Tag Archive: born sleeping

a little while ago [well, a month it seems] i started a series called Taboo Topics where i wanted to look at some serious issues in life that deeply affect people but that rarely get spoken about. The first one, losing a baby, was something that had been on my heart for a long, long time because of knowing some friends who had been through it and having a glimpse of how devastating it must be, especially if you are carrying it along and feeling like you are the only one… an old friend of mine, Graeme, boldly stepped forward and shared their story from his perspective and a lot of people read it and were encouraged and it is now my privilege to share the same story, but from his wife Nicole’s perspective. Thank you, Nicole, for the strength you show in sharing this with us:

As you can see, it’s taken me a whole month to work up the courage to read this blog…. When Graeme told me that Brett had asked if he could post our story, I was not in a good head space, so told Graeme to go ahead, but that I couldn’t do it. Now, with Zoe’s 5th anniversary behind me, I feel I’m in a better space now, so I thought I’d head on over here and read all the stories he’s posted so far. Each of them broke my heart…. I know the pain hidden under the words each of them uses.

As with all couples, even having experienced the same event, my journey has been different to Graeme’s. As a mother, you connect with your child physically and emotionally long before it’s born. When I heard the news initially, that the doc couldn’t find a heartbeat, I was so sure it was just faulty equipment. I went into denial immediately. But after half an hour, the reality finally hit me. I was so devastated, and crying so hard, I nearly vomited on the floor. When the doc told me that it would be better for me physically, as well as emotionally, to go through natural labour (Zoe was 37 weeks), I wanted to hit her. I thought for sure she was joking. Yet, in retrospect, she was absolutely right.

We were given a private labour ward, with a dedicated mid-wife (so no extraneous staff wandering in and out, or noise from other labour wards to bother us), and at the end, our minister and his wife were allowed to join us, so we could wash Zoe, dress her, and hold a short ceremony for her immediately. I still remember the sound her body made as it slipped from me…. a dull thud followed by silence….

We didn’t find out until later that the name Zoe means life.

Something that gave me (and continues to give me) tremendous comfort was a vision that one of my friends had in which she saw Jesus take Zoe into heaven cuddled in his arms. To know that she’s loved, and cared for, and is in the best possible place…that is a great source of comfort to me.

I don’t believe that God made this happen. I don’t believe that God even allowed this to happen. Something as evil as killing an innocent, unborn child on the cusp of life could only come from the pit of hell itself. For the longest time though, I blamed God for failing to take action, for failing to save Zoe’s life.

Now though, I have Nathan (his name means ‘Gift of God’). There’s no way he will ever replace Zoe – not in a million years. But I know that if she had not died, he would not have been born. Right from the get-go, when we dedicated him, we asked that God would use him to heal and bless, and to bring joy into the lives of those he touches. God has honoured our prayer, and Nathan has already brought such healing and joy into ours.

I still don’t know ‘why’ Zoe died. I don’t know why we were targeted in this way. I don’t for one minute believe that Zoe’s death was part of God’s plan. Yet, I know that God has redeemed what Satan intended for evil. For both Graeme and I, our faith has been tested in the fire. The dross has been (and is being) burned away. Although we’ve still got a-ways to walk, I know that now our faith is real in a way that it never was before. We’ve also been able to comfort others with the comfort we have received – through Born Sleeping (our support group). Plus there is the blessing of the child who would not have been – Nathan – if not for his sister’s death.

As Graeme said, the grief is never far from the surface, but that doesn’t mean our lives are joyless. We have simply learnt how to tolerate indescribable pain, to allow it to wash over and through us, until we can breathe again. We have learnt how to live and love and laugh despite our pain. Having said that, please don’t think I’ve got grief taped, or that I have all the answers. If I were to go through this again, as Sandi & Mike, and Debbie & Bruce, have had to do I think I’d probably fall apart just as much, just as quickly, and take just as long to be put back together.

Losing a child…. it really is one of the hardest things any parent can go through, and unless you’ve been through it yourself, with the greatest respect, I don’t think you have a clue what it’s like…. which is probably why so many people don’t like to talk about it: everyone else says such banal things, insensitive things, the platitudes that are like a dagger in your heart and a slap through the face. Which is why Brett’s blog is so important. We need spaces to talk openly about our pain, and about how the pain makes us re-evaluate our lives, our values, our beliefs, our faith, our hopes, our dreams, our plans. And others need to hear it, to learn how to deal with us, and to help us grapple with issues of faith.

So thanks, Brett, for having the courage to open the lid on on this can. I just hope the worms turn into butterflies sooner rather than later.

Nicole [Nicole Masureik and Graeme Broster]

Born Sleeping Website – http://bornsleeping.wordpress.com/
Born Sleeping Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Born-Sleeping/150344014978601

if you would like to read the other stories that were shared, click here.

My second daughter, Zoe, was stillborn at 37 weeks on 24th March 2007 in London, UK – we had no warning, one day she was well, with a strong heartbeat, head down, ready to come into the world, and two days later, she was dead. It turns out that Nicole has a blood condition that pre-disposes her toward clotting, and the best guess is that there must have been sudden clotting in the placenta/umbilical chord which starved Zoe of oxygen. We didn’t know this until after Zoe was born but because our first daughter, Janel, had been premature, Nicole had been under closer observation than a normal pregnancy, including specialised prenatal care, so there was nothing more that could have been done under the circumstances. Nevertheless, you plague yourself with “what if” questions – what if I’d taken Nicole the emergency room the night before when she first commented that Zoe wasn’t moving regularly, what if Nicole had noticed earlier that something seemed to be wrong?

The church community we belonged to were amazing and really rallied round, providing us with meals, doing laundry, taking Janel out so we could be alone. We were put in touch with a charity called SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) who invited us to a meeting of parents who had lost their children. It was just incredible to meet with other parents who had walked a similar path to us and who could tell us that there was some light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long and dark it might prove to be. When we returned to South Africa, we looked to find a similar support group, but saw that none existed. As a result we started Born Sleeping and have had the privilege of supporting, and being supported by, many couples both in Cape Town, where we live, but also around the country via email and Facebook.

The issue of my faith in relation to this experience is a difficult, complicated, and ongoing one – in the weeks after Zoe’s death, we felt God’s love and comfort expressed to us by his people and we truly felt that, somehow, it was all going to be alright. As a bloke, I was in full strong-man support mode for Nicole, we had a 18-month old daughter to take care of, I had a job to go back to after a couple of weeks, we were preparing to move home to South Africa, etc and although I had the opportunity for some counselling, I don’t think I was able to fully engage with the enormity of my grief and its impact on my faith. When we moved back to Cape Town, we struggled to find a worship community where we felt comfortable – going to church itself was not a happy experience, when you have deep questions about the goodness of a deity who would allow a child to be created only to take her back before we could know her, it is not easy to be surrounded by people singing His praises. The best advice we were given in this time was permission to miss church, to stop feeling duty bound to attend if it was damaging our relationship with God. In spite of this respite, for many months, I would go through phases of truly hating people who had an open, easy faith, because they had what I no longer could claim to be my own.

Truth be told, my relationship with God had been on a downward trend for some time before Zoe died, but the questions that her death raised for me became stumbling blocks which I couldn’t overcome and although we settled in a church and joined cell groups and I even began to lead worship again, my personal spiritual life was essentially dead. Matters came to a head one Sunday morning when God, through one of his children, lovingly confronted me and said that I could not continue like this, struggling on my own and hoping that things would improve, that I needed to seek help. And so I re-entered counselling, and have made progress – Zoe’s death has become the scalpel God used to cut through layers of tradition and habit to uncover fundamental flaws in the way I view God and how I relate to him. There is much work to be done still, but I have hope again that at some point in the future I will be restored as God promises, I will be able to say with Spurgeon “Oh Blessed Hurricane that drives me onto the Rock of Ages” and mean it.

Next month it will be 5 years since Zoe died, and although we have been blessed with a son in that time, I still think of her often and am surprised by how close to the surface the grief remains. In writing this, I have been reading through some of the messages we wrote and received at the time, and the tears have flowed freely again. You never “get over” a loss such as this, but you learn to live with the pain. You never ever quite work out how to properly answer the question “How many children do you have?” but you stop feeling guilty when you say 2 instead of 3. There is life after stillbirth, but it is never the same as before.

Graeme [Graeme Broster and Nicole Masureik]

Born Sleeping Website – http://bornsleeping.wordpress.com/
Born Sleeping Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Born-Sleeping/150344014978601

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