‘Incredibly personal’: MP’s crusade on issue close to home
A coalition of federal MPs led by Brisbane's Julian Simmonds is pushing to change the law to allow parents who lose a baby in early pregnancy to have two days mandatory leave from their jobs.
Mr Simmonds was sparked to fight for the amendment to the Australian Fair Work Act after reading a story in The Sunday Mail that outlined the horror of women having to sit at their desks broken and bleeding on the same day they miscarry.
The LNP Member for Ryan and his wife Madeline have suffered their own personal hell of losing three pregnancies, and Mr Simmonds bravely told of the family's heartache in his maiden speech in parliament just days after losing the second baby.
The rawness and the emotion in his speech had his wife sobbing in the gallery and to this day she tears up at the thought that he used the highlight in his career to put the spotlight on the enduring pain of wanting a child so badly and being powerless when the dream is shattered.
Mr Simmonds has presented a letter to the Attorney-General Christian Porter signed by fellow parliamentarians from every Australian state, backing the Pink Elephants Support Network's Leave for Loss Campaign which is fighting to alter the legislation and provide bereavement leave for women and partners who experience a miscarriage prior to 12 weeks.
Women who suffer early pregnancy loss do not have a clear legal entitlement to the two days of paid bereavement leave like those employees who suffer other forms of loss or grief.
Ninety-eight per cent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy before many women and their partners have told their families, friends or workplaces that they are pregnant.
Madeline Simmonds is just one of those women who stayed at her desk the day she miscarried as she was embarrassed and felt it was too personal to discuss.
"I was new to the job. My boss is great but I wasn't prepared to share my trauma or tell them that I was bleeding and in pain," she told The Courier-Mail.
As Mr Simmonds said in his maiden speech his wife and himself had a hell of a fight to have a baby. They went through many rounds of unsuccessful IVF, suffered a molar pregnancy, lost a pregnancy at six weeks and then another at 14 weeks.
The light in the struggle was the much anticipated arrival of Theodore who is now three and Isabelle who is five months.
"We are incredibly lucky to have had two beautiful children and they are pure joy but every now and then I think we could actually have had five children. You never forget," Mrs Simmonds said.
"It's taken a long time for us to be able to talk about our grief. I'd say it was trauma.
"When Julian spoke out in Parliament I was seeing the real and deep pain for the first time.
"I felt a sense of relief that our story was out as people often asked when we would have a baby."
This week former duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle helped break down the taboo of talking about the pain of miscarriage by sharing her own loss.
Mr Simmonds said it is important to secure the support of business owners.
"We understand that any change to the Fair Work Act will have an impact on workplaces and will affect small and medium businesses differently to larger companies. However, we believe that this move will be widely supported across all levels of Australia's business community," Mr Simmonds said.
The Pink Elephant Support Network is surveying small businesses to assess their support for the amendment to the law.
"We are going to keep pushing and hopefully will see a draft drawn up in January," he said.
"This is incredibly personal to me, but it is vital for the 100,000 Australian couples who lose babies in the first 12 weeks every year.
"It doesn't matter how early a baby is lost, the grief is the same. As soon as you hear that you are pregnant you start dreaming about that child, what it will look like, what you need to buy for its arrival."
The Pink Elephants Support Network, which provides emotional support to women and their families who suffer a lost pregnancy, is grateful to Mr Simmonds for revealing that the loss impacts dads too.
"Parliament needs to hear all the voices," Katrina Groshinski, chair of the Pink Elephants Support Network said.
Originally published as 'Incredibly personal': MP's crusade on issue close to home