If I could explain to you the feeling of losing a child it would be the above paragraph only I am neither a penguin nor a pro surfer!
On the 17th of January 2007 I went for a routine ultrasound to check the health of my unborn baby. It was the day that first wave came crashing down on my family and I.
I was getting Scarlett into the car to go when a black wasp stung me on the hand about 3 times. I recalled only weeks before when I had bought Scarlett and the new baby a Christmas angel each. I broke the new baby’s angel. I knew it was a sign. Kind of like God warning me to prepare myself for something big. A strange feeling came over me. I was worried. . . not for my hand but for my unborn baby.
We arrived at the hospital and only had to wait a little while. A lady called my name and we all went into a little room where she slapped that horrid cold jelly over my now quite big tummy. There our baby was! Wriggling around! Breathing.
I noticed the lady was looking at our little ones head for a long time. Sam asked if everything was okay. She didn’t say “Yes everything looks fine” she said “I still have to look at a few more things” I knew something was wrong. After a few long minutes the lady said she had to check something and she would be back in a few moments. A couple of minutes went by and then 10 minutes passed. I said to Sam if she walks back in with another doctor something is very wrong. 5 minutes later she walked back in. . . With another doctor.
The doctor sat down and put her arm around me. I felt all this heat rush to my face. “We are very concerned about the size of your babies head Carly” She went on to explain that she thought our baby had a condition known as Hydrocephalus and that it looked serious. I asked her what the sex of our baby was as I knew in my heart that this was going to be very bad and I wanted to name them. The lady who conducted the ultrasound said your having a little boy. The doctor would not tell us anymore only that my obstetrician would call me tomorrow and she sent us home.
I held it together until we got to the car. I cried all the way home. Sam was silent. He drove home with one hand and held my hand with his other.
I called my Mum. I told her we were having a little boy but he was very sick and I didn’t know what was going on. My parents drove straight over to our house. Sam’s Mum and Dad were down south about 2 hours away. They came too. We all just sat around in shock. The unknown ahead of us was excruciating.
The next morning I remember calling my obstetrician Susan, a beautiful caring woman. I asked her what Hydrocephalus was and she said that it was “water on the brain”. Susan said that this didn’t necessarily mean that our little boy was going to die only that he would have to be born by c-section and would have to have a big operation when he was born. He would hopefully live a relatively normal life.
Susan said to me that she had organized an appointment for me to see a fetal medicine specialist the next day to see how severe the hydrocephalus was. I remember getting off the phone feeling so much better. I was given some hope. . . even if it was only going to be short lived.
Saturday morning came. Sam’s parents and mine came over to look after Scarlett for us while we went for the appointment that would devastate our lives.
All I wanted to do was fast forward time. I wish at that point I could have been shown the photo above. . . a glimpse into what would be my beautiful future. Something that I didn't know would be possible.
We waited in this tiny little waiting room for 45 minutes. Then a voice from down the hall called my name. Sam and I rushed in and I met two doctors. The lady diagnosing our little guy was named Jan and she was lovely. As I looked up at my little boy on the screen I thought to myself “is this the last time I will see you alive?” The doctors were very quite. Before I knew it the ultrasound was over and they wiped my tummy with a towel.
Jan asked us both to step into another room. As she opened the door for me I looked at the room. . . I knew this was the room that they tell people that their baby was either going to have very special needs or that their baby was not going to survive, as the room was filled with big comfy couches rather than your average table chairs.
Jan sat us down and said “This is very, very serious. Your little boy has the most severe case of hydrocephalus that I have seen in my career.” My heart sunk. I asked how bad it was and she went on to tell us that there was a scale from 1 to 7 (1 being minor and 7 being severe) our little guy was on 15.
Jan told us that our baby would never open his eyes. There was a part in his spine that was completely missing and it had caused a lot of fluid to flow into his skull where the brain should be. He did not have a stomach as there was not enough brain matter to tell him to swallow. If he was to survive the rest of the pregnancy he would be kept alive on a machine and would be known as a bean bag baby.
As these words were spilling from her mouth and smashing in my ears I felt completely numb. It was the worst case scenario. I held it together and so did Sam. We were in shock.
Jan told us our options. A: we could wait for him to die or B: she could interrupt the pregnancy. She wanted to do an amniocentesis to find out the cause but I was not interested. I just wanted to go home. We were given a DVD of the ultrasound and some photos. I dropped them as I was leaving. I remember everybody in the waiting room staring at me as I tried to hold the tears. I got out as quickly as I could while Sam paid the bill. The second wave came crashing down.
On the way home we decided to name our son Christian. It was a name that we both loved. I remember asking Sam how we would tell our parents. I prayed the rest of the way home for God to give me his strength for the days ahead and especially then when I would have to deliver this devastating news to our family.
We pulled into our street and I just started taking deep breaths. We walked into the house and our parents all stood up from where they were sitting and stood around us.
My hands were shaking and in a weak voice I told them that it was the worst case scenario, there was no hope for him and that it was only a matter of time before he dies. I told them that we had decided to name him Christian.
I remember the sigh from Gloria (Sam’s Mum) as she put her hand over her mouth. My Mum (Annie) held my hand as her eyes welled up with tears. My Dad put his arm around me. I remember thanking God for giving me the strength to tell them without completely collapsing in my sorrow.
Our family and friend’s were called and before we knew the house was filled with concerned people.
The following days were precious to me as I knew that the time that Christian and I had together was limited. I noticed that his movements slowed down to the point where I was only getting a few a day. I was keeping count. Over those days I held it together really well. I wanted to look strong in front of my family even though I felt far from it, but it all got too much and I completely lost it. I sat on the floor and whaled as I hadn’t slept in days and I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me and my little boy. Sam left the house and drove to the hospital to get me some sleeping tablets. He came back quickly with the medication and I went to bed. I felt like I was going to drown in my misery.
We received so many well wishes. One woman from my Mothers Group named Katherine came with a box of presents for us. There were blankets to wrap Christian in, a teddy bear and beautiful candles. I remember showing them to my Dad, he couldn't even speak, but his silence said everything.
The last time I felt Christian kick was 11am on Thursday January 25th 2007. I was admitted to hospital. Jan came to see me along with the head midwife. We had a talk about the events that were about to take place. They wanted to know my wishes and concerns.
I was calm but at the same time I was dreading the labor. Scarlett’s labor was 36 hours long and I just didn’t know if I could bare that or not. The Hospital Chaplin came to visit us. He was a gentle soul and had much sympathy. He explained our options for Christians remains. We decided we would have him cremated at the hospital.
I was induced by a drug called Misoprostol. They told me that I would deliver Christian any time from 2 hours up to 2 days.
The hours past and my family came in with Scarlett to visit me. I didn’t say much to anyone. I felt so sick, so sick of life, sick of this situation, sick of being me. I think my family went home around 7pm. I had an epidural placed in my spine to make it physically painless. I was not going to deliver a child that was breathing, there was not going to be a reward for all my hard work.
I noticed as the hours were passing that the pain was getting worse. I shouldn’t have felt anything with the epidural. We advised the midwives that I was in pain. They tried everything. My body was pumped full of pain meds but nothing would work. It was 12:30am and I was screaming. . . I don’t mean like just raising your voice. . . I was screaming with every inch of my body. The pain was excruciating. At 2:08 am I gave birth to Christian. He was breach (born bum first). I remember Sam praying to God to take his son to Heaven and to send us Angels.
I gave him to Sam as my placenta would not come out, that was the last thing I needed. The midwives were getting me to do all sorts or weird things to try and get it to come out. I was completely humiliated. They advised me that I would need surgery to have it removed. I remember looking over at Sam. He was sitting in the rocking chair with Christian. He was just staring at the wall. He looked completely shattered. I knew the last thing we needed right now was me to be rushed off into surgery so I just prayed. God answered my prayer and my placenta came out. It was over. I felt like my heart had been ripped out, stomped on, run over and then thrown back in my chest.
Sam and I sat in the dark together with our son. Sam sung MLK by U2 to Christian as he rocked him in the chair. It was a precious moment. He gave Christian back to me and I placed him on my chest and closed my eyes. I just lay there. Still. I didn’t speak or pray. I just lay there holding him. I knew that this event in my life would shape and mould me forever. I knew that I could take either 1 of 2 paths. I could let this ruin me and my life or I could let this make me and make my life.
As I opened my eyes I saw a blue light flash out of the room, what I mean by “out” is it was like the light in our room was switched off just as I was opening my eyes. I don’t know what it was, but I hope it was Angels.
So at 3:40 am I called my parents. I could hardly speak. My grief was so intense at that point that I couldn't string a sentence together without pausing for long moments. They were so quite on the phone. Heartbroken, they told me that they loved us all.
I knew that I was not in control of this situation but took peace in the knowledge that God was.
Soon enough the sun began to rise. It was a warm amber glow in the dark forest that I was lost in. The midwives brought in a bassinet for me to put Christian in. I had the epidural removed from my back and I sat on the end of the bed and looked at the little lifeless body in front of me. Sam organized with the midwife Carole to give Christian a bath and take his hand and foot prints.
In came Carole with a bath of warm water, some ink pads, paper and a camera. I sat on the bed and watched my beautiful husband bathe my little boy. Sam's eyed were filled with tears and so were Carole’s. I just sat there in disbelief crying. Sam took Christians hand and foot prints. I remember Sam and how gentle he was with Christian it was almost like he was frightened of breaking him. What an honor it was for me to witness such a beautifully heartbreaking event.
It was 11am and I could tell that Christian was starting to lose the colour in his face. I said to Sam that it is time to say Good Bye. I wanted to remember him as the lovely little pink body that he was and not the little grey body he was becoming. We advised Carole that in about half an hour we would like her to take him for us.
Saying Goodbye to a child that never got to hear Hello is unbelievably hard and harsh. I remember kissing him on this head and praying my best prayer I ever did pray.. I felt so many things. It was pure heartache and sorrow at its strongest. Letting go of him was the hardest thing I will ever have to do in my life. I gave him to Sam. He said his goodbye and then the moment came. As Carole took Christian from Sam’s arms we cried and held each other tight. We watched her walk out of the room with our son. We would never see him again. Another wave came crashing down on us.
We lied on the hospital bed in each others arms and just sobbed. Shortly after this my Mum called. She was downstairs with Dad and Scarlett. I left my room and started walking down the hallway in my turquoise satin robe and bare feet. I saw the lift open and there was my little sweetheart Scarlett and she was walking! She was 11 and a half months old and of all days to start walking she decided her brothers birthday would be the best! I felt blessed to have her. I gave her the biggest hug that I ever could and we all walked back to the room. As I opened my door I noticed there was a big blue tear drop sticker on the front of it. They must place them on the rooms of woman who lose a baby so that people know before they enter.
After a few hours of our parents visiting us I decided that I needed to leave the hospital. I was still very weak from giving birth but I just wanted to be at home in my own bed. I told Carole and she went and organized my memory box. Carole was the most amazing woman. Her heart was as big as the ocean. She cried along with us. It wasn’t just a job for her. I was blessed to have such a gorgeous woman as my midwife.
After a few hours she came in with some paperwork for me to sign and a box of memories. Inside were his birth details, a beanie that Christian wore, some little clothes, a small album of photos that the midwives took for me, his hand and foot prints and some information about grief counseling.
Sam packed up the car and we walked out of the hospital with a memory box instead of our baby. I remember walking out the front doors and the heat hitting me in the face. It was 42 degrees a real typical Australia Day. I was faint and weak. I remember looking back at the hospital, we had left our son in there. It felt wrong . . . it felt so wrong.
We spent the night with my family. We had a birthday cake pavlova for Christian and from memory there was a bottle of champagne. I remember collapsing in a chair and balling my eyes out to my Mum while Sam sat in our room with his Dad. Our situation was completely hopeless, there was nothing anyone could say to make us feel better. We were empty.
At about 9pm Mum and Dad left. They took Scarlett with them so that we could just go straight to sleep. I will never forget waving good bye to them out the front of our home it was still 41 degrees. We went inside and got straight into bed. The day was finished. It was over, Thank God.
The following Thursday was Christians Funeral. It was held at the hospital chapel. I wore a new white dress and frangipanis in my hair. I remember walking in to the hospital with a racing heart. We got there early. I walked into the chapel and saw a tiny little box with a blue butterfly on it. I knew that Christian’s ashes were inside. At that point it hit me that I was attending a funeral for one of my children. It was too much for me and I had to get out. I wasn’t going to be able to sit in there and wait. So I went downstairs with my Mum to give some ‘Thank You’ cards out to a couple of the midwives.
When I came back up, most of the family was there and I went in and sat down. The funeral was truly gorgeous. Sam read out a letter that he had written to Christian earlier that week and I asked the Chaplin to read out mine as I was unable to be brave. We played some beautiful music including the song by U2 that Sam had sung to Christian when he was born. The Chaplin read a passage from The Prophet (my favorite book) titled Joy and Sorrow.
I remember looking over at my Mum, Dad and Brother. Mum was rubbing Dad’s knee. He was just staring out the window. His face was full of anger. I don't think he could believe that this had happened, and the thought of his face still breaks my heart. The last thing I wanted him to be was angry as I wasn’t.
During the week Sam and I had bought a piece of jewelry to give to each other in Christian’s memory at the funeral. We exchanged the gifts. Sam gave me a gorgeous gold ring with a stone that reflects all the colors of the rainbow. I gave Sam a crucifix with Christians name and date of birth on the back of it. I haven't taken my ring off since that day.
As the funeral came to an end the Chaplin gave me Christian’s ashes and I walked out of the hospital with my son.
That afternoon Sam's parents held a wake for Christian in their beautiful back yard. All the family came. Sam and I gave out frames to everyone with Christians hand and foot prints in them. We were so blessed to have such a loving family. Everyones support was nothing short of a miracle to us.
This experience has brought Sam and I closer together. It has been hard on us as a married couple but we will not become a statistic as God holds us together and we stand strong with LOVE in our hearts.
I sit here 2 years after Christians birthday. I have learnt incredibly intense, beautiful and heart breaking lessons that could only be taught to me through the loss of a child. I got back up on my feet and I now have another daughter that we named River Eve.
I thank God every day for all 3 of my children. I am not angry, but thankful. I have learned to live through my tidal waves of grief, I duck under them when I see them coming. I know that the place that Christian is in is so incredibly awesome. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life. I thank God for giving me the strength to rise above my sadness. I thank God for sending Christian into my life even if it was only for the shortest stay.
I found my way out of the dark forest and I am now living in the amber glow. Life is rich. Life is precious. Life is beautiful.
So until we meet again My Dear Sweet Heart Christian may you soar up in the fields of gold.
This song is for you