Graham Belfield and his wife Nadine fell pregnant for the first time in 2011.The couple had what Graham described as a perfectly normal pregnancy, and were getting ready to spend the rest of their lives with their son-to-come, Cameron.
But, just ten days out from Nadine’s expected due date, their world was turned upside down.
My wife had a weird feeling, so we got that checked out at night time and we found out that we’d lost the baby he told 9News.com.au.
On September 21, 2011 my wife gave birth to our son, Cameron, and he came out stillborn.
It was a freak accident – the umbilical cord detached from the placenta and it was an immediate bleed out. We never knew anything like that could happen and you could lose a baby at such a late stage.
We were planning our lives as family and then we had to plan for the funeral. It was the weeks and months and, to a certain extent, years after that has impacted our family ever since.
Baby Cameron is one of the six babies stillborn in Australia every day.
That is a figure that has not reduced in 20 years and for every one child that dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), 35 more are stillborn.
For 39-year-old Graham and his family, who live in Sydney’s south, he said that one night in late 2011 completely changed their lives.
Our life was turned upside down. It devastated our immediate family. It devastated our friends he said.
The impact was not just on our family, it was on our extended family and our close community. We were searching for answers and we were reaching out to everyone for help.
We thought it was that you get past the first 12 weeks and then everything goes smoothly… It was something that wasn’t talked about, it’s certainly something we weren’t aware about – especially when you have a perfectly normal pregnancy.”
The Belfields, and their son Cameron, are the inspiration behind the Sydney 2 CAMberra charity bike ride that raises funds for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia and Red Nose, formerly known as SIDS and Kids.
For Graham and Nadine’s high school friend, Lee Heslehurst, the idea behind the ride came at a time when the couple’s mates were searching for any way they could help them.
I went to the hospital and the first thing I thought of (that) I could do was to grab the baby seat and take it home with me he said.
I got Graham’s keys and I went and got his baby seat, so he wouldn’t have to get back in his car with empty arms and see the empty seat.
Shortly after that – it would’ve been two or three weeks past – that I was in Canberra for work. At the time, we were all training a fair bit, we’d just completed an ironman and, ‘I thought we need to do something here.
Mr Heslehurst, who is the founder and president of the event, said it started in 2012 with 40 riders and a $20,000 fundraising goal.
It raised $56,000 for the inaugural ride and – now in its eighth year – has so far raised more than $1.2 million. This year’s goal has been set at $300,000.
It started off as a way of raising money. Red Nose related to it as an opportunity for counselling on steroids because it gives dads the opportunity to talk to other dads who’ve been affected and work through their grief in a way they probably can’t during a counselling session,” he said.
“One key quote that we’ve received from one of our riders is that the Sydney to CAMberra gives him the opportunity to be the father to his daughter that he’s lost in the way he’s a father to his other kids every other day of the year.”
Gavan Gordon, the event’s director who also went to school with Graham and Nadine, said the ride has now grown to include 100 riders venturing on the two-day 300km journey to the nation’s capital – which this year begins on April 12.
He also said it allows people to annually honour their children or the children of loved ones who have been lost to SIDS or Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).
We see these families year after year, time after time. We’ve watched our families grow and it’s an opportunity for them to come and honour their children that are no longer with them but also spend a weekend dedicated to them,” he told 9news.com.au.
A lot of riders have names on the back of their jerseys as tributes to the children they have lost.
It allows everyone to talk about it. We found the majority of the riders were men, because typically men were meant to put on a brave face to push forward and allow them to show some emotion.
It’s created that opportunity for them to honour their children and address those emotions and feelings that they’ve never been able to.
For Graham, it’s entirely about his son.
It’s a weekend that I can spend with Cameron, it’s in honour of Cameron he said.
I share the whole weekend and we share his life with my extended family and friends. To be riding every year, it’s our special weekend together.
This year, Nine sports presenter Erin Molan and five-time World Triathlon champion Craig Alexander are both ambassadors for the ride.
NSW Senator Kristina Keneally is also a supporter and advocate for the event.
Ms Molan’s sister tragically lost her baby to stillbirth, while Ms Keneally played a central role in a senate inquiry into education and research about stillborn children.
Mr Gordon said that is an example of not only the wide range of people affected by stillborn babies, but also the need to continue working to raise awareness.
For us, we started this ride to help a mate out he said.
It’s grown to a stage now where it has created so much support, it has donated so much good funds, it’s created this unity of people that come together annually for the ride.
To be able to give back to the community and those people that need it, it’s fantastic and it’s what spurs us on to do this on a volunteer basis – to be able to offer that support to the community.
Eight years on from their loss of Cameron, Graham said he’s made “lifelong friends” from the Sydney 2 CAMberra ride.
There’s a lot of emotion on every day of the ride he said.
You’re riding with that emotion, feeling that loss, but then it’s a celebration because you’ve got your son and your whole family together.
The weekend’s also about what we’re achieving and what we’re doing as a community and as family as we’re seeing our family continue to grow…. We’re bringing the issue into the forefront of society and that is also something to celebrate.
From the loss, we gain strength.
Since 2011, the Belfield’s have had two more children – a six-year-old son, Mitchell, and a three-year-old daughter, Breanna.