By Nicole Fuge, Mama Disrupt® Managing Editor
It’s not something any mother expects to go through, so when it happens, the big question is – WHY?
Brisbane mum, Holly, is one of the 2200 mothers who sadly have a stillbirth. And she shares the heartbreaking moment she gave birth to their firstborn son [nicknamed Bluey] at 36 weeks.
It was a Monday morning in January 2018. Holly says she sat up in bed searching for movements, but there were none.
She contacted the pregnancy assessment unit at her hospital and was told to go straight into hospital – where she was told Bluey’s heart had stopped beating.
“We were in disbelief. I just hoped that it was all a mistake. That they’d got it wrong somehow and our baby boy was going to be fine,” Holly says.
“But when he was born, the deafening silence in the delivery room, where there should have been newborn baby cries, confirmed our worst fears.”
“I’d heard stories of people going through stillbirth, but you don’t ever really believe it could happen to you,” says Josh.
About 2200 families experience the tragedy each year in Australia.
And while not all stillbirths are preventable, there are ways to reduce the risk.
Holly and Josh, who now have a daughter Olive, are supporting the Still Six Lives initiative The Stillbirth Promise, so more parents don’t experience what they did.
“The Stillbirth Promise is for Bluey, for Olive, for our loved ones who would like to have children. And for all Australians who may not know that stillbirth can touch their life,” Josh says.
This movement is all about starting the conversation about stillbirth to help others feel heard and less alone.
“Understanding more about stillbirth could save a baby’s life,” Holly says.
Stillbirth does not discriminate
It’s a universal issue and it can happen to anyone.
“Our pregnancy was, for the most part, such a special and happy time. Bluey was the nickname given to him when we were about seven weeks pregnant (the size of a blueberry at the time),” says Holly.
“Despite being far from the way we had expected, we still felt sheer pride and so much love when we met Bluey for the first time.
“The short time I spent with Bluey made me realise that happiness and sadness can coexist.
“Life after Bluey can be described as bittersweet. He taught us the true meaning of unconditional love, but we will never really know him.”
3 things to know about reducing the risk of stillbirth
Expectant mothers are encouraged to:
1 // Sleep on their side after 28 weeks of pregnancy
2 // Monitor their baby’s regular pattern of movement. If any changes are noticed, either an increase or decrease, a maternity care professional should be contacted immediately
3 // Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
“It’s bigger than just us. Six babies are stillborn every day in Australia – a rate that we had no idea about before losing Bluey,” says Holly.
“With every sharing of the actions to reduce the risk of stillbirth, we can hope to achieve a future where fewer lives are lost.”
Breaking down social barriers
The Stillbirth Promise has been launched by Still Six Lives, a national stillbirth awareness and education initiative.
Still Six Lives was created to help dispel the stigma that surrounds stillbirth. To break down social barriers that prevent parents of stillborn children receiving the love and support they need. And to help reduce the risk of stillbirth through education around the three proven behaviours.
Funded by the Federal Government, Still Six Lives is delivered by a consortium of Australian organisations including Red Nose, SANDS (Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support), Stillbirth Foundation Australia, Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence and Blue Hearts which Holly and Josh established in memory of Bluey.