This is a story of loss… and grief… and finding the light in the darkness. There really are no words to introduce Nellie's story to you that could ever describe it with the fullness that it deserves. Loss is something so incredibly difficult to understand, maybe there is something in that… maybe it is better that some things have no explanation, no answers.
Every day each of us are thrown a challenge. Some big, some small, some life changing. Our strength, our resources, our intelligence, our wit, our support networks are just some of the things that can help us manage these challenges. Sometimes though, nothing can get us through that very moment and I have learnt, with a lot of time, that this too is okay.
We have three incredible, talented and wholehearted daughters. They are who make my life the song that it is. The music can change from day to day but there is noise, there is passion, there is love….they are my song.
More than eight years ago now we had just two of these incredible angels and after a little convincing from my part, we were soon expecting our third child. The miracle of growing a baby was never lost on me. There was a lot of love and a whole lot of joy in our house. Our first two daughters were just 18 months apart. Looking back now, they were babies themselves but soon to become big Sisters to a bouncing baby boy or girl. Our lives and family unit were changing and just as my amazing family always do, they rolled with it all in such great style.
I had an early ultra sound due to some early complications and as I looked up at the television monitor, I could see not one but three little sacs. There were triplets in my belly. We were going to have 5 children under the age of four years old. ‘Breathe Nellie…..breathe’. The embryo’s were all apparently doing well and my bleeding was apparently nothing unusual so I was sent home to rest. Driving home I rehearsed up-ten different ways of how best to break it to my family that our game card had changed. After a slight moment where Michael’s jaw opened wider than I had ever seen it before, he smiled and I got the most warm and beautiful kiss. He said something along the lines of ‘This is meant to be’ and I agreed. Somebody up there must have thought we were capable right? I felt like we were chosen for this.
The weeks marched on and we all had our heads around this. We purchased a car that could accommodate all of the safety seats for five young children and our two daughters, Grace and Ava gladly started sharing a room to make a spare room for their new siblings. We were doing this!
I was well past the first 12 weeks (definitely no longer walking on egg shells) and things had been pretty cruise-y for a while but then the bleeding started again and I became quite unwell. I called on my Sister (a Nurse at the time) to help me and we headed straight in to hospital where I waited, for what felt like a very long time, for an ultrasound. I knew that something was wrong. There was a lot of self talking and positive affirmation. We were called in and I was told straight away that I had lost one of our babies and one of the others was in a lot of trouble also. I was told there wasn’t a lot of hope for this little one now but that the third baby looked so strong and was doing just fine. We had to stay there for a while and I knew we had now lost two of our three babies. I still remember that small room. I remember the sonographer leaving and I remember the incredible and overwhelming loss that I felt immediately. How could they be taken away? I remember the gut wrenching pain and the love of my Sister who must have felt so helpless. I remember the long drive home and then something happened and I simply remember nothing. I cannot remember walking in the door. I cannot remember talking to Michael or trying to explain anything to the girls. I remember nothing for a period and it has never come back. I spent literally days in bed and I certainly didn’t want a visitor or to see any daylight. My world was so black. As I write this, the incredible pain is still with me. I am a mess again. Does it ever go away?
Slowly, I let people talk because I somehow knew that I should but I couldn’t let them in. I hated what they were saying. Their words seemed to hurt me more. Not surprisingly, I found it didn’t help for people to say things like ‘it is God’s way’, ‘it was meant to be’, ‘you still have one healthy baby’, ‘better now than later’, ‘you are lucky’. I didn’t need sympathy. Why did they need to say anything at all? Looking back now, our friends and family must have felt so helpless and I must have been so horrible.
I was still in bed but then after what felt like many days, I got up. Not at any point did Michael ask me to get up and I do not know how he stopped our little girls from doing so. He was simply there. Not always by my side and I am sure often tending to our daughters but I must have known he was there. On this one afternoon, something made me get up but I couldn’t tell you what. I walked in to the shower just off from our bedroom and I let the water hit my body. I had not showered since coming home from the hospital. I didn’t want to wash them away. I slid down the glass and cried with my whole being. The pain was immense and the sound that came from my body was guttural. I had never heard this sound. Michael was now by my side. How amazing this man is. By now I was moving a little out of the dark hole and I realized, he was grieving. He needed me and I needed him. He didn’t try to solve the great mystery of why this happened to us and I love him all the more for that…..then and especially now.
Our first daughter Grace has taught me the most lessons. Grace tests me and makes me behave better and yet she is the daughter. Grace is the most compassionate, responsible, most organized, most honest and the most morally just person that I could ever have the privilege of knowing – let alone the incredible privilege of being her Mother.
Our second daughter Ava will do great things. I don’t care how biased I sound right now as her Mother. Watch this space….this kid will do great things. Ava is stronger than any other in my life yet you have to be so close in her world to see this incredible strength. With another flip of the coin, Ava can be so shy. Ava is athletic, a lion, a force, she can do anything she puts her strong mind to and yet she is the most gentle soul that I could ever have the privilege to call my daughter.
Our third daughter is Ettie and well......you all know a lot more about her story now. I cannot say that time heals all wounds but I can say that the wound gets smaller and the light comes back in. Ettie has bought blinding light in to our lives. Ettie can make me laugh more than any other person in my life can. To pass joy from one life to another is an incredible gift and it is never lost on me that Ettie has this beautiful gift. She has a very big personality – sometimes you could say she has the personality of three ‘Ettie’s’ put together. This darling is perhaps our little miracle and a complete joy and privilege to call my daughter.
I remember a time with great love when I was able to carry three darling babies in my belly. Now I look with great love on the three amazing daughters, here with us that I no longer carry but who I can guide and love through this pretty wonderful life and watch on with great pride.
all images courtesy of: tamara erbacher