Joelle wanted to honour her stillborn baby on the first day of school. Then she saw a spare hat.

Australian mum Joelle Skinner shared a photo on Facebook of her children on their first day of school as many parents did – but hers was a photo with a key difference.

Skinner, a 37-year-old mum-of-five, proudly photographed her kids – Isi, 13, Eden, 11, Jyrah 10 and Amali, 7 – as they were about to start Term 1 of school. On the ground next to them was a hat, which Skinner had placed lovingly there to represent her stillborn daughter Zayli. It would have been her first day of Kindergarten.

The Queensland mum was 41 weeks pregnant with Zayli, when the infant died in December 2013. Skinner shared the sad story behind the photo in a post on her Facebook page, Jedi Mum Tricks.

“The day is finally here, the day I have been dreading for the last five years,” she began the post. “Today would be Zayli’s first day of school.”

Explaining her heartbreak, she added, “I’m empty, I’m broken, her absence is just so felt right now.

“I just dropped off the other kids for their first day. I tried not to look, but I saw them, the little Preppies and their anxious parents all ready for their first day.

“And Zayli wasn’t there where she should be.”

Skinner said that she was struggling to type the post due to her tears and implored other parents to appreciate their children.

“Please, school parents taking your kids for their first day today, please appreciate what you have, hold onto them that little bit tighter.

“And to all the little preppies starting today, I wish you well, I hope you love your teachers and find some wonderful friends.”

The heartbroken mother concluded her post, “Signed, grieving Mumma of the most beautiful preppie who will be missing from your class.”

Reflecting on the day, Skinner shared with Mamamia how difficult it was for her.

“I knew this day was coming, I was dreading it. The first day of school for my little girl that is not here in my arms.

“I just had to do something to include her in our usual back to school photo. If I didn’t, it would have felt so wrong and just would have highlighted her absence even more.”

The mum said she wasn’t sure how to honour her daughter, until she saw the spare hat.

“I grabbed it and placed it on the floor. I got the kids to stand in age order and put the hat in the end. They had no idea what I was doing, my son even tried to move the hat out of the way.”

But Skinner had a plan, and once she explained it, the children embraced the idea.


“Zayli is part of our everyday life,” she said.

“We always talk about her and to have their little sister with them in the photo, even if just symbolically, meant the world to them.”

Joelle Skinner. Source: Facebook

Skinner's post resonated with many other parents who'd experienced a similar loss, and they expressed appreciation of the mum's honesty.

“I know what you are feeling, it would have been our Xavier’s first day at prep today,” one mum wrote.

"Molly should be starting next week with her twin, holding her hand, being her bestie. It's so not fair," shared another parent.

After the story became popular online, in further posts, Skinner shared that she was moved it had touched so many.

"My daughter’s legacy lives on. If we can help just one other person stuck in their grief, how special would that be!"

She added, "My little girl will make a difference in this world even though she’s never stepped her little feet in it."

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