April 2020: Not the best month for most of us. Australia was in lockdown, the news was reporting deaths daily, we were attempting to home school our kids.
But for Melbourne-based mum Maggie, all of this took a back seat to the excitement and anticipation of welcoming her second child later in the year.
Maggie was counting down the weeks until her second son would be born. However, at 21 weeks pregnant, Maggie experienced a placenta abruption, leading to preterm birth.
Sadly, Maggie’s son, whom she named Jamie, did not survive.
Although Jamie wasn’t going to make it, I still had to give birth naturally,” Maggie tells Mum Central.
“Going into labour whilst simultaneously realising my son wouldn’t survive is a feeling I will never forget – it was terrifying and very traumatic.”
Saying goodbye to Jamie
As the lockdown continued, Maggie and her husband picked out a casket for Jamie and buried their son one week after his death. On Easter Sunday, of all days.
Looking at his precious little features – his sweetly-pursed lips and soft, dewy skin – are moments my husband and I will treasure forever.”
Six a day
Words cannot express the sadness of having to bury a baby. Tragically, Maggie wasn’t the only mum to do so during the pandemic. We previously shared the sad news that there was a sharp jump in stillbirth during the lockdown.
However, even with restrictions lifted, stillbirth is still far too common.
Every single day six parents lose their babies to stillbirth. That’s 2,200 babies a year. In Australia alone.
Why is this?
Jane Wiggill, Red Nose Chief Midwife & Manager, Health and Advocacy, explains that while not every stillbirth is preventable – despite enormous technological and medical advances, there are three simple steps that can help reduce the risk and prevent stillbirth.
Smoking is a major contributor to stillbirth, so stopping smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is important.”
Also crucial is feeling your baby move, and contacting your maternity care professional immediately if you feel a change in movements. Although it is a common myth, babies do not stop moving towards the end of pregnancy.”
Sleep on your side from 28 weeks to halve your risk of stillbirth compared to sleeping on your back.”
Let’s start the conversation
Like most parents who lose a child to stillbirth, Maggie had trouble processing what had happened. Stillbirth wasn’t something that was openly discussed and still isn’t.
Experiencing a stillbirth is an extremely lonely place to be. People are so reluctant to talk about stillbirth – whether because of the unnecessary stigma and shame attached to the topic, or because they simply don’t know what to say or how to start.”
The problem with not talking about it is that, when it does happen, parents are left in the dark.
Prevent stillbirth – together we can reduce the risk
Jackie Mead, Still Six Lives spokesperson and Co-CEO of Red Nose, said it’s high time for Australia to come together in addressing this critically important issue.
Having a stillborn baby is categorically not something to be ashamed of. It’s universal; it can happen to anyone, anywhere. This is a conversation we need to be having.”
Stillbirth impacts six in 10 Australians
While stillbirth isn’t a common topic of discussion, it really needs to be. Stillbirth impacts more than most of us would think.
New data shows six in 10 Australians know someone who has experienced a stillbirth.
Since my experience, a lot of people close to me – even family members – have opened up and shared that they have also experienced stillbirths,” Maggie says.
I was shocked at how common and prevalent it is, and I never would have known had I not gone through it myself.”
Life after Jamie
As the one year anniversary of Jamie’s death gets closer and closer, Maggie tells Mum Central that not a single day goes by that she doesn’t think about Jamie.
I want other parents to know it is possible to survive an experience like this. It is possible to move forward with the grief, even if you don’t think you can.”
But she also hopes that her experience will help open a conversation and raise awareness of stillbirth.
What happened to me left some of my friends extremely unsettled, because my first pregnancy had been textbook perfect. As a young healthy woman, it was shocking to them that this could even be possible.
Stillbirth really doesn’t discriminate and we need to do more to spread the message.”
We hope that by reading stories like Maggie’s, expecting mums will be aware of the risks of stillbirth and how to prevent stillbirth.
We also hope that, by reading stories like Maggie’s, mums who have gone through the pain of burying their babies will know that they are not alone. Hopefully, they will find the strength to say goodbye and share their own stories. Because these stories of stillbirth shouldn’t be left untold.
More info on stillbirth prevention
Still Six Lives is a national public awareness and education initiative aiming to lift the lid on the hidden tragedy of stillbirth in Australia. To find out more about Still Six Lives, including advice, support services and how to support loved ones, visit preventstillbirth.org.au.