Tara Roulston

I was recently a recipient of one of your beautiful wraps for my baby that was born at 22 weeks & 3 days. I wanted to share my story with you and my heartfelt thank you for what you do. My story is long; so I apologise in advance! But please know what you did for myself, my partner and my baby will never be forgotten.

Every part of me feels that I need to write this; for me, for Zak, for our families, for any of Zak's brothers and sisters that may come; for even one other person that this may help. In knowing that; it's impossible to know when or how to start.

It's been just over 1 month since he was born; a little longer that we knew what we facing. I could say it was the day our world changed forever, butthere's been so many of those days. My world changed so many times; because Poppyseed was my world.

It was the 29th of December; my first world change. Shane and I were on our way somewhere and that week I had taken so many pregnancy tests it was ridiculous! I remember each time telling Shane was barren; I was never going to be pregnant. Each time he would laugh at me; tell me it had only been a few months! Being pregnant, being a mum; that was it, that was all I ever wanted to be and I never knew with more certainty that I wanted to be a mummy to Shane's babies. I wanted to give Shane a baby that he could tuck in every night, and spoil every day; that would know that daddy adored them and would adore daddy. Because that's what Shane deserved.

So on that day I took another one; and this time there was a line! So faint but definitely a line. This was the first thing I learnt; positive tests don't come with two dark lines! I went into the kitchen and messaged Shane who was waiting outside in the car - he needed to come back upstairs. I told him I thought it was positive but it's so faint. We stared at it. We needed to know for sure - we went straight to the shops and bought a digital one.
No interpreting lines; it would be a yes or no!

I took the test and put it on the bench; the little clock icon flashing for an eternity. I walked away; Shane stood staring at it. And then; my world changed. It says "yes" he said. That was it; Poppyseed was on the way. I kissed Shane and then all the thoughts of what our baby was going to look like, all the things we would do together as a family and the images of being a mum rushed through my mind. That moment was so precious.

The next months were uneventful; Poppyseed was perfect. No morning sickness; no symptoms - just this beautiful feeling of growing our baby. I know for sure that I felt Poppyseed move at 11 weeks - pure love. I spent every moment from then focusing on feeling our baby.

At 12 weeks we had our first photoshoot; our baby was real and was incredible. Poppyseed was a wriggler! After some photos I asked if I could hear our baby. That sound; it's like nothing I had ever heard before.
Strong, steady, calming.

Again, weeks went by, uneventful. We were in our second trimester now and of course that meant we were out of the danger stage. This was lesson number two; when you are pregnant, you are never out of the danger stage. Everyone and anyone could now know; we were having a perfect little baby! I would have shouted it from rooftops if I could have; I settled with telling everyone I knew. I planned maternity leave, day care, swim school, the nursery. Poppyseed would have it all.

I loved being pregnant; loved it. I slept like a trooper, napped most days, I went off meat and had to often bargain with Shane on a suitable amount of meat that I would eat at dinner time. I would have my hand on my belly all the time; sometimes just to try and feel Poppyseed, other times to say, hey
baby, I know you are in there and I love you. Daddy would talk to Poppyseed; those moments, when I think back, still make me smile and bring tears. Daddy would tell Poppyseed all the things they were going to do together, would tell Poppyseed to be good and to look after me. Daddy even sung to Poppyseed; it was the three of us and we were just living the most perfect

Time grew closer to find out the sex; anyone that knows me knows I'm a planner. There wasn't a chance I was leaving that appointment without knowing whether our baby was a girl or a boy. As we grew closer, the suspense was overwhelming and the days were so long. I swore all along it was a girl; Shane agreed. Girls are everywhere in both our families and we were going to be hard pressed to change this. About a week before I remember a clear feeling; Poppyseed was a boy. And I was so sorry for all those months I had called him a girl and for his pretty girly nickname!! Daddy wasn't convinced.

April 20th came; we went to our appointment and again saw beautiful pictures of our baby. Poppyseed was unstoppable with wiggles. So many photos and measurements were taken; a strong beautiful heartbeat. And then we asked; I think I saw it before, Alison said, let me show you. Poppyseed is a boy! I had no idea what I was going to do with a boy; but I could not have been happier. I still remember Shane's words; I can make boys! I had my two boys and in that moment I could not have loved them any more. That was the happiest moment of my life; another day my world changed.

We made everyone wait; I wanted to photograph our reveal and my beautiful photographer was on the way to our house that night. Shane wasn't so keen, but I remember saying; this might be the only bubby we have and I will regret it if I don't have these photos. Only now I realise how profound that was; and how much those photos now mean to me. The smiles, the happiness and the love that can be seen in those photos - I will cherish forever.

While we waited I was in a daze; we were going to have a baby boy! Shane would have to do the toilet training; because you know, he had the equipment! I was going to dress him in suspenders and all kinds of adorable boys clothes; and his dad was going to save him from this. Shane looked up AFL onesies; our baby was going to love AFL, just like his dad. That's exactly why the very first toy Poppyseed ever had was the football; bought as soon as we knew our baby was on the way.

That night we took pictures; we shared it with our family and friends.
Poppyseed was a boy! I fell asleep that night with a smile on my face; my two boys - the world was just as it should be.

The next lesson was the hardest; the fall, from the highest of highs to the absolutely lowest of lows. Without knowing, that very next day was another day my world changed.

My phone rang while I was at work; the doctors surgery. Telling me my doctor wanted me to come in and the earliest they had was just after 1pm. Everyone knows that's not good. Shane and I convinced ourselves that it was related to the position of my placenta and because of that I went to the appointment alone; first one I ever did or would do without Shane.

When I arrived our wonderful doctor took me straight in; another bad sign - you never don't wait for the doctor. He began to tell me; something is abnormal with bubby's brain, I can't tell you much, we need another scan, it will be ok, we will get the scan done and go from there. I had only heard the first line. I called Shane while I was walking to my car; holding the report in my hand I tried to explain through tears and trying to breathe. I sent him the report with the big words; and we began googling. Somehow we managed to convince ourselves it was common and it was all going to be cleared up at the next scan. Of course it was.

That weekend was a long weekend; that meant an extra painful day until the next scan. It consumed my every thought at that point and all of me willed for it to be ok. I'd give anything, I'd do anything to make my little boy ok.

April 26th; Tuesday came and we arrived at the 2nd level ultrasound. Our specialist started measuring; perfect arms, perfect legs, perfect fingers, perfect toes, perfect hands, perfect eyes, nose, face, perfect. It wasn't possible for anything to be wrong; when he was so perfect in every other way. Poppyseed was especially cheeky today; he would continue to flip when she walked away to confuse her, he hid his left ankle and then shortly after would only show his left ankle. To this day these remain some of our best memories; our little boy and his cheeky personality.

Then she said; I can see what they were looking at in his brain. My heart broke again; this wasn't going to be the outcome we had convinced ourselves of. We were led into a consultation room, big words were said, pictures were drawn and the world just became a blur. Nothing made sense and there was no answers. We need to do an MRI, she told us. This meant more waiting and days of despair; but I think I knew then that this wasn't going to be the happy ending I so badly wanted.

That night I told Shane I was going to have a shower; he was going to call his mum and I thought he would be busy and I could be loud in the shower and not worry him. I sat in the bottom of the shower and I just cried. Moments later; there was Shane fully clothed in the shower holding me. Shane and I spoke about the choice we might have to make; in the end there was no choice. I knew I would rather live a lifetime in pain; then have my baby go through a moment of it. I'm so truly grateful that Shane and I were always on the same page; often without words.

I don't quite remember where it fits in the story; but I remember one night finding a story so similar to ours (although I didn't know this at the time). Written by a lady outlining what she had experienced; hers was much shorter then mine! As I read it I cried; it was only reading her story that it hit me, if this was bad I was going to have to go through labour. Now I'm a smart person, for the life of me I have no idea why I didn't realise this earlier. I turned to Shane and tried to tell him what I had just realised. I said "if this is bad I'm going to have to..."; I couldn't finish; he said "give birth; I know baby". He had already realised this.

Shane didn't think reading was a good idea; but I know that it was because of that story that I got through. That story gave me the steps of what I was going to endure, I knew before every step what was going to come next; I will be forever grateful to that woman for sharing her story.

April 29th came; the day of our MRI. It was a Friday and we had already been told that any scans wouldn't be looked at until the Specialist came to the hospital on Tuesday. Another impossible wait. As I lied there in the machine with my headphones on; I thought "where are Poppyseed's headphones?" I kept saying to myself: hoping it meant Poppyseed heard it, it's ok baby, don't be scared baby, I love you, over and over again.

Shane and I drove home; drives to and from the hospital were mostly silent now. Just lost in our thoughts. Shane went to work and I went to bed. Then my phone rang; it was our Specialist. She told me that we needed to come back straight away; that the scans were "bad, really bad", that they didn't need to wait until Tuesday to review them.

I rang Shane and he came straight home; I was talking to my family, updating them and I remember hearing Shane cry. I had never seen or heard this incredible man break like that and I rushed off the phone to comfort him. Shane and I have managed so far to take it in turns; on the days that he has struggled, I have been strong and on the far more frequent days I have struggled, he has been strong.

We made the silent drive to the hospital again; this was the point at which we became "famous" at the hospital. No more waiting rooms, no more explaining our story; we said my name and we were constantly and immediately ushered through. I remember joking that it must be really bad; I joked a lot, I still do; because it helps.

The midwife told us our babies brain was "wild"; that was the word she used. "Wild". Then our Specialist came in; would you like to see the scan she asked? Of course I did, I needed to know what everyone was looking at, I needed to see, to understand. She explained that where bubby's brain should be; this had significantly degraded and bubby had very little grey matter remaining. A "catastrophic insult" was what she called it. None of that made sense, I was healthy, I had taken my pregnancy vitamins, I had not eaten anything I wasn't suppose to; I had done it all "right". Stats like 1 in 100,000 were discussed; stories like only ever seeing it one other time in a young girl who was in an horrific car accident - still none of it made sense.

The outcome for our Poppyseed was horrific; seizures, disability, no intellect, unknown impact on his physical abilities. She said, do you need time to talk about it? Shane and I looked at each other and at the same time we said we didn't. That's one of the things I'm grateful for in this whole thing. For me there was no choice; the choice was made for us.

What followed was paperwork to sign, appointments made, more paperwork. Questions about whether we wanted photos, handprints, footprints. I just wanted my baby. I signed everything; completely in a daze. There would be a birth certificate we were told; and a death certificate and we would have to arrange a funeral - anything birth 20 weeks this is a legal requirement; all new learnings. We had one question; would our baby be born alive; we don't know was the answer. Possibly, possibly not, but if he was it wouldn't be for long.

The Social Worker came in; as a Social Worker myself that was always going to be interesting. She told me I needed to take my "social work" hat off and put my "mum" hat on. I remember thinking; and later told Shane, I can't do that. My "social work" hat was the only thing keeping me in that room; processing and understanding the choices I was making. Without that hat; the mum in me would have fallen apart.

After being told about payments we would be entitled to; and what seemed like a lot of talking without breathe, we were allowed to go home. Still carrying and feeling my baby; but knowing that I had just signed his little life away. I just kept telling him I was sorry; telling him I loved him.

Shane said to me a few days, maybe weeks, later that that was the day we lost our son. That was the day he was taken from us. And he is right. What came next was just steps along the way.

That day I cried; felt guilt and felt hopeless. But the next day I decided that my baby was not going to spend the last few days feeling nothing but my despair. He didn't deserve that; he had done nothing wrong and he had done nothing but make us the happiest we had ever been. So we went about having a beautiful weekend together, just the 3 of us. Of course we were destroyed and heartbroken; but we did our best to talk to him, to laugh about him, to make him have his last few days as happy ones; I was helpless, but I could do that for him.

Sunday we went in to start the medication; this was just a quick trip in, take the meds, monitor for an hour and then go home again. It was relatively uneventful; at the time the tablet was handed to me I burst into tears. I knew as soon as I took this it was over, it was real. The nurse began to cry as well; immediately I felt guilty! But she held my hand, said some beautiful words and after the hour asked if she could hug me as I left. I never turned down a single hug.

The next day was Labour Day; ironic I know. And after hours and several calls to the birth suite, at 3:30pm we were told to come in. They had tried to bring us in when it was quiet and put us in a room semi out of the way; all these things they had to consider for us. We got to the hospital; my family, Shane parents.

Shane and I were led to the room we would be in; there was a butterfly on the door. This seemed to confuse the reception lady and she doubled checked with the midwife that we were supposed to be in that room. When she left I asked the midwife, does the butterfly mean something? Yes, she said "it's our subtle way of saying what's going on in the room" - not very subtle I laughed! And later reflected that I didn't know if I should be insulted; at 5 and a 1/2 months that poor lady thought I was full term! Too many cakes and sweets that were blamed on Poppyseed!

The Friday before, the day we signed away our baby, we were told the process. The medication on the Saturday would ensure that it would be quick; in the time that they had followed this procedure no one had gone over 48 hours. We would be admitted and and then they would starts two tablets very 4 hours for 5 rounds. After this, a 12 hour break and then the same process. That should be it. Ok, my "social work" hat understood that.

So we went through the first round, again uneventful, nothing happened. During this time, every midwife was beautiful, everyone one of them reassured me, cared for us both and made me feel like I was in capable hands.

We were asked to pick a beautiful hand sown blanket that Poppyseed could be wrapped in, that we could then keep. Daddy chose one with cars on it; but he had bonded with one midwife over AFL so she chose one with soccer balls on it and told us to have both. She showed us the beautiful hand sown wrap that Poppyseed would be placed in; this too we would keep. This was made from donated wedding dresses; by a foundation called Angel Gowns - who knew these wonderful people existed; who ever wanted to have to find out. We were shown the little beanie and the tiny booties that he would be dressed in.

We were shown the beautiful memory box we would go home with; these were donated by families that had experienced what we were going through. Ours had a little girls name on it; and we agreed instantly that one day we would do this for Poppyseed too.

We were told that professional photographers would come after the birth and take photos for us; anything we wanted, anything we needed.

Of course we wanted nothing but to take our baby home; but there's no doubt that the amazing memories that we received, the love and care that was paid and the time we had together that was captured help ease some of that pain.

After the first 12 hour break; we went again, medication every 4 hours, 5 rounds - and again nothing. With everything that had happened to us, of course I was going to break this record too. Then the review came and a suggestion that I was going to be sent home before starting the whole process again from the beginning. I refused. I was not going home; I was not leaving, I didn't want a rest.

Luckily for me the Specialist stepped in; told the doctors to give me another one of the tablets I took on the Sunday and go again. This time doubling the number of tablets in the 4 hour rounds. The outcome for Poppyseed was known; now it was get me through it. I apologised to her for ruining her 48 hour stat; we laughed.

So we went again; another tablet and another round. And slowly things started to happen. Very slowly. A side effect of the tablets is high temp; so I spent a 12 hour period with a temperature of 39.5; and constant blood tests to make sure I hadn't contracted an infection. I had smashed their 48 hour time frame.

Another 12 hour rest and the forth round was started. Finally things started to move. Contractions started coming and we just had to wait for my cervix to get to 5cm so my water could be broken. After that happened it would go quick they told me; I didn't believe them.

At one point the pain was so excruciating I said to Shane I can't do this, I want to go home. He just rubbed my back, gave me my 10,000th jug of ice and told me I could. They asked me if I wanted an epidural; I said no. I had all my choices and all my control taken away from me; I was about to loose my baby - but I had this choice, I could decide this and I had control. I settled for morphine and gas.

I kept running through my head; Tara your baby is going to be tiny, Tara your baby is not going to be alive, Tara you will have to say goodbye, Tara you won't get to take your baby home. Over and over as if trying to convince myself; trying to prepare myself.

My waters were finally broken; and they were right, things moved quickly, or maybe they didn't. Shane would have to answer that because what comes next is hazy for me at best.

I asked Shane, with extreme pressure below and the desire to push, how will I know when I should? Shane asked the midwife - "she will know", she said. I didn't; I had never done this before. I had no idea what I was doing.

A point came when I couldn't not push anymore and with one push Shane told me he could see his head. The midwife told me he was coming and just one more push and he would be here. Again my mantra, a final push and I knew he was here because the relief was instant; no more pain.

1:40pm on the 5th of May, Zak, our beautiful baby was born at 22 weeks & 3 days. He never took a breath, he never opened his eyes. And most importantly he never had a second of pain. Daddy cut his umbilical cord and he was handed to me. He is perfect, she said, he is absolutely perfect. And he was.

I don't know why, probably to drugs!, but at that point I was calm, the physical pain was over, we had done what we needed to do. And I was holding my baby. Shane was overcome and cried; I held him and told him it was ok.

I later found out the midwife that delivered Zak had her own experiences at 22 weeks and 27 weeks. I had so much admiration for this woman; to keep doing what she does. But I was so glad she was there; she really knew how I was feeling,  she really understood. She laughed when we laughed, she joked when we did, she cried when we cried (when he was born), she was angry when we were angry; she said all the things I needed to hear as a woman who had just become a mother. She knew and I'm forever grateful.

I held him; I looked at him, trying to take in every detail, trying to figure out his features. He had my face; round, and my eyes; big and round. That was where I ended. He has his daddy's nose and lips; he had his daddy's long lean body type. He had perfect fingers and toes, long legs and massive feat. He had perfect little ears and fingernails and toenails. He was beautiful.

Our families came in; I was never going to force anyone, but he was there for cuddles if they wanted. All of them did. We have photos and we cherish these. He felt all of their love.

I wasn't done quite yet though; after a while it became apparent that I must have retained some placenta and surgery would be required to stop my constant bleeding. It was estimated at a minimum I had lost approximately 1.3 litres. And after  quick faint in the shower I was rushed into emergency surgery; I had forms to sign, consent for a hysterectomy, acknowledging that I may die. I was wheeled out, looking at Shane holding Zak and I thought, this is it, he is going to lose  is son and me in the same night and I can't bare to think about what that will do to him. I told Shane I loved him as tears ran down my face, and I told him to look after our son.

As they put me to sleep my calmness left me and I burst into tears; I don't know who she was but at that point a lady reached down grabbed my hand and told me I was going to be ok. That was the last thing I remembered. 

I woke up and was wheeled back to Shane and Zak. Shane later told me that about 2.5 hours had passed. I had missed Zak's bath because the photographs couldn't wait; but they had plenty of photos of it for me. We have since received the professional photos and there are some truly beautiful ones of me holding my son; and of the three of us together. Thankfully we have these photos, because my memory of these being taken is non existent. I don't remember it at all. Shane says they wheeled me back and and instantly began taking photos; they did a wonderful job.

There are photos of Shane and Zak; and in hindsight I'm so glad he got that time with his son, just the two of them. I had so much time with Poppyseed; just him and me and I'm glad they got their time too.

Shane and I decided early on that we didn't want to prolong our time with Zak; we wanted to remember him being perfect and we knew that as time went on this would effect his little body. Although it wasn't part of the plan, we soon both agreed to have him overnight with us. He was placed in a special crib with a cool pad on the bottom. He couldn't be beside me because the crib required constant power; but from my bed I could see him, wrapped in his wrap on his blanket and I could feel him with us.

In the morning we said our goodbyes. We were both scared to lift him; but at the last moment I asked the midwife to lift him - I wanted to kiss him one more time. We were told Zak could be brought back to us at any time, that he wouldn't leave the ward until we left the hospital; but we knew that was the last time we would see him.

Zak went with so many things; his football of course, his two jumpsuits; one saying "I love Mummy" the other "I love Daddy" and matching socks, three blankets; one from Mummy, one knitted by Grandma, and one brought by Nani.Wherever he  was going he was going to be warm! A teddy from Nani, a teddy from his three cousins that he would never meet but loved him dearly. He went with Mummy's tshirt that had Daddy's blue hand prints on from his gender reveal, he went with the bracelet that Daddy had made for Mummy; he went with all the love that his Mum and Dad had for each other and for him.

After several more days and a late night medical emergency call, I had decided I was ready to go home. It had almost been a week in hospital and I was being woken for monitoring constantly, including a standing heart rate every hour, even throughout the night. I asked the nurse what I had to do to go home; she gave me a list - lists I can do; within 24 hours I had checked this off.

Mother's Day arrived; I was going home, I had had enough. We waited patiently for the doctor and at 3pm she arrived. I was signed off and the next step was here; leave the hospital without my baby. Instead of my baby I had flowers in my hand; and I was wheeled out to the pick up bay. I again told Zak I was sorry and I loved him. As Shane drove us home tears ran down my face.

The next few days were a blur; we arranged the funeral and it was a beautiful as it could be. There were moment that were just so surreal; questions that we never thought we would have to answer. And from then until now, we take it a day at a time.

There are moments that I'm overwhelmed with emotions, like the day his birth certificate arrived, or the one where his room decals came, or the one where I opened his death certificate; cause of death "open lip bilateral schizencephaly". But I am comforted by words that were said at Zak's funeral. Even if we knew why, even if there was answers this wouldn't take away our pain and this wouldn't make it any easier.

I am incredibly firm in my belief that it is my job to be strong for my son; I am his mum and that's my job. And more than anything I am adamant that my son will not be remembered with just tears and heartbreak; he brought us so much joy, so much happiness and he deserves for his memory to bring us laughter and smiles. That's something else I can do for him.

People have struggled; to know how to help, to know how to respond. This I understand. But in respond to this I say that for the short moment that it is hard to say something to us, anything, it is a million times harder for us to breathe, to function. I want my son acknowledged, I want to talk about him, for the world to realise he existed, for his memory to be strong; anything else to me is just not acceptable. There is nothing anyone can say to make it better; and there's nothing anyone can ask me that I haven't already answered; so there's no fear of upsetting me, but if all else fails, just a hug, a I'm sorry for your loss; that's all that is needed and it truly means the world.

To Zak; my beautiful baby boy. I will love you for a lifetime, everyday, and I now have no fear of my time ending, because that will be the day I see you again. Until then I will miss you every day. I am so sorry I couldn't help you; but I hope you hear me every night when I go to sleep and see me every morning when I place your blanket on Daddy & my pillow. You will always be my first baby and you will never be forgotten.

To Shane; there are no words to thank you. You are my strength everyday, you are the reason I'm breathing, you are my everything. I'm so sorry you had to go through this pain; but I will spend my lifetime making all your dreams come true, like you do for me.

To the midwives at RBWH; thank you for all your love and care; for me and Shane but mostly for our Zak. You are truly amazing people and what you did for us made the impossible bearable. I will remember each of you forever.

To Angel Gowns Australia; thank you for existing. Thank you for giving us something beautiful to put our baby in and dressing him so beautifully. I will be grateful for that forever.

To Precious Wings; thank you for our memory box. Thank you for filling my hands with something to take home and for giving us precious memories to remember our baby. To the beautiful family who lost their baby and dedicated their box; thank you - we know your pain and your gift eased ours. We too will buy a box in memory of Zak one day.

To Heartfelt; the incredible photographers that came that night. The day your photos arrived was a happy one. Thank you, without you I would not have memories of my baby's first bath or pictures of my boys together. What you have given us is priceless.

To our family and friends; thank you is not enough, we will never be able to repay the love and care you have given us. Thank you for loving me and thank you even more for loving my son.

To any other mother that goes through anything like this; I know your pain, I've felt it. It does lift and you are not alone. You are strong; stronger than you ever thought you would need to be - stronger than anyone should ever have to be. Just breathe; I promise, it gets easier.

"An angel in the book of life wrote down my baby's birth, and whispered as she closed the book, "Too Beautiful for Earth".

Kind regards,

Tara Roulston