By DANIEL HOWES
I’ll never forget July 5th, 2012. My wife, Michelle, was 35 weeks pregnant with our first child and we were both excited about what the coming weeks would hold. Suddenly, she began experiencing irregular contraction-like pains. As we drove to the hospital we wondered if the baby was going to arrive early. Michelle had been for a few scans so she thought something was wrong, but I had no idea what was coming until a few minutes later when the doctor told me: “I’m really sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat”. With that, our lives were inexplicably changed.
It’s difficult to adequately express the emotions that followed. Shock, disbelief, fear, emptiness and pain; plenty of pain, but perhaps more than anything else we felt a desperate helplessness. We couldn’t help but think that stillbirth shouldn’t be still be happening in 2012, not to us, not to our baby.
After the most sleepless night of my life, we were encouraged to induce a natural labour, to name our baby, spend time with him/her, to take photos and so on. At first I recoiled at the thought of doing these things but as the day wore on, it made more and more sense to me – this was our child after all. And so after the rigours of labour, our beautiful baby girl, Tricia Hope was born sleeping just after 5:30pm. She was perfectly formed and incredibly cute. We hugged her, kissed her and told her we loved her, but despite our despairing, she still had no heartbeat.
We spent several days in hospital with Tricia after she was born, bringing her from the morgue to meet visiting friends and family. Although ultimately we had to leave her at the hospital, she still lives on in our hearts. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about her and the events of July 2012. Tricia was 2.15kg at birth and for that reason I am running in the City2Surf this year carrying that same weight on my back. I hope to demonstrate that a stillborn baby is still someone’s child and that their memory remains with their parents always.
Tragically, six babies are stillborn in Australia every day, with many of their deaths remaining unexplained.
Indeed, despite sending Tricia for a post-mortem autopsy, her death still remains a mystery to us. It frustrates me that the number of stillbirths has not changed for decades. This is why I am raising money for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia to fund vital research into the causes. I hope to save other families from having to experience the pain of losing your baby like we did. Michelle and I now have a second daughter, Alysia, and on Sunday I’ll be proud to carry Tricia Hope’s weight on my back to meet her and her mum at the finish line.
Daniel Howes is running the City2Surf this year – you can donate to his campaign here.
The Stillbirth Foundation Australia operates to reduce the incidence of stillbirth by funding and encouraging research into stillbirth, and increasing public awareness of stillbirth. You can find out more about the valuable work they do here.