When Steve and Bonnie Carter were grieving the loss of their two stillborn daughters, Grace and Matilda, they described the silence among friends and family as “deafening”.
The pair now strive to raise awareness for those going through the same pain and hope the lighting up of iconic Canberra buildings this month will do just that.
“We have lost both of our daughters, and after our first daughter, Grace, was stillborn, the silence was pretty deafening around friends and family,” Bonnie said.
“Second time round when we lost our second daughter, Tilly, the support was a lot different. I think through us sharing memories of our first daughter, Grace, people realised the enormity of our loss.
“The second time round, with the double-edged sword of having to go through it all over again, we felt a much stronger sense of support.”
According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, in 2017 the ACT recorded 10.3 stillbirths per 1,000 births, compared to the national average of 7.1.
Since 2018, the national capital has participated in International Remembrance Day for Pregnancy and Infant Loss on 15 October by lighting up iconic Canberra sites in pink and blue.
Facilitated by Bonnie and Steve, and with just two sites lit up in the inaugural year – 2020 will see 10 Canberra landmarks show their support for the cause.
“It’s just been through engaging with different organisations, asking for people’s help and spreading the awareness,” Bonnie said.
“Everyone knows someone who has been through it, whether they have been through it, or to support a family, friend or colleague – it’s for everyone to get involved.
“It can be quite a taboo subject and we want to break that awareness and have people feel like this is a time they can celebrate and share the memories of their children with their friends and family.”
The pair lost their first daughter, Grace, to a stillbirth in June 2016, and their second daughter, Matilda, to a stillbirth in December 2017.
They hope through raising awareness of their story, they can teach the wider community how to support those who go through pregnancy or infant loss.
“Pregnancy loss and child loss is a whole new level of grief. It’s such a raw, intense heartache you feel and forever we will have to live with this uncomfortable feeling of something missing from us,” Bonnie said.
“Before we could have imagined this would happen to us, I had a friend who had been through a number of losses and I didn’t know what to say to her and have since, in hindsight, realised things I could have done.
“That simply would have been to be there with her, hold her up on those hard days and, as time goes on, not forget about that and remember her babies.”
To support the cause, Canberrans are encouraged to visit the local sites below on the evening of Thursday 15 October, and support those who have experienced the unimaginable loss.
- Old Parliament House
- National Carillon
- Royal Australian Mint
- National Archives of Australia
- Canberra Airport (terminal)
- Bowen Place (Lake Burley Griffin)
- Kings Avenue Bridge (overpass)
- Canberra Times Foundation (city)
- Various Light Rail interchanges/stops
- Telstra Tower