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Talking to Amanda Bowles about Bears of Hope and how they have helped many families through a very unknown and tragic time.
Tell us about Bears of Hope & what you do
Bears of Hope is a support system for families that lose their baby pregnancy and birth. There’s two key sides to what we do
- We provide resources, keepsakes & information through the health network/ hospitals. Along with a bear of hope for families that lose their baby. They’ve got that information for a very unknown situation in their life. Helping navigate what would be seen as normal practice at that time, perhaps if they’ve had a stillbirth. And some of the ways they can create memories and connect with their baby, when they have say “hello” & “goodbye” in the same conversation.
- Beyond that, we have a pleather of support networks, that once they leave that health network, whether it be through our online support group; we have phone, email and (not quite at the moment) face-to-face support and support groups. All facilitated by counsellors and phycologists that families can access at no cost. So that they’re really getting a credible service of support for navigating this really unfamiliar grief.
Can you tell us how you started Bears of Hope & why?
My husband and I unfortunately had a miscarriage with our second child. It was really quite devastating. You really connect and start planning and thinking right away. We did sort of move through that and then were blessed with another baby. He unfortunately was still-born at 21 weeks.
So, our second son Jessie was really the ‘trigger’ to Bears of Hope starting. I was very lucky to meet another mum, Toni (Vice-President / Co-Founder), who had also experienced loss. This was 14 and a half years ago.
So back then, Facebook and social connections through the internet, were not really available. So it was extremely isolating and very difficult to find any information and connection with people. That’s where the idea sprang from, is providing that bear of hope. Each bear is actually donated in honour of one family’s baby to another family. So that the receiving family can instantly feel that reduction in isolation & that connection.
The donating family get the opportunity to share their child with another family and let them know that they’re not alone. Thankfully, my family has been blessed. We have had another 2 children. But not a day goes by, that I am not Jessie’s mum. I birthed him, I love him and he’s very much a part of our family.
What are there any myths or misconceptions about what people go through in this difficult time?
I think, particularly with an earlier miscarriage, often in society we sort of think “oh well, it’s common” and often we may know someone that’s experienced it. Or perhaps the person whose experienced it themselves thinks “yeah, you know I had one of those and I was fine, I got over it, it’s common, these things happen”.
Just because something is common, doesn’t actually mean it doesn’t hurt. Some families might be able to process that and work through that in their own community. But others need a little bit of extra support. That’s what we’re there to provide and we need to be less judgmental of those who perhaps would really benefit from having that extra guidance and support through that period of time.
Just because something is common, doesn’t actually mean it doesn’t hurt.
On the other side of that, there is stillbirth. In Australia, 6 babies a day are stillborn. That’s actually a lot and I think often times people think that “well it won’t happen to me”. But unfortunately it does, it happens to the unlikely of people, sometimes with absolutely no reason, it’s completely unfair.
There’s often then conversations that I hear, where people want to know if they were full term. So often times, they’ll talk about the fact that Jessie was stillborn at 21 weeks. And if I don’t mention the 21 weeks, they’ll say “oh my gosh were you full term?”.
Ultimately, the length of time that the baby is with you doesn’t actually change the depth of love. I often use my other children to compare; I have a 17 year old and a 10 year old and it would be odd if I started communicating with the world that I simply love my 17 year old more, because he’s been here longer, I’ve had more time with him. We certainly don’t look at that with the people who are living in our lives. Yet, somehow when there’s a pregnancy loss, dependant on far along you were is our gage of how you should be able to grieve and that’s really unfair.
You can learn more about Bears of Hope by visiting their website: https://www.bearsofhope.org.au
Thank you Amanda for taking the time to talk to us about your amazing