Newcastle will join landmarks across the globe showing its support for lost babies when it illuminates its Clocktower in pink and blue on 15 October.
Every day, 282 Australian women lose a baby during pregnancy, yet their loss was only acknowledged nationally, last week.
On Wednesday 17 February, a motion was passed in the House of Representatives in Canberra, officially recognising 15 October as the International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
For Perth couple John and Kate De’Laney the news was “overwhelming”.
Following the loss of their first son to miscarriage in 2012, the pair had been fighting to have a day of recognition included on the national calendar.
After five years and 15 cycles of unsuccessful IVF treatments, John and Kate were told at their baby’s first scan that there was no heartbeat.
It was the first of seven miscarriages they would suffer.
“We were devastated,” John said. “We both felt lost and alone.”
He and Kate made a promise to one another that day that they would do all they could to make sure no one else experienced the feelings of loss of confusion they had felt.
“We didn’t know where to turn, or how to mark the loss we were feeling,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how far along a pregnancy is, grief is felt just as deeply.”
Through his research John learned that in October 1988 then-US President Ronald Reagan had declared October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in the United States.
During Reagan’s speech he had declared there was a need to mark the loss a person feels when a child dies prior to its birth.
“When a child loses his parent they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
The findings spurred John and Kate to continue their fight for a nationally recognised date.
“I started to take on each state at a time,” John said.
“NSW had already recognised 15 October as a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and WA had followed in 2013. So I wrote to politicians in both Tasmania and Victoria.”
The responses were disheartening every time.
“We were determined not to give up,” John said.
In November 2019 John and Kate met with Senator Kristina Keneally, seeking her support.
“That’s when it really kicked into gear,” John said.
Together with 15,000 signatures, a motion was raised within the senate to have the date 15 October nationally recognised as the annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Last week, the date was set in stone, reducing John to tears of joy.
“There would not be a person on earth that has not been touched by pregnancy loss,” John said. “This date was for all of us.
“It offers support, reassurance and comfort to so many people in this country and we’re hoping it will help remove the stigma attached to talking about pregnancy loss and offer recognition and meaning to a baby’s existence.”
John and Kate have since approached the United Nations in a bid to have the date recognised globally.
They have also founded the Pregnancy And Infant Loss Australia (PAILAustralia) group aimed at increasing the recognition and support for parents.
In 2012, John arranged for several Perth landmark buildings to be lit pink and blue on 15 October.
By 2020 the number had increased to 135, including Newcastle’s Clocktower.
This year the pair is hoping to include international landmarks in its tally.
“Since the day we lost our son there have been approximately half a billion babies lost during pregnancy,” John said.
“A date gives us all an opportunity to recognise the loss of a baby, and it gives their existence meaning.”