baby

'After my stillbirth, I requested time off work. It was declined.'

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

Amelia* gave birth to a much-longed-for daughter on February 19, 2018; but she never got to meet her alive.

Lily* had been delivered stillborn at only 20 weeks; and her mother left heartbroken.

But not only did Amelia grieve the loss of her daughter, she also had to deal with the expectation from her employer to return to work almost immediately, because her maternity leave policy, in their opinion, didn’t apply.

The situation eventually led Amelia to make a personal submission to the Senate Select Committee, which was established in 2018 to investigate stillbirth research and education, in an attempt by the federal government to reduce the national stillbirth rate – which is six a day, and has remained unchanged for 20 years.

“At my morphology ultrasound, I was informed that my baby girl had severe neural tube defects – also known as Myelomeningocele Spina Bifida,” Amelia explains.

“Lily was a strong, beautiful girl and is my proudest achievement, even if she was only here for a short time.”

Before Lily was unexpectedly stillborn, Amelia had agreed upon a “very generous” maternity leave package with her employer.

“I planned to take 12 months off.

“A substantial amount of that would be paid. I would get 16 weeks’ full salary, and then superannuation for the entire time.”

But that never happened, and instead, Amelia’s maternity leave was cancelled “during the worst week of my life”.

The grieving mother returned to work just five days after cremating her daughter – two weeks after she had given birth.

 

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Today @sandsaustralia hosted events celebrating friendship inviting bereaved parents to come along and bring a friend who has been a great support to them after the loss of their baby . Sands runs many events throughout the year to support families after the death of a baby during pregnancy or in infancy and additionally run a 24 hour national support line for bereaved parents Ph: 1300 072 637 . In October during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Week @sandsaustralia will also be holding national events at which families and their friends can come together to remember and celebrate their babies. This year in South Australia @adelaideoval will be lit up in pink and blue ???????? For a very special walk to remember by the River Torrens ???? . Items for the Adelaide event were generously donated by @jurlique @nepenthewines @tuckersnatural @udderdelightscheese @beerenbergfarm

A post shared by Miles Apart By Annabel Bower (@miles__apart) on

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Amelia says that she, and the company, simply didn’t know how to handle the situation.

“I was not at all clear on what my entitlements were from a maternity leave perspective,” she explains.

“I was under the impression that I was expected to return to work and not take paid leave, aside from sick/personal leave – which I had exhausted.”

Amelia finally decided to request some unpaid leave as Lily’s official due date, July 9, was approaching.

“I requested four weeks’ unpaid leave to take some time out from work, so I could truly focus on coming to terms with my loss and give my mind, body and spirit the best possible chance to heal.

“This was declined.”

Side note – Mamamia’s tribute to the babies we’ve lost and the significance of remembering their names. Post continues after video.

But instinct told Amelia that there had to be some way that parents of stillborn children were entitled to some rights at law. She discovered that she was eligible for unpaid Special Maternity Leave – and told her employer’s Human Resources department.

To Amelia’s astonishment, they had never heard of it.

“I couldn’t believe it.

“Neither the HR team, nor my line manager, indicated that I could take the Paid Parental Leave to cope with my loss because they felt the policy did not apply to me.”

The lack of general recognition of stillbirth by her employer made her realise the issue needed some light shed on it.

“In my employer’s Parental Leave Policy, there is no caveat that the mother (or father) of a stillborn baby is not entitled to any of the leave outlined, but this also means there is ambiguity around what the grieving parent is and isn’t entitled to.”

But Amelia discovered that she was eligible for the Federal Government Paid Parental Leave through Centrelink.

“I satisfied the work test, I satisfied the income test, I satisfied the Australia residency test and finally, I would have been the Lily’s primary carer, had she not been stillborn.”

With this information, and after consulting Stillbirth Foundation Australia, Amelia was finally granted full maternity leave by her employer in June 2018. Her fight for her entitlements showed the company the right thing to do, and they’ve subsequently updated their policies.

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“This is the best possible outcome that I could have wished for,” Amelia says.

“Not only will I be getting time that I need, but future grieving parents will be better supported.”

It’s something which Amelia, who now sits on the consumer advisory board for Still Aware, another charity that aims to prevent stillbirth in Australia, continues to advocate for.

Feeling “lucky”, as she says, to have been surrounded by a network to support her emotionally, and to have ultimately achieved a win, Amelia feels it’s her responsibility to help other parents of stillborn babies who aren’t in similar positions.

“It is so important that attention is paid to stillbirth from numerous angles, from medical to corporate,” she says.

“So those who have to go through the terrible experience of losing a baby, and those who are acting as the parents’ support system, are as well equipped to help, and advise, as possible.”

Amelia adds that her hope is for employers to become better educated about supporting all parents, with that information being reflected in their policies, so “additional distress at an already difficult time can be avoided.”

It’s a cause in her daughter’s honour that Amelia will never stop fighting for.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

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.

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