For Melbourne mum of three, Anne-Maree Polimeni, October 15 is a day every bit as significant as the birthdates of her three boys, Luis, Jude and Rafael. She’s dedicated the past two years of her life campaigning for International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day to be officially acknowledged in Victoria in honour of those babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death, like her youngest son, Rafael.
Rafael was stillborn at 28 weeks gestation in November 2015 – a longed for son, grandson, brother, nephew and cousin.
“I feel passionately that there’s a huge need to raise awareness of stillbirth. It’s still a real taboo. Because of the silence surrounding stillbirth it’s not as easy topic to talk about, leaving parents feeling isolated and alone,” said Ms Polimeni.
“Stillbirth is different to other deaths. No one is going to sit down with you and laugh and talk about the good old times. You can’t. There is nothing to reminisce but the kicks and activity inside your own body. There’s nothing good that can come out of stillbirth, there’s no upside.”
“International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day sends a very clear message from the community to families like mine that says: ‘You are not alone. We see you. You matter. Your grief is valid and your baby’s life is important, no matter how short.”
Anne-Maree is a Sands volunteer and passionate advocate for pregnancy and infant loss awareness. In 2018 she was the successful recipient of City of Boorondara community grant and has organised a memorial event at the Hawthorn Arts Centre on 15 October with the proceeds.
“In recognition of the International Wave of Light, we will light up the front of the Hawthorn Arts Centre with the Remembrance Day colours of pink and blue. We would love people to attend and pay tribute to all babies who have died.”
Western Australian mum and Sands volunteer, Lea Hiser, doesn’t need a special date to remember the babies she’s lost to miscarriage and stillbirth, but she welcomes October 15 as a focused opportunity to honour them all.
Lea’s family have endured more heartache than most could imagine. Her baby son, Stanley, was stillborn at full term. Her daughter, Stephanie, died in utero at 19 weeks 3 days. A further five babies were lost to miscarriage.
For Lea, husband Chris, and daughters Tully, Mila and Florence, describing their family to others is often difficult because of the children who are missing.
“Pregnancy and infant loss can be an isolating experience,” said Lea. “Going through multiple losses, over a long period of time, is even more so. It helps to know that I’m part of a community of other mums and dads who understand what we’ve been through.”
“Finding a community of fellow bereaved mums was a turning point for me and so International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day is also an opportunity for me to give thanks to that community for their support and understanding.”
“As a volunteer parent supporter for Sands I’m proud to be part of a community that is so welcoming of all families who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death. Helping families to feel less alone in their grief is so important,” Lea said.
When Lincoln Duke was born he looked just like his dad. Meeting him was a dream come true for his parents, Jess and Steven, but saying goodbye to him less than an hour later wasn’t supposed to be part of their plan.
Lincoln was born at just 22 weeks – too premature to survive.
Coming to terms with their baby’s death was a lonely and isolating experience for the Dukes.
“We were the first to get pregnant in all of our circles back then and we felt that no one really understood what we’d lost, or knew how to talk to us about what had happened,” Jess said.
“I think Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is a real opportunity to get people talking about what can still be such a taboo topic. Miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death affect over 106,000 Australians each year. When parents feel they can’t talk about their losses it leaves a lot of stories left untold.”
“For bereaved parents nothing is as wonderful as having the opportunity to say or hear their baby’s name. Days like October 15 help parents feel part of a community that accepts, validates and empathises with their grief.
Brisbane mum Ashleigh will spend Sunday October 15 enjoying the company of her husband, Sebastien, her three children, Juliette, Sophie and Oliver. They’ll head to Sands’ Walk to Remember in New Farm to honour the baby son and brother they love and miss – Dominic.
Dominic was sadly stillborn four years ago.
“Dominic was born on 3rd October and his baby brother Oliver on the 12th so October is always a time of mixed emotions for us,” said Ashleigh.
“We participated in our first Wave of Light just a week after Dominic died. Because we knew October 15 was a special day of remembrance for babies who had died we deliberately chose that day to announce
Dominic’s birth to wider friends and family. We posted a eulogy to his life that day online and each year since we’ve continued that tradition.”
“I think October 15 is a day of belonging for bereaved parents,” said Ashleigh. “On days like this it feels like there’s actually a place for people like us to remember our babies without worrying about what other people think. People can feel really discouraged from talking about their losses because of the stigma but October 15 is the one day where it is more OK than usual to talk about it openly.”
“Each year I’ve seen more and more people posting online about Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It used to be just parents posting about their baby but now I see more family members and friends open up around it. I think it’s becoming more of a widely recognised date which will make a big difference to bereaved parents feeling confident enough to share their stories.”