Mothers’ Day: a day that celebrates maternal bonds and honours the role mothers play in families and society.
But what does Mothers’ Day look like for women mourning the loss of that special bond through the death of a baby?
Each year in Australia almost 2500 mothers suffer the death of their baby through stillbirth. 700 more women lose their newborns within the first few weeks of life. It’s estimated that another 103,000 experience pregnancy loss through miscarriage.
That's 1 in every 4 women for whom the self-identity 'mother' rests on shaky ground.
Sands CEO, Andre Carvalho, says that for the thousands of bereaved mothers his organisation supports, Mothers' Day can be an acutely painful time.
“Family celebrations and other significant occasions can be stark reminders of the absence of a baby who has died,” he said.
“These are milestones that everyone takes for granted but for bereaved parents they can be very isolating.”
Mr Carvalho said that Mothers’ Day can be particularly difficult – even many years later – because so much meaning is entrenched in the concept of motherhood in society.
“A bereaved mother’s experience of motherhood is inconceivably different to someone whose journey has taken the typical path.”
“Alongside the death of her baby she also loses her identity as a mother. Because hers is largely an invisible loss, her motherhood is not always recognised or acknowledged.”
Since 2010 International Bereaved Mothers’ Day has taken place in the week before ‘traditional’ Mothers’ Day to give grieving mothers an opportunity to honour their role.
“International Bereaved Mothers’ Day is an important day to observe in the Sands community. It provides a sense of inclusion, community and comfort for women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death,” Mr Carvalho said.
“It gives bereaved mothers the opportunity to acknowledge that although they may not have a baby in their arms, they are still a mother.”
Sands Mums Anne Altamore, Ashleigh Rousseaux and Heidi Welsh know what it is like to grapple with the question of “am I still a mother?” They speak about some of the challenges they each face at this time of year here.