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To an angel

By March 19, 2017Motherhood11 min read
Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

This morning I feel something. I feel something different that I’ve never felt before. I really really miss my toddler. Like really. So much that it hurts. He’s 2 and a half now, the age where you generally want to get away from the little brats as often as possible, because, lets face it 2 and a half year olds are a pain in the bum. As cute and funny as they are at this age, it’s full on. Everyone tells you it gets easier, and it really does, but it also becomes more challenging in terms of the little human learning to talk and getting an attitude and a personality and a “No Mom I said the blue bowl, not the GREEN!!!” { Throws blue bowl along with supper across the room }

He slept at his Grandparents last night as I attended the annual Midwifery and Birth Conference yesterday and I knew I’d be pretty exhausted today. My partner left at 4.30am this morning to ride a 100km bicycle race in Paarl, which meant if my boy stayed with me, we’d probably all be up at 4.30am and I really needed to sleep in this morning (by sleep in I mean until at least 7am). He’s also been begging to visit “Ganny and Ganpa” all week as he wanted to make “dino-kor cucakes” which translates to dinosaur cupcakes with his Aunty Kristin. See pic below which they whatsapp’d me yesterday while I was in conference! Those are the dinosaur eggs!

Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

So why am I missing my toddler so much today?

18 months ago I attended my first Midwifery conference to speak about my own birth experience. It was a very healing experience for me, to talk in front of over 100 women, mostly birth workers like midwives and doulas, but also other mothers. I knew they would understand my words and hold the space that I needed to be heard and understood. And that’s what we all crave really, we just want to be heard and understood. Don’t tell us what to do or how to do it, just LISTEN to our words, nod and go “mmmmm”… it’s all we need.

There were many other woman that spoke that day, 1 in particular who touched the very core of my soul. Jane Fraser. Dear Jane Fraser. I wept for her so much that day. Her talk was entitled ‘from tragedy to triumph’ and she told the extremely heartbreaking story of how she lost her 1st baby girl who was born at just 25 weeks. As she told her story, the whole audience felt her pain. We felt it deep within our bones, like it was our experience too. As she spoke her words, she stood strong, but her pain overflowed from her body, it was like she had tiny little roots coming out of her feet, rooting her to the ground she stood on and as she spoke, her roots grew longer and wider and started to grab a hold of each one of the women sitting there, bringing us closer to her. Her story became a part of us, her pain became a shared pain. She went on to talk about her 3 sons that were born after that and how healing those births were for her, especially her last birth, the unassisted home birth of Nathaniel.

I remember thinking that she must be the strongest and bravest person I know.

Jane was a babywearing mama. That’s one thing that stood out to me, as I was just a couple months into Ubuntu Baba. She had an African Baby Carrier and her baby boy Nathaniel was with her at the conference and he was just beautiful. Like angel beautiful. He had the biggest eyes and fiery orange hair with porcelain white skin. Really just one of those children you can’t stop staring at. I never touched this little boy, but he touched my life.

When I arrived at the conference yesterday morning, I was late (as per usual) and I rushed in to find a circle of around 100 women all standing and holding hands. I quickly found a spot and joined them. Gayle Friedman was guiding the circle in a morning stretch and breath routine and just warming us all up to the space and to each other. I wondered at that moment if Jane was there and how she was doing. I hoped that she had experienced more healing and joy in her life.

Gayle asked us to just close our eyes and breath in beautiful pink warm light. Someone in the circle started humming a tune and Gayle confirmed her humming by saying “yes, that’s beautiful, keep doing that”, then one by one all the women in the circle started to hum in tune and it created this really beautiful sound throughout the hall. I’ve never experienced anything like that before, it was really moving to be holding hands with so many women in this circle and to be humming in unison. The tune had a sadness to it, but it was beautiful. I think most of us were very overwhelmed with emotion over how naturally that had happened and how loved we all felt afterwards. I’m 34 years old, why is this the first time I’ve ever done this? I thought to myself. That was so simple and it gave me so much. I was so thankful for that moment.

The day went on and I kept wondering about Jane. I hadn’t seen her yet. In the lunch break I saw my midwife and went to give her a big hug and have a quick catch up. I asked her about Jane. I don’t even know how to begin to explain what came next. I don’t even know how to say it. Jane was not there yesterday. I learned that her beautiful little Nathaniel had tragically drowned 2 months ago. I almost didn’t believe what I was hearing. I could see this was difficult for her to talk about as much as it was difficult for me to hear. She told me she was going to go and take a quiet moment outside and we parted ways.

I didn’t know what to do with this information. It’s like it was just hovering above me and I couldn’t quite take it into my existence. It couldn’t be. How could? She can’t go through anymore than she already has? How can she? No. WHAT?

After our lunch break we headed to our workshops and I was part of a group headed up by the beautiful soul that is Ruth Ehrhardt. I tried to block out what I had just heard and continue with the day, but I was really struggling to be present. There were 12 of us in the room and again we sat in a circle. Ruth started off the circle asking us to introduce ourselves so we could all get to know each other a little better. She then asked us to share something with the group that wasn’t allowing us to stay present in this moment. The circle started on the other side of the room and everyone started sharing their pains. In one way or another we could all relate to what each other shared and it really helped us to become more connected. It came to my turn and I couldn’t hold it back, I had to share what I had just found out, and as I said the words out loud, I understood that it was true. The tears came flooding and everyone felt her pain. We held Jane and her baby boy in our circle for a few moments, with acceptance for what had happened, and love.

I thought about Jane all day, all night. I just wanted to come home and hold my little boy in my arms and never let him go. He wasn’t here, but that wasn’t permanent. I knew I would see him the next day, today.

I found out that Jane has been blogging about her experience and her story has touched many many lives over the last 2 months. I sat up late last night reading her blog posts, one by one since that fateful day. Her one blog post is called “Of Rome and Crows” and she talks about how she and her family visited Rome in November last year with little Natey, how he marveled at the beauty of St Peter’s Basilica, and the significance of how many crows she saw in a place so filled with ‘angels’. Her post goes on to describe how many crows she saw following on from there, when back home. She mentions a time when in a meeting at work and a big crow appeared in a skylight window and started knocking on the glass and just kept on and on. She said it was like nobody else noticed it except her, and she found it a bit weird and eerie at the time.

On Jane’s last day with Natey, she took him to the World of Birds in Hout Bay and reading her words about the events of this day are really haunting:

At one point as we walked through one of the bottom cages (the herons I think?), there was a bush-lined fence blocking the cage to our right. The top had some open space. A large crow suddenly caw’ed loudly and pecked at the fence in our direction. We squealed and got a fright. My sister said “That’s a bad omen” and then had to explain what that meant to her son… Afterwards she said ‘I don’t know why I said that??”. We didn’t think much of it and just continued our visit.

Nathaniel drowned that evening. To understand why I bring up this paragraph and the significance of crows in Jane’s story, you would need to read her full post here.

After trying to process all of this information and waking up this morning to an empty house, without my baby boy, and just feeling in utter shock for what Jane has had to endure in one lifetime, I felt a wave of paranoia sweep through me. I sent a message to my parents on WhatsApp at 7.17am.

Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

The fact that my Dad chose to reference “2 hawks in the sky” in his message gave me the reassurance I needed.

Towards the end of the day yesterday, I learnt that they had dedicated this year’s conference to Nathaniel. I went to visit the Midwifery & Birth Conference Facebook page this morning and saw the dedication on their wall. The poem they chose to post at the end, May the longtime sun… happens to be one I say every morning in my kundalini meditation practice. So fitting and so beautiful. I have no other words, just a wish for more healing and love in this world.

Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

Shannon McLaughlin

Shannon is the Founder of Ubuntu Baba baby carriers. She is passionate about helping new parents adjust to 'life with baby' through the art of babywearing and talking about the reality of motherhood in the 21st century.


  • Pia says:

    Not a day goes by… :'(

  • Melissa Jacobs says:

    Beautiful post Shannon. Thank you for acknowledging Jane in that circle… we all were holding her and Natey so close to our hearts this weekend.

  • Jane Fraser says:

    Thank-you Shannon for writing this and for your thought and caring. Nathaniel was a special child right form the start. he had some kind of special lightness of being that just shone and everyone who knew, saw, or even knew of him has somehow been touched and affected by him. He was the most precious loved and loving, adored and adoring soul.

    On some deeper level I feel like he was just on loan to us and that somehow the resonance he had with the cathedrals in Rome was not a coincidence (and I am not religious at all). But as a mother and mere mortal here on earth it is devastatingly difficult to come to terms with my gorgeous healing circle of life cherub baby boy just suddenly being gone, when he was such a joy to us and so adored by us all.

    In Andrew’s words he was our SUN and we all revolved around him. Now we are adrift.

    Enjoy every moment with your beautiful crazy, loving, annoying, fun, tiring, sweet, grubby, perfect 2.5 year old.

  • Euline says:

    I remember reading this story on Facebook after it happened and this story definitely touched my heart as well, I was so sad and immediately paranoid as we have a large pool in our yard, my son is not walking yet but it will definitely be a concern as soon as he does. My heart goes out to Jane and her family, such a devastating loss :'(

  • Pauline says:

    In tears at work too – want to run home and hug my babies. This life is so short and can change so suddenly. xxx

  • Benita says:

    In tears at work now – the second time I am crying at this woman’s story. Just awful!

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