pregnancy

'After the loss of my baby, I learnt there’s a right and a wrong way to talk about stillbirth.'

This post deals with stillbirth and might be triggering for some readers. 

Earlier this year, when my husband Martin and I found out we were expecting our second child, we were overjoyed.

I was 42, and we felt so lucky to fall pregnant. So smug. I thought, here we are falling pregnant during COVID-19 – I’ll be able to go into hiding and just sit on the couch and come out of this with a baby boy. 

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

We didn’t tell anyone except family at the 11-week mark. We were so excited. 

You get to 12 weeks and think it’s all smooth sailing, but it wasn’t for us. We lost our precious son Woody halfway through.

We need to talk about stillbirth and miscarriage because it happens, and it’s a terrible loss that needs to be grieved, validated and supported to enable the families to recover.

I guess it’s an ugly topic, one that we’ve been told in previous generations should be kept quiet – but we know better now. We know that families need support, and the little babies need to be celebrated too for their short but beautiful lives.

We went into our 19-week scan with no idea that our world was about to crumble. At that point you’re actually not just finding out that the baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes. You’re finding out way more. 

For us it was really bad news, and it caused a chain of devastation. Our baby had passed away. I gave birth to Woody on June 24 at about 8pm. It was the most horrifying and devastating experience of my life, and while there was so much beauty in meeting our son Woody, the devastation of holding a stillborn baby sits with me every day.

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When I went public on Facebook and Instagram with the news, I was initially quiet about how many weeks along I was and the facts of Woody’s illness, because I thought it shouldn’t determine whether people allow you to grieve or not. 

The worst question I got was, "How far along were you?"

I feel that sometimes when you say you were six, 12, or 20 weeks along, that’s when people kind of say to you – ah well, you weren’t that far along – you’ll be alright.

No matter how "far along" you are, you have all of the same dreams for that baby – you went through all of the tiredness, stress, thinking about that baby while you were growing him or her, not to mention the months or years of heartache in trying to get pregnant in the first place.  

I’d really love people to stop asking this hurtful question. If people have a miscarriage or stillbirth, just offer support. Just say, "Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m here for you. That must be really hard for you."

Validation is important for a grieving mother who never had a chance to hold her breathing baby – her grief is real, and the most helpful comments were from people who just validated my grief with simple words such as, "I’m so sorry, you have been through so much."

Other direct questions such as 'what happened?' or statements like 'it’s for the best', or 'sometimes it’s God’s way of saying it wasn’t right', should be avoided. 

Listen to This Glorious Mess, where we speak to Tahyna MacManus about the misunderstandings of miscarriage. Post continues below.

Allow the family space to reveal what they want to. Offer no-strings-attached support, and perhaps say, "Do you want to tell me about your baby?" This might be a way of allowing someone to share the information they want to share without feeling like their grief is being measured, or invalidated.

We had so much support from people who said that. If you hear about someone going through it, talk about it.

We all want our babies and pregnancies to be straightforward, but sadly it’s not always the way. The stillbirth, or miscarriage, will impact Marty and I forever. If we try for another child, it will be hard not to have this huge fear and anxiety. If we don’t try, Woody will be our last baby, and that is devastating as well.

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We smile because we can and we have to go on – but we also need support going forward, because the loss of our baby is always with us.

My message, and why I wanted to go public, was because I couldn’t get back to being myself and smiling if I didn’t share this. I couldn’t act like everything was ok, because it wasn’t. And also because I felt like I was the only person who’d ever gone through this.

Knowing now that it’s happened to so many other people has helped us accept it, I suppose.

We had a beautiful farewell ceremony done via Zoom with all our family honouring Woody, and we’ve got his ashes here at home. We didn’t just want to say, 'That happened, now let’s forget about it.' He’s our baby, and we gave him as much honour as we could.

I returned straight back into motherhood with our son Ike, who is two. He’s amazing; he will know about his brother as life goes on.

It’s been some months now since losing Woody and overall, we are going well as can be expected. I guess there’s a sadness that hangs over us at all times, but also allows us lots of space to be happy and enjoy our two-year-old. 

We wish things were different, and that Woody was here, and Ike was his big brother, but we have accepted that we had Woody for a very short time - but the time we had him was beautiful.

Musician Amber Lawrence has just released a new kids' album, The Kid’s Gone Country II – Fun for All the FamilyIt’s the third instalment in her catalogue of children’s music full of fun and catchy tunes about country life, animals, adventurous and sometimes mischievous children, inner beauty, fun in the sun, dirt, drought, and plenty more. Her son Ike was the inspiration for many of the songs.

Feature Image: Getty.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

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