When Australian triathlete Troy Austin ran the Sunshine Coast Marathon in late August, he pushed an empty stroller for a reason both heartbreaking and undeniably brave.
Runners questioned him as bystanders in the crowd innocently laughed. "Here comes an old mate, and it looks like he lost his kid," an announcer even said on the loud speaker.
But Austin wanted people to notice so he could explain his story — that he appeared to be without a child because he was, in fact, missing one. In January 2016, his son T.G. was delivered stillborn at just 27 weeks. He would have been 1 ½ years old.
"Yes, I have lost my kid and I am not getting him back," he'd manage to say at times; others he'd just smile and keep running alongside a few of his supportive friends.
"I was prepared for a few questions; however, I became worn down and lost my cool, especially after repeat questions from the same people," Austin told Daily Mail. "The thought which helped me, though, was telling myself that every time that phrase was yelled out, they were acknowledging that I lost my son. They were acknowledging that T.G. was my boy."
According to Daily Mail, Austin and his wife Kelly had gone for a normal check-up before they found out the devastating news. The doctor couldn't locate a heartbeat in the baby who, 'til then, had been "kicking away and active."
The couple was able to hold T.G. once Kelly had undergone an induced delivery three days later. Austin described the unimaginable: "After a few emotionally painful days, you go to the hospital to give birth, knowing that your bub isn't coming home to his room. His clothes are not needed, his cot is an empty space...We smiled through the heartache because we had our first child, we were a family."
"We stayed with him all night," Austin continued. "We held him until the sunrise, only to have to say goodbye as a nurse wheeled him away." They then put him to rest with a burial and ceremony.
Austin said that because "stillbirth is a life sentence," grief is ongoing. His wife copes with it by preserving memorabilia, while he straps on a pair of running shoes.
To help mend their pain, the family also started a charity called T.G.'s Legacy with the goal of raising money, awareness and the spirits of others going through similar situations.
Stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 pregnancies in the U.S., and Austin noted that "six babies die a day in Australia from [it]." Such fate is caused by many factors including placental problems, birth defects and bacterial infections. Stillbirths are, above all us, tragic.
Through their efforts so far, the Austins have raised over 2,000. "Mummy and Daddy love you, our most precious gift," they wrote on the site.
The couple now has a baby boy named Samuel Bruce, T.G.'s would-be little brother.
"I think the empty [stroller] is here to stay... not empty," Austin stated on Facebook. "My son was with us." And he always will be.
(h/t Daily Mail)