Sometimes a person touches your heart and you know that you will never forget them. Sometimes that person is tiny and has never taken a breath on this earth. This week the person that has been on my thoughts most often is a little angel called Ollie Biriya (meaning rainbow). With the controversy caused by Michelle and Jim Duggar choosing to take photographs of their miscarried baby Jubilee, I have been thinking about Ollie Biriya even more.
I hope one day to interview his Mummy and Daddy to share their full story, they are really quite remarkable people. But until that day comes I will settle with telling you about Ollie. Ollie is his Mummy and Daddy’s twelfth baby. Sadly only one of their children’s feet made it to walk on this earth. Ruby is now a beautiful 4 year old. I met Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy after Finley was buried, although my husband and Ollie’s Daddy worked together at the time. We found out that Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy had sadly lost their miracle babies Cameron and Carter at 21 weeks, when they were found to have Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. They had surgery but sadly did not survive. At this point Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy had lost 6 babies before them so it was devastating for the pregnancy to progress so far and develop problems. Cameron and Carter were cremated and settled into their bed a few along from Finley. Cameron and Carter were the first tiny angels pictures that I had seen. I remember every time I saw their photo, just looking at how beautiful they were as they cuddled each other. Their picture placed next to their scan photos and their teeny tiny footprints.
Their Mum and I got pregnant at the same time with our rainbow babies, sadly she started to have some problems and I was with her when she saw Pip (who was later named Charlie). There was no heartbeat. I remember asking if she could have a photograph of her tiny baby in her tummy and she chose to have a d&c. I was with her when she recovered from this and she chose to have Charlie buried with Cameron and Carter.
I was so excited to hear that she was pregnant again with Ollie, and really thought that this time it had to be ok. Losing 10 babies is simply unimaginable. To find the strength to try again, amazing. Surely it would be rewarded by whichever power controls these things. It looked like it would be ok, when a scan at 11 weeks revealed a healthy happy baby. But sadly disaster struck again with a scan at 13.4 weeks showing that Ollie’s heart had stopped.
I had just heard about an organisation called Upon Butterfly Wings, so had contacted them to see if they could help. They sent a beautiful package
In it was a tiny blanket, three angel’s pockets, a tiny little teddy bear, and a knitted moses basket. So I went to see Ollie’s Mummy and Daddy in hospital arriving just after he was born. The nurse checked with my friend that it was ok for me to go in, she came out to see me and said that Ollie was still with his parents. She asked me if I wanted her to take him out while I saw my friend. For the briefest of seconds I stopped in my tracks. I stopped, the nurse probably thought it was fear. Maybe it was, but not of Ollie, I was scared of breaking down. I was scared of making it worse for his broken hearted parents, but most of all I was scared to see another angel baby. The last angel baby I had seen was Finley, and I would have thought that I never wanted to see another angel baby again, as I know it would bring it all back. That lasted the smallest amount of time, before my brain was counter arguing with thoughts that I had brought Ollie presents, that I know how much it means for people to meet your baby and acknowledge he exists. So I went to meet Ollie.
And I immediately commented (probably in a very surprised voice) “he is just so perfect”. At that the tears did come to my eyes. I don’t understand and will never understand how something so perfect can just be taken away in an instant. And Ollie was perfect. I had not expected him to be complete. He was bigger than I expected. He had fingers and toes, hands and feet, elbows and knees. He had a beautiful face, with a tiny little nose. You could even see that Ollie Biriya was a boy.
I gave his parcel to his Mum to open, knowing how much it would mean to her. She had once told me that she felt so guilty that Cameron and Carter, Ollie’s brothers only had a blanket to be wrapped in as they were too tiny for clothes. Little Ollie had a choice of items to rest in. He was photographed in the little moses basket, tucked under the tiny blanket, his head resting gently on the tiny pillow with his teddy bear next to him. His Mummy chose a little green angel’s pocket for him.
She asked me would I like to hold him. Only someone who has lost a baby would be able to understand how amazing this was. The moments that you get with your baby are so precious, the fear that you have of people judging you or your child so deep, I was honoured to hold him. I held Ollie in my hands and for a really long time just looked at him with tears in my eyes. I was just struck to silence by how beautiful and tiny he was.
I watched in silence as Ollie’s parents said goodbye to him, and the nurse came to collect him. Ollie’s parents have photographs of those few moments in that hospital room. I am glad that they do.
I said my final goodbye’s to Ollie on a cold blustery day. I offered to take some photographs at the funeral. I hoped that by capturing Ollie’s family honouring him, it would help me to learn how important it is to acknowledge all babies with dignity and respect. This is something that we did not get the chance to do when we lost our first baby at 8 weeks, and something I have regretted since.
My friend has offered for me to share some of these photographs. I do so with the greatest of pride and admiration for her, and her husband. She carries the weight of a thousand lifetime with her every day. She has had to bear more sadness than many of us can imagine and yet she gets up every day for her little girl, her blessing. Goodbye Ollie Biriya …
There has been a lot of discussion this week, through articles, blog posts and comments in response to various aspects of Jim and Michelle Duggar’s story. Many people that are commenting publicly have not experienced the loss of the child and have been very negative in the comments made about the way the Duggar family has chosen to grieve the loss of their baby Jubilee.Jubilee is the second miscarriage that the couple have experienced.
Here are some of the links to posts about the Duggar’s choices.
Perezito – described the creative process of photographing your dead baby as terrifying.
The daily beast - Quotes Dr Susan Newman as describing the sharing of photographs as distasteful.
Psychology Today – Deborah Davis writes a moving letter to Jim and Michelle Duggar, “Showing the photographs at Jubilee’s memorial service was such a touching and fitting tribute to your baby girl. Making them available to the public is provoking both compassion and outrage. Compassion is coming from those who empathize. Outrage is coming from those who are frightened.”
I have had a terrific response to my own blog post sharing why parents may find taking photographs of their baby comforting. You can read it here.
I have posted this linky to bring together all of the blog posts written by angel parents in support of the choices that Jim and Michelle Duggar made. It is my opinion that death and grief and in particular the very distressing death of a child during pregnancy or after birth are not discussed, which makes parents feel shame for the choices they make. They also sometimes feel guilt over the things they did not do at the time of their loss. I have spoken with many parents who regret not seeing their baby, kissing or touching them. Many do not know that it is “allowed” to do this, many worry what people will think or say. Comments like the ones Jim and Michelle Duggar will harm the choices the angel parents of the future face. Instead of healing they will feel shame, guilt and regret.
Please feel add links to your blog posts about the taking of and sharing of photos of stillborn, and miscarried babies. Let’s break the silence.