During a scan by the obstetrician, I asked why her heart was beating so slowly — it was obvious something was wrong. Picture: Facebook
During a scan by the obstetrician, I asked why her heart was beating so slowly — it was obvious something was wrong. Picture: Facebook

'Nothing prepares you for the pain of burying a baby'

When should it ever be OK that a parent has to bury their child?

Of all of the horribly painful, unfair and cruel things in this world, burying your child has to be at the top of the list.

I never imagined this could happen to us, to our baby. We're regular people with regular lives, we thought we would never have to decide what flowers to put on our newborn's casket or if we were going to carry her from the hearse to her grave. But we did.

The path to meeting Maisie started years ago.

Scott and I have been married for 12 years in June and from the beginning, we wanted kids. We were so unbelievably lucky to have our son Hudson in 2010.

When Hudson was four, we started IVF. We've had more than 70 eggs collected, more than 50 embryos and have spent enough money to have a very nice kitchen in our home or even a pool.

We've had eight losses. It was hard to keep going. Hard to start over. More needles, more operations, more drugs, more tears. It was all worthwhile when we finally made it to 12 weeks with Maisie. Finally. We couldn't believe it.

We went to the obstetrician for our routine appointment - the last before her expected birth. Scott and Hudson came along and we were so excited at how close we were to finally meeting her. During a scan by the obstetrician, I asked why her heart was beating so slowly - it was obvious something was wrong.

That is when the worst day of our lives started. Everything happened so fast. Before I knew what was happening, I was being put to sleep in theatre.

I woke to the news that she was "very sick" and on a ventilator. The midwife who looked after me during the pregnancy was crying. I'm an emergency nurse so I understood what was happening.

I asked the doctor if she was going to die. What mother should ever have to ask that? She had severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen and required extensive CPR. She had likely occluded her cord. A freak accident.

I was lucky, and they took me straight from recovery to see her in the special care nursery. She was perfect. So gorgeous. She just looked like she was sleeping. She wasn't.

A retrieval team from the Royal Brisbane Hospital were already there. With an enormous amount of people standing around, we had to make decisions about what to do for our girl. Her heart was hardly beating and she needed a ventilator to breath. The damage was done. Even with outstanding medical care and such a short time from recognising there was a problem to actually delivering her, it wasn't enough.

We made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw treatment so she could be at rest. We could hold her until she passed away.

I held Maisie on my chest, Scott held her and Hudson held her hand before she passed away. I'm thankful they came with me that day. Thankful they both got to love her and touch her.

But why was this happening to us? I've never felt such pain. Never in my life have I felt so desperate, so lost and so devastated. The path only got harder from there.

Now we faced questions about what funeral company to call, if we wanted a photographer to take family photos with her, if we wanted to make footprints or cut some of her hair to keep in her memory box.

Why do I have to answer these questions? How were we going to tell our families this had happened? We felt we were in a nightmare. We still feel that way.

The hardest part and the reason we started Made for Maisie came after being discharged from hospital. We received no follow-up in-home care. No contact to make sure we were doing everything we could to be OK.

I don't qualify for many services because my baby died. If I was struggling with depression or any mental illness and my baby was alive, I would have had access to a significant amount of free services. How does that even make sense? Shouldn't a woman who loses her full-term baby qualify for mental health services and support? There's also no support for the father.

We were made aware of the miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands, by way of a piece of paper at the hospital. They help people like us either over the phone or by suggesting support groups. Their website has lots of great information, but when the pain is so raw reading a website or finding a group meeting to attend was the last thing I wanted.

I've always been aware of the importance of looking after your mental health, so I contacted my GP who organised for me to see a psychologist before the funeral so I could somehow get through that day. Both Scott and I have been linked with services and support and Hudson will receive the support he needs.

This only happened because we sought out help. Not all people know what support is available, and not everyone would think to contact their GP after going through this.

I also didn't qualify for any nurse or midwife follow up, that isn't a service my hospital provided. Who was going to check my wound? Who was going to check on me physically after the delivery of my baby? No one.

It was again up to me to seek out someone to check on me after the delivery of my baby when the thought of having to face the world was overwhelming. I know some hospitals have services that a woman in my situation can access some form of midwife follow up, but not enough hospitals provide that service. You'd think a women who loses her baby would be more at risk of neglecting her own physical issues during this time and should have people ready and waiting to ensure the woman is healing and healthy.

Why aren't we as a society so outraged that families who lose their baby don't get immediate help or support? The death of a child can ruin marriages, cause suicidality and ruin the lives of siblings if action isn't taken. How is that not important?

We need change. We need awareness.

I'm a dreamer, a planner and a doer. I have big plans for what we can achieve to provide families with support. I want to develop a service that provides an in-home counselling session, a nurse/midwife visit to check on the mother and we want to organise food services to provide a month of meals for families during this time.

We want to let them know what the weeks after the death of their baby will look like and discuss the awful things they will have to do while providing ways to get through. Most importantly, I want them to know how to get help. How to make sure they're OK and can work towards a positive future, even when it feels life will never be OK again.

We never would have survived this situation without the support of my family. My brother and sister came to our rescue and managed the awful jobs Scott and I couldn't face.

But not everyone has family like we do. Not everyone has support and not everyone has the knowledge of how to get that help.

Babies die. Stillbirth is real. Women have miscarriages. It's uncomfortable to talk about but it's one of the most important things we should be talking about. We should be focusing on making sure families cannot only survive after this tragedy but making sure they can thrive.

We have a long life to live. All I know is I love my husband, my son and my daughter. I want to be happy.

Maisie will be the reason other families won't have to suffer without support when they desperately need it; she is the reason I want to help others and I want to make sure our Maisie girl is never forgotten.

Tenille Peeler-Hammond started Made for Maisie with the support of Scott and Hudson. Visit www.madeformaisie.com.

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