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.”