Two Weeks

On the weekend Elijah turned two weeks old.  For our family this was a significant milestone.  It’s the age Xavier was when we said goodbye.  On the eve of Elijah’s 13th day – the morning we found Xavier without breath – Elijah was held all night long.  My gorgeous sister stayed with me as we watched TV and waited out the sunrise.  As the clock ticked over to 5am, I held Elijah close and wept with relief.

“You’re going to stay” I whispered, elated and sleep deprived.

N had pointed out that there was minimal chance of Elijah dying by SIDS and non-existent odds of him doing so at the same age we lost Xavier.  But the heart and head sometimes follow different paths.  Even though it makes little logical sense, I cannot help but feel that we have dodged a bullet.

The anxiety remains, and it probably will forever, but the feeling of certainty that we will lose Elijah has lessened.  I will still wake in the night and check that he is breathing, but I am less surprised now to find that he still with us.  When you have experienced the worst, it can be hard to have faith in the future.  But I am slowly finding that faith.  I do not believe our lives will be perfect from this point onwards.  I have seen too many people go through multiple losses to believe that our angel children look after us from afar and protect us from any future pain.  Life doesn’t work on a series of checks and balances, nor do tragedy and deservedness have any bearing on each other.   I cannot look into the future and know what it holds.  But I am sure there will be both beauty and pain, laughter and tears.    So I can face the future with fear or with hope and I am going to choose hope.

I wrote these affirmations to help me with my anxiety – they might help other parents too.

Affirmations

WHy I chose you

Being Brave

I have been working on this blog for a few days now, but I have been unsure as to whether to make it’s presence more widely known.

Whilst writing about loss is cathartic, sharing those thoughts feels a little like standing naked in the school yard.   The internet can be a cruel place of faceless judgement, and whilst you might believe a bereaved parent to be held sacred, that is far from the truth.

Then I remembered the days after Xavier’s death by SIDS.  I would scour the internet in the hopes of finding a story that reflected my own.  I wanted to know that people lived through losing their children.  That people found hope again.  That grief would eventually become gentler.   And I found some of those stories.  And they did help.  They let me know I wasn’t alone.  They prepared me for the path ahead.  I am grateful to those brave parents, who let their fears, dreams and hopes become words that others could grab onto.   If I can count myself amongst their number, then that is enough.

So, with a great big gulp, I am going to plunge in and share my story with the world.

The Magic of a Newborn

As my eldest son Isaac (now 4) grew from newborn to baby to toddler, I would announce each new phase as my favourite so far.  But the newborn stage holds a special place in my heart.   There is just something magical about new life in its most infant form.  This tiny little person, full of possibility, but right now totally dependant.    Baby at breast, surrounded by my family,  offers a level of contentment that cannot be easily surpassed.  Watching N hold little Elijah – both relaxing on the couch – fills me with warmth and gratitude.   The little mewls, the grip of a tiny hand around your fingertip, those bewildered first glances until they catch your eye and gaze back your reflected love.   The cuddles at all hours of the day and night.  I can’t properly describe how much I love each moment.  I felt this with Isaac, with Xavier and now with Elijah.  When Xavier died so young, I felt particularly robbed of this beautiful stage.  So I treasure every sight, every sound, every smell, every touch that Elijah offers.

A dear friend gave birth to her first – a little girl- two days before Elijah came into the world.  When we met up for the first time after our babies were born she cried with me over Xavier.  Her absolute love for her daughter giving her a glimpse into what the impossible pain of losing Xavier might have been.   Even now, with Elijah in my arms, I wonder how I survived – and continue to survive – without one of my children.   But his love remains and my heart richer for him being a part of our lives.   I am a better, more patient and more grateful parent after loss.  And the magic of a newborn has me spellbound once again.

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Welcome Elijah

On the 28th July, we welcomed our precious little man Elijah George into our lives. This is his birth story.

My pregnancy with Elijah was text book – in the sense that it was one of those of pregnancies that progress with no complications and very little discomfort. Like my previous two pregnancies,  I physically felt well and joyful. However, after losing our darling second born, Xavier to SIDS, my anxiety was a different story. Losing a child opens your eyes to a whole new world.   A world where previously healthy babies are born still, where there is no magic 12 week safety marker, where you can do everything right and still lose your precious child.   Where you are acutely aware of just how common stillbirth remains despite the fact no one talks about it.  Where a positive pregnancy test does not guarantee a positive outcome.  Where newborn babies can die without a reason.

Every kick was a welcome reassurance, followed closely by the panicked thought that perhaps that was the last kick I’d feel.   My doctor was amazing.   He guided me through that anxiety without questioning its validity. Each scan gave me the reassurance I needed.   Each time I heard the words “perfectly normal”, I could exhale for a moment.   And when Elijah failed to turn up at around 36 weeks like his brothers, he okay’ed induction at 37 weeks + 2 days.    Elijah weighed a good amount and his head was measuring term, so we were both comfortable with this.   Particularly as my anxiety was rising after one of the women I knew through a subsequent pregnancy support group lost another child to stillbirth a few days before her scheduled induction at 39 weeks – she had asked for an earlier induction and it had been denied her.

On the morning of induction my husband and I  calmly made our way to the hospital, comparing it to our previous two trips when I had been in labour by this point.   I even applied some make-up though I have no idea why I thought that it would last through labour.  We arrived and met up with my sister, Paulina, who has been present at all the boy’s births.  We were quickly showed to our birthing suite by our beautiful midwife, Nikki.

I set up Xavier’s photo and my birthing necklace.   The necklace is  made up of beads that each of my family and girlfriends had given me at my baby shower/blessing –  each bead representing a different wish for Elijah and I.   Paulina placed oil into a burner.  The room felt good.

At 8:30 Nikki broke my waters.  It was probably the most uncomfortable part of the labour but it meant the beginning.   I had hoped to avoid the syntocin drip and was able to wait a couple of hours to see if I went into labour spontaneously.  I bounced on the birthing ball as we chatted and laughed.   Paulina and I belly danced around the room, laughing as my doctor came into the room a moment after we stopped.     That dance is one of my precious memories from Elijah’s birth.   My doctor prepped me for the drip but said we could wait a while to administer the syntocin. Paulina performed acupressure in the hopes of getting labour underway.  At about 10:00 I started to get mild contractions.  As in my previous labours, these were very mild but still relatively close together.  I could talk through them and had to pay careful attention to my body to tell when they eased off.  By around11:30 the contractions had strengthened and the syntocin was decided against.  As I started to need to lean on the sink to brace myself for the next contraction and let out a low moan, N exclaimed, “we’re on – baby will be here at around 12:30”.  I moved between shower and toilet as I felt myself go into transition.  That uncomfortable place of confusion and irritability – where you don’t know what you want and you can’t answer anything sensibly.  As I stood in the shower, Nikki asked “so are we going to have a baby?”   “I think so,” I moaned, unable to be committal even about the obvious.   N ran the hot water over my back in the shower.  Some abstract part of me noted how cute he looked in the scrubs Nikki had given him to wear in the shower.    Sitting on the shower floor, I tried to regain some control and I whispered “breath out fear – let it go.”  I moved to the bed, willing the pushing part to come on.  Paulina and N stood on either side of me, applying acupressure.   Finally the urge to push and I felt I needed to be on the toilet. Nikki quickly retrieved from there – “you can’t have baby here” she gently reminded me.  I had intended to give birth on all fours as I had with Elijah’s brothers, but there was no time to climb on the bed.    Instead, I leaned on the bed to give  birth standing up.  My doctor was called at 12:35 as birth was imminent.  Paulina and N continued to support me through acupressure.  As the next urge to push came I let out a large primal roar.   It wasn’t a cry of pain, it was powerful and empowering – the roar of a lioness.  I listened to Nikki as she instructed me to push just a little and breathe and then the words every labouring mother wants to hear “next push, and baby will be here”. I let a few joyful tears fall before the final push,  roar and sensation of pure joy and relief.  I held Elijah as Nikki passed him to me between my legs, cord attached.  I held my baby in my arms for the first time. It was 12:39.  We made our way to the bed, where Paulina cut the cord.  Not long after my doctor arrived to deliver the placenta and the happy news that all was intact, just a small graze.

The atmosphere in the room returned to light and jovial as Elijah started his first feed. I felt loved, supported and listened to through the whole labour. Xavier was very much in the room with us.

During Elijah’s first few days we were supported by the gorgeous midwives and baby care assistants at the Mater.    They listened as I talked about Xavier. They told me how beautiful Elijah was.   They allowed me sleep when I desperately needed it and were kind and supportive in every way.    On the afternoon of Elijah’s birth,  my eldest son Isaac and my husbands family, including my darling nieces and nephews, met Elijah.  The love in Isaacs eyes melted my heart.   It was strange to feel such contentment whilst being acutely aware that there should have been a little one year old Xavier meeting his brother.  But as the colours of sunset glinted of Xavier’s  picture, I knew he was welcoming his little brother in his own sweet way.

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