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.”

Ther­a­pist’s help

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.

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