For Ann-Maree and her husband, it was easy to fall pregnant.
She felt lucky. She wasn’t debilitated by morning sickness, or plagued by health issues.
“We were counting down,” Ann-Maree told Mamamia, “and using that app that shows you what size vegetable your baby compares to each week.”
Despite what happened next, you could still hear the smile in her voice. Pregnancy had been blissful.
Until something changed.
“One day I had reduced movement,” she said, “and I thought ‘oh the baby is getting bigger and running out of room in there'”.
She since found out that’s a myth.
Ann-Maree went to bed that night, and when she woke up the next morning, still with no movement, she decided to go to the GP.
It was only when the GP directed her to the hospital that she thought something might be terribly wrong.
At 32 years old, and six and a half months pregnant, Ann-Maree heard the words that brought with them a level of heartbreak she did not think was possible.
LISTEN: Bec Sparrow talks about surviving and thriving after loss. Post continues below.
“We’re not able to find a foetal heart beat.”
The next day, at 2:18pm on the 31st of January 2015, Ann-Maree gave birth to Xavier Rocket Imrie. He weighed 1.14 kilograms and was 40 centimetres in length.
He was stillborn.
Retelling the story three years later, Ann-Maree took a moment to cry.
“I remember thinking, I’ve experienced heartbreak before… well I thought I had… and I thought ‘wow. This is true heartbreak’. I just felt shattered from the inside out. Everything hurt,” she said.
“I felt like what it might feel like for someone who loses a limb. It was as though a part of me was physically missing. I could feel the weight of Xavier in my arms, not there,” she explained.
And for a while, Ann-Maree did not know what to do with that weight. She desperately wanted to maintain a relationship with the baby she had lost, even if she couldn’t hold him.
So she wrote a book.
"You could have been..." was released on the 1st of February, 2018, and is a picture book to be read by a mother to a child she no longer has.
Beautifully illustrated, the story explores all the things a baby could have been; an astronaut, a fireman, a doctor.
Ultimately, though, "the could have beens are irrelevant," Ann-Maree says.
The hopes and the expectations don't matter - because a parent will always remember their baby or child as precisely what they were. Perfect.
"There's an unspoken understanding among women have lost babies," Ann-Maree told Mamamia. "Your baby is sitting in the corner of your heart everyday..."
Having lived with the grief for years, Ann-Maree has one piece of wisdom for bereaved parents, who do not know what to do with the magnitude of their heartbreak.
"Share your baby. Even if it makes people uncomfortable," she said.
All she wants is for baby Xavier to be acknowledged, and to be seen. It's her promise to never forget him for precisely who he was, rather than all the expectations of who she thought he should have been.
Ann-Maree's book is for the special mums. The ones who cannot read to their children in a physical sense.
When a mother loses a baby or child, their grief is impossible to articulate.
But Ann-Maree just wants the world to know that it's not what Xavier 'could have been' that she lost.
Rather, it was a little boy, 1.14 kilograms, who was perfect just the way he was.
You can buy 'You Could Have Been...' at Ann-Maree's website, https://anniemauthor.com/.
If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.