Mom Shares Powerful Reminder on What Would've Been a Major Milestone for Her Stillborn Girl

Joëlle Skinner

Joëlle Skinner
Joëlle Skinner

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains images and information about stillbirth and infant loss, which may be triggering to some.

Losing your baby before or during childbirth is an unthinkable pain that no new parent should have to go through. But one mom is celebrating the life that she lost on what should have been a major childhood milestone for her stillborn daughter. Joelle Skinner's baby girl's heart suddenly stopped beating during labor and Zayli wasn't born alive. The mom from Queensland, Australia, however, refuses to let the memory of her stillborn baby disappear. Instead, she posted a heartbreaking photo on what would have been Zayli's first day of school in an effort to comfort other parents who are also going through this indescribable loss.

  • Joelle says her world completely changed on the day she was supposed to give birth to a healthy baby girl.

    Joëlle Skinner
    Joëlle Skinner

    Joelle, speaking with CafeMom, says she had no idea there was anything wrong with her baby girl before she went into labor. "Zayli was our fifth baby," she says. "We were all so excited when I was pregnant. The moment we found out she was a girl was one of my favorite moments ever. We just couldn’t wait to meet her!"

    Throughout Joelle's pregnancy everything had gone smoothly -- "both she and I were very healthy. There was never any reason to worry," the mom says. She went into labor when she was about 41 weeks in December 2013 and believed that everything was fine, until they got to the hospital and were told that doctors couldn't find Zayli's heartbeat.

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  • The mom says she delivered her daughter, even though there was no hope that she would live.

    Joëlle Skinner
    Joëlle Skinner

    "We were never given any reasons why it happened," she explains to CafeMom. Joelle delivered her baby girl via C-section, though "the room was silent when she emerged. She was placed on my chest, warm yet so still," the mom remembers. "She was so beautiful! It just looked like she was asleep"

  • Five years after her daughter's stillbirth death, the mom decided to honor her memory on the first day of school for her older kids.

    Joëlle Skinner
    Joëlle Skinner

    In a post from January on her Facebook page, Jedi Mum Tricks, Joelle shared a photo of her four other children as they got ready to head out for their first day of school, plus one special spot for Zayli who should have been cheesing right along with her big brothers and sisters. 

    "The day is finally here, the day I have been dreading for the last five years. Today would be Zayli’s first day of school," the mom wrote in her heartbreaking post. 

    "I’m empty, I’m broken, her absence is just so felt right now," she continued. "I just dropped off the other kids for their first day. I tried not to look, but I saw them, the little Preppies [similar to Kindergarten] and their anxious parents all ready for their first day. And Zayli wasn’t there where she should be." 

  • Joëlle explains the idea for her photo came naturally, as part of a tradition of taking a photo of her kids every year on their first day of school.

    Joëlle Skinner
    Joëlle Skinner

    "We normally take a photo on the kids’ first day of school, and this year was no different," she tells us. "Knowing Zayli would have been starting school this year, the photo would be wrong without her. I knew we had to include her somehow." That is when inspiration struck. The mom found a spare hat and grabbed it as she lined up her kids outside her house to get their back-to-school photo taken.

    "While I was taking the photo, the kids had no idea what I was doing. My son even tried moving the hat out of the way," she recalls. "I explained it to them afterward and they loved the idea! Zayli is their sister and they love including her in our daily life as much as we can.

  • The mom's incredible photo has since gone viral and she says that overall the reaction to it has been incredibly positive.

    Joëlle Skinner
    Joëlle Skinner

    As more people see Joelle's photo and read her heartbreaking story, the mom says, the more positive support she's received. "A lot of people feel sad and can’t imagine what we must go through," she says. "Others admire me and call me brave for sharing and even for continuing to live beyond loss."

    Joelle says her only hope in sharing her story is so other grieving parents feel as if they can talk about their little ones too. "There is so much healing that can come from that," she says. Joëlle adds that she hopes parents who haven't experienced similar loss will cherish their children even more. "And that they will be understanding toward bereaved parents and allow them to share and speak about their children as often as they need to."

  • The moms says she hopes that by being vulnerable about her own grief, it will make the topic less taboo.

    Joëlle Skinner
    Joëlle Skinner

    In the end, Joelle says the fact that people have connected to her daughter's story will hopefully make a difference in the world. "There is so much taboo over this topic and there shouldn’t be!" she says. "I want there to be more awareness, for everyone to see what an impact losing a child has on a whole family for the rest of their lives. This is never something that should or could be brushed aside. We will never get over it."

    But the mom believes that if society could understand that grief more fully, particularly the lifelong grief that comes with losing a child, "what a difference it would make!"

    "There is so much pressure on us to get over it," she laments, "but if we are allowed to embrace it, you know what, I think we will even save lives. Many parents end up committing suicide because it’s all too much."

    Joelle says she's proud of her daughter and the stories that are now being written about her little girl's legacy, but ultimately the mom hopes her message will give heart to other parents suffering their own grief. "Let’s bring this into the light so none has to suffer alone anymore!" she says.

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