It started with the words, “I’m sorry there is no heartbeat” at a routine scan in August 2015. We had lost our baby.
Sam, our Co-Founder and CEO, is driven to ensure no one faces the journey of early pregnancy loss alone and that every bereaved parent receives the support, empathy, and understanding they deserve. Sam is an empathetic, engaging, knowledgeable, and impactful advocate for those experiencing early pregnancy loss. She is an experienced public speaker with an ability to engage all. She speaks from the heart, sharing her own journey as well as those of the thousands that Pink Elephants supports. She links to a strong evidence base to create a clear call to action to inspire enhanced support for those experiencing early pregnancy loss. She is challenging cultural norms, breaking the silence, and initiating much-needed change.
Isolated, grieving, and searching for a support that wasn’t there, an idea of creating a safe space for women to come together to grieve and hold space for each other after losing their babies to miscarriage began to take form. "After all, if 1 in 4 pregnancies ended in loss before 12 weeks (1-4)." surely she couldn’t be the only one looking for support? It turns out she wasn’t.
Thankfully Sam had an ability to translate her vision and engaged others to build The Pink Elephants. Collaboratively they began with research and developed an actionable strategy to bring to life this amazing community and advocacy network, to be there for everyone impacted by early pregnancy loss. Their achievements in the last 5 years are a testament to not only their hard work, drive and determination, but also the clear need for a support service such as Pink Elephants. Women have been crying out for an advocacy network to champion the change necessary across communities and to RIGHT the story of early pregnancy loss once and for all.
You can read more about Sam’s personal why here
Telstra Women in Business - For Purpose 2019 NSW Winner & National Finalist
Telstra Women in business awards celebrate women who do business differently. Many of the most successful women in business have one thing in common. They are mavericks who use their own unique business approach to redefine the status quo. By undoing traditional approaches to business, they are setting examples to inspire others.
AMP 2019 Tomorrowmaker
AMP Tomorrowmaker grant recipients are of all ages, walks of life and abilities. They include scientists, social innovators, educators and technologists, artists and athletes – all working to create a better tomorrow. Sam is clearly working towards a better tomorrow for those experiencing the grief of pregnancy loss.
Westpac 2020 Social Changemaker
Westpac Social Changemakers have generosity of spirit and a strong desire to give back to Australia. Their commitment to our country’s broader social purpose, to create equal opportunity and better lives for all Australians, is reflected in their work and their actions. Sam demonstrates this with her work supporting couples through early pregnancy loss, through The Pink Elephants Support Network.
Will you stand alongside us and walk with us, will you not turn away from our pain, will you acknowledge the loss of our babies and help us to RIGHT the story of early pregnancy loss? I ask that you join our #circleofsupport and empower us to do the work we do every day. Together we can smash the stigma and change the narrative to ensure no one walks the journey of losing their baby alone."
You can follow Sam and her advocacy on Linkedin
I’m sorry there is no heartbeat - The words no mother ever wants to hear.
I’ve heard them three times, three times I have endured the pain of miscarriage. The senseless loss of a much wanted and loved child, a future taken away in a second; our lives have changed forever. I never could have foreseen I’d be here walking this path. You see, miscarriage is not something we think will happen to us - or at least I didn’t. Yet it did and it has changed me forever."
My first loss...
Given my nearly 2-year old was in the sonography room with me expecting to see her baby brother or sister on the screen, I put on a brave face and left in a blur trying to hide my pain and hold back the tears. A deep-seated sadness weighed heavily inside me. My husband sent a text to our close family and friends and they sent their condolences. We grieved alone but together at home.
My attention turned to my little girl who was everything to me and who lifted my spirits gradually each day. I returned to work and focused on an upcoming holiday and preparing for Christmas.
My second baby gone too soon to miscarriage…
In January 2016 I discovered I was pregnant again but this time, instead of joy and anticipation, I experienced elevated anxiety and lived in fear of another loss.
Nevertheless, statistics were on my side. I’d had my ‘1 in 4’ and this was to be our second baby earth- side, due in September when Georgie would be nearly 3. Our first scan revealed a strong heartbeat and we began sharing our happy news with family and friends.
On holiday a few weeks later I started to spot. I prayed and willed this baby to be OK and for it to be nothing more than normal pregnancy spotting. However, with each day the bleeding became heavier and I knew I was losing this baby too. I didn’t share what was happening with anyone on holiday – not even my husband – as I didn’t want to spoil their holiday with grief and loss. As soon as we arrived home, I broke down and confided in my husband that I was losing the baby and the next day it was confirmed via ultrasound. I left that appointment in a flood of tears walking back to my GP filled with so much self blame. What had I done to deserve this?
That night at 3am I woke up with contractions. I had a shower to try and ease the pain. It was then that I passed my baby, alone in the shower. It was horrific. I had no idea how much blood was normal or what a 10 week old fetus would look like, or whether I should flush it or keep it and bury it? No one had told me what to expect. No medical professional had offered me a place to find support. Google was the only place I could find answers.
A few weeks after the initial stage of grief had lifted, I became ANGRY at the lack of support and validation of my experience I had received. It was not OK that I had been sent home to pass my baby alone and not referred for any emotional support."
I knew I wasn’t the only one. I’d seen at least 10 other women in the EPAS (early pregnancy assessment) clinic the day my loss was confirmed and that was just one clinic in one hospital in one country! How many more women must there be suffering in silence?
Thankfully I reached out through social media and found Gabbi. She too had been through loss and understood my pain. We met for a coffee and she gave me the support I needed when no-one else could. We both agreed that women needed and deserved more, and it was there that the concept for Pink Elephants was created.
Our Rainbow Baby...
During the early stages of building Pink Elephants, I fell pregnant again. This was to be my rainbow baby Johnny and it was the hardest journey of my life. I experienced crippling anxiety each and every day of the pregnancy and any joy around the experience was non-existent. I disassociated with the baby constantly fearing I would lose it. We didn’t find out the gender, we didn’t make plans. We simply couldn’t allow ourselves to believe...
Just when I was coming to accept that this baby may be born alive, we unexpectedly lost our nephew in a horrific car crash, and then two weeks before Johnny was born, we lost my father in law. It felt like grief was everywhere around us and it seemed impossible that we could ever be happy again.
Despite it all, our beautiful rainbow baby was born healthy. However I secretly struggled with postpartum anxiety that gradually became worse. I was in a constant state of fear and I believed that Johnny would die.
I masked it well. After all, I was now supporting others going through the grief of miscarriage. I was the poster girl - I’d come out the other side with my rainbow baby...except I hadn’t. By not processing my grief or seeking support, I’d compartmentalised it all and it was crippling me trying to contain it. I quickly spiralled, exacerbated by a lack of sleep and the sheer exhaustion of permanently being in fight or flight mode. After finally seeking help and being prescribed medication, I began to take baby steps to being well again and was finally able to enjoy my son.
I channeled my grief, my pain, my anger, my everything into Pink Elephants, driven and determined to create the change I knew in my heart of hearts was necessary. I now resonate beautifully with the term post-traumatic growth, and whilst I don’t believe there is a silver lining with losing a baby to miscarriage, I am incredibly proud of the growth I have personally gone through on my journey to where I am now.
Our third baby loss...
Sadly in June 2020, the strangest of years in the middle of a global pandemic, I fell unexpectedly pregnant. We welcomed this surprise into our hearts with joy and began to imagine a third baby in our arms. Despite it being 5 years since my first loss, I still harboured an awful anxiety that I’d lose this baby too. For the 5 weeks I was pregnant it was a constant battle between joy and anxiety, and devastatingly my fears were confirmed - we lost this baby too.
The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult. I felt trapped by miscarriage. Working in this space while personally experiencing it has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Despite this I could see some changes. My loss this time was publicly acknowledged, openly discussed, and validated as bereavement. I had access to bereavement leave, giving me the space I needed to grieve the loss of our baby. Slowly but surely with the old adage of time, I’ve begun to put myself back together and I’m more driven than ever to lead the change to RIGHT the story of early pregnancy loss.
My experience is not unique. I deserved better support, as do the 285 other women and their partners who will hear the words, “I’m sorry there is no heartbeat” today.
Our #circleofsupport has come a long way since my experience of loss, since I dared to take one step at a time to make change. I’m incredibly privileged to be the leader of The Pink Elephants and to be driving the change necessary here in Australia.
You can help empower our #circleofsupport by donating here
Host/Producer: Claire Murphy | Guest Booker: Mel Sauer | Audio Producer: Ia Camilleri | Guests: Documentary Filmmaker Tahyna McManus, Co-founder of Pink Elephants pregnancy loss support group Samantha Payne, Olympian Libby Trickett and Pregnancy loss warrior Keira Rumble.
Samantha Sutherland | 2 November 2020
Stephanie Borys | 24 June 2021
Article by Chanel Zagon | 8 March 2022 | accompanied by 60 minutes episode Angel Babies.
Article by Jo Abi | 2020 | Samantha Payne's story.
By the Grace Tales Team | 18 October 2020
Samantha Payne | 29 March 2021
Maggie Zhou| 4 October 2022
Samantha Payne | 21 October 2022
Shannon Jenkins | 5 March 2023
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