THE room was lovingly decorated, and the house filled with all of the useful items that come in handy when a new baby arrives into the world.
Brianna Hudson and Joao Pedro Doege, of Mayfield, were all set. Ready and excited to meet the newest member of their family.
But holding baby James, who was born without a heartbeat on February 12, was simultaneously the most love, and the most indescribable pain, the couple has ever had to endure.
“It was a perfect, healthy pregnancy, the whole way through,” Ms Hudson, 23, said. “He was perfect. He always ticked all the boxes.”
Ms Hudson went into labour at 38 weeks gestation.
“I had been labouring all that day, and we were sent home from John Hunter Hospital because I was still in the early stages,” she said.
“They didn’t do all of the checks. They just did a quick check with the doppler, and told us to labour at home until my waters broke, or until the pain became unbearable.
“So we laboured at home, and when we went back in, they did a full check and noticed that his heart rate was very low, and that he had passed meconium.”
James had a hypercoiled umbilical cord.
Ms Hudson was placed under a general anaesthetic for an emergency caesarean.
When she woke, still groggy, she asked the midwives, “Where is my baby?”
“No one was really telling me anything. Then the doctors all came in and said he had been born without a heartbeat, and they weren’t able to resuscitate him,” she said. “No one picked up on anything until it was too late.
“There were so many different things that happened that day that could have changed the outcome.
“But there is nothing anyone can do now.”
Ms Hudson said they were grateful that John Hunter Hospital had the “cold cots”, which allowed them to say hello, and goodbye, to their beautiful boy over four precious days.
“We were so lucky we were able to do that,” she said.
“It is the two extremes. You feel the most amount of love, and the most amount of hurt in the world, all at once.”
Returning home from hospital to an empty house had been difficult.
Mr Doege’s five-year-old son, Emmanuel – Ms Hudson’s step-son – had just started kindergarten.
The house had seemed painfully quiet. Empty.
“Our family asked if we would like them to pack up James’ room and his things before we got home,” Ms Hudson said.
“We didn’t want them to. We left it set up for a couple of months.
“When everything started to get a bit dusty we thought it was time to pack up his cot and change table. We put his clothes into a special chest.”
Ms Hudson has been receiving counselling from Red Nose. She has also been comforted and supported by women across Australia who have experienced the agony of losing a stillborn child. They communicate via Whatsapp.
“There are so many women around who have gone through this,” Ms Hudson said. “It has been really nice to talk about our babies to people who totally get it.”
Ms Hudson and Mr Doege are expecting another baby, a little girl, in December.
“When we found out we were having a girl, it hit home that this isn’t James – this baby isn’t going to replace him. It is a completely different person,” she said.
Ms Hudson wanted to share their story to encourage anyone who had lost a baby – during pregnancy or infancy – to remember, reflect and recognise their loss at a special ceremony at Sandgate Cemetery’s Garden of The Innocents on October 15 at 6.15pm.
The ceremony will incorporate the International Wave of Light event, where participants across the globe are encouraged to burn a candle to form a “chain of light” for 24 hours to honour and remember lost babies.
Data from the most recent Mothers and Babies Report shows there were 50 stillborn babies recorded in Hunter New England in 2016.
Mark Franklin, of Sandgate Cemetery, said about 4000 stillborn babies were laid to rest there since the 1880s. It was a sacred place for families – somewhere they could go for consolation and connection.
“In previous years we’ve had people who might have lost a child 20 or 30 years ago, and they have been looking for closure, or a way of re-connecting, and these events have been such a positive way of assisting those families,” he said. “For anyone who has lost a child, we offer a complimentary little memorial plaque that they can add to our wall.”