A policewoman who has ‘been pregnant six times with no baby to hold’ has revealed what it’s like to feel like a mum but not physically be one on Mother’s Day.
Rachael Casella, 34, from Sydney, lost her first baby last year at just seven months old after she was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1; a devastating terminal neuromuscular disorder, at just ten weeks old.
She has since had five miscarriages and continues to struggle to have a child with her husband, Jonny.
‘Which day is mine? Do I no longer belong to Mother’s Day? I still feel like a mum in my heart but in my physical being I am not a mum anymore. Where do I belong?,’ Rachael told FEMAIL.
Rachael gave birth to her darling daughter, Mackenzie, on 11 March, 2017, but within ten weeks, she was told she had a terminal genetic disorder.
‘On 22 October 2017, Mackenzie died in our arms, at just seven months and 11 days old,’ Rachael recalled to FEMAIL.
‘I cannot explain the pain that losing a child creates – but what I can tell you is every single day I think about Mackenzie. There have been so many days to recognise.
‘Her birthdays, the anniversary of her death, our first flight without her, the first Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day, the first day we went to the shops without her and yes, Mother’s Day.
‘Every day, big and small I don’t know how to “celebrate” these days.’
This year, the couple have escaped Sydney and gone to visit Monument Valley on the Arizona and Utah border in America.
‘On the day itself we will be flying back into Sydney from the USA,’ Rachael said.
‘I doubt we will even recognise the day for me. We took the trip overseas as a way to cope.’
Rachael said that usually she find platforms like Instagram – where she shares beautiful photos of her Mackenzie at My Life of Love – a supportive space for her to upload photos and keep her daughter’s memory alive.
But not on Mother’s Day.
‘I usually turn to Instagram for support in hard times,’ she said. ‘I have such a beautiful community of followers who lift me up every single day.
‘Without them I would be lost. But it is also hard to be open some days. By the very nature of my age and my interest, nearly everyone I follow is a mum so my Instagram feed is constantly filled with families and babies.
‘Most days this makes me smile. I know that I am still a part of the secret mum’s club that Kenzie made me part of.
‘But Mother’s day is a hard day to look at Instagram. I will always be a mother but I feel like I am stuck in limbo being a mother without a child to hold. I am not a childless person but I have no child in the physical world. So what am I?’.
The 34-year-old said she is not religious or overly spiritual, but often thinks about life after death – and what there will be ‘after we go’.
‘Will I be surrounded by my babies when I die? Do they know how much I love them?,’ she asked.
‘My little baby girl should be in my arms. She should be safe and warm nestled near my heart. I should have been able to protect her from this world and its harshness.
‘I should have been able to give up my life so she could have lived. I should have been able to do so much more.’
Rachael ‘celebrated’ International Bereaved Mother’s Day last Sunday – a ‘club’ she has been forced into but doesn’t ‘want to be a part of’.
‘I should never have watched Mackenzie take her last breath or heard those words from the doctor that she was gone,’ she said.
‘I should not have had to clean her body after she died. To have to learn to live without her.’
While she has been somewhat coping, Rachael said that recently she has felt ‘lost’ without her baby girl.
‘I feel empty and disconnected,’ she said. ‘I think about her every day but I haven’t felt her with me for a while.
‘It is a whole new level of grief.’
Since Mackenzie’s death, Rachael and Jonny have endured six gruelling rounds of IVF in a bid to give Mackenzie siblings.
As well as miscarriages, they have had to say goodbye to another little girl at four months pregnant who had the same genetic disorder as Mackenzie.
‘In some ways Mother’s Day is just another day. I don’t miss her any more or less on this day but what I lost is rubbed in my face through no fault of anyone’s,’ Rachael said.
Last Mother’s Day, Rachael recalled her ‘beautiful’ husband Jonny ‘organised a simple card from Mackenzie’.
‘He used his left hand and a red colouring in pencil to write the card as though it was from her. He told me he sat in front of one of Mackenzie’s favourite spots and tried to write what she told him.’
Rachael concluded by saying she ‘hopes everyone has a beautiful Mother’s Day, really I do’.
‘Amongst our pain we still want to recognise the beautiful mums out there, including our own. But I will find it hard.
‘I wish so many things but only one of my wishes matters and it is the one I can never have or fulfill… I love you my sweet princess. Always have, always will.’