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Still Hope For Angel Babies

Still Hope For Angel Babies

Montanna Macdonald

Journalist

Montanna Macdonald

Alison and Adam Wightwick sit side by side on their sofa, looking into the eyes of each other as they speak about their last moments with their son, Aaron. Adam spoke softly, “you’re on the maternity ward … there is a lot of happiness around, and babies crying, and our baby’s not crying.” 

 

Aaron Wightwick is one baby of six in Australia to be stillborn each day, the main cause of death under the age of one. According to the 2018 Senate Inquiry into stillbirth, Australia’s stillbirth rate is higher than the national road toll, and over 30 times more common than Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Despite modern advancements in medical practise, Australia’s stillbirth rates have not changed in the last 20 years, receiving less recognition than other childhood deaths. The lack of conversation is a national crisis, affecting the mental health of bereaved parents, families and health practitioners. 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) defines stillbirth as “a foetal death occurring at 20 or more completed weeks of gestation or 400 grams or more birth weight”. For Ali and Adam Wightwick, 2019 marks the 12th anniversary of Aaron’s death at just 19 weeks and six days. “The hardest thing is all of the firsts,” Adam says. “He was due on our wedding anniversary. That date for quite a few years was not a happy day when it should’ve been a happy day.”

On June 12, 2007, Ali Wightwick went from back pain one day, to Aaron having no heartbeat the next. The Wightwick’s specialist only weeks earlier said the pregnancy was strong. “It was tough to hand him over. This is the end, and this is it, we aren’t going to see him again,” Ali says. 

 

“He was a little human,” Adam adds. “All the features were there; little hands, fingers and toes.” The couple will never forget picking up Aaron from his hospital bassinet and holding him one last time.

 

Following Aarons death, the Drysdale couple went through two more IVF miscarriages within three years, triggering anxiety, depression and feeling withdrawn from society. “I didn’t want to leave the house,” Ali says to her husband, to which he responds: “it was hard to lift your spirits when you didn’t want your spirits lifted. We did a lot of counselling.” 

 

The Wightwicks share a memory box filled with trinkets and a teddy bear with Aaron’s urn inside to cuddle. It was these small things and support groups that brought them peace. Happily, the couple now have two healthy boys, Zane and Xavier, and believe seeking support changed their course. 

 

 “If we didn’t get any of that, our story could be totally different,” Adam says. 

“Reach out and take the support, even if you don’t think you need it because that’s what makes the difference.”

According to the University of Queensland’s Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth, the often hidden tragedy of bereavement affects over 2000 families each year, with the sorrow of empty arms causing a ripple effect with social and emotional impacts. Furthermore, up to 50% of Australia’s and New Zealand’s bereaved parents believe they are unable to communicate freely about their stillborn baby because of the discomfort in others.

 

Geelong’s Westfield My Local Hero Finalist, and Angel Gowns volunteer, Sarah Tuohey, crochets clothing and blankets for “angel babies” and premature babies. The Westfield program offers community recognition and grants for nominated locals efforts to support an organisation of their choice. Angel Gowns for Australian Angel Babies provides angel packs with gowns and other keepsakes for families with babies up to 18 months who have died. 

 

While cradling little white booties in the palm of her hand, Sarah softly says, “these beautiful little beanies and booties show that those little people are not forgotten, rather than just remembered as a miscarriage or something that went wrong.” 

 

Sarah’s premature son, Noah, survived her complicated pregnancy, after being diagnosed with a potentially deadly condition called Placenta Percreta, where the placenta can attach to the uterus and nearby organs. Sarah encountered mothers who lost their children and needed small clothing, prompting her to volunteer for Angel Gowns. For Sarah, giving families clothing signified these babies had a life, giving parents the chance to celebrate the short time they had. 

Sarah reflects on a conversation she once had with a bereaved mum. Dressing her baby in a gown was the only thing she could do, “putting the baby to rest in a beautiful way, knowing the baby was loved”. “She couldn’t save the child, but she could at least give the baby a farewell that they deserved.” 

 

Angel Gowns is just one of many organisations in Australia trying to provide bereaved parents with the support they need. Furthermore, with over 54 million 

 

Angel Gowns is just one of many organisations in Australia trying to provide bereaved parents with the support they need. Organisations like Red Nose, SANDS, Stillbirth Foundation and Still Aware are continually campaigning for education, awareness and action in stillbirth research and preventatives. 

 

These organisations, as well as over 269 submissions from around the nation, contributed to the Senate Enquiry Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education Report in December 2018. The report inquires the future of stillbirth with sixteen recommendations made by the committee. The Australian Government published their response in July 2019.

 

The Australian Government agreed to meet all sixteen recommendations made by the committee, including a total $52.4 million investment in research, education programs and mental health support. 

 

The Stillbirth CRE Safer Baby Bundle campaign rolls out this October in NSW, VIC and QLD, addressing the evidence gaps in maternity services on stillbirth prevention. The program aims to reduce stillbirth rates by 20 %, hoping to model the success rates of the ‘Saving Babies Lives Bundle’ in the UK. 

 

A prominent theme runs through these experiences, a need for communication, education and research to synchronise. Conversation is key to supporting families, not only in reducing stillbirth occurrence but also in the bereavement process.

 

The courage of Alison, Adam and Sarah to bravely push through the barriers of existing conversational taboo and allow us to share the space of these moments is something we hold dearly. Life brings so much to us, we are deeply grateful to ponder with them. 

 

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When The Period Painters Come in to Decorate

When The Period Painters Come in to Decorate

If a woman’s body was a home, its walls would be covered in a myriad of vibrancy and colour.

But for a lot of us too, roughly 26% of the world’s population, we have painters come in to decorate the walls in a lovely hue of magenta, scarlett, sangria, mahogany, crimson, garnet, current and cherry. Time for a bottle of wine, she says.

Generally, we don’t like pesky painters. I don’t know about you, but my painters never come on time, always running late or knocking too early. Putting me in uncomfortable situations where I may have plans in white pants and wasn’t expecting those little shits to turn up. But they do, and I’ve learnt to live with them.

We may be used to the painters, but our society’s standards of TMI are not.

They love to look at our homes from the exterior, pretending like those painters spread glitter and fairy tales, and red riding hood never stepped foot in your forest…I mean, it’s ABSURD!

Apparently, no one likes the idea of red walls, red carpets, heck, if the paints heavy, well red bloody everything?

Today, I’m sick of pretending like our houses are always the same shade from the outside. It’s our house, our walls, our customised painters who sometimes like to wear pink on Wednesdays. It’s ours to own, and ours to protect and share.

So, no different to a Sunday bbq at your neighbour’s house, let’s talk about all those pesky painters at Janice’s and Barbara’s and their blobby bathroom paint finishes.

Here are some facts to ponder on:

  • Many girls do not have a complete and accurate understanding of menstruation as a normal biological process. – UNICEF
  • Many women and girls do not have access to materials to manage their menstruation, especially in times of emergency — natural disasters and conflicts. – UNICEF 
  • 80% of women experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. – Women’s Health Concern
  • 1 in 10 women suffer from Endometriosis – Endometriosis Australia
  • Only 13.8% of women call in sick during their periods, and over 80% of women who continue to go to school or work with their periods were less productive as a result. – British Medical Journal 
  • 20.1% of women who would not attend work or school because of their menstruation pain, told their employer/school a different reason for being absent. – British Medical Journal 

This research suggests that there is an underlying taboo for women when discussing periods, more than likely due to a historical “mythical” misunderstanding. According to the British Medical Journal, it primarily shows that women “reflect the need to change the view of menstrual symptoms and the way they are addressed to society”. 

The most distasteful fact is, this taboo about periods still exists today.

This month, the first Australian commercial by Asaleo Care (produce Libra) for their #bloodnormal campaign, showed RED period blood *not blue blood* in prime time television. This historical destigmatising of menstruation moment resulted in over 600 complaints sent to Ad Standards. Ad Standards dismissed the claims saying it did not breach any Code of Ethics.

Now, for starters, I’m not from Planet Oestrogen, I don’t have blue blood, and even Smurfs bleed red!

Secondly, the fact that complaints went as far as saying the commercial was “disgusting” and “offensive” makes my blood boil.

Here is the link to the video. 

We would love to hear your opinion.

If you haven’t heard of Bodyform, they are a maxi pad brand in the UK and are renown for their kick ass marketing strategies in female period empowerment.

When lots of us women share our annoyances about the painters, it’s often ignored, and not spoken about.

But there are reasons why we don’t like them, and we need to be more educated about it. 

For some of us our painters bear fists and decide that while they paint, they like to punch you in the ovaries when you’re not looking. Bastards. 

But the old saying, of “you’ll be right, it’s just that time of the month”, or “don’t be dramatic”, should be out the window if everyone could see you’re in fisticuffs with the painter.

It is utterly heartbreaking knowing that so many women are in pain, thinking that it’s normal and listen to ignorant colloquialisms of it just being life. 

Now, if the painters come to decorate this month, and you’re used to preparing for fista-cuffs, then take this information and advice from Better Health Victoria:

Period pain is called dysmenorrhoea, and it is crucial that if you suffer from this, see your GP. You need to make sure that you are thoroughly examined to check that reproductive disorders like endometriosis or Fibroids do not cause your period pain. 

And most importantly, before you go, stand up for yourself! And if you’re reading this and you’re a man, be open to the conversation.  

Don’t be afraid to talk about red walls, and report those painters if they are punching you in the ovaries!

#bloodnormal 

 

Now recently, a man posted to Bodyforms Facebook, whinging about their unrealistic marketing of “happy periods”. 

If you want to see something so epic that you have a Breakfast Club fist in the air moment, by all means, watch the video, a PR DREAM! Hope it makes you smile.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: 

This article provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, is not a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider. 

We acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nation, on whose unceded sovereign land we work. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

One Brave Mother and 65 Roses

One Brave Mother and 65 Roses

We spoke to the wonderful Jennifer Jury who runs the annual Charity Ladies Lunch Event on the 31st of May (2019) for Cystic Fibrosis at the RACV City Club in Bourke St Melbourne.

Tell us about the luncheon and your part in it

​Charity & Fun (aka Jan Dalton, Bee Pitts, Jennifer Jury) run an annual Charity Ladies Lunch Event for Cystic Fibrosis always in the Month of May, where hundreds of women will come together to celebrate ’65 Roses’ Month and raise funds to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).  My 10-year-old daughter Ellie-May has CF & we are proud to say that with the incredible generosity of everyone involved to date we have raised over $175,000 for this worthy cause so far! Proceeds support 2 CF organisations – Cystic Fibrosis Community Care & Cure4CF.

One Brave Mother And 65 Roses, Geelong Social Media, Geelong Digital Media, Cystic Fibrosis

“The phrase ’65 Roses’ comes from the mouth of a child who mistook the pronunciation of Cystic Fibrosis thinking it instead ’65 Roses’ and as such it has become a meaningful symbol for the charity.”

“When a newborn baby is diagnosed with CF the grief experienced by the parents is unimaginable. CF is the most common, genetically inherited, a life-shortening condition affecting young Australians today – a baby is born with CF every four days.  The condition affects the lungs, digestive system and sweat glands requiring relentless expensive, daily physiotherapy and medical regimes. The average life expectancy for those born with CF is 38 – there is no cure.”

Book of the Month Ponderings Magazine

The idea of a ladies luncheon came to us about 8 years ago when we were attending a Ladies Lunch Event for Ovarian Cancer. We loved being part of that experience & decided that we could replicate the event for Cystic Fibrosis. There is just 3 of us volunteers, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the day is a huge success & that all runs smoothly & we maximise our potential to raise much-needed funds & awareness for CF. Now in our 6th year, we have a good, efficient blueprint to follow, but chasing ticket sales & donations for prizes is always the most time-consuming part.

The CF Luncheon is all about raising funds & awareness for CF while having a good time.

One Brave Mother And 65 Roses, Geelong Social Media, Geelong Digital Media, Cystic Fibrosis

There is a 2-course meal, free-flowing beverages, goody bags for all guests, live music & lots of dancing, celebrity MC & lots of ways to donate to our cause through raffles, auctions & mystery balloons. It really is a chance to rally the girlfriends together & enjoy a “long lunch”, and all for a good cause!

What do you wish people knew about CF that perhaps they don’t?

​”That there is NEVER a day off from CF” – as my 10 yo often tells us & this year Ellie-May will be speaking as the Guest Speaker to let the audience really know what it is like to be a child living with CF. The constant stress & anxiety for all family members is massive, but you really do learn to appreciate the special things in life.

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Who have been some if your fave MCS?

​Where do I begin – we have been so fortunate & thankful to have had amazing & extremely talented MCs in Claire Hooper, Denise Scott, Cal Wilson & Lano. They have all been unique in their approach & had the audience in fits of laughter, which always helps create the perfect atmosphere. If I really had to choose, we took a risk last year having a male, but Lano absolutely nailed it. We were all in stitches.

One Brave Mother And 65 Roses, Geelong Social Media, Geelong Digital Media, Cystic Fibrosis

What does the rest of your life look like? What’s a regular week for Jen?

​BUSY is probably an understatement, but like most mums, we are good at juggling and multi-tasking!! I work part-time at Vic Beach Geelong (our own family business), run around after 2 busy daughters 10yo Ellie-May & 12yo Olivia and try to have some “me” time especially to exercise and love nothing better than hanging out with my hubby Greg & kids and enjoying life in Jan Juc.

Why do you feel it is important to be involved at this capacity for things you feel passionate about?

​I think when you have a personal connection & know how important research into finding a CURE is, you will work your butt off & you can’t help but be passionate. The reward when it all comes together far outweighs the workload. Ellie-May is now 10 years old & we know how precious time is. In recent years we have had a few scares when lung function has rapidly dropped to 50% so I will continue to do whatever I can to make a difference & am so fortunate to have great friends who jumped on board with me. And despite all the hard work, we do have some fun along the way 🙂

To book seats or a table of ten for the beautiful 65 Roses ladies lunch this May, email charityandfun@gmail.com

 

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The World’s Most Influential Young People Inspiring The Way For 2019

The World’s Most Influential Young People Inspiring The Way For 2019

The World's Most Influential Young People Inspiring the way for 2019 by Montanna Macdonald for Ponderings Magazine

The world is grueling, inspiring and unequivocally extraordinary in all its facets.

It is important not to lose sight of what the world of other people just like you, are doing to make a change. It’s important to see beyond the norms and expectations on what society places upon you and look for inspiration as a pattern of universal effect. Some of us, and silently a lot of us have big aspirations and goals, yet are stuck in this cycle of societal consumerism and sleeping through our alarm clocks. So maybe it’s time we set a new period, a better mindset with the help of other influential younglings who are making their path to follow.

So who are the most inspiring young people of our day and age? Who is making a change? Who is not doing what every other young person thinks they should be doing? Who is unique, and will make you want to get up out of bed this morning?

Krtin Nithiyanandam, Age 17

17-year-old Krtin Nithiyanandam went from a broken pelvis; to an idea, finding universities who would support him in his award-winning research for an antibody that would detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. This research led to Nithiyanandam receiving the Scientific American Innovator Award at the Google Science Fair in 2017. Nithiyanandam has also worked with researchers at Cambridge University to try and make rare and hard to treat breast cancer more treatable. A young man who will stop at nothing to find cures, and save lives.

 

Muzoon Almellehan, Age 19

Muzoon Almellehan is a Syrian refugee and Activist for female education.  In June 2017, she became the youngest Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF, which made her the first person in the world with official refugee status to become an ambassador for the global organisation. Almellehan’s accomplishments and hard work are truly inspiring in shaping the future for females in education and human rights.  

Shibby de Guzman, Age 14

Shibby de Guzman is only 14 years old and is one of TIMES 30 most influential people of the world. Why is she influential? At 14 she’s protesting the streets with cardboard signs on her chest standing up against Rodrigo Duterte’s fascist regime under the Philippines government. It is a dangerous and courageous act for de Guzman to stand up against a government and uphold what you believe is right.

Macinley Butson, Age 17

Macinley Butson is an Australian girl who at the age of 17 was the youngest recipient to date of the INTEL International Science and Engineering Award and the 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year for her invention called the Smart Amour. The Smart Amour acts as a protection layer for breast cancer patients while they are undergoing radiotherapy. An idea which sparked to Butson’s mind while sitting at the dinner table with her dad.

Molly Steer,  Age 10

Molly Steer is another Australian girl who at the age of nine with the help of her mum made her Straw No More campaign to remove plastic straws from schools around Australia. Steer has convinced over 90 and counting Australian and International schools to cull the plastic straw. What was only meant to be a small change in Steer’s Cairns home, became an international campaign, resulting in Steer delivering a TEDx speech in 2017. A small step for Molly, but a big step in environmental change.

It is often mentioned that the younger generation is aimless, entitled and echoes of “millennial-itis”  call across the conversations of many of our elders, however I think you will agree with us – this is just not always the case. The selection of young people we have shown you are but a sample of SO MANY! The future is bright, and it may be an aspect for us to ponder on how we spend our energy, our time and the path we choose to take.

As the iconically wise Dr. Suess once said,

You have brains in your head, And feet in your shoes, You can steer yourself, Any direction you choose.
    About the Author:

Montanna Macdonald is currently studying journalism and public relations at University, and we welcome her as a contributor to Ponderings.  The love of meaningful and impacting communication fuels this passionate public speaker and an avid debate is always on hand with a social conscience that runs deep. This go-getter will write a speech to move an audience and inspire them into change. She doesn’t mind being friends with Muggles and wears her Gryffindor scarf with pride. Montanna has a love for broadcast media but doesn’t subscribe to the status quo. Robert Frost is her go to along with Dr. Seuss.

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