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
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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.