"I smiled at the camera. Click. And in that instant I looked like any other new mother holding her baby for the first time. But I wasn't like the other mums on the labour ward that night. While other babies cried or fussed, mine lay silent in my arms. My beautiful daughter had been born sleeping and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was 23 when I met Warren, my Australian boyfriend (now husband). We enjoyed a bit of a whirlwind romance in the UK before moving to Sydney together. Three months later I was pregnant. I honestly thought I was the bee's knees.
Although the pregnancy was a surprise we were really happy. I was a young healthy woman and everything was going well. I was nearly 24 weeks, my baby’s kicks were strong and regular and I had a nice little bump.
But on Valentines day I woke up knowing something wasn't right. I couldn't be sure if the baby was kicking, and while I tried to relax and put it out of my mind, instinct told me to get help.
I walked into the hospital convinced that everything was fine – I was just being cautious. But as the midwives struggled to find my baby’s heartbeat the worry started to build in my chest. Then as they delivered the news, the world just stopped. I rang Warren, and told him to come to the hospital – our baby had died.
We were sent to the maternity ward, I could hear newborn babies crying as the reality the situation started to hit home.
I was induced, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at 1.50am. We named her Molly. I held her in my arms and smiled for photographs. It was a surreal experience, hormones and adrenalin surged through my body, part of me felt elated to hold my baby, like my body wasn’t in on the terrible secret.
We had Molly baptised, I wanted to grab as many memories of my baby as I could. A few hours later she was taken away. The hospital needed the room for another birth, my world had shattered into tiny pieces, and yet the rest of the world seemed to be carrying on as normal.
I went home and got into bed. A week earlier I had been shopping for a pram and now I was organising a funeral. All of my hopes and dreams for my baby had gone in instant. I wasn't going to watch her grow up or dress her in the beautiful baby clothes that I had started to buy. I felt like I’d been cheated - my future had been ripped away from me.
It was an awful time. I became a hermit. Some days I didn't even get out of bed. But then after a month of wallowing Warren told me I needed to get a job. At the time I felt like it was really harsh, but he knew it would do me good. I started working in a café in Balmain, convincing them I could make coffee.
I found support through Sands, meeting a group of women who had all endured the agony of stillbirth. We were able to call on each other when we needed to talk. Although life would never be the same, I felt like I was beginning to move forward.
I fell pregnant again later that year. We were elated and terrified. Second time round the hospital said they would monitor me more closely. I had regular check ups and things were progressing as they should.
On Molly’s anniversary we drove out to the crematory with flowers and balloons. We had cake – a fitting tribute for our firstborn’s birthday. I breathed a sigh of relief, getting passed the 25-week mark felt significant.
But a few weeks later, just after 27 weeks, I woke up feeling like time had been rewound. The baby wasn’t moving.
Warren and I borrowed a friend’s car and went straight to the hospital. This time the midwife did find the heartbeat and assuring me that everything was fine, sent us home. I wish that I had kicked up a fuss and asked for more tests.
A day later I was back in the hospital. As the lift doors closed on the daylight of the foyer I knew that I wouldn't be going home that day. Events started to play out like hereat wrenching déjà vu. The worry on the midwife’s face as she searched for a heartbeat, the fear rising up in my chest, the phone calls, the tears.
It was a year and a month to the day we’d lost Molly and I was back in the same room giving give birth to a second stillborn baby. We named her Poppy, and just like her sister she was beautiful.
We were acutely aware that we didn’t have much time to make memories. We had Polly baptised and took photographs. There was lots of laughter and lots of tears. We talked about the hopes and dreams we had for her that would never come to be.
This time I wanted to bring my baby home. We made arrangements with the funeral home and the next day they brought Poppy to us in our apartment. We spent time with her doing the things new parents should be doing; we bathed her and dressed her in a gown, we held her. Before they took her away again I took her onto the balcony - I wanted her to feel the sunlight on her angelic face.
Poppy was buried a few days later, next to her sister. It’s almost like they were meant to be together.
In the years that have passed since I lost my daughters I’ve had two healthy full term babies, two amazing boys that bring us so much joy. Our day to day lives are busy, chaotic and fun.
But regardless of what else is going on, we still talk about the girls often, even after all this time. After all, they are still part of our family."
If you need to talk to someone about pregnancy loss or stillbirth you can call Sands on (03) 9895 8700