Phoebe has just passed 6 months since her little boy, Jimmy, was born. But for her, the last 6 months have not been a blur of dirty nappies and developmental milestones.
Jimmy was stillborn, one of the 6 babies that are born sleeping every day in Australia, and here Phoebe bravely shares her story.*
*This story is about infant death, if this story brings up any emotions that you require support with, please see our list of suggested contacts at the end.
I'll never forget that little body on the ultrasound screen, I'd been anxiously waiting all week to see Jimmy, one final time before his due date, unfortunately it was going to be more final than I ever expected.
For the most part of my pregnancy, we lived on the Gold Coast and I would see my normal GP, I was informed that I had developed gestational diabetes and was told to prepare for a 10lb babe. In December, we moved back to Bellingen to be with family when Jimmy was born. I attended all my appointments through the maternity services at the local hospital. My first appointment at 31 weeks went just as I had expected and my next and final appointment (35 weeks) was much the same. Jimmy's heartbeat was strong and I was scheduled to have a growth scan on the 11.01.2017 to check on his size due to the GD.
But come Monday, I had this feeling that something was wrong, that Jimmy's movements had changed. I thought maybe it was because of his size, I wouldn't expect much room for a 10lb babe to move about but I wasn't feeling anything. By Wednesday, even before the growth scan, I rang the maternity services about my concerns and was advised to go through with the scan and then go from there. My mama instinct was trying to tell me but I didn't want to believe it.
Watching my babe on the ultrasound screen, a perfectly normal little babe ready to be born but there's something missing. his little heartbeat is gone at 36 weeks pregnant. I couldn't even call my husband who had been at work, my mother had to be the bearer of bad news. I was physical sick the rest of that day, my body was already turning on me, wouldn't allow me to prepare for what I was about to go through or allow me to just enjoy the last day of my pregnancy.
I was to be induced the next day.
It wasn't like I was unaware of stillbirth, we had a friend lose their little girl Iris at 28 weeks in October, and my mother in law also lost her first to stillbirth. I just never thought it would happen to me. I remember coming home from that day and realising I had to pack my hospital bag for the next day, something I hadn't got around to. I kept telling Luke between tears that this isn't how it is meant to happen, not like this. I was meant to be enjoying it, laying everything out, making sure I had packed enough, picking Jimmy's little outfit keeping in mind I hadn't bought any 0000 because i was under the impression mama was getting a big Jim.
Jimmy was born 4 pound 9 ounces, hIs little blue singlet was the closest thing to fitting and we swaddled him in a wrap.
We arrived at the hospital at 6am, as soon as I walked in I could hear a babe crying, instantly I was in tears. It was like another reminder that my babe would never cry, never take a breathe.
We spoke with doctors, nurses, social workers, trying to come to terms with why this happened, why this happened to us. Miscarriage in January 2016, stillborn babe 2017, honestly this was meant to be our time, right? I must have been wrong.
My labour with Jimmy lasted about 5 hours, breathing through each painful contraction until that final push and our little babe JIMMY KEITH was born on the 12.01.2017. You could say it was the worst day of my life, but one of the proudest moments of my life too. I did not cry once that day, I've shed a thousand tears since. So many emotions can trigger it, sadness, anger, guilt and the 'why me?' gets me all the time, but at the time I just took in every minute that I could, trying to cherish the precious time I had with Jimmy. Counting his little fingers and toes and double checking to see if he was a boy.
I think we were very lucky and unlucky at the same time that Jimmy was so close to his due date, that he just looked like a normal little babe, something that made it more difficult to understand why this had happened and even harder for Luke. He cried from the minute he was born. Watching Luke with Jimmy, he would have been a really amazing Daddy. Actually he is an amazing Daddy, something I nor anyone else can take away from him. Our babe may have been stillborn but he was still born, unfortunately though I still had to leave that hospital with empty arms and an empty heart.
Luckily we had heard of a organisation called Heartfelt, an group of photographers who capture memories of stillbirth, premature babes and terminally ill children for families around Australia and New Zealand. Lyss, our photographer, captured the most beautiful photos of our time with Jimmy. Something that will be proudly hung in our house along side any future siblings.
Life after Jimmy has had it's ups and downs. It's been 6 months since his birth, and after months of waiting we received the result we needed to help the healing process and find closure. Blood clots in the placenta caused problems in the flow of supply to Jimmy, which then cause his death. This is something our Obstetrician has reassured us is a rare occurrence, therefore we should feel confident that we can have a normal pregnancy in the future and get our forever babe.
The reality is though that majority of mama's will never know the cause to why it happens, which makes it even more heartbreaking for those who have experienced stillbirth. I've tried to make the best of an unthinkable situation, bringing awareness to how common stillbirth is in Australia, 6 babes born stillborn each and every day. My Jimmy was 1 of those 6. Unfortunately it's a journey that I will have to continue to travel for a while yet, and I'm sure it will follow me into my next pregnancy. With so many emotions that come with having a baby, they will only be more intensified after having a stillborn.
And it is something I am currently trying to overcome, now that we're expecting again. Trying to deal with the anxieties of what can happen and knowing what has happened. I think being pregnant again, only intensifies my thoughts of Jimmy. He's never far from my mind, the 'what if's', the guilt, wishing the outcome of Jimmy's life was different. But mainly, I feel so blessed to be Jimmy's mama and to be able to celebrate his little life.
If this article has caused any distress, please contact one of the following support agencies -
SANDS (miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support)
offer a 24 hour national support line open every day of the year.
Get in touch by calling 1300072637.
You can also access their live chat at various times
if you prefer to talk online, see here for more information.
If you would simple like information on supporting someone,
or to help understand your own grief better, both the SANDS and
Stillbirth Foundation Australia have many resources you can access here -
To access a photography through Heartfelt, you can contact them
through their website or by calling 1800583768 (Aust) or 0800583768 (NZ).
Finally, a huge thank-you to Phoebe for sharing her story with me so soon after Jimmy's birth. Your strength is amazing and I cannot wait for you to get your forever babe x