Gavin Youngman can remember when he started getting excited about the birth of his daughter Layla.
"There was this point, probably six weeks before she was born, and I remember it tweaked and I'd actually gone 'holy shit this is actually happening now'," the Sydney father told BuzzFeed News.
"We'd been putting together the cot, getting our nursery painted, putting the car seat in and we had cemented the name Layla for ourselves. It felt like everything was falling into place."
The check up at 39 weeks went fine but in the 40th week Youngman's partner Gillian Graham-Crowe began having pains.
"A little while after that she mentioned that she hadn't felt the baby move," he said. "[A] Google [search] incorrectly told me that babies could stop moving when they were close to being born because they run out of room, which is not at all accurate."
By that point the pains had intensified and he thought Graham-Crowe was going into labour. But after going to hospital for an ultrasound, the couple were told: "Your baby is gone, she doesn't have a heartbeat."
Youngman said he remembers thinking, "Quick let's get her out".
"You can restart someone's heart, so I thought 'How can we just be standing here doing nothing, surely there is something we can do?'"
Graham-Crowe's labour was induced and after a day-and-a-half Layla Emerald Youngman was born on July 11, 2011.
"The whole time you're on the maternity ward up in the post-natal area and there are lots of pregnant women wandering around who are expecting happy healthy babies, and then you're wheeled down to this suite where there are babies," he said. "We had a private room but we were still on this ward where all night you're hearing buzzers going and babies crying."
The next morning Youngman overheard two fathers of newborns talking in the tearoom.
"They were talking about how tired they were and what a rough night they had and I just remember thinking 'I would give anything to be sleep deprived for that reason'."
There are, on average, six stillborn babies a day in Australia. This rate hasn't gone down in two decades.
"I got angry when I realised that six times a day there were families who would feel like we did, and it is the number one cause of death for kids aged under one," Youngman said.
He said in pre natal classes he was warned about contracting listeria from soft cheese but not about stillbirth.
"No-one mentioned it, not a GP, not a midwife, no-one who scanned us and no-one in the prenatal classes," he said.
Youngman is on the board of directors for the 100% community-funded Stillbirth Foundation, the first Australian charity dedicated to stillbirth research.
"There is so much work being done on this but it just isn't funded," he said. "There needs to be a greater level of education, like we know that 10% of stillbirths that happen today could be prevented if people just slept on their side, but we weren't told that.
"At the moment this stuff is all funded by people like me who cut their hair or run a marathon to raise cash to save someone else's baby, when it is something the government needs to step in and fix."
He is hopeful the foundation's submission made to the current Senate select committee inquiry into stillbirth in Australia will assist the Senate committee in forming meaningful recommendations to address the issue.
The submission calls for a "national action plan" focusing on improved medical practitioner education, public education, research and data on the issue".
“It is frankly a disgrace that six children are stillborn each day in Australia and that has largely remained unchanged for years,” the foundation's chief executive Victoria Bowring said. “We have seen a similar approach recently with the National Action Plan for Endometriosis being developed by the federal government, and a similar model could work for stillbirth.”
The inquiry was established by Labor senator for NSW, Kristina Keneally, who spoke to BuzzFeed News in April about her stillborn daughter Caroline.
"People have children who don't survive birth and those children have names and they have graves," Keneally said.
The inquiry's committee is to report on or before the second sitting week in 2019.
Next week is Layla's birthday so Youngman, Graham-Crowe and their three children will visit her together.
"We'll go with the kids, take a cake and release some balloons," he said. "We have found happiness through our other children and all our kids know she is their sister."
A photo of Layla hangs next to pictures of their other children on a wall in their home.
"We were 40 weeks and five days when we lost her, so it is a nice reminder as to how real she is to us," he said. "She looks just as perfect as the rest of them."
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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