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‘We knew something was wrong’: Aussie mum turning tragedy into comfort

·6-min read
Barbara Armstrong seen with young baby Mia, sitting on lounge. Barbara Armstrong and her husband at a winery.
Barbara Armstrong and her husband became parents baby Mia in July 2020, after the loss of their first child Peanut when Barbara was 21. (Images: Supplied).

Barbara Armstrong knew there was a problem as soon as she saw the sonogram. It showed Peanut, but Peanut wasn’t moving anymore.

She’d noticed some bleeding when she went to the bathroom earlier that day and had some slight concerns that there may be something wrong with her pregnancy.

But when she showed up to the clinic, she was still confident that it was normal, and her baby would be okay.

“I just couldn't believe it,” she told Yahoo Finance.

“I was still feeling that there was a glimmer of hope that nothing was wrong… so seeing that, it was just like all glimmers of hope were gone.”

Turning pain into support with Sweet Peanuts

Barbara Armstrong lies on a bed with baby Mia and a cat.
Barbara Armstrong's miscarriage trauma stayed with her until the birth of Mia. (Image: Supplied).

For Armstrong, the echoes of her miscarriage stayed with her until she fell pregnant with her second child, Mia.

It was after Mia’s birth in July 2020 that Armstrong decided she could use this experience to help other families by launching her social enterprise, Sweet Peanuts, during her maternity leave.

Sweet Peanuts is a social enterprise focused on providing care packages for people experiencing the trauma of pregnancy loss, with a dual goal of educating family and friends about the realities and grief of miscarriage.

The care packages are created using items sourced from Australian small businesses and include tea, candles, wheat bags, aromatherapy, sympathy cards, crocheted pieces and information on services and counselling, as well as information resources for loved ones attempting to support people going through pregnancy loss.

It’s the support she would have wanted when she was experiencing her miscarriage, and the aftermath.

Ultimately, Armstrong would like to transition her social enterprise into a not-for-profit and have her care packages offered through health providers and the hospital system.

“It’s very hard to know what to get [people experiencing pregnancy loss] because it obviously is quite unexpected and it is quite sudden, and it’s different from the other areas of grief,” Armstrong said.

“[The couple] weren’t expecting it at all and preparing to give birth and looking forward to becoming parents - it’s a whole other level of grief, as well as a lot of physical pain that comes with it that is very understated as well.”

Armstrong believes the physical realities of a miscarriage are poorly understood by wider society.

“When [Sweet Peanuts] started, I was thinking mostly about what I can do for the woman and the couple, but it’s developed more into… how can I change communities and how can I educate them on how to provide the support?”

The main goal was to end the feelings of isolation that can come with miscarriage, Armstrong.

Many parents won’t tell friends and family that they are expecting until they’ve passed the 12 week mark. While the reason for that is to prevent having to tell loved ones about a miscarriage, it can also leave vulnerable parents grieving alone.

And for parents who lose a baby further along, it can mean telling loved ones about the loss of a baby, which carries its own pain, Armstrong said.

Then, she added, this can be exacerbated by well-meaning but ultimately devastating comments like, “There’s a reason for everything.”

Growing awareness and respect for the grief of miscarriage

Meghan Markle speaks from behind a podium.
Meghan Markle has spoken openly about her own miscarriage. (Image: Getty).

Model and presenter Chrissy Teigen shared her pregnancy loss story in October 2020, with Meghan Markle revealing the “almost unbearable grief” of her own miscarriage a month later.

Armstrong is hopeful that celebrities sharing their own stories will help fight the stigma around miscarriage.

Every year some 100,000 Australian couples will experience a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, while a University of Melbourne and the Pink Elephants Support Network found that 75 per cent of women feel unsupported in their grief.

“For the most part, I just wanted someone to validate my feelings, and to understand what I was going through,” Armstrong said.

“Because when I was going through the emergency department and speaking to all of these medical professionals, there wasn’t that sense of validation for what I was going through.”

Instead, Armstrong felt like she was just another statistic. She also struggled to find information about support services, and strongly believes there needs to be a more structured support system for women moving through pregnancy loss trauma.

With this in mind, the entrepreneur knew that she didn’t want to profit off other people’s grief, so she chose to set up her business as a social enterprise.

A structured business growth route

Since beginning Sweet Peanuts in 2020, Armstrong has completed her Graduate Certificate in Business, majoring in philanthropy at QUT and progressed through the Accelerator for Enterprising Women incubator workshop.

She has also applied for the inaugural Instagram Academy which takes place online on 10 November and includes training, $1,000 advertising grants, mentorship and sales advice from the Facebook sales team.

The Academy is now taking applications and will accept 25 young female business owners to receive grants.

“When I was thinking of starting this as a not-for-profit, entrepreneurship wasn’t even a term in my vocabulary - I was just thinking of myself as someone who wanted to make a change,” Armstrong said.

Upon realising that establishing a not-for-profit from scratch was incredibly difficult, she considered launching it as a business instead, but then ran into the information gaps in terms of establishing a business.

She started seeing ads for accelerator programs and courses, and knew that she could benefit heavily from a structured pathway, rather than going it alone.

Above all, for Armstrong, the process of scaling her business and discussing opportunities with mentors, founders and the community has been incredibly therapeutic.

“There’s no deadline for grief,” she said.

“Every time I share my story, it’s revalidating what I’m doing as an entrepreneur. It’s that engagement with more people - it’s therapeutic.”

Apply to enter Instagram’s ‘25 under 25’ and participate in the Instagram Academy here. Applications close 1 October.

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