This article deals with an account of infant loss that could be triggering for some readers.
It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but it’s absolutely vital that we do. Premature babies who don’t make it, or end up with a disability, simply because they weren’t in the womb long enough.
Retired Wallabies and NSW Waratahs player, Dean Mumm, and his wife Sarah, have been to hell and back. Dean and Sarah lost their daughter Sophie, son Henry, and twin girls Ella and Grace due to issues arising from preterm birth.
After unfathomable loss, Dean and Sarah are sharing their story in the hope preterm birth is something we can talk about – so scientists can help prevent other families from going through the same anguish.
“There is nothing more harrowing or deafening than the sound of silence after you’ve given birth,” says Sarah.
“Instead of hearing your baby’s first cry, silence engulfs the whole room. I gave birth to my daughter Sophie preterm and she didn’t survive the labour.
“Dean and I had been married about four or five months when we fell pregnant. It was my first pregnancy, and everything had been going well. We’d just had the 20-week scan and we were so excited to become first-time parents. But at 21 weeks, my waters broke. I’d been getting stomach cramps and I called Dean with the panicked realisation we might lose our baby.
“I rushed to hospital and I had indeed gone into labour. It was all such a blur but I was so scared. We were only supposed to be halfway through the pregnancy.”
Sarah was diagnosed with ‘cervical weakness’, which means the cervix is prone to shortening and is unable to retain a pregnancy, which can cause miscarriage or preterm birth.
“Afterwards, you see babies and prams everywhere,” Dean remembers. “There’s not a moment when you’re not thinking about your loss. It’s utterly confronting.”
Dean and Sarah said talking about it brought about its own difficulties as people struggled to react to such tragic news.
“Afterwards, all you want is for someone to ask you what your child’s name is,” explains Sarah. “Sophie was our daughter and I love saying her name.”
After the loss of Sophie, the couple fell pregnant again around six months later. This time, Sarah was closely monitored by obstetricians.
“I didn’t know what anxiety was until I was pregnant for the second time,” she says. “The pregnancy had been tough because the anxiety is immense. I was living in fear every single day that my waters would break.”
28 weeks was one of the pregnancy milestones Sarah and Dean were working towards. However, at exactly 28 weeks, Sarah suffered from a placental bleed, and was once again rushed to hospital.