Adelaide mum Tamara Whittaker devastatingly lost her son Jaye at five months gestation. Having also suffered four miscarriages, she is passionate about raising awareness about the devastating impact of losing a baby.
Writing helped Tamara channel her grief, releasing a picture book called Born to Fly, to help others dealing with the tragedy of pregnancy and child loss. Her hope is that it will provide comfort to anyone going through a loss of any kind.
Here, Tamara shares some of her own experience with Yahoo Lifestyle.
As a mother of two earth-side children, I knew how it felt to leave a hospital with a baby in my arms and a life filled with hope, dreams and memories to make.
To then go on to experience the intense, heartbreaking moment of leaving with empty arms is a memory that will stay etched within my heart forever.
Having already experienced three miscarriages, I had fought my way back to a place that meant I finally got beyond that 12-week milestone.
An uneasy feeling was always sitting just there beside me, but I would breathe and push it aside, and know everything would be ok. I had already been through enough loss, so I truly believed this little one was coming home.
A heartbreaking stillbirth
But it seems the universe had a different plan, because on February 10, 2011, I gave birth to my son, Jaye at just 24 weeks pregnant. He was stillborn.
I left the hospital with empty arms and a broken heart.
I still remember the moment I saw Jaye for the first time. I can still see his beautiful face and feel his tiny hands inside of mine. I hold these memories closely in my heart.
He knew he was loved from the very beginning and that’s all that mattered in that moment - for our son to know love. Pure love.
The reality of leaving hospital empty-handed
Leaving the hospital that day felt so painful and surreal. The weeks and months went by, and there is such a strong feeling of loneliness as you work through the stages of grief that follow such a loss.
Coming home and trying to explain this loss to our other children who were only six and four at the time, was incredibly difficult. It is hard to navigate through your own grief whilst trying to nurture and protect the hearts of your children. Everyone is grieving, everything feels broken, but we try our best to get through our days and ultimately, through life.
We had one child at school and one at kindy at the time, and I did find it hard to face the world again. So many difficult questions and a constant dark cloud that shadowed my days.
As a family, we all grieved differently and at different times, but we remained strong for one another and gave each other the time we needed to get through.
It’s a boy
Six months after losing Jaye, I suffered another miscarriage, before finally giving birth to our last child, another beautiful son in September 2012.
Pregnancy after loss was another chapter that would bring new challenges as the milestones approached, but I would try my best to remain balanced so that I could give the new little life inside of me a chance of a new beginning.
This time, leaving the hospital with full arms and a beautiful big brother to watch over our new son.
We talk openly with our children and they have always felt connected to the brother they know they have, but just cannot see.
As a family, we say Jaye’s name often and we celebrate his birthday each year with our continued traditions. We do this, because he is part of our family.
I have always been the person who supports others, but after losing Jaye, I knew I needed to take care of myself. To help me during this raw grieving period, I would write.
Putting it into words
Writing Born To Fly has helped me to look past the raw reality of absence and feel connected in other ways. Ways that may not be seen or heard, but felt from the heart, knowing that they are always with us, just in a different way.
It has helped me through this chapter of my life. I cherish the small things and feel very blessed to have all my children in my life – those you see and those you don’t.
I hope the book can provide others with comfort and hope. It can be difficult to talk about loss, whether it is our own or the loss of someone close to us. I want to help open those lines of communication so people feel safe to grieve - alone or with others.
Grief is different for all of us and there are no rules and certainly no book to tell us what to do or how to be. It is your own personal journey and my hope is that you may find some comfort and warmth knowing that your child will forever fly beside you. Because we are family.
I will forever be grateful to my son Jaye for taking me on this journey and I feel blessed that he chose me to be his mother. I will always ensure that his voice be heard.
As told to Kristine Tarbert.
August 9 is Red Nose Day. Red Nose offers support to families going through the unimaginable grief of losing their child. Visit: www.rednoseday.org.au
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