Photo: Troy Austin via Facebook
"Hey mate, you have lost your kid!"
Australian dad Troy Austin heard this innocent phrase multiple times throughout the day as he pushed an empty stroller while running in the Sunshine Coast Marathon last month in Alexandra Headland, Queensland.
The phrase was a "double-edged sword," Austin explains in a Facebook post he shared after the event. He heard it for the first time from a woman who noticed his missing passenger at the start line. Little did she know, the stroller was purposefully empty in honour of his stillborn son, T.G., who would have been one-and-a-half had he been there with his dad.
Austin's response—"Yes, that's the point"—made his reasoning clear. "The smile dropped from her face as she came for a hug and apologized," Austin wrote in his post. "I smiled because at that moment it was the reaction I was hoping for."
After the loss of their son, Austin and his wife created T.G's Legacy, a charity that aims to raise awareness about stillbirths and helps support and connect families who have experienced it. According to Statistics Canada's most recent data, there were 8 stillbirths for every 1000 births in 2013. In Austin's home country of Australia, it's reported that six babies are stillborn each day. "Until we were told he had passed, we didn't have any idea it could happen," wrote Austin.
Austin ran with a couple of friends who were there to support his charity. He writes that he was glad to have them running beside him because every time someone mentioned the missing child, they were there to help him explain when he couldn't. "It took a good mate beside me to have a chat so my bottom lip didn't tremble, as I would try to think up quick ways of saying 'Yes, I have lost my kid, and I am not getting him back.'"
"I think the empty pram is here to stay," Austin closes out his post, "but not empty. My son was with us."