Content Warning: This post contains discussions of stillbirth and early infant loss. Due to its heavy nature and content we suggest you take breaks when necessary, and check in with yourself. We also encourage you to have a support person accessible to you — whether learning alongside you, in the next room, or a phone call away.
Life has a curious way of intertwining our stories with those who came before us—connecting our experiences across generations in unexpected and profound ways. For me, part of this was forged through a shared journey of grief and loss that spans the generations of the women in my family. It’s not new news that the experiences of our parents deeply affect who we are and who we become—it can be felt generation to generation, and is so often unspoken. We all grieve, heal and move through loss differently, and through my own experiences with miscarriage I’ve been able to bond more deeply with my own mother, Daphne.
My lineage and ancestors are no strangers to pregnancy loss and what comes with it. Between my grandmother, mother, aunt, and myself we carry the experience of 7 miscarriages, and 1 stillbirth. Three generations of loss, that I hold in my DNA, in my bones and my heart.
I’m lucky to come from a family of loud, opinionated and chatty people. They talk about their anger, their sadness, their anxieties and joys—we share a LOT. This provided me with a pretty healthy and solid foundation for talking about the hard things. It doesn’t mean we talked about EVERYTHING, but when I experienced things like heartbreak or bullying—or even STI scares—I knew I could share it with them and they would listen without judgment or at the very least an open mind. They were subscribed to me and my life, and still are.
When my partner and I began trying to conceive, I knew things might not be easy. I live with chronic reproductive health conditions (endometriosis, fibroids and PCOS) and the parents in my family didn’t have a straight and narrow path to building their families. One of my first memories of loss was finding nude pregnancy pictures of my mother Daphne, stuffed in the back of a drawer in our home office. My dad, a talented photographer and artist, had taken them in their bedroom at the time—she was absolutely GORGEOUS and glowing, she looked so happy. But in the same envelope was an autopsy report and a letter my mother had written to herself. I realized reading that letter, that this was the baby that had come before me, who didn’t survive. The letter was a journal entry about her loss. I can’t remember exactly how old I was (probably 9 or 10) but I remember reading her words and feeling her immeasurable pain and also the beginning of her healing. My mother has talked about baby Graeme many times over the years, keeping his memory alive and honoring him by doing so, creating an opening for support and understanding with those of us in her community.
Miscarriage & Loss Awareness Month is October, and every year at this time I think of my own loss, my mother’s and her mother’s. And every year that passes, I try to crack open a little more from these memories and stories. Even in 2023, pregnancy and infant loss is a topic that often remains veiled in silence and secrecy, shrouded by societal taboos and stigmas. By sharing more about these experiences with our communities, we break down some of the barriers of silence and create a space for empathy, understanding, and healing. This year I asked my mother if she would be interested in sharing more about her story through an interview with me—for myself, for Graeme, for my mother and those that come after us.
Here are some of the moments from that interview. Please proceed with care.
Let’s lay our foundation — tell us more about yourself, the loss you experienced and how old you were at the time.
My name is Daphne Isabella Hurd Damborg and I’m 70 years old. Mother to Graeme, Gillian and Simon and Nana to Sunny. I was 29 years old, a month before turning 30 when we lost our first child, my partner and I. It was two weeks before I was full term. A stillbirth.
Do you want to share his name with us?
We had chosen the name Graeme.
What do you remember most about the loss itself, and that time in your life?
Looking back now at 70 years old, my memories aren’t what they used to be, but I remember the devastation, because it was such a shock. I’d had such an easy, perfect pregnancy and everything went really smoothly. Looking back now, it’s still the same grief, it’s not like you forget. I think it was the first thing in my life where something went really sideways. For me it was the first moment I realized that you really have no control over what happens in your life.
How did you care for yourself during that time? And how did others show up for you during this time?
Well, the first little while was hard. I hid out basically and cried. I cried and cried and cried and cried.
Then, Gorm (my partner) was going back to work, of course he couldn’t just stop going. And I remember being terrified every time he left the house, that something would happen to him. You know, that’s where your brain goes. I don’t remember talking to anybody about it professionally, we just didn’t do that then. But I had my friends, I had my sister, but I don’t even remember talking to them that much about it because no one had experienced it. Which was ok because I had my husband and we cocooned. Two weeks later, I saw my GP and he said “Go away for a week or two. Go on a little trip somewhere” and we borrowed my parent’s van and went down the coast. It was the worst thing we did because we left our support group, we left everything I knew, I was sitting in horrible roadside restaurants watching babies come in and I’d be sobbing and the poor waitresses would be wondering what was wrong with me. We didn’t last long, maybe 3 days, as I just wanted to come home and be close to my people.
How do you honor baby Graeme today?
I think about him, particularly in April, which was when I gave birth and he passed away. I honor him by enjoying other children, really. Through that letter I wrote, the autopsy report and the pictures of me pregnant. That’s all I’ve got and it’s sort of enough, you know. You’ll never forget, but it softens.
How did the loss affect your second and third pregnancies + births?
I was a little anxious at first, but it was more because I’d gotten pregnant sooner than I was told to. I was worried about miscarriages the first two or three months and I was being monitored quite seriously. I really didn’t believe that it would happen to me again. I mean, I’d never heard of that. So I believed and held onto that. I was kind of practical in some ways about the whole thing, compartmentalizing a little bit more.
How about after the births, did you have any anxiety postpartum because of your first experience?
Yeah, I was like any mother, you know. You’re worried in general, you think you’re doing everything wrong and you don’t know why, but this isn’t working or that’s not working. Normal, new parent feelings.
How do you think the world or society has changed since your experience? What do you see that’s changed or is different from when you went through this?
Well, I think generally people get far more support—in the hospital and after. I don’t feel like our loss was handled well at the hospital back then, I didn’t have any support the moments and hours afterwards. People talk about it more with their friends too. I mean, obviously I speak about mine because I was nine months pregnant and it was harder to hide. Even when you had your miscarriage and how your company handled things was pretty amazing—you had job security so you knew you could be honest—that’s pretty amazing.
Did this experience affect you becoming a grandparent or during my pregnancies?
Well, I was nervous during your pregnancies, and worried after your miscarriage. I mean I remember thinking “don’t have a baby shower before you have your baby,” looking back I can see it did affect me—during your pregnancies.
There was a line in a movie from many years ago that I always remember. The main character lost a child and said that grief is like a stone in your pocket, it’s this weight that’s always there. But it’s also a comfort. Which is very true as it becomes a sort of talisman. You don’t want it to go away, and sometimes it’s a lot, but you’re not aware of it all the time.
What would you tell the 29 year old you?
I think everybody has their own way of dealing with it, and I think I did the right thing by having my friends and my family around. My friend Jennifer would drag me out to exercise classes when I didn’t want to go. My sister Heather took me down to Wreck Beach because she figured I should “sun my genitals”, haha! Things like that. I would tell other people to try and accept help from those around you, and go with them to do normal everyday things. Spend that first little while cocooning and being sad and then try to do small little things. One day at a time.
“I hope I remember him for a long long time. I’ll remember him as a part of me forever, and I want the image of him after he was born to last forever. His little round nose and his big eyes and his wet hair.” – From Daphne’s letter to herself, 1983
One of the greatest gifts my mother has given me is talking about Graeme. Talking and communicating with me about heartbreak, conflict and joy. Interviewing her to receive even deeper wisdom through her loss was an absolute pleasure and privilege that I hold with great care. It’s something I want to pass down to my son, to my family and friends, and through the work we do at Brood. I am so grateful she was able to share her story with us, and hope you’ll share yours too. A stone in the pocket.
If you or anyone you know is going through pregnancy loss, download our Miscarriage & Early Loss Course—free for the month of October. If you are reading this at a later date and have financial barriers please reach out to us directly. You are not alone.