More than a decade on, and Erin Molan is still reduced to tears when she thinks of the day she watched her sister, Sarah Sutton, sob by her newborn baby’s tiny coffin.
“I remember the little casket being carried down [the aisle] at her funeral and Sarah was just standing there whispering, ‘Mummy is so, so sorry. She loves you’,” the Nine Network sports journalist tells WHO, explaining her sister’s daughter, Emily, was born approximately 40 hours after she died.
“I saw firsthand the devastation and impact giving birth to a stillborn baby can have on a family, and it’s something you can never recover from. The connection and bond you have with your unborn child is so powerful.”
Despite being touched by the tragedy, the television presenter admits she didn’t fully comprehend the pain her sister endured until she discovered she was expecting her own child with fiancé Sean Ogilvy, eight months after the couple announced their engagement.
“It was on my mind a fair bit. It seems selfish to talk about the fact that I was nervous, but I was. I had a pretty tough pregnancy and I told my obstetrician what my sister had gone through so I made sure I got all the extra tests,” the 36-year-old says. “I learnt pretty quickly that the greatest fear as a mum is losing your child and the only thing you hope for when you’re pregnant is to have a healthy baby. You definitely develop a greater understanding of just how difficult it would be to lose your child.”
Although the Australian star says she felt like a “walking corpse” during her pregnancy and was hospitalised twice – once after collapsing and hitting her head on the ground, then suffering another fall at a shopping centre – Molan and her partner welcomed a healthy baby girl they named Eliza Emily Ogilvy in June 2018.
In honour of her sister – who had been diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2011 at the age of 29 – Molan has dedicated countless hours to raising funds and awareness for families who have had to grapple with such an intense loss.
Earlier this year she was announced as an ambassador for Sydney2CAMberra – a charity organisation that was founded after a young Sydney couple’s son, Cameron, was stillborn. Deeply involved in the organisation, Molan has helped put together the charity’s bike-ride event that will take place from April 12-13, to support families affected by stillbirth and SIDS.
“The stillbirth rate hasn’t improved in 20 years, which is absolutely terrifying,” the former NRL Footy Show host says. “We aren’t doing enough and it needs to be made a priority. I speak to so many women in their 50s and 60s [who tell] me about the loss they suffered years ago and it still makes them cry. It’s something you never recover from.”
Following an eight-month investigation into stillbirths, a landmark report found that it affects more than 2000 Australian families each year, with the rate twice as high for Indigenous mothers. In response to the report, federal health minister Greg Hunt allocated $7.2 million for medical research and education programs. Molan’s dad, Liberal Senator Jim Molan has also been a strong advocate for change, volunteering for a stillbirth committee.
“My dad joined the committee because of my sister, and since then he’s secured an unbelievable amount of funding which is going to make a difference. A very big difference. ”