Heartbroken Australians who've suffered miscarriages welcome push for paid leave

Pregnancy loss survivors and their advocates have welcomed legislation introduced by the federal government that would give two days of paid leave to both those who miscarry and their partners.

Will and Artemis Greenwood, with their dog Frankie

Will and Artemis Greenwood, with their dog Frankie Source: SBS

Young Sydney couple Will and Artemis Greenwood have been trying for a baby for over a year now - but they've faced significant hardship. 

The high school sweethearts have suffered three miscarriages in the past year.

Their third happened on Christmas Day.

Advertisement
Though Artemis’ employers were supportive and gave her time to grieve after the first miscarriage, she had to use three weeks of her sick leave.

“I sat here crying every day,” she told SBS News.

“I was mentally very taken aback. It was a loss of what my life was meant to be. Our baby is meant to be two months old right now and you will never forget that.”

Artemis and Will on their wedding day
Artemis and Will on their wedding day Source: Supplied


Will went straight back to work after the first miscarriage. He said his work was supportive but he needed the distraction. 

“I came out of the emergency ward and went straight to work and that was definitely a distraction. I [had this] perceived notion that we’ve just got to roll our socks up and get on with it,” he said

One in four pregnancies in Australia end in miscarriage and most happen in the first 12 weeks, research shows.

Every day across the country, 282 women report pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation.

One in three pregnant women over the age of 35 also experience pregnancy loss. 

The federal government introduced legislation on Thursday that will add miscarriage to the compassionate and bereavement leave entitlement under the Fair Work Act.

If passed, it will mean two days of paid leave for both those who miscarry before 20 weeks, as well as their partners, which Will said is important. 

“I think it’s really important that partners get it because they’re grieving as well,” he said.

“It’s not a singular person who is grieving, it’s a team.”

He said he thinks bereavement leave could have offered him and Artemis validation of their losses.

“It's understanding that it’s not just being physically sick, it’s that emotional trauma that people go through. It’s that validation that something is wrong.”

Pink Elephants Support Network co-founder Sam Payne
Pink Elephants Support Network co-founder Sam Payne Source: SBS
Queensland Liberal MP Julian Simmonds, whose wife suffered a miscarriage, is among the members of the government to support the legislation.

“My wife was back at work on the same day, and if we had our time over again with our family, we would have taken some time to grieve,” he told SBS News. 

“[This legislation means] leave is available to people and they’re not having to negotiate time off with their employer at a time of great sadness.”

Miscarriage support group The Pink Elephants Support Network has welcomed the introduction of the legislation after campaigning for a change to bereavement leave for the past three years. 

“I’m really pleased that by having this motion, it will open up a conversation that will ensure better support in workplaces for all those impacted by pregnancy loss,” said Sam Payne, who co-founded the group after discovering a lack of support after her own miscarriage. 

She hopes the change will break the silence and taboo surrounding miscarriage.

“The change to me will be a legacy to the three babies that I’ve lost to miscarriage,” she said.

“It’s also for the future of my daughter and my son, so if they go on and have a loss in the future, I now know that they will be met with validation, empathy and understanding.”

 

In March this year,giving working mothers and their partners the right to three days of paid leave after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth. It also included leave for people who were attempting to have a child through surrogacy.

Will and Artemis are now looking towards the future and considering trying for another baby.

Next month Will is set to row three marathons on an ergometer to raise funds for The Pink Elephants Support Network. He hopes it will raise further awareness of how common pregnancy loss is.

“It’s about building that conversation and changing that narrative in that we’re not unique in this situation,” he said.

Will and Artemis say if the legislation passes parliament, their losses would feel more valid.
Will and Artemis say if the legislation passes parliament, their losses would feel more valid. Source: Supplied
Artemis said she’s found comfort in sharing her story and helping others, even in her own family, heal.

“It wasn't until we started talking about [pregnancy loss] that I discovered my great aunts had quite a few miscarriages, years and years ago, but no one has really spoken about them. Coming from a big Greek family, it was very taboo,” she said. 

“For my aunt, it was good to have a chat with her and make them feel that the next generations will be okay once we talk about it.”

The Australian bill is expected to be voted on after parliament’s winter break.

Additional reporting by Abby Dinham.


SHARE
5 min read
Published 24 June 2021 at 5:54pm
By Emma Lawson
Source: SBS