Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It is a day to pay tribute to all the babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death and their families. This includes our first child, Timothy, who was born still in 1983.
Every year in Australia, more than 100,000 babies are lost to miscarriage, more than 2,000 to stillbirth and more than 600 to neonatal death.
There are two things I am determined to do on their behalf.
The first is to fight for a research and community education effort that contributes significantly to reducing the rates of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Understanding the risk factors that lead to pregnancy and infant loss, and helping expectant mothers to be aware of these risks, can go a long way towards saving babies’ lives.
The second is to make sure affected families are supported to grieve and recover. I am so glad that I insisted on holding, bathing and dressing our son Timothy. It enabled us to say goodbye.
In the early 1980’s the general advice was to try and forget our loss. I am so pleased I did not take that advice. I have always spoken about him, and say his name, regardless of whether it makes others feel uncomfortable. I firmly believe this is a vital part of the grieving and recovery process for all parents.
Families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss should feel encouraged to talk about their babies. They also need sufficient time to farewell their babies, to make funeral arrangements, to grieve and to recover without the financial pressure of returning to work too soon.
If your family has experienced the loss of a child to pregnancy, stillbirth or neonatal death, you can seek support from Stillbirth Foundation Australia, Sands Australia, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Australia or The Compassionate Friends Victoria Inc. (which also covers Tasmania).
Last year, both houses of Australia’s Parliament resolved to officially recognise Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and I know that several senators will be speaking to mark the occasion when the Senate next sits on Monday, 18 October. I look forward to making my contribution.