In April, Ari and Gabbi Mitchell’s baby girl Stevie Dylan was born sleeping at 37.5 weeks. Through their enormous grief, they realised that stillbirth isn’t openly discussed in the Jewish community and they are on a mission to help change this.
While Gabbi and Ari were surrounded by support, they have seen first-hand how isolating the experience can be, which is why this month Ari will be jumping into oceans and pools around Sydney for Stevie’s Swim. He will complete a total of 126km (representing 7 x Chai (18)) over the month.
The Mitchells explain the swim is their way of honouring Stevie and opening up the conversation around stillbirth.
“When we were pregnant, I pictured taking our baby to the pool,” Ari said.
“I still can’t believe she isn’t here with us. If even one person can ask me about my daughter, about grief and loss, then it will be worth it.”
Gabbi added, “It’s been the most harrowing four months of my life. This is one thing in life no one can make better for you. All they can do is crawl into the hole with you. And for those who could do that, it’s made a world of difference.
“After nearly nine months of pregnancy, instead of coming home from the hospital with a baby in my arms, I came home with a memory box,” she said.
“I suddenly became a member of this secret society that no one wants to be part of – a parent with a child that you can’t see or hold again.”
Through Stevie’s Swim, the couple are raising much needed funds that will go towards creating specific support services for people experiencing fertility-related grief and loss.
“I want to make sure that no one goes through this journey alone and I want to empower the community with resources to support others going through fertility-related grief,” said Gabbi.
The couple were recipients of emotional support from the Australian Jewish Fertility Network (AJFN) throughout their IVF journey, pregnancy and stillbirth.
They are now working closely with the AJFN to design and fund initiatives to enhance AJFN’s support offering.
“Ari and Gabbi are the most courageous people I have ever met,” said AJFN CEO Justine Saidman.
“Their response to this tragedy reminds us of the importance of a supportive community during grief. Stevie has touched us all.”