Friday, 19 May 2017

Things I Wish I'd Known - Ally

Never did we expect the outcome of our blissful pregnancy to end with the beautiful and short life of our only daughter. After a devastating six weeks of scans and tests, solemn news and flowing tears, at 24 weeks, you graced us at 1:08am on January 12 2017. It was surreal, the sound of an empty room after the midwife informed me that I was about to meet my daughter. I would never be prepared for what came next, the smallest, most fragile and precious baby that I would ever lay my eyes on. 

After an emotionally draining and exhausting 16 hour labour, you were wheeled away for more tests while I briefly slept, only to return wrapped in your angel gown, resting peacefully with your head on your hands, as if you were merely sleeping. 

Of course, was born asleep, and would stay that way, no crying, no feeding, no laughter. The hardest moment of all would be leaving her, walking away from that hospital room, a mother and father leaving the hospital, without the baby they came with. I still will never know how I put one foot in front of the other and was able to walk away from her. The hardest thing I'll ever do.
It was, but then I would never know that the grief of losing a baby never really leaves you. You just find ways of coping. But you'll never forget that you left the hospital, with an empty heart, that of a mother without a child. 

Looking back, my favourite pastime was listening to her speedy little heartbeat every morning and evening. I had hired a heartbeat monitor for peace of mind. I kept thinking while her heart was strong, surely she could overcome anything else. I would send positive thoughts, my steely determination pushing her to survive. But it wasn't enough, and she couldn't fight it. Knowing how sick she was now, I know she was incredibly strong to have survived that long.

I had to stop listening to the recordings to try to distance myself from those happy memories. I thought if I could busy myself, throwing myself into my work, I could get some distance from the pain. Distance from the hurt, from the emptiness. I would never know how it feels to be alone in this world, until the one person I had the closest possible human connection with, is gone. Only one person knows what my heartbeat sounds like from inside the womb. I frequently heard hers but she lived only ever hearing mine. 
What I would never know is that there is no distancing oneself. From the moment I could feel her, the moment that I knew of her existence, there would be no way of distancing myself. Especially after she's gone. Instead, I am left only with these regrets. 


I regret not listening to your little heartbeat until the very moment that your little heart stopped beating.

I regret not lying there absorbing your every movement so that I could look back and remember it as some of the best moments of my life. 

I regret not taking photos of myself, through every happy and terrifying moment of my pregnancy, proud of my pregnant belly and the gorgeous baby inside me.

I regret not filming myself while you twisted and turned, so that I could look back and try to recall that feeling.

I regret that I don't have a smell that reminds me of you. No new baby smell, no talcum powder or baby wipes. New mums would take this for granted I'm sure, all I want, is to hear you cry just once and smell a gorgeous newborn baby smell.

I regret that I don't have a song, which makes me happy, thinking of the joy you brought to our lives. 

I regret that I can't recall your warm body when you joined this world. My brief time with you, the one time I held you, I no longer remember. 

I regret that pain medication I took to try to make your birth easier, instead robbed me of my memories and time with you as I slept, exhausted from the morphine I had asked for.

Instead I can only recall my last moments with you, touching your cold skin as I said my last goodbye to your tiny, fragile body. It breaks my heart how small you were, only 320 grams at 5 months pregnant.

I regret that I was so tired after such a long day that my only memories are fading and it hurts my heart that I may only be left with photos of you, photos that do not do your beauty justice. Photos that cannot describe the honour I have of being your mummy.

There are fleeting memories and photos, sad songs and no smells. All that we are left with now is a tiny box of ashes, which fail to acknowledge to the world that she was born, and was a child of ours. 

We will love you endlessly, Edie Grace. You were and will be loved beyond measure. 
- -

Ally Downing, mother to Edie Grace Downing

If you require support after reading this blog please contact 

Sands on 13 000 72637

Ally Downing

Ally is a first time mother whose daughter Edie Grace was stillborn on January 12, 2017. Three months on, Ally and her husband Greg still have no medical diagnosis for Edie's death as they await genetic testing to shed some light on her illness.

As a publicist, she felt it was beneficial to share her story for other grieving mothers, to raise awareness about loss in pregnancy, particularly for first time parents. As the joys of motherhood still await Ally, in the meantime Ally and Greg are supporting each other, frequently speaking of their beautiful daughter they were so blessed to meet, to honor her memory

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Mother’s Day: Without My Baby And Without My Mum - Courtney

My mum passed away in 2004, from a rare condition called MSA. I was 18 years old. I thought that would be the hardest thing I would ever have to go through in my lifetime. But unfortunately it wasn’t.

At the end of 2014, my partner and I found out that we were expecting, we were so happy.

My pregnancy was straight forward, a bit of morning sickness early on but nothing serious. Our 13 week scan was great, as was our 20 week scan. We also had a number of blood tests that came back fine. We found out we were expecting a baby boy. Because I was relatively young, and everything seemed to be going well, our doctors didn’t see the need for any further scans or tests after 20 weeks. I made sure I was super healthy during my pregnancy. I did everything by the book. No alcohol, no coffee etc.

We gave birth, at 39 weeks, on July 14, 2015, a day before my birthday.
Cooper was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen.
And even straight after birth we were told he was fine.

Things took a turn for the worst later that day. Cooper was breathing heavily, and one of the nurses noticed, and took him to the nursery to be checked.

And so began the worst few days of our lives.

That night we were told there might be something wrong with Cooper’s heart, he would need to be transferred for further tests. He nearly didn’t survive the trip from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.

The following day, on my birthday, we were told that it wasn’t his heart. He had a rare condition, called Vein of Galen (genetic, but completely unrelated to what my mum passed away from). A rare condition, which affects approximately 1 in 3 million babies and is rarely detected during pregnancy unless you have a scan after 30 weeks. Some cases can be operated on but Cooper’s was too severe. He was immediately put on life support.

The next five days were a blur, we asked ourselves so many questions, how could this be happening? Why was this happening? Was it my fault? Would we be able to have another baby?

Cooper survived another night with us by his side. And passed away on the morning of July 19.  Our first born baby, the love of our lives, was gone. And there was nothing we could do.

For the next 6 months, everything hurt. The pain was emotional and physical.
As if the grief wasn’t hard enough, your body is also telling you that you should be looking after a baby. My milk came in and I had to take tablets to make it stop. My post baby body was a constant reminder that I had given birth, but had no baby. We had to pack up a beautiful nursery that we’d spent months setting up. We had to visit the funeral home. And of course we had to make sure all our friends and family knew what had happened.

It was a time when a girl really needed her mother, and I didn’t have her either.

I returned to work a few months later and everyday someone new asked me how my baby was going. I had to explain over and over, usually through tears. In saying that, going back to work was the best thing I could have done. I had somewhere to be everyday and my colleagues were unbelievably supportive.

But the main reason I kept going was thanks to my amazing husband and our families, for them I will be forever grateful.
And of course the thought that one day, we would hopefully have another baby.

We started trying again around 6 months after losing Cooper. The first few months that we didn’t fall pregnant were extremely hard. I wondered if I was ever going to get pregnant again. There were a lot of tears. But finally it happened.

Our second pregnancy was a lot more stressful than our first. We had extra scans and tests, and constantly worried that it was all going to happen again.

It was a long 9 months. But we made it.
On February 17, 2017 we welcomed our beautiful baby girl Zara, the light of our lives.

For a long time I wondered if we would truly ever be happy ever again. But I can now say we are getting there. It’s been tough, but one thing I’ve learnt is the road to motherhood is not easy for so many people. And sometimes it’s just not fair.

Last year Mother’s Day was terrible. How do you celebrate a day, when you don’t have your mum or your baby? I just cried and cried.

This year will be different though. This year I will celebrate Mother’s Day with my beautiful baby girl, and we will remember her amazing brother and my mum, who were both taken from us far too soon.

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

Courtney Zagel

Gold Coast Journalist.30 years old Wife to Leon. Mother of two, Cooper (passed away in 2015 at 5 days old) and Zara (now 10 weeks old)