I was only a child when one of my favourite eldest cousins was expecting a baby. The entire extended family was excited, counting down with anticipation the weeks until her due date.
However, I still remember my mum going “oh no” as she spoke on the phone to my aunty. My cousin’s baby had died in-utero and she was still in the hospital enduring an agonising labour with a devastating end.
Years later while in a hospital maternity wing, I was awoken in the middle of the night not to my newborn daughter wanting a feed but heartbroken cries of a mother who had lost her baby.
Mother’s Day to me is treasured. I endured multiple rounds of IVF for my first-born son Jack, now 14, and got very sick from complications. There were times when I thought I’d never become a mother and a couple of years where Mother’s Day was difficult to endure.
I would go on to conceive two other children naturally. Kate, now 13, and eight-year-old Scott. However, I have also comforted other friends and family who have experienced failed IVF attempts, pregnancy loss, death of an infant through stillbirth or other complications.
As mothers around Australia celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, we’re being urged to remember these brave mothers.
Ann-Maree Imrie was a social worker for 10 years working with families, including those experiencing grief. Sharing in the pain of love and loss with people, Mrs Imrie learned a lot about grief. However, she didn’t realise its full devastation until the stillbirth of her baby.
At 29 weeks pregnant on Friday, January 30, 2015, Mrs Imrie could not feel any movement from her baby. Tests revealed the baby had no heartbeat and had died in-utero. The next day she gave birth to her stillborn son Xavier Rocket Imrie.
“Holding our lifeless baby boy in my arms and burying him, shifted something deep inside me that will never shift back,” Mrs Imrie says.
“The months that followed were a blur where I was in a total fog and unable to function.”
Mrs Imrie is now an advocate for families dealing with the loss of a baby or pregnancy. She says Mother’s Day can be particularly difficult.
“I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a baby or child and Mother’s Day can be very hard and bring up a range of emotions,” Mrs Imrie says.
“Especially for women who have not gone on to have another baby, they’re left feeling like invisible mothers on such a special day.”
Mrs Imrie is the author of You Could Have Been…, a children’s picture book for bereaved parents to read to their baby who died, regardless of the gestation or age. The book is about a parent’s wonder of who their child could have been if they’d had the chance to grow up.
Mrs Imrie and her husband Wade took time off work in an attempt to ‘recover’ and try to rebuild their lives.
The couple decided to try for another baby. On March 14, 2017, Kai Rocket Imrie arrived and in a special coincidence, he was born at 2:18 pm – the exact same time as his older brother Xavier.
“It has been a long, slow process but we are lucky to be surrounded with love and support which has helped us navigate our new lives without our baby boy,” she says.
Mrs Imrie found great comfort in reading other people’s stories of baby loss and their process of healing so shares her story in the hope of doing the same for others. She works to raise the awareness and break the silence around pregnancy and infant loss.
Figures show an average six babies are stillborn each day in Australia, yet Mrs Imrie feels it’s still not talked about and hidden.
“There are just thousands of families who need affirmation that their baby’s lives mattered and all we are asking for is a chance to express our love for them, just like any other parent gets to with their living children,” she says.
“Sadly, some people don’t recognise a stillborn baby as a ‘legitimate’ death.
“A baby’s death is easy to dismiss because often it’s only the parents and very close friends or family who get to meet the baby, so it’s like an invisible loss to others.”
Mrs Imrie says well-meaning people may make comments such as: ‘You can have another baby’, ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘there must have been something wrong with the baby’.
“Mostly what a bereaved parent wants is permission to talk about their baby and cry,” she says.
“If you can open your heart and listen with compassion, it will go a long way.
“They may want to talk one day but not the next and it requires a lot of patience along with very gentle persistence to support a grieving parent. ”
Mrs Imrie resonated with the quote by the late author and sociology professor Morrie Schwartz: “Death ends a life, not a relationship”. You Could Have Been… was written for bereaved parents to continue a relationship with their child that they are unable to hold in their arms.
She donates a portion of her sales from You Could Have Been… to the Stillbirth Foundation.
“This is important to me, as the Stillbirth Foundation are working hard to reduce to rate of stillbirth through funding for research, education and advocacy,” Mrs Imrie says.
If you know a Mum who is missing a piece of her heart this Mother’s Day, please send her a piece of yours and if you’re that Mum then Happy Mother’s Day to you brave mama.
You can purchase a copy of Ann-Maree’s book via her website.
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