This year marks my first Father’s Day as a new dad, but it is nothing like I imagined it would be.
Karen and I were eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first child in February and like all expectant parents we were planning and dreaming of our future with ‘our little bump’.
Our pregnancy was a ‘textbook’ and low-risk, and Campbell made his presence felt with vigorous kicks and movement. It was an incredible time for us and full of excitement.
On Valentine’s Day 2016, at 40 weeks and 2 days Karen and I were out at dinner. Karen had gone quiet towards the end of the meal. She had realised that she had not felt any movement for a while.
Our birth plan kicked into action and we headed to the local emergency room to check things out. I was full of confidence that Cam was just having a sleep. However, after a scan the doctor told us that Campbell’s heart had stopped beating. The news was so unexpected and completely blindsided us. There were no warning signs.
The following day our baby boy, Campbell Han was stillborn on 15th February 2016, perfectly formed, weighing 3.9kg and 53cm long. A beautiful big boy.
Instead of starting the new chapter of parenting we became members of a club that no-one wants to be part of. Although we’ve since learnt that Campbell fatally succumbed to an infection in-utero, the circumstances in which it happened were rare and inconclusive.
Like 40% of stillbirth parents, we are left wondering why and how. We were introduced to the Stillbirth Foundation Australia and started learning just how many other babies are stillborn each year, on average 2,190 per year or 6 babies a day.
The figures are on par with that of skin cancer deaths and almost double that of the average national road toll. Stillbirth is also the number one killer for children under the age of one and its rate has not dropped for two decades in Australia.
Stillbirth is not something that any expectant parents plan for. Nor should they.
My running journey started a month after we lost Campbell. I had found a 10km fun run in the local hills district with a nice B&B nearby. A perfect opportunity for Karen and I to get some fresh air and a change of scene. It was a tough 10km resulting in a torn calf muscle, yet I felt better.
Building on the running theme I found the Ross Marathon in Tasmania was to be held on Father’s Day, almost six months away. I needed a goal and something in the future to look forward to, plus Campbell spent his first six months of life in Tasmania. So my training began and I built up from the 10km to a Half Marathon and a 30km Trail Run in preparation for the big marathon event.
Like many fathers suffering the loss of a baby, I focused on supporting my partner, getting back to work and trying to provide stability for the family. Having to travelling extensively for work was an extra challenge during this period, however, when I went for a run it was my time to be with Campbell.
I have had the privilege of doing training runs in four countries – Australia, Laos, Peru and Chile, as well as covering ground in four Australian states - Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Campbell and Karen were with me each time.
With 100km of walking and 750km of running under my belt over the last six months, and altitudes ranging from 0m to 4,000m above sea level, I am ready for my Father’s Day marathon in Ross.
We have lost a much loved son, as well as hopes and dreams of a future with him. Running and fundraising will never bring Campbell back, but it has been a healthy outlet for my deep and profound grief.
Through fundraising on behalf of the Stillbirth Foundation I hope to help break down social taboos on this topic, so that people around us feel comfortable talking about Campbell.
It also gives me hope that by doing my part for Stillbirth Foundation’s research, I can prevent the unnecessary and "ignored" death of another much wanted child.
We hope that one day bereaved parents will not be the sole advocates for stillbirth research and that the public will be just as aware of and educated on stillbirth as they are on road safety or skin cancer. No family should have to experience stillbirth and we want to ensure that research and education in the field continues.
Karen and I plan to keep fun-running with our future children and to incorporate it in our family lifestyle as a way to honour and remember Campbell.
Running the Ross Marathon on my first Father's Day will not be easy, but I have endured worse and will have Cam in my heart to cheer me on.
Andrew’s marathon efforts and progress can be viewed at his fundraising page here.
Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost.