• The Still Mama Tribe

Tommy - Sarah Widnyana

Updated: Jan 8, 2019


Baby loss, pregnancy after loss, Induction, burial, home birth, TMFR, birth photographer.

 

By Lacey Barratt Photography

In 2012 I fell pregnant with my first child, Wren. My birth was a standard hospital birth. I left mostly unscathed compared to the masses of women leaving hospital births with significant trauma. I was lucky.


When Wren was 2 we decided it was time to try and extend our family and add another tiny person to our ranks. However, as the universe would have it, this story didn’t lead us to our expected destination of a happy family of 4.

I fell pregnant quite quickly but that joy was short-lived as at 7 weeks I experienced heavy bleeding.

My fears were soon downplayed by every medical professional I saw. I was seeking advice, answers, good news or hell, even bad news. I just wanted something definitive.

Between 15 and 17 weeks I had been in and out of emergency and Early Pregnancy Assessment Units at two separate hospitals. I ended up on bed rest and at 19 weeks my waters broke and the reality of the possible loss of my baby started to sink in.

My husband was away for work for 6 weeks. My Mum had to move into our house to take care of our almost 3 year old daughter. I was alone. Just me and my thoughts.


My waters had broken. I knew it, but the hospital wouldn’t schedule me for an ultrasound to confirm it until 4 days later. Commence 4 days of an internal hell. 4 days of limbo.

Every day, the nurses would come to ‘check baby’s heart rate’, but as my waters had broken there was no fluid for the ultrasound to work effectively. Each time they came to check the heart-rate my own heart would sink. Even with my eyes tightly shut, I could see and feel the tension in the midwives as they struggled to find the heartbeat, but tried not to alert me to the fact that something might be wrong. I felt like I needed to comfort them, to tell them that it was okay, I knew that things weren’t right…


The day came. I was alone at the ultrasound, with no one to hold my hand, when the professor put his hand on my arm and simply said “I’m sorry…”, I thought, sorry for what? He said it as though there was only one possible outcome.

It was the most definitive answer I had been given my entire pregnancy, it just wasn’t the answer I was searching for.

I swallowed the desire to scream and calmly asked what he meant; he explained that a baby needs amniotic fluid for lung development and that a baby’s lungs don’t start developing until after 20 weeks. Despite this, babies can survive in utero with no amniotic fluid but more often than not the mother will go into spontaneous labour soon after her membranes have ruptured. Babies who survive have countless months of neonatal care ahead of them and the possibility of needing oxygen support for the remainder of their lives, not to mention the risk of cerebral palsy and countless other issues…


Thus, a choice was handed to us. Wait and try to make it to 24 weeks to see if bub could survive and if we could stave off labour, or choose to induce labour and end our baby’s life. Black and white, those were our choices.

I wished that this choice could be made for me. For us. I hoped it would be taken out of our hands so we didn’t have to make the decision to end our child’s life.

You see, there was nothing wrong with my baby, it was my placenta that had failed me; the blood clots had weakened my membranes over time until they broke. The uncertainty over our future tore me apart.

I spent hours at night researching the risks for continuing with the pregnancy and trying to imagine what our life might look like afterwards if bub did survive. Would I be burdening our family if bub survived and had chronic health issues leading into the future? Could I mentally cope with that? Did I WANT to cope with that?

I say ‘want’ because this is something that is very important to me. To have the ability to choose. I wanted complete autonomy over my body. Some women do not get that choice and I will be forever grateful that I was able to choose for myself and for our family.

As much as it hurt to think it, I did not want to put our family through the trials and tribulations I could see lying ahead for us if we decided to continue with the pregnancy. So we made our choice, as a family.


Making that choice destroyed me. As much as I reasoned with myself and knew within myself that we were making the right choice for our family it tore me apart. No mother should have to make that choice. Though, to have the choice was a blessing and a curse.

When being induced, the doctor advised that I was already 1cm dilated and it looked like I would have been going into spontaneous labour in the coming days. A small consolation for my now broken soul.

I only had to reach 3cm to birth our tiny baby, but it was the most excruciating pain I have ever endured. Inductions are no joke.

I laboured and delivered a little boy, he looked just like his Dad. Our little Tommy. The hospital advised that even if we didn’t want to take them with us, that they would photograph Tommy and keep the photos on file so that if ever we wanted to see him, we could come back and ask for them.

I took those photos and I treasure them dearly. They are held close to my heart and have healed me beyond measure. I have nothing else from that pregnancy.

The midwives measured him, dressed him and gave us time to hold and spend time with him. Then they sent us home with him in a cardboard box.

Another small consolation; birthing your baby before 20 weeks gestation allows you to legally take your baby with you. After 20 weeks, you have to leave your baby at the hospital, in the arms of strangers.


When we were discharged, I carried our boy to the car and placed him on the backseat for the drive to my Mum’s house where we planned to bury him.


This detail has plagued me ever since: on his journey to his final destination to be returned to the earth he was riding on our back seat, in a cardboard box… why didn’t I hold him? Why didn’t I cradle that box and pour every bit of love and energy I could muster into it while I could?

No amount of reasoning will heal that wound for me. I will forever feel guilt for not doing all that I could in that moment.

We buried our little man under a special tree in my Mum’s backyard then we headed home to pick up the pieces of our now shattered lives.



The next few months were hard for us, after the loss of a baby the world is full of firsts you aren’t willing to face. “Last time I did this”, “Last time I went there” or “last time I saw this person” I was pregnant… and now I am not. Will they mention it? Will they ask? Do I want them to? Can I just go to sleep and wake up in another world where pregnancy and infant loss is not a thing…?

I had recently started a new job and had only just started telling people I was pregnant when I ended up in hospital. After I gave birth to Tommy I took 4 weeks off work. When I returned, not everyone knew what had happened so I would get questions like “how was your holiday?” “where have you been?”. It was such a treacherous time for me and I believe is a real and common downfall of our medical system, the inability to effectively care for new and grieving mothers.

The silence surrounding our grief was stifling. I was thrown into a world I was unfamiliar with. Usually an open book I struggled to find my feet in this new world, do I mention his name? Do I pretend it didn’t happen? Then I read an article by Alice Jolly on the loss of her daughter where she said “if we avoid the pain of grief then we also miss out on its gifts. And yes, there are gifts. We suffer losses so that we more fully know the value of what is left behind. And having suffered bereavement, we do not turn away from others who are bereaved. …grief is work, and all work becomes easier if it is shared between many hands. And there is no community so welded together as the community of grief shared.”

Reading this solidified in me that I had a role to play in this new world of mine, I refused to hide behind the stigma and spoke my soul to anyone who would listen. People would know about our loss. People would know our boy’s name and the universe would know that he had lived.

With an amazing support network we rebuilt and started to talk about trying for baby number 3.

We fell pregnant quickly and this time I felt a strong urge to protect the pregnancy and my birthing choices.


Sarah birthing her third child Clover

I realised that all throughout my mothering life I had bought into the ideal that when you birth in hospital you are guaranteed to leave with a live and healthy baby but now, that narrative had been shattered for me. I was living proof that not even a hospital birth can guarantee you a live baby. A fog was lifted from my eyes….

So we went on to plan our first home birth.

I didn’t take many fears from my loss with Tommy, through to this pregnancy. 15 weeks when I entered hospital with Tommy, 19 weeks when I lost Tommy, Tommy’s due date…they all came and went without me fearing that the same would happen to me again. I knew I could sustain a healthy pregnancy, I had done it before. I worked hard with a counsellor and spoke so openly and candidly about our loss that I think it helped me to allay any anxiety leading into this new pregnancy.

We moved to Melbourne when I was 36 weeks pregnant and I was able to get into the Sunshine Homebirth Program. My beautiful midwife Marnie, who I only met for the first time at 36 weeks, was so supportive and a true birth angel to me.

My homebirth experience was amazing, empowering, healing and restorative. It returned to me the faith I once had in my body, it healed wounds I had left from losing our little Tommy and it restored my relationship with my husband.



Our family felt whole again and I have the photographs of the moment my body felt mine again. The moment our second daughter, Clover, took her first breaths and brought white light and healing energy into our lives.



 

By Lacey Barratt Photography

Find and connect with Sarah on @lifeandlens_photography Sarah's beautiful photography work can be found at lifeandlens.com.au







We will be recording with Sarah next year, so stay tuned.