By: Clare Bruce
When everything your family is going well, it can be easy in holidays and family celebrations, to forget that others are doing it tough.
Those facing infertility and childlessness, long-term singleness, or separation from a child who has stopped making contact, may feel lonelier than ever.
In particular, parents who have lost a baby may struggle with deep grief around holidays and family occasions – while parents of premature babies may be quietly suffering from postnatal depression.
Kylie Pussell, co-founder of the Miracle Babies Foundation, knows these feelings all too well. She’s now a mum of three, but she has also lost five babies along the way – including twins who she miscarried 16 weeks into pregnancy.
Kylie’s eldest daughter Madeline was born at 30 weeks, and that’s when Kylie was diagnosed with a condition called Cervical Incompetence, which is a cause of premature birth. Madeline was in intensive care for the first six weeks of her life.
Then, two years later, Kylie gave birth to twins at only 25 weeks gestation – both of whom were resuscitated at birth. Sadly, baby Marcus died from complications due to being so premature, while baby Scarlet required ventilation and surgery and didn’t come home until 4 months later.
Why Premature Birth can Lead to Postnatal Depression
Kylie explains that premature birth can often lead parents into a lot of stress, shock, and postnatal depression.
“When you have a premature birth, it’s usually quite sudden and unexpected – so a lot of these families go into this whole new clinical experience, not prepared at all, with no understanding of how the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit works,” she said. “It’s a really scary place when you first go in there, and a lot of these parents are really struggling with ‘will their baby survive’?
“Going home when mum is discharged is really, really hard, because it’s that real eye-opener of, ‘Wow, my babies have to stay here at the hospital, it could be days, weeks, months, and I have to go home’. It puts a lot of pressures on regarding other children they may have, financial stresses, looking for accommodation, take-out meals, travel expenses… there’s a lot going on to make it such an emotional trauma.”
All of that pressure makes special days a mixed bag of emotions.
“..[It’s] tough for a lot of families, bereaved parents or those that have babies in the neonatal unit or special care,” Kylie explained.
But despite the challenges, Kylie encourages parents to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, and Mother’s Day all the same.
“We do suggest to all the parents, embrace it – because you are a mum, and bub might be struggling at the moment, but they’re your bubba. Love them and enjoy the day as much as you can.”
Take it One Day at a Time
For Kylie, there were times in her own seasons of depression and grief that she could only think one day at a time.
“We are very blessed that we have three [children], but along that road it was just getting through moment by moment, and day by day,” she said. “When I was at my lowest, when my son passed away, it was something I held really close to my chest and didn’t talk about for a long time.”
When she was pregnant with her daughter Madeline, she didn’t even tell her friends until she was 22 weeks along.
“I guess I started to isolate myself a little bit, because I didn’t know with each pregnancy if I would bring the child home,” she said. “So I started…hiding at home and trying to deal with it on my own.”
Kylie now encourages parents to find someone they can talk to, rather than staying silent—even if that’s an anonymous phone counsellor at first.
“Don’t put a huge amount of pressure on yourself at the start,” she advises. “Just take small steps. That could be picking up the phone to the Miracle Babies national helpline and talking to someone… go to a [Miracle Babies] Nurture Group, go to your doctor if you’re struggling. Reach out to at least someone.”
For Kylie, it was other parents that gave her courage and hope.
“It was when I met other parents through Miracle Babies Foundation that I started to gain the confidence and strength to share what I’d been through,” she said. “It took a lot of years, but definitely the support of those parents around me who’d been through something traumatic themselves, was what really helped me be able to talk about it and process it.”
Finding a “New Normal”
Kylie said the loss of a child isn’t something you “get over”.
“I had to find my new normal,” she said. “As a bereaved parent it’s not something that ever goes away, it’s with you for life, and it took a long time and heartache and a lot of support from people around me. But I managed to find my new normal – and that was living my life, with my loss and with my heartache as part of my story, and getting to the point where that was part of me.”
She added that dads are often forgotten, but need just as much care.
“Dads are at all the same risk of postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress as a mum, so we want everyone to look out for dads as well, and try and encourage them to speak up and reach out.”
Find Out More
To support the Miracle Babies Foundation’s “Miracle Month of May” appeal, head to their website www.miraclebabies.org.au to make a donation or find out about volunteering roles.
If you are struggling and need support, contact the Miracle Babies Foundation’s 24-hour support line, 1300 MBABIES / 1300 622 243.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
About the Author: Clare is a digital journalist for the Broadcast Industry.