Yasna Meldrum (maternal and child health nurse, counsellor): There are a number of options that parents can take up in terms of getting support. They can ring up and actually speak to an organisation themselves – they don’t always need to get a referral from another source, from a maternal and child health nurse or GP. And there are organisations in every state in Australia that are set up to support parents and families that have gone through a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a neonatal death. And they can access telephone support through these organisations. They can access educational seminars that they can go to. There are support groups at some of the hospitals as well, that hold bereavement support groups where parents get together, where there’s an avenue for them to talk about their loss.
Kelly and Gavin (daughter Alexandra was stillborn)
Kelly: I needed to be speaking with someone, so we were referred to a psychologist. I said to her ‘I'm just so upset. Everybody’s talking about it.’ And she said ‘Well, they are going to talk about it. It’s a very big thing that’s happened,’ and she said ‘Their intentions are to support you.’ And I got a picture of ‘Oh, OK, people talking about you is not a bad thing’. I do remember from seeing her, that was a really lovely thing she said ‘You know, they’re talking about you because they care.’
Simon and Sally (daughter Hope was stillborn)
Sally: I personally just really liked the counsellor I saw. I just think she was a nice person and she was nice to talk to. And maybe that’s what a good counsellor is. I went for probably that first 18 months, and it saw me through the next pregnancy as well, which was a hard thing.
Gavin: We went to one meeting at SIDS [Red Nose, formerly SIDS and Kids]. The counsellor was great, and she just kept on dropping over articles and information and it was just exactly what we needed. She had this great mind for picking out appropriate passages in books and giving them to us, and that was really, really good.
Sally: I spent a lot of time on the internet just googling and reading about other people it had happened to and starting to actually feel less alone and reading about how common it actually was.
Yasna: The question of conception after a miscarriage or after a stillbirth often comes up with parents. And that’s a very important question, because after miscarriages and stillbirths there are several components that will actually inform whether they want to go and have another baby soon, or whether they want to perhaps wait a while. There’s the actual physical component of actually recovering from the whole birthing experience. And even after a miscarriage there’ll be a period of bleeding, there’ll be a period where, emotionally, the mother may not be ready to get pregnant. So there isn’t a set time. However, we do know that after a stillbirth – when the mother has actually given birth to a baby – the normal time between children would be around 12 months to 2 years between pregnancies. But there is no real given time. If there were complications associated with the birth, that would need to be taken into consideration also. If the mother had multiple miscarriages, that would need to be taken into consideration as well. So I think it’s about looking at the whole picture of what’s happened for that mother, what’s happening in the family, and asking ‘When is the right time for that family to perhaps have another child?’
Sally: From the outside looking in, our family is just crazy, like any other family with young children. It’s loud and busy and… I always said that once we got living kids who came home from the hospital, we’d never complain and never be ungrateful, and just be so glad they were here, and we are. But the kids are still, you know, hard work. And being parents is just tough, with young kids.
Gavin: Our boys, Harry, Archie and Felix, they’re quite factual: they know they’ve had a sister. And Archie – the middle one, he’s just very sensitive – he sort of just refers to it every now and again, you know, unprompted. In the hallway, we’ve got all the birth photos of all the children, and this is just to remind people who visit that we’ve got 4 kids, not 3. And sometimes, out of the blue, they’ll say ‘Wouldn't this be funny if Alexandra was here’.
Gavin: And it’s not upsetting for them.
Gavin: It’s just factual.
Yasna: The more memories we can create, the more real that baby becomes, in the life of that family, so that in future, when they want to have a conversation about the baby that has died, they can actually talk about that baby by name. And they can include the baby in that conversation.