Babyloss, Life

Stillbirth: A Feminist Issue

I have never thought of stillbirth as a feminist issue before today, after reading an article by Kristina Keneally. But it makes so. much. sense.

Stillbirth doesn’t happen to men the same way it happens to women. It would be wrong to say it doesn’t happen to men at all, of course, they are losing their children too. But for women, it doesn’t just happen to us, it happens inside us. We are the unwilling accomplices in our children’s deaths. It is so much more than something that happens to us.

And in a world run by men, it makes sense that the rate of stillborn births has literally not changed for decades. In Australia, 6 babies die every day in their mother’s womb. That is 2,200 mothers every year suffering the loss of their baby (the figures are much higher in America, where 26,000 babies are stillborn every year). Of course their families cannot be forgotten, there are fathers, brothers, sisters, suffering the loss too. But none of them are as intrinsically involved in the loss like the mothers are. None of them are forced to physically take part. Giving birth to a baby that has already passed is something that only women experience.

Historically, stillbirth was a shameful experience, and blamed on the mother. In modern times, while this has somewhat changed, women can still be marginalised in their own stillbirth experience. I could not count the amount of male medical professionals who told me things along the lines of “sometimes these things just happen”, or even the occasional one who implied that the blame laid with me. The fact of the matter is that healthy babies do not just die. But there hasn’t been enough research into the incidence of stillbirth to even scratch the surface of why it happens, and this is probably because most of the researchers and medical professionals are male. Most of the people funding the research are male. We are living in a male-dominated world, and the finer points of women’s rights often don’t get a look in.

The medical profession is male-dominated. Women in the profession earn less then men. These are important feminist issues, no doubt about it, and apply to many other professions. But when it comes to the silence surrounding stillbirth, something must be done. Men aren’t speaking for us, because quite frankly a man has never truly experienced stillbirth. Feminists need to realise that stillbirth is their problem. Even if it has never happened to you, you are a woman, and we are a sisterhood where 6 of us (in Australia) lose our loved children every day. Just like even if you have never experienced gender-discrimination, as a feminist woman, it is still your responsibility to fight against it.

So many women before have fought for us not to experience the things that they had to. I fight today so the women who come after me might not have to experience the loss of their child through stillbirth.

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Babyloss, Friends, Life

Why you didn’t see a heartfelt post from me this Mother’s Day | Surviving Narcissistic Abuse

I wrote this 8 months ago – on the 11th of May to precise – and never had the guts to publish it. But I finally thought I’d share my story of surviving narcissistic abuse. This was written before I had a name for what my mother is, but it begins to describe how she’s affected me over the years. 

On Mother’s Day I experienced an explosion of posts on my Facebook newsfeed. Lovely, heartfelt posts from daughters to their mothers; “happy Mother’s Day to the best mum ever”, “I couldn’t have done it without you”, “thanks for everything you’ve done for me”.

I didn’t join in. I simply can’t say things like that with a clean conscience, because I don’t mean them. Don’t get me wrong, my mother can be a really lovely person. Even extremely generous. Unfortunately those moments are few and far between – at least for me.

My childhood was filled with emotional abuse, made worse by the fact that I didn’t realise that’s what it was. I genuinely thought I was just a disappointment of a daughter, a bitch, selfish, because that’s all my mother ever really told me. She also tried to divide the family in a way – she’d tell me my dad wanted to disinherit me, my brother didn’t want me at his wedding, etc etc. Almost all of what she said was a lie. The most concerning part is that she genuinely seems to believe her lies. She could tell you the sky is green and scream at you for being a horrible, deceitful person by saying it’s actually blue.

She’s always been this way, although it could be said that she’s gotten progressively worse in recent years. As I got older it dawned on me that her behaviour wasn’t normal. Eventually, when I was just shy of 17 years old, it all got too much and I moved out. This was followed by a whole heap of extra abuse from my mum, ranging from begging me to stay , “you’re tearing this family apart”, to “go be a slut and live with your boyfriend then”. She would leave voicemail after voicemail, especially when she’d been drinking, basically just telling me how awful I was and how I owed her everything and should treat her accordingly.

Then my sons died. You’d think maybe that might’ve made my mum lay off me a bit, but you’d be dead wrong. There was so much drama from her after we lost our sons, I’d be here for a week if I tried to write it all down, so I’ll just tell you some snippets.

Mum caused a whole lot of problems with the funeral “guest list” – she told several people it was a public funeral, when in fact it was a very private one, while also telling some of my closest friends they weren’t invited and that I didn’t want to see them. It was stressful dealing with upset friends, and also having to tell upset acquaintances that they actually weren’t invited.

Mum also took it upon herself to tell the funeral director “our” plans – plans that we had definitely not discussed with her and that contradicted what we actually wanted to do. It was confusing trying to resurrect our sons’ funeral from the mess my mother made of it.

After the funeral, my mum left us voicemail after voicemail just yelling at us about crap.

Some of it included how she had more rights as a grandparent because she was the maternal grandmother, so we shouldn’t show Matt’s mother any photos of our sons. She berated us for not thanking her for planning the funeral for us. She yelled at us because Matt’s grandparents were at the funeral and mine weren’t, despite the fact that 3/4 of my grandparents weren’t even living, and the remaining one was in no state to travel 5 hours down for the funeral of two great-grandsons that she didn’t even remember she had. She called us selfish for not letting her invite friends of hers – some of whom we’d barely met – to our very private, family and closest-friends only, funeral. She bought a new outfit for the funeral apparently, so we owed her money for said outfit…

She just wouldn’t stop calling.

Her most memorable voicemail lines were “my grandsons have just died, give me some sympathy” and “I’m a mother, and that’s the most important job of all”, the latter said rather scathingly, like she knew that statement would hurt and intended it that way.

Matt had to physically take my phone off me. I was ending up in tears every time she called, yet I kept answering the phone because she was my mum – I felt like she deserved the benefit of doubt. By March though, I’d decided I couldn’t keep putting myself through that. I blocked her number and stopped talking to her completely for at least 12 months. Charlie being born changed that all a little – but that’s a story for another day.

The thing about my mum is that she can seem extremely loving looking from the outside in. It’s very hard to explain just what she’s like. There is definitely something very wrong there though, I’m not sure she even remembers when she abuses you, because she then goes on to act like it never happened and swears that it didn’t. I also know my sweet little sister doesn’t see the negative side of our mother as much – not like my brother and I have. I try not to discuss my mother with her, because she can form her own opinions based own her own experiences, it’s just so strange that her experiences are so different from mine. I know this post will probably be read by her, and I’m sorry little sister for darkening your view of our mum.

I guess there’s also the possibility that my mother could read this. Maybe there’s a tiny chance that she might finally see herself as the rest of us see her – someone who needs help. The abuse has got to stop. But more likely, she will blame the rest of us as she always has, and deny everything.

I’m sorry, mum, but you’re just too stressful to have in my life. You can be in Charlie’s – as long as you don’t ever treat her the way you’ve treated me – but I don’t want to play happy families and be your friend, because the abuse isn’t worth it. I choose to believe I am more than the names you call me. I choose happiness. 

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Babyloss, Life, parenting

Fundraising Update

Yesterday I received a phone call from my local hospital in regards to my Cuddle Cot fundraiser. 

It was a bit out of the blue. Obviously I have spoken to them before and when I first started fundraising actually received quite a few calls from them, but I couldn’t think of a reason why they would be calling yesterday. Except perhaps in regards to my upcoming community event. Nope.

They actually called me to let me know that someone from Newcastle had just contacted them, with 3 Cuddle Cots ready to go, wanting to donate one of them to Tamworth within the week. Which is fantastic news, really. But the hospital aren’t sure they’ll need another one – the one I’ve been fundraising for. I must admit I got off the phone and cried. 

It just meant so, so much to me to donate a Cuddle Cot in my sons’ names to the hospital they were born in. The people who would have used that Cuddle Cot might’ve recognised my boys names, knew their story. And I feel so connected to that place, I held my boys there, my boys existed in that hospital – sometimes it feels like it’s the only place they did exist. 

I’ve already raised $1,400, and my first community event is only weeks away. But now I’m not sure exactly where the money raised is actually going to go. I might have to find another home for my boys’ Cuddle Cot, and the community will then no longer get the satisfaction of knowing that their donations are actually going to help local families, which has honestly been a big driving point for my fundraiser.

Obviously I’m glad my local hospital is going to have a Cuddle Cot – and sooner rather than later means more families will be helped in the long run. I just can’t help but feel sad that my sons’ legacy might not get to live on in the local area.

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Babyloss, Life, parenting

Twins: Together Forever

One of the advantages of having two babies at once is that they have a built-in playmate, a friend to learn and grow up with. It’s something everyone said to me when I found out I was having twins, that they would never be lonely. And it’s one of the consolations I have about losing them. That they have always been together, and will always be, even in death.

When we first lost them and were “doing the rounds”, calling everybody to let them know, one of the first things people said was ‘they couldn’t even save one?’. It’s hard to explain why, but this question made me hurt even more. If I couldn’t have them both, why could I only have one? How could I have chosen between them? How could I separate my boys like that, when they had only ever known each other?

The only, tiny comfort I had when their hearts stopped beating was that they stopped together. That even in the afterlife, they will always have a friend. They naturally shared a coffin at the funeral, and we released two blue balloons, tied together, after the ceremony. One balloon dragged behind a little bit – I know this was simply the helium starting to run out, but I like to think of it as my little boy Eric reluctant to leave us, and his bigger twin brother gently guiding him to a better place. Helping each other just the way they would have if they had lived. 

It must be nice to watch your twins grow up together, knowing they will always have a friend. I don’t get that. It is admittedly painful for me to see other twins displaying that connection.

I do, however, know that that special twin connection is a beautiful thing; and that it can’t be beaten by death. My sons will always be twins, and always have each other. Even if one had lived and one had not, I have come to realise that that would always be true, just in a different way.

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Baby Number 3, Babyloss, Life, parenting

Mother’s Day approaches.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, in case you haven’t noticed. I’ve looked forward to it every year since becoming a mother. Even though my first Mother’s Day was spent with empty arms. Even though last Mother’s Day, Matt and I had only recently separated, and he’s not a terribly thoughtful person to begin with. Even though this year, while it’s off to a better start than previous years, is probably set to end in a similar way. Me feeling sad, under-appreciated, but also strangely re-affirmed in my role as a mother.

My first Mother’s Day I remember I wanted so badly for other’s to recognise that it was my Mother’s Day too. My sons may not have been there, but I was still a mother. Matt wished me a happy Mother’s Day and gave me a quick hug as I got out of bed that morning, and that made me feel pretty great despite the sadness hiding within the hug. But what followed was a completely average day. There was no breakfast in bed, no barbecue in my honour, no cards, no cute home-made gifts, and most importantly no babies to hug. Getting back into bed that night, I cried thinking of what my first Mother’s Day should have been. Even if I hadn’t received anything else, I should have had two little boys to hold tight and make me feel grateful to be a mother. Instead what I had was emptiness. But as I pulled my blankets up, I looked out at the stars, and thought of my sons and how they wouldn’t want me to be sad – especially on Mother’s Day. I was their mother, after all.

Last Mother’s Day was, as a mentioned before, not long after Matthew and I separated. It wasn’t the best day. I spent it with Matt, I’m not even sure why considering I’d just left him. We invited his parents down to the local pub, ate pizza, and drank vodka (or at least, I did). At the end of the day, I was still pretty sad, but I had Charlie to cuddle and I felt pretty damn grateful for that.

This Mother’s Day I’m not sure what I’m hoping for. The truth is, every holiday sucks a little when you’re a bereaved parent. Even on the happy days, if there’s not at least tiny bit of sadness then there’s guilt for not feeling sad.

Anyway, happy Mother’s Day everyone! Whether you’re a new mum, a single mum, an empty-nester, or a mum with empty arms. Whatever kind of mum you are, happy Mother’s Day.

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Baby Number 3, Babyloss, Life, parenting

Recap: April

I haven’t felt the urge to write much lately. I usually use writing as a bit of an outlet during bad times, so basically life has been treating me well recently. I’ve been feeling really good. Not a lot of down days – although even on a good day I still believe life is unfair – and lots to keep me busy.

Here’s a quick recap of my last 2 weeks:

  • My cuddle cot fundraiser has been featured in the newspaper, on the radio and on TV – The local news really jumped on it, and the response has been fantastic. Charlie, my boys & I featured front page on our local newspaper Tuesday morning and as a result we received a message from ABC Radio wanting an interview, our local Prime7 News followed not long after. I was pretty nervous about being interviewed, but I think I did okay. Check out the article here: ‘Gift offers time with lost babies’, or watch my nerve-wracking TV appearance: ‘Mum on a mission’.
  • My fundraiser is now at over $1,100 – As a result of the recent media coverage, we’ve now raised enough for 1/6th of a cuddle cot in only a month of fundraising. Which also translates to 22 Bears of Hope packages in honour of my boys (if enough money for a cuddle cot isn’t raised).
  • I got chickens – probably not an important point but I find it exciting. Six 6-week-old Isa Browns. Seriously looking forward to not having to buy eggs in the near future. Charlie also absolutely adores them, which is a nice little bonus. We spend probably half an hour with them every morning playing outside and it definitely makes the day seem shorter having so much fun.
  • I spent some time with my beautiful sister, and my brother also visited from Melbourne – Family is important. Mine may not be very functional at the best of times, but I love them all the same and Charlie spending time with my family is also very important to me. My sister’s visit meant non-stop giggles from Charlie, we’ve missed her while she’s been away at university.
  • We got out personalised child loss book in the mail yesterday – From the author of Sam and Finn, these books are ‘a story of hope created especially for you’. It’s going to be beautiful reading it to Charlie as she gets older – a special little story about her big brothers. We already have Someone Came Before You, and it’s lovely, but this book actually has Andrew & Eric’s name in it! You can buy your own here: Personalised Child Loss Book.

That’s pretty much it. Condensed into a list, none of that seems as big of a deal as it actually was – I feel like there’s been so much excitement here lately!

My laptop is officially up and running again by the way, so look forward to more frequent blog posts. Unfortunately there’s been a hiccup with our new internet installation, but hopefully that’ll be working soon too.

How have you all been while I’ve been gone?

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Babyloss, Life, parenting

Quick Update

Haven’t written much in a little while. I’ve been really busy, but also my laptop is out of action (updating to Windows 10: worst mistake I’ve ever made) and I much prefer typing on my laptop. We’re also getting new internet installed soon and in the interim only have mobile wifi.

Anyway, my fundraiser is now just over $250! Thank you so much to everyone who’s donated so far. I’ve also spoken to the local newspaper and they’re doing a small article on it. Super pumped. You can donate here: Cuddle Cots for Andrew & Eric.

I’ll aim to write a proper post within the next few days. Stay tuned.

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