I lost my little girl through stillbirth - and this is what I want you to know

Photo: Nicole unexpectedly lost her baby Sadie on her due date in May. Supplied
Photo: Nicole unexpectedly lost her baby Sadie on her due date in May. Supplied 

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

It's rumoured that in the 1920s Ernest Hemingway won $10 from his fellow writers with this piece of flash fiction – a six-word story that will touch even the hardest of hearts. 

A baby dying is so tragic, so difficult to speak about, that people rarely do. And so, when it happens to you, it can feel like the loneliest thing in the world. 

We unexpectedly lost our sweet Sadie on her due date in May.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

After a straightforward pregnancy we arrived at hospital in established labour excited to meet our baby girl but were instead met with an apology. 

"I'm so sorry, your baby has died."

A rare, extremely tight double nuchal cord robbed us of our daughter literally at the eleventh hour. 

Shock is an understatement. I couldn't even cry and hardly spoke for days. My brain just shut down. The trauma of it all was too difficult to process.

We need to talk about baby loss

I was halfway through writing this article when Chrissy Teigen announced she had lost her baby, Jack, midway through pregnancy.

While there was an outpouring of love and support, it was the negative commentary that strengthened my resolve to publish something outside of the 'loss community'.

There are hundreds of thousands of parents around the world who flock to online sites and support groups, exclaiming 'no one understands!', 'I didn't know this happened!', 'Why me? I did everything right!'.

And so too, their respective families and friends are lost for words, muttering, "I don't know what to say". 

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Unless we talk about stillbirth and baby loss more openly, this will never change – which is a tragedy in its own right. 

Here are some of the things that many in the baby loss community want everyone to hear but don't know how to say. 

Photo: A rare, extremely tight double nuchal cord meant Sadie was stillborn. Supplied
Photo: A rare, extremely tight double nuchal cord meant Sadie was stillborn. Supplied 

In Australia a stillbirth is the birth of a baby who has died after 20 weeks' gestation or weighs more than 400 grams. It can happen for a range of reasons, most of which I certainly never heard about or was told the warning signs for throughout either of my pregnancies. Sadly, a lot of the time there is no definitive answer.

On average six babies are stillborn in Australia every day – that's one in every 137 births or double the number of people that die in road accidents.

For every baby that dies of SIDS – something equally tragic that most parents are made aware of – approximately 30 babies are stillborn. 

The majority of stillborn babies are born vaginally, not by caesarean; they don't just whip them out. Unless you are already in labour, it can be days before your child is actually born.

It's universally accepted that childbirth is one of the most painful and challenging experiences you can go through and that any woman that does it is an absolute warrior.

Photo: October 15th is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Supplied / Nicole Rippey
Photo: October 15th is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Supplied / Nicole Rippey 

Childbirth when you know your baby has died is just plain cruel. It usually takes place in your stock standard maternity ward meaning we hear the first cries of all those "take home babies" and jubilant celebrations of their ecstatic parents as we sit cradling our "sleeping babes", which just adds to the trauma.

Pregnancy, birth and parenting loses all innocence for us; we know the worst actually happens and it can be very difficult to trust – ourselves, our bodies, hospitals, the Universe.

We go through the same post-partum period as any other mother – milk coming in, bleeding, stitches, baby blues – we just do it with empty arms and broken hearts. Instead of leaving hospital with a fist full of breastfeeding brochures, we're faced with decisions about autopsies, cremation and funeral arrangements. 

We also love our babies just as fiercely as any other parent. Once they are placed in our arms, we feel the same overwhelming love and pride – it's just mixed with shock and utter devastation.

We inspect their tiny fingers and toes, marvel over who they look like, take photos, hand and footprints, and sing and read to them. All of which I may have found horrifying – until it happened to me.

We do this because it's all we have. A lifetime of love and joy and memory making truncated into a few precious days. 

This is why I completely understand and applaud Chrissy for sharing as she did.

While many were questioning why she would share such intimate details of her loss, I can tell you there were thousands of women around the world who, once we had shed tears knowing the journey she and her family were about to embark on, were thinking "Yes, girl!" and thanking her for giving us a voice. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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There is so much silence surrounding baby loss and stillbirth, it's one of the things that can make the experience truly unbearable. In the first six weeks after we lost Sadie, I wanted to tell everyone: "I just had a beautiful baby girl, but she died."

It felt like that sentence was literally sitting at the tip of my tongue and it came out often – to help explain my flabby tummy, lethargy and red puffy eyes; because I had just been through nine full months of pregnancy with no newborn baby to show for it; and because I was so damned proud of my beautiful girl I wanted everyone to hear about her before it got to the point that I "should have moved on". 

According to many of the incredible women in the most undesirable club in the world, I will never move on, the pain of losing Sadie will never lessen, but I will learn to live with it.

The better days will eventually outnumber the bad, and one day I will realise it's been a day, a week, a month that I haven't been consumed by sadness – sadness for us, sadness that the life we spent nine months preparing for wasn't to be, and of course, sadness for our perfect, innocent baby who never got the chance to take even one breath. 

Grieving a baby is exhausting. It takes every ounce of energy just to get through the day.

Grieving is also completely individual. There is no right and there is no wrong. Before you take a swipe at a parent for over sharing, under sharing and everything in between, pause and take a moment to really consider what they are living through.

We have enough weight on our shoulders as it is, the last thing we need is judgment and venom. We're trying to make sense of the horror ourselves, and what we need is love, acknowledgement, understanding and the space to grieve – no matter how long or what form that takes. 

We don't ask for this out of pity or attention, but purely because our babies existed just like any other, our love for them is very real, and they will always be a part of our families.

The most important thing you can do for us is put your own discomfort aside and listen as we love and honour and celebrate them in ways we could never have imagined.

Open ears, open arms and open hearts – together, let's end the silence.

October 15th is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Light a candle in memory of Sadie and all the other treasured babies gone too soon. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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If you need immediate help please call Lifeline on 131114

If you or someone you know has suffered a pregnancy loss or stillbirth please contact: