Sil­ver lin­ing in tragic cir­cum­stances

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

For nine months, Hopetoun cou­ple Anna Heath and Leighton Hate­ley pre­pared to bring a baby into the world.

They at­tended doc­tors’ ap­point­ments, Anna un­der­went the reg­u­lar gamut of ante-natal tests and they heard their baby’s heart­beat.

They dis­cov­ered they were hav­ing a baby girl – and she kicked like a ninja.

It was as close to per­fect a preg­nancy can be. Un­til it wasn’t. About 1am on July 25 last year, Anna awoke in a state of panic.

When Leighton turned on the bed­room light, they dis­cov­ered what Anna had thought was her wa­ters break­ing was ac­tu­ally a large pool of blood. They had never felt fear like it. Paramedics took Anna to Wim­mera Base Hos­pi­tal in Hor­sham and by the time Leighton ar­rived, she had learnt their daugh­ter, Raleigh, no longer had a heart­beat.

Leighton said the pair had to pre­pare them­selves for the in­evitable.

“We were go­ing to have our baby,” he said.

“We had looked for­ward to this mo­ment with such ex­cite­ment and hap­pi­ness, but we didn’t know it would be the ex­act op­po­site.

“There’s no such empty feel­ing as know­ing you will be hav­ing a baby you can’t keep. You can’t hear her cry or feed her, bath her, dress her or just feel her warmth against your skin.”

Raleigh Cathryn Hate­ley was born at 5.25am on July 25, 2017, weigh­ing four pounds, three ounces and mea­sur­ing 44 cen­time­tres.

“She had the most beau­ti­ful face, long pi­ano-player fin­gers and beau­ti­ful dark hair,” Leighton said.

“She was per­fect in ev­ery way, ex­cept she was asleep.”

Anna’s pla­centa had be­come de­tached, cut­ting off the blood sup­ply that fed Raleigh and helped her grow.

Anna said once a baby was starved of oxy­gen and nu­tri­ents, it did not take long to pass.

“It was, is and al­ways will be very hard to ac­cept – to know that we were just ‘un­lucky’,” she said.

She said de­spite the trauma of hav­ing a still­born child, there was a sil­ver lin­ing.

The hos­pi­tal had a ‘cud­dle cot’, do­nated by Mel­bourne cou­ple Connie and Sam Brown in hon­our of their son Ed­ward, who was also de­liv­ered still­born.

A cud­dle cot cooling sys­tem al­lows ba­bies ‘born sleep­ing’ to re­main with their fam­i­lies, rather than be­ing cooled in a mor­tu­ary.

“We were the first ones to use it in Hor­sham and we had no idea what it was un­til we ex­pe­ri­enced it,” Anna said.

“When you go into labour you go to hos­pi­tal think­ing you’re go­ing to bring your baby home, but that isn’t the case for ev­ery­one.

“Be­ing able to have the cud­dle cot meant we were able to have some time with our daugh­ter. We were able to cre­ate some lit­tle mem­o­ries over the four days.”

Raleigh was Anna and Leighton’s first child to­gether.

Anna has two chil­dren from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship, Belle, 11, and Ava, 8.

“When it all hap­pened my mum and sis­ter picked them up and brought them to Hor­sham,” Anna said.

“Leighton met them out­side to give them the heads up. It was hor­ri­ble. The girls were beau­ti­ful though. They cud­dled and kissed their lit­tle sis­ter and took pho­tos with her. It was very hard to see and ex­plain but we are lucky they got to spend time with her.

“We were lucky to have Raleigh for four days. With­out the cud­dle cot, with­out that time we had, get­ting pho­tos, casts of her per­fect hands and feet, get­ting her bap­tised and time with fam­ily, the grief would have been too much to bear.

“We are grate­ful to the Brown fam­ily for their gen­eros­ity and we wanted to be able to do the same thing for other fam­i­lies, in hon­our of our lit­tle girl.”

Hon­our­ing Raleigh

In De­cem­ber last year, Anna and Leighton do­nated a cud­dle cot to Nara­coorte Hos­pi­tal with money they raised through an on­line cam­paign.

“We set out to raise $4500 and we reached the goal in a day,” Anna said.

“I also make and sell can­dles and I made a batch of spe­cial can­dles in Raleigh’s name, which I sold to co­in­cide with In­ter­na­tional Preg­nancy and In­fant Loss Re­mem­brance Day.”

Left­over do­na­tions and money raised from the can­dles will go to­wards a sec­ond cud­dle cot pur­chased in Raleigh’s name at a later date.

The fam­ily chose Nara­coorte Hos­pi­tal for the first do­na­tion be­cause that was where Anna was due to give birth.

“It was an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult and emo­tional thing to do but we take so­lace from the fact the cud­dle cot will not only help fam­i­lies like ours, but our daugh­ter will be re­mem­bered,” Anna said.

Sup­port

Anna said she and her fam­ily were over­whelmed by the sup­port of the Hopetoun and wider Wim­mera com­mu­ni­ties.

She said she un­der­stood most peo­ple found the idea of still­birth con­fronting and un­com­fort­able.

“Some peo­ple don’t like to be around you be­cause they don’t know what to say,” she said.

“Oth­ers sim­ply cud­dle you. They cry, you cry. We found a lot of peo­ple were con­cerned about our pri­vacy, but were still there for us.”

Anna said she and Leighton wanted to share their ex­pe­ri­ence for two rea­sons: So peo­ple would know their daugh­ter’s name and to en­cour­age peo­ple to speak more openly about still­birth.

“It’s one of those things peo­ple don’t re­ally talk about,” she said.

“Some­times it’s not un­til you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing tragic your­self that peo­ple will open up to you about their ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Still­birth oc­curs when a baby dies be­fore or dur­ing birth.

It can hap­pen at any time from 20 weeks un­til full term – 40 weeks – or later.

Ev­ery day, there are ba­bies in Aus­tralia.

The main causes are con­gen­i­tal anom­alies, pre­ma­ture birth or prob­lems with the pla­centa or cord.

“Pla­centa abrup­tion, like what hap­pened to us, can hap­pen to any mum,” Anna said.

“There is no nec­es­sary rea­son as to why it hap­pened to us and we live with the un­known ev­ery day.

“The fact is you go through your preg­nancy think­ing ev­ery­thing is fine but you’re not safe un­til your baby is in your arms and breath­ing.

“Still­birth is more com­mon than we think and it is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge these ba­bies and the role they play in their lives.

“We are still a fam­ily of five, we just don’t have her here. I look at pho­tos of Raleigh ev­ery day. She’s beau­ti­ful, like a baby sleep­ing.

“If love could have saved her she would have lived for­ever.” six still­born

RE­MEM­BER­ING RALEIGH: The Hate­ley-heath fam­ily, from left, Ava Heath, 8, Anna Heath, Leighton Hate­ley and Belle Heath, 11, have do­nated a Cud­dle Cot to Nara­coorte Hos­pi­tal in hon­our of their daugh­ter and sis­ter, Raleigh.

PRE­CIOUS MEM­O­RIES: Hav­ing a cud­dle cot meant the fam­ily had time to take pho­tos with Raleigh.

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