Adelaide Crows midfielders Rory Sloane and his wife, Belinda, have commemorated the first birthday of their stillborn son Leo with a stirring tribute.
The couple launched the ‘Lion Warrior’ program, a national campaign aiming to improve research into stillbirth.
The campaign was announced by their pair in a touching video, which was posted on the Red Nose website.
Rory and Belinda’s son was born at 34 weeks, weighing in at just 2.5 kilograms and 50 centimetres long.
The Crows midfielder described cutting Leo’s umbilical cord, and the moments of joy and sorrow experienced in equal measure with his wife.
“After Leo was born, first thing happened I cut the cord, which was really nice of our obstetrician, Chris, to ask me to do, great moment to experience as a father,” he said.
“I remember him just passing Leo straight into Belinda ‘s arms and again, probably the most emotional we’ve ever been, I think, at that period.
“I remember looking across and Belinda holding her little son in her arms and him obviously being lifeless, but seeing … the joy on Belinda’s face, also matched with the sorrow, it was heartbreaking.”
Couple shares beautiful memories of child
In the video posted to the Red Nose site, Belinda and Rory describe the process of discovering Leo would be stillborn, and the complex range of emotions they experienced in the days and weeks afterwards.
Belinda said they had decided to get checked after a day where she couldn’t feel their son moving.
“We got home, had dinner, got into bed, I said: ‘I don’t think this is right … I haven’t felt movement today’,” she said.
“I said to (the midwife), ‘There’s not a heartbeat is there’ and she just said: ‘No, unfortunately there’s no heartbeat’. And I can’t really remember the moments that followed.
“I couldn’t cry, I was just in complete shock.”
The couple said they are hopeful the research the Lion Warrior program will greatly reduce the number of stillbirths in Australia.
As it stands, approximately six babies are stillborn each day, with the majority of those for unexplained reasons.