Remembering Ruby: Guest Post by Sara Kalke

I am pleased to introduce Sara Kalke. It is an honor for me to share Sara’s story here on Wanted Chosen PlannedI met Sara over three years ago shortly after her daughter Ruby passed away. We had an instant connection based on our losses and now I am proud to call her friend. I invited Sara to share her story here on Wanted Chosen Planned and I’m honored she agreed.

Welcome Sara!

Sara’s Story 

My daughter, Ruby Jayne, weighed 6 pounds 10 ounces when she was born.  She had beautiful dark curly hair.  She had ten fingers and ten toes.  She had her daddy’s nose and my lips.  She filled my arms just like a newborn should.  She fit perfectly into the pink onesie I had ready for her in my hospital bag.  She looked sweet and kind and full of the mischievous fire that I felt from her soul for the 9 months she was with me.


But when Ruby was born, there was only silence.


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Ruby Jayne, passed away when I was 38 weeks pregnant.  Cause unknown.  Her loss is my great abyss, my great never land of perpetual greys and blacks, my baptism into the silent world of infant loss, into the hauntings of post traumatic stress disorder and the great darkness that aches in my heart.

Stillbirth is one of our world’s great secrets, our most unthinkable outcomes, our most terrible shames.  We do not dare to talk about a child who was in the grey area between life and death, who did not take a breath of air, who never showed their mamas what colour their eyes were.


Ruby’s Story

I had the pregnancy announcements, the dreams of what my daughter would look like and what she would be when she grew up… the perfectly put together nursery, the ultrasound and maternity photos, the super pregnant waddle walk, the time enjoying little baby kicks.  I relished in the quiet excitement of a mom-to-be… in the quiet moments: driving, in yoga class, at night before bed, I would close my eyes and feel her kick and revel in how amazing it was to have her little soul with me.  I told my husband how fascinating it was to have two souls in my one body.

Ruby was my bright light, my fiery joker, full of joy and love.  I knew her soul.  We spoke in silence and intimacy that mother and child do.  When I focused on her soul, my soul was filled with joy.  Ruby was named after my friend’s grandma Ruby, a woman known for her courage, her spark and her feisty ways.

To this day, I would trade places with her in a heartbeat.  A heartbeat.  Loss parents know the weight of that word.  Heartbeat.

On Tuesday night, I had a dream.  Ruby’s hand was reaching out of my belly.  That was it, no stress or fear, just her hand.  I took it as a sign that she was getting ready to be born.

On Friday afternoon, I had an obstetrician appointment, at the finest high-risk clinic in the city (even though I was very low risk and my pregnancy was completely normal – I like to research and concluded this was the very best care available).  After the appointment, I stopped in the hallway and paused behind the obstetrician.  I don’t know why.  I had no words for what to say to her.  I just stood there and thought, why am I standing here?  So I turned to the door and left.

On Saturday evening, my husband and I prayed together for the safe arrival of our daughter, who we thought would come any day.  I told him to install the car seat the next day while I was at work, as it felt like it was time.

That night, I had a dream.  In the dream, I was holding Ruby in my arms.  She was so sweet and perfect and warm and everything I had thought she would be.  In my dream, she snuggled into my arms like it was the best place in the whole world, and I hugged her back with all the love my whole being could gather.  In that moment, I was so whole, so proud, so complete.

On Sunday morning, I woke up feeling nauseous.  As I had been very nauseous throughout pregnancy (which I was told was totally normal), and as I had read that the hormone changes leading up to labour could make you nauseous, I didn’t think much of it.  I asked a colleague if she could take my clients that day, because I hadn’t felt Ruby kick that morning.  She assured me, as a mother of 6, that this was normal and it meant that my little lady was probably coming soon.  She was already booked though, so I went to work.

By 6 p.m., after my workday was complete, I called my husband.  I told him I was feeling a little off, that I was going to stop at the hospital on my way home, but I was sure I was being paranoid so I would see him when I got home.  I chatted with the labour and delivery nurse walking down the hallway about there being more births during a full moon.

I remember the weight of my purse in my hand walking down that hallway.  I remember the feeling of my feet in my shoes.  I remember every detail of the grey cashmere sweater and black maternity pants I was wearing.  I remember the way I was walking, waddling like a very pregnant woman (I had gained 45 pounds at this point!).  I remember the delivery room we went while we chatted lightly.  Then, I remember the silence as the nurse searched for a heartbeat.

My daughter, Ruby Jayne, weighed 6 pounds 10 ounces when she was born.  She had beautiful dark curly hair.  She had ten fingers and ten toes.  She had her daddy’s nose and my lips.  She filled my arms just like a newborn should.  She fit perfectly into the pink onesie I had ready for her in my hospital bag.  She looked sweet and kind and full of the mischievous fire that I felt from her soul for the 9 months she was with me.

She was born after 12 hours of labour, with the violent shaking of shock, but through complete silence save the whispered prayers from the corners of the room.  I held her in my arms.  I hugged her like I had always imagined.  She was bathed and dressed and set in a white bassinet by my bedside.  6 hours later I said goodbye to her beautiful little body forever.


The Early Days

It never gets easier telling the story.  If you put a microphone to my soul, then and even sometimes now, you would hear the wailing, the screaming, the glass smashing, desperate, silent and smouldering rage at my new reality, the mother missing her child.

I believed until those moments, the quiet heartbeat monitor, the still ultrasound, the silent birth, that I had some factor of control over the outcomes in my life.  I had a fundamental reliance on Plan – Execute – Result.  I believed in a God who controlled outcomes… we had prayed throughout Ruby’s pregnancy for her health and safe arrival, not knowing she would pass away while I slept that night.

I was completely unprepared for her loss. I was blindsided.  Devastated, heartbroken, disillusioned, shattered.  I became the darkness.  My only reactions were those of resistance.  A fighting, snorting, rearing, kicking monster set up in my heart.  My mind refused to accept what my soul could not cope with.  If only my resistance could have brought her beautiful little soul back.

My first reaction when the resident told me that Ruby had passed away was to think of nature, and how I had heard, that stillbirth happened in the animal kingdom.  I had never heard of a full term loss. I quickly learned that stillbirth is common, 3.3 per 1,000 births in Canada.  Worldwide, stillbirth makes up more deaths than HIV-AIDS and malaria combined[1].  Yet women worldwide are forced to live in silence and shame over not just stillbirth, but infant loss, miscarriage, and infertility.

After Ruby was born still, my whole group of girlfriends from high school banded together to gossip and react to my devastation with whispers, accusation and blame that I wasn’t reacting in the right way, and that I was being selfish by being hurt at the timing of when I was told, the first time I left my house, that one of them was 8 weeks pregnant.

The shame that loss mothers feel is partly from this cruel blame that others put on us.   The world is a much easier place for others to live in if it is our fault that our babies passed away.  If we are evil, cruel, heartless people, distracted by work, with too much success or happiness, of course we should be punished.  And if we are vilified, we are in the bad box, where bad things happen, tied with a neat and tidy bow for people who are afraid and uncomfortable with anything but their twisted shallow reality.

The cruelty of the people in my world nearly destroyed me after Ruby’s death.  It was so debilitating I almost lost the ability to function.  I found a psychologist who helped me greatly.  She said that these people suffer from what she called the “just world theory”, where if you make the outcome you are most afraid of attached to negative traits of who they happened to, and if you are able to vilify them with traps and unthinkably cruel situations, you gain control over your life and your outcomes.  I would like to think that this only happened to me, but every loss parent I know has a similar story.  Every single one.  Even friends who have cancer or Lupus were made to feel by their friends that they caused it in some form or other.  If you are reading this as a loss parent, you are probably nodding your head as you read this.


Years Later

I now reflect on that first reaction, and on the darkness that has filled the lonely years of my life since Ruby’s passing.  My world has changed dramatically.  My faith, what of it that remains, lives mostly in the present now, in what I know and see.  I still have flashbacks and nightmares, although they are rare now compared to the early days and months.

When I meet people who have just experienced loss or trauma, a conversation that we often have is about that first reaction, what those thoughts and feelings are, and to remember them, as if their experience is like mine, they will likely make a large and painful circle back to that place.  Unfettered by the mind and by our society’s complete discomfort with death, I believe our first reaction in these moments is the purest reflection of our soul, of who we are, and of where our mind will finally rest in that place I still resist called acceptance.

There is a quietness now in my soul but my darkness still remains.  Part of me still fights the reality of being a loss parent, and I still have major battles with guilt.  The “if only’s” revisit my mind, the nightmares and flashbacks still come, but they are quieter now.  If only I wasn’t working, if only I had the right words to say at the doctors office, if only I knew what a non-stress test was and to ask for it.  If only I had known people who had experienced losses.  If only I would have known that those dreams had such profound meaning.  The shame and guilt have worn the same path over and over and over, their path is so worn out that there are no new thoughts there, no resolution, just a repeating hamster wheel that brings no peace.

I still blame myself for Ruby’s loss, and I still struggle with seeing myself as a failure because I wasn’t able to bring her to earth.  I hear stories of women who go for check-ups days before and they catch something, stories of babies who had health issues or were born by emergency c-section and I feel like a failure.  We received no explanation for Ruby’s passing, just a shrug of the shoulders and an “it happens” from the doctors and nurses, even though we were at the most specialized high-risk hospital here.  We were told that an autopsy was a waste of time, and that it was unlikely to find a cause (this is completely a lie by the way, different sources say autopsies reveal the cause of death in as much as 75% of cases).

I cannot believe in a greater plan that involves the bodies of beautiful sons and daughters in the arms of their weeping parents.  I do not believe that there is a great cosmic lesson for me to learn from Ruby’s passing.  It is too simple, easy, and to me, completely cruel to believe that there is automatic good in the worst, darkest loss, and that our mission is to find it.  Finding a good path is what we have to do for survival, to live through each day without our children, to honour their memories, to put our experiences in their appropriate boxes.

I have two daughters now.  Ruby and her little sister Zoë, born one year and eight days later.  I have one living child.  I have two daughters.  My first passed away.  She is as much my daughter as her living sister.

I refuse to be silent about Ruby.  Her sister will know who she is and that she is part of our family.  No matter how much I resist the reality of her loss, I still see her in the quiet places.  I feel her in the joy she gave to my heart in those quiet moments, and she will be part of my world forever.   I will live in my new normal, a complicated messy place.  I will sometimes run from the pain and I will sometimes be at peace with it.

Ruby still teaches me that we don’t have control, that we have a mischievous, fiery beauty in our awareness that lifts our souls into the clouds on hummingbird wings, lets us fly on horseback, and brings us closer to transcendence with eyes closed and sunshine on our faces.  I miss her and I love her and I love all of the brave, kind people who are unafraid of their darkness who bravely stand with me and my tribe of loss parents.

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1 Comment

  1. Miss Coco
    Aug 17, 2015

    Sara, thank you for sharing. I am in the quiet period that you wrote about thus I am often hesitant to read such stories, fearing they might take me back to that place of shame and “no answers” that you wrote about. I have read that the pain of baby loss is not lessened by the birth of another child. Thus, I purpose to respect the legitimacy of everyone’s feelings even though I believe it would have helped me tremendously. I had two late life miscarriages (2005 & 2008) and the center of my pain remains that I NEVER got to complete that journey into motherhood.

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