Content warning: This post discusses the loss of a baby: Queensland dad Troy Austin ran the Sunshine Coast Marathon a couple of weeks ago, pushing an empty stroller the entire distance to raise awareness of stillbirth.
"Hey mate you have lost your kid" This phrase was a double edged sword, a sentence that was said so innocently at last…
“Hey mate you have lost your kid”
Troy and wife Kelly’s baby boy, TG, died at 27 weeks gestation. As the devastated couple endured the loss of their son, they realised the silence and stigma that surrounds stillbirth. They determined TG’s legacy would be fighting this stigma and supporting families who were coming to terms with similar, terrible losses – and went on to found a charity in their son’s name.
Troy decided to run this year’s Sunshine Coast Marathon pushing an empty pram, explaining that people naturally commented on the “missing baby” and he was keen to spark conversations about his little boy, even though they might prove difficult.
“Six babies die a day in Australia from stillbirth. That’s why we didn’t put a sign on the pram — we wanted the questions without the turn of the heads and the silent pity,” Troy told parenting site Babble.
“Yes, that’s the point”
As Troy lined up for the run, the first of many comments on the empty pram was heard. The grieving dad said it was a bittersweet experience, but something he really wanted to do.
“‘Hey mate you have lost your kid’. This phrase was a double edged sword, a sentence that was said so innocently at last weekend’s marathon. As we lined up at the start with other pram pushers and there children, running for great causes. This phrase was said for the first time, ‘yes, that’s the point’ – the smile dropped from her face as she came for a hug and apologized. I smiled because at that moment it was the reaction I was hoping for.”
Troy was accompanied by a couple of good mates as he ran the course. He said they were there to fundraise for TG’s Legacy, but also provided some much appreciated support as he navigated some painful conversations.
“I was here to support Brett and Robert as they were running for our charity, also Brett’s first marathon and was so glad he was beside me. Because every time [someone said] ‘hey mate, you lost your kid’ it took a good mate beside me to have a chat so my bottom lip didn’t tremble,” Troy explained in his post-run Facebook update.
“I would try think up quick ways of saying ‘yes, I have lost my kid and I am not getting him back’.”
“He lost his kid”
While the conversations were obviously very painful for Troy – and possibly for the people he met – this great dad seemed to be taking the first steps toward a new approach to talking about TG’s life.
It’s got us rethinking the way we connect with others, because you really don’t ever know what people are going through. We also tend to shy away from difficult feelings and experiences, and Troy’s run shows us that doing the opposite is a MUCH better choice.
“As the run continued the onslaught was relentless, crossing over to the second lap I here on the loud speaker….’here comes old mate and it looks like he lost his kid’ – more giggles from the crowd,” Troy said.
“Sometimes I could explain why the pram was empty… Other times we smiled and moved on –
‘no you can’t sit in and get a ride’, ‘no I am not picking my kid up on the last lap (wish I could)‘.”
“My son was with us”
Troy explained that having the opportunity to talk about his little boy, and talk openly about losing a child, was truly meaningful and important to him.
“TG would have been 1 1/2 years old, and sitting in the pram. Until we were told he had passed, we didn’t have any idea it could happen.”
“One-hundred plus people recognised I had lost my son last weekend, even if they didn’t realise it. I think the empty pram is here to stay. Not empty. My son was with us,” Troy said.
The photo that truly reveals the character of an incredible man. The finishers chute at the Sunshine Coast Marathon. My…
If you’re struggling with the loss of a baby, please don’t go it alone. SANDS counsellors are there to support you and provide helpful advice about living with loss.