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Stillborn death of Emma Hansen's son draws worldwide support

04/16/2015 09:49 EDT | Updated 07/01/2015 11:59 EDT
The decision of Emma Hansen and her husband, Aaron VandenBrink, to share publicly their grief after losing their stillborn son will help other families who have gone through the same tragedy, say doctors.

Hansen, a successful model and businesswoman, blogged about the stillbirth of her first child, Reid. Her father, Paralympian Rick Hansen, also shared the story.

It's reached tens of thousands of readers who have expressed their support and their own grief over the loss after a stillbirth. 

CBC readers share their grief

On the comments page after Hansen's story was written about on CBCNews.ca, readers shared their stories and their hopes that Hansen and her husband will find peace and solace.

The family's story is being shared around the world raising awareness about umbilical cord knots.

Dr. Lynn Farrales, a family doctor who researches stillbirth, said sharing the story, as Hansen did, acknowledges that the baby existed.

Farrales, who went through her own loss, said she knows the grief that fills a family's life after a child is stillborn. After her own tragedy, Farrales co-founded Still Life Canada.

"From our research, we found that parents want their babies acknowledged as irreplaceable individuals," she said. "I know all too well the grief and the devastation because my own daughter was stillborn in 2012, so a lot of her sharing her story really touched me."

Farrales said each family deals with the loss of a stillbirth differently.

The VandenBrink family had no idea that they would have a stillbirth until Emma woke up on Good Friday and the kicking had stopped.

By the time they had an ultrasound, the doctor had to tell the family that their baby was dead. 

Other families will be helped

At BC Women's Hospital, Dr. Dorothy Shaw said there is support to help grieving parents honour the baby they lost.

That includes providing them with mementos of their baby such as a lock of hair or photographs or a footprint that they can take home. 

Too often, families may feel awkward about their grief, according to Shaw, the hospital's vice-president of medical affairs.

"What the online media does is to highlight this," she said. "This is something we can and we should talk about it."

Shaw said that in the early stages of pregnancy, the baby has a lot of space to move around, and that's when the umbilical cord can be tied in a knot. 

By sharing their story, the family has helped others, Shaw said.

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