By Hagar Cohen and Alex McClintock
More than 2,000 babies are delivered still in Australia every year, but stillbirth is still a taboo topic. These parents want to share their stories to raise awareness.
“You don’t know how to handle outliving your own child. Not many people realise how common it is or what people go through. Because many people experience it in silence, society doesn’t know how to deal with the death of a child.” –Debbie.
Debbie and Minh’s daughter Zoe was stillborn at 41 weeks and one day. It had been an uneventful pregnancy.
“On the Sunday, four days away from being induced, we were at church and it was hard for me to stand up,” Debbie said.
“I thought maybe my feet were too swollen. My obstetrician has advised that if your feet are swollen, go to the hospital or come into the clinic to get your blood pressure checked.
“We went to the hospital thinking it would be a straightforward check up, but sadly we were given the news that turned our world upside down: Zoe had passed away.”
The couple chose to spend an extra day in hospital with Zoe, and were provided with a cuddle cot — a refrigerated bassinet — which they say helped them with the grieving process.
“Zoe was at 41 weeks, so she was fully developed,” Minh said.
“She was born perfect, cute, but sadly sleeping. We chose to use the cuddle cot so that we and our families could spend as much time as we could with our little girl.”
The circumstances of Zoe’s birth were was a shock to the couple. They would like to see more information available to expectant parents about stillbirth, and an end to the silence and stigma surrounding it.
“To me it’s just surprising that the still birth rate hasn’t reduced,” Minh said.
“We’ve managed to reduce the rate of SIDS, so why can’t we reduce the rate of stillbirth? To me there seems like there is still a lot of research that needs to be supported into stillbirth in Australia.”
“We went into survival mode. It wasn’t until later that I really sat down and thought about it. I think about it a lot now. I wouldn’t be so trusting, I’d be voicing all my concerns a lot louder”. -Kate.
Kate Pizzey considered herself lucky when she became pregnant at the age of 40 through IVF.
But late in her third trimester she began to feel uneasy. She went into her 37 week appointment with her obstetrician expecting that feeling to be resolved, and told the doctor she had noticed her baby slowing down. He told her that was normal.
“I left the room and I felt I wanted to get back to the room, but I thought, well, what will I say? I told them everything I know, I can’t really tell them that I have a strange feeling,” she said.
“I couldn’t explain it. I just had an uneasy feeling.”
What Kate hadn’t been told is that decreased foetal movement (DFM) late in pregnancy is a warning sign for stillbirth. A few days later she woke in the middle of the night.