This series of personal stories from parents who have suffered pregnancy or baby loss opens up a space for talking about loss and grief publicly.
In sharing their stories about pregnancy, infertility and the death of their babies, the parents whose personal accounts you can read on The Possum Blog are beginning to exorcise the demon of social taboo afflicting many conversations on perinatal loss. Parents share their journeys and their advice, if any, on living with loss. They share how they have changed, who they have become, and what truly matters now.
Nyssa and her daughter, Lucy Paige
Our Lucy story goes a long way back, over ten years ago when we began our dreams of becoming parents. We were hit with lots of trouble, PCOS and infertility issues on both sides, which made me wonder on numerous occasions: were we ever meant to be parents? Without science and technology, it would never be possible for us to conceive. I have beaten myself up over and over for being/feeling like a failure, for not being able to fall pregnant naturally. Isn’t that what we are put on the planet to do?
I have beaten myself up over and over for not being able to fall pregnant naturally. Isn’t that what we are put on the planet to do?
After trying naturally and knowing that we both had challenges, we were directed to start IVF. I have learnt a lot about my body since, and only wish I knew then what I know now about how changing my diet, reducing stress and workload can radically make a difference to your cycle.
When you go in for your egg harvest after weeks of injecting synthetic hormones into your body at precise times of the day and night and countless blood tests, you awake in recovery; hopeful to find a number written on your hand.
After our first cycle I awoke, groggy, with no number. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Had there been a mistake? Sadly no: there weren’t any eggs to harvest. My body had failed me AGAIN! So I thought at the time. We went back home, determined more than ever to make some changes. This was Easter of 2009.
I made an appointment with a Chinese Medicine Doctor in my current home town. I was given lots of herbs to take, along with a sugar, gluten and dairy free diet plan to follow. With the aim of detoxing my body and weekly acupuncture, I dropped 10 kilograms in 3 months and went through our 2nd round of IVF. I awoke with the number 14 written on my hand. We finally had a chance at creating life.
I awoke with the number 14 written on my hand. We finally had a chance at creating life.
14 sounds like a lot, but unfortunately not all eggs will fertilise and develop into embryos. After the first day the number of eggs that were actually viable had halved, and by day 3 the number had halved again. We had one egg implanted on day 5 and froze the remaining 3 which survived the process.
Our first born daughter, Jadah, was born in February 2010 with an AVSD (Congenital Heart Disease) which required open heart surgery at the age of 3 and half months in Melbourne. She survived this and is our only living child to date.
I suffered terribly with Post Natal Depression following Jadah’s birth and was worried about not being able to come off the medication to try for another child. Fast forward to December 2014, where we felt we were ready to try this again, semi confident as we knew we had some embryos in storage.
I had to sync and track my cycle with countless blood tests, all of which were made some much more difficult when you live in a rural and remote location. To book doctors’ appointments, to have blood taken, for the vial to make it to the plane in time: then it had to be transferred to Adelaide for testing.
I had managed to fit in and line up our transfer after school finished for the year while holding down a leadership position at work and before Christmas. This one was a success. However, 2 of the embryos didn’t survive the thawing process, so we were back to square one if this transfer didn’t work. Up to this point everything had been tracking ok.
However, two of the embryos didn’t survive the thawing process. We were back to square one if this transfer didn’t work.
On the first few days back at work in 2015 I was heading to our closest hospital which performs scans (200kms round trip) for our IVF 8-week check-up. “I’m sorry, but we can’t find a heart beat.” Also, there isn’t a baby in the sac. You have a blighted ovum. I had all of the symptoms, hormones, hopes and dreams, just no baby.
I had to go through the D & C process. Desperately sad we went home, to pick up the pieces all over again and watch as my next door neighbour grew their baby who was due at a similar time.
In July of 2015 we we went for our 3rd round of IVF. By this stage we had used a lot of our savings and at this round we only got 4 eggs. Only one of these was viable for implantation. This one also didn’t work. I got my period while working at school. Another devastating loss.
My husband had had enough by this stage. He couldn’t take seeing me go through the depths of sadness time, after time.
My husband had had enough by this stage. He couldn’t take seeing me go through the depths of sadness time, after time. I managed to persuade him to give it one more go, our last ditch effort in October 2015. It was a 17 eggs harvest and I was at serious risk of Ovarian Hyper-stimulation. After the first day we were back to 12, then 6. We had one egg implanted and were left with 3 to freeze.
Our baby was due on the 11th of July. With my birthday being the 15th, we could end up sharing a birthday! We had lots of scans and extra check-ups, considering our first daughter was born with a CHD.
I finished up working and took Maternity Leave at 35 weeks from my incredibly intense and demanding job. Finally an opportunity to drop my daughter to school and have the time to read with her in the mornings, do all those things that I have never had the chance to do.
Being from the country, I went to Women’s & Children’s to see my obstetrician at 36 weeks and 2 days. I left that day super confident: my baby’s head was down, we were good to go home and came back to Adelaide at 38 weeks to wait it out. We arrived home late on the Tuesday night after flying over and back and driving home from Port Lincoln.
On Wednesday morning the 15th of June I felt a strange kick down low as I hung out some little white singlets I had purchased in Adelaide the day before. I didn’t really think anything of it until later that night: I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while. It was a really stormy night, so I thought I’d drop my daughter to school and head up to the hospital to be checked out the following morning. I texted my midwife at our local hospital about not feeling a lot of movement and she advised me to come up immediately.
I didn’t really think anything of it until later that night: I hadn’t felt her move for a while.
I headed up to the hospital and my husband met me there. We had no idea, but our lives were about to change forever. After our local doctor, director of nursing and midwife were unable to hear a definite heart beat clearly, they sent us to Ceduna for a scan to confirm our greatest fear – that our precious baby was gone.
We spent the entire day at Ceduna Hospital ringing our parents, family and daughter to tell her, the sibling she had longed for would never be coming home. This is definitely one of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make.
As I wasn’t considered an emergency, I had the choice between driving over 8 hours in a car to deliver our stillborn baby girl in another hospital or to get on the next REX flight out of Ceduna. After a harrowing experience of sitting in an airport full of people I knew, we arrived in Adelaide, then to WCH to begin the process of delivering our baby girl.
My family dropped everything, packed bags for us, got in the car and made the 8 hour long trip to Adelaide to meet us at the hospital. They arrived at approximately 10.30pm. I was induced and I made it very clear to the doctors and midwives that I wanted to ‘feel’ this birth as I didn’t want to miss out on any more than I already would - the rest of my baby's life.
My baby girl was born silent, born still, but still born.
I felt like a failure all over again. It was my job to protect my baby girl and I couldn’t even do that. I delivered our princess Lucy Paige Bell on June 17th 2016 at 4.44pm. My baby girl was born silent, born still, but still born. She was my baby, the one we had given so much to have and yet we still fell short. The love, care and support of the Midwives both in Ceduna and Adelaide at the Women’s & Children’s I will be forever grateful for.
We had a funeral one week later and I genuinely wish that we had waited longer. However, her little body really couldn’t handle being taken in and out of the cold many more times. I had students, colleagues, family, friends other mothers who I would’ve been in a Mothers Group with present, as I spoke at Lucy’s Funeral and didn’t want to ever stop.
I was worried and still am today, that if I stop saying her name, people will forget that she ever existed. I should be a Mother to a 6 year old; instead I wander through the halls of grief, with more happier days now than sad. Yet I still catch myself thinking about what she would look like, what type of personality she might have and how my first born Jadah would’ve been the most amazing big sister - yet will never get the chance.
It took me four months to go down the street to the supermarket by myself and I look back now at how much of a hit my confidence took. Confidence to do anything. Make decisions, care for myself, my daughter, my husband.
It took me four months to go down the street to the supermarket by myself and I look back now at how much of a hit my confidence took. Confidence to do anything. Make decisions, care for myself, my daughter, my husband. I actually wondered if I’d ever teach again? How could I possibly step in front of a classroom of students, who could potentially say something that might trigger me or have parents who don’t respect the fact that they get to have children and love them, when mine couldn’t live?
It turned out that losing Lucy taught me a lot about grief. In fact, it lifted the lid on grief that I had suppressed for many years, yet hadn’t given myself permission to feel. To lean into and really heal. I have been on a journey of self-development ever since, and I have realised that grief also needs to be talked about: and taught explicitly at school. I am therefore using my experiences now to educate my students, firstly about empathy and how to respond to and support people experiencing hard times and grief.
I have been on a journey of self-development ever since, and I have realised that grief also needs to be talked about: and taught explicitly at school.
I regularly use Lucy’s name and refer to my life before and after losing Lucy. I share what has helped me, so that students can make connections in their lives. Something significant that I take with me daily is to never ask people how they are feeling. Instead, I always say "It’s so good to see you," because this takes the pressure off people to respond and tell you how they are really feeling when they may not want or be able to.
I returned to work 12 months after losing Lucy at 0.6FTE. This gave me the space to still practice good self-care and look after my mental health while being able to appreciate the opportunity to spend precious time with my big girl Jadah.
After Lucy died in June of 2016, we had one remaining embryo. I wanted to know if this was my last ever chance of becoming a Mum again. In December of 2016 we laid our hearts on the line again, took our last chance, hoped & dreamed for my cycle and the planets to align - but again, it wasn’t meant to be. The step of acceptance in realising that I would never get another chance to experience creating a life and having another baby was gone.
We make a cake for Lucy on her birthday, a rainbow or bee one, and make wishes about what I wish I could be doing with my baby girl. Jadah and I often talk about Lucy. About what she might look like, what her cheeky personality might be like and whether or not she would annoy Jadah and get into her things.
At the end of each day I tell myself "I did everything I could with what I had." I now know that is enough.
I now make more time for my family, friends and community. At the end of each day I tell myself "I did everything I could with what I had." I now know that is enough. I appreciate the beauty all around me. In people and nature.
Lucy gave me permission to grieve openly and for that I am very grateful.
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