real life

At 38 weeks, Ami's daughter was stillborn. A year later, she lost two more children.

Today, October 15, is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This article discusses miscarriage and infant loss and may be triggering for some readers.

When Ami Summers and her husband Dave fell pregnant with their first child, they couldn’t wait to welcome their little girl into the world.

Their pregnancy was nothing short of perfect. It was healthy and uneventful. A beautiful experience.

But at 38 weeks, Ami and her husband unexpectedly lost their first-born daughter.

On March 31, 2013, Arla Summers McCarthy was stillborn at 11.50pm. Her death came as a complete shock.

A tribute to the babies we’ve lost and the significance of remembering their names. Post continues after video.

“It was quite a shock to find out that she had died and we weren’t expecting it,” Ami told Mamamia.

“We had no indication that anything was wrong.”

Today, Arla’s death is still unexplained.

Following the birth, Ami and Dave had just 12 precious hours with their daughter.

“We were with her for about 12 hours afterwards. The hospital encourages you to be in the room with your baby and we kind of naturally just got to the stage that we were ready to say goodbye and leave,” Ami recalled.

“It was a hard moment because we were saying goodbye for good.

“We had to leave the hospital empty handed. We left in a car that had a brand new car seat in the back and we came home to the nursery all set up. That was pretty difficult.”

coping with infant loss
Dave and Ami, while she was pregnant with Arla. Image: Supplied.
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In the days and weeks that followed after Arla's birth, Ami and her husband were in complete disbelief.

"The weeks after the birth were a mixture of shock," Ami recalled.

"All the same things happen physically, emotionally and mentally to you – even if you don't have a baby," she continued.

"Your milk still comes in. Your body feels the same. You've gone through labour and your body is going through all the same things a new mum would."

Although the first few weeks and months were incredibly difficult, it wasn't until months down the track that the grief of losing Arla really set in.

"It's six to 12 months down the line that the grief sets in and you think, 'This is it. This is my first experience of motherhood.' This is not what we were expecting when we decided to get pregnant," the 38-year-old said.

"We kept her nursery set up for quite a while. It didn't feel right to take it down," she added.

"We would keep a light on in her room for a few weeks afterwards. I would find a lot of comfort in just sitting in there and just being in the space. I know that's not how all women feel, sometimes it's too painful, but it really became a sanctuary to me – where I could feel close to her."

coping with infant loss
Some items from Arla's memory box. Image: Supplied.
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After recovering from the birth of Arla, Ami and Dave were ready to try to fall pregnant again.

"We were so ready – we had nine months of preparing," Ami said. "We were pretty keen to do it as soon as possible."

Six months later, Ami fell pregnant again. The couple were ecstatic.

This time, however, Ami had a miscarriage at seven weeks.

Two months later, Ami and Dave lost their third pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy, which resulted in an emergency operation and the loss of their baby as well as the loss of Ami's right fallopian tube.

"That was really the experience that knocked me for six out of all three. The ectopic [pregnancy] was kind of the last straw," Ami recalled.

"It just felt really unfair to not only go through the surgery but to have our fertility technically halved when we'd always gotten pregnant really easily and it'd never been an issue for us. It was pretty tough."

Although Ami and Dave were told they would have trouble conceiving again, the couple defied the odds and fell pregnant again six months later.

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Six months later, Ami fell pregnant. Image: Supplied.

It was a pregnancy that was defined by worry, anxiety and excitement.

"Pregnancy after loss is a whole new journey," Ami said.

"It's such a stressful experience but at the same time, you can't get away from the reminders. I think the only way for me to deal with it was to really surrender to it and face it.

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"My pregnancy with my son was really beautiful. With every little symptom, you got a bit anxious – but at the same time, we were so grateful at that stage to just be pregnant and to be back on that journey we started two years beforehand. That overrode any of the real anxiety that came from being pregnant itself."

In the end, Ami made it to 34 weeks when she was rushed to emergency with a catastrophic spontaneous abdominal hemorrhage. After an emergency cesarean, Ami's son Indy was born.

Although Ami was put in a coma for 24 hours, she was finally reunited with her son after three days spent apart.

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Ami was reunited with her son Indy in NICU. Image: Supplied.
coping with infant loss
Ami's husband Dave with Indy after he was born. Image: Supplied.
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"It really was the proudest moment," Ami said of the day she took Indy home. "It was so amazing."

Since Indy was born, Ami and Dave have found new ways to remember Arla by passing down her items to their son, who is now four years old.

"I didn't know how I'd feel about bringing [Arla's belongings] out again," Ami admitted.

"But I felt like it was a really beautiful thing because it felt like she had handed those things down to him, which would normally happen with a big sister. I felt really good about that because it was kind of normalising her existence a little bit and making her real."

Throughout their journey, Ami and Dave have been to hell and back.

But despite their unfathomable loss, the couple are sharing their story in the hope of helping others.

After giving birth to Arla, Ami looked everywhere for guidance, support and resources for dealing with the grief of stillbirth.

But when she left the hospital after saying goodbye, she was simply given a bag of pamphlets.

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Dave, Indy and Ami. Image: Supplied.

"There was nothing really of substance. I remember sort of searching through the written material we were given and it was very light on," Ami recalled.

"There was nothing for me to work through or I guess feel empowered to work on. It was an experience that really stayed with me because I felt quite alone when I got home and a lot of the pamphlets were advertising things that weren't even available in our area.

"I just kept searching for this resource that could maybe help me through what I was feeling and I just couldn't find it – I searched for year."

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Later, during a visit from a maternal health care nurse after the birth of Arla, Ami learned that the nurse hadn't been briefed about her daughter's death.

"She came to our home and sat with us and we talked about the birth and I guess we probably presented pretty well. And then she turned to us and said, ‘Where’s the baby? How’s the baby doing?’ We realised very quickly that she hadn’t been briefed," she said.

It was a combination of these experiences that prompted Ami to write her book, Heart Space.

About Heart Space:

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Image: Supplied.

Heart Space is a self-directed, therapeutically reviewed book designed to help families through all stages of pregnancy, infant and child loss.

The book was written by Ami Summers, an accredited and experienced coach and leadership consultant, and was largely shaped by the the stories of a group of women who contributed to the book by sharing their experiences.

The book is designed to be a workbook, journal, memory book and coaching guide all in one.

Ami Summers' book, Heart Space, is available to purchase here. 

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. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

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