The Unlikely Sisterhood of Miscarriage

Guest post by author Karin Holmes

When I lost my baby in July 2011 to a miscarriage, I made a new acquaintance. It was an unpleasant one – loneliness that also brought his good friend depression along.

One of the worst things I find can happen to a woman who just lost her baby is being left alone. I was at my most vulnerable yet I was all alone. My husband was there for me (and it was his loss, too!) but that was it. I came to think that this is just how things are – no one cares therefore, naturally, I am lonely and doomed to be as my pain just wasn’t big enough to be taken seriously.

Months passed, even years, and I kept silent about my baby and held up my part of an unfair deal with society as a whole – I stayed lonely, convinced there was no one out there who would understand me. By sheer luck, or faith, I don’t know, I was proven wrong. Four years after my loss, I felt strong enough to tentatively reach out again and share part of my story. What a different experience that was! Instead of hearing ‘well, it’s very common, get over it’, I was met with compassion and understanding. The lady I talked to had suffered a loss herself and just like me, never really talked about it. We both seemed to be so relieved and grateful at the same time that we met and had the chance to talk and remember our babies together. I felt very empowered and even more importantly, reassured. My pain WAS real and it WAS a big deal and it SHOULD be.

As I travelled along my road towards healing, women with similar experiences kept popping up. It would happen in the most unexpected places such as a change room where I fed my rainbow (baby born after loss), at a playcentre or even at the train stop. We got talking, shared part of our life’s story and connected over our silent suffering. Once again, I felt validated and grateful for having met another survivor. I felt like there was this unlikely companionship there, a sisterhood of miscarriage so to speak. We all came from different walks of life but were united by a tragic loss.

Sunset at Quebec, Canada, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.

Sunset at Quebec, Canada, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.

The silence keeps bothering me though. I wish for more understanding and more compassion when it comes to early pregnancy loss. The support I get from the ‘sisterhood’ is beyond amazing. It is my hope that one day we can get it from people anywhere. For that to happen, society as a whole will have come to realise that women who suffered an early miscarriage lost a tiny life too soon and not just a ‘common occurrence’ that shows up in a statistic. If miscarriage survivors deserve one thing, it is an end to the silence and loneliness and a celebration of the lives we held, however briefly they may have been.

Karin Holmes is the author of the ebook ‘How to survive a miscarriage – a guide for women, their partners, friends and families’ and a miscarriage survivor. The book can be purchased through Amazon HERE

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Author Karin Holmes

Author Karin Holmes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links

Sands Queensland provides support, information, education and advocacy for parents and families who experience the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, newborn death or other pregnancy losses. At Sands there are people who understand because they too have been through this experience.  To find out more please about our support options please go HERE.

Join us in June for Sands Awareness Month and help raise awareness of Sands support services in your community.

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There is Always Hope

Guest post by Alicia, Declan’s Mum

My names Alicia, I’ve been with my childhood sweetheart Mat for just over eight years now and we are to be married in June this year. We were told due to health reasons that I had to try for a baby quiet young as time was against me. In making the decision to have children and knowing the complications I had to give up my job, as I had to be on full bed rest at times.

We experienced five tough years where I suffered severe depression, I was hospitalised, Mat and I separated due to the stress, we had six miscarriages, including the still birth of our son Declan in 2010 Finally in 2015 I gave birth to our beautiful, healthy miracle, Nate on the 20th of February.

Mat and Nate

Mat and gorgeous Nate

It was only after all this did I hear from a friend about Sands Queensland and all that they do. My aim was then to fundraise and make people more aware of this wonderful organisation as I feel if I had been made aware and had the support that is available from Sands, I may have never gone down the terrible depression road that I did. With the help of my local Lions Club (Mirani Sugar Valley Lions), which is a non for profit organisation that assists with the local community fundraising for special causes and help with development and building of local parks, community venues and sporting centres, we fundraised through out the year raising $1000 for our local Sands Mackay organisation.

Alicia presenting Sands Parent Supporter, Julie with the donation.

Alicia presenting Sands Parent Supporter, Julie with the donation.

I feel by sharing our story hopefully people will start to open up and talk more freely about baby loss in general as it still is such a taboo subject and I believe talking is the best medicine and support for one another going through this.

I hope that our story also gives hope to others “That miracles do happen, our son is living proof of this”.

Releasing a butterfly for Declan at the Mackay Walk to Remember 2015

Releasing a butterfly for Declan at the Mackay Walk to Remember 2015

 

Mackay Sands Queensland

Julie Thompson is the Mackay Parent Supporter and has been with Sands for over 10 years. Julie holds support meetings at the Mackay Women’s Centre on the fourth Tuesday of the month for anyone effected by the death of a baby. For more information see SUPPORT MACKAY

Mackay Walk to Remember is held in October as part of International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month. It is a beautiful day held in memory of babies who have died during pregnancy or shortly after. To find when the next Walk will be held please allow us on Facebook at Sands Queensland Walk to Remember

In 2015 Sands fundraised for 2 Cuddle Cots for the Mackay Base and Mater Mackay Hospitals. To read more go to HERE

SandsQ Butterfly donates memory bags and bereavement clothing to Mackay Hospitals. If you would like to become involved or find out more, please email Lyndell at events@sandsqld.org.au or follow us at Facebook SandsQButterfly

SandsQ Butterfly Drive 2016

Welcome to the 2016 SandsQ Butterfly Charity Drive, the first in what we hope will be an annual event to get a jump start on the year and provide Queensland hospitals with memory bags and bereavement clothing.

SandsQ Butterfly began in 2013 and with the help many we made our first bags to be sent out to hospitals. As we spoke more with hospitals we found there was a need for clothing for the tiniest of babies and so began making bereavement clothing for babies between 12 weeks and 30 weeks gestation. Our aim is to provide appropriate, gentle and warm clothes to softly wrap these delicate babies in and give them respect and dignity of items made especially for them.

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The feedback we have received is that parents are always so incredibly touched that someone handmade something just for their baby. At a time when parents feel most alone, these items let them know they are not and someone is thinking of them. Hospitals are also appreciative of the quality and appropriateness of the clothing and the professional way it is donated, making it easier for midwives to access when needed.

Thanks to the many crafters we have met who are making bereavement clothing for the program, we have donated over 300 pieces to hospitals in Queensland in 2015. We have now started an online group for our crafters to chat, share patterns and connect as we come from all corners of Queensland.

This year also brings a few changes to the SandsQ Butterfly thanks to the generosity of supporters and volunteers in our community.

We have new bag design, thanks to Josepha from Nokobelle, that is easy to make and still has that lovely handmade quality. The memory bags are made to specific guidelines and we are looking for experienced seamstresses to help us reach our target of 300 memory bags in 2016.

MemoryBag

Talented Artist, Esther Anghart, gave us special permission to use her artwork, with which a beautiful Special Memories Book, and matching Certificate of Life and Print Certificate (ink less print kit) was designed by our volunteer Lyndell and with the guidance of the Virtually Done Team at Volunteering Queensland.

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SandsQ Butterfly Volunteer Kate has developed a new gift for women who have experienced a miscarriage. ‘Flutter’ is a handmade fabric envelope containing a poem, small crochet butterfly, Sands support reference card and gift card. The gift card allows mothers to request, if they wish, a small set of beanie, booties and blanket from us as a keepsake for their baby.

Flutter

 

Last year we supplied items to eight hospitals and this year we hope to increase that number.

How You Can Help

Find out more about the SandsQ Butterfly Drive HERE and how you can help whether you craft or not.

Follow us on Facebook to see the latest news, FB@SandsQButterfly

Join the online event to see what we are making FB@SandsQButterflyCharityDrive

Sign up to the eNewsletter to keep updated with donation requests, donations and fundraising

Join our online crafters group for support and a chat FB@SandsQButterflyCraftersNetwork

 

or contact Lyndell at events@sandsqld.org.au

 

Thank you so much for your interest in helping us and making the Drive successful.

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Team Hayley 2015

Guest post by Kara Smith who is participating in this year’s Bridge to Brisbane

In May 2013 our second daughter, Hayley, was stillborn. It felt like our worlds came to a halt and souls were shattered. My husband and I have always been overweight but started making changes when our first daughter was on the way. However, after losing Hayley we sort of rebelled against the universe through junk food and put back on some of the weight we had lost. We decided we couldn’t keep going like that, so for all of our children and our health we again decided to make a change.

Why do the Bridge to Brisbane? Bridge to Brisbane offers many opportunities – a goal, a benchmark to improve on each year, a way to show our girls fitness, but most importantly a way to honour of our darling angel, Hayley and spread the stillbirth and Sands Queensland awareness. We also fundraise through the Everyday Hero page for Sands Queensland in Hayley’s name. Last year we were joined by my in-laws to do the 5km course. This year my husband and I will be doing the 10km course and my in-laws are back to do the 5km course again, for Hayley and other beautiful angels taken too soon. They will be joined by my sister-in-law and cousin-in-law. Who knows who else may join in on this fledgling tradition.

Team Hayley in 2014

Team Hayley in 2014

What are we doing to prepare? My husband has been hitting the gym and is in the best shape of his life. After our girls are tucked into bed I take my dog for a brisk walk, even occasional jog. For safety reasons I do not wear headphones, so I am enjoying my time of quiet as well as the energy boost of endorphins from getting active. I have a lot of random thoughts and conversations, but my mind often also goes to Hayley and I feel her close, especially on those clear beautiful nights where the moon is full and everything is still. I am also planning ways to include Hayley, last year my eldest daughter (and I alternately) carried a pink pony balloon (Hayley’s totem), this year I am looking into shirts and possible a foil helium balloon.

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I look forward to walking this year and spending time with my family afterwards. I hope to be able to meet some of you at the course, if you see us please come up and say hello. Walking in honour of our sweet Hayley and proudly making a change.

If you would like to show your support to Kara, please make a donation at her Everyday Hero page HERE

Would you like to join the Sands Queensland crew at this years Bridge to Brisbane on August 30th?

To register, simply go to Bridge to Brisbane  and select ‘team’

For the 5km
Team Name: Team Sands Queensland
Number: 3123

For the 10km team
Team Name: Team Sands Queensland
Number: 22580

You can also join the Sands Queensland Team fundraising at Everyday Hero, just click on this link HERE and request to join the team.

We would love to hear all about you too, so if you would like to share your story, share your photos and inspiration you can join the event on Facebook HERE, email events@sandsqld.org.au or share on social media using #SaveSands.

 

Links

Family and Friends: How you can help bereaved parents. – Sands Queensland

Family and Friends support booklet from Sands Australia

How you can help – Volunteering with Sands Queensland

Why do I keep talking about my baby?

Guest post by Lyndell Price, in memory of Charlotte Mabel.

This year will be Charlotte’s 4th birthday. Four years seems so long, yet no time at all. She is part of our daily lives still, in our thoughts and the things we do.

I recently took my second daughter to a playgroup. There were two sisters there, one about her age and the other about four, Charlotte’s age.  We watched as they chased each other around, giggling and exploring. We smiled as the bigger sister held out her hand for the younger and helped her climb up. That is when I realised ‘we’ were both watching. My youngest daughter was fascinated by these two and had such a wistful look on her face as she asked me ‘what’s that?’ and pointed to the two girls.

‘They are sisters sweetie’

I am reminded everyday with moments like these of what we will never have with Charlotte.

As I watch my second child, Rosie, grow and learn, I am reminded I will never watch Charlotte grow. Never see her delight in the new, hear the words ‘watch me Mummy’ and her hand will never reach out to mine as she asks me to help her.

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When I watch Rosie there is always a shadow there next to her in the shape of a girl, just a little older. I see Charlotte in the corner of my eye. She is there as we all cuddle in bed in the morning. She is there as we splash in the pool. She is there as we open Christmas presents, go on a holiday and when we visit family. She is there, but she is not.

She will never leave us. Her memory grows each year, just as she would.

That’s is why I keep talking about my baby.

 

 

 

Lyndell is currently fundraising for two Cuddle Cots for Mackay Base and Mater Mackay. To donate, please go to the link HERE

Links

Children and Grief – Sands Queensland

Caring for your your other children – Sands Australia

 

Plans To Remember

Guest post by Sharon Louisson in memory of Isabella Marie, Born sleeping May 2012.

Today, 2 and a half years on I still remember the day we had prepared ourselves for, the day we lay Isabella to rest, next to her Great Grandmother.

We had known at 21 weeks our baby only had a 5% chance of survival, but on the day she died, I was still so unprepared. I had not thought about the funeral plans, until after she died, as I still had hope.

Suddenly, we were home from the hospital, without a baby. We had to start planning a funeral. I remember thinking what if I make a decision I would regret, what if I forgot to do something on the day and felt guilty. Out came a note pad and lots of To Do’s.

The funeral director was too much for me to think about, so my mother in law did that for me. Ringing a friend I knew through work to do our service leaflets ended in sobs, with again my mother in law taking the phone when I could no longer talk. Some things were just too overwhelming and seemed impossible.

I remember going to see the florist, again a friend through work. I had texted another friend to ring the florist and warn her I was coming in. I didn’t want to have to explain why I was there, I just wanted to go, look, choose and go. But I really wanted to do it myself. Choosing the flowers was so important to me. I walked in and got a great big hug, tears flowing, but I was glad she knew already. The relief of not having to explain was what helped me. I organised balloons from the town we were heading to, and gave family members jobs to do that I couldn’t or didn’t feel I could do. I remember telling myself, its ok, you can’t do it all.

Isabella's Flowers

Isabella’s Flowers

Balloon release for Isabella

Balloon release for Isabella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove an hour and a half to another town for the funeral. We had decided to bury her next to her Great Grandmother. We lived in another town, but thought, what if one day we move, she will be alone. I felt at peace knowing we could have her there. My grandfather sorted all of that for me. Again, another job I just didn’t feel I could do. How do you ring and ask about a grave site for a child?

At the funeral I felt numb. I don’t even remember feeling like it was real. I stood next to my husband as he read out a poem I had written, I had no emotion. I didn’t know how to feel. Nothing had prepared me for this.

Nothing could have prepared me.

The whole day felt like a blur, like a weird dream. We had lunch together at a Café, and it just felt like a family outing. I remember going back to the cemetery after lunch to say goodbye, and again it just didn’t feel real. We had the funeral, five days after she was born sleeping. I think by the time the funeral day came, I was tired, all cried out and just focusing on this day being over. I just wanted to be at home, cuddled up with my husband and my two and a half year old daughter. I just wanted my bed.

Sharon is currently fundraising to purchase a Cuddle Cot for Mackay hospitals. If you would like to donate and support this worth cause, please visit the link below.

Donate Now

 

Links

Queensland Health and Sands Queensland – What to expect after the stillbirth of your baby brochure

Sands Australia  – Life, Loss, Hope – Surviving the Death of Your Baby booklet

Sands Australia – Caring for your other children booklet

Save Sands

2015 is the year we have to Save Sands as our current grant funding will end in December.

More than ever, Sands Queensland needs help to provide essential support for parents who face the tragic death of their baby during pregnancy, at birth or in the neonatal period. Around 700 families face the heartbreak of stillbirth and neonatal death every year thousands more have to deal with miscarriage and early pregnancy loss.

Sands - A little life not a little loss

Sands support service include; phone, email, online and face to face support for bereaved families, along with support and education for professionals.

 

Post by Nicole Ireland, Sands Queensland Committee President

There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for the heartbreak and the sheer devastation – particularly the agony of leaving the hospital without your much loved and longed for baby. Nine years on I remember walking out of that hospital so vividly that I still struggle to go back there today.

 Worse still, what do you do when you get home to the nursery that is all set up and waiting for your new baby – a nursery that you have loving put together and now may never get to use. Instead of agonising over the best pram to buy, it’s trying to figure out how to go on.

 More than feeling like something is missing, you feel like something has been ripped out of you and nine years later the feeling is still there – not every day but still there in the quiet moments and on every family and special occasion. When you meet new people who ask you how many children you have and when you have to explain to your other children why Mummy sometimes gets really sad.

 Family and friends do everything they can to help and we have had amazing support – much of it overwhelming. But sometimes you need more than that.

 At the beginning and for the past nine years, I have relied on Sands as a place to belong, a place where it’s okay to talk about my son and how I feel, a place where I can help others and, now, a place to give back.

Nicole took on the role of Committee President in 2013, here with outgoing president Bev Homel

Nicole took on the role of Committee President in 2013, here with outgoing president Bev Homel

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Nicole and Sands Queensland founding member Judy Clarkson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sands is all about parents helping parents and is an amazing group of parents and families who share the one thing they would love not to share and that is that their baby has died. It’s a club that no-one wants to join.

 It is also so, so very important to help parents through the grieving process and to make sure they know there is someone who understands. I despair to think what might happen if people don’t have this special place.

 Sands maintains an office and a small part-time staff to facilitate support, educational and memorial services across Queensland and to work with allied health professionals and other support services who help parents at the worst times of their lives.

Nicole and State Manager Kate Cowmeadow (right) and parent volunteer Erin (left) at the Sands Walk to Remember

Nicole and State Manager Kate Cowmeadow (right) and parent volunteer Erin (left) at the Sands Walk to Remember

 It is, of course, my greatest wish that no more babies will die and that Sands won’t need to exist but that is just a fantasy. In the meantime, each year in Queensland approximately 1000 parents are affected by stillbirth and neonatal death and a further 20,000 parents experience the impact of early pregnancy loss.

 After many years of continued support, the Queensland Government offered Sands funding at its current level (approximately $80,000 per year) until December 2015 after which time funding will cease.

 That means, this essential service is at risk of shutting down because the core funding will cease at the end of this year. We have a plan in place to look at other ways to survive but this will take time to deliver. For this reason we are working as hard as we can to “Save Sands”.

 I don’t want other parents to find themselves lost and alone in dealing with the death of their baby and I know that Sands is the only group that continue to provide support and help for parents, families, the community and all of those people who engage with bereaved parents in their darkest days.

Our son forever changed our lives and I hope that in his memory I can help to Save Sands.

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Nicole and her daughters releasing a butterfly in memory of Nicholas at the Sands Walk to Remember

 

 

On June 19th, 2015, Nicole will be hosting a #SaveSands Gala in Brisbane we would love for you to attend. All information can be found HERE. It will be a wonderful night with Rebecca Sparrow as guest MC, entertainment by Pheonix, silent auction and an amazing special raffle where one lucky guest will take home a beautiful piece of jewellery from Canturi.

For those not in the Brisbane are who would like to find out how they can help to #SaveSands, please contact our head office or follow Sands on Facebook for more information.

 

Make a donation today