Turning grief into hope: Bunbury resident fights for stillbirth awareness

Ailish DelaneySouth Western Times
Kingston resident Sara Paterson is fighting to raise more awareness about stillbirths to try and break the stigma.
Camera IconKingston resident Sara Paterson is fighting to raise more awareness about stillbirths to try and break the stigma. Credit: Ailish Delaney / South Western Times

Imagine you find out you are pregnant — you feel excited and hopeful for the future, your family is expanding.

You prepare the baby’s room and gather everything needed to raise a happy and healthy child, until the time to give birth nears and you find out your baby has unexpectedly died.

This is the reality for many women across the country.

Six babies are born stillborn each day in Australia, according to the Stillbirth Foundation.

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In 2014 Sara Paterson gave birth to her daughter Azaelea, pictured, after only just finding out she had died.

Sara Paterson with her daughet Azaelea.
Camera IconSara Paterson with her daughet Azaelea.

Now, after coming to terms with her healing process, Sara is on the path to use her experience to help others.

She is calling for more awareness surrounding stillbirths in Australia and wants to help break the stigma and erase the taboo surrounding the topic.

“I can very openly talk about my daughter now because I don’t want her memory to be lost, and I worked out if I talk about it it makes other people not so uncomfortable,” Sara said.

“It’s over 2000 families a year in Australia and one in every four women has a loss during pregnancy.

“I find when I’m in a group of women and talking about it, others will open up about their own experience with stillbirth or miscarriages.”

Sara said the more she spoke to other women and realised how common stillbirth was, the more she realised something needed to be done to break the barriers surrounding the taboo subject.

“I think we put it on ourselves and are just expected to keep going, but we need to be able to get help and talk about it,” she said.

It’s the grief that stays with us unless we talk about it.

More support after giving birth and additional services for those who experience stillbirth are among the things Sara is fighting for.

“We have no one to talk to ... it makes me angry there’s not more change happening because no one talks about it,” she said.

“Once you lose a baby there should be more aftercare.

“Pregnant women are treated all the same, but we’re not.

“I’ve had five pregnancies but every single one of them have been completely different.”

Sara Paterson with baby Azaelea's ashes.
Camera IconSara Paterson with baby Azaelea's ashes.

Sara was able to bring baby Azaelea home for three days to spend time with her and allow her family to meet her thanks to a cold mat — a cooling system that extends the window of time for a family to create memories with their stillborn baby.

“At the time I thought it was crazy, but seven years later I’m so thankful because I was able to have photos and spend time with her leading up to her funeral,” Sara said.

“It allowed my family to celebrate our baby and gave us a sense of closure.”

Sara wants others to be offered the same chance and has made it her mission to fundraise for a cold cot for Bunbury Hospital.

“Bunbury Hospital doesn’t have one, but St John of God Bunbury does, and I think that needs to be changed because it’s the main hospital in the region,” she said.

“They can borrow it, but I’ve spoken to the hospital and there’s times when they have multiple stillbirths and they cannot borrow the cot.”

Similar to a cold mat, a cold cot allows for extra time with stillborn babies.

“It means you can carry the baby around and gives parents the chance to bond with their baby before they say their final goodbye,” Sara said.

I think a cold cot is really important for the first stage of grief.

Once Sara hits her goal to provide the hospital with a cold cot, she plans on raising awareness about the need for more aftercare after experiencing stillbirth.

“I feel like there’s more that can be put in place,” she said.

Sara hopes her story can inspire others to break the stigma surrounding stillbirths and encourage a culture of change.

“No one should have to go through it alone,” she said.

Donate to Sara’s cold cot fundraiser via:

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