The Loss of my Niece

Posted by Crystal Zeeman on

Those joyous words ‘You’re gonna be an Aunty!’ (x3). I had the privilege of being the first to know (other than Crystal and Ryan of course) of the little seed growing in Crystal’s tummy. A seed that was meant to blossom into beautiful flowers yet didn’t have the chance to.

I remember Crystal pulling me aside into the front lounge and excitedly telling me the good news. I was thrilled for her and Ryan for they deserved this joyous milestone especially after previously having a miscarriage and difficulty with their wedding plans due to COVID-19. Crystal told me how she was planning to tell Mum and Dad the exciting news – by giving them a Christmas bauble that said ‘BABY ZEE 2021’. I also had the privilege of being in the first baby bump photo at my formal which we sneakily took as the family looked away.

The third privilege I had was attending a scan with Crystal to confirm the gender. The doctor had trouble finding a definite indication but he was sure it was a girl. As much as I adore the nieces I already have, I must admit I was keen on having a nephew for the first time so I asked him if he was certain. But one thing I can say is I was pleased to know it was a healthy baby girl with a perfectly sounding heartbeat.

I made a playlist for Crystal to play at her baby shower and to relax Crystal throughout her labour. This playlist was never meant for the Whittaker's funeral. Every time Crystal said she was kicking I raced over to feel her little kickboxing feet and listen to her move around and do roly poly’s. Seeing my sister pregnant was such a beautiful and delightful experience. To witness a woman’s body change so drastically to fit a little human inside her is amazing – a type of beauty that nothing could ever match.

I insisted that Crystal played RnB to bub so she would have good taste in music when she was older. I felt a special connection to Whittaker. I felt as if I had been involved with significant parts of her journey so far and that had to have meant something.

Throughout Crystal’s pregnancy, I had a surreal feeling about bub, like it was too good to be true but I never spoke of this feeling because I didn’t want to worry anyone. One day I woke up early enough to see the sunrise and I took a photo of the pink sky and posted it on my Instagram story with the song ‘Bloom’ and for some reason I thought of Whittaker while doing it, like she belonged to the pink sky. Crystal and Ryan chose that song for Whittaker's funeral service.

I remember the day I was at home with my two nieces and my parents. Mum got a call saying Crystal and Ryan were at the hospital. Mum was so excited, expecting her to be in labour early but they said it wasn’t looking good and her face instantly dropped with dread. I held onto the girls as they wondered where grandma was going and Dad tried his best to keep his brave face on.

An hour or so past and Dad received a call. My mind was racing. My heart was pounding. I spoke to the universe and hoped she was ok. Dad came back inside shaking his head and I immediately jumped up and hugged him so tightly. I heard him say the dreaded words ‘there’s no heartbeat’ and tears instantly came gushing out. The girls were confused and we just told them Whittaker’s not ok.

Crystal and Ryan then came back to the house with Mum. I ran outside and gave Crystal the tightest hug we’ve ever had. All I could say was "I’m so sorry".

I lost a part of my sister that day. she’ll never be the same, as I once knew her and that’s ok because that only shows the impact Whittaker left.

The next day I joined Crystal, Ryan, my brother and his partner as we toured Hummingbird House to see if that would be the right fit to lay with Whittaker in state and hold the funeral service. They were set on it as soon as they sat down to discuss options.

Crystal and Ryan were arranging further steps with the hospital and in the meantime Ryan was adamant on getting inked up for his baby angel. I waited with Crystal while Ryan was getting his tattoo. While Crystal and I were out getting cash for Ryan's tattoo, that’s when her contractions started. I frantically drove back to get Ryan and he awkwardly decided to finish off the tat while his wife waited in the car having contractions! Crystal was so calm because she knew how important feeling some pain for Whittaker's name on his arm was for him. I cherish bittersweet moments like that through such devastating circumstances. Even though it wasn’t how I imagined it to be, I was so excited to finally meet my baby angel niece.

After a quick labour, I face timed Crystal and she was glowing. I could tell she was relieved to finally meet her baby girl. The next day, I drove with Dad to Hummingbird House and Crystal walked me through to meet Whittaker. Our little Zeeman buddha. Such a big girl with the classic Mita nose – definitely their ‘little’ baby. It was confronting, the thought of seeing a lifeless baby for the first time, especially my niece but instantly I felt relief. Knowing her family surrounded her with all her teddy bear friends. I’ll never forget her fruity smell and soft, smooth skin. 

I decided to get a tattoo on my forearm of a Hummingbird with her name, so she would never leave my side. I also spent the days we had with Whittaker practicing singing the Maori version of Six60's song ‘Don’t Forget your Roots’ so I could sing it for Whittaker. I wasn’t able to sing it at her funeral which I felt terrible about but when we said our final goodbyes to and sealed her casket, I was able to sing it to her then. I knew that was her wanting only us to hear it.

There have been so many coincidences throughout this journey, it’s almost unbelievable. It’s hard to comprehend death especially of a baby. Why? Why would the universe cause so much pain and grief? Why would the universe take the life of an innocent baby? iIve always seen this as the universe knowing the power of Whittaker’s spirit and therefor welcoming her into our family but keeping her in the universe so she could guide us through the rest of our lives.

Whittaker has given me the strength I couldn’t attain in any other way. Her beautiful spirit lives on though me and all her loved ones.  

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