A Newcastle couple who tragically lost their twin baby girls 22 weeks into their pregnancy last year are encouraging families who have experienced a similar loss to join a remembrance service for infants taken too soon at Sandgate Cemetery next week.
The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance service is an annual event organised to support families who lost have baby before, during or soon after birth.
Hayley Castles and Nathan Rae will take part in the service this year, being held on Tuesday, October 15, as a way to honour the lives of their identical twin girls, Remy and Lilah.
Remy, four minutes older than her twin, and Lilah were born naturally at 22 weeks and four days into Ms Castles' pregnancy. Remy spent 11 minutes and Lilah 9 minutes breathing before they died.
"The girls couldn't be sent to NICU as they take babies who are 23 weeks so I had to just watch them pass away," Ms Castles said.
"I remember seeing their chest rising and falling as they laid peacefully on me. I kept telling the girls I loved them and I was sorry. They were identical and so beautiful."
Ms Castles and Mr Rae had just reached the point in their pregnancy when they could feel the girls kick.
On November 5, 2018, Ms Castles awoke to pains in her stomach. Thinking the pain was just Braxton Hicks she went about getting ready for work when suddenly her water broke and she began bleeding.
"I remember the drive to the hospital felt like forever and I just bled the entire way," Ms Castles said.
"At the hospital I was told I had to deliver the girls that day but I was confused because they both had heartbeats. I went into denial about the situation, assuring everyone that the girls would fight and be okay."
Ms Castles was induced and gave birth to Remy and Lilah.
During the labour, Ms Castles lost two litres of blood and almost her life.
"I did not even think for a second about myself I was just worried about my babies," she said.
"Nathan and I spent 24 hours with the girls, which was a blessing. During that time we were surrounded by family and my best friends met the girls too.
"Leaving the hospital empty handed was heartbreaking for us. We planned our future to have two beautiful little girls in it. I just had to meet them and say goodbye to them all in the same 10 minutes."
Ms Castles later found out she had a placental abruption, which caused her early labour.
If arriving home without their girls wasn't hard enough, the pair then had to plan a funeral for them.
"Planning the girls funeral was also really difficult for us but we wanted to make it as beautiful as we could," Ms Castles said.
"Nathan and I got a lot of clarity from the viewing because we got to do nice things for the girls, to show them how much they mean to us.
"We printed out lots of photos for the girls showing them their room and their house and pictures of us as a family that they could take to the other side.
"I read the girls a story and our family also placed a few special items into the coffin too. This was so special to me as it's even more memories I have with my babies."
The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance service, held annually in the Garden of the Innocents at Sandgate Cemetery, is another way families can honour the lives of the children they have lost.
The evening, which begins at 6.15pm, will end with an International Wave of Light event.
Participants of the service are encouraged to burn a candle for their lost child or children, which will form part of a continuous chain of light spanning the globe for a 24-hour period to honour and remember lost babies.
The Garden of the Innocents, established in 1998, is home to a memorial in which families can arrange, free of charge, to have a love heart-shaped plaque made for the baby or babies they have lost.
Families don't need to have a previous association with Sandgate Cemetery in order to have a heart shaped memorial plaque made and placed in the garden.
To attend the October 15 service RSVP to (02) 4968 3602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.