An opportunity for families to reflect and remember lost infants and babies is returning to Sandgate Cemetery this month.
Following a COVID-19-enforced three-year break, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Service will take place in the Garden of Innocents on Monday 16 October from 5pm.
No matter the bereavement, it is a time to reminisce those babies who have passed and to offer support to those who are grieving.
The event, in partnership with Red Nose Australia, will recognise all kinds of loss, from early pregnancy to miscarriage, as well as stillbirth, neo-natal, SIDS and accidental deaths.
Also planned for the occasion are music, poems, speakers and the lighting of a candle (LED) as part of the International Wave of Light.
Novocastrian Megan Sutton, the event’s first ambassador when Sandgate Cemetery hosted the inaugural service in 2017, will reprise her role in 2023.
Sadly, she lost her daughter Monique just before she turned two.
Ms Sutton believes the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Service is important for parents who have endured the same ordeal.
“People grieve in their own way, that’s natural,” she said.
“It’s been a while since Monique passed… and I still miss her every day.
“Some days are hard and some nights, I want to cry and cry and cry.
“But, I can honestly feel her around me, she’s watching over me and keeping me strong enough to get through this crazy world.
“She’s my guardian angel who could only come to earth for a short time.
“And, I’m so glad she found me.”
Ms Sutton was aware Monique had some heart issues, which brought her into the world early – at 34 weeks by C-section.
“I knew about them as soon as I found out I was carrying her,” the preschool and dance teacher said.
“Even when I discovered she had Down Syndrome, I wasn’t too concerned about her extra chromosome.
“I was more worried that she would come out alive and safe… and, that she did.
“It was the best day of my life.
“I was the woman who was fairly convinced I didn’t want children, I felt I was surrounded by so many at work that I didn’t need any of my own.
“However, my precious Monique changed that.
“She made me the happiest person alive.”
Over the course of the next 20 months, Ms Sutton lovingly endured countless hospital visits in Newcastle and Sydney, many Triple 000 calls, ambulance rides and emergency admissions, never leaving her daughter’s side.
Although Monique’s heart issues improved, doctors soon discovered her lungs weren’t growing at the same rate as her body.
In August 2014, she picked up bronchiolitis.
Monique gave it one last massive fight… but it was just too strong for her and she passed away in her mother’s arms on 2 September.
Ms Sutton continues to think about her every day.
“I was heartbroken, she was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.
“She came to all my classes because I was so committed to caring for my daughter.
“When she was well, she was really well.
“She was chatty, always laughing and we were the best little team.
“I always told her that I loved being her mum.
“Due to her disability, we would have physio sessions, speech, OT and many other appointments of some sort but life was okay, we were happy.
“Sometimes it was hard, extremely hard.
“But, we had many fun times… we coped well.
“I’d always wanted to teach children with special needs the wonderful world of dance.
“So, to fulfil that dream and keep Monique’s memory alive, I set up a studio, Chance2Dance, that’s totally dedicated to kids/teens/young adults with disabilities.
“Now I have about 50 students… and they love it.
“And, to this day, I tell everyone about her.”
Sandgate Cemetery also provides complimentary memorial plaques, which can be arranged in memory of a lost baby.
The small, inscribed heart shapes are placed on a wall in the Garden of the Innocents and available to anyone, free of charge, wanting to acknowledge and remember a young life lost.
People are encouraged to register their attendance online via Eventbrite by searching Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Event at Sandgate Cemetery.
Facts and figures
Red Nose Australia is making significant progress towards its goal of zero preventable deaths of babies and children during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood.
- 11,122 babies saved
- $18 million invested in research to date
- 80% reduction in sudden infant deaths since 1989
But, there is still more work to do – 3,000 babies and young children died suddenly and unexpectedly in the past year.
- 6 babies are stillborn and 2 die within 28 days of birth
Types of infant loss
- Neonatal death: Which occurs after live birth to 28 days post-delivery
- Stillbirth: Occurring from 20 weeks gestation prior to birth with a weight of 400g or more. Stillbirth may also include late-term abortion after 20 weeks gestation
In 2019, there were 303,054 babies born to 298,567 women
There were 2,897 perinatal deaths (less than 1% of babies born)
Of these deaths, just over 75% were stillbirths (2,183) and 25% (714) were neonatal deaths
Sudden infant death in Infants (SIDS)
SIDS is defined as the sudden and unexpected death of an infant under one year of age with an onset of a fatal episode occurring during sleep, that remains unexplained after a thorough investigation.
In 2020, 25 deaths were attributed to SIDS across Australia.
- QLD – 11
- NSW – 2
- VIC – 12
No data is available in other states or territories
Sudden and Unexpected deaths in Infants across Australia (SUDI)
What is SUDI and how is it different to SIDS?
SUDI is a broad term used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of a baby for which the cause is not immediately obvious. SUDI includes deaths from SIDS as well death from other unexpected causes such as drowning.
In 2020, there were 100 SUDI deaths across Australia.
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