Saturday, March 31, 2007

Congrats and heartache

Another couple at church, Sam and Sara, who are friends of ours, were due a week before us. They gave birth to Ella Grace this morning, a few days early. We're both thrilled for them - Ella is their first child! I remember when Nellie was born - despite all the trauma surrounding her birth, the joy we both felt was unlike anything we'd ever felt before. Lying in the hospital bed, cradling this tiny little person, knowing that she belonged to you... feeling the rush of love every time you looked into her little face. It's an incredible time, a blessed time. So we celebrate Ella's birth with them, and give thanks for her.

Yet, at the same time, feeling this joy over Ella's birth only brings home to me the loss of Zoe. I should be cradling a little baby girl now too. Sara and I should be swapping birth stories and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over tiny feet and hands. Instead, my arms are empty.

This morning I unpacked the baby bag we took to hospital with us and put Zoe's clothes away. I never thought such a small action would be so painful.

Despite taking medication to make my milk dry up, on Wednesday it came in. That was very painful. Now, as if that weren't enough to deal with, I have developed mastitis. Without meaning to sound like a little child, it just isn't fair! I know God never promised us an easy life; quite the opposite in fact, but none of this is fair, or right, or just, or makes any sense.

I miss my baby.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Small comforts

While finding the right words are nigh on impossible for all concerned, we have been blessed by 2 pictures from God that we have been given.

The first was given to Graeme's cousin. In it she saw Graeme's gran cuddling and holding Zoe in heaven. His gran died last year and was the epitome of love, self-sacrifice and nurture. His cousin got this picture several times, starting last Thursday, before we even knew that Zoe had died. What Graeme's cousin could not have known is that my most treasured photograph is of my great-gran holding me as a newborn baby a few weeks before she died. So not only was this picture comforting because it gave us assurance that Zoe is in heaven, and is surrounded by family members who have gone on ahead of us, but it was special because it reminded me of that photograph.

At one point during my insomnia on Friday night, I had a debate with myself about whether I should take the Bible at face value, pray and claim Zoe's resurrection in faith. As I thought through the issue, and whether I had enough faith to believe that God would resurrect her, I felt God firmly, but tenderly, say I wasn't to pursue that course of action. His response wasn't that he wouldn't, or couldn't, but that resurrecting her was not part of his plan and if I pursued it I would only be more hurt. At the time, I wasn't sure whether what I had heard was the product of my own fear of failure in this venture, or whether it truly was God speaking to me. Come Saturday morning though, I thought no more about it until a friend spoke to me on Tuesday about a picture she had had on Friday as she was praying for a miracle for us.

In it, she saw Jesus come down from on high and scoop Zoe up into his arms. As he cuddled her, this friend cried out to him that that wasn't what we wanted - that we wanted a miracle and we wanted her to be given back to us. Firmly, but tenderly, Jesus replied, saying no. This friend commented to me on the beauty of this picture.

For whatever reason, it is now clear to me that God's plan was for Zoe to be with him. It's hard to bear, because I want to know what purpose was served by limiting her life to just 37 weeks. Yet, knowing that she is with God, and with family who have gone before us (that she has already met my great-grandmother whom I never had the chance to know, although she got to see and hold me!), that she is surrounded by love, and that we will see her again one day - this is a comfort. This, to me, is testimony to God's grace. The master of the universe doesn't need to explain himself to me, yet he has taken the time to speak to us through two individuals, letting us know that this was in his plan, and that he loves us and Zoe. I don't know that we will ever be given a reason, or not while we are on this side of heaven, but knowing that God was active in the midst of it is enough for now.

While I'm struggling to come to terms with her loss and having to let her go, I'm hanging on to the knowledge that this is not goodbye, but merely a temporary farewell. She is in a better place - one where she will know the best and greatest of things with none of the worst. She will never know pain, suffering, loneliness, illness or grief. She will never have her heart broken. She will never know abandonment or rejection. Yet, she will know the heights of love and joy, a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and always experience perfect health. She will know greater intimacy with the One who made her than I can imagine, and better fellowship and friendship than I have ever had the privilege to know or experience. As a mother, I can't ask for more for my little girl, even if it means living a lifetime without her.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Zoe's funeral service

Dear friends

Zoe's funeral service will take place at the Ascension, Balham Hill at 9am on Tuesday the 10th April. This is an open service. We recognise that many of you will be unable to come, but so many have asked for the details to be able to pray at that time that we're just letting everyone know.

Thank you to those of you who have already sent emails, texts, cards and/or flowers. We have appreciated each and every one, although we have been able to respond to only a few. For those who would like to make a gesture of some kind, we are asking you to consider making a donation to Tommy's, the baby charity, which exists to save babies' lives through funding research into, and providing information on, the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth. We have set up a webpage in memory of Zoe, where you can make an online donation -

If you could RSVP so that we have an idea as to numbers for catering, that would be very helpful, but don't let the fact that you haven't replied keep you away.

Monday, March 26, 2007


After visiting the funeral directors today, we took Nellie to the hospital to meet Zoe. Her reaction was very telling, but ultimately very cathartic for all of us I think. We took some lovely photos of the 4 of us, which I suspect will become very important to us in years to come; even more so than they are today.

For the first time, a few things really fell into place for me. The bereavement support midwife we saw was able to tell us that 5-8 out of every 1000 full-term births (which ours is considered) are stillbirths. That's statistically quite high, and certainly higher than one would imagine at this late stage of pregnancy. In addition, the level has not changed since the early 1980's, despite all the advances in medical science and technology, and, as if that wasn't incredible enough, there is no reason that science can give for them. It's like cot death in small babies.

So, she warned us not to expect anything from the autopsy. Her investigation so far (the midwifery team do an independent investigation to that of the doctors and the pathology lab) leads her to conclude that Zoe was still alive on Friday morning, and that there is no medical reason for her death.

While that's really hard to hear, it's also comforting, because it means that nothing I did, or failed to do, had any bearing on Zoe's survival. People have already told me that, but it's one thing hearing it from someone who just wants to make me feel better, and quite another hearing it from a medical professional.

As a mother, that's also important for me to hear, because my sole job in this pregnancy process was to nurture Zoe to full health and and then to give birth to her. Inasmuch as I was unable to do that, I have felt personally responsible for her death. Now... now at least I can consider the fact that maybe I'm not to blame, and maybe there really was nothing I could have done to prevent this, and that maybe God is not punishing me (and us) for some sin. So while it's hard to hear that there is very likely no medical reason for Zoe's death, it is actually very helpful for me to hear that too.

Tomorrow we register Zoe's birth and death, and then finalise arrangements with the funeral directors. We won't be able to get Zoe's body back till next Monday, so in all likelihood the funeral will have to wait till after Easter. Not ideal, but there's not much we can do about it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Zoe was stillborn at 5.15pm on Sat 24th March, after 5 hours of easy labour (certainly far easier than with Nellie!). She weighed 2.78kg (6lb 2oz) and was 52cm long. She looks just like her big sister did, except bigger (given that she was 0.59kg heavier and a whole 4 weeks older when she was born), and she was covered in thick vernix (which Nellie wasn't when she was born). She has blue eyes, curly ginger-blond hair and is perfect in every way.

We did take photos, but I'm not sure whether it would be too macabre to post them.

The autopsy will be on Thursday or Friday, but the final report will take about 6 weeks to complete, so we won't know more till then. At the moment it looks like there may have been at least 2 things that may have contributed to her death, but we won't say more until the report confirms or denies anything.

We don't want the funeral to coincide with Easter, nor do we want to wait till after Easter, so it will probably be as soon after Friday as we can arrange it, at our church, followed by a cremation. We want to scatter her ashes back in SA so that part of her will always be with us.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed, texted, or sent cards, or commented on the blog. While we may not respond in person, your love and support, and your prayers, mean the world to us.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Baby 2

We have lost the baby. I'm being induced tomorrow, after which the postmortem will hopefully tell us why.

Please feel free to tell all and sundry, as that saves us the agony of having to repeat ourselves endlessly. While we appreciate the sympathy and offers of help and prayer, please understand if we don't reply to each individually, or if we don't blog for a while.

NCT second time mothers...

From left to right: Daisy, Laura, Fiona, Anna, Me, Rosie, Nicky. All due between now and 16 April.

Baby 2

Well, we've made it to 37 weeks! Thank God!

However, now I'm ready for this baby to arrive and I want it NOW. I've got horrendous back pain - my pelvis is loose and shifts/ swings around a bit with every step I take (makes for feeling very unstable on my feet, but too much of either activity or inactivity makes it worse, so I can't just sit down and stay there). I am UBER-uncomfortable, not sleeping, can't walk far (even going from our flat up to Woolies on the high st is too far!), have indigestion all the time, need the loo at least once an hour (at night it's about once every 2 hours), am BORED BORED BORED of wearing the same outfit all the time (not having been this pregnant before I have very little that fits!), can't bend over, can't put my own socks on, can't bath without help to get in and out... I'll stop now as I'm boring myself with all these complaints. The baby is (please God!) healthy and has reached the 37 week mark, so really, all this discomfort (now there's an understatement if ever there was one!) is all worth it!

Fortunately, it looks like Baby 2 may be as eager to appear as I am to have her out. I had a show on Wed, and my uterus is (according to the midwife I saw on Tues) irritable. That's apparently a sign that labour and birth are imminent. The midwife even indicated it might be as soon as this weekend... hmm... That would be good! (So for those who pray, please pray!)

In the meantime, Nellie has definitely realised that SOMETHING is up. When I'm around, she is unbelievably clingy, cries whenever I leave her for a moment or even just when I don't (because I can't) pick her up - even getting down on the floor and cuddling with her is not enough anymore. She's gone off her food and milk (although she does at least still eat a decent breakfast) and her sleep patterns are all over the show during the day. She has taken to lifting my shirt in public to look at my tummy and belly-button, which is fine depending on where in public it is!

I got the Moses' basket down yesterday, to get her used to the idea of it being in our room. Needless to say, it brought on a flood of tears. Even a balloon (which she usually loves) wasn't enough to calm her. I then had to spend a good 15 minutes cuddling her and assuring her that she was Mommy's No1 special girl and that I would always love her! Even then, she wasn't too happy... Oh dear!

She's also taken to pulling out the 2 'new baby' books we've got - one bought and one homemade - to look at the pictures of the new baby. Until this week, she's shown little interest in them.

On the upside, she's learnt to give proper kisses (aahh!!) and to say 'juice', and she ate 4 raisins for the first time yesterday, and she now also gives proper cuddles and hugs. She's looking more and more grown up every day. I can't believe my little one is nearly 16 months old now. When we were checking through my hospital bag the other night, and looking at the size of the newborn babygrows, I can't believe that they were too big for her when she was born! She was TEENY TINY - and now she's so big. Sigh! I guess she'll always be my little girl though, even when she's 60. That's motherhood for you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Language, language!

Recently, Nellie has taken to dropping items from her high chair on purpose, to watch us pick them up. Great new game! Today at lunch though, when she dropped something by mistake, it sounded like she said 'Oh shit!'. I nearly fell over laughing! I'm fairly sure it was a complete coincidence and that she didn't actually say that, but it was just so funny.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More outings

My new favourite activity...and from our day out at Wisley Gardens on the 3 March - looking at the Khoi swimming...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Who would have thought it, in London?!?!

Well, you'd never believe it! While G and J were away in SA we had an infestation of flies in the house for a day or two. At the same time, it seemed to me that something came down the chimney in Nellie's room because I came home to find an inch or so of dust on everything (can you tell I've been in the UK for ages? I'm even starting to think in imperial measures!!). I couldn't smell anything, so thought that maybe it was just a bird that fell down and then managed to fly back out again. After dealing with the flies, which seemed to clear up pretty quickly, I thought no more about it.

This weekend though, the flies returned with a vengeance... and we found yet another 5-10kg of dust deposited in the fireplace grate. I don't know how many we killed in a 24hr period, but it was so many that we just about destroyed the fly swatter and had to resort to buying a fly spray because we couldn't find a replacement on a Sunday! At a guess I'd say we must have killed between 50 and 70 in a 24hr period, maybe more, and probably another 20 or so escaped when we opened the windows on several occasions during the time. I was starting to think that there was no way I would let Nellie sleep in her room because I was convinced that's where they were getting in. Again, I couldn't smell anything, so I really didn't think to check up the chimney at all.

Eventually we decided to try to block up the chimney, to stop the flies coming down. When the dust just kept pouring down, and I could hear things shifting in the chimney, I decided I had better get a torch and try to have a look-see. Nearly got the fright of my life! What did I see? Wait for it - a dead crow! And all within arm's reach. Oddly, it didn't smell half as bad as I would have expected carrion to smell. Then again, maybe it was high up in the chimney initially, and got dislodged this weekend - that might explain both the lack of smell and the lack of flies in between the two dust events....

Anyway, thank God it's out and Nellie (and G and me) can now sleep in a fly-free zone! Flies are definitely NOT something that one would associate with the UK. Africa, yes, and lots of them! But not the UK - not unless you're actually on a livestock farm... which we aren't (even though the house does resemble a zoo or a pig's sty once Nellie's been playing!)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Feeding and slides

At long last Nellie seems to be starting to take an interest in feeding herself. Yesterday we went to the park as it was such a gorgeous day. I wish I'd taken the camera, as Nellie 'discovered' the slide! Previously, she's been a bit scared of it, but yesterday she couldn't get enough of it. After sliding down she would try to push herself up from the bottom and then slide down again if I didn't pick her up and put her back at the top. Very cute, but very tiring and sore for Mommy!