Date: June 29 2012
Lisa Kardaris was 40 weeks pregnant when the last appointment with her obstetrician revealed a horrible tragedy: the baby had no heartbeat.
The little girl had died as a result of a fetomaternal haemorrhage, a spontaneous event in which all her blood cells had transferred into Lisa's system.
Lisa and her husband Michael then made the heartbreaking decision for Lisa to deliver the little girl by a natural delivery.
So at noon on September 23, 2010, at Calvary John James Hospital, little Zara was born, weighing three kilograms, perfect in every way except she never got the chance to draw her first breath. She had been born on her father's birthday.
Lisa and Michael say those early days were a fog of shock and disbelief.
The Cook couple had been married for 4½ years and until that terrible moment in the obstetrician's office they had been happily planning to bring their first child home at any day.
''At that stage, you're just 'doing','' Lisa says. Just taking it day by day.
Michael channelled his anger and disappointment into renovating.
''The laundry got ripped out the first day,'' he says.
They eventually made the decision that they didn't want to be defined by the tragedy, that they had to come to terms with the reality that ''life is not all happy times''.
''How did we cope? I don't know how we coped. You just got through each day,'' Lisa, 32, says.
''We were aware we just had to explore how we were feeling about it and deal with it, rather than hide it. Even though I'm someone who is not good at articulating what I'm feeling or knowing what I'm feeling.''
The couple, both public servants, were provided with an information pack by the hospital which included a SIDS and Kids brochure.
The organisation has a bereavement support service that includes counselling for parents whose baby is stillborn, with about 55 stillborn births in the ACT each year.
''It's more common than you think. That's the sad thing,'' Lisa says.
The couple had strong support from their family and friends but found speaking to other parents who had been through the same experience to be invaluable.
''Even as a bloke, I did [benefit] for sure,'' Michael, 36, says.
''A lot of blokes said, 'I wouldn't do that' but, yeah, it was definitely worthwhile.''
Lisa said the SIDS and Kids group made them feel less alone.
''A loss is a loss and it was good to be part of a group that understood,'' she says.
The couple's second child, Isaac, was born six weeks ago.
While the chances of the same event happening was minuscule, Lisa and Michael say it was a stressful pregnancy.
''Most parents plan what they're going to do after the baby arrives. We just thought, 'Let's have the baby and we'll work out the rest','' Michael says.
The safe arrival of Isaac was a moment of pure joy and relief.
''It's fantastic to be able to be that family unit. That's what we wanted for so many years,'' Lisa says. ''It's unbelievable. Sometimes we look at him and think, 'Wow, is he really here?'''
Zara is never forgotten but Lisa and Michael say they pick their moments as to whether they discuss her with other people.
''People ask, 'How many children do you have?' and you don't know whether to say one or two,'' Michael says. ''Sometimes it's too hard to explain. It can freak people out. It's certainly a conversation stopper.''
They remember her in their own quiet way. On what would have been Zara's first birthday, Lisa made a bright red ladybug cake. And there will be another cake come her second birthday on September 23.
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]