Shoalhaven community take stigma out of stillbirth and infant loss

It’s something that can often feel like private pain but more than 100 women supported each other through infant loss recently. 

A high tea on Sunday, October 15 – International Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day – saw women gather at Cambewarra to support the Stillbirth Foundation. 

The event was organised by Nowra women Nicole Hampton and Amy Hepburn.

The pair both suffered heartbreak this year. Nicole lost her baby at 16 weeks, while Amy’s son Isaiah was stillborn at 24 weeks

With six babies stillborn in Australia every day, the event helped raise $2800 to support the Stillbirth Foundation’s research. 

Local doula Amanda Burton also spoke at the event and shared the importance of postnatal care, often overlooked after stillbirth.

Amy and Nicole have now turned their attention to a monthly group they’ve established, starting Thursday, November 2. 

Nicole Hampton.

Nicole Hampton.

Social Connection for Bereaved Mums will be held from 10am at the Shoalhaven Women’s Health Centre. Morning tea will be provided. 

A women’s wellness nurse will also introduce herself and make her services known. 

Amy said any women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death are welcome. 

“There’s no pressure and it will be a safe place to find support,” she said. 

“It’s a way to continue to conversation in a community setting and it’s not just for women who’ve only lost babies recently. We hope it gives closure for women who lost babies years ago. 

“Women don't have to do that journey alone. It’s isolating and not because people tell you to isolate yourself, but it’s the emotions you’re experiencing. You think you can’t show your pain because you don’t want others to feel uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be like that.”

Amy and Nicole’s long-term plan it to find a venue where the group can meet outside of business hours. 

Nowra women Nicole Hampton and Amy Hepburn hosted a fundraising high tea for the Stillbirth Foundation on International Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. Photo: Rose Bubbles Photography.

Nowra women Nicole Hampton and Amy Hepburn hosted a fundraising high tea for the Stillbirth Foundation on International Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. Photo: Rose Bubbles Photography.

Through continued fundraising events they also hope to improve services in the Shoalhaven region for families suffering tragedy. 

Another CuddleCot for Shoalhaven Hospital is on the list.

The cot features a cooling temperature, slowing down the effects of nature and allowing for bereaved families to spend time with their child. It offers time to say goodbye but also, importantly, hello.

There is only one at Shoalhaven Hospital and Amy and Nicole would like to add another. 

They would also like a see another birthing suite added to a separate floor of the hospital, specifically for mums delivering a stillborn baby. 

“Our long-term goal is to have a safer option in the hospital where you don’t have to leave with other mums walking in to have their babies,” Amy said. 

“When we were leaving we ran into people from church and they were leaving with a baby. We were leaving with a blanket.” 

While they’ve got plenty of plans for the future, both said it was “overwhelming” to be surrounded by so many women who either came along just to support the cause, or to share their own story, at the fundraising event. 

“I knew there was 100 women coming but when you see them it’s so overwhelming. It feels like a private thing but I had so many people who had never lost a baby come along just to support me, which was beautiful,” Amy said. 

One of the major raffle prizes – six months worth of massage vouchers – was won by Jade Lugton. The Nowra woman was six months pregnant when her baby was stillborn, just eight weeks ago. 

“At one point I thought I wouldn’t be able to do my speech because I would cry but that’s exactly why I needed to do it. There shouldn’t be a stigma.

Amy Hepburn

Whilst many of the women there had recently lost a baby, another shared her grief in losing a baby 27 years ago. 

The woman told Amy and Nicole she’d never had a chance to properly grieve. Her baby’s photo was featured in a video display, along with many others who never took their first steps. 

Photos and ultrasound images were shared in the special tribute at the end of the day, with Nowra’s Kellie Andrews singing 'Somewhere over the rainbow’ as a beautiful backdrop. 

“The feeling in the room wasn’t heavy and depressing, it was almost in a way relief,” Nicole said. 

“People wept rather than cried. They’re grieving their babies but after that video especially, the dynamic in the room was friendly and open. Everyone realised they’re in it together.”

Amy created a special cake for the occasion, saying "the image of this woman captivated me - to try to capture the raw emotions of baby loss. A portrait of a bereaved mother; the utter heartbreak and grief at holding your baby in your heart instead of your arms, but also the incredible courage and strength that comes from walking this journey. To all the mums who have lost a precious one, we stand with you and remember those tiny lives that have changed ours. For Isaiah. Photo: Rose Bubbles Photography.

Amy created a special cake for the occasion, saying "the image of this woman captivated me - to try to capture the raw emotions of baby loss. A portrait of a bereaved mother; the utter heartbreak and grief at holding your baby in your heart instead of your arms, but also the incredible courage and strength that comes from walking this journey. To all the mums who have lost a precious one, we stand with you and remember those tiny lives that have changed ours. For Isaiah. Photo: Rose Bubbles Photography.

Amy, who runs The Classy Cake, created more than 100 cupcakes and a very special cake for the event. 

She hand painted an image of a woman on the side. 

“That image was really captivating. It showed the grief and pain of losing your baby, but also the strength that comes out of women at that time.” 

Both Nicole and Amy agreed one of the best things to come out of the event was the newfound connections and awareness for a seldom discussed topic. 

“At one point I thought I wouldn’t be able to do my speech because I would cry but that’s exactly why I needed to do it. There shouldn’t be a stigma,” Amy said. 

“The young woman who did the photo booth came up to me at the end and said ‘thank you so much for putting something like this on. I’m not a mum yet I wanted to thank you all so much for your courage and support because it means I understand better now’.” 

For more information about next month’s Social Connection for Bereaved Mums contact Nicole on 0432 652 483 or Shoalhaven Women’s Health Centre 4421 0730. The centre is located at 5 McGrath Avenue, Nowra.

The world may never notice

if a rosebud doesn’t bloom;

or even pause to wonder

if the petals fell too soon.

But every life that ever forms

Or ever comes to be,

Touches the world in some small way

For all Eternity.

The little ones we longed for

Were swiftly here and gone.

But the love that was then planted

Is a light that still shines on

And though our arms are empty,

Our hearts know what to do.

Every beating of my heart says

“I remember you”

-

Author Unknown

For our precious babies,

gone too soon xo