By Claire Ford :: Still Aware
I am a mother to a baby girl, perfectly formed, medically in top health. A little girl whose blood lines showed no congenital abnormalities, not a carrier of any genetic dispositions that may lead to ill health. My daughter was born at term, after a “textbook” pregnancy… she was born, but born without breath.
My daughter’s name is Alfie. My husband Brad and I combated the inconceivable she was stillborn at 9 months on February 12th, 2014 despite the fact that there was nothing wrong with her. That day, the precious gift of life was coupled with death. My thoughts are filled with our daughter constantly. I cannot bring her back and I clutch hold of every possible memory and moment I had with her. Every kick, every tumbling dance, every hiccup, and quiet times doting on her inside my belly. I relive meeting her in the flesh over and over with love, sadness, utter disbelief and despair, willing it to be different – but these are my memories and I cling to them with love and honour for my daughter.
Brad and I embraced pregnancy with an enormous delight and you could not wipe the smiles from our faces. Nothing could get me down. I was thankful for every pain and ache as my body stretched and my beautiful baby grew inside me. Brad kissed my belly every morning before work and we read stories to our growing bump whom we had already named Alfie.
Our baby, as always, had a strong heartbeat. I loved looking at the ultrasound printouts of her. At 37 weeks we were told that the baby could arrive at any moment. We went home excitedly and continued to let my body prepare for the birth of our first child. We already had Alfie’s nursery ready, our cupboards filled with baby goods, nappies, containers, bottles, toys and we even installed the car seat ready for our bundle of joy to arrive. We were prepared for everything, well we thought so. We all believed that Alfie would be born early. My due date was approaching and I thought my labour was progressing. This little one inside me was a mover and a shaker, she did not stop rolling from 25 weeks on. I was at term in my 40th week of pregnancy when we met our little angel, on 12th of February. It was after the most agonizing and painfully heartbreaking labours one couldn’t possibly imagine unless being privy to it themselves. I felt no physical pain, I was in shock…Alfie was born without breath…it was incomprehensible. A birthing suite should never be silent. I longed to hear her cry, but all I could do was look at my little angel so lifeless and limp and cry out “no”. I clutched Brad in complete distress, I was exhausted, it was true Alfie had died. Our parents and my sisters were there all meeting Alfie. She was swaddled and looked perfect, everyone commented how much she looked like a doll. She had chubby cheeks, a head full of curly dark hair, big eyes, a button nose and perfect rose coloured lips. Alfie was stillborn and with no rhyme or reason for her sudden death, our little girl should be with us today.
It is for her and the 6 babies every day born still, that we started Still Aware to honour them, bring awareness to the fact of stillbirth and importantly to make a change in the statistics. Stillbirth almost has a medieval ring to it but unfortunately it is not something from the past, it is happening here and now and in Australia every 4 hours! The encouraging news is that overseas experience shows that a significant reduction in stillbirths is actually possible, just by having mothers consciously monitor their babies movements in the third trimester. So, this is an area where awareness alone can achieve impressive results and potentially save many babies’ lives and consequent heartbreak. Awareness will bring change.
At Still Aware our focus is to bring about much needed awareness to the tragic event of a baby born still. Our non-profit organisation is dedicated to the prevention of stillbirth and encourages change in how we talk about stillbirth through education and advocacy.
In Australia, every 4 hours a baby is stillborn. Not only a devastating statistic but a heartbreaking fact. Every day, 6 families will deliver a child without breath and have to deal with the devastation that not only will they not get to take their baby home, but they will have to welcome a new person to the world and at the same time say goodbye.
Over the past 20 years there has been little reduction in stillbirth rates in Australia, where 1 in 135 pregnancies will end in the devastation of a baby born still. Yet in the same time frame Norway has shown a 50% reduction in stillbirth!
It is clear that the information is there together with evidence to show that it has worked to reduce the cases of a baby stillborn. So why isn’t this information readily available in Australia? If Australia were to adopt the same methods of advice and clearer guidelines for prenatal care during pregnancy to monitor a babies movements could we see this reduction too? At Still Aware we certainly hope so and that is exactly why we advise mothers to get to know their baby’s movements and “Count the Kicks”.
A baby’s only direct link to the outside world is through its mother. At Still Aware we believe that making time to daily monitor a baby’s movement is as important as mother’s taking prenatal vitamins and staying healthy. By setting aside time to regularly feel as a baby’s kicks, rolls or pokes, a pregnant mother can bond with her bump and monitor her baby’s health as well.
Every baby and every body is different so it’s important to know your baby and react on that. An expectant mother getting to know her baby’s own pattern of movement through “kick counting” can help her to determine if her baby has a period of reduced or increased foetal movement and promptly notify her midwife, doula, doctor or antenatal healthcare professional. We believe too that if a pregnant woman is particularly anxious, monitoring her baby’s movements – counting the kicks – can empower her to feel confident and comfortable that everything is ok or that yes, there is reason for concern.
Some feedback we have received from women worldwide who have followed Still Aware and the advice offered…
“I became more vigilant in my third trimester thanks to Still Aware” – Kate, Adelaide
“The courage you have shown in speaking about stillbirth is wonderful, I sincerely hope that through greater awareness it will no longer be a taboo subject” – Ally, Wales
“No explanation (from the doctors) could alleviate my sisters concern. As it turned out there was an infection in the placenta. So I guess I’m just wanting to tell you that thanks to Still Aware, my sister and her baby were more aware and worked together to keep each other ok.” – Nicole, Singapore
The love for your children is everlasting and truly gives you great strength. The love itself is stronger than anything and whether your baby is here with you or chasing butterflies above, you love them just the same. I often find myself asking a lot of why? why me? why her? why us? But, just like a majority of the 6 families daily, navigating the heartache of a their stillborn child, I will never actually be able to answer those questions. So instead I ask a question of you..
Why not speak up?
Why not give over 2000 babies each year their voice?
Why not talk about Stillbirth?
Why not be part of the change?
Why not raise awareness?
Please, we need to talk about stillbirth,
6 babies daily – one family every four hours in Australia – it’s too many!
Ask yourself, why not?