A few months ago I decided that I wanted to create a limited edition singlet for Running Mums Australia. Not only did I want this singlet to be gorgeous, and something that our members would want to wear, but the reason behind the singlet was that I wanted to make a difference in the life of someone else. Running Mums Australia was something that has become the most amazing experience for me. From a simple idea has grown an extensive women’s running movement all across Australia and beyond. I am truly humbled and I didn’t want the profits of the singlet to just sit idle in my pocket. The aim, (although I didn’t sell the singlet with this being announced) was that I intended to donate a significant proportion of the profits to a charity that I felt best fits with our demographic of running mothers. From the initial design to the writing on hundreds and hundreds of envelopes to packing and sending out singlets, this exciting idea has been at the forefront of my mind the whole time. Never in my life have I felt so empowered and humbled than I do now running this amazing movement, and my path and purpose have a clarity I never imagined. So with a lot of thought I decided that as a network we would be making a donation from some of the profits of these singlets to the The Still Birth Foundation Australia. I was blown away with the response from the sale of these singlets and it is with a happy heart that I am pleased to announce that we have a $5000 donation from Running Mums Australia to give.
I want to thank the women from Running Mums Australia for making this possible.
Six babies are stillborn every day in Australia and our donation is going to go towards helping mothers and families like many of our community who have had to endure the heartache of losing their precious child. Emma Luscombe, one of our RMA admins is one of these women who has experienced stillbirth firsthand when in 2009 she lost her baby girl Evie.
Please read her powerful story below of hope and how running has helped her to turn her heartbreak into strength to carry her through the most difficult days of her life……
If you, or anyone you know is going through this heartbreak, please contact The Stillbirth Foundation Australia, or if you would like to make a donation you can make it here. Together girls we can continue to make a difference.
Hi everyone, my name is Emma, I’m 32, a single, part time working & running mum of 5 beautiful children. 2 girls and 2 boys here with me on Earth and a precious baby girl in Heaven. I am writing my story to share with you my personal journey through stillbirth and the path that it has lead me to today in my life. I cannot communicate every detail of my journey, I wish I could but please if you read my story and have any questions or need someone to talk to please message me or get in touch with the Stillbirth Association. There are people out there who care, I care and you are not alone.
5 years ago on the 13th of July 2009 my beautiful baby girl Evie Grace Kennedy died. She was in the safest place in the world, within my womb, yet she died. I was 37 weeks pregnant with baby number 4, on the home straight with no complications… A straight forward, healthy, normal pregnancy. Then, my precious baby girl died… Just like that she died.
The night Evie died I dreamt a horrible, horrible dream… I couldn’t remember details but it included blood, death and my Evie… My body knew that she’d gone but my mind didn’t want to come to terms with it. I dreamt the same dream the next night too. It wasn’t until 2 days later that my mind finally caught up and knew something was very wrong. Looking back I knew I hadn’t felt Evie move since Monday and rolling over in bed I could feel the difference in the way she felt when her body moved within mine… This was a sensation that terrified me throughout my next pregnancy and still haunts me to this day.
On that Wednesday morning the panic set in… I rang the Dr’s, scheduled an urgent appointment, bundled the kids into the car and drove the 30 minutes to town. My partner stayed in the car with the kids while I went inside… I still to this day don’t remember why he didn’t come with me into the appointment. The nurse saw me first and tested the standard antenatal things, blood pressure, urine sample etc. She said she wouldn’t try to find bub’s heartbeat, that she’d let my Dr do that. My Dr saw me and got the portable ultrasound machine straight away. As he started the ultrasound my eyes were glued to that image on the screen… He didn’t need to say anything… The moment I saw her I knew… She was just too still… she was gone.
My lovely Dr’s voice remained normal as he spoke those words of confirmation “I’m so sorry but your baby has passed away” but when my eyes met his they mirrored the pain and devastation I was feeling. Tears streamed down my face as I left the Dr’s surgery clutching my belly and as I got back into the car my partner asked if everything was OK? To which of course I answered “NO”.
We were both in so much shock. We couldn’t believe this was happening! Not to us!! We’d already had 3 healthy babies! How could our baby die? Why had this happened? Was it something we did? What if it was the mould I’d been exposed to a few days earlier while sorting out some damp boxes? What if it was because of the fumes I’d breathed in while painting my daughter’s room recently? What if it was something in the rainwater we’d been drinking? What if it was because I’d suddenly cut junk food out of my diet and toxins were releasing out of my system? What if she suffered? What if something I did killed my baby? What if it was preventable? These are the thoughts that have gone through my mind a million times since we found out. Evie died… And the worst bit is we will never ever know what really happened.
From the moment it was confirmed that Evie had died everything just seemed surreal… We had to inform family and friends, we had to tell the kids, we had to go home, pack a bag and return to the hospital to deliver our stillborn baby girl. We chose to spend the night at home preparing ourselves for what lay ahead, reading a mountain of pamphlets and booklets they’d given us at the hospital, thinking about decisions like… Should we have a post mortem? Should we cremate or bury our baby? Things you NEVER think you will have to make a decision about. Needless to say we barely slept.
As I showered that next morning, the morning of the day Evie would be born sleeping, I watched as the water ran over my huge baby belly for the last time… I’m glad I chose to take that extra time to savour those last precious pregnancy moments because when you lose a baby to stillbirth, those final moments, those memories you make… They are all that you get to keep… They replace what is normally a lifetime of precious moments with your child. So you cling to everything… Every little thing becomes SO precious.
I was induced and eventually labour started. When the pain really amplified I couldn’t take it anymore… I needed an epidural. I’d always prided myself on natural ‘drug-free’ labours but I just couldn’t do it! I couldn’t endure the pain of labour on top of my complete and utter heartbreak. I was terrified but the physical pain relief made a difference and meant I had ‘control’ over Evie’s birth. I watched her beautiful little head crown and helped her out into the world… Sleeping.
Having a stillborn baby is so different to having a live baby. Once Evie was born the focus all shifted to me… To making sure I delivered the placenta and didn’t haemorrhage (I had a history of bleeding). Evie was laid on my chest but they weren’t checking her or making sure she was OK or comfortable. That was the worst bit I think. You just wanted to scream “Why aren’t you helping my baby?!” She was floppy and her head was in a horrifyingly awkward position and it was devastating because I couldn’t help her. Your mind knows they’re not alive but it’s like they are… They’re your baby!!
I ended up needing to go into surgery for a D & C as Evie’s placenta wouldn’t release from within me so I had to leave my precious baby girl and all the time I kept saying to my partner “Please look after her, don’t leave her, please make sure she’s ok”. Of course she wasn’t ok but it didn’t stop me from saying it. I wanted to die as they wheeled me off to surgery. I cried and cried and no one said anything. I guess there was nothing left to say. Before going under I gave myself a talking to and said “No, you can’t die, you’ve got 3 other children to live for – dying isn’t an option!”
And I didn’t die… I woke from the procedure, got to see my baby girl, helped my amazing midwife dress her and wrap her up and then got to hold her close to me for as long as I wanted to. And that I did. I held her, slept cuddled up with her, rocked her, sang to her, examined her, had a Dedication for her, took photos of her, introduced her to family and friends and we loved her. We loved her with every single ounce of love we could. She looked so perfect from her gorgeous tiny fingers and toes to her button nose and rosy red lips. Wrapped up and laying there in her bassinette she really did just look as though she was sleeping and more than once we were sure we saw her little chest rise and fall like she was breathing.
I savoured every moment I could while we were in that hospital but eventually the time came when we had to leave. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life… Leaving my baby girl behind at the hospital to be taken to the morgue while I went home. I am forever grateful to the amazing midwife, the same one who helped me deliver and dress Evie the morning she was born, for her love and compassion she gave both myself and Evie that day we left the hospital. I gave my bundled up baby girl to her… She sat on the recliner, cuddled Evie and talked to her. As we left the hospital my last vision of Evie was her being looked after and taken care of. I am forever grateful for that memory.
We returned home and planned Evie’s funeral… When the day finally came it was a huge relief. She needed to be laid to rest. The funeral itself was the most surreal experience of my life. I had to say goodbye again after last cuddles and kisses and lay her in her tiny white coffin lined with pink satin… As I tucked her in it was like I was saying goodnight to her. As we drove to the cemetery her little casket lay in between her Dad and I as we sat in the back of the funeral car. We were in our ‘best’ clothes, next to a white coffin, inside a car that was lined with white leather… It was so very unreal. When we arrived at the cemetery our family and friends walked behind the funeral car as we drove to Evie’s grave site. It was like nothing I had ever experienced.
Life was strange in the weeks and months after Evie’s funeral. We hid away for quite some time, living out of only one room in our house and eating meals lovingly prepared for us by our church family. I was too scared to venture out to school until I was sure my partner had told everyone we knew about Evie dying. There was always bound to be someone we missed though and it was like taking a bullet having to tell people that Evie had died when they asked where she was, or worse, asked when I was due!! My partner held himself together well for those first few weeks while I couldn’t cope but in the months afterwards suffered severely himself and there were many dark times and dark incidents.
While we were pregnant with Evie we had decided that 4 children was right for us and we’d had a vasectomy. When Evie died the chance of raising a 4th child also died. As much as nothing would EVER replace Evie the want and need of another baby doesn’t go away. I prayed that the vasectomy hadn’t worked as I knew there was no way we could afford a reversal so when 3 months after Evie died we found out I was pregnant again I kind of felt responsible!! Because we were pregnant with Evie at the time we hadn’t had the testing done after the vasectomy and when we finally did have it done after discovering I was pregnant we were informed my partner was 100% fertile!! It was answered prayer and I truly felt as though I’d been blessed with a miracle!
So from complete devastation came our little miracle boy Mitchell. It was so very bittersweet. You are so unbelievably grateful for this beautiful boy who you wouldn’t have if Evie hadn’t of died but at the same time you wish you had Evie too. The pregnancy itself was extremely stressful… Not just because of my history with Evie but because of my partner going through some serious issues of his own. It was a very frightening time for our family, being pregnant, grieving with 3 young children and having a partner who was very unwell. It was very traumatic and we are still suffering repercussions from that period in our lives today. I hired a Doppler for my own piece of mind and was monitored closely throughout my last trimester. The hardest thing of all was that Evie’s first anniversaries were just before Mitch was due! I was terrified the same thing would happen again… But it didn’t. Exactly a year and 10 days after Evie was born sleeping, Mitch entered this world happy, healthy and perfect!
It’s been a long journey since then… My children have grown and little Mitch is now 4. I’m no longer with the father of my kids. Over these last 5 years my grief has evolved. It has changed from something very raw to something that I am now able to reflect on and draw strength from. It still hurts and it always will. When I buried Evie I buried part of myself. It doesn’t ever go away. It still feels to me like only yesterday and Evie is eternally my beautiful baby girl but the grief has grown and changed.
This year, only a few weeks ago I dreamt about Evie for the first time. I’ve always been sad that I’ve never been able to dream about her. It was a nightmare though and Evie was Mitch’s age and someone had kidnapped her in broad daylight and I was hysterical, screaming and crying because I couldn’t find her but in this dream I knew what she looked like and I’ve never seen that in my mind’s eye before… I know the dream is a reflection of my continuing grief journey and my fears about my living children, being a single Mum, but I still feel like it was progress in my grief. It will never go away, I know that, but that’s ok… It’s part of who I am now and I am grateful for that.
These last 5 years have been so hard. I gained so much weight after losing Evie and still struggle with comfort eating to this day. I had to find something for me… To help me heal… And that came as running. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since watching my Gran run in fun runs at the age of 70 after having 11 children!! My dream was always to run a marathon but first I just needed to start running!
So finally a year and a half ago I bit the bullet! I started on a diet and exercise program and lost 15kgs and got a taste of running. I fell off the wagon with the program but was determined that I was going to keep running and complete a Half Marathon! I started out running at night on our local school oval because I was too embarrassed to run in broad daylight in public so round and around and around that oval I went until I was able to run about 9kms. I then decided it was time to be brave and run on the road!
I picked the Perth City to Surf as my first Half Marathon and I nearly quit so many times but with the support of my kids and my small local community encouraging me I went on to raise about $1200 for the Stillbirth Association as well as run my first Half Marathon in August of 2013! Since then I have run 4 more Half Marathons, a Trail Ultra Marathon & 2 Road Marathons and now the sky’s the limit! Next year (2015) I plan to run 12 Marathons (or further) in 12 months including a couple of 50K events and a 100K event! Then in 2016 I plan to run a 100 mile event! I feel as though if I’ve survived what I’ve been through so far then I can do ANYTHING!
Running helps. The pain of losing a child NEVER goes away… But to me running makes that pain real… I don’t mean that the feeling doesn’t otherwise exist, I just mean that it transforms that feeling into something tangible… A thing. You can SEE me run. You can SEE when it’s hurting me. And you can SEE the results. The pain of losing a baby is invisible… Sure you can see me cry but most of the pain is carried silently day after day after day. My baby is gone. The feeling of sheer agony, the suffocation, the nightmare that you just can’t wake up from is invisible. The world continues on… People don’t realize unless you tell them and believe me you want to tell them! You want to stand out on the street and scream “MY BABY DIED!!” Nothing makes sense. But running makes it real… In a good way… The pain of running makes you better… It makes you stronger. When I run and it’s hard and I want to give up I tell myself “I survived my baby dying, I can survive this!”
I’ve always said “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. It is the essence of my life and my running… Everything that I’ve been through, all the pain, all the heartbreak, all the devastation… It has all shaped me to be the person I am today. It has made me strong. It has made me a better person. I thank Evie every day for the gift she gave me… The gift of strength. And I am so very grateful for running… For the gifts that running has given me… Sanity, passion and an opportunity to use the strength that Evie gifted me… The opportunity for Evie’s memory and my love for her to live on for as long as I run.
Evie IS my Running Grace.