I am a mother of two children, and a mother who has had four pregnancies.
Our son, Indy, is the only child in our arms.
In our hearts, he is not our only child.
My husband Dave and I lost our first-born daughter and first pregnancy at 38 weeks in 2013. Arla Summers McCarthy was stillborn silently, calmly, sadly, on the 31st of March, at 11:50pm after a very healthy and uneventful pregnancy, and five hours of active labour. The moment she was born I felt elated as any new mother does in that moment after a gruelling birth, and then, completely and utterly broken. Her death is still unexplained.
We then lost our next pregnancy six months later, at seven weeks. Shortly after the miscarriage, we lost our third pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy, which resulted in an emergency operation, the loss of the baby and my right tube. This loss was the hardest to bear in some ways—in its wake, I felt complete defeat.
We were told we would have trouble conceiving again due to the loss of my tube, but defied the odds to fall pregnant six months later, a pregnancy that was full of hope, excitement, worry and apprehension. This time, I made it 34 weeks and was rushed to emergency again with a catastrophic spontaneous abdominal hemorrhage. I was put in a coma for 24 hours.
After Arla died, I looked for guidance
I wanted to better understand my experience of grief, trauma and all the complexities that were happening in a patchwork, haphazard kind of way. I connected to forums, I read books, I painted and journalled.
I yearned for resources as we stumbled through. I searched for a gentle guide, a beacon in the darkness to help shepherd me. Being a leadership consultant, I looked for similar exercises and resources that I produced for clients for my own personal journey, tailored to the grief process. I searched and searched, and could not find them.
I promised Arla I would create them, when the time was ready.
This book is a gift for her, and you.
It is a cool drink of water for those days where you feel parched from grief.
This book is a best friend, a warm blanket, a collective woman who wraps her arms around you and says:
‘I am so sorry you have lost your child. Let’s remember them together.’
I hope this book becomes your private place to express the thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable to share with others. I hope that on some days, it becomes your comfort place, your cocoon, you place to gently move to a place where your grief can exist and merge into life as you know it.
My husband Dave’s story
The build up to the birth of your first child is so overwhelming and exciting, there are so many mixed emotions going through your head and the sense of anticipation is huge.
During the pregnancy I saw Ami’s connection to Arla grow day by day, week by week. For me the day of the birth was going to be the moment when I could begin to really get to know her and understand who she was. That day was such an important goal in my mind and I knew that my life was going to change in the most positive way imaginable on the day Arla was born.
During the pregnancy, I never really considered the possibility that we would lose Arla or even have complications. Arla was growing perfectly and Ami was healthy. I remember watching a TV show several weeks before Arla was due. It was a reality show that followed several couples on their journey through pregnancy and childbirth. One particular scene showed a couple in hospital as nurses tried frantically to find their baby’s heartbeat. It terrified me. That was the first time in my life I had really considered how devastating it could be to lose an unborn child.
Just weeks later it was us in the hospital room as nurses tried to find Arla’s heartbeat. Suddenly our textbook pregnancy had completely turned upside down. Words can’t describe the sense of loss, helplessness, fear, anger, everything all at once. The loss and sadness was immense, and the fact that we had come so close but were still so far away felt extremely unfair. Arla had been due any day and suddenly she was gone forever.
Staying on the surface after the loss of a child, no matter what age, will always lead to problems later. As one of our counsellors said to us early on:
“Grief is like work, if you don’t face up to it today, it’ll still be waiting for you tomorrow.”
Despite the sadness associated with it, I still smile when I think back to Arla’s birth and I feel proud to be her father. I had to be careful not to ignore my own feelings as well. I’ve always been reasonably in touch with my emotions, however like most men I didn’t like going too far beneath the surface.
Fortunately, I found I was able to go much deeper when it counted and looking back I am very thankful for that.