Adelaide Crows co-captain Rory Sloane and wife Belinda have opened up in an emotional video for charity Red Nose, one year after the tragic stillborn birth of their first child Leo.
The couple have launched the Lion Warrior program with Red Nose, an organisation 'that works to eradicate sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), with an aim to reduce the preventable stillbirth rate by 20 per cent in the next three years.
Sloane and his wife, Channel 7 presenter Belinda Sloane, announced the tragic news days after his birth on August 24, 2018 in identical social media posts alongside a photograph of their hands holding the hand of Leo.
"Last week we said goodbye to our beautiful little man," Sloane wrote on his Instagram account. "Leo Rory Sloane was born into the world still, but perfect.
"Thanks for making us the proudest parents and filling our hearts with love beyond measure, the moments we had with you are now beautiful memories that will last a lifetime."
The Sloanes have been active in raising awareness and the need for greater research into stillborn children.
In launching Lion Warrior, Belinda wrote on her Instagram account: "Over the past year we have learnt so many valuable lessons from our gorgeous Leo. He continues to shape the people we are today.
"Our hope is that by sharing his story with the world, we can raise awareness and funds to reduce stillbirth rates within Australia. This is our little Lion Warrior, this is Leo."
The pair sat down for a video to launch the campaign, with the rawness of the pain still evident in both parents, just days after what would have been Leo's first birthday.
The couple spoke about the bittersweet heartbreak of losing a child in such tragic circumstances.
After Rory and Belinda were married, the pair started trying to have children straight away but after some early trouble, tried IVF, falling pregnant on their first round.
While the pregnancy appeared to be going well, tragedy struck after 34 weeks.
Belinda said the couple had spent the day at the beach but something wasn't right.
"We got home, had dinner, got into bed, I said to Rory 'I don't think this is right … I haven't felt movement today'," she said.
Rory said they were never too concerned and assumed he'd just not moved.
After going to the hospital to investigate, Belinda recalled her devastation.
"I said to her (the midwife) 'there's not a heartbeat is there' and she just said 'no, unfortunately there's no heartbeat'," she said. "And I can't even really remember the moments that followed to be honest. I couldn't cry, I was just in complete shock."
Rory said it was a blur and he couldn't believe it was happening.
He said didn't believe he could feel so much love and that Leo seemed perfect.
Born at 34 weeks, weighing just over 2.5kg, and 50cm long, the pair said they couldn't believe they wouldn't get to take him home.
"I would describe Leo as perfection, his little face, he had a little button nose, cute little cupid's bow, rosy cheeks, there was blonde hair there that had started to curl a little bit, so I reckon he would have had hair a bit like his daddy," Belinda said.
Rory admitted the moments the family were able to spend together were precious but at the same time devastating.
"After Leo was born, first thing happened I cut the cord, which was really nice of our obstetrician, Chris, to ask me to do, great moment to experience as a father," he said.
"I remember him just passing Leo straight into Belinda 's arms and again, probably the most emotional we've ever been, I think, at that period.
"I remember looking across and Belinda holding her little son in her arms and him obviously being lifeless, but seeing the — it's so hard to explain — but the joy on Belinda's face, also matched with the sorrow, it was heartbreaking."
All in all, Belinda and Rory were able to spend a day and a half with Leo before he was taken away for funeral preparations.
Rory said Leo being taken away was "one of the most heartbreaking moments I've ever felt".
"Just watching our son be taken away to a funeral home to be cremated before he's had a real crack at life is really heartbreaking," he said.
Feeling lost after Leo's death, Rory said reading other people's stories and counselling helped the Sloane family to grieve.
The couple have grieved differently with Rory being more angry, while Belinda admitted she was more drained.
"I don't think the grieving process will ever end because the hole in our heart can't be filled. That hole is for Leo," Belinda said.
Stillbirth rates have not decreased in the past 20 years with 80 per cent still unexplained.
There are approximately six stillbirths per day.
The Sloanes revealed they are looking forward to giving Leo a little brother or sister in the future.