"I felt like I was the only one feeling the darkness," Donna Campbell says when she describes the days and weeks after her daughter Larissa was stillborn 14 years ago.
"I felt like I was in that tunnel and there was no joy. And everyone else's lives kept going on and I felt like I was stuck in grief."
Stillbirth, an intensely lonely and isolating experience, affects just over 2000 families in Australia a year, a rate which has only slightly dropped in the past two decades.
In a country as safe as Australia, with a modern and accessible medical system, it can be hard to fathom just how many families go through pregnancy only to be told they must go home without their bundle of joy.
But it's not inevitable that a certain number of pregnancies will end in stillbirth.
In 2016, Australia's late gestation stillbirth rate was 35 per cent higher than countries with the lowest rates. According to the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan released this week, sub-standard care is believed to contribute to up to half of stillbirths, and between 20 and 30 per cent of stillbirths would be preventable with optimal care.
While Ms Campbell has known the statistics around stillbirth for many years, she says they still shock her.
"The fact that there's still six babies a day dying, that's something that needs to change," Ms Campbell says.
"There's too many babies dying. Hopefully, this action plan will help reduce the numbers."
The main goal of the new plan, which is the result of years of lobbying and a Senate inquiry, is to reduce the number of stillbirths after 28 weeks' gestation by 20 per cent over the next five years.
The federal government also announced $11 million in new funding to ensure there was more research, more awareness and more support for families experiencing who experience stillbirth.
The funding will be particularly aimed at communities that are more vulnerable, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women from migrant and refugee groups, disadvantaged and rural and remote women and women younger than 20.
For Ms Campbell, it was only once she went into labour, six days past her due date, that her obstetrician gave her the heartbreaking news: there was no heartbeat.
"I had to go through labour, knowing my baby had died," she says.
In the years since losing Larissa, Ms Campbell has acted as a peer-support volunteer for other families in the Canberra region who have lost their babies to stillbirth. She has also run a playgroup for those families.
Ms Campbell now has three living children, aged 13, 11 and nine. All three know about their older sister Larissa and have their own way of talking about her and remembering her place in their family.
Ellena Bisset, like Ms Campbell, describes feeling a lonely sort of grief after her baby Blair was stillborn at 36 weeks last year.
Phantom kicks, and arms that felt heavy as if a baby really was there, were a constant physical reminder of the pain that never left. That baby Blair hadn't made it.
"The tears were constant. But it also felt like it wasn't really happening to me," Ms Bisset says of the two days between finding out Blair had died and going into labour.
"It's so immense, to be preparing for something and then your whole life and what you've expected changes in an instant. To be told that you have to give birth to a baby that's not breathing, it's the cruellest act."
While much of Ms Bisset's experience mirrors Ms Campbell's 13 years earlier, the ways in which bereaved parents can be supported have changed significantly. Ms Bisset's husband Adam recognised the importance of being able to bring Blair home, even if only for a short while.
It was something they were able to do with the help of a Cuddle Cot crib, which keeps the baby at a cool temperature to be able to stay out of a mortuary environment.
"All we wanted to do was have our time with Blair, to be as normal as if she had been breathing and had been with us," Ms Bisset says.
The Bissets were also able to take photos with Blair, with the help of Hillary Wardhaugh from Heartfelt photography, creating memories they could keep.
I felt unprepared for this outcome, because there wasn't the information there.Ellena Bisset
Ms Bisset also welcomes the new government plan, and wants more awareness and better explanations for expectant mothers, including around monitoring baby movement and sleeping on your side after 28 weeks' gestation.
While there were messages about what to do, or what not to do, and when to go to the hospital, they weren't communicated with the sense they could be life or death decisions.
After losing Blair, Ms Bisset checked all of her pregnancy books for references to stillbirth. She only found one.
"I felt unprepared for this outcome, because there wasn't the information there," she says.
"Without having clear intentions and targets, we'll have more of the same where you get told you were just unlucky. Or we'll just continue to accept that this many babies can, or should be allowed to die every year.
"Yet there's so much research into lots of different things. And I guess what hurts is knowing that if research had been done sooner, we wouldn't be in the position we are now."
Both the Campbells and the Bissets agreed to have autopsies for their babies and were able to get answers about what had happened to cause the stillbirths. It's something that not all families can get, with up to 45 per cent of stillbirths remaining unexplained.
"You need answers, because you want to know what happened for them, for you. The pain, the guilt, the shame, and the blame that comes as well," Ms Bisset says.
"I spent the first three months telling myself I had killed my child. And, too, sometimes you need to know that there were things beyond your control, to forgive yourself."
Red Nose co-chief Jackie Mead, who was at the launch of the plan this week, says it is a significant milestone.
"It's been a long time coming, it's fabulous to see the work from the Senate inquiry and all those submissions come to life in a document that is going to create a blueprint for how we can reduce the rate of stillbirth across the country," she says.
Ms Mead says the voices of families are reflected in the plan.
"We're aiming to save more than 400 babies' lives a year. That's 400 babies who will grow up, have birthdays, Christmases."
While the plan and the funding is important, Ms Mead says encouraging people to talk about still birth and breaking down the taboo around it is needed.
It's something both Ms Campbell and Ms Bisset agree on.
"The way other people react to you, they don't know how to react. I don't think that's changed yet," Ms Campbell says.
"Although I think people are starting to talk about it more."
Ms Bisset says after she lost Blair, other pregnant women she knew, or knew of her story through friends and sisters, didn't want to hear about it.
"They didn't want to be scared and sad and upset ... But I feel like, the more information you have, the more empowered you are to make choices for you and your baby.
"A mother is your baby's only voice. You are your baby's only voice and you have to listen to it, and you have to understand it."
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