Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Coping with Miscarriage - Therese

Therese shares with Sands her experience of miscarriage which occurred a long time ago when there was no support available.

'It didn’t matter that I had two other precious children that I loved with all my heart; I always felt this missing link and sometimes felt so alone.'


In those early days of losing my precious third child through miscarriage, there was always a feeling of something missing at Christmas as I knew that I should have been about to give birth any day after Christmas. There was no support in those days either from family or the Church (I was a Catholic) and by the Health Professionals. No-one could understand this feeling except someone who had gone through it. I also felt very guilty as my miscarriage started the day my older child was performing in her first calisthenics concert as Red Riding Hood. My sister-in-law who had come to watch my daughter, had to take over her care and look after her while my husband rushed me to hospital – I had to have a curette after the loss of my baby and I didn’t even know what that was! I mentioned my miscarriage a short while ago to my same sister-in-law and she had no memory of the day! I thought “wow how could you not” but it just goes to show what is important to one person isn’t to another unless it has an emotional impact to that person.

It didn’t matter that I had two other precious children that I loved with all my heart; I always felt this missing link and sometimes felt so alone. If I hadn’t had my friend Robyn who had been through it (twice!), I am not sure I would have survived. My husband and I had differing ways of handling it and while I thought I understood that he was grieving too, I felt my loss was worse as I had the physical pain of the loss plus the emotional pain as well. Of course, many years later and being a professional working in the field of loss and grief, I now understand that the grief of men and women is both different and, on some levels, the same; we just handle it differently.

Much of my recovery was a feeling I just had to get on with it for the sake of my two children and the husband whom I loved, but guess didn’t understand at that point. The physical recovery took time and the emotional even longer. Grief is not something that just goes away with time as many would like to think; one just learns to deal with it.
How did I get through it one might ask? My dearest friend kept me sane and even back then I think I started to write poetry, a passion that is still with me today. It was probably not until after my next child was born that I realised that my recovery from this miscarriage had not eventuated but rather I had hidden it away. I had a physical breakdown and went into a retreat-like existence with the lovely Grey Sisters in Canterbury,  where I joined a group of women who were going through rough times too. I was able to start talking about what had happened in a more forthright way.

By this time, it was the beginning of the end for my marriage, although we struggled for another 10 years plus and moved to the country. Today I may have handled things better as there is more support but one can never say how you could handle something until it actually happens to you. There were other grief situations we were both going through at the time and I feel in hindsight that this added to our burden and we had also lost the art of communication as my husband began to absent himself more and more.

These days I know a lot more about the association of stress to loss. I have even run courses on this subject, so I am aware of my triggers and can manage it better; however, Christmas still brings up a few tears for this loss and others that have occurred since.  One does get through it but at the time one can’t see the wood for the trees.  

Some words of advice: Don’t isolate yourself as I did. Ask for that all important support from anyone and keep asking until you get it. There is so much support out there and I truly wish that an organisation like SANDS was around when I was going through my loss of my baby.
Therese
If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637

About Therese 

Therese has worked in the field of counselling and community development for over 20 years. She has worked predominantly in the health and welfare field. She has worked in the primary school sector counselling children through a range of loss and grief and traumatic experiences.

Therese has also delivered a number of conference papers on the theme of children’s loss and grief and articles on stress management too. She also worked as a Sessional teacher in the TAFE system and the Private Sector in the Community Services area, including Mental Health Welfare for over 20 years. She is also an experienced Supervisor.

Therese has as a small business conducting Reiki, Inner Child Therapy, Meditation and similar therapies. She is also works as a Group Facilitator and teaches stress management and relaxation techniques within the local community as well as running workshops in the areas of trauma and loss and grief and related areas.

Therese is a published poet and has three children and four delightful grandsons. She enjoys nothing more than a good cup of coffee and the occasional glass of wine or bubbly. She is passionate about climate change and the environment, wanting a clean world for her grandchildren to grow up in and one where any type of violence is not tolerated.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

2015 Reflections from Sands Australia CEO


As the year draws to a close and I mark my first year in post as CEO of Sands Australia, I’ve recently spent some time reflecting on the past 12 months. Marked with celebrations, laughter, a few tears and heartfelt goodbyes, the last 12 months have been an inspiring, yet sobering experience. 

I’ve really been moved by our Volunteer Parent Supporters who give up hours and hours of their own time so that Sands can continue to offer around the clock support. I am so grateful for their commitment and efforts. Yet, to know that 106,000 families experienced the death of a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, medical termination or newborn death in the space of just 12 months has been distressing and overwhelming at times.

This is my first blog as CEO of Sands Australia, and I am writing it to coincide with the release of our strategy. Due to be launched in early January, our first strategic plan; Sands 2015 – 2020: Providing hope and understanding for bereaved parents across Australia, will challenge Sands as an organisation so that we can reach out to more people and, once and for all, address the taboo that surrounds the death of a baby in Australia today.

As you know, Sands Australia is a national not for profit organisation. Our focus is to provide information, support and education to parents, their families and healthcare professionals following the death of a baby; whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death. We are different from other counselling organisations as our volunteers offer a real sense of understanding and hope; they too have been through the devastation of losing a baby.

This year was the busiest yet for Sands Australia; some highlights include:

ü  The National Support Line supported a record 2,100 bereaved parents – a 24% increase compared to last year.  
ü  We received and responded to over 400 support emails.
ü  We held over 150 local support meetings across Australia.
ü  A record 1,500 Healthcare Professionals attended 45 information sessions in local hospitals. 
ü  A record 12,763 people are now supporters on social media – up by 351%.
ü  Our blog continues to grow in popularity with over 11,000 views in the last six months.
ü  We distributed a record 30,000 brochures to healthcare professionals and families.
ü  We received generous donations from a record 148 new donors.
Sands volunteers are the heart of our organisation.  They have so generously given over 70,000 hours of time to Sands and bereaved parents over the year. In economic terms that equates to $1.4m, a phenomenal achievement for the size of our organisation. I cannot thank our wonderful volunteers enough. They make it possible for us to be available, 24/7, every day of the year, so that no bereaved parent or family needs to suffer alone.

So what lies ahead for Sands Australia in 2016?

The year ahead promises to be just as exciting. We will be launching our first ever strategy in January, it will be our road map for the next five years.

We want to reach out to more bereaved parents across Australia. We will be recruiting more volunteers and expanding our services to meet this demand. We will also develop a presence in NSW, NT and ACT where we currently have no local services.

We are also passionate about ensuring that all bereaved parents experience the best possible care and support, following the death of a baby. We will work with the sector to develop services and training for healthcare professionals. Unfortunately it is still taboo to talk about miscarriage or stillbirth and we need to change this, so we will be working much harder at raising public awareness and understanding of pregnancy and baby loss in Australia.

We will also embark on a very important journey within Sands to look at how we are currently structured and how we could improve this going forward. Our goal is to ensure that no bereaved parent is left isolated in Australia and if we are to achieve this, we need to ensure our organisation is ready for the large task ahead. 

I would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to our generous supporters, fundraisers and donors who help us make it possible to provide support, understand and hope to bereaved parents and families across the country.
Finally, I’d like to wish you a peaceful Christmas and New Year and remind you that we are available around the clock this festive period and every other day.

Andre
Sands Australia CEO


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Time Again byJess

Jess reflects on her first Christmas in 2014 without precious Emma as well as sharing some wonderful news with our followers.




It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Stores are full of glittering tinsel and chirpy Christmas carols and front yards are transformed into technicolour sound and light shows. A Santa sits in every shopping centre, waiting to help you create lasting memories for your family. Clearly I love Christmas time!

Christmas 2014 it had only been 4 months since losing my daughter Emma at 39 weeks. Last year I wanted nothing to do with the holiday season. Every day that drew closer to December 25th, every decorated yard and every damn Christmas carol felt like a knife through my heart. How could we celebrate as a family when our family was in pieces?
I tried to withdraw from everything. Every celebration, every party, every gathering. I wanted to be with my husband and son, at home, shut away. I was safe there, I could control the memories there. The people we had been depending on the most were the least understanding. No one could fathom why after such a tragedy we didn’t want to be around them at such a ‘happy’ time of year.

Thinking now of how sad and lost I was then, makes me feel almost sick. I remember feeling that gaping hole in the pit of my stomach, such hopelessness, such sadness…I miss her, I miss her every day still but this year I can’t wait for Christmas. Tomorrow (Dec 1) the tree will go up! I’ll go shopping for a special ornament for our tree to help remember our little angel. We’ll send Christmas cards and bake gingerbread men!

It has taken 13 long months to find some ‘ok’ with what happened to us. We are now so very blessed that just in time for Christmas we can share that we are expecting our 3rd child (in June 2016.)

There was nothing to save the pain last year, we simply had to endure it and just be with each other. This year Christmas morning while our almost 3 year old rips through his myriad of gifts, I’ll light a candle for our little angel in Heaven and we’ll remember her and we’ll be together because sometimes, it’s all you can do.


Merry Christmas
Jess



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.

Friday, 18 December 2015

A New Tradition - Larissa

Larissa writes again this Christmas for Sands, sharing how her first Christmas was spent following the stillbirth of precious Ariella.



Ariella’s first Christmas was nothing like we had imagined. Instead of looking at her unwrap presents; all we had to look at were photos and her grave. And all through December, the anticipation of knowing that that was all Christmas Day would be was heartbreaking. I was also scared that people wouldn’t remember our baby girl and that the loneliness of the day would be amplified by people’s silence. I guess you could say that I was an emotional mess! That year I participated in Carly Marie’s Capture Your Grief and when the prompt was “seasons” I posted this photo of a broken ornament. Broken. It’s how I felt and how the Christmas season felt too. And that’s why we decided to do something different: we spent Christmas alone.

Christmas in my family normally means a big gathering of the extended family. But that year I didn’t think I could face so many people. (Although if I’m honest, I didn’t think I could face any people besides my husband.) To not join in with that tradition did make me feel a bit guilty for a while. I have no idea if they expected me to be there but I subconsciously expected it of myself. It felt strange planning to spend Christmas with just my husband but it also felt freeing. It was what I needed, it was what we both needed that year. Choosing to do what we needed instead of what we thought would be expected of us was so, so lovely. And it’s turned into a new tradition.


Each year since that first one, we have made the same lunch, taken it to the same beach and just relaxed. We’ll do it again this year. We do now go to the big family dinner but lunch is the time we can spend together and remember our precious Ariella. As our other children grow older we hope to continue this tradition of spending time together amidst the business of Christmas, remembering Ariella.
Larissa


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 three beautiful children – Ariella Jade in 
Heaven and Levi William and Seanna 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).

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Christmas Spirit by Tennille

In this blog, Tennille shares with Sands how she found she had some Christmas spirit as she searched for decorations in memory of precious Oscar including an intriguing story around the stocking that she decorated for him.


Christmas was always my favourite time of the year. Our baby was due Boxing Day, so I had laughed with people when they said they would come and visit me in hospital on Christmas Day. Yet, at 33 weeks, just 6 weeks before Christmas, Oscar was stillborn and none of that mattered anymore.
That first Christmas was hard, probably the most taxing physically as I spent a lot of time  crying but I am so glad I marked the occasion, I gave my son a place in that Christmas and in doing so have created his own Christmas memories. This is probably easier to say now, four years down the track because that first Christmas didn’t feel like a celebration but I was carving out a memory for my son. At first, I couldn’t even comprehend how I would mark Christmas. The word 'celebrate' seemed wrong, exchanging presents didn’t interest me and I just didn’t understand how I could be happy when I had just lost my baby. Yet there must have still been some Christmas spirit inside me as began searching Christmas decorations on the internet. And boy did I order...
**  Baubles with Oscars name on them
**  Sentimental figurines (elephants were symbolic for Oscar)
**  Hanging picture frames where I placed pictures of his ultrasound photos, hand and foot prints etc.
**  Balloons, we chose beautiful balloon centrepieces for the table, honouring the balloons we had released at Oscars service just 6 weeks before.
**  I made him a small stocking to hang by the tree
**  We still opened the gifts we had bought for Oscar

And that stocking has a story. Fate is such a difficult concept to believe in once you lose a baby, because why would it be fate that your children are not here with you, but there are forces greater than us in the universe, and depending on your beliefs sometimes those forces fall into place. One thing I did was stitch a small Christmas stocking to hang for Oscar. I found a beautiful musical stocking, about a week before Christmas, 2000km away…Yet for some reason I thought I could have it sent, stitch it and hang it for Oscar in time for Christmas. I didn’t finish the stocking, in fact I only finished it 11 months later, and the day I went into hospital to have my second baby, a healthy baby boy. But it did give me a purpose. I worked my guts out to get it finished. There is also something therapeutic about using your hands to create something beautiful. The fate part is- the lady on the phone asked if the stocking was for someone special and remarked that I would be busy to finish it before Christmas. I took a chance and told her about our son, the other end of the phone was silent, she burst into tears and told me of her son, who was stillborn 18 years earlier and his name was Jonathan. She thought about him every day. Then for the next few weeks, this lady would call me, just to check in and ask how my stitching was going. I am very grateful for her kindness. She sent me the stocking, no charge, as a gift from her baby to mine. And that to me, it true Christmas spirit.  

Tennille
If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637



Tennille Welsh
Tennille Welsh is a mother to three beautiful boys. Mark (her husband) and Tennille eperiencesd the stillbirth of their first son Oscar, at 33 weeks gestation in 2011, cause unknown. Tennille lives on a hobby farm with her family and enjoys horse riding, swimming and playing with her children.

Tennille is a teacher, specialising in Japanese, Indonesian and is also a teacher of the Deaf. Since having Oscar Tennille has also become a civil celebrant. She has officiated at several weddings and is considering turning her hand at funerals. Tennille feels giving families the gift of a personalised, and heartfelt farewell, especially for a child is so important and can have a huge impact on the grieving process. Before having Oscar, stillbirth was something Tennille knew nothing about and raising awareness by openly discussing all three of her children has been a passion for her.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Losing Matisse – a Lesson in Spirituality by Ischa

Ischa shares with Sands her experience of losing her first baby boy, Matisse

'Losing Matisse forced me to accept life as it is, and to find peace with that.'


In January 2011 in between having a daughter and son, I lost my first baby boy, Matisse. It was my second pregnancy; he arrived early and did not survive the birth. It was especially heart breaking as I had endured months of illness clinging to the imagination of our future together. Having that taken away without reason left me in a state of shock, despair and utter lost-ness.

After the birth, distraught I asked all the usual questions, how did it happen, what do I do wrong, how could I fix it.  I felt so guilty, that somehow I had caused it or in someway didn’t deserve him. To ease the pain I started to plan. How soon could I start over, try again, and move forward. It felt good. I was in control again and the dream was not lost.  Then something happened.

My grief would not accept this pushing through. It stayed, forced me to sit and experience the pain in all its rawness. It sensed that this time I needed a different kind of meaning. It was in this moment that I began to really understand what being spiritual means. It is the choice to look for greater meaning through every situation, no matter how painful it might be.  A spiritual path is not something we choose to follow. We are always on it.
It is made up of every single experience we have passed through since birth. It is in the moment we consciously decide to evolve through these experiences that our spiritual path is revealed to us. One particular gift of loss and despair is that it is when life makes no sense that we are forced to seek a higher truth. Losing Matisse was a powerful teacher. It helped me to see that happiness is not the most important thing, nor the only path to fulfilment.

We greatly limit the human experience in the West fearing loss, grief, loneliness, guilt, anger, and desperation. We are taught to charge through, take action and move away from anything that feels uncomfortable. This denies the value of such emotions and drives us to control, avoid, resist and escape. And yet these emotions chase us relentlessly no matter how far we run, seemingly sabotaging our lives until we stop and let them in.
I have suffered many set backs in life and crusaded through them fearlessly. This time was different. I did not want Matisse to be a set back, a test of my strength. I wanted to keep him close by for the rest of my journey as an ally in life. What I discovered in my grief was the power of acceptance to bring peace into any type of human experience. Peace removes judgement, expectation and the need to know. Humans are gifted with wide range in their experiences, feelings and thoughts.

No one knows what is good or what is bad. It may feel bad to lose a baby, and to the future we may have had. To judge it as unfair, not right, and to imagine that I did not deserve him undermines his importance to my life.

Losing Matisse forced me to accept life as it is, and to find peace with that. Not to wish or want or expect things to be different. It developed in me new skills to meet disappointment with faith and openness, to not let it control me. He taught me the ultimate spiritual response is to allow my emotions while viewing every experience as a gift, an opportunity for new wisdom. I now know that in it is only on this path in our vulnerability that we truly relate to one another at our essence and that together we can grow and evolve our humanity.
Ischa


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


Ischa Roberts

I have many roles as a mother, wife and coach but my commitment is always to live my life in an authentic way. I am passionate about improving the human experience and helping people clarify their priorities and make conscious choices. I support relationships to create deeper experiences of intimacy and work to transform family life. Loss has been a powerful teacher of self-discovery, forgiveness, compassion and trust and I thank Matisse everyday for gifting me with this wisdom.

Monday, 7 December 2015

My First Christmas Without You - Lauren

Lauren talks about how this Christmas will be different as it is the first Christmas without precious Laylah and how her family will remember her.




The countdown to Christmas is on and all the tell-tale signs of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ are all around. Shops full of decorations, cute little festive outfits for children and parents lined up with screaming kids for hours just to get that one photo with the big jolly man. I normally love Christmas and all that comes along with it, I have the carols playing from the 1st December and I’m a sucker for all the gorgeous houses lit up at this time of the year.
This year it’s different, it’s the first Christmas we have had to spend without our baby girl. I had already planned out how this Christmas day was going to go with my bub being 11 months old, she would have been the perfect age for unwrapping presents and being more excited about the wrapping than the actual present. She would be doted over by the family as she is the first grandchild for my side and she would be able to enjoy all the yummy food but reality is this Christmas is going to be far from how I imagined it. 
Instead this year for me it becomes another day I have to survive and just try and get through. The shine is slightly dulled on the Christmas cheer as I’m not feeling so joyful. This year my only Christmas wish is to hold my daughter just once more in my arms and kiss her little head, I would trade every Christmas just for that.
For this year I have planned 3 things that are all about remembering my baby.
Christmas decoration
Last Christmas while heavily pregnant and waddling around the shops I had decided that I wanted to start the tradition in our family of buying a special decoration each year for my kids to hang on the Christmas tree. My Mum did something similar for us and setting up the Christmas tree was always such an exciting night in our family and even up until I was about 17 we would all have a night where we would set the tree up all together as a family. 
So although my baby girl isn’t here to celebrate Christmas as I had of wished she will still have two special ornaments on the tree, one from when I was pregnant with her last year and this year’s decoration.
Christmas stocking 
I bought a special Christmas stocking that I have had my daughter’s name embroidered on. It makes me smile to see it and it will now be a tradition to have the Laylah stocking hanging up near the tree every year and on Christmas morning it will be filled with hugs and kisses from Santa. 
Kmart wishing tree
I plan to donate a Christmas present to the Kmart wishing tree, to make it more meaningful I plan to get a present for an 11 month old girl. Something that I think Laylah would have loved for Christmas and hopefully it will bring joy to another little munchkin and makes her smile of Christmas morning.  
Lauren
If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Lauren Samuels

Lauren Samuels is a Melbourne based blogger. Through her own personal journey of losing her full term daughter to stillbirth it has been a huge test of character to keep moving and feel alive again. Blogging and sharing her personal experience has helped to make sense of the curve balls life has thrown and now she is all about enjoying the small things each and every day. Lauren is a wife to Jonathan, Mother to her angel Laylah and pregnant with bubba 2. You can follow her journey at www.enjoythesmallthings.com.au or on instagram @enjoythe.smallthings

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Why a Support Group was not for me... by Tennille

Tenille shares with us her feelings about Support Groups.
** Please note that these are her own feelings and not necessarily those of others who have found attending peer to peer support groups beneficial.

"I think support groups, if needed are great. They provide a valuable outlet for grief and emotion; people often develop very strong friendships from shared experiences and they assist families through some very difficult situations."




Entering the world of a bereaved parent is like landing on the moon. Every day, survival is a challenge; you need to make decisions about things you often know nothing about. The decisions you do make will stay with you forever and can have a lasting impact, both positive and negative. Some decisions I made were incredibly healing and others I regret and play over and over again in my mind. This new landscape, a new ‘normal’ is completely foreign and you have to pick and choose the support, information and guidance that is right for you.

Prior to Oscar being stillborn, I knew very little about stillbirth, apart from the fact that there were some babies who died in utero, but I had never given any thought as to why, or what happened after the baby died. I didn’t consider what it would be like to hold your baby or plan a funeral. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to tell people about your baby, where to go to seek support or the impact it would have on the mums and dads long term. I think we don’t consider these things because as a society stillbirth isn’t talked about frequently and to consider this at length when one isn’t faced with the experience is just too sad and too emotional to comprehend.

There was literature on being a bereaved parent, booklets explaining how everyone’s journey is different, even support groups. I read all the pamphlets over and over again in those first few days, I googled stillbirth, signed up to online forums and newsletters for stillbirth support and research agencies worldwide. Yet, to be honest, the idea of going to a support group, in person, frightened me. Did I belong there? What was I going to say? What if I just couldn’t control the tears? I suppose in essence, that is what it is for; a safe haven for people experiencing similar situations to share their inner most feelings without judgement. However, the idea of going along to a support group made me feel anxious. I was lucky to have a very supportive husband family and friends. I was able to retell Oscar’s story to these people, talk about him, and contemplate what life would have been like if he had lived. I somehow felt that by going to a support group I was making Oscar exclusive. Exclusive only to those in the support group. I couldn’t contain Oscar’s story or my grief to just a few hours a week. I needed everyone to know about Oscar, my family, my friends, people who had known I was pregnant. I didn’t necessarily want to share Oscar with ‘strangers’.

I think support groups, if needed are great. They provide a valuable outlet for grief and emotion; people often develop very strong friendships from shared experiences and they assist families through some very difficult situations. I just couldn’t go, yet I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I was ‘supposed’ to go. After about four months I went ….once. I sat there and listened to other people’s stories of loss; I felt very emotional and left feeling like I had been hit by a truck, which I’m told is perfectly normal after your first meeting. These women were lovely in their support for each other and their understanding and compassion but I still didn’t feel like this was the right fit for me. I choose not to go back and I now realise that is ok not to ‘need’ a support group. I have maintained contact with varying social media groups and other stillbirth support and research agencies and find that this is the best way for me to manage my grief.

The right support is the one that helps you get up each day and find a purpose. Some people are looking for friendship, others need understanding. And others, like me, prefer to work through their grief with people already close to them or prefer to expresses their feelings through writing or painting. Group support is available and that’s great, but you also don’t have to go in order to grieve or heal.

Tennille
If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Tennille Welsh

Tennille Welsh is a mother to three beautiful boys. Mark (her husband) and Tennille experienced the stillbirth of their first son Oscar, at 33 weeks gestation in 2011, cause unknown. Tennille lives on a hobby farm with her family and enjoys horse riding, swimming and playing with her children.

Tennille is a teacher, specialising in Japanese, Indonesian and is also a teacher of the Deaf. Since having Oscar Tennille has also become a civil celebrant. She has officiated at several weddings and is considering turning her hand at funerals. Tennille feels giving families the gift of a personalised, and heartfelt farewell, especially for a child is so important and can have a huge impact on the grieving process. Before having Oscar, stillbirth was something Tennille knew nothing about and raising awareness by openly discussing all three of her children has been a passion for her.


Monday, 30 November 2015

Flying The Sky To Honour My Sami

Natasha shares Sami’s story and how taking part in a fundraising skydive made her feel close to her little butterfly.



3:00am, July 25th, 2008. It was a freezing Canberra morning as I walked (in a fashion) into the Birth Centre at the Canberra Hospital. However I was 41 weeks pregnant, in the last stages of labour and had no notion of how cold it was. I was sweating as I reached the doors and as we got inside I knew I was very close to meeting the baby inside of me. Only 20 minutes later I was holding a beautiful bundle with big round eyes staring up at me. It was a girl, a little sister for our two year old son Jacob. My husband Mark had chosen the name Samantha while I was pregnant, and so she was named Samantha Ava Whiting, our Sami. She hardly cried and spent her first few hours with those big eyes looking around everywhere. I was on a wonderful natural high. After a fantastic birth I had a beautiful, healthy daughter. I was ecstatic and already excitedly planning a butterfly themed bedroom for her in my head. We went home later that day and settled into life with two children and showing off our gorgeous little girl any chance we got.

At 19 days old our little girl seemed to have a cold. She wasn’t feeding well and was sniffling. By early evening, as Mark was holding her, he noticed that she was struggling a bit as she breathed. We decided to take her into the hospital and from there things only got worse. Sami stopped breathing and had to be revived twice. She was intubated and on all sorts of monitors and taken to the NICU. When she was finally stable we were told she had viral meningitis. Over the next two weeks our sick little girl was in the hospital and suffering from migraines from the virus. Even though Sami seemed to get better and become more alert, she wasn’t breathing on her own. An MRI showed that lack of oxygen when she stopped breathing had caused an irreparable hole in her brain stem and she would never breathe on her own again. On the 13th of September at 10am we did what we thought would be the kindest, yet hardest, thing and took out all the tubes and set her free. We were told she would maybe survive half an hour after this, however our brave little girl was stubborn and she gave us the wonderful gift of 24 more hours with her. At 10:30am on the 14th of September, a crisp, sunny Spring day, I held my Sami and Mark and I told her how proud we were of our fighter, how much we loved her, and our brave little butterfly flew away.

Time goes on. Life keeps happening. At the time my daughter died I wasn’t sure how it could. And yet somehow we kept going. We had two more children, Callum and Jensen, and I found ways to honour my daughter’s memory and keep her alive and part of our family. We had organised an annual blanket drive for the NICU for six years and with the help of the local Canberra community had donated several thousand blankets. Unfortunately this had come to an end and I wanted to find a new way to honour my daughter’s memory and was coming up with nothing. Then at the start of July while browsing Facebook I caught sight of a fundraising venture from SANDS, whose page I browsed occasionally. It was coming up Sami’s 7th birthday and I was looking for something to commemorate it, so when I saw this idea I was immediately intrigued. A skydive! I was terrified of heights, but I knew somehow that doing something brave was a fantastic way to honour my daughter. She was, after all, the bravest little girl I knew. I contacted SANDS  immediately to say that I was interested in helping and told my husband what I’d done, feeling a little insane! A few emails back and forth and the fundraising page was set up and a date was set, August 1st. I shared it on Facebook almost daily and had friends and family share the page, I was getting plenty of donations coming in. The big day arrived and unfortunately the weather was terrible so the jump had to be rescheduled to the 29th. Finally THAT big day arrived! Up in the plane I was getting quite shaky and really wondered what I was doing. Then we were ready to jump and there was no more time for thinking. Suddenly I was free-falling at 14,000 feet! I could hardly breathe and was completely petrified…..and then the parachute was up and we were soaring, it was completely amazing. I was flying in the sky and I was close to my beautiful Sami, she was right there with me.

All too soon I was back on the ground and met by my boys and Mark, along with a crowd of supportive family and friends. I think I was shaking from the adrenalin rush for a good few hours afterwards, but it was wonderful and I was so glad I had done it. I had been brave, just like Sami, and had managed to raise $1450 for Sands to help support others like us. I couldn’t think of a better way to honour my precious girl.
Natasha


Feeling inspired? You too can do the same as Natasha and raise vital funds for Sands. There are skydiving locations around the country – just drop us an email at fundraising@sands.org.au detailing your location and we can get help you with all the arrangements.  

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Dantè Angel Kilduff Sherriff by Caitlin

Caitlin shares with us precious Dantè Angel Kilduff Sherriff.




If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637


My son my last my only - when I found out I was pregnant it was a miracle as I was never supposed to be able to get pregnant ever. I was so excited I was going to be a mum. soon after I became homeless and was sleeping in my car for a little;  I soon found a room to rent and was starting to get everything I would need for a baby when I went for a ultrasound at 13 weeks.  I cried my eyes out, I was amazed that that was my baby so perfect.   I found out I was having a boy then as well as there was no way at missing it - even the doctor was 99% sure. I was so happy as on top of all the doctors saying I would never have children, I lost my partner 3 years ago and even though I was struggling with everything I wanted to make sure I had everything for my son. When I felt him kick for the first time it was amazing and every little thing would put a smile on my face.

When I was 20 weeks I went in for a ultrasound.  I was so excited to get to see him.  The doctor started checking everything and explained everything she was doing.  At the end she asked someone else to come look at something - afterwards she told me that my midwife would tell me if there was anything wrong.  I was a little worried but my next appointment was only a week away - the day before I got a phone call asking if I could go in for another ultrasound and they could do it the same day as my midwife appointment. The next day I went in to the hospital when they started checking everything, but when they got to his heart I knew something was wrong by the looks on their faces -  my heart sank. They took me to a room and asked if I wanted someone with me -  I said no as I had no one.  They then told me my son had 2 life threatening heart defects. When I left I sat in the car for 30 minutes crying.

I had to go back in the next day to see a heart surgeon:  they did more ultrasounds and I lay there for a hour while 4 different doctors looked at his heart and they then told me my son had  hypoplastic left heart syndrome and interrupted aortic arch. They asked me if I wanted to continue my pregnancy and if so explained that he would have to have heart surgery within the first week of being born and stay in hospital until he was 3 months and then have 4 more surgeries after that.  I knew that no matter what I wanted to hold my son,  I wanted to feel what lots of other mums get to  feel, so they transferred me to a hospital that had specialists so he could have as much chance as they could give him to live.   Soon after I became homeless again as the people I was living with where having problems.

On the 23 November 2014 I woke up and noticed I was bleeding.  I went in to the hospital and they found that my main waters had broken and they would like me to stay in hospital until my body went in to labour by itself they told me that while he was still inside me he would be fine.  That afternoon I didn't feel right, so they did an ultrasound to check on him:  as they were doing that his heart started slowing down.  I could see the screen and I watched my sons heart stop beating. Everything inside me went numb - all that was going through my head was that I had to get as much as I could so I can remember him things like feet and hand prints and photos.  They soon started my labour. I had already called his father and asked if he would come but he hung up on me -  I tried for a hour to call him but he wouldn't pick up

For 6 hours I screamed for him and cried at 6:55 am on the 24 November 2014 at 2 5 weeks 4 days gestation my son Dantè Angel Kilduff Sherriff was born.  I got to spent 12 hours with him and they were the most amazing hours of my life.  When I left I didn't have anywhere to go so I slept in the car out the front of his fathers house.  I then had to organise everything by myself while I was still homeless. His funeral was so beautiful.  I never cried until after everything was done.  It was the day I picked his ashes up  - thats when it all hit me.

Looking back i wouldn't change a thing as I'm never going to have another child.  I got to hold my child,  something I was told I would never get to do.  My name is Caitlin,  I'm 25 and my son was born was here and was loved every moment of his life and I will love him every second of mine. I love and miss you Dantè Angel Kilduff Sheriff.  

Thank you for letting me share my sons story so he can live on in the memories of others.  My angel forever I love you.
Caitlin

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Six Years Is A Long Time by Dani

It has been six years since precious Jasper died.  In this blog, Dani shares with us her memories of what has occurred since Jasper died and her memories of the time surrounding his death.

Photo taken and copyrighted to Dani Hall
Every once in awhile, I remember how long it’s been. Days like today (18th November) – his 6th birthday, particularly mark the passing of time. Time really passes. It is not something we imagine. But the passing of time is both objective time and subjective time. But there is also personal time, which is measured in your relationship to memory.

When I stop to think about it – really think – so much has happened since his passing. We lost our house, went through fertility clinics to try and discover my infertility problems, we had a rainbow, we raised money for a camera kit for Heartfelt, I’ve lost 3 nephews – one to SIDS and two to prematurity, I’ve been blessed with 4 nieces, helped my mother-in-law find happiness with another partner and watched her get married, gotten a job as a sleep scientist, graduated university with a Bachelor of Justice and currently enrolled to complete a Master of Social Work, volunteered online with SANDS, enrolled my rainbow in prep, took a family road trip, watched Gangad pass, had two sisters get married, my rainbow had surgery and broke his leg, watched many friends get married and have babies and I’ve gotten 3 tattoos. And that’s just what I can think of, off the top of my head.

But then there’s the other side of time. Where it seems like it hasn’t passed at all. Where I think about his birth – rushing for an emergency caesarean and his admittance to the NICU. The strong yearning to see my baby – to hear him cry. The fond memory that we thought he was a girl right up until the moment he was born. The name we had picked out for him – Taryn – until he was born and we had to think of his name on the spot. The sheer relief that flooded through me when he was born, knowing he would be taken care of. The feeling of my heart plummeting when they told me to make the choice to continue care or remove him from life support. The knowledge that I had seen him only a few hours earlier and he was alive – kicking, responding to my touch – and knowing I’d never see that again. And in there hazily, the memory of my dad holding his oldest grandson, saying goodbye, telling him how proud he was of him. Getting wheeled back to my room after kissing him goodbye, knowing I’d never see him again. The sheer pain in my heart – hurting to move – hurting to breathe. The guilt for removing support. Preparing a cremation and funeral. Something no parent should have to do.

The overwhelming support and the text from my dad I will never forget “Dani, you should be very proud for creating a life and trying to give him the best chance possible – not many people can do that”. The foggy memories of loved ones visiting – and trying – really trying to connect but not being able to. The loss of friends.

The memories are right there, as though it all happened yesterday, but it’s been 6 years. 6 years ago we still thought he was a girl. 6 years ago we knew our baby would be born early we just didn't know when. 6 years ago I was still in ignorant bliss that our baby would survive. Little did we know in 24 hours our baby boy (surprise not a girl) would be born at 25+6 weeks and another 10 hours after that we would have to take him off life support and watch him go to heaven in my arms.

Time has taken away a lot of my innocence, given me a lot of grief, taken my son further and further away from me. But it has also given me many happy moments, blessed me with another son, made me who I am today.


“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” 
– Hakuri Murakami

Dani
If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Danielle Hall
Wife to Corey and Mumma to two boys: Jasper Rhys in heaven and Harrison Phillip Robert in her arms. Jasper passed away after PPROM at 23 weeks and birth at 26 weeks, surviving for 10 hours in the NICU unit. Currently completing a Master of Social Work with the goal to aid in the safety and protection of all children, because all children deserve to feel safe and loved.