Monday, 25 January 2016

Keeping Charlie’s Memory Alive by Anita

Anita Marshall shares Charlie’s story and how running has become a special time for her; ‘Charlie time’ and a way to keep his memory alive. It has also allowed her to raise funds for Sands and help other parents in a similar situation.

Sands Australia has become an integral part of mine and my family’s life since Charlie was stillborn on July 30, 2002. 

Thirteen and a half years seems like a long time and it is, but Charlie is always with us as are the memories of the day life changed forever. 

My husband and I had been trying to have a baby and after a bit of help, became pregnant for the first time.  At the time, I worked in a maternity hospital and was also a trained nurse so was surrounded by the healthcare system and babies.  The pregnancy was smooth with no hiccups and everyone at home and work were excited to meet our little boy Charlie.  We knew it was a boy and his name was Charlie.  I had just finished working with the plan of having a few weeks off to rest and nest at home.  I saw my obstetrician in the afternoon of July 29 and heard Charlie’s heartbeat and all was fine “see you next week for your delivery” he said as I left the clinic. 

That night I felt uncomfortable but I was 37 weeks pregnant so naively went about my business. As the night progressed, I started to feel unwell and had what I thought must be contractions, so off to the hospital we drove, excited that this might be it. On arrival we were placed in a room to be checked and see what was going on.  Like so many before us, Charlie’s heartbeat could not be found and in that moment I knew enough to know something was wrong.  None of the nursing staff could find his heartbeat and our obstetrician had been contacted.  We were moved to our obstetrician’s rooms for an ultrasound, just him and us, where it was confirmed that Charlie had died.  We had only heard his heartbeat that afternoon….what could possibly have gone wrong? 

In the early hours of July 30, Charlie Marshall was born naturally and was 7.5 pounds and looked like nothing was wrong except everything was wrong as he did not take a breath. 
Apart from my brother, who was younger than us and had no children himself, we found ourselves on our own. We were living interstate so family and friends were contacted and were on the next planes to be by our side and meet and hold Charlie.

Life changed forever that day, not only for us but also our family and friends.  They surrounded us with love and support and following Charlie’s funeral, the first of what has now become a tradition ‘Charlie Party’ was held at my brother’s home.  All the food and drink had to start with ‘C’ and everyone there wrote their special note to Charlie on a balloon that were all released together.  This tradition has continued and has now also been embraced by Charlie’s brothers – Cooper, Archie and Parker! 

Charlie’s three brothers were all born prematurely which was certainly a highly stressful number of years. 

It was after having our four sons that I decided to take up running and it quickly became my ‘Charlie time’.  One thing led to another and I started entering fun runs and fundraising for Sands. Sands had allowed me to grieve at my own pace, feel normal around others and piece by piece put life back together.  It is a way I can help Sands and other families like ours. 
I wanted to mark Charlie’s 10th birthday, so my close friends and I created Team Charlie and ran the Melbourne Half Marathon in 2012. We managed to raise $25,000 for Sands, it was such a fulfilling and meaningful achievement. Then in 2015, the year Charlie would have become a teenager, we decided to commemorate it by taking part in the ultimate run, the New York Marathon, raising over $9,500.  Running and raising money for Sands not only supports an organisation that gives so much to others but also keeps Charlie’s memory alive for all those around him. 

Losing your child leaves you in pieces but Sands is part of the team who help put you back together all be it in a different way and for that we will be forever grateful.

Anita Marshall 

If you are inspired by Anita and want to fundraise for Sands visit for ideas on how you can make a huge difference.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Why I'm A Parent Supporter with Sands by Peter

I’ve never been a big talker. More often than not, I’ve not had the need to open up and spill the beans. I’ve got a pretty solid family network, and a great bunch of amazing friends.

After our baby died, I still wasn’t a big talker. I still haven’t really needed to open up and tell all and sundry about our loss. My family are still great and my friends are still awesome.

It took me many months, maybe even a year to kind of process what had happened. From that initial shock, to going into survival mode and trying to work and keep up the general challenge of living, it took me some time to acknowledge and start to understand that my boy had died. I knew it in my head, but the rest of me didn’t want to think about it.

My wife went to a few Sands meetings here in Brisbane, and I angrily went along to one. It wasn’t that I didn’t think or feel I needed support, it’s just I didn’t know how it would benefit me.

Similarly, my wife went to two ‘Walks to Remember’, and again, anxiously, I went to the third one with her.

What I found when I went to the Sands support meeting, and the Walk to Remember (I went to a few) is that I felt comforted. Comforted, that I wasn’t the only one who had this ‘silent pain’. To have a wound, with no visible scar. I was taken that these people spoke the same language as me. Mums, and dads. Aunties. Uncles. Grandparents. Siblings. This language was spoken with words, with actions, with a comforting hug that simply said ‘I understand’ and with silent speech where I understood every word.

I’m a parent supporter with Sands, because after ten years, I still value so much that there was a group that spoke the same language as my wife and I. That there is a group of ordinary, everyday people, brought together by tragedy, held together by kindness and supported with respect, listening and understanding.

I’m a parent supporter with Sands, because sadly, I know there will be more, many more families that will experience the tragic loss of miscarriage or infant death. I want them to know that their feelings of loss are real, their tears are validated and their words and silence, will be listened to.

I’m a parent supporter with Sands, because I know there are a stack of dads out there who have gone through a pregnancy with their partner, who have lost their baby, and who sometimes feel that they have lost themselves, and their partner too. I’m a parent supporter with Sands because I’ve walked that walk, of trying to balance the everyday, themselves, their partners, their family and the gaping hole in their life. I’m a parent supporter, because I know sometimes dads just need to shoot the breeze, ask a couple of questions and bounce ideas off each other. I’m a parent supporter, because dads need to know their experience, thoughts and feelings are real, they are important, and they have a very important story to tell, too.

I’m a parent supporter with Sands, because I know with time, support, lots of ups and lots of downs, you heal.

I know that the acute pain of loss does not last forever. I know that there’s light at the end of this very deep, very dark tunnel. I know that those who have gone through this have a new normal. A new normal where a pregnancy announcement of a friend brings up intense feelings. A new normal where the sound of a babies cry can feel like a punch to the throat. I also know that, with time, support and understanding that pain does fade. The wounds do heal. Those intense feelings fade, resurface, fade, recede and sometimes just bubble up a little.

I’m not a parent supporter because there’s anything glamorous or exciting about listening to a grieving parent talk about miscarriage or infant death. I’m a parent supporter, because I truly know that understanding, kindness, support and listening can be a key in pulling together, when everything has been torn apart. I’m a parent supporter, because I truly valued knowing there were others out there that spoke the same language as me, and they listened as I spoke it to them.

I’m a parent supporter, because I want families who have experienced miscarriage or infant death to know that they are not alone, that there will be a light at the end of this tunnel.  

I work 9 - 5 in the city. In my spare time I do a stack of freelance writing, try to spend as much time with my family and enjoy spending time in the garden. I have been a Parent Supporter with Sands since August 2015. Dad to Daniel, my first born who passed away, and Zoe (7) and Eli (5).
Click here to see Peter talk to Emma Alberici and Paul Kennedy about Sands and the Men's Helpline on ABC Breakfast TV.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Saturday, 16 January 2016

In A Year by Tiffany A.

A year ago today (10/1/16) we lost our 4th child Jax, who was our second baby boy that we had lost in less than a year. I woke up this morning not even thinking of the date, although deep down I knew what it was because I’ve spent the whole week thinking I was going to die.  But of course, me being as stubborn as I am, I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening until I woke to one Facebook notification from my beautiful sister Dani. Then the reminders hit.   Today I’ve felt annoyed and cranky and fidgety and all because of what happened a year ago.  I’ve been extremely scared going to the ladies room a bit more often than normal to ensure I was going to make it to put my girls to bed.

Anyway, a little while later I had another beautiful post from a lovely lady Lana. Again I began to get frustrated, not wanting it to actually be real - I just wanted the day to be normal. I continued my day not knowing exactly how I’m wanting to feel until I finally sat down now and thought  people remembered, people actually care and I am loved, even if it’s not by who I want, it’s still by people who are important to me.

Since May 14th 2014 when I lost my 1st son, I want to say thank you to my family and especially Dani and Lana for being the guidance I’ve needed -  if I didn’t have that I’m not sure how much strength I’d have. In these 2 years we have lost many friends because they don’t know how to be around us anymore and that is heart wrenching but at the same time, we have made many beautiful friends who actually understand. This almost 2 years I feel I’ve been to hell and back.  I’m tired,  I’m scared of everything, I’m paranoid,  I’m lonely and completely mixed up. I’m also completely frustrated because all we want is a baby.  I’m also happy that my eldest daughter finished prep but sad she can’t experience this with her brothers beside her. This year I plan on visiting my doctor and getting professional help for all of my issues that I have, not only with losing my boys.

I would really like to say for those of you who go through crap in life; don’t lose who you are in the meantime. Losing a baby is the worst I’ve ever gone through (3 times). Make sure you get help from the beginning because it’ll make things that bit easier when you feel no one is there.
Tiffany A.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Tiffany Aghan

Wife to Luke and mummy to Tamara and Summer, in her arms, and Wade, Jax and Tristan, in heaven. I have recently completed certificates in law and in psychology and in the process of completing certificate in medicine. I am having time off at the moment to spend more time with my girls. But I am hoping one day I will continue where I want to go.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

It Seems Like Yesterday by Kristina

In loving memory of precious Neve and Charlie.  Forever loved.

It seems like yesterday but it’s 9 and 8 years.
I never thought I would know how it feels to get out of bed and try to put one foot in front of the other and to put on that smile.
I was a nurse: I had seen people die and I had helped people survive. I had cared for premature babies born at 24 weeks who went home.
I had held a mother’s hand as I told her she would not take her baby home. Watched her whole world be shattered.
I cried tears with her and with my own mother when I finished my shift.
Never did I think I would be that mother.
Sadly I am, and not once but twice.
No one tells you about the 1in4.
I was blind.
My first pregnancy was planned. We were so excited. Everything was perfect.
Well almost: my mum was battling ovarian cancer so this baby was her reason to battle.
We had our 20 week scan and we saw our baby kicking and moving. Little did we know 3 weeks later we would meet him.
I was visiting mum in hospital when I felt just exhausted. I thought it was because I was working full time as a nurse and visiting mum every day.
I called in sick to work and went home and slept. I woke with bad cramping in my back.
I didn't think anything of it. But as the day went on it became worse. All of a sudden I realised this was labour.
As I made my way to the hospital I knew it would be ok we live in a world of miracles.
I was told I was 6 cm dilated and that he had a head full of hair.
I was also told at 23+5 weeks they would not save him.
I kept saying but I work here you need to help him. The look on my doctor’s face told me they wouldn't.
That night after a 6 hr labour I gave birth to our very handsome first son Charlie.
He was so long just like his daddy.
He did have lots of hair.
We had him for 2 minutes. Those 2 minutes were the most beautiful 2 minutes.
We held him and gave him enough love for his life time and ours.
I remembered singing twinkle twinkle to him.
He was just beautiful.
That night I lost my son my mother decided to give up her fight for life. 12 days later she went and met him in heaven.
I will always remember her words. "If they can take a baby there is no point to fighting anymore."
That night I slept in 5 minute intervals. Each time waking and crying for my baby.
The next day I was told I had to plan a funeral!
Funeral? What did they mean? How could I possibly bury a baby so tiny?
I went on auto pilot. Choosing a coffin, songs, words.
How can you choose a song when he didn't get to live.
We did - we chose “Over the Rainbow” and “Tears in Heaven”.
We had a beautiful ceremony, not a funeral. We cremated him and took him home.
The next few weeks are a blur as mum's funeral was next.
I still had my bump. I remember the looks and the pity stares. My breasts had just stopped leaking -
another thing I didn't know would happen.
We were thrilled and nervous to find we were expecting our first daughter two months later.
We were closely monitored with Neve. We went private with her. Our obstetrician was amazing.
She too was a great pregnancy. We made it to 23 weeks and I cried every day that week. As I knew what could have been.
At 32 weeks I had a small bleed and cramping. We were sent to a bigger hospital to be monitored. I sat there for 2 weeks on bed rest an hour away from family and friends.
I kept a diary I spoke to her and I patted her.
We were sent home at 34 weeks.
She refused to budge. She was way too comfy.
I went in on the 7th August at 41 weeks.
She was kicking me and it hurt.
Little did I know  that would be the last movement I would feel.
My waters were broken and from that moment the contractions were so painful. I kept saying to my husband something is wrong please help me.
The midwives said it’s because your waters were broken.
I knew it wasn't.
Finally they told me to lie down and they will put a CTG on me.
My whole world came crashing down.
They couldn't find it. They tried different probes.
I knew when the unit manager came to try it was happening again.
They took me down for an ultrasound. No pain relief.
There she was. Perfect and still. The words
"I'm  sorry, there is no heartbeat."
What do you do?  Scream.
The pain of contractions was nothing compared to my heart shattering.
6hrs later I gave birth to the most beautiful curly haired little girl. NEVE
She was perfect. Beautiful pouting lips and big chubby checks.
They placed her on my chest. I was so in love with her.
We kept her in our arms for 24hrs. Once again singing to her. Kissing her.
She had wrapped herself in the cord and pulled it tight. She stopped her flow of oxygen.
Once again we went home empty armed.
We planned her funeral and once again chose songs.
With Charlie we decided to let him run free.
We took him to our favourite beach.
We wanted him to see the world.
He is in every ocean we see.
We never thought it would happen again.
With Neve she is here with us in our bedroom.
We celebrate their birthdays. We sleep with their blankets.
I still cry for them. I still miss them. I still wonder what ifs.
There were days I couldn't get out of bed. Let alone shower.
Then there were days I would put on that happy face.
I'm not the person I used to be. Fun, silly, carefree and most of all always happy.
Now I worry, stress more, pretend.
This is not a easy journey  but I walk this journey because my babies were real they mattered. They are loved.
They have taught me to love hard and to make it count.
My babies are the reason I chose to try again. I have my two miracle rainbow children who along with Neve and Charlie are helping me on this journey.
As I know what it’s like to say goodbye.
I know what it’s like to be broken.
I know the true meaning of the word mother.
I know others know too.

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

Kristina Riley

Kristina is a children's nurse and a counsellor.
She has four beautiful children.
Charlie and Neve are her two angels who are the  inspiration for raising more awareness about stillbirths and pregnancy loss.
Her two miracles Maya and Zack are the reason she keeps moving forward on this journey of grief.
Her husband Curt is also her inspiration to raise awareness for fathers and their grief.

There needs to be more awareness for us all.