31 Jul 2020

E5: Ralph

From The Unthinkable, 7:00 am on 31 July 2020

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Almost exactly a year after Kate Gudsell and Sam Arcus lost their baby Wren, they were preparing to welcome their second daughter, Frida.

Two weeks before the surgery date, they were told Frida was actually a boy.

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Photo: Supplied

"I was really upset," said Kate, "It sounds ridiculous, but for the last four and a half months, we'd been calling her Frida and I'd developed some kind of relationship with her. That really helped me deal with the loss of Wren."

The birth experience was completely different to Wren's arrival into the world.

This time around, Kate opted for a caesarean section.

"I can't help but draw a comparison to a butcher, which is horrible," jokes Kate, "I thought it would be cosier."

Neither Kate nor Sam could relax until they heard their new baby wail, because when Wren came out she didn't make a sound.

"When he screamed both midwives burst into tears," said Sam.

They called him Ralph.

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Kate, Sam and Ralph were home in time for Wren's birthday. It was both sad and bittersweet.

 "I remember being exhausted and so happy that we had our little baby home, but sad because we should have two babies with us. And relieved we had him," said Kate

She the anniversary would have been awful without Ralph.

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

The reality of being a parent has been challenging. "It took me a long time for it to become real," said Sam.

The other thing Kate describes as "freaky" was that Ralph asleep looked exactly like Wren in her little woven basket just before she was cremated.

"It was nice, but it was also so heartbreaking," said Sam, "I had to push him to make him move because I couldn't see him still like that."

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Ralph is a toddler now. He plays with his toy digger by Wren's sign in the garden and talks to the kereru in the big tree.

They also have another daughter. They have their Frida.

The way Kate and Sam parent Ralph is heavily influenced by their experience with Wren.

"It has fundamentally changed how we see things," said Sam. 

Kate said she's in fear of so many things and really has to keep herself in check.

"There's just a world of possibilities, of terrible things happening to them. It's like, how do you not let that overwhelm you?"

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Kate and Sam have opened up about their experiences so other families who experience the death of a baby won't feel so alone. And to maybe change some old-fashioned views.

"Some people just think, it's just a baby, you can have another one," said Kate, "It's not just a baby. It was a person, it was part of your family."

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone


To Kate and Sam: Thank you for being so brave and for sharing the indelible legacy of your daughter, Wren Sarah Thunderstorm Arcus.


If you need to talk, free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor.

For other support:

Wheturangitia - https://wheturangitia.services.govt.nz/

Sands - http://www.sands.org.nz/

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