Updated: Jun 27, 2020
| This is the 343rd story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in East Kilbride, a town on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1980. As an only child, I always dreamed of having siblings to play with. My parents promised that I’d have a brother or sister one day. Unfortunately, that day never came, and my childhood was full of lonely afternoons playing by myself.
My family got smaller when I was 12 after my dad became suddenly ill. He was rushed to hospital and died four months later. I was devastated, and in losing him also came the realization that I would never have any brothers or sisters. I decided then that I would have a large family of my own one day. That way I’d never be lonely again.
Things at home hadn’t been great since my dad died. My mum had become very withdrawn and I was mostly left to my own devices. By the time I was 15, I was planning how my life would be once I was an adult and had a baby of my own. I desperately wanted something to love. I felt like there was a hole in my life that could only be filled by having a baby.
When I was 24, I married my long-term boyfriend Clive. By then, things in my life had settled down and even though I yearned to start a family, we decided to wait a bit because we wanted to be more financially secure first.
We saved and bought a house and went on holiday—life was blissful. A couple of years later, we decided it was time to start trying for a baby. It didn’t take long for me to get pregnant and we were both thrilled. Clive started to transform the spare room into a nursey, and we started making lots of plans of what we would do as a family once the baby was born. I dreamed of taking our baby to the park, to the beach, everywhere we went. I was ecstatic to finally be a mom.
Then, about six weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I noticed some spotting. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. No, it couldn’t be…was my worst nightmare about to come true? I immediately rang Clive who calmed me down and said that it was normal.
Yet the bleeding continued, and three days later, Clive took me to hospital. He tried reassuring me that we were going to see our baby on the ultrasound and that everything would turn out fine. I couldn’t help but fear the worst. In my gut, I harbored a bad feeling.
I was given an ultrasound and felt a bit more hopeful when I saw my baby on the screen. However, the nurse said that there were abnormalities they needed to keep an eye on. A doctor then examined me and instructed me to stay on bedrest for two weeks. They hoped that the bleeding was just from the placenta forming. I believed in that moment that I could save my pregnancy.
However, when I woke up the next morning, I had really bad cramps and a sore back, and I was bleeding heavily. Clive took me to hospital where I was given painkillers. In my heart, I started to prepare for the worst.
Later that day, I went to the bathroom and when I wiped myself, there was a small clump of cells on the tissue. I stared at it in disbelief. I had just passed my baby. I had tried to prepare myself mentally for this moment, but nothing could prepare me for holding what would have been my baby in my hand.
I felt bad about flushing it down the toilet, so I wrapped it in the tissue and buried it in a plant pot. And with that, I buried a piece of my soul too.
Over the next few years, three more miscarriages followed, one of which I carried for four months. I had been sick and dizzy throughout that pregnancy, in and out of hospital. When we went for an ultrasound, the technician couldn’t find a heartbeat. I was induced and gave birth to an underdeveloped fetus. I could see that it was a boy—my boy who’d never take a breath. I went home and cried for five hours.
Despite the pain, we kept trying. A year after my last miscarriage, I was pregnant again. I was initially worried but as the pregnancy continued and no problems arose, I allowed myself to believe that I would finally have a baby. I was healthy throughout the pregnancy, and we started making plans and choosing names. It was an exciting time. Clive was finally able to finish decorating the nursery, which he had started painting years ago. Both our families were happy for us, and I felt like life was great.
The birth wound up being very complicated, and in 2014, I delivered a stillborn baby girl. We named her Aimee. Burying my baby was the worst day of my life and something that still haunts me to this day. She was tiny and perfectly formed and looked as if she was asleep. It still breaks my heart when I look at her photo and imagine what she would have been like if she had lived. That’s something that will never change, but I’ve had to find ways to cope and move on.
In the span of 10 years, we had endured the heartbreak of four miscarriages and a stillbirth. I felt like giving up on life. I often felt like it was too hard to get out of bed in the morning. I was constantly grieving the loss of what could have been the big, happy family I’d dreamed of. Heartbroken and discouraged, Clive and I made the decision together to stop trying for a baby as it was taking its toll on both of us. I needed time to heal physically and emotionally.
During this time Clive started drinking heavily and we started to drift apart, although we were still living together. We barely spoke for six months. Clive would head straight to the pub after work and by the time he got home, I would be in bed. We both wanted things to change, deep down I knew that we still loved each other and we needed to get through things together. I persuaded Clive to come to marriage counselling with me. It seemed to be our last chance to make the marriage work. Clive was also going to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and was trying to quit drinking. Things slowly started to improve.
Then, my life changed forever when Clive came home with a surprise one day.
A co-worker had told Clive about child sponsorship with World Vision. He looked through their website and decided to sponsor a little girl named Diarry. He thought, if we couldn’t have a child of our own, why not help another child in need?
Clive handed me a box that he had received from World Vision. He was nervous as he handed it to me because he wasn’t sure what my reaction would be. This would never replace the babies we had lost, but he hoped it would heal part of my heart. In the past, we had talked about adoption but when I had looked into it, it seemed to be a long drawn-out process, which had never felt 100% right.
Inside the box were details of our little 12-year-old girl, Diarry. She looked very young and skinny with her collar bones sticking out. As soon as I saw her photo, I knew that I wanted to help make a difference to her life. Clive’s kind gesture had me in tears.
Diarry lives with her parents and nine siblings in Senegal, Africa. The sponsorship money that we donate each month helps pay for her school fees. It also helps her family by providing them with seeds and farming equipment so that they can be self-sufficient. On top of this, the charity provides schools and safe drinking water for her community.
We send letters and gifts to her, and through the letters and photos she sends back, we have watched her grow up over the last four and a half years. Every year, World Vision sends us an update and a new photo. One year, we even got a video of Diarry saying hello in her own language. We have seen Diarry grow from a skinny little girl into a beautiful young woman. She tells me about what her life is like, what she has been doing and her hopes of becoming a nurse when she leaves school. I always look forward to receiving letters from her and write to her once a month, sending gifts for birthdays and Christmas.
Sponsoring a child in Africa has given me a purpose in life, and brought Clive and me closer. Through it, I’ve begun to heal from the losses. If I can’t have children of my own, I can at least make a difference to the lives of other children. We may have changed Diarry’s life over the years, but she will never realize how much she has changed our lives. I have never met Diarry in person, but I love and care about her dearly.
To help with my healing, I’ve also thrown myself into charity and fundraising work. It has helped me stop thinking about the babies I lost. Although, I will never forget them. I may never be able to have children of my own, but I don’t have to feel lonely anymore. I have Clive and I have Diarry. That’s enough for me.
This is the story of Poppy Whiteman
Poppy lives in Glasgow, Scotland with her husband Clive. As an only child, Poppy always dreamed of having brothers and sisters to play with. Although she had many friends, she often felt lonely and decided at a young age that she would have a large family when she grew up. After getting married to Clive, the couple started trying for a baby. Ten years later, they had endured the heart break of four miscarriages and a stillbirth. It wasn’t until Clive surprised Poppy with sponsoring a child in Africa did she begin to heal from the losses. Sponsoring children in Africa has given Poppy a purpose in life. She realized that if she can’t have children of her own then she can at least make a difference to the lives of others. Poppy has also recently become an ambassador for World Vision. She visits schools, churches and community groups to talk about the work of World Vision and encourage others to fundraise for or sponsor a child if they are able.
This story first touched our hearts on June 3, 2019.
| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Kristen Petronio |