lantern for Ella

My Story

By Katy Delau

As a young girl I knew I wanted to be a mother and dreamed of getting married and having  babies. At 35 I married and became pregnant—I was on my way, or so I thought. 

What followed in the next two years was the heartache of miscarriage, self-doubt and a roller coaster of emotions. For me, getting pregnant was easy enough, but carrying a baby to term was not. 

Finally I got pregnant and the baby stuck. Emotionally, it was a rough pregnancy. Every twinge filled me with panic at the thought of losing another child.

The night before my due date, I had a powerful dream that shook me awake with a strong sense of foreboding. I cried, feeling something was wrong with my baby.

Four days after that dream, I called the midwives because I hadn’t felt the baby move.  They couldn’t find a heartbeat. At the hospital came the confirmation of the worst: there was no heartbeat.

The following days were a blur as we prepared for the birth. We tried many ways to stimulate labour and finally, after two days, my sweet Ella was born. It was such a relief to see her and hold her in my arms.

Ella gave me the gift of allowing me to birth her naturally, and the confidence that I would draw upon two years later birthing my son. It was a rite of passage for me, and a way to express my love for her.

After the birth I retreated into grief, feeling held in love and support by my community of friends. I spoke to a woman at Hospice who had also had a stillbirth. That helped me immensely.

When we moved into our new home on the Carcross Road we laid Ella to rest on a beautiful esker at the end of our meadow, surrounded by friends and family.  Cards and gifts poured in. Such an outpouring of love – we continue to be grateful for this.

After burying Ella, life pulled friends and family back into their routines, and I felt lost. I didn’t know how I could ever smile again or see a day pass without shedding tears. It seemed there were babies and pregnant women everywhere, reminding me of what I had lost.

I filled my time putting energy into our new home and garden, planting trees for Ella, stacking wood, and trying to hold onto the threads that connected me to the Katy I used to be.

In those months, I was grateful to have Ella here with us, on the esker. I bought a lantern that I hung in a tree beside her grave and dipped candles to burn in it. I loved to see the flickering flame through the window and imagined it as my mothering love providing a beacon for her in the dark so she didn’t feel so alone. It was a beacon for us both: a connection, and a balm for our hearts. I made a path to her graveside and went often to cry, to talk to her, to try to make sense of this situation, and to pour my love on her.

After about nine months, I started to feel lighter. Everything looked different on this other side and I had come to a new understanding of my experience. I could smile and laugh again: life was returning to a new normal.

Almost seventeen years have gone by since Ella’s brief time here and I still feel so connected to her. I also have a strong connection to the women with I travelled with in pregnancy. They have their children, and I love to see them growing up. I will always know the age of those children. They are a beautiful reminder of Ella – I see her in all of them.

I continue to be surrounded by the love of my Yukon family, and am grateful for the friendships that have sustained me over the years, offering a compassionate ear whenever I needed it.

Ella has and continues to teach me about myself. She has shown me my strength and resilience, my compassion and empathy for others, and that there are no guarantees in life.  

I am honoured and so grateful for the lessons that Ella has shown me. She is and will always be my little angel.