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Where our stillborn daughter rests in peace
9 Jul, 2024

Yes, it’s wishful thinking but I wish I had met my big sister. Of course, I wouldn’t be around if she’d lived. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister in this life. A woman with the same mother, the same bloodline.

My mother knew there was something wrong with her baby. In the last week of her pregnancy, she didn’t feel the baby move like she normally did. Instead, she felt a swishing, and unanchored movement from side to side in her womb.

She went to the hospital for a check-up, and with only a small vocabulary of English, as she hadn’t been in the country long enough, she understood when the doctor used simple words and his hands to communicate,

“Go home and rest Kathy. Your labour pains will begin in a few days and come back to the hospital as soon as they do.”She was perplexed, confused, and worried. She noticed he didn’t smile at all. But she was a new Australian and she had to trust the words of the doctor who was going to help birth her first baby in this new land.

A few days later, her contractions began. My father rushed her to hospital, a little scared, but also excited to welcome the first generation Australian into the family.

My mother was young, fit and healthy and had a relatively good labour. She gave birth to the baby naturally, and closed her eyes with her final contraction that pushed the baby out into the world. To this day, she’s still not sure why she did that.

While her eyes were still closed, her baby daughter was ushered away quickly. She asked the nurses when they would bring her back so she could hold her. Their faces were blank, and they murmured something in English which she didn’t understand. She also asked when my father was due to arrive.

“Soon”, they replied.

My mother became increasingly anxious as time went on. When my father walked into the hospital room, she asked him,

“Where is my baby? What have they done with her? Where have they taken her?”

My father didn’t know anything yet. The doctor returned with a sombre face and serious demeanour. He looked at my mother’s questioning expression, a woman wanting to hold and bond with her newborn baby.

“I’m sorry Kathy, we did everything to save her.” With their little knowledge of English, my parents didn’t understand the doctor’s words. Seeing their confusion, he said,

“I’m sorry Kathy, your baby is dead.” Both my parents understood the words dead.

The next two days were a blur as waves of grief coursed through my mother. Her endless tears only ceased when she was given medication to sleep, and her waking cries were constant.

“Where is my baby? I want to see her, please let me see her. I just want to hold her, please.” My mother’s heartfelt cries were ignored. Hospital policy in the 1960’s was that stillborn babies were taken away immediately, believing this was the best approach for parents to recover from their grief.

“The best thing for you is to go home and rest. It is best for you not to see your baby, it will help you recover faster. Then you can try again for another baby,” said the nurse in charge.

One year later I was born, and my mother shook at the knees throughout her pregnancy until she held me in her arms and checked my heart – was it beating? Growing up I knew my mother had written letters to her baby. She’d never had the opportunity to come to closure, nor did my father. Their grief was silenced but at times their thoughts were like loud undercurrents in the home.

What happened to our baby daughter? Where is she right now? What did they do with her? Is she at peace?

Fifty years after this little baby girl was born, I was at the Adelaide Cemetery on a history tour. I noticed a computer kiosk at the entrance and so I started to key in names of people I knew. I keyed in my own surname. Stamatelopoulos. The results that were served back to me on the screen made me stop in my tracks.

The screen said, Baby Stamatelopoulos, 1965. Site 66. Oh my goodness, I may have just found answers that would help resolve fifty years of grief.

I walked to the area at the back of the cemetery which had small metal plates embedded in the ground, with numbers engraved on them. I found Site 66. Here lay my parent’s first-born daughter who did not survive long enough for my mother to hold her in her arms, or to look into her eyes.

I knew what I had to do. A few days later, on a warm, sunny day, I returned with my parents. I took them to Site 66. They were pensive, quiet, not sure how they would react when they saw their daughter’s resting place. I watched as my mother and father stood silently at Site 66, looking down at the metal plate. They bent down to touch the plate, hopefully to feel a sense of connection with their daughter.

Here she is. This is where our daughter lays. There were no strong emotions, no outpouring of grief. Just a simple and grateful acceptance that they finally knew what had happened to their baby daughter.

My father told me only just recently that whenever he drives by the Adelaide Cemetery, he turns his head toward Site 66, and says to himself,

“That’s where our daughter rests in peace.”

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Where our stillborn daughter rests in peace

Where our stillborn daughter rests in peace

Yes, it’s wishful thinking but I wish I had met my big sister. Of course, I wouldn’t be around if she’d lived. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister in this life. A woman with...

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Article 2

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Yes, it’s wishful thinking but I wish I had met my big sister. Of course, I wouldn’t be around if she’d lived. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister in this life. A woman with...

read more