Letting my family and friends know about my little ones was not an easy process! But I had an incentive because of something I wanted to do, and it seemed right to break the shame and secrecy and make them openly and more naturally a part of my life.
I supported a charity called Christian Blind Mission and received information from them regularly. They sent an appeal for help in dealing with obstetric fistula. I'd recently remembered losing a little one when I was 17 in a labor-like second-trimester miscarriage at about 20 weeks. Obstetric fistula is an injury that occurs during prolonged obstructed labor, often when the mother is too small to give birth unassisted. The baby usually dies and the mother's left with constant incontinence that leads to shame and being ostracised. I could really relate to the experience of unsupported labor, loss, lack of support and ongoing shame and also to the sheer physical indignity involved. I wanted to do something to put that right for at least one woman. But the cost of doing that was more than I could afford. I hate asking for money. I’m terrible at fund-raising. But, for the sake of my own little one that I wanted to honour, and for the sake of the woman we might help, I bit the bullet and asked my family and friends if they’d come together to help make the donation.
I’m very glad that I did. I was deeply touched by their solidarity, support and care and we made it to the total we needed. Somewhere out there is a woman who’s regained her dignity because of us and because of the little one I lost. I felt better too because it smashed the lies of my abusers that no one cared or would believe me. They'd only intended pain, but instead we'd brought some good into the world together all the same. I was slow collecting the donations so I ended up giving them to the same cause but through a different charity. If you'd like to know more or make a donation you can follow these links:
UN Campaign to End Fistula
Dr Hamlin and the Obstetric Fistula Hospital in Addis Abbaba
Another thing I did was make a little Christmas ornament in memory of each little one I lost. I made one each to remember the people who received the wraps and burial gown set, so that they'll be in my thoughts each year. I bought a dove with an olive branch in its mouth for Dawn because her kindness had given me hope. I asked family and friends if they'd give me an ornament for my tree, or tell me what they'd like to represent them so I could make it or buy it. Each thing was small so it wasn't a big deal for anyone, but it meant so much to me. Not everyone knew I'd lost little ones, but many did. The first Christmas, in 2007, I felt so warm, loved and secure when I looked at those ornaments on my tree, surrounding the ones in memory of the little ones I'd lost. I felt somehow like I'd brought them home at last. The second Christmas I felt a real sense of peace as I put the ornaments on the tree in our new home. The tree was the best ever!
The ornaments were not hard to make or expensive. The concept of each one is based on something about my experience of that pregnancy or loss. I've since remembered other losses, so I'll have to make more ornaments this year. Here are the ones I've already made -
1. A miscarriage at a school excursion to the beach; 2. A miscarriage when I wrapped my little one up tenderly; 3. A second-trimester miscarriage when I hallucinated a guardian angel for my lost little one; 4. The fourth miscarriage I remembered, which was a second-trimester miscarriage where I was very upset not to find the baby; 5. A miscarriage of a baby who had many possible biological "fathers", which I sensed was a boy. I guess it's possible I knew since sexual differentiation is a stage in pregnancy and the hormones might have affected me. I've heard that mums sometimes just seem to know this stuff; 6. Our first Christmas tree in our new home, with lights (I'd never really had them much before!).
And, yes, I did get asked who the ornaments were for. My nephew, who was 5 at the time, was asking me who each ornament was for and came to one for one of my lost little ones. I explained that it was for someone special who wasn't alive any more. He asked who and I told him it was a little baby that had been too small to survive when it was born. He asked whose baby and I told him it was mine. He asked if it had been a human baby (just working things through, I hope!) and I said yes, but it hadn't ever quite made it to being born. Then I asked him who he thought the next ornament was for and the conversation moved on.
I was trying very hard to just be simple, honest and straightforward about it and not upset him. It was tricky because I hadn't yet told my brother and sister-in-law and I wasn't sure if they'd approve of me telling something like that to my nephew. But my mum was there at the time and she reassured me by saying he didn't ask about it on the way home and didn't seem upset at all. She said I'd handled it really well. Phew! I was scared but if they'd lived they would have been his cousins and I'd wanted them to be accepted (by me too) as part of our family network of love. It was hard to do to talk about them like that, but good for me too.
Some people get tattoos of things like angels or forget-me-not flowers or something meaningful to them to remember the little one they've lost. It's a way of making them part of your daily life and keeping their memory with you always. I've thought about this but I'm not sure I could do it. Maybe later, or maybe it's just not for me.
Here's just one of the many pages about memorial tattoos:
General Information About Tattoos - Memorial Tattoos
Here are some other ideas about memorials:
A Loving and Remembering Non-Denominational Memorial Service is held in Melbourne each year. There are other services held in different places. If you're interested it could be worth checking with your local cemetery or memorial gardens.
Many people name their child, to recognize their reality, to remind them that grief is appropriate, and to give their little one a place in their life and family. For one of my little ones I played around with choosing names at the time, and I'll keep it now. I didn't feel that I could do that for the others because of the stage at which my pregnancies ended. But I know many people (who've lost little ones at many different stages) who've been comforted by naming their child and found it suits their situation. Here are some sites to help you find a name you like:
Baby Names World
Baby Names Inventor
Random Baby Name Genie
Baby Name Advisor - this one's fun!
When I got married I really wanted to bring my little ones with me into my new family. My husband is the only man I've ever wanted to have kids with. It's not easy for him to accept these pregnancies, or understand how real the little ones feel to me. But he's been so lovingly accepting of their importance in my life and of all my reactions. I asked a friend who makes jewellery to make me a special bracelet, that was also my "something blue". At the time I'd remembered four lost little ones, so I asked if she'd make me something with four blue beads. It helped me feel like it was real and like I didn't have to deny the messy stuff to be a beautiful bride.