In the weeks after Naomi Bowden's daughter Bella died, the Dapto mother had never felt so alone.
After a shocking stillbirth experience at Wollongong Hospital, which she recently shared at the NSW birth trauma inquiry, Ms Bowden said her family was given little support and did not know where to turn.
Three weeks into her grief, she found a small support group of other Illawarra mothers whose babies had been stillborn.
"I felt so alone - this was nearly 14 years ago, and there was a Yahoo group where people posted occasionally, there was no Facebook or anything, I had to go to the library and find a book just to find someone who had the same experience as me," she said.
"But these people understood how you felt, I could say things to them that I couldn't say to anyone else because they knew what it was like for me."
"When you lose a child you're in such despair, you feel so alone and you need to know there are other people out there that are willing to lift you up."
The group, now known as Illawarra Baby and Child Loss Support, is holding its annual support walk, which coincides with International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance day, on October 13 at Wollongong's Flagstaff HIll.
The slogan for the walk is "we walk for the steps they will never take".
"It's important because putting aside the birth trauma, Bella was still my beautiful daughter that I want to celebrate all the time," Ms Bowden said.
"This is something special to do with her brothers too, and it's a chance for our family to remember and acknowledge her. We did and we do have a beautiful little girl."
Support group president Amanda Mayberry, whose daughter Eve was stillborn eight years ago, said the event was a chance for more people to connect in person after COVID made meeting up difficult and less common.
She said the walk was usually held on Sea Cliff Bridge, but that the Wollongong location would allow more people to attend.
Wollongong lighthouse will also be lit in pink and blue across the weekend as part of the remembrance weekend.
"We're doing it for our own babies, but we also do it for people who haven't had a chance to walk before," she said.
"It allows me to connect and make meaning of it all because it's such a horrible thing to have to gone through, but I can bring a little bit of light into someone else's light."
She said the support group, which has recently become a registered charity, was also among those pushing for change in the way stillbirth is dealt with, making it less taboo and increasing the support available for women and families.
"COVID really did injure our progress - it feels like we are starting again," Ms Mayberry said.
"The birth trauma inquiry has been able to ignite that flame again, and we hope people continue not to shove this issue under the carpet - because that's how people move through trauma."
Ms Mayberry said she had a supportive team after Eva's birth, but wanted to make sure all women could access customised, individualised care and were well-informed about stillbirth.
"We want more support for bereaved families and in hospitals and in services, where they feel recognised and heard," she said.
At a Wollongong public hearing in September, Ms Bowden was one of two women who spoke about how they were treated after their babies were stillborn.
She recounted "vivid, painful memories" of having to identify her tiny newborn Bella's body in a small room, and asking her family to rush to come and see her as the police were called.
Five hours after Bella was born Ms Bowden told how she was "forced to watch the police officer put her in a cold styrofoam box and transfer her to the coroner".
She also spoke about how, after the death of her baby, Ms Bowden had to stay overnight in the maternity ward where she could hear the sound of other women giving birth and their babies crying.
At her six-week check-up after birth, Ms Bowden said she was asked "where is your baby?" by hospital staff, who had not read her files or been briefed about what happened to her daughter.
The support group will meet near the North Wollongong surf club at 5.30pm on Friday, to walk along the Blue Mile to Flagstaff Hill.
Participants can wear white and the names of each baby will be read out as part of a ceremony when the lighthouse is lit.
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