Bella

Holiday of a lifetime was part pilgrimage

By Vivienne Duck

One Moama couple has made the brave decision to share their personal pain at the loss of not one, but two, babies. Stillborn sons Jonah and Hamish would not define their parents’ lives and as VIVIENNE DUCK writes they remain an integral part of the family

THERE IS A lingering pain evident in Tiffany McIntosh’s eyes.

The death of one child is something most women couldn’t even comprehend.

But the death of two, in the space of four years, is simply unfathomable.

Tiffany and her husband Andrew have four boys.

Two were stillborn.

But the Moama family weren’t going to let death define them and went on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate their two sons and brothers who were no longer with them.

“We spent six weeks in Europe in May and June,” Tiffany said.

“We called it our Jonah and Hamish adventure as it was a trip inspired by our two sons who were stillborn — Jonah at 39 weeks in March 2013 and Hamish at 20 weeks in June 2017.

“Our boys have taught us how precious life is, and we aim to live our lives as beautifully as we can, in honour of them, with our two living sons.”

Tiffany and Andrew were married in 2012 and fell pregnant on their honeymoon with their first son Jonah.

“He was stillborn at 39 weeks and three days,” Tiffany said.

“It is hard to imagine him as a five and a half year old, like he would be now, to us he is still that little baby and always will be.

“We always talked about having two kids.

“We have four boys — two of them are just not here.”

And this is how Tiffany and Andrew speak to Oscar and Louie about their brothers.

“They know they have two other brothers who aren’t here but are still a part of our family,” Tiffany said.

“We try and remain really happy and positive when speaking about Jonah and Hamish.

“We include them in everything we do as a family and that is why the holiday was so special to all of us.”

Tiffany said she was still carrying the scars of losing Jonah when pregnant with Oscar.

“After Jonah died we weren’t afraid of death and we didn’t live with that fear,” she said.

“But when Oscar was born it was quite overwhelming and the thoughts were there about what could go wrong now he was actually here.”

Both Oscar and Louie were born at 37 weeks and are now bubbly four and two year old boys who have a ferocity for life.

“We never really spoke about not having another baby after Louie was born,” Tiffany said.

“Even though we had two babies and we always wanted two I think I secretly 
wanted more.

“I am a school teacher and love kids so we tried again.”

Hamish was stillborn at 20 weeks in June 2017.

“I remember when I came home from the hospital and the first thing Oscar said to me was ‘he isn’t coming back is he’,” Tiffany said.

“That was heartbreaking knowing he had an awareness of death that a three and a half year old normally shouldn’t have.”

For the McIntosh’s fertility wasn’t their struggle.

“For some families fertility is really hard, but for us keeping a healthy baby was the struggle,” Tiffany said.

“We were so lucky to be able to fall pregnant quite easily.”

Despite each death having a lasting impact, Tiffany said the second stillbirth was a different pain.

“After Hamish died we couldn’t grieve the way we needed to because we had these two beautiful boys at home who needed their strong and happy parents,” she said.

“It doesn’t make it easier coming home from the hospital to two boys who are alive.”

After having five birthday anniversaries at home for Jonah, Tiffany and Andrew decided they wouldn’t do that again.

“It all stemmed from Andrew saying we should go to Scotland one day not long after Hamish died and we thought ‘why don’t we’?,” Tiffany said.

“So I picked dates and booked our flights and that was my project for the months after Hamish’s death — which really kept me focused and busy.

“Jonah was five in March and we just really didn’t want to face another first birthday of a child who is not here at home.”

The family celebrated Hamish’s first birthday in Switzerland, fittingly upon a mountain called First.

But their journey started in London.

“We have friends in London so we spent a week there before we picked up a motor home and drove to Edinburgh, Scotland,” Tiffany said.

With rolling hills, a visit to the Loch Ness monster and plenty of family time the family then flew to Paris.

“We felt really safe for the whole trip, positive experiences everywhere and people being friendly,” Tiffany said.

“Oscar became very well-rehearsed in saying we are from Moama just north of Melbourne.

“We then got a train from Paris to Switzerland where we spent Hamish’s birthday.

“It was raining and really foggy in the morning but we decided to go up the cable car anyway.

“The whole way up in this cable car you could just see raindrops and fog.

“By the time we had lunch I went outside the restaurant to have a look and it was around the time Hamish was born and the sun came out it cleared up and it was just stunning.

“With the green hills and little villages down the mountain and the snow-capped mountains we just thought yes, this is where we were meant to come.”

The family travelled from the UK to France, Switzerland, Italy and finally Spain before returning home.

“The intention was to be together in places we never dreamed of at this stage in our lives,” Tiffany said.

“Hamish and Jonah inspired us to have time together as a family during a time that can be really tough.

“We are really glad we did this trip with the boys; we have already seen the growth in them.”

The pain Tiffany and her family have been through has encouraged her to speak out about their story and try and help other families.

“I made a submission to the recent Senate enquiry into stillbirths and was asked to speak at a public hearing in August,” she said.

“There I spoke to a panel of five about Jonah and Hamish’s story and the care I received after their deaths.

“Currently there is no government involvement or funding into research or prevention of stillbirths.

“People would think the government would care about something that affects so many families.

“I just hope Jonah and Hamish’s stories can be a part of something that helps prevent babies from being stillborn in this 
country.” 