiful baby, your future, the unrequited love that you have inside you, just twists and turns inside, without being fulfilled. This is a life-changing event. You are you, but you are changed. You will have your new normal. I so wish that you and your family did not have to experience this. It is one of the darkest moments of life, if not the darkest moment, to lose your much loved and much wanted child.
As you can probably tell, I too have found out the hard way how it feels to lose your baby in utero, my daughter Janaki was stillborn at 21 weeks in 2007 (unexplained stillbirth) and my ‘rainbow’ daughter Little My died in 2009, because of a weak cervix. I have had 6 other first trimester miscarriages. I have scraped up the courage and the finances for infertility treatment 13 times with the above results. We have no live children. In September this year, now that Qld got the surrogacy laws passed, we attempted this and our altruistic gestational surrogate was carrying our beautiful ‘rainbow’ baby boy. Because the state of the law is such that we have no rights in this country, she took it upon herself to have him terminated at 21 weeks. Three children, three huge chunks of our future, gone. Our family would have been complete had they lived. All the money spent on infertility treatment, gone. The only thing I have left is my self, and she too, is slowly slipping away, ever changing.
The stillbirth foundation and the work they do is amazing. I have found ways of trying to rebel against society’s unwillingness to speak about the taboo subject of a child’s death. Minor ways, like car decals with awareness stickers (www.october15th.com) and personalised stickers for my children and their years of birth/death. A memorial tattoo adorns my chest; I have to add to it for my baby boy. In 2008, I donated bereavement bears to 2 hospitals in memory of my daughter. Small things. To acknowledge our children’s lives, that they existed.
I do apologise for the length of my post. I tend to ramble. My primary reason was to reach out and tell you how sorry I am, whilst knowing that nothing will make you feel any better right now, when your pain is so raw.
I wanted to share with you a favorite poem of mine, written by Marisa de los Santos in “From the Bones Out”. It moves me in ways that I cannot describe articulately. Much like my first daughter Janaki’s ee cummings poem (I carry your heart with me).
Please take care. Thinking of you and your family during this time, and of course precious Georgie missed by her mom, dad and sister.
For a Stillborn
You haven’t left me empty but too full
of children, every possible of you.
to love each one could make my heart go dull,
but still I try and sing each night to lull
shut eyes of green and black and gray and blue.
You haven’t left me empty but too full
of singing (my throat burns). I feel the pull
of tiny nursing mouths. I’m hungry, too,
to love each one. what makes a heart go dull
as sunstruck eyes? (I’ve learned the sun can fool:
it rises and we think the day is new).
You haven’t left me empty but too full
of mornings, all my infants’ wakings, all
their cries. My arms can only lift a few.
To love each one will make my heart go dull.
In not becoming one, you now are all.
I wish (a think I know I shouldn’t do)
you hadn’t left me. Empty and too full,
my love, my heart refuses to go dull
by Marisa de los Santos
in “From the Bones Out”
I’m very sorry for your loss.
While I don’t really, completely understand what you’re going through in my own way I know a bit about grief. I hope you know that whatever you’re feeling and however you choose to deal with your loss is completely normal. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
It’s not really my place, but I’d suggest that as soon as you’re able, write Georgia Grace’s story. Memory fades too quickly and even though the words will hurt, you wont have the same recollection in the years to come.
Bec, yet again, simply by sharing your own experiences (this time, of loss and grief) you’ve helped me and so many others. You’ve described perfectly how grief can consume; how we battle to “move on” yet can at the same time feel guilty if we do.
You’re an amazing woman, a brilliant writer, a gorgeous mother, wife and friend and one person who just by being you, makes this world a better place in which to live.
Love & hugs always…Big Al xx
Hello, just wishing you well. It’s such a tough topic that doesn’t get discussed. I wish all mothers and all women everywhere get support. It’s an invisible topic, so maybe it’s hard to get started with helping.
Thanks for sharing, it’s one way of healing the pain, I guess.
Oh Bec, your words were beautiful. I won’t pretend to know what you are going through, I just want you to know you have a wonderful heart and I am so sad that is broken. Bern x
Dear Bec, I have tried to write to you many times to express my grief at your loss, but could never really find the right thing to say. Just revisited this site, and I want to say just a few words – there are no words, so I am sending you a virtual *hug* and my prayers that you and Brad, and little Ava, will get through this experience in your life. The odd thing is, I usually have a plethora of words, often along with foot-in-mouth – but a loss such as yours, your precious little girl, is too deep for platitudes.
My little brother died at 6 weeks when I was 5 – I still remember him to this day, and I am 54. My mum and I have talked about it over the years, and she says that every single day, she thinks of him. And she is now 77. But, the important thing is, it is a lovely memory – still sad at the “what might have beens” but lovely nonetheless. I hope and pray for that sort of lovely memory for you and for Brad.
All the best, and I really do enjoy your column every week – Dale Kerans