Surviving a stillbirth takes time
Mourning mother wants towns to light up for Pregnancy, Infant Loss Remembrance Day
It’s an experience Dawn Hurdle will never forget.
The Riverhead, Harbour Grace native was in for an appointment with her obstetrician, who told her everything looked good.
But the next night, the expectant mother wasn’t feeling much movement in her belly. She went to the hospital in Carbonear the following morning on Oct. 10, 2015, where two nurses checked for a heartbeat. They couldn’t find one.
“Then they sent in a doctor and they gave me another ultrasound, and they told me that she had no heart beat and she was gone,” Hurdle told The Compass.
A day later at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s, the baby girl Dawn would name Felicity left her mother’s womb, lost in a stillbirth. By then, Dawn was 39 weeks pregnant. Felicity was her first child.
“It was like a horrible dream. It takes a long while to resonate that something has happened to you.”
Now Dawn is trying to raise awareness in her hometown and surrounding communities by encouraging municipalities to recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, observed annually around the world Oct. 15.
After losing her daughter, Dawn coped as best she could. Visitors would come to help console her, but she barely left home. She returned to her job in February and tried to keep her mind occupied and not think too much about what she went through, but it was hard.
“Then I started to get no patience. A lot of stress … agitated with everything, and I had breakdowns. I’d cry, sob — I can’t even explain what it felt like — to the point it was interfering with my life. Even socializing or talking to people, I couldn’t handle it.”
Mother’s Day hurt
When Mother’s Day came in May of this year, Dawn’s pain became too much to bear. Realizing she needed to seek help, she enlisted the services of a therapist. The experience of talking with a person whose job it is to listen helped immeasurably. Dawn would feel guilty talking with friends and family about what she went through and worried she was bringing people down, but that’s never the case with her therapist.
“That has helped me tremendously,” said Dawn, who started seeing her therapist in June. “I think it’s good to have an unbiased opinion.”
Still, it remains a constant struggle trying to overcome such an emotionally traumatic life event.
“There’s a lot of survivor’s guilt … You feel guilty when you’re happy. I feel like I shouldn’t be. When there’s moments that I am happy, it doesn’t take long for it to turn, and then I feel really guilty about it. I shouldn’t be happy. It’s hard. It’s hard everyday. I’m almost a year in now, and it’s still hard.”
Dawn reckons there are plenty of people who struggle in silence, and that’s why she’s contacting town councils asking them to take part in the Lights of Love International Wave of Light.
At 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, candles and other lights are used to remember those lost through a miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or in any other manner. Dawn hopes towns will come on board by turning on purple lights at that hour to recognize the special day.
“I know there’s a lot of women in this area that I’ve met that would really, really appreciate that the towns out here are going to honour their children by doing this.”
During its meeting last week, Harbour Grace council committed to honouring the occasion.
Since last year, Dawn has done lots of reading and met other mothers coming to terms with the loss of an infant through a Facebook group.
“So many people have come up to me now and told me their stories — this happened to my aunt, or this happened to my sister — but it’s all pushed under the rug and it’s a very taboo subject. Even now, it still is, in this day and age. And I want people to know that it’s common and it should be talked about. These babies are important and they deserve to be remembered.”
In Dawn’s case, the therapist helped her realize she doesn’t want to move on.
“That’s my daughter, and she always will be my daughter, but (my therapist) has helped me realize I do have to move on from it. I do have to go on with my life, as hard as that seems. And that’s a struggle everyday. But she’s helped me be able to get up and go to work and have a social life, and it doesn’t mean that I love (Felicity) any less or she’s any less important to me by doing that.”
An autopsy revealed no specific cause of death, and tests have shown Dawn is more than capable of producing another child.
“There’s no reason for me to worry it could happen again,” she said. “It’s just as likely to happen to anyone as it is to happen to me.”
She 100 per cent intends to try again someday. Dawn knows she’ll be extra nervous given what happened last fall.
“There’s always these dates where they tell ya everything should be OK … but there’s really no safe zone until you’ve got that baby, and that’s a harsh realization to come to.”
It’s been almost a year since Dawn Hurdle lost her first child in a stillbirth. Talking with a therapist has helped, and knowing there are many who suffer in silence, Dawn is attempting to get local municipalities to formally recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.