Even though I never met Baby Gray, they changed my life forever. It was Christmas 2005, we announced to the in-laws that we were having another baby. I was pregnant with our second child. Our first born, Keira, was 19 months old at the time, and I felt pretty confident that all was going well with this pregnancy.
Feeling all of the same old symptoms, the extreme tiredness, the all-day nausea, and the need to eat something very regularly. My husband, Graeme, and I were very excited to say the least.
To be honest up until that point, most things in life had worked out well for me, I was a bit of a high achiever in high-school, and then continued with uni and career. I’d been born an optimist, I had no reason to believe this would be any different. But it was.
I was due for the 11–12-week scan in early January 2006, a few days before this, my GP did a few checks and had a listen for a heartbeat, he couldn’t quite locate it. They said not to worry, as the ultrasound next week should reveal all to be well, sometimes babies are so tiny at this stage it is hard to hear for the heartbeat. To be honest I was not alarmed at the time, in retrospect, I would know that this meant the baby had more than likely died.
We headed off to the nearest hospital 1.5 hours drive away, and I was looking forward to seeing our baby on the ultrasound screen, just as we had with our first born. We had our daughter, Keira with us. The sonographer prepped me with the cold gel, and I was waiting for “lights, camera, action”. We saw the baby, oh it felt so real now. She took her measurements and then seemed to be struggling with locating something, her brow became sweaty and she ceased making eye contact with us.
She then told us that she needed to seek out a consultant to view the ultrasound as she was having some difficulties locating the heartbeat. This is when my world felt like it started to close in on me.
Every corner in the room became closer and my heart started to race.
Keira, oblivious to what was going on in the room was happily doing what toddlers do
Climb, talk, sing.
And of course, running amok as mum was not able to get off the bed to catch her. The consultant entered the room and confirmed what the sonographer had seen, no heartbeat, and with sizing they estimated that it had died weeks earlier. I had not a cramp, not a skerrick of blood and the all-day sickness felt stronger than ever. At that moment, my world felt like it ended, despite the fact I had so much.
I was offered two choices, go home and wait to naturally miscarry or have a D&C in the same hospital the following day. I chose the second option. The following day, after dropping Keira to her grandparents, we did the long drive again, and checked in. Even though I’m a health professional myself, and am comfortable working in many hospital settings, I felt like a fish out of water. I was given a hospital gown to wear and a cubicle to wait in, then I was handed a tampon like suppository and told to insert in into my vagina, as this would start to dilate the cervix. Doing this, whilst I still felt nauseous with morning sickness. Seeing our baby on the screen the day before felt so wrong. I turned to Graeme and said, now is the time to say goodbye to our little one, and we both did in our heads.
Being wheeled into theatre, my time was nearing. A theatre nurse saw me crying silent tears, and she gently approached me, she tried to make me feel better, saying “don’t worry too much, you’ll have more children”. I raged inside at this comment, I wanted this child, and it was dead. I already knew that there was a good chance I’d have more children, but this was beside the point. In retrospect, she was only trying to be kind, but it was not the most sensitive thing to say to someone grieving a loss that no-one else could see. The greatest “invisible” grief and loss I’ve ever known. As I awoke from the procedure, I cried again, and all the way home, and most of the way into the next four weeks. I raged at the world, but to all anyone saw was a mum with a toddler getting on with things.
About a week after the D&C, I was consumed with the thought that there was no evidence of our child, nothing to bury, nothing to bring home. I rang the hospital, spoke with the senior nurse from the day surgery ward I’d been in. I asked her “what happens to the remains of the baby after the pathology lab is finished with it?”. A practical question I thought, she seemed to be lost for an answer, I then pushed “if there is any left, can I have it?”. I was beside myself during this call, one of the weirdest and most emotionally disturbing phone calls I’ve ever made. All she could say was “no, there would be no remains left, they would have been incinerated by now, if you like, I can ask our social worker to give you a call?”.
I politely replied “no thanks, I just want my baby”. I then said goodbye and slammed the phone down.
Again, she was just being kind, but I knew she had no idea what I was going through, only I could know that.
I tried not to let my toddler see my grief, saving my tears for when she was asleep, she kept me busy at toddlers do, which was a blessing I guess. As the weeks slowly moved on, one night I pulled out my guitar, and notebook and starting to write a song about this. Healing began to move in a better direction for me the day I started writing about the experience of miscarriage. I performed it in public on International Women’s Day that same year, and watched as a hundred balloons were released into the sky, this felt like another step in the healing journey.
As a member of my local ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) I was fortunate to be around other mothers who’d also suffered losses. I also started seeing a local social worker who helped me process and grieve. She told me about SANDS and the local support group (about 1 hour drive away.) This is before online support groups were in existence. I rang the local Sands (now Red Nose) counsellor, and we had a long chat on the phone about my journey and hers, again another piece added to my healing puzzle. Meeting other women at this fortnightly group was akin to meeting my sisters, we all got each-other and we allowed each-other a voice to speak, to rage, to cry and to heal. I felt that my local ABA group could also benefit from education on SANDS services, so I invited the SANDS counsellor to speak at our group, and the healing continued.
Remembering Baby Gray
I have a few scrapbook pages dedicated to Baby Gray. I’m not a scrapbooker, but I did my best to capture the memories including my yellow pregnancy card, my arm band from the D&C, ultrasound photo of Baby Gray, and a copy of the first draft of the song I wrote. I also list the date of conception and the date of loss. I also do not hide this loss (or my other loss) from my colleagues, family and friends, as these babies were alive once, but their destinies were not for this world.
Secondly, working on the song I wrote back in 2006, I recently re-worked it by changing the music, lyrics and structure, I also called it “My Dreams”. I have since recorded it in my little makeshift recording studio in our bedroom. I feel I am fully out of the closet now, and have posted this song, along with a clip in the big wide world, including my friends, some of whom were not aware of my loss. At the end of the clip is the ultrasound photo of Baby Gray, we never met this little one, but it changed our lives forever. My hope is that others will hear the song and feel another human has been on the same journey, and they will feel less alone in this world when it’s all happening.
Every woman’s journey through miscarriage is individual and I can never assume that what I felt is the same as what others will feel. We are all different and also have different ways of healing. What unites us is that we have all lost, but hopefully we all can gain from such an experience, through facing one’s pain comes the growth.
To finish this story on a brief note, I lost another baby to miscarriage the next time we tried a few months later, it was still horrendous, but I had the tools and the support to allow me the strength to heal better. To this day, I’m not fully healed and I never wish to be. This will always be a part of me, but I do live a happy and fulfilling life, and still shed a quiet tear in certain moments. We had a rainbow baby, Erin, she’s our “third time lucky” and is now an energetic 14-year-old with her whole life ahead of her. Our 2 daughters know they have “2 siblings in the sky” and my husband also has 2 stars tattooed on his left shoulder between our girls’ names, representing the babies we never had.
October 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
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This year to acknowledge International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day we are sharing the moments of silence affecting bereaved parents to encourage conversation about pregnancy and infant loss for the month of October.