Bendigo’s lost babies remembered

REMEMBERING: Darcie Donovan [centre] with mother Pascal Hayes and grandmother Jenni Hayes at the official opening of the Garden of Angels. Picture: JOSEPH HINCHLIFFE

REMEMBERING: Darcie Donovan [centre] with mother Pascal Hayes and grandmother Jenni Hayes at the official opening of the Garden of Angels. Picture: JOSEPH HINCHLIFFE

RelatedMother thankful for Garden of Angels works

The loss of couples whose children don’t survive birth – and that of their families – is real and lasting. 

That was the message from celebrant Leanne Carolan, who presided over a ceremony at the Bendigo Cemetery to mark International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on Saturday.

“Some people find it hard to understand that parents can be attached to a baby that never lived outside the womb,” Ms Carolan told the crowd of about 100 people. 

“But the connection begins with the baby long before conception...

“When couples commit to one another they begin anticipating children and the connection continues during pregnancy. 

“In the womb you can hear the baby's heartbeat and feel the first movement, you can see your baby grow as a little person through technology – and that connection continues on. 

“Therefore, the loss parents feel when a baby passes through miscarriage can be very deep and a need to honour this loss is strong and real.”

Saturday’s event also marked the official opening of the rejuvenated Garden of Angels, which for many years was a communal grave for stillborn babies from Bendigo hospitals.

One of those in attendance was Jenni Hayes, who travelled from her home in Tooborac with her daughter and grandchildren on the day.  

“I lost a baby boy in 1978 to cot death,” Ms Hayes said.

A former Bendigo resident, Ms Hayes’ child is buried in the Eaglehawk Cemetery. 

“I was lucky that I could have a few more – I had three more children and now have eight grandchildren,” she said. 

But Ms Hayes said the pain of losing her first child was just as real as it was 38 years ago. 

“Luckily ‘78 was a bit of a turning point and it wasn’t as brushed under the carpet as it was before that.” 

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the practice surrounding children lost at birth was fully brought to light and the first seeds of the Garden of Angels were sown. 

It was the efforts of retired midwife Marilyn Dyer which led to Saturday’s emotional opening. 

Ms Dyer wrote an article in the Bendigo Advertiser which led to many mothers contacting her, and eventually to the discovery of a mass grave for babies at Bendigo cemetery. 

SANDS 24-hour support line: 1300 072 637. To contact your local group, phone SANDS on 9874 5400.

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