Monday, 30 June 2014

Bec Found Support at Sands

This is Bec's story of miscarriage and how she found support at Sands:
My story started on a day when I woke up and knew I felt different, I was 99% sure I was pregnant. I toddled off to the pharmacy and got a pregnancy test to confirm what I felt to be true.  It was positive. Those two little lines, how cherished they were and are still for this is my only proof that a life existed inside me, however brief it was. 

I remember so vividly the morning I woke up and realised something was not right and when I went to the bathroom my worst nightmare was coming true. As my husband drove me to the doctor I went over everything possible that I could have done to prevent what was happening but in my heart I knew my baby was leaving me.

When I arrived at the doctor’s surgery I had to sit in front of a window across from the triage nurse who so formally spoke. “State your name, date of birth and address…please” .  I looked at her blankly for a moment. Was ‘please’ an oversight?  Or was she tacking it on to not sound as heartless?  I wanted to scream ‘MY BABY’S DYING’.  I was then told to “sit on the chair until you are called” and then finally my name was read out.

I felt vulnerable as every other person waiting on those chairs well knew you could hear everything that was said at the triage desk. The nurse was very frank about matters, “well you are early on and it is probably just a natural abortion”… ‘Excuse me, my body’s aborting my baby so this is my fault.  I’m killing my baby?’  “Oh no” in a jolly old tone ‘it’s just what happens but you can move on, try again!’  Added to this, after hours of waiting, I was told that I would not be seen due to other cases of higher priority.   Was my baby not a priority?  Because to me she was my baby.

The next morning, my doctor did an internal exam and sent me for blood tests and an ultrasound.   Then there was more waiting.  The call came and it was confirmed that my baby had no beating heart, my levels were dropping, and the pregnancy was no longer viable. I hated those words ‘no longer viable’.  I can still hear the doctor saying ‘it was only about 8 to 12 weeks along. You seem to be terminating well. We will follow up with more blood tests and an ultrasound to ensure all the matter is gone. After some rest you can try again’.  No spoken word on my loss, my future, my baby, my love. 

My support following my pregnancy loss was my family, my friends, and of course SANDS. Going through what I now know as a part of grief, I felt guilty for not being able to keep my baby safe, angry at the doctor/nurses for not understanding how their words were so harsh and dismissive and why they could not help my baby.

It has only been after 3 years that I have been able to put into words my story. How I felt and openly acknowledge my loss. I often sit and look at my 3 children wondering what would my baby look like now, or what kind of personality she would have had?  I have taken to calling her Katherine, but I have yet to openly say her name out loud past my room and I still do not know why. But that’s ok.
and it still breaks my heart every time I hear of a stillbirth or other pregnancy loss.  I do not think that even after all the stages of grief I will ever be fully the same, nor do I want to be as the day you left me, baby Katherine, was the day a part of me went with you. I now know that it’s ok to talk and have bad days, especially around her due date, and the day I lost her, but it is easier now than 3 years ago. Though I never saw your face I will always love you.                                                                                                                                                                                      Mum xxx000xxx     

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Sands helped me feel normal

Sands Blogger Larissa Genat talks about how she found belonging with Sands:

When my daughter Ariella unexpectedly died one week before her due date in January 2013, life as I knew it just fell apart. Everything changed; nothing was the same any more. If you haven’t experienced the death of a child, you may think I am exaggerating, but if you have experienced it, I’m sure you know just what I mean.

Going to the shops was no longer a simple task – what if I saw someone that I knew? What if they asked me questions that I wasn’t able to answer? Or worse, what if I saw a baby the same age that Ariella should have been?

Home was not 100% safe either. What did I do with Ariella’s room? Should I shut the door so I was not confronted by her empty room every time I left the lounge, or do I leave the door open so as to not shut her things out of my life?

Even being with friends and family had changed too. I felt as though I didn’t belong – no one in my family had ever lost a child which meant they couldn’t understand what I felt. While they all grieved the loss of Ariella and were affected by seeing me in so much pain, it simply didn’t compare to the grief I felt over the death of my only child. None of my close friends had children, yet alone experienced a loss.

I felt alone.


I reached a point about six weeks after Ariella’s death when I realised the one thing (aside from the obvious pain and grief) that was really affecting me: I constantly felt like the odd one out. No one in any of my social circles had experienced the loss of a child and that made me feel like an outcast. My family and friends were always loving and supportive, but I still felt like they didn’t understand. I clearly remember telling my husband that I needed to “be somewhere where the grief was normal”. Everything had fallen apart around me and I just needed to feel normal.

So I went to a SANDS support meeting.

For the first time since hearing the doctor tell me that she couldn’t find a heartbeat, I found a place where I belonged. I wasn’t alone; the grief was normal. And it was so freeing.

I don’t remember a lot from that first night. I remember one of the support workers telling me that my daughter’s name was beautiful and I remember both the sadness and comfort in hearing other bereaved parents tell their stories. I cannot emphasise enough what a difference it made to finally be in a room surrounded by people who understood. They just “got” it. When I could barely tell my story through the tears, they didn’t look at me with pity but with empathy. When all I could do was cry, they offered me tissues instead of empty clich├ęs or attempts at comfort.  They made me feel normal again. And that was exactly what I needed most.

I became pregnant with my son one month later and SANDS supported me through that as well. I stopped going to the support meetings because I didn’t want my pregnant belly to cause any hurt (I remember how hard it was to see pregnant ladies) and began attending the monthly coffee mornings, which are more casual and children are welcomed. At those mornings I was able to talk with mums who understood what a pregnancy after loss was like. Any fear or anxiety I shared was met with understanding and I was never made to feel as though my worries were silly. Once again I had found a place where my grief and fear were normal.

My son Levi was born safely four weeks before Ariella’s first birthday. His presence in my life has certainly brought me healing but it hasn’t erased the grief I feel over my daughter’s death. I find it harder to get to the support meetings or coffee mornings, as having a newborn can make things complicated, but I often find support in one of the SANDS Facebook groups. Before a recent holiday, it was a friend I met through SANDS who helped me face the emotions of leaving my daughter’s things and helped me find a solution that I felt at peace with.

As life moves on and my grief changes over time, I know that the friends I have made through SANDS will always be there. And no matter how much I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere else, SANDS is the one place where I will always feel normal. And that means a lot to me.

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  and on Still Standing Magazine.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The day our twins were born

Sands blogger Lauren Matheson tells her story of her twins who were born premature

After four rounds of IVF, my husband and I were overjoyed to finally fall pregnant - with twins!   We were eagerly counting down the days until the morphology scan, I’d been feeling anxious and was looking forward to reassurance that everything was ok.  The examination began, and our babies looked perfect.  We were thrilled to discover we were expecting a boy and a girl. When the sonographer commented she couldn’t see my cervix.  I naively asked if this was a problem (honestly I had no idea what this meant). I was told not to worry, as our daughter was sitting low, blocking the view.  Afterwards, a Doctor arrived and asked if she could scan me, I knew then something wasn’t right.  

The next few hours passed quickly. I was diagnosed with an Incompetent Cervix (seriously who comes up with these names?!), and was rushed to hospital where I was admitted and taken straight to the antenatal ward. My Obstetrician came to see us, and it wasn’t until she began discussing the viability of our babies and when/if intervention would occur that the reality of our situation sank in.  

We decided I would be scanned again in a few days, and I would stay in hospital on strict bed rest and medication. However just two days later I woke with a dull ache stretching across my belly.  Initially I was given panadol for relief, however it soon became clear I was having contractions.  Laying on the bed waiting to be examined the contractions quickly intensified and I couldn’t lay still. My Doctor struggled to confirm what I already suspected, I was in labour and 3cm dilated.  At 20 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I asked the question I already knew the answer to “Am I losing our babies?”.

The next few hours are a blur.  Spaced out on pethadine, I remember being taken to the birth suites while my contractions gained strength and frequency. I can remember watching the seconds tick by, counting down to the next contraction and also hoping they would miraculously disappear.  Our daughter arrived quickly. She was wrapped up and passed to me, where I cuddled her for the short time she was with us. My husband was by my side the whole time and I remember feeling selfish, that he didn’t hold her whilst she was alive. Not long later our baby boy arrived sleeping.  

Back in my room,  I watched my husband making calls to our family, whispering words we never thought we’d say.  

Our babies sharing a cot, were next to my bed. They were dressed in tiny clothes, our daughter in pink and our son in blue.  They each had a beautiful quilt, and knitted teddy nestled beside them.  Initially I was too scared to hold them and I just stared at their tiny bodies as the tears fell.  Eventually I picked them up, and held them close to my chest, I was overwhelmed with love for my babies.  For the next 24 hours my husband and I tried to absorb their every detail, and we took hundreds of photos in the process.  We held them, undressed and washed their tiny bodies.   I become obsessed with keeping them warm, and continuously redressed and wrapped them together in soft blankets. It was also important to us that they stay together, I didn’t want them to be scared and alone.  The following day I was discharged, but I couldn’t leave.  With each cuddle and kiss I told myself this will be the last one, I would then leave, but I couldn’t.  Eventually we left the hospital, with empty arms.    

In the days that followed, I became consumed searching for information about why this had happened and what could be done to prevent it. 

I came across SANDS early in my search and contacted the Brisbane office. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or what I wanted in return when I sent that first email. I just knew I needed to reach out to someone, anyone, who may have some kind of understanding of what we were going through.  I received a reply quickly, and was comforted by their words, by the acknowledgement from an ‘outsider’ that our babies existed and were special.  While we didn’t utilise the support services, we were comforted in the knowledge they were available if we needed them.   

It’s now been three years and our grief hasn’t gone away. Instead it has changed and we have learnt how to cope so we can continue to live our lives.  I think we will always hold onto ‘What If’ and we find this especially hard on their birthday and holidays.  

Their memories are never far from our thoughts and they hold a special place in our hearts so they are always with us.

More about Lauren

Lauren lives in sunny Queensland with her two little boys, husband and dog. She is also a Mum to twins who were born premature and sadly passed away in 2011.  She loves baking, books, coffee and reading the occasional trashy gossip mag. You can find her over at her blog Create Bake Make.

For Support call: 1300 0 72637
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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Now is where the joy lives

Sands blogger Nicola Garcia shares her story of her daughter Sophia and subsequent pregnancies

I am 28 weeks pregnant. I have two beautiful boys, aged 4 and 2, but this is my fourth pregnancy. 

I lost my second child, my beautiful daughter Sophia, at 32 weeks. 

The loss, a gaping hole that I will have in my heart forever. The tears are still behind my eyes and quick to the forefront with thoughts of her.

But…. there is so much gratitude. 

Sophia changed me. 

I let her death mean something. 

Forced me to look at life differently and allow me to break out of the box I had made for myself. 

I lost a child. 

I’ve thought many a time, “Why did this happen to me?”

But I didn’t let it close me. 

Instead I feel open. I feel free. 

Free to be myself. Free to move where life takes me. Free to grieve, free to be happy. 

The love and support I gained from my family and friends at the time of her death showed me that I was worthy. 

Showed me that I was enough. 

Showed me that I had everything I could ever want. 

But how, after losing a child, do you move forward and start the life of another? 

How do you carry it through nine scary months where you know, from hard-cold experience, that you could lose it at any moment? 

After Sophia’s death the only thing I wanted was to be pregnant again, to reclaim the future that I had been imagining. 

Two children. 

Not one, not one and a half, but two happy, healthy children. 

There was a desperation in me. There were a lot of doors slammed at “that time of the month” but then four months later my little Leo was conceived. 

I was terrified but I had looked inside myself and found peace…and in that peace I believe came something beautiful. 

When I started taking in the present moment, concentrating on each day and not just the future, I was blessed. 

Blessed with Leo and blessed with a new attitude. 

I felt strong and I felt brave. 

Here I was, taking on the very thing that almost destroyed me. 

Chancing, once again, that deep grief. 

I felt like a warrior. 

A warrior with a great team behind me. My amazing husband who was gritting his teeth and turning his knuckles white alongside mine. My family who were just a hug and shoulder to cry on away. My friends, whose love and laughter, kept me in the moment. An obstetrician who was happy to induce me the moment the baby was cooked so that psychologically I was being looked after. 

I knew now what was important. 

For I had missed many moments with Sophia. I was in such a hurry for her to be born and for me to start living the future that I didn’t notice when her movements slowed. 

I didn’t even notice when they stopped altogether. 

But with Leo, hand on my belly, I felt every kick and delighted in every squirm. 

He was born happy and healthy and my world bloomed with love again. 

Now, with this fourth pregnancy, another little boy will come into the world. My knuckles are still white but concentrating one moment at a time, one day at a time has given me an existence I never knew I could have. 

One where I can be happy today. 

Not in a couple of months when he’s born, not when he is 20 and I know I have brought him up safe and sound….but now. 

Now is where the joy lives. 

Meet Nicola
Nicola is a qualified social scientist, intent on studying the human race and finding out the truth about life. Her gift is passing on the information and helping others become the best versions of themselves. Her degree in creative writing makes her writing, your reading pleasure. Her passion for health ensures that you have up to date information on the latest and greatest ways to nourish you. She is a Mother, a Wife, a Daughter a Sister, A Friend and a beautiful human being intent on being the best person she can be.  A green -juice drinking, yoga positioning, meditation junkie who loves her life with a fierce passion.

Nicola’s first book, How To Become One Healthy Mama is available from here. You can also read her posts on motherhood over at her blog The Yogic Housewife 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Be the captain of your own ship

Sands blogger Sarah-Jane McCormick writes about coping with strong emotions during grief

The overwhelming feeling of joy and love that we can feel when we find out about our pregnancy, or meet our new child, can be one of the most special experiences for us as human beings. The hope that that new life brings is amazing. When we lose that new life, and that hope, it can be devastating. There is no sense in it, and we can often struggle to cope with our feelings and how to manage the difficult situations that can occur long term. Those difficult times when you are trying to cope with your own emotions, and others have no idea what to say to you…or those awkward times when people ask you how your child is or how the pregnancy is going. 

Then the little voice inside our head starts up….with all sorts of judgments about what went wrong and who’s to blame. We can end up feeling confused, overwhelmed, exhausted and often, numb. 

You may hear others telling you that “time is a great healer”, but there is no time limit on grieving for a lost loved one, and in fact, trying to push your feelings away can be detrimental to our psychological wellbeing. So how do we cope? How do we look after ourselves when we are really struggling and at crisis point?How can we learn to handle painful feelings and get through? 

When we are in a crisis, one of the things we can experience are waves of painful feelings…emotions such as sadness, anger, fear and loneliness. When life becomes really stormy, try to think like the captain of a ship. 

When a storm comes along a ship doesn’t try to keep going the same way as before, it finds safe harbor and drops its anchor.
During grief, our emotions can feel overwhelming and like they are going to drown us, or sweep us away. So, just like that ship in a storm, during a loss we need to hold ourselves steady until the worst of the strong emotion passes. One way to do this is to ground yourself, or in other words, bring your attention back to the present moment and focus on the solid things around you as a way of coping. Take a long deep breath and practice pulling your shoulders back and sitting or standing up straighter. Find something physical to hold onto and deliberately bring your attention to a few objects that you notice in your environment. Allow your eyes to really notice them with curiosity. Keep deliberately focusing on slowing down your breathing. 

The thing to remember is that eventually every storm passes, and you will eventually be able to start to navigate the difficult seas ahead when you are ready. In the meantime, try to hold yourself steady by practicing dropping anchor to cope with strong emotions and ride out the storm. 

For Support Call - 1300 0 72637

The Sands website is full of information and ways to get involved in Sands - please visit us
Meet Sarah-Jayne
With more than ten year’s industry experience, Registered Psychologist and Coach Sarah-Jayne McCormick is at the forefront of her field, using evidence-based best practice methodologies, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) at her Sydney-based clinic. With experience coaching in both the public and private sectors, Sarah-Jayne provides the highest quality service in all areas of Psychology – including post-graduate research ,teaching  and psychological assessment .

Whilst both treating survivors of trauma and being a passionate advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, Sarah-Jayne is completing a PhD programme at the University of NSW, conducting much-needed research to contribute to the knowledge surrounding child sexual abuse trials. 

Establishing the business, Bright Ideas Psychology in 2010, Sarah-Jayne is a savvy business woman, providing services to some of the nation’s largest and most respected companies, including Channel 7, Vodafone, QBE and Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Sarah-Jayne is  also a member of the Australian Women’s Chamber of Commerce.