Grace's story

In February 2010, my fiancés brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. In the months that followed, I waged an internal battle, struggling to reconcile love and loss.  I told my fiancé that I couldn’t bear the thought of having children, only to have them go through the pain of losing the ones they love. But by November 2010, having done much soul-searching, I came to realise that the opportunity to experience the strength and depth of love was a privilege, and that the profound pain felt when losing someone was a testament to the love felt for that person. I wanted more, for me and my fiancé. I hoped that we would not only be able to open ourselves to the experience of love, but that we would also provide an opportunity for another soul to receive and reciprocate that love. We agreed to ‘try’ and fall pregnant. I say ‘try’ because we really just decided to see what happened without putting ourselves under any pressure.

I took my first pregnancy test ever at the end of March 2011, and was cautiously optimistic when I saw the 2 bold lines. Realising that things often do go wrong in the first trimester, we tried not to get too excited. We shared the news with my parents, and my fiancés parents. They were all thrilled. Sadly, my fiancés mother passed away suddenly on 16 April, just one week after we told her the special news. This was a truly difficult and dark time – the only thing that kept my fiancé going was that he needed to stay strong and remain positive for the little life growing inside me.

At our first scan in May we were thrilled to see our little sparkle wriggling, and a strong heartbeat of 162bpm. We began to relax and to plan the arrival of our child. At around 20 weeks we learned that our sparkle was a girl and immediately named her Grace Ann. She was truly a joy to carry: I was fortunate not to suffer at all from morning sickness, I had no strange cravings, slept well throughout the pregnancy and was not plagued by frequent loo trips. As Grace (aka Gracie Face) grew, our excitement grew. We planned the nursery, painting it a bright and cheerful yellow, bought and hung white curtains dotted with tiny multi-coloured flowers, and began to wash and pack bedding and the many items of clothing we were given. I dreamed of holding her, feeding her, changing her nappies and bathing her … I hoped that she wouldn’t keep us awake too much at night. My husband (after 13 years of dating we had finally married in June 2011) imagined what she would look like, longed to watch her breathe as she slept on his chest, and looked forward to her first steps, her first words of either ‘dada’ or ‘mama’. He had even planned his reaction to her first (and if he had his way, last) boyfriend: of course, no-one would ever be good enough for his precious little girl. I told him not to wish her life away. We decided that she would definitely have a lisp: she would never manage to say Gracie Face, instead she would say “my name ith Gwathie Faith”. We teased her about her large feet (just like her dad) – this was confirmed by the scans, and decided that she would have my “thunder calves”. We couldn’t wait to meet her, and as we counted down the months, weeks and days, we satisfied ourselves with rubbing her bum (always in the sky) and poking at her feet (stuck always in my ribs).

Grace was due on 21 November 2011. At our first obgyn visit, we expressed to him that we would do whatever was necessary to come home with a happy and healthy child. In South Africa, many mothers-to-be opt for a caesarean delivery, but we had agreed with our doctor to let nature take its course and not be prescriptive. If he felt a caesar was necessary, we would do it, if not we wouldn’t. 

21 November came and went. I had been monitored weekly since 36 weeks and each time the obgyn did an ultrasound (one of the benefits of private healthcare in SA). Grace’s heartbeat was always steady and strong – around 160bpm. There were no signs of placenta calcification and the flow of fluid through her umbilical cord was always good. We had no reason to be concerned and at our appointment on 25 November we agreed that if Grace didn’t appear earlier she would be induced on 29 November at 41 weeks – the obgyn explained that statistically, the risk of an adverse outcome was the least for babies born around 38/39 weeks, and (although low overall) comparatively higher for babies post-term.

On Monday 28 November, we woke as always to Grace’s kicks.  During the course of the morning I began to have mild, Braxton Hicks contractions which grew in frequency as the day progressed. I had a feeling that I would end up at the hospital that evening, and was pleased that Grace was arriving on her own terms without needing to be medically coaxed out. That afternoon, I went shopping with my parents, walked around the shopping centre and bought a few items to take along to the hospital. My husband fetched me from my parent’s house at around 17:30. At that point, although my contractions were frequent, they were not sore. I convinced him that we could go home, shower, collect our things, and then make our way to the hospital. He reluctantly agreed.

We left home for the hospital at about 19:00. On the trip, which is about 20 minutes long, I felt a ‘pop’ and a gush of fluid. I thought my waters had broken, but the nurse later told me that this was just a show. As we made our way to the hospital, the contractions became more intense and hurt. I was mildly concerned – the contractions were about 40 seconds long, and about 2 minutes apart. Although we had been told to only go to the hospital when the contractions were a minute long and 5 minutes apart, I figured that not every labour was textbook, and so told myself that everything would be fine.

We arrived at the labour ward and the nurse hooked me up to the monitors – Grace’s heartbeat was a faithful 160bpm. The nurse did an internal exam, and told me that I hadn’t yet dilated. We’re going to be in for a long night, I thought, as she called my obgyn.

After about 35 minutes of monitoring, the nurse said that she would leave the monitor on for another five minutes, and then get me up to have a walk. It was then that the nightmare began. My husband, who had been concentrating hard on the monitor, – he was able to tell when I would have another contraction from the information on the screen and was prepping me for each oncoming contraction – saw Grace’s heartbeat drop, down to about 80bpm. He didn’t want to alarm me, so didn’t say anything and went to get the nurse. His face had said it all though, and as I turned to look at the monitor, I saw her heart rate drop further, to 56bpm, and felt her kick twice. As the nurse came back in Grace’s heartbeat dropped to zero, and that’s where it stayed. She then gave a final kick, her last goodbye. This all took less than two minutes. Less than two minutes, and our lives and dreams for the future were shattered.  Our obgyn arrived shortly afterwards, and confirmed via ultrasound that the consistently strong and reliable heartbeat of our precious daughter was gone. She was dead.

I was prepped for a caesar while the obgyn waited on the results of some emergency bloodwork. He was concerned that I had experienced a placental abruption, but the bloods came back clear. I was not given the option of a natural labour – the obgyn didn’t know what was causing the now excruciating contractions I was experiencing and was concerned for my safety. All I wanted was for it to be over – I was in shock and couldn’t even cry. Eventually, I was wheeled to theatre while my husband, in tears, waited alone for his and my family to arrive at the hospital. Just seven months earlier, his first love, his mom, had died. He had just watched as his first child, the daughter he desperately longed for, and had seen growing only briefly at monthly ultrasounds, passed away. He knew that he would eventually leave hospital without his daughter, and had to contemplate the terrifying possibility of leaving also without me. 

I am here. I didn’t die, at least not physically. But I am certainly not the person who went into the hospital on the 28 November 2011, glowing radiantly and thrilled about how our world was about to be rocked at the arrival of our daughter. My husband and I are parents. But we will never be able to physically hold, love and nurture our daughter.  Gracie’s room houses her things, clothes which she never wore, which will never absorb her smell, unsoiled nappies, toys which she will never drool over. Rather than her cries, burps, gurgles, giggles and laughter, we have an empty, hollow and impenetrable silence. Our Gracie was brought home from a crematorium in a box, not from the hospital in her car chair. For us there will be no first smile, first word, first step, first tooth, first day at school, first love, first heartache. The list of a lifetime’s worth experiences that we wanted to share with her corresponds to our sadness and is infinite.

We cannot explain or understand what happened – there was no placental abruption, no placental calcification, no obvious cord accident, no evidence of infection.  Physically, Grace was perfect, a healthy 3.4kg, with her dad's forehead, eyes, nose, mouth. chin and big feet, and with my hair colour, ears, fingers and toes.The obgyn said that if we have the courage to try again, he will schedule a Caesarian at 38 weeks. This offers us no comfort, however – as we search for information and become aware of the experiences of others, we realise that we were lucky to have had as many as 41 weeks with our daughter. We will never again have the privilege of innocence through a pregnancy. Should we be fortunate enough to conceive again, every precious moment will be spent caught somewhere between pure joy at the prospect of a new life growing and absolute terror and fear that that life will be inexplicably taken from us and our world ripped to shreds once again.

We opened ourselves to love, and the volume of love we have for Grace is immeasurable. We loved and will continue to love her with everything that is our being. Our pain is a constant reminder of how deeply we cared for her. We only hope that we can cling to what was pure and good about Grace and eventually regain the courage and hope that she offered us all these months. We will do whatever it takes to believe again in good and in love. We will also continue to believe that Gracie had a lisp, and as we slowly pick ourselves up and try to move forward, we will strive to recapture our ‘Gracie Faith’.


  1. Thank you for sharing her story! I am so glad you set up a blog, it will be easier to keep in touch. I can feel your love for Grace in her story.

  2. I am so sorry for the loss of your Grace. I am struggling to hold on to the many wonderful memories I have of my Grace and not let the sorrow drown them out, so I understand Gracie Faith.

  3. I'm so sorry for the loss of your sweet girl Grace. <3