Teagan — Losing Charlotte at 22 weeks gestation Being a woman is both beautiful, and challenging, and our bodies go through so much to bring little humans into the world. Trigger warning: this talks about loss, and grief and may be distressing for some readers. As part of our Mother’s Day campaign Sensitive Mothers, we spoke to marriage celebrant Teagan about the experience of losing her daughter Charlotte at 22 weeks gestation. She was brave enough to share her story, and we’re forever thankful. We fell pregnant with our second child easily. Admittedly I planned it all around my work, hoping to give birth in the wedding off-season. Plans fell into place when I fell pregnant in September 2020. We were overjoyed and began imagining our life as a family of four. Within weeks, the nausea set in making each day difficult. During this time I also felt a heavy sadness wash over me. I put it down to the nausea just getting me down but I think perhaps my mind and body knew something wasn’t quite right. Fast forward and all scans and blood tests were normal. At my 21 week scan, there she was; a perfectly healthy little girl, all measurements and developments normal. 3 days later we had a routine appt at the public hospital booked. My instincts had already kicked in prior to this. I felt as though movement had stopped but both my husband and I rationalised this – I had an anterior placenta (placenta that sits at the front, often soaks up movement making it more difficult to feel baby movements at an early gestation). I had my husband drive with me into the hospital, our then almost 3 year old in tow. Of course, being peak covid time, my husband wasn’t permitted in the hospital but I felt better knowing he was just outside those doors. A routine appointment with an obstetrician in a public hospital is, shall we say, disconnected. There’s no empathy, no small talk. The doctor used the doppler to find baby’s heart beat but all she could hear was the placenta pumping. My heart sunk and I think I already knew then. With little concern from the doctor, I was then whisked off to foetal monitoring with a midwife. I could see the screen as the probe was placed on my belly. There she was, sitting in a perfect yoga pose, her legs crossed. But there was no movement, no faint flutter of a heartbeat. Just a perfect yoga pose. The rest is a blur, there was panic in the midwives, I began to cry uncontrollably, begging for my husband. When he finally made it through ruthless covid screening, we were whisked away to yet another foetal monitoring machine, a tiny sliver of hope still lingering. But it was just a formality. Silently, a sonographer turned the screen away from us, pressed some buttons and we knew we’d lost our daughter at 22 weeks gestation. No one actually told us her heart had stopped beating. Perhaps not even the midwives could bring themselves to say the words. We were sent home that night, my belly still full, our hearts completely broken. The next few days were spent making decisions we never thought we’d have to make. Any baby born over 21 weeks legally must be named and offered funeral arrangements. We had 3 nights to sit with this loss and make plans. Flooded with family and friends, we felt so incredibly loved and protected in those moments and the weeks that followed. But we had questions. There was no reason as to why Charlotte’s heart had stopped. Guilt swallowed us whole as we searched for reasoning, because as humans we need things to be labelled. On Friday January 15th at 3:16am, we met our angel Charlotte Jade Dole. Almost 4 days after we learnt her heart had stopped, we got to hold her and say goodbye to her. It may surprise some to learn that her birth went ahead as many other births have before. It wasn’t shorter, it wasn’t easier, it wasn’t less painful. Having had an emergency caesarean with Ayla, my first born, I wanted to experience a vaginal birth and Charlotte allowed me to do just that. Her birth, to me, was the perfect oxymoron; horribly beautiful. The taboo of miscarriage has all but been broken. And that as a community is beautiful to see. In those first twelve weeks I was petrified of becoming a miscarriage statistic . But to escape this, only to be thrust into the stillbirth club, felt as though the rug had been pulled out from underneath us. Perhaps the information is out there but the thought is so horrific we block it out. We simply never thought something like this would happen to us. But.. Our story is not one of only sadness. Our story has been one of growth and ultimately; strength. Never did I think I could endure the pain of childbirth, knowing that i wouldn’t be taking that baby home. But I did. Together with my husband, we did and we’re incredibly proud to be on the other side of this, still smiling. As a couple we came out of this experience more in love than ever before. 15 years after our first kiss, we were sent to the darkest of places but we navigated that together. I think that’s where I see beauty amongst the trauma. Instead of asking ‘why me’, I came to realise this happened to us because we had the strength to process it and turn it into something beautiful. In those early days of grief, I craved stories of hope and positivity, but It was difficult to find that. The Facebook groups just made me sadder and our friends and family simply couldn’t fully empathise no matter how much they wanted to. So today, I want to be that positivity for couples experiencing infant loss. I want couples to know their story isn’t over, it’s just a little more colourful now. 6 months after Charlotte came into our lives, we learnt we were expecting our third child; another girl. I surrounded myself with the strongest team possible because pregnancy after loss is a rollercoaster to say the least. On April 20th 2022, we welcomed our rainbow baby, Sage Charlotte Dole, born via the most perfect natural delivery thanks to the support of Dr Lionel Steinberg. Now that Sage is here, it all just makes sense. Charlotte wasn’t ready for this world. She simply stepped aside for her little sister. And that was completely beyond our control. This took time to understand and my best advice for this is to get yourself a doula. By coincidence or perhaps something more magic, I came across @thelivingdoula. Also named Charlotte (I know right, it’s too much ) my wonderful doula held my hand through fresh grief and eventually helped me see magic in pregnancy once again. Diving head first into this relationship has been the most healing and positive tool throughout our entire experience. As parents, we’ll always speak of Charlotte as our second daughter. She’s not just a lost soul that we like to keep under wraps. Charlotte is a part of our family. I think keeping her close makes living with grief easier. To be Charlotte’s mother, and a mother to her two sisters is quite simply, my purpose. Not my sole purpose because I love my work, my family, my friends. But these girls are my priority and they remind me of my strength everyday. Losing Charlotte taught us what truly matters, to soak up the little moments and that we simply cannot control everything. Because we’re not meant to. Some things are out of our control and eventually, only help us flourish. Motherhood is a ride, and it’s not always pretty. There’s going to be dark moments, some of us will experience sheer blackness. But how we come out of that darkness is the real story. Because it only makes the giggles, the puddle jumping, the long winded chats with our children, that much more beautiful.