Speaking out about stillbirth

Jennifer Dravage wears a necklace that features the fingerprints of her daughters, one of whom was stillborn.
Jennifer Dravage wears a necklace that features the fingerprints of her daughters, one of whom was stillborn. 

"Stillborn is something that we don’t talk about, it’s so taboo. And it shouldn’t be."

So says Vanessa Farley Els, an artist who creates jewellery from people's fingerprints. Once every few weeks she creates a very special item for grieving parents, making jewellery from the fingerprints of their stillborn babies.

In Australia, six babies arrive stillborn every day. Vanessa says she has made around 100 of the memorial pieces.

Appearing on The Feed tonight, as part of a week focussing on taboo topics, Vanessa says that many people are shocked by what she does.

"When I share that I do this part of my business, people think I'm crazy," she told SBS. "You can see this kind of, ‘you touch dead bodies’."

"[But] this is a baby, this is a child … who is loved by the people you are making this for.”

The episode also features an interview with Jennifer Dravage, who lost her first child to stillbirth when she was 37 weeks pregnant. She wears her daughter’s fingerprint on a necklace created by Vanessa.

"Oftentimes people will say, ‘what do you have on your neck?’ And I’ll say, ‘fingerprints of my daughters’," says Jennifer. "And they’ll say, ‘oh that’s nice … how old are they now?’"

And despite many people still seeing stillbirth as a taboo, Jennifer is honest with people: "I’ll say our first daughter was stillborn."

Deb De Wilde is an obstetric social worker and midwife who says that remembering a stillborn baby is an important part of the grieving process for parents.   

"People in general think that the way through, the way of recovering, is forgetting, but that’s not the case at all," she says on The Feed.

"The way through is remembering and incorporating, bringing the best of that experience into our lives."

Read more about Vanessa, Jennifer and Deb on The Feed blog.

See the full episode tonight on The Feed, 7:30pm on SBS2.