As a volunteer Heartfelt photographer, Nicole Akhurst has helped preserve the precious memories of many Illawarra parents whose babies were stillborn.
Tragically last year, that grief became even more personal for Nicole and husband Brad after the loss of their daughter Ava May at just 18 weeks gestation.
The images are gentle and healing and the most priceless gift to cherish forever.
They too were visited by a Heartfelt photographer, so they could get precious photos of their own.
Now, through an online fundraising campaign, the Woonona couple has been able to purchase a Heartfelt pack for Wollongong Private Hospital, so that all newly bereaved parents get the same opportunity.
‘’I’ve been honoured to provide those precious memories for other families,’’ Mrs Akhurst said. ‘’And now that we are unable to hold our baby girl, the photos we received have become something tangible that we can see and hold every day.’’
The couple presented the pack – which includes a camera, small printer, instructional video and staff training – to private hospital staff on Friday.
Acting CEO Malcolm Passmore said Heartfelt photographers were volunteers, so were not always available, so the donation meant that no parent would have to miss out on this service.
‘’It’s a wonderful thought from someone who has been through that experience,’’ he said.
It’s bereavement midwife Jeanette King’s job to help the families affected by the pain of pregnancy loss and stillbirth.
Ms King said with six babies stillborn in Australia each day, this was a vital – and truly heartfelt – service.
‘’I’ve been in this job for many years – and years ago stillborn babies were whisked away from their mothers before they could even see them, let alone hold them,’’ she said. ‘’Now they are able to name them, bath and dress them and get these precious photos.’’
Families throughout Australia will come together on Saturday for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day, to promote awareness about stillbirth and highlight the tragic situation facing too many Australians.
“A child dies every four hours in Australia from stillbirth and the impact this has on families lasts a lifetime,’’ Stillbirth Foundation Australia general manager Victoria Bowring said.
The Akhursts said they had also received a lot of support from the group, Illawarra Parents of Baby Angels.