Elizabeth is the proud Mum of four exceptional children. Her first baby, Jayden Peter, was stillborn at 28 weeks gestation. She shares with us what she wishes she’d known, and how her family have coped with grief and life after stillbirth.
Jayden was so beautiful and so tiny, only 660 grams and perfect in every way. But he was born still.
The hospital gave us Red Nose support brochures and tried their best to help me prepare for the overwhelming grief I would experience.
But I fell into a deep depression.
I wish I’d used Red Nose more in those early days. I closed myself off from so much support and I know now that it would have been so much easier to feel held in a place of safety in my grief.
I probably could have struggled less in my emotional journey had I been in touch with those who could have helped me.
I suffered from major anxiety during my subsequent pregnancies after we lost Jayden. My stress levels were through the roof, and I was fixated on wanting to make sure I had every piece of information that would help keep my subsequent babies safe from harm.
I followed Red Nose’s recommendations on setting up a safe cot and how to sleep your baby. For me, this was my staying guide, even when others would give me other ‘helpful’ suggestions. I knew what I was doing was right and safe, so I carried on.
After Jayden was born, I was diagnosed with a rare disease. I felt so much guilt, knowing that it was my body that betrayed both him and me.
My husband and I have had to work hard to support one another as we both have grieved so differently. At times it was a sense of real discord.
Thankfully, Red Nose helped us be more aware of each other’s mental states, and to acknowledge when we need help.
That’s helped us put our commitment to each other first, even when it has been hard.
Jayden is buried near one of my favourite spots in the hills and we have some lovely family rituals to ensure he is never forgotten.
We always speak openly about Jayden, carrying on his name and letting our children know they have a beautiful big brother in heaven.
We celebrate his birthday with a cake and we sing and have a nice dinner - we imagine what his favourite birthday dinner would have been.
Often the kids talk about what he would have been like. They miss him and wish he was here to experience life with us, so we have a pretty open dialogue with them and those around us.
I think it is really important to break down barriers and stigma that surround stillbirth and grief.
No matter how uncomfortable it can make people, we have to talk about the death of babies. We need to learn the signs and identify what the myths are so we can advocate for them during pregnancy.
We need to keep educating people to reduce the heartache and loss of so many babies to stillbirth.
I’m so very grateful for Red Nose’s bereavement support services and I want to thank you for making it all possible, and for being there for families like mine.
For the parents who speak their child’s name, and to those who are still finding the courage to, you can find the support you need to get through this by reaching out to Red Nose.
* Elizabeth has written a chapter in a book called “Achieving Parenthood” Find out more by visiting her website. A percentage of proceeds from books sales will be donated to Red Nose.
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