I expected a lot of things when I first became pregnant in 2012. I expected morning sickness (check!), weird cravings (unfortunately not), a beautiful bump (check), and to fall in love with my precious baby as she grew (100% check!). What I did not expect was to hear the words “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat” at my 39 week midwife appointment.
Those words absolutely broke me and my husband; I didn’t know it was possible to live with such heartache. And yet that was the reality that faced us on January 28, 2013, as we were confronted with the prospect of an emotional labour and still, silent delivery.
I remember feeling so lost. I like to have things planned as best as possible…but how does one plan for the stillbirth of their baby? Saying goodbye? A funeral? It seemed impossible and the thought of it all was simply heartbreaking. The world felt heavy and dark; I simply could not imagine how anything would seem good again. But when Ariella Jade was born two days later, at the very moment of her birth, I remember feeling such a rush of love and it didn’t seem to matter to me that she was already gone. She was our daughter, she was perfect, and she was so very loved.
As we planned her funeral, there was one phrase that my husband and I repeated: Ariella was stillborn, but God was still good. We chose to believe that because we felt we had no other option. We had lost so much when she died – her first smile, first steps, first day at school, first everything – we refused to lose our faith as well. Some might think we were crazy to keep believing in God’s goodness, but the truth was that we didn’t see much good anywhere else, so we had to rely on what we had previously found to be true.
When our son was born alive (alive!) eleven months later, and again after the safe birth of our second daughter Seanna, it became easier to see good around us again. The pain over losing Ariella didn’t disappear but seeing a child of ours smile, giggle and grow brought so much healing. I think some people expected that Levi’s safe arrival would somehow “fix” our grief and pain…whatever that means. I wish that was the case but the fact is we grieve because we love; our love for Ariella will never end and therefore we will always grieve her absence.
To some people, the idea of unending grief might seem depressing. I don’t think that’s the case! Yes, we have our sad days (any significant days like the day she went to Heaven, her birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc), but I believe my grief over Ariella’s death has made me a better parent to my two living children. I’m more patient than I suspect I would have been otherwise, but that’s not to say I am a perfect mama. Far from it! But when they drive me crazy (like any child does to their mama!), I am reminded of just how good it is that they are even here to be able to drive me crazy. Every late night snuggle while feeding Seanna, every time I sing Levi to sleep instead of curling up by the fire with a hot chocolate, I think about Ariella and am reminded about how blessed I am to have my living children in my arms.
Losing Ariella was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. My two pregnancies after loss were also indescribably difficult. It was so very hard to see anything good in any of those events! But now it is different; it is in mothering after loss that I find the good in life now. I mother Ariella by watching her short life change the world each time someone donates in her memory or finds the confidence to comfort a grieving mother because of her story. And each day, as I mother Levi and Seanna and watch them thrive, it becomes a little easier to see through the heartache of Ariella’s death to the good that is in each day. Life will never be perfect without Ariella here, but it can be good again.
Larissa and her Husband Marcus live in Adelaide, South Australia. They are the proud parents of 3 beautiful children. Ariella, Levi and Seanna.
You can read more of Larissa’s story here.