Stillborn but not forgotten: little T.G's parents speak out
IN HIS hands Troy Austin holds a blanket.
Inside is a teddy bear and a tiny silk gown.
The items are among the "little bits" all around the home Troy and wife Kelly share with the memories of their son T.G.
"We say good morning and good night to him every day," Troy said.
"He's with us everywhere we go."
This Christmas will be different to the one the couple imagined before January 21 this year.
"Last Christmas, Kel was pregnant," Troy said.
But on that Thursday in January at Bundaberg Hospital, T.G was stillborn.
This Christmas, the Austins and their families will spend time with him in Brisbane at Albany Creek cemetery.
It's a loss they feel every day and one they feel needs to be brought out of the shadows.
"It's not something they hand out booklets to prepare you for," Troy said.
"All you see in the books is happy people with happy pregnancies.
"The other side never comes out.
"We went to a scan and the specialist said 'We can't find a heartbeat', and that was the first we knew of it."
They signed T.G's death certificate, followed by his birth certificate, and then spent the night with him before "handing him over".
"It's not surreal," Troy said. "It's just devastating.
"To organise a funeral for a boy you never got to hold, you have your nursery at home which is still set up, and coming up to Christmas you're supposed to spend time with the family with a baby that you don't have."
The Austins were given no explanation for T.G's death.
But they believe many stillbirths are preventable and there needs to be greater awareness, research and funding.
Every year in Australia, 3000 babies are either stillborn or die in the first 28 days after birth.
"If six people a day died on our roads there would be an outcry," Kelly said.
"How is it okay for six babies to die every day?"
Nobody wants to talk about a dead child, Troy says.
"It puts shivers down everyone.
"I found out one of my close friends go through it and we didn't even know, until we got the message that said 'That happened to our first son'.
"Nobody really knows about it, or understands, until it happens to them."
Troy has spent much of the year throwing himself into intense sporting achievements, competing in triathlon events in New Zealand and the US.
"I'm only just going through some of the pain now, because I kept myself so busy up until September I didn't give myself a chance to think about it," he said.
Kelly, meanwhile, is taking it "a day at a time".
She has started a Facebook page, T.G's Legacy, and has raised $6000 for stillbirth research charity Sands.
Sands partners with charity Angel Gowns, which provides kits with a bear, blanket and gown to bereaved parents.
In October, she and Troy marched in the Sands Walk to Remember, held in Brisbane to raise awareness of stillbirth.
There was nowhere near enough education for mothers to be, Kelly said.
"They give you information on 25,000 other things when you are pregnant," she said.
"Monitoring your baby's movements (is) one of the major things you can do.
"New research has shown that the old methodology of 'if I feel 10 kicks a day it's okay' is not the case, because every pregnancy is different.
"It's about bonding with your bump and knowing the pattern of movement your baby has, and seeking help if that pattern changes."
Anyone affected by the death of a baby can ring the 24-hour Sands support line 1300 072 637 and talk to a volunteer parent supporter or visit sands.org.au.