Before and After by Emily Geering

Life is now divided. There was the time before our daughter, Charlie, was born sleeping at forty weeks of age. And the period which followed.

I’m certain most bereaved parents would echo that such gut-wrenching loss is life-changing. I’m also sure that would come as no surprise to those fortunate to have never experienced such loss….. However, what I find most alarming is the stark contrast of life before Charlie and that since.

This weighs on my mind, at length. The comparison shocks, consumes and haunts me. It’s mostly what keeps me awake at night.

I remember the blissful ignorance before I knew that, in 2012, babies die – and sometimes, we don’t ever find out why.

The time before ‘grief’ moved into our house, and became a permanent part of everyday life; a third member in our marriage….. before the three of us became entangled and inseparable.

I remember the hopes, the dreams….. the feeling of being ‘in charge’ of our lives. The belief that our life was shaped by our actions – that we were the choreographers.

I look back at the emails I sent on the days before we lost Charlie and realise my oblivion to the approaching tsunami.

The 40 week pregnancy photos, taken on the morning before we presented at the hospital to be told our daughter’s heart had stopped beating, are of an entirely different woman……. a soon-to-be ‘mum’, with a fresh, peaceful and naive face, unaware of the cruelty or beauty of life.

We now live in a world of confusion in many regards. We have new identities; parents – but not. We have a constant instinctive, craving desire to devote time to a child that we cannot hold in our arms – only in our hearts.

In many ways we are at a standstill. Grief has robbed us of the ability to plan a future, requiring that we focus our energies to get through the day-to-day, and activities we previously enjoyed are just not the same.

But while we are emotionally scarred, we are also much better people for knowing Charlie.

Our hearts, yet broken, have somehow grown. We love each other more deeply. We hold our loved ones closer and are forever-in-debt to those who have supported us over the past four months and have shown love for our daughter.

Our marriage is bonded by a new strength; we have an understanding of each other that probably nothing else but our third partner could have provided.

And, last but not least, we appreciate beauty in things that we previously never noticed. A magical sunset. A colourful flower that has ‘popped up’ unexpectedly on the side of the road. Leaves dancing with the rustle of the wind…..

Bio: Emily Geering (Brisbane, Australia) is the proud mother of Charlie – born sleeping on 28 September 2012 following a ‘text book’ pregnancy. Emily is passionate about increasing community awareness of still birth believing bereaved parents need the opportunity to communicate about their loss to ‘heal’ and that more research must be conducted to reduce incidence.

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  1. wonderful piece…lost my son at 40 weeks after a textbook pregnancy as well..they told me there was no real cause, but suspected my placenta just stopped nourishing him. This article couldn’t be anymore dead on for me. Thank you…and so sorry for your loss.

    • Thanks Kayla. I’m sorry that you know this grief so well and that you now have to live without your little boy. X

  2. Dear Emily,
    Beautifully written. So sorry for the loss of your daughter Charlie and I wish you and your husband strength, now and in the future. My grandson was stillborn on the 7th September, 39 weeks and 2 days old. Like yours, my daughters pregnancy was without problems and there was never a reason found for Jordan’s death. Like you, my daughter knows that you have to cherish what you have, your family, your friends, yourself. I have been on the internet for many months now, looking for answers and have found so many stories, so much grief and yet there is also hope. I wish you hope!!! ps. I live in the Netherlands now but come originally from Brisbane 🙂 sending a virtual hug, Pamela

    • Dear Pamela, Thank you for your beautiful wishes. I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandson, Jordan. The double grief of watching your daughter suffer as well as grieving for Jordan must be so tough. I often search the internet for answers too. I wish mothers were advised that still birth is a possibility. As a society, we seem to be okay talking about SIDS – but never mention still births. I wish I had known that there is a chance that we would leave the hospital without a baby. Obstetricians say that they don’t talk about it because they want mothers to plan for the good but I just can’t understand that reasoning. We had a 1 in 7500 chance of having a baby with down syndrome and were counseled on this basis prior to our first 12 week scan but never did any doctor mention that we had a 1 in 120 chance of having a baby born sleeping! (Aust statistics). Anyway, I hope that you and your daughter finds some peace. Take care, Emily xo

      • Dear Emily,
        Lovely to hear from you. I still cannot believe how little is spoken about stillborn births, and that seems to be worldwide. I took part in the International Candle Lighting on 15th October and since then my husband and I light a candle every 7th of the month (Jordan’s birth date) at 7pm and we are finding it is important to have rituals. You no doubt know of the film that has been made in America “Return to Zero” and that they are hoping to promote their film Inernationally. This week I had contact with the Dutch founder of Make a Memory (one of their photographers made photos of Jordan after his birth) and she told me how difficult it is to get hospitals to give information about their Foundation and that magazines are never interested in giving attention to Stillborn babies. Unbelievable!!! I have been asked to write a blog for a internet site called Mamaplace, and I am interested to see if my blog about Jordan will get reactions, maybe it will be a start.
        With all the information I have gathered I have made two websites one in Dutch and English and is in honor of Jordan and there are explanations to why we made it….. …. and the other is in English and has the same name a Facebook group that I started to share information about Jordan and share links with my family and friends, and now there are a couple of grandmothers that have joined. …. . I just cannot accept that in this day and age that so many babies are stillborn, when maybe with more informaion from the professionals, mothers might be more aware of warning signs. Although my daughter had no warning signs.. and she felt so let down by her body and her mother instincts. Emily if you have a blog then I would love to add it to my list, or if you have links that you would like to add then send them to me as well. Thank you for your reply and kind words. I am so grateful for internet as it makes it so much easier to reach out to people all over the world. kindest of regards, Pamela

  3. I lost my son on September 28th of 2010. I too was and am dumbfounded at the difference in life before and life after. There are moments that define us and help to shape who we are, but none more so for me then the day my son was born and died. I know this because I measure my life by it. There was life before him, and now there is life after him. They are both my life, and they are both so different from on another.
    I am so sorry for the loss of your precious baby girl!
    Wishing you peace in this year to come

    • Hi Julie, Two years apart to the day! I’m so sorry that you’re living without your little boy. I feel the same, I also measure my life by it. I do silly things like look at food use by dates and think, “that’s before charlie was born” or “that was after charlie was born”. I think your perception and identity changes so much once you’ve lost a child that this will last a lifetime. I hope you have found some strength and are okay and getting through the days x

  4. If your story hadn’t touched me enough…. I got to the end and read your bio. My son, Conner, died at 8 months old. His birthday is September 28th. I understand your grief, and I am so sorry for your loss.

    • 🙁 I’ll be thinking of you and Conner this September. Is this the second anniversary for you? (I’m not looking forward to a year – very tough times) x

  5. Hi Emily,
    You know my story but I thought I would write just so others can know. My son Ethan was stillborn on the 24th April 2012. And I was also a textbook pregnancy. No problems everything was going alright until the week I was due. And just like you our dreams were shattered, unbelievable how could this have happened to us. This should have never happened.
    I am with you all the way on awareness. You from your side and me from mine (London, England). Let’s get the word out and make so many more parents be aware. Thinking of you both and your precious angel Charlie.
    All the best Emily xxx

    • Hello lovely lady. When your son was born and Face Book was quiet, we hoped for the best. We were so sad to learn that Ethan was born sleeping. It seemed so unbelievable and just so very unfair! We spoke about you regularly – hoping you were doing okay. We wondered, “How does anyone ever live with such pain?” “How will Helen get over this?” . Fast- forward a couple of months and another baby was stillborn but this time it was ours. We learnt very quickly that you don’t ever get over it but somehow have to learn how to live with the pain. And yes – how unbelievable this could happen to us. Two healthy girls – a Pom and an Aussie – having their first children! I’ll be thinking of you on the 24th Helen. They say the lead up is more painful that the day itself. I hope its gentle on you. Lots of love xoxo

  6. As a mother of one and as an Aunty to your beautiful little girl, your article has struck yet another chord with me. It has been so beautifully written. I am so proud of the strength and maturity that both you and your gorgeous husband continue to show in the months following Charlie’s brief passage through this world and into the next. I am and always will be grateful to Charlie for bringing me closer to my somewhat estranged little sister. Not a day passes when she doesn’t enter my thoughts. I hope you both continue to draw strength from the love and bond that Charlie continues to nurture.

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