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.
If you are inspired by Anita and want to fundraise for Sands visit http://www.sands.org.au/get-involved/fundraise for ideas on how you can make a huge difference.