Fathers of Loss Support Series: Rory’s story


​Fathers of Loss Support Series:

Meet Rory, proud dad of three beautiful boys, Leo, Sonny and Bodhi. Sadly, Leo was stillborn in 2018 at 34 weeks gestation. Leo was his first child with wife Bel.

Rory is best known as the Former Captain of the Adelaide Crows, and as the co-founder with Bel of Lion Warrior.

One of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever felt was watching our son be taken away to a funeral home before he’d had a crack at life.

I always wanted to be a Dad. We had a little trouble conceiving, so we ended up going down the IVF route.

When we were pregnant with Leo, we had a little ritual of me talking to Bel’s belly each night. It was a pretty cool feeling. But that night, we couldn’t feel him.

We were never too concerned. We just thought Leo might be sleeping. But we rang the obstetrician who told us to head to the hospital, but even they weren’t worried as we’d had a scan only six days earlier.

When we got there, we were told he’d died. From there, we had so many decisions that needed to be made. We went from deciding how Belinda was to give birth to our son to organising funerals and what to do with his body.

I remember sitting there and watching Belinda push and Leo’s head coming out. And there was just silence. I’ve never been more happy and sad at the same time. I was so happy to finally meet our little boy, but to not hear him cry and to feel how cold he was. It was heartbreaking.

It was a weird range of emotions. I was flat and angry for the coming days and weeks. We had no answers and didn’t know why. Not having answers at all made it hard not to feel angry.

How I feel now

Now that time has passed I feel happy. We have a beautiful little angel who looks over our family. Of course I still wonder what he would have been like playing with Sonny, how he would have grown up. I wonder what type of big brother he would have been. But if Leo wasn’t stillborn we probably wouldn’t have had our Sonny and Bodhi.

Grieving process

I wish I’d known how to grieve properly before Leo died. We did find our own way at the start. Bel helped me grieve, and I helped her and we leant on each other.

Our family and some of friends coming to meet Leo was massive for us. It was good for our friends but it really helped us to have them understand how important it was to treat him as our child. Using his name and talking about him was so important to Belinda and myself. One of Belinda’s friends brought in a polaroid camera and we have some beautiful photos and we made sure we took lots of them.

I wish I had known it was ok to grieve in different ways. I was angrier than Bel, and I was trying to help cheer her up when all she probably needed was a cuddle and for someone to say, ‘we’ll get through this together.’ I think I just tried to fix things to early.

Spending time in my own emotions helped me. I spent a lot of time surfing. Belinda was obviously physically and emotionally drained after what her body had gone through. But when you’ve been carrying a child for 34 weeks, physically you’ve gone through the whole birthing process, but there’s no baby there afterwards. I wish I had been more patient with our grief instead of trying to rush it.

Advice for other dads and their friends

To other dads, make sure you talk. Share your emotions. We had help from a counsellor and that helped us to normalise our feelings and to understand what each other was going through.

For friends and family make sure you acknowledge that their child was here and born. Use their name. It’s simple but so helpful. If you can and they want them there, go meet the child. Make sure you keep checking in and ask how they are going. Don’t avoid speaking about the situation and their feelings. The thing that helped the most was people reaching out to us. Especially people who had gone through the same thing.

Remembering Leo

We have plenty of rituals to remember Leo. We still have Leo’s ashes and the whole family says goodnight to Leo every night.

After the stillbirth of Leo, Belinda and I reached out to Red Nose to create Lion Warrior. We wanted something positive to come out of losing Leo.

Lion Warrior raises funds in Leo’s memory. With funding going to reduce the stillbirth rate in Australia. We also created a documentary called Lion Warrior which tells the story of our beautiful Leo Rory Sloane.

Red Nose 24/7 Bereavement Support Line 1300 308 307.

Last reviewed: 1/5/24