Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Power of Time

When we have experienced a great loss, we live in the realms of past, present, and future all at the same time.

"You will have the family you always wanted. You will have lots of healthy babies. I promise you that this is the worst thing you will ever have to go through, it will never happen again." These were the words whispered to me by my loving sister on the day we said goodbye to our daughter Isobel. In her comforting manner, my sister was doing her best to convince me that I was going to live the life I always wanted, and to not be afraid to try again. But the thought of trying again seemed unbearable, how could we survive this again, and how could we go through another pregnancy without knowing what fate has installed for us next. It seemed like torture, a whole 9 months of it. That was the moment I suddenly feared the future.

Rewind to a week earlier, and I was sitting in the same seat wondering when our baby was going to enter the world. She was due the next day, and I was anxiously thinking of how much our lives were about to change forever. I remember sending a text to my friend, telling her that for the first time during my pregnancy, I was over the waiting game and more than ready for my baby to arrive. I was a patient pregnant woman up until that weekend, I had nothing but unashamed bliss during the 9 months and I had no reason to be impatient. As I sat in my sisters arms, all I wanted was to be pregnant again, back when Isobel was healthy and safe.

The moment my contractions started every minute was crucial. I hadn't experienced any Braxton Hicks during the pregnancy, but even so I still couldn't be sure whether what I was feeling were real contractions. I got my timer out and started counting. I rang the hospital and they told me to patiently wait, and get some rest, nothing will happen for at least 12 hours. The contractions suddenly leaped from 10 minute apart to 4 minutes, and became much more painful. I could feel something was wrong, but I also lacked confidence with what was normal. Then it happened, in one second it all changed. The cord had come out. Suddenly the timing of contractions was no longer relevant. Counting the minutes of waiting for the ambulance, counting the 45 minutes of restricted oxygen she had by the time we reached the hospital, counting the 8 minutes it took for her to be delivered naturally, that was all we could focus on. The pain, the heartache, the fear, they all had to take a step back to make room for the hope that it would all be okay.

Every minute of every hour during Izzy's life was significant to the fate of ours, and I was far from the impatient pregnant girl sitting and waiting on the couch only days earlier. Now all I wanted was for time to slow down, for the seconds to be hours, the hours to be weeks, and the weeks to be years. The world outside those hospital walls no longer existed, it was like we were on a different planet all together. A planet where healthy babies are not guaranteed, where a pregnancy does not equal a living baby at the end. As an expecting parent, you simply can't understand how such a place could exist. Cancer can be cured, immunisations created to fight disease, antibiotics to fight almost anything, but nowhere in modern medicine is there a guarantee that your baby will live. We are living in 2014, but it feels more like the world our grandmothers and great grandmothers lived in.

It has been almost four months now, but it feels like that time has been lost forever. When I try and think back to yesterday, last week, or last month, it is mostly a hazy blur. We wake every morning and sleep every night, and in between we try and go about life. Our friends and family urge us to get out of the house, to attend their parties, join them for lunches and dinners, because they want to see us living life again. Each day has empowered us to heal, even if we didn't know it at the time. Every daunting kids birthday party, every anniversary of Isobel, every tear from the end of a hard day; they are all a step further out of darkness.

Even though it felt impossible at the beginning, we are surviving. The six days we had with Isobel are the memories that give us the energy to start and finish each day. The hope that our family and friends bestow upon us gives us the power to overcome fear of the future. The love that we have for each other is the essence of the family we so desperately want. On some days I imagine myself as a mother with a baby, instead of the lonely woman at the supermarket checkout. I think back to the care -free person I was four months ago, and I am full of hope that I will be that person again. That one day I will be a mother with a baby, and my husband will be a father with a son and daughter, maybe one or maybe five, but we will be a family.

If you require support after reading this blog 
please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637

Jess Schulz

Living in quiet beachside Adelaide, Jess is a fundraising officer for Motor Neurone Disease SA, freelance graphic designer, and social blogger. Married for 5 years (together for 12), Jess and her husband experienced the saddened loss of their first child in 2014 at 40 weeks. Their daughter Isobel Lola, passed away 6 days after she was born. A perfect pregnancy ended with a cord prolapse during labour, and now Jess and her husband are walking the road of grief while trying to survive each day without their Isobel. Love, hope and support are the essence of their survival, and Jess has chosen to share their story on Sands to hopefully support other bereaved parents walking this road too.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Grief is a complicated process.....

Shanelle writes again for Sands.  She talks about how grief is a complicated process and how she coped.... 

It can bring us together, tear us apart or alienate us, the later one, is the one that I identify with the most these past three and a half months since my loss.

I was surrounded by love and at first, many beautiful people in my life reached out to me with this own loss stories following my miscarriage, in fact, one lovely lady, my partners cousin was the only person to visit me in the hospital, aside from him, despite having suffered a recent loss of her own, to give us a small blue teddy bear so I had something to cuddle.

Many thoughts and prayers came to us through calls, messages and cards and all I could offer in return was tears and eventually I started withdrawing. Not because I didn’t like them, or I felt unwanted, judged or anything like that but simple because I did not know how I felt or how to react on my own let alone around others, for one moment all my dreams were coming true after four years of trying to conceive and completing our little family and the next was doctors and hospitals, needles and scans and eventually labour… with nothing to hold after hours of pain.

But I was a mummy already and I had to just get on with it because no parent wants their child to see them hurt and eventually the calls stopped, the visitors stopped coming, life just kept moving on but I just stopped. I stopped talking, with myself, my partner, my family… even to my sister, my sister who knew what losing a child was like, more than anyone else, having lost her beautiful daughter 8 years ago to SIDS at 6 weeks.. I could not bring myself to share my feelings with anyone, especially her because I felt shame and guilt for grieving so deeply for a loss when it could never compare to a loss of her baby. How could I be so selfish to cry over someone I never had the chance to see without scans and could barely feel while she suffered every day, for years, for the loss of her baby girl with perfect little fingers and toes, a head full of hair and tiny button nose?

And so I withdrew even more, weeks would go by without visitors, or even uttering anything concerning my loss except for follow up appointments that cemented my silent grief even further.

With my only outings being school drops, errands and exercise all my relationships suffered until last Friday. Last Friday was my nephew’s birthday and the 8th anniversary of my nieces passing and here I was leaving her alone to suffer because I felt bad because of my grief and how it couldn’t compare to hers? What a sister was I? So I messaged and asked her to come over and so she did and when she walked through my front door, we cried. We held each other and we didn’t need to say anything to share how we felt. We just took solace in each other’s company and cried for our own losses, for each other’s loss and in that moment I learned she didn’t care the differences in our losses, she hurt because I hurt, and I her.

So many women, parents, families suffer in silence for their miscarriages, thinking they don’t have the right to mourn, or are over reacting for a baby they never touched, often never felt and will never hear cry. I was one of these people, I hid it, but no more. I have a right to grieve for the life I lost for as long as that grief may last. 

My name is Shanelle and I lost my baby at 10 weeks and every day I grieve for that little life because that life touched mine, changed my life and I will forever cherish the time we had, though brief because I was… I am their mother, and I will not forget. I will not hide my tears, because they are proof that my baby was real and someone I am proud to share with you.
Shanelle Kay
If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Shanelle Kay

Shanelle is a trainee counsellor and photographer based in Brisbane.
She believes the best sound in the world is her son's laughter and how he sings to himself when he wakes from a nap. She is also a proud mummy to an angel baby and through writing and various arts she is sharing her experience and finding herself, all over again. In her own words.

"I am all and I am nothing, but most importantly I am exactly who I need
to be in this moment... and that is sometimes the hardest thing we have to accept,
openly and honestly.. Ourselves"

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Surviving Christmas when your baby died

Larissa shares with us a few things that were helpful to ensure she survived the festive season

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what day is coming up in a few weeks. The decorations have been in stores for months, jacaranda trees have lined the streets with glorious purple flowers, carols have started playing and the day itself arrives in just a few short weeks. Christmas.

For many people it’s a wonderful time of year, celebrating the birth of Jesus or simply a chance to get together with family and friends. I used to love Christmas, watching the carols on tv, giving gifts and spending time with my family. I thought it was a great time of year… until my baby died. Christmas 2012 was full of anticipation as I awaited her birth and Christmas 2013 was a non-event as I didn't feel like celebrating without her. But I made it through and you can too.

The most helpful thing for me was to not have any expectations of myself. I didn't know what I would feel like on the day, and I certainly didn’t know if I would be up to attending the big family gathering. The thought of seeing too many people induced a lot of anxiety. And so my husband and I simply didn’t commit to anything. We agreed to see immediate family on Christmas Eve but didn't make any plans to see people for Christmas Day. It was the best thing we could have done! Not having any pressure to be a certain place at a particular time was very freeing. It meant I could allow myself to spend time with my grief without needing to put on a happy face for others.

In the lead up to Christmas, I became quite upset at the idea that Ariella may be left out. I wanted to see her name on cards; I wanted her to be included in any way that was possible. The only way to escape the fear of her exclusion was to not have any expectations of others. I desperately wished people would remember her and say her name, but I knew I needed to be ok if they didn't. I couldn't let their actions (or lack thereof) cause me added stress. I was very blessed in that she was remembered by quite a few people and I received some beautiful gifts for her and cards with her name included. But because I had decided not to expect it, those moments felt like an added bonus, not a necessity to surviving.

This might seem contradictory to the above point, but tell others what you need. One friend asked me whether to include Ariella’s name in the card and I didn't hesitate to tell her a resounding ‘yes’! I know of others who have written a brief Facebook status telling their family and friends to please include their children while others have told people face to face. It can be hard to be honest with people and sometimes I feel selfish doing so. But if you need to do it, don’t feel ashamed. It’s a hard time of year and it’s more than ok to do whatever you need to do to survive.
I've only experienced one Christmas without my daughter but it was the hardest Christmas of my life. I’m sure those who've had more than one Christmas without their child would have some more advice for you. If you do, please feel free to comment and share your wisdom. Together, we can get through this Christmas time. 


If you require support after reading this blog please contact 
Sands on 13 000 72637

Larissa Genat
Larissa is a wife to Marcus and a mother to two beautiful children – Ariella Jade in Heaven and Levi William in her arms. She loves spaghetti bolognaise and the smell of rain, but neither of them could make her smile when, after a textbook pregnancy, Ariella unexpectedly died at 39 weeks gestation. No reason was ever found for her death. Soon after Ariella’s death Larissa began writing. 

You can find Larissa's posts at:
Deeper Still (www.loveisdeeperstill.blogspot.com)  and on Still Standing Magazine (http://stillstandingmag.com/author/larissa).

Thursday, 4 December 2014


Jessica has submitted her first blog to Sands and shares with us the emotions that arose when she discovered her baby had died...

It was a Wednesday, a normal Wednesday like any before it. Early that morning I sat in my kitchen, innocently and happily eating breakfast with my husband and son. After my first good night’s sleep in months, I barely noticed that the normally spirited life growing inside me for the past 38 weeks, was still. I called the hospital and they advised to come on over and get it checked out, just in case.

I’d had a similar experience with my son that had turned out to be simple
dehydration so I told my husband to go on to work “I’ll let you know how I go” I’d said. “You don’t think there could be something wrong do you?” He’d asked me. “No way, we’re in the home stretch. Plus we had a check-up yesterday and everything was fine.”

I will never forget the look on the doctor’s face when she told me my baby had no heartbeat. So empathetic, so heartbroken and so afraid. Afraid for me, for what I was about to face or afraid of me, of the way I would react I don’t know. It was the same look she gave me when she handed my perfect sleeping angel to me. “She’s so beautiful,” she’d said. We named her Emma.
She looked remarkably like her big brother did when he was first laid on my chest 19 months earlier. Only she was delicate and dainty and forever sleeping.

There are so many things I’ll never know. I’ll never know the colour of her eyes or the sound of her laugh. I’ll never be able to brush her hair or tell her to stop fighting with her brother but I’ll never forget the short time that I got to spend with her and how much love I felt when I looked into her beautiful sleeping face. 

3 months later that face is still in the forefront of my mind, every second of every day….

If you require support after reading this blog please contact 
Sands on 13 000 72637

Jessica Lawless
Jessica lives in Victoria. She is the wife to Shane and a Mum to 2 beautiful kids - Adam, nearly 2 and Emma, born sleeping August 2014.
I like to practice yoga, cook, read and spend all my time being a SAHM with Adam. My family and friends are my whole world, there is barley a distinction between the two.
I hope by being so open and honest about my experiences I can help raise awareness and provide support for others.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The helplessness of a Grandmother:

In this weeks blog, Lee, shares with us her precious granddaughter, Lexie, how she coped with her emotions when Lexie died as well as support her daughter.

My daughter, Alicia, was glowing as she told me she was pregnant with her first child.

The pregnancy had its complications, as in Alicia being diabetic. But she was very healthy and, being a nurse herself, the diabetes was completely under control.

Doctors advised that she would be induced at 38 weeks. On week 37 she had a scan and our beautiful little Lexie was bouncing about, fit and well. Four days later, an ECG was planned to check everything prior to inducing.

I was surprised when the doctor rang me and asked could I go up and sit with Alicia as her partner was away and wouldn't be back for a while. I was met by her work colleagues - nurses- who with tears in their eyes, prepared me for those unforgettable words- No heartbeat. A scan confirmed the worst.

It all seemed like some horrible dream. My daughter was experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare, and I was helpless. I held her as her world fell apart, not being able to process anything properly. Her partner then arrived and I couldn't help him either.

The following morning she was transferred to a bigger hospital where she was induced.

After a long 14 hr, difficult delivery, our granddaughter was born.

As I held Lexie, I questioned everything- why, what if?? If I could have taken her place, I would have in a second. Alicia was coping okay with the help of painkillers, her partner showed immense courage and support even though he was a broken man.

During the 3 days at the hospital, the staff were very understanding. We had Lexie christened, her hands and feet castings done, and she was left with her parents for as long as they wanted. Weeks later the autopsy report found no known cause of death, but it did occur either the night of the last scan or the following day. The doctor in charge said that if they had delivered her one week earlier, all would be OK. I don’t believe telling the parents such things helps- just makes them angry and hurt more.

So then the confronting reality of the baby seat still ready in the car, home to a freshly painted nursery and bags of baby clothes. On top of this, arrangements for a funeral, something else we were totally unprepared for. Questions- what they wanted, etc, too many decisions when no-one is thinking straight. It was a very busy time, on call 24/7 for my daughter who was struggling to make sense of anything. My own grief was put aside, I knew I had to be the strong one. Two months later I broke- my little girl was gone and never coming back. I think as a grandmother, the initial focus is of course on my own daughter and helping her cope. Realization of losing a grandchild comes later-

I go to the cemetery now and again, talk to Lexie, have built her a garden with pink and white flowers with 2 angels in it.

Day by day we get stronger and move forward with our lives. Lexie is always with me, in my thoughts. Things remind me, seeing little dresses in shops, Christmas presents I had already bought her. One of the most interesting facts is that most people avoid the topic, my daughter has had friends avoid her in the street. I understand that they often don’t know what to say but it really helps to talk about it.

Lexie’s death has rekindled my own experience with losing a child. Next month, 30 years ago, I miscarried at 12 weeks. At the time it was basically ignored- no-one spoke about it, life just continued. I was admitted to hospital to "remove the products of conception". It was a very cold atmosphere, and I remember one kind nurse came around afterwards and closed the curtains around me, telling me to cry until I couldn't cry anymore.

I felt like my heart had been ripped out.

If there’s anything I can offer - it would be to talk. Friends need to know they help more by acknowledgement and understanding, talking, asking questions and being a part of the whole thing.

Things do get better. Acceptance for things we cannot change. Hope for a brighter future.

You don’t ever forget, you keep the memory and eventually move on.

Written by grandmother, Lee.
If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dealing with Loss in a Celebrity Baby-Crazed Culture

In this week's blog, Rashida, shares with us her first pregnancy and the similarities of her pregnancy with celebrities.

In today’s celeb obsessed culture having a baby is like picking up one of the hottest accessories, so we are inundated with every detail and nuance from their cravings to what high-priced crib they purchased.

I learned I was pregnant at the same time as arguably two of thee most popular people on planet earth, Princess Kate the Duchess of Cambridge and Kim Kardashian the Queen on reality TV. Both of them reportedly had the same due date - July 11, 2013. Mine due date was July 15, 2013. While both pregnancies were pretty high profile, Kim Kardashian’s was more on my radar because I watch her reality show. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a guilty pleasure of mine.

So, I was on baby watch along with the rest of the world.

It was her first pregnancy and this was my first too!

She found out she was having a girl and I was too!

She showed off her stylish maternity style and I tried my best to mimic it on my budget. About half way through her pregnancy the show documented an emergency doctor’s appointment after she had experienced some severe pain on an airplane. Her doctor eventually diagnosed her with what he thought was a stomach infection or appendicitis. After some tests, she was sent home with an all clear.

About halfway through my pregnancy I made an emergency trip to the hospital after experiencing some severe pain in my back and my right side. Initially, they thought based on my symptoms that I had appendicitis and I too thought it would be fine. After running a few tests, my doctor came back and told that it wasn’t.

The doctor explained that the pain I was experiencing was my kidney’s shutting down due to severe early onset preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. She said I would have to deliver the next day or I could die, but it was way too soon for my daughter to survive.  She didn’t.

That turn of events made it extremely hard to hear anything else about Kim’s pregnancy. Now the news that was once welcomed, overwhelmed me when I watched TV or passed the tabloids in the super market.

It caused me to completely disconnect from all media. I had to because I quickly found myself becoming envious. In my grief, I complained to God that celebrities already have “everything”. Why was the one thing I wanted taken from me?

Then one day I caught a glimpse of a magazine making fun of Kim’s fat feet, calling her “Miss Piggy.” In that moment my gut told me that she had preeclampsia too. They were the same way my feet looked and I naively shrugged it off as another pregnancy symptom. I said a short prayer, that my outcome would not be hers. My envy quickly turned into sympathy and hope.

My suspicions were confirmed after she gave birth five weeks early to a baby girl, and as happy as I was for her I could not watch the episode when it aired a few weeks later. It still hit too close to home.

I have watched the show again since then and reconnected with social media and when North West appears on TV or I see her in pictures, sometimes I can’t help but think about how my little girl would have been around the same age.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637

Rashida McKenzie

Rashida McKenzie is the Founder of High-Risk Helpers, a maternity concierge service for expectant mother's experiencing high-risk pregnancies that result in bed rest. She is also the mother of a baby girl named Maya (who was born after 22 weeks of bed rest) and an angel who inspired her to advocate for pregnancy loss awareness. To learn more about Rashida or High-Risk Helpers, visit www.highriskhelpers.com

Friday, 24 October 2014

What October Means To Me:

Larissa shares her thoughts about Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month:

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. I remember hearing about it in 2012 and it didn’t really sink in. I was pregnant with my first baby and honestly didn’t think too much about the significance of the month. I hadn’t experienced a loss and neither had any close friends or family, so the month passed without too much thought from me.

October 2013 was a very different story. It was nine months after the stillbirth of my daughter and I was six months pregnant with my second child.. In 2013 my life was consumed with grief and the need to physically and publically remember Ariella was strong. Throughout the month I took photos to participate in Carly Marie’s Capture Your Grief project and found it was so healing and meaningful to be able to share my thoughts about the topics. I was visiting some friends and family interstate for part of the month and that meant I missed the Sands walkathon and candle lighting ceremony, although I wanted to attend both. I didn’t feel too sad about missing them though, as I felt as if my entire life revolved around remembering Ariella.

This year, October was different again. I have a nine month old son who keeps me very busy, so while I still grieve the death of my daughter, my grief looks different now. I decided not to participate in the Capture Your Grief project this year; doing so would have meant focusing quite intently on my grief and sadness, which I didn’t feel like I needed to do. A number of people have told me lately that I’m looking a lot happier and “better” than I have for a long time and I have to agree with them. I do feel happier and I even feel like I’m getting better. I’ll always miss Ariella but that longing for her isn’t as all-consuming as it was last October. However, I feel as though I cannot remember Ariella physically and publically as often as I would sometimes like. So I decided to attend the Sands candle lighting ceremony. I left my son at home with my husband and headed off to focus solely on my little girl for the first time in a while. As I drove to the venue, songs starting coming to mind. Songs that provided so much comfort in the days, weeks and months after Ariella’s death, such as “”I Will Carry You” (Selah), “Glory Baby” (Watermark), and “Still” (Gerrit Hofsink). I hadn’t listened to them since my son was born but just thinking about them made me remember how much truth are in their words. I carried her while her heart beat, she has Heaven before I do, she was gone before she came… the memory of those songs brought tears to my eyes as I was able to focus on my daughter without also needing to care for my son at that moment. As the ceremony started and I lit Ariella’s candle, I was so thankful to have an hour to just think about her, all I had during those 39 weeks with her and all I lost when she died. One day later, on the International Day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, my Facebook news feed was filled with photos of candles lit in honour of my baby girl. It made this grieving mama smile through her tears to know that other people were publically remembering my precious Ariella.

As I look back at three very different Octobers, I can’t help but wonder at what October 2015 will bring. What stage will I be at in my grief? Will I want spend the month focusing on it, or just a single day? Will it be a mixture of the past two or something else altogether? Who knows! But what I do know is this – I’m so grateful that there is a time set aside to remember and honour all of our precious babies, however we decide to do it.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637

Larissa Genat

Larissa is a wife to Marcus and a mother to two beautiful children – Ariella Jade in 

Heaven and Levi William in her arms. She loves spaghetti bolognaise and the smell of rain, but neither of them could make her smile when, after a textbook pregnancy, Ariella unexpectedly died at 39 weeks gestation. No reason was ever found for her death. Soon after Ariella’s death Larissa began writing. You can find her posts at 
Deeper Still (www.loveisdeeperstill.blogspot.com)  and on Still Standing Magazine (http://stillstandingmag.com/author/larissa).

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Miscarriage, Infertility, and weight loss

A newcomer to Sands blog, Shanelle shares her experience of infertility, weight loss and a miscarriage...

In my trouble to conceive over four years it was put down to infertility due to hypothyroidism and obesity, it was a huge struggle for me, having conceived my son easily years earlier at 80kg but tipping the scales at 128kg, I had been trying to lose weight for years, exercising, trying every diet under the sun and even three cycles of Clomid with no success.

Low and behold we unexpectedly fell pregnant though ten weeks later we miscarried with doctors and nurses reassuring us that there was nothing I could have done and not to blame myself. Even the gynaecologist performing my D&C said not to blame myself, though my size could have contributed to the miscarriage but it was a fact I had try to accept and not beat myself up about it. After all, these things happened right? And I fully had faith in the wonderful nurses and doctors treating me throughout the whole deal.

Until, two weeks later when I had a follow up appointment with a new gynaecologist for review on an ovary cyst. Asking when it was safe to try conceiving again she replied that at 128kgs I be concentrating on losing weight and not even consider trying for another baby at my size, considering all the health implications like high blood pressure and diabetes. I was devastated; I couldn’t help but cry in front of her, to which she suggested counselling. Here was this lady whom I’d never before, without even asking my medical history (if she had, she would have known I had perfect blood pressure and sugar levels, along with a healthy lifestyle despite my size) judging me and making me feel like I didn’t have the right to have a baby based on my weight. The blame game hit with vengeance. 

I went home and attended I had a follow up scan with my GP for my cysts, and after speaking with him, he prescribed me Duromine to aid in weight loss while I fully recovered from my miscarriage, in hopes it would rally my spirits from what the Gynaecologist had said (all of which he disagreed with.)
Meanwhile I had my scan. It had been 6 weeks.  My world well apart all over again at seeing an empty uterus and a lifeless heart rate monitor, that I ended up taking the Gynaecologist advice and sought out a counsellor through the hospital, despite me being a trainee counsellor myself.  We spoke on the phone for an hour before she decided that what I was experiencing was typical grief and didn’t need to enrolled into their program but to call back, if needed. It made me feel alone, so alone that I alienated everyone and focused on exercising and eating right.

Another month passed and I had lost 5kgs, feeling hopeful at my final gynaecologist visit, I met with her assistant who, when asked when I could try conceiving again told me that she saw no harm in trying considering I was maintaining a healthy lifestyle but she had to ask the gynaecologist to be sure. She returned with the message I should lose at least 20 more kilograms before trying again. Devastated, self-loathing, I left.

It has been two months since that last visit and I feel through the experience judged and completely let down by the public health system, though I know they were only doing their jobs. But if nothing else this experience has made me determined.

Determined not to let my self-worth and confidence to be scarred by opinions, no matter how professional. And with the support my partner and my doctor I had added more and more healthy choices and exercise regimes to my Iifestyle while learning to accept myself for who I am, and better myself not for medical statistics but for myself, my family and my future family.

Shanelle Kay
If you require support please call Sands - 1300 0 SANDS

Shanelle Kay

Shanelle is a trainee counsellor and photographer based in Brisbane.
She believes the best sound in the world is her son's laughter and how he sings to himself when he wakes from a nap. She is also a proud mummy to an angel baby and through writing and various arts she is sharing her experience and finding herself, all over again. In her own words...

"I am all and I am nothing, but most importantly I am exactly who I need to
be in this moment... and that is sometimes the hardest thing we have to accept,
 openly and honestly.. Ourselves"

Friday, 19 September 2014

Clementine's First Birthday

When birth and death are so closely intertwined, how do you celebrate a birthday?

Our baby girl, Clementine, was stillborn on 29 July 2013, two weeks before her due date.

As a mum, I have many strengths, but birthday party planning is not one of them. Our first child, Eleanor, once attended a friend's birthday party on the weekend of her own birthday and declared her friend's cake the highlight of her birthday weekend (it was a great cake).

However, planning a birthday celebration for Eleanor is a piece of cake (ha!) when compared to surviving the anniversary of Clementine's birth and death. 

In early July, Clem's first anniversary - 29 July - could not have loomed larger. For me, it was like a dark shadow of fear, loss and self-blame that was cast over my days. 

One Saturday afternoon, Ben took Eleanor out to give me some quality time with my To Do list. "A big cry" must have been somewhere on that list because that is what I ended up doing. The uncontrollable, can't-really-speak sobbing is always a sign for me that I might need help. 

I called Sands. 

The parent supporter listened... and listened. And I listened. And she helped me:

         This day is between you and your baby 
         You don't need to do anything for other people
         Do what you need to do 

And I survived a bit more of July. 

But then, about a week before Clem's anniversary, my grief decided to hit me with a bit of anger. 

I say "a bit of anger" but let's be honest, it was a lot. I was enraged. My baby died. What do you do with anger? 

I called Sands again. 

We talked about anger and grief. When people picture a bereaved mother, they probably don't picture anger but, it can be there. Alongside the sobbing and self-blame and emotional eating. We don't often talk about anger. It helped me to talk about it. 

I am a part of a wonderful Pregnancy Loss Australia group on Facebook. After speaking with the Sands parent supporter, I shared my anger surrounding Clementine's anniversary with the group and asked if anyone else felt anger. I shared our plans for Clementine's day - to go to the park opposite the hospital where Clem was born and blow bubbles to her. 

Members of this supportive group offered to blow bubbles to Clem too. They knew I needed others to recognise my baby on this important day. My anger dissolved as their compassion and understanding reached me. 

I decided then to share our plans for Clem's day with all of my friends via Facebook. And I invited them to blow bubbles to Clem too. On Clem's day I just wanted to blow bubbles with Ben and Eleanor but I wanted others to know it was Clem's day - a special day. I needed others to remember Clem on her birthday. 

I was scared to ask others to remember - what if no one replied and everyone felt awkward? But, that didn't happen. People did respond. They wanted a way to support us and I had given it to them. And on Clem's birthday, people sent me beautiful photos of their bubbles for Clem. It made my day. 

And, with a friend's help, I even baked a cake. A Clementine cake, no less. It wasn't perfect, but I thought... If I can bake this cake, if I can ask for help, if I can find ways to be Clem's mum even when I can't see her, then... anything is possible. 

Happy first birthday Clementine. Thank you for all you give me. 

If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637
Susannah Aumann
Susannah lives in Melbourne with her husband, Ben, and daughter, Eleanor. Her youngest child, Clementine, was stillborn in July 2013 at 38 weeks gestation. Susannah is passionate about raising awareness to encourage research into stillbirth.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Reflections of a father

The older I get the more I wonder if I will ever have kids of my own.  I wrote a poem a couple of years ago called “To the son I never knew”.  I never wrote it to share; I wrote it for my own mental health.  Since sharing it I've had those who were able to read it thanking me for writing it, and those who were honest enough to admit they couldn't read past the title saying though they could appreciate the courage  it must have taken me to write it, they couldn't read it, and I tell them it's OK.  Everyone journeys life at a different pace.  It took me 12 years to write that piece.  

Having travelled extensively for work and even getting married years later and gaining an instant family in that time I didn't really think about it much until I moved back to where it all began.  The familiar faces seeing those I saw growing up now with families of their own.  It felt somewhat surreal being in such familiar surroundings after so long seeing how everyone’s lives had developed in that time and wondering where mine was headed.  I was at home one day when it struck me, that I was living just down the road from the cemetery.  I didn't go there right away but when I did it was a week before his birthday. I hadn't even remembered how close to Christmas that fateful day was, he wasn't due until well into the New Year.  It's amazing how much and how well we can block things out from our memories to keep going.  I really hadn't had any contact with his mum since then, it was a really messy situation, and thankfully she has since married and has healthy kids.  I wasn't prepared to marry her despite her father’s insistence but I have no doubt in my mind we would have at some point, but to me her being pregnant wasn't enough reason to tie the knot.  Regardless of our relationship status though I would have raised that kid as my own.  I didn't just lose him though, I lost her too, and I think that was the hardest part.  In fact we all nearly lost her, thankfully though she found her way through.  

So after multiple major life changes in a short space of time I found myself reflecting on the last 12 years of my life and how different it would have been if he'd grown up calling me dad.  I've got nieces and nephews, a god daughter and sponsor kids but none of them require a daily commitment.  Though I feel so privileged being able to have the input I'm allowed into their lives.  

I've since written a second piece called “to my unborn son” inspired the song “Always Here For You” by KJ52.  I'm young enough to still have my own offspring though I also don't feel the need to.  I'm happy being able to assist in ways that I might not otherwise be able to if I had kids of my own.  Yet the thought still remains, if he'd made it ….. “so many memories that were only ever dreams.  So many dreams that never got to be memories”.

Neville Hiatt
To view Neville's website click here

'to my unborn son'

right now you are cells multiplying and dividing at a rapid rate
please know it doesn't matter if you are 18 before your first date
before you are born I want you to know
there's a good chance you will really love the snow
if you are anything like me you will feel more, than those around you
so be very careful with those that surround you
but most of all know that you are your own self
your not mine, or your mothers, you are your own self
you will make mistakes and that's okay
though the choices you make live with you till your dying day
you will grow up in a world different to what it is today
but with each day you breathe life, don't waste your time away
you will know heartache and pain, yet you will also taste triumph and gain
when you fall in love you will know the truth in these words
when you see her for the first time you will know
it doesn't matter what your grades are
some of the richest men alive today dropped out of school
yet in all things do your best and follow your heart, it's your strongest tool
when it rains be thankful for the nourishment of the earth
and when it's sunny a tan is not cool, look up your great grandfather he was a young fool
you will have more opportunities than ever before
but never lose connection with those closest to you
I've said it already but I will say it again
you will know sorrow and pain, but these are but the moderator to happiness and joy
everyone leaves this life at some point, so every chance you get explore the joint
but most of all your name is not your identity
it is simply a word to identify you but you will be known by how you choose to live this life.
Copyright 2013 Neville Hiatt

'to the son I never knew'

How do you mourn a son you never knew
how do you count the candles you never blew
how do you know you love a white Christmas when you've never seen the snow
so many memories that were only ever dreams
so many thoughts that will never be shared
I sit surrounded by all these flowers
and say your name aloud but it falls on deaf ears
I never got to hold your hand, or create artworks with you in the sand
I never got to teach you how to kick the ball, or watch you get up after your first fall
I sit in this field of flowers and trace your name etched into the rock 
and wonder how different my life would have been
would I have lived with your mum, would I have been a great dad
so many questions that will never be answered
you'd be 12 today, yet here you lay
12 years I could have spent calming your fears
12 years I've spent drying my tears
so many memories that were only ever dreams
so many dreams that never got to be memories
love dad.
Copyright Neville Hiatt 2013

If you require support after reading this blog please contact Sands on 13 000 72637

Neville Hiatt
Neville Hiatt is a storyteller, a country boy at heart he grew up knowing what the word community meant. His radio career was cut short when he was medically retired before his 30th birthday due to someone not doing an adequate head check.  In the last few years he has developed his love of photography, and poetry and has just released his first collection of short stories.  Left battling depression, anxiety and chronic nerve pain as a result of the accident he has become even more passionate about sharing his life experiences in the hope of aiding others in their journey.  “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. It only matters what you do with your rainbow today.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Remembering Stevie...

We are all in Sands because a precious baby has died.    Some of us have found it easy to talk about our experiences and our emotions.  Others have grieved in silence.    Some of us have the comfort of supportive partners, family and friends.  Some of us have felt very alone.  Some of us have felt judged -  our babies died in the early weeks of pregnancy - our babies had abnormalities incompatible with life - we shouldn't have been pregnant in the first place (too young, too old, too poor, unmarried ...)

Everyone in Sands has a  story .  "Stevie's Story" is about grieving a baby lost through termination.  It is a story full of pain and anguish, but also of support and hope. 


6 December 1968, Parramatta

Remembering Stevie means different things to me at different times. Let me walk through it as (chrono)logically as I can.

Just after his birth I was confused, distressed, deeply shocked. Shocked to see a perfect, albeit small baby at 20 weeks. I knew immediately I hadn't terminated a blob of cells unrecognizable as human. I had to remember him – remember him as he was – translucent – beautiful – a perfect baby. I had to remember him. He had to be a thorn in my side to remind me of my failure as a mother – a failure as a human being. So I named him Steven, Steven to remind me that what I had done was unforgivable – there was no penance that could atone. Being told Stevie was hospital waste, not acknowledged by his father, not acknowledged by society served to reinforce by belief my life was to be a continuum of pain. That it was. Even as I write this my heart is breaking.

The next day I went back to work. Stevie was locked deep inside my heart. Life went on – somehow and I don’t remember how. We were married a month later and Stevie never mentioned. It was as though he had never been conceived; never been born. Stevie was locked deep in my heart – I remembered him day after day.

The years passed and I no longer conceived. Was it any wonder? I had killed Stevie – I did not deserve another child. In February 1977 I was diagnosed with cancer on the uterus, two days later I was in surgery; 2/3 pf the uterus were removed and I was receiving radiation therapy– I was to be punished by not being able to have children. Stevie was locked in my heart and he reminded me of my iniquity day after day.
In June 1977 when I was in hospital for radiation treatment it was confirmed I was pregnant and was told I needed to terminate the pregnancy immediately; the risk of the baby being deformed, retarded would be too great. Various tests confirmed the child would be severely disabled. Termination would be the only kind thing. Stevie was locked deep in my heart and reminded me what termination was and what it would be. Would I kill another child? Stevie was locked deep in my heart. I told no one of the risk and refused to have the child aborted. In January 1978 my daughter was born; she was healthy – she had no disabilities. The amniocentesis had given a wrong result. Stevie was locked in my heart and I was afraid I would forget him now.

Two and a half years later my second son was born. Stevie knocked on my heart’s door reminding me of all the experiences I had missed with him. My children were what I was living for. Without them I was less than nothing. I could never atone for taking a life.
My rainbow children grew up, flew the coop and with that my purpose for living. There was no point in continuing. I decided on exitus and began to plan and collect the tools I needed … and Stevie was locked deep inside my heart.

And this is where a good friend joined the story. He showed me I needed to liberate Stevie and he started by saying his name. He validated his existence by saying his name. By saying his name he could not be forgotten and he also introduced me to Sands. I can see it clearly now, how – starting with preparing for Stevie’s first memorial and chatting with a Sands supporter at the same time step by step Stevie was carried into my heart – precious and loved – no longer locked up in its deepest depths.
I feared Stevie would eclipse my living children; I learnt by dividing my love between the children it did not become less – it grew.

Lacking any mementos from the time Stevie was born I made memories and to my surprise the Sands community rallied around me when I was down, whenever I needed it. On 9 December last year, dozens of mums in the Sands community had changed their profile picture to honour Stevie and I was overwhelmed by their kindness. Stevie became a part of my family – there to see – embraced in my heart together with my living children. Whenever I think of Steven I also think of my unnamed brothers – brothers I have named in my heart.

In the meantime, I have a number of things to remind me of Stevie, beginning with the copy of the memorial service. There is the Phoenix Ben a young friend drew for me, there’s Harry a lovely peacock given to me for Stevie’s 45th birthday, a Christmas bauble with a peacock feather in it, there is the NameArt and the pencil drawing and a pendant with the names of all my children. With or without these things I shall always remember Stevie. Since I have a pencil sketch of Stevie I no longer see him in that hospital bed gasping for breath. In fact when I think of Stevie I don’t think of him as a baby at all any more – no, he’s grown up. I now visualise him as a man in his mid-forties. I feel I have reached a milestone. I certainly know I'm at peace with that part of my past.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact Sands on 13 000 72637

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Becoming a Better Person

In this weeks blog Deb Saunders shares her story....

I am a wife to my gorgeous husband Dale, and mum to 5 amazing children, 2 I get to spend my days with, and 3 that I think of constantly, that are always in our hearts. I am a professional photographer with my own business, and I am a volunteer photographer for Heartfelt, an organisation that gives the gift of photographic memoriesto families with stillborn, seriously ill, or terminally ill children. This is my story.

My husband and I had been together for 11, and married for 7 years when we felt ready to start a family. Without any difficulty at all, we were pregnant with our first child, and Kayn was born via c-section, due to placenta previa, 2 weeks before his due date. We were so in love with this amazing human, and life seemed perfect.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we wanted to add to our little family, and again became pregnant easily, but at 8 weeks, I had some heavy bleeding, and after a visit to the doctor, it was confirmed that we had lost our baby. We were devastated, and I was even more determined to try again, and after the all clear a number of months later, we did, and after a few months, were excited to be pregnant again. This time, we made it to 11 weeks, and again lost our precious baby. I felt like I was doing something wrong, and it was all my fault! Of course this wasnt true, but I was so frustrated, and heartbroken, and didn't know if I could go through this again.

It wasn't long, but at the time seemed like an eternity, before we were pregnant again, and this time we made it through all the milestones, and I had a text book pregnancy. We found out we were having another boy, and Kayn was so happy to have a brother to play with soon!

But a week before Kayns 4th birthday, I had a terrible night, and couldnt recall when the baby had last moved, and rang the hospital to let them know. They reassured me it was probably nothing to worry about, but to call back in the morning if I was still concerned, which I did, as I had a feeling that something wasn't right, but couldn't work out what it was. I was 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I went down to the hospital, with my Mum and child in tow, and after what seemed like hours, and a number of scans, I was given the earth shattering news that the baby had no heartbeat.

I felt so alone, and rang my husband to tell him what had happened, I felt like I was on the outside looking in at myself, and I really dont remember much from that day apart from the feeling of complete and utter disbelief that this even happened, let alone to me. To us?

We went home for the evening, Im not sure why, or how, but we made it through, and the next day went back to the hospital to have a c-section, as I couldn't be induced, and I wasn't prepared to wait to go into labour, as this may have taken weeks. Ill never forget in the theatre when Kai was delivered, the silence, there was music playing, which I later found out was a cd by Jewel, but the silence, when there should have been a screaming baby, that was the moment I knew it was true, our baby was gone, and I would never get to hear him cry, and I didn't know how or if, I was going to get beyond this. Ever.

He was so perfect. 9lb 4oz, or 4.3kg, a big boy, looking just like his big brother did when he was born. We didn't get as many photos as I wish we did of Kai Thomas, I struggled to get out of bed, and was out of it on pain killers, and I guess others just didn't think of it, but I do have a few precious, irreplaceable photos of him, and all of us together.

This is my main reason for volunteering with heartfelt for the last few years, as I realise just how important it is to have those memories with your child. Helping to keep their memory alive is such a precious gift to be able to give.

Kai was born on a Wednesday, and I left the hospital on the Saturday morning to be at my other sons 4th birthday, and to this day I have no idea how I managed to get there and keep going, but I know I wouldnt have without Kayn, he really was my savior, that gorgeous little boy who loved me and needed me so much, and was the reason I got out of bed for so long when I just didn't want to.

Over the next 2 and a half years, we went on to lose a little boy Kody at 17 weeks, and a precious little princess, Kayla, at 20 weeks, and Im still not sure how we kept trying, and failing, and trying again, but in 2009, we were so blessed to have Kapri, who is here thanks to some amazing doctors, and the wonders of modern medicine. She was born 6 weeks early, after 2 blood transfusions in utero, and was very sick when she was delivered, but she was such a little fighter, that after just 10 days in NICU, she was well enough to come home, and is now a gorgeous, happy and healthy 5 year old, who started school this year.

I spent my 30s trying to have the children we so desperately wanted, 8 years of joy, heartbreak and devastation, and it was a tough journey, one that we will carry with us forever. I dont think the pain ever goes away, we just learn to make the most of the moments presented to us in life for what they are, the good with the bad, but I always carry those precious souls in my heart, and they are never far from my thoughts. I do believe I am a better person for my journeys challenges, and when times are really tough, I try to focus on my amazing children that did make it here with me, and spend some extra time just taking them in.

If you require support please call Sands - 1300 0 SANDS

Deb Saunders

My name is Deb, I am 43 years old, and have been married to the love of my life for almost 19 years. We have 2 amazing, wonderful children with us, and 3 more that watch over us and help keep us safe.
I am a photographer, and do a lot of work with families, which I just adore, and I love the stories I get to hear and be part of. I believe everyone has a story to tell, we just need to listen.
Through my experience, I found and now volunteer as a photographer for Heartfelt, an Australian organisation that gives the gift of photographic memories to families that have an ill or stillborn baby, or terminally ill child up to the age of 16. This in an organisation I am extremely proud to be a part of.
I am quite a social person, and enjoy nothing better than catch ups with friends over coffee, or wine, I love the beach, we are very lucky to live right on its doorstep, and I love craft of all kinds, and I am very good at starting lots of great things that I will finish one day!