Trigger warning: This post contains discussion of stillbirth and may be distressing to some readers.
At 35-weeks-pregnant, Bree Amer Wilkes noticed something about her baby’s movements had changed.
They were far less frequent. Coupled with the fact she’d noticed her bump was hardly growing from 30 weeks on, this had the first-time mum-to-be concerned.
At 37-weeks, she went to her obstetrician, who had a quick check of her unborn son Archie’s heartbeat and sent her home, telling Bree her he was fine.
Archie wasn’t fine. The next morning, 12 April 2015, Bree awoke knowing something was wrong.
“As soon as I opened eyes I just knew something wasn’t right. I literally felt sick. When I moved, I didn’t feel him move,” the Sydney mother said.
“That day I had my baby shower and so I went to this lunch and I was sitting there and the whole time I was worried because I still hadn’t felt him move.”
Later that day, she and her husband Evan went to hospital, where an ultrasound confirmed their son had died.
“It didn’t really hit me that there was a problem until I looked at Bree and she was crying and the midwife was clearly concerned and then all of a sudden I realised there was no heartbeat,” Evan said.
“I think your world just stops turning,” Bree said. “In that moment all these hopes and dreams you had for your future just come crashing down.”
Bree and Evan, who are ambassadors for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia. have shared the story of the tragic loss of their son Archie in a video on the charity’s website which aims to promote awareness this kind of heartbreaking pregnancy loss.
Listen: Sometimes, it’s beneficial to structure our grief. (Post continues…)
Sadly, their story is all too common. Six babies are stillborn in Australia every day.
“The rate of stillbirth hasn’t changed in over two decades because there’s just not enough research and funding that goes to such a big issue, and can affect anyone,” she said.
“With more research and funding and education as what to look for, this can change.”
Bree, who is a former contestant of Big Brother and now works as a TV producer, told the Daily Mail what makes the loss of her son Archie all the more painful, is that it could have been prevented.
“The hardest part to deal with was knowing Archie’s death was completely preventable – I had all the warning signs but they were all ignored,” she told the publication.
Those warning signs included that she noticed her bump had stopped growing.
“I noticed I was not getting any bigger. I had a lot of people commenting on how small I looked,” she said.
“I thought maybe I was tall or I had a long torso. When I expressed my concerns to the doctor, he assured me I was a good size.”
What had actually happened was her placenta had filled with blood clots, which prevented nutrients from making their way to her son and prevented him from growing.
The couple, who have since welcomed son Hunter, now nine-months-old, said they hope sharing their story encourages other expectant parents to speak up at their doctor’s office.
“For pregnant mums, pay attention to your baby’s movements. If you think something isn’t right, you need to fight like a bulldog to be heard,” she told the Daily Mail.
“Unfortunately, we’re passed off as “paranoid mums”, especially first-time mothers. At the end of the day, only mums knows best.”
“My biggest regret was I didn’t fight harder. Doctors reassure you that you’re okay. But if your gut is telling you it’s not right, make sure you’re heard.”
And for all the women experiencing similar circumstances, she said it’s incredibly hard, but it does get better.
You can learn more and seek support from Stillbirth Foundation Australia. You can also phone SANDS’ support line on 1300 072 637.