Friday, 18 March 2016

Patrick and Susannah

Our daughter Clementine was born two weeks before her due date.

I had realised that she had stopped moving and we went into the hospital. Our very experienced midwife, Robyn, couldn't find her heartbeat. A doctor came and checked. She told us that Clementine had died.

The doctor explained that I would need to have an ultrasound - to provide final confirmation.

A man came with a wheelchair to take me to radiology but I told him I could walk. He insisted. It was a Sunday and the normally busy area was deserted.

Robyn came with us. She said the sonographer was young, he'd had to do this final confirmation for a number of women in recent months and he had asked for someone to come with me.

I recognised the sonographer and I could tell that he recognised me. Clementine’s growth had been behind schedule and I had had many ultrasounds over the course of my pregnancy.

It was when the sonographer said "I'm very sorry for your loss" that the reality hit me. I screamed.

The ultrasound. Something that was once something exciting and fun to look forward to in pregnancy had morphed to be traumatic and a trigger for my grief for Clementine.

The thought of being pregnant again and having another ultrasound was terrifying.

As months passed and home pregnancy tests revealed that I was not pregnant, I felt a mix of relief and sadness. Relief that I was not pregnant and having to face all that terrified me. And sadness as I faced the possibility that we may not have another baby.

When I did fall pregnant, one of the first people we told was Robyn.

My worst fear was returning to the hospital for an ultrasound. For me, the thought of returning to the physical location that I most associated with the loss of our daughter was horrifying.

I didn't even need to tell Robyn - she knew. And she suggested I have all of my ultrasounds at a specialist clinic that I had never attended before. And she helped organise this to happen.

It made a significant difference. I didn't have to walk into the radiology department to relive, again and again, the moment I was told that our baby had died. My fear was still there and I braced myself before each ultrasound to be told that this baby had no heartbeat. But he did have a heartbeat, he was alive and growing.

Conventional wisdom says "face your fear!" but, for me, it felt more important to minimise the stress associated with each ultrasound and changing the physical location helped me to do that. It also helped reinforce for me that this was a different pregnancy, a different experience and that it would, most likely, have a very different outcome.

I was fortunate to have the support of an online loss group who provided encouragement and understanding as I faced each ultrasound.

When I was about 32 weeks pregnant, Robyn mentioned packing my bag so that it would be ready when it was time to come to the hospital. It really shook me and I started to cry as we talked about it. The last time I had packed a hospital bag was when I had felt that Clementine had stopped moving. We came to the hospital to be told that she had died. Brains can make interesting leaps of logic and mine had connected packing the bag with the death of our baby. While I could take a step back and recognise my faulty logic, I never did pack that bag.

Clementine had died when I was 38 weeks pregnant. The doctors indicated that they would want to assess my mental health as I approached 38 weeks to determine if they might need to induce labour.

As it turned out, this wasn't necessary.

Our baby boy, Patrick, decided for himself that he would be born when I was 36 weeks pregnant.

Patrick's birth triggered memories of Clementine's and I was grateful that, once again, Robyn was able to be there to guide me through the birth of another beautiful baby.

Robyn understood the points at which I was struggling; she listened and talked them through with me. I swore - a lot. Even my tradie husband was shocked at the expletives I managed to string together.

When Patrick was born, a paediatrician was hovering to check him over. As the doctor approached, I screamed at her not to take my baby. Fortunately, Patrick was well and he could stay with us.

We had spent time with Clementine at the hospital but, after her autopsy was completed, we released her to Julie, a very caring woman from Tobin Brothers. We walked out with Julie and watched as she strapped the soft fabric carrier into her car and then drove out of the hospital car park.

Leaving the hospital with Patrick, strapping him into the car seat that had sat unused in our car for two years, was overwhelming.

When Patrick was six weeks old, we celebrated Clementine's second birthday. It was a time of intense sleep deprivation and grief. It was sometimes difficult for me to articulate what I was experiencing and feeling but I was fortunate that, when I did, I had the support of my husband, family and friends. I had an outstanding maternal child health nurse and I also made use of the PANDA (postnatal depression) helpline. I didn't know if I had PND but the grief and sleep deprivation were making life difficult and the PANDA counsellors helped me.

Patrick is now nine months old. His gentle nature and smiling face have brought us so much happiness. Sometimes, when he is asleep, he looks so much like Clementine that he takes my breath away.

I am so grateful for my children; they bring me so much joy. I miss Clementine and still cannot believe that she died and that I will never see her grow. I continue to grieve for Clementine and the triggers for this grief still take me by surprise.

The joy Patrick has brought does not "cancel out" my grief for Clementine.

I wish I could tie this story up with a pretty bow and lovely conclusion. I can't. Patrick is a baby, a person in his own right, he is not our "happy ending". If we are lucky, we will keep on going - laughing, crying, screaming, smiling, talking, celebrating, and remembering.

I rejoice in my two children who are here with me. I will always miss my Clementine. 


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.


  1. Loved reading this Susannah. Xx

  2. Big love to you Sus. Your courage to share is helping so many others. Xxx