Emily’s big idea buzzed around for a while then she went for it, with a very tragic outcome...
Plonking the hat on my bonce, I adjusted it carefully to cover any bare bits of skin.
Finally, tucking in every piece of flapping clothing, I was ready.
Resembling an extra in a line-up of aliens from Star Wars,
I strode into the garden.
The kids, who were happily playing, didn’t bat an eyelid. ‘OK?’ I asked.
A chorus of ‘Yes, Mummy’ came from my three kids.
They may not have taken any notice of my peculiar protective garb, but when I’d first started parading around the garden in it, I’d raised a few eyebrows with the neighbours.
But this was my uniform.
I was a beekeeper – I ran Mueller Honey Bee and Rescue from my home. I’d had the idea to keep bees after I suffered three miscarriages, losing the babies at eight weeks.
I had a child from a previous marriage, Cadyn, 10, and two with my husband, Ryan, 37
– Madelynn, three, and Westyn, almost two.
But we were keen to add to our brood.
Wanting something to take my mind off the pain of our losses, the idea of bees had winged its way to me. After all, I had relatives who were beekeepers.
‘Bees represent the beginning of new life,’ I’d told Ryan.
‘I can’t understand why people are so frightened of them.’
The hives they create are fascinating and they’re so important in pollinating local plantlife.
And that’s how I found myself with hives dotted around my garden. It was a bee sanctuary. If an unwelcome swarm had set up home in someone’s shed or chimney then I was the person they’d call. I’d rescue the colony, sometimes rehoming it in my garden.
There could be 50,000 bees in a colony, all doting on the queen bee.
They were docile creatures, really. Of course, sometimes I got stung, but I’d never had any sort of reaction.
‘I do this, other people do yoga,’ I told Ryan, a heating and cooling technician.
‘You’re my queen bee,’ he grinned.
The kids got involved too – they’d scoop honey into jars. We’d then sell them at markets. It was a real family thing.
And we kept on trying to grow that family.
Finally, luck was on our side… By August 2017, I was pregnant again, and this time I’d made it to 26 weeks!
Hope was swelling with the thriving baby in my womb.
‘How is my little bee doing in there?’ asked Ryan.
‘Doing cartwheels and craving beetroot salad,’ I laughed.
We’d decided not to find out the sex, but when we’d gone for a scan, the nurse had popped the gender reveal in with our scan photo inside an envelope.
So the option to find out was always there.
We couldn’t wait for our little bumble bee to join our crazy hive.
Mindful of my previous miscarriages, I was excited, yet fearful.
‘Shall we have a listen to it?’
I said. We’d got a home Doppler, so we could hear the baby’s heartbeat. I ran the monitor over my belly. Thump, thump, thump…
‘I want to do something to celebrate this amazing thing that’s happening,’ I told Ryan.
‘I’d like to do a maternity photoshoot using the bees.’
‘Speak to the doctor first, though,’ he suggested.
At my next appointment, I mentioned my idea. ‘I don’t react to bee stings,’ I assured the doctor.
And they told me a bee sting couldn’t hurt a foetus, so I spoke to my friend and photographer, Kendrah Damis, who agreed to be my snapper.
At 34 weeks pregnant, I slowly extracted a queen bee from a hive I’d rescued from a nearby park. In my
garden in New Franklin, Ohio, I gently held her in my hand. Soon enough, 20,000 bees followed their queen and settled on my bump covered in just a flowing white dress. I felt calm, relaxed, and Kendrah snapped away. ‘Ouch,’ I said, suddenly. One of the little blighters had stung my left arm and right leg. ‘Ouch,’ again.
This time on my butt – I’d accidentally sat on a bee!
But other than that, it was the most amazing experience…
Afterwards, with the bees safely back in the hive, I was so pleased with the photos. ‘Beautiful,’ I smiled.
But not everyone felt the same. Kendrah shared the photos on Facebook, and that smoked out some haters.
People posting that I ‘could’ve gone into anaphylactic shock and harmed myself and the baby’.
One wrote, What the F, my skin is crawling.
‘They don’t understand,’ I told Ryan, shaking my head.
I decided to forget about it.
I was now coming up to 39 weeks pregnant, with a busy day selling honey at a local indoor market. I realised I hadn’t felt the baby move in a while.
Back home that afternoon, I tried all the old tricks to get it going.
I gulped down an ice cold sugary drink.
Normally when I went to bed, the baby would do somersaults. Tonight there was nothing.
But then pains coursed through my tummy.
‘I might be in labour,’ I whispered to Ryan. Maybe that was why I wasn’t feeling the baby – things were on the move!
‘Try the Doppler,’ Ryan said. So we ran it over my tummy. The heart rate was slow. It didn’t feel right, so we decided to go to hospital, just to check things over. The children came with us as we drove in nervous silence.
When we arrived, I was taken straight for an ultrasound.
I stared at the screen, praying and hoping.
But one look at the nurse’s face told me our perfect world was about to come crashing down
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said. ‘There’s no heartbeat.’
Our baby was gone.
‘No!’ I screamed. ‘There must be some mistake.’
But there wasn’t. Turns out that when we’d tried the Doppler at home, we’d been listening to
Me and Ryan clung together, heartbroken.
I’d need to go back to be induced, but for now, we could go home. And there, we sat on our bed, sobbing.
‘I need to know what our baby is,’ I wept. So we got the envelope that the nurse had sealed at our 20-week scan. Opening it, a tear fell on to the photo.
‘Baby boy Emersyn,’ I choked. I’d told her the name we’d chosen for a boy, and she’d written it down. Our son…
We had a precious few more days with him, then when I was 39 weeks and one day, I was induced.
Emersyn was born a perfect 7lb 1oz, but silent and still.
‘Hi, beautiful,’ I sobbed. ‘You were so loved.’ We had his hand and footprints made – it was all we could have of our son. We had his placenta tested, to try to find out why he’d died.
I knew some of the haters after my photoshoot would say this was my fault, after being stung.
Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Tests showed our precious boy had had a blood-clotting problem. Doctors confirmed the bee stings were nothing to do with it. In fact, bee stings are an anticoagulant – they stop blood clotting.
‘He maybe lived longer because I was stung,’ I thought.
When Emersyn was cremated, he wore an all-in-one with bees on and was wrapped in a blanket with the beautiful insects on, too. ‘Fly high,’ I whispered.
We kept his ashes on the fireplace, wanting him to be part of our family always. But my heart ached for another baby. Not a replacement, but hope…
And it wasn’t long before I fell pregnant again. I was so anxious, but I took aspirin and bloodthinning injections every day.
‘Everything will be fine,’ Ryan kept saying. I tried to stay positive. And of course, I carried on handling my bees.
As my pregnancy moved along, I kept thinking about how the bees represented new life. Emersyn hadn’t been harmed by them. And I wanted to show the world that.
‘I want to do another shoot with them,’ I said. Ryan nodded.
I called Kendrah again. This time, I had the idea of being like a queen bee myself. With a lot of gold paint and a beaded necklace, I became Cleopatra for the day. ‘This will be in memory and honour of Emersyn,’ I said. So, on the day, I painted myself as a gold Egyptian goddess and put on a head cap. I attached the queen bee to it, and then the 16,000 bees flocked on to my head and chest. It was exhilarating and calming . ‘Oooh!’ I cried. I’d been stung in my left eye. But it just went red and swelled a little.
I even posed with a python we’d hired around my belly and a bird on my finger. I didn’t care what people wrote online. I knew these creatures were a symbol of hope – a tribute to Emersyn.
And 11 months after we lost him, his beautiful brother, Rowyn, was born, weighing 7lb. ‘You’ll know all about him,’ I whispered. ‘Thank you for giving us so much love and hope.’ He’s three months old now and is just incredible. Of course, we think about Emersyn every day and miss him dreadfully.
But Rowyn has allowed us all to bee so happy again.
Creating a buzz as Cleopatra
Shedding away wild stereotypes What a beautiful insect! Ryan, me and Rowyn I’m not the only queen bee in my household...
Our family tribute to Emersyn, on the right