Episode 44: Pink Elephants with Samantha Payne 

Shivani Gupta (00:16)

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Hello everybody, I am so so excited about having Sam Payne on our podcast, in the AskShivani podcast today. I started to follow Sam and some of the extraordinary work that she is doing, which is going to tell us a little bit about the Let me tell you a little bit about her first, she is so driven to make sure that nobody faces the journey of early pregnancy loss alone, and that every bereavement parent receives the support, empathy and understanding that they deserve. Sam is empathetic, engaging, knowledgeable, and she is an impactful advocate for those experiencing early pregnancy loss. She's an experienced public speaker with an ability to engage all she speaks from the heart. She's going to share some of her own journey, but also the thousands and thousands of people that Pink Elephants has supported. She links a strong based evidence base to call and make sure that we've actually taken some actions in place. And she wants to inspire and create some enhanced support for early pregnancy loss. She's challenging the cultural norms breaking the silence initiating much needed change. I'm hoping that I'm not going to break down on this particular podcast, because it was something that I experienced, and I just did not have that support. Welcome, Sam.

Samantha Payne (01:55)

Hi, thank you for having me. Great introduction and yeah, I'm excited to be here and talk more about this topic that needs to be talked about more. So yeah, thank you.

Shivani Gupta (02:05)

Absolutely and it is such a huge thing. I remember Sam, when, before I we had our first child, we had gone through a really big journey of trying to get pregnant. And that pregnancy at 11 weeks filed. And, you know, it was probably the one moment in my life that I remember going into pretty deep depression. So, I want to talk about, you know, what you're creating here, but I want to know more about your journey first. So, tell us how have you got to doing what you're doing. And, you know, often that includes some amazing positive terms and some horrific, terrible times. So, I want to know what's got you here, share with us some of your ups and downs.

Samantha Payne (02:47)

Well, firstly, thank you to you for sharing. Because I know that that's not always easy to share the personal side, and particularly in a professional setting. So thank you, because part of us sharing our story, we start to normalize that pregnancy loss happens, but also that it warrants far more support and clean understanding that it currently gets. So, I'm not surprised that you didn't have access to the empathy and the support that you deserved. And I'm saddened, but I'm not surprised. So, I kind of moved into this space from the experience.

So, I had my own journey to have children, we had our first really easy and we were that annoying couple months after our wedding, we were pregnant, and then Georgia came along. And then months later, it wasn't difficult for us. And then it was when we tried for a second child when it all change. And we sadly, went through two losses in between Georgie and Johnny, he's now here and he's four years old. And those losses rocked me to my core like nothing else had ever done. I am a very resilient person, I've moved to the other side of the world relocated to Australia, I have a strong friend that work and challenge myself professionally always grew in the roles that I didn't achieve the law and kind of went through life thinking, well, if you work hard, you achieve great things. And I was willing to do that.

But this was something that no matter how hard you worked at it; you couldn't control the outcome. And so, I really struggled throughout that year of those two losses. And I was also horrified that I was being minimized. I wasn't offered any support. I was told – “well, at least you know, you can get pregnant, you already have a child why you are you worried, just get pregnant again.” And it just didn't feel right. So, I knew that something's needed to be done. So, I started pink elephants six years ago based on that kind of, if you like my own experience, and then I connected with another lady who had her own experience as well. And she was my peer support. She offered me what I needed through that understanding and empathy because she'd been there and she just got it. And then from that we kind of decided more needed to be done and we started pink elephants. So yeah, it's definitely grew from lived experience. If you'd have told me we'd be here now with what we've done in the last five, six years, I might not have believed it. But yeah, it's incredible and it shows the need and that we've managed to achieve So much in such a short timeframe.

Shivani Gupta (05:02)

I think it's absolutely incredible. And you know, so many women go through this, so many families go through this, yet there isn't that. I know I was losing it. When I was in Kohl's, this is about a week and a half after we'd lost our little baby. And there was a woman that hit her child, and this child was about three years old, and I went and gave her an earful. And I'm sobbing the whole time. And I was in so much of this, how could you not appreciate what you have process. So, one thing is Sam, all of us going through it. And the second is actually been taking some action and creating Pink Elephants and during the work you've done, not for a month or two, but for five or six years now. So tell me like, Where did you take that own grief into I have to do something more about this for others. How did that come about?

Samantha Payne (05:58)

I think I've always been a really vocal person. I've always been big on social impact. And no matter what my roles have, I've always wanted to make a difference. And I just saw this gap. And I couldn't believe how big this gap was yet that there was no one there. So in Australia, there is no other miscarriage specific specialist support service. So, we're still the only one nationally that provides support for miscarriage only. And that just dumbfounded me I was also angry. And I think anger and grief is a really great thing to do something with. I didn't want to get into fights or anything like that. I'm not normally an angry person. But I knew that I could channel that and it would also help me, I didn't realize how cathartic it would be. I didn't understand things like translational grieving, but then I didn't understand the general process of how sometimes this would trigger me far too much.

I wasn't mindful of my own needs in those early days, I was like a steam train, I was gonna do something about this, I was a woman on a mission. And I did in the early days, that definitely kept me going that anger that drive to change things. And then over time, you realize that this is such a huge societal problem. This is not something that's going to be fixed in a year or two. This is a life's work that needs to go towards this. And there's so much more still to be done. We've had some incredible wins. And we, I'm really proud of what we've achieved. But yeah, I think in the early stages, it was definitely the grief and the anger that drove me. There was also an element of bartering with the gods that if I did something good for this, maybe then I would have another baby. But then that's that pregnancy that I did have with Johnny afterwards just highlighted again, to me how deep this gap was, because throughout that pregnancy, I was terrified. I had anxiety that was undiagnosed. And I hit it because you're meant to be grateful that you're pregnant. So, you're presenting to everybody that, oh, it's all over now. I've gone past 20 weeks and she’s fine. And I wasn't I was an absolute mess.

So, I think one thing that Pink Elephants does really well is then we might take say one person's experience, and then we'll do more research. And we'll find out if that's a shared and common experience. And then we work out well how can we fill that gap? What can we do to change that? How can we make a difference that's meaningful for many rather than one person? And that's something I'm really proud of the Pink Elephants.

Shivani Gupta (08:13)

That's incredible. And I want you to like almost drop all of your humbleness. Now, like I just want you to put it aside because I you know, when you said we've achieved a few things, talk to talk to the audience today. Talk to me about some of the stuff that's happened, particularly with some of the leave and some of the advocacy work you've been doing. Tell us about two or three of those big wins, and completely be the opposite of humble, I want you to show it off, because I think it's incredible that people hear because somebody will be listening to this and then they'll go, I need to connect them to Pink Elephants. So, I want you to share some of your great wins over the last little bit.

Samantha Payne (08:51)

Yeah, so I think the lead for loss, if you may or may not have heard about of that is whereby, we identified that there was no provision in the Fair Work Act of Australia on the national employee standards for a woman or her partner who have a miscarriage prior to 12 weeks. Despite the fact that 98% of losses occur prior to 12 weeks, we were nonexistent in the Fair Work Act. And again, that made me really angry when I found that out. And I was also really saddened that woman were returning to work because they'd run out of sick leave, and they were hiding in bathroom stalls and crying. They were running out to their cars and hide in there. They just weren't ready to be in the workplace and they deserved to be at home grieving the loss of their child. However, they were often minimises this miscarriage, it just happens get over it.

So, we knew that it needed to be part of bereavement leave because what that does is it validates that pregnancy loss is real grief. So, we have spent three years building a really strong case for support working with different MP such as Julian Simmons from Ryan in Queensland, and also Michaelia Cash the current ag on this and basically advocate in that we need to put miscarriage under bereavement leaves. And yeah, I am really proud that in the first well, there's been an obviously three-year process we're on the first of September this year it was passed in senate and passed by the House of Reps.

So now forevermore, a woman and her partner have access to two days paid bereavement leave, if they experience of miscarriage prior to 20 weeks. It's so much more than the amount of leave it's a validation that this pregnancy loss is grief. And you deserve to grieve the loss of your child. And you should do that with your partner because partner's grief too. So yeah, that's an incredible win for pink elephants and huge, I’m still kind of sinking in that it's actually happened when you've worked towards something for three years. And it only happened about two weeks ago. And I thought, okay, what next. So that was awesome.

Another thing that I'm really proud of is that our support has been accessed literally by thousands of women and their partners and their families. And without us, they would have had nowhere else to turn to for support, they would have been how I was six years ago, and how you were in your experience left alone to navigate this all-consuming trauma and grief, and kind of just work your own way through it and be expected to be okay somehow, which is complete madness. So, I'm actually really proud that we built an organization from an idea it was a vision, it was this is what we need to do. And now that's translated into, we've had 36 and a half thousands of people access our support materials online this year. That's incredible. We've got over 7000 in our online communities speaking to each other, helping each other, like navigating this together rather than alone and alone is one of those biggest things with miscarriage, right? So, I think, yeah, leave for loss is a huge win in terms of policy change, and driving that really proud of it. But the actual creation of a charity that supports thousands of women and their families is something that's pretty amazing.

Shivani Gupta (11:52)

I took some really deep breaths before this podcast today, because we are having a podcast recording day. I cannot just get emotional, I am so grateful to you for doing what you were doing 36 and a half, thousands people that is incredible. And that's so far and to get something passed. And as you said, it's not about the two days, it's that acknowledgement that women and partners go through these and how difficult it is that you're doing that I am just, you have inspired me beyond belief today Ms.Sam, that's amazing. And so, tell us tell us a little bit about as I get my, my shit together here. Tell us a little bit about, you know, challenges. So obviously, in the last five or six years, you would have come across so many challenges in Pink Elephants, but also in life generally, like, you know, you just said you've got four and seven year olds, I know you're locked out and present with 12 or 13, or whatever the hell it is. So, tell me that do you have this process, I know that I can sense that you've got this drive and this anger and this fuel that really propels you forward. But do you also have like a process or a system or something you read or you, you know, journal on what is it that you use to combat when you get challenges that come your way. Whether they be small, large, or you know, medium? or large?

Samantha Payne (13:06)

Yeah, I think I'm getting better with time, I think it's a great question. Because it's in the first few years of startup one, you can run 100% on that drive, passion, energy. And then as you kind of transition out of startup into sustain, and it's different, right? And it's about a mindset shift that this is for the long call, this is a marathon. This is not a sprint. So how do I look after myself and the team as well and ensure that we have things like boundaries, it's taken a long, long time to learn boundaries. I'm currently locked down with two children. Therefore, I'm only working part time at the moment, I've always only been but the first three years I wasn't paid at all. And then when we started to take a small wage, it's always been part time. But I've always given full time hours because and then so because this is just my passion, right, I want to do this. I also get a lot back, I should acknowledge that from this, it is truly cathartic to hold space and make a difference for others. But I've also acknowledged that I have a family too. They need as much as me.

So now I'm very much part time at the moment during this lockdown with two children. I'm not online on a weekend, you will not find me on my emails on a weekend or LinkedIn, anything like that I completely am off this. And I know that I've done that through learning as well that I can't constantly have my head in grief. It is an incredibly difficult subject. And whilst it's heartbreaking that we've had to make some difficult decisions in recent times, because of funding, we're a tiny organization we're not yet funded by government or supported in any way we rely on the on donations, that sometimes that means that we can't be there for everyone. And that's incredibly hard. However, I have to be okay with what we are doing is enough because we're giving as much of as we can, and that's for the whole team as well.

I think one thing that I've really struggled with is the personal side of this in that I have left this at the same time as building this, and not realizing how deeply triggering this work can be, and how I need to then as why those boundaries are so important. And how as much empathy as he gives to others, you need to also give to yourself, right. And I think that that's something that's really important how you talk to others is also how you should have that self-talk. And I've got much better at things like meditation, yoga recently that I love, that's all off the cards right now, because I'm stuck with two kids at home. And if in complete honesty, this is really difficult right now we are in 12 weeks into a Sydney lockdown. And it looks like it may or may not end sometime, but it's still very confusing as to how. And I think, then there's an element that you relate of this situation, to what our community face every day. And there's that element of lack of control. You have to work on what you can control, and you have to let go of what you can't. And that's it, it has to be that kind of simple and black and white at certain points in your life. And yeah, definitely in one now.

Shivani Gupta (16:00)

That's incredible, incredible. And I think so beautifully put about saying, you know, there's no point me taking care of the world if there are times that just need to take care of me and my four and seven year olds and a lockdown and my own wellbeing around that, so important to do that. And I think I'm seeing some people that are literally running themselves a little bit ragged, because they're trying to support the world. And it's so important to balance that out.

Samantha Payne (16:25)

I have missed that I am sorry. I'm sorry, I just one other thing that I want to add is that I am really unresponsive to emails right now. And that makes me uncomfortable. I'm not responding to LinkedIn, direct messages when people are asking for help. And normally I would go that extra mile what I know and I think that we need to normalize that right now if you're in something like this, it's okay to kind of put some of that stuff down. That that's okay. It'll still be there in a few weeks. And we're out of this but yeah, just wanted to add that as well.

Shivani Gupta (16:52)

Yeah, absolutely. That is so important. What about future aspirations and I'd love to hear anything personal. Obviously, I want to hear more about you know, Pink Elephants and where you what you see the aspirations are, tell me a little bit about your personal and work and your purpose aspirations for the future.

Samantha Payne (17:10)

With work, I can see so much growth for Pink Elephants, I can see the need, I can see the difference we can make and I'm inspired by the team that we're starting to grow that it's that we're working on this together and I can see a future where there's a world where everyone is met with empathy and understanding after they've had a pregnancy loss. Everyone is validated that I'm really sorry you're going through this that's really awful. I'm here for you. This is what I can do for you rather than that at least comments, so there's that side of it that we're working towards with Pink Elephants. Myself, I've been really fortunate that I got a Westpac social changemaker scholarship, and that's really helped develop my leadership skills. I love learning, I'm very passionate, I've been to university twice, I absolutely want to continue to learn do more research and into this topic. Completely my head's there, there's also more that I can do I can see how miscarriage fits into the narratives of gender stereotypes and why it's not been supported right? Because if you think about it, it's a cultural taboo that sits in women's health periods and baby death and it makes people really uncomfortable. So, I think that whilst miscarriages and incredible need I personally have passion in other areas as well that want to drive some change and can see that things need to happen and that that might have a ripple effect of change elsewhere as well so yeah. I also want to give back to my family, like I love being a mom, I love having my time with my kids and they're only this age for such a short amount of time right and then like my nearly eight year old, who's eight next week is she's becoming a big girl like you want them to stay a baby almost forever so I have huge passion there is all I want to spend time with my kids and locked down in a way is actually a bit of blessing there maybe too much, however yes I think that yeah, professionally with work is what Pink Elephants can do and then myself I obviously also have girls outside of Pink Elephants, I'm not just Pink Elephant. 

Shivani Gupta (19:17)

Yeah, now that's amazing and talking about babies getting up so fast mine is gonna be 13 this year he's now an inch and a half taller than me. And I'm like, oh my god like people I remember somebody saying to me when the kids are like really little and I had those Joolz Prams and I remember this gorgeous old lady I ran into at the shops was having a really challenging day and she said “My dear, the time will go by fast” and like it is not going very fast at all. And now I go oh my god, I know what she meant. Like it's just it's gone. Just like that.

Sam, tell our audience, tell me about you know, leadership philosophies that you have. I know you talked a bit about learning. You know, are there philosophies or quotes or books or places where you go, where that really inspire you and your philosophies and sometimes they are values, they've had sometimes they philosophies but tell us a bit about where you get that from what do you live by? What do you follow? What do you ravens by shoot?

Samantha Payne (20:11)

I read, I'm an avid reader, I'm not a Netflix or a series. I've kind of done a bit more like lockdown. But I absolutely love to read and study I'm always was a geek, I always will be I'm incredibly proud of my passion for learning. And there's a few probably key leadership people that I follow. And Rene Brown, obviously huge empathy completely translates to the work that we do. I'm really grateful that she's done such a most work around emotional literacy, because that's huge for our audience and what we do. And then also there would be Seth Godin, I took part in the alternative MBA last year, which was incredible. And I think the philosophy that that highlighted that I had, that I didn't realize I have, I have an innate ability for consistency and to show up, when things get hard, I don't look away, I don't walk away from challenges, and I break them down, I don't I'm not saying I can climb a mountain, but to me, it's not a mountain to me, it's okay, well, we just get here first, and then we get here. And then we get here, it's not the I don't have to do the whole thing, you won't go. So, I think consistency has been a huge thing for myself and pink elephants, because none of the changes that we've made all the programs that we've been built have been built overnight has been a long, hard slog, it really has, however, just continually showing up in the right places with the right people has definitely helped us in so many ways. And then another probably big thing would be to find a way not to hide or shrink when things are challenging, or you're in those meetings with people and you get that sense of imposter syndrome. I've had that. And I've been like, oh, I'm not meant to be here. I can't be here. Why am I here? But finding your way to go through that. And it's uncomfortable. And I talked about it, itchy feeling 

and I'm scared, but pushing for, like keep going, rather than using that as a no, I can't do this. I'm walking away. So yeah, I think there's a few in there.

Shivani Gupta (22:03)

That's amazing. That's really, really great. Now, I know when you talked about some of things that you do for your wellness, some of them have had to go out of the window because you're in lockdown with two young kids. But you talked a bit about meditation. You talked a little bit about yoga, even in these current times, what are some of the little things that you're doing for your wellness that help you stay well? And that might be physically there might be mentally might be emotionally? So, what are some of the things outside of meditation and yoga that you may be not getting to as much at the moment? What are some of the other things you are doing?

Samantha Payne (22:34)

Yeah, at the moment I'm walking every day, I have an early riser, I always have been I find that really helps. So, everyone's still asleep. I'm up to the crack of dawn, my leave my walking stuff outside my room and quietly get changed and sneak out the house that way can anybody up and I podcast and I walk. And that's where I get that leadership development because that's when I'm listening to those podcasts and those kind of development theories. But I'll also note that sometimes say for example, I'm working on a weekend and I'll use music instead. I won't be going because if I start listening to around, I'll set up a million ideas for Pink Elephants and what I need to do and I am also very right now I don't need that all the time. So, I might listen to a podcast. It's completely chitchat. Like I'm listening to a BBC comedy series at the moment. It's gold, it reminds me a home when I get that really nice sense of like comfort that I kind of missed because I mean, I've been here 12 years, but I still have that nostalgia. And then yeah, music as well is something that we have a lot of around the house that helps I think to change moods. It's hard is that yes, I'm trying to do little things right now. And completely in whatever I want whenever I want. So that might be chocolate biscuits for breakfast, and that's okay.

Shivani Gupta (23:56)

Sam, some people that want to follow you follow the work of Pink Elephants, when is the best place that they can follow you follow the work, just so that they can find out some more so that they can send this podcast I can send links to people that need it. So, tell us where can we find you and the work you do.

Samantha Payne (24:11)

You could find myself and my thoughts on Pink Elephants and the leadership side of things. Samantha Payne on LinkedIn. But you can find Pink Elephants on Facebook and Instagram and that's @pinkelephantssupport.

Shivani Gupta (24:22)

Sam, it has been such a pleasure. I want to talk to you straight after we stopped recording. But thank you. Thank you for being on here today.

Samantha Payne (24:29)

Thank you for giving us the space to reach support more people. Thank you.

Shivani Gupta (24:41)

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.