pregnancy

"He would be four months old." When Mother's Day comes with a unique kind of grief.

Trigger warning: This story discusses the loss of a baby who was stillborn. It contains images of the deceased child and will be disturbing for many readers. If you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637 for support. 

I have vivid memories of Mother’s Day from my childhood. The time my sister and I spent on handcrafting cards and dividing up duties to make our loved one feel special; how I became the self-dubbed ‘head chef’ of pancakes and poorly-made cups of tea and the struggle to find the perfect gift to tell her how much we loved her.

At the time, I thought nothing of it, but after becoming a mother, I realise how much these gestures are truly appreciated.

In the lead up to Mother’s Day, we are bombarded with advertisements for chocolates, magazine subscriptions and beauty vouchers, of the perfect bunch of flowers and high tea luncheons. It is hard to ignore the picture perfect families they feature, however the reality for many, myself included, is much different.

From the outside, we are a family of three – a husband, wife and their toddler son. I am often asked the question: when will you have another? It is an innocent enough request, to those who have not experienced loss, but they do not know how my throat closes up and my heart aches before I answer “one day”.

You see, my son does have a sibling, a baby brother born in January. He would be four months old if he had lived. At 25 weeks pregnant, we were given the devastating news he had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, meaning a hole in his diaphragm had allowed his organs, including his intestines, bowel and liver, into his chest. He also had a genetic anomaly. We were told he had a 25 per cent chance of surviving – odds he sadly did not beat. He was born sleeping at almost 30 weeks gestation and filled our hearts with love and grief all at once.

Our lives imploded the day he died and every day since has been a struggle to adjust to life without him. Milestones including his due date and now Mother’s Day, have brought with them a range of conflicting emotions including fear, anger and sadness. When I picture special occasions, I see the four of us laughing, of my two boys playing together, fighting over toys and playing catch. My life will always be filled with moments of wondering what could have been – would our youngest have looked like his brother? Would he also be obsessed with balls and drawing? What would he do when he grew up?

ADVERTISEMENT

I know I am far from alone in feeling this way. Stillbirth Foundation Australia says every day six babies will die in their mother’s womb and be stillborn. We still have so much to learn about why these deaths are occurring, but the important thing is a conversation has been started. I was naïve to think we had passed the ‘danger zone’ at 12 weeks and had no idea the statistics were so staggeringly high.

mother's day grief
Image: Supplied.

Life after loss is hard. There are no words to describe the feeling of going into labour knowing your baby has already died, of leaving the hospital with empty arms and a heavy heart, of packing away the bassinet and clothes you’ve collected for your baby. The love I have for my two sons has helped get me through the darkest of times, but my waking nightmare will never end. As I approach my first Mother’s Day without my youngest, I cling to the dreams I have for him, of the moments we shared while he was in my belly and the hope that one day, we will meet again.

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.

00:00 / ???