Following Baby Loss Awareness Week, it seems we just need more awareness of baby loss.
Updated: Nov 17, 2018
In the UK, 1 in every 200 babies is still born. That is an alarmingly high amount. and it means you probably know someone who has lost their precious baby.
But as a society do we talk about it enough? Do we acknowledge that baby? Do we acknowledge that family have lost a child and are grieving?
Often as an outsider we just don't know the right thing to say; we know it must feel devastatingly sad, but we fear saying the wrong thing, so we just don't say anything at all.
Not saying anything to those parents who are going through losing their baby, whether you are a family member, a friend, a colleague, is purely heartbreaking for them. Not acknowledging their grief, the experience of losing their child, is so painful in itself.
For anyone wondering how to support someone who is going through loss of a baby, I thoroughly recommend reading "An exact replica of a figment of my imagination" by Elizabeth McCracken. She writes about the loss of her own baby; the emptiness, the "what if I had done something different?"s, the fear which borders on superstition that she feels when she becomes pregnant again. It is definitely not an easy read; her writing is full of raw emotion and heartache, and it took me months to get through because I could only read a few pages at a time before getting into an inconsolable state. However a point that really got to me was the way Elizabeth felt when someone she knew said nothing to her about her baby. Not acknowledging her loss, her baby and her sadness left her feeling abandoned by those who she truly needed support from.
So please, if you know someone going through the loss of their baby, say something; even a simple "I don't know what to say, I'm so sorry", accompanied by a hug. Be the love and support that family needs.
Sadly, the government do not acknowledge a baby born before 24 weeks. This can mean no birth certificate, no death certificate, no funeral; and within the hospital environment it often means hearing this information for the first time in a busy maternity unit full of other happy mums having scans. There seems to be a gap in acknowledging that losing a baby before 24 weeks is painful for parents and their families, and that they need to be treated gently and given privacy and dignity to deal with this news.
However, one wonderful lady is coordinating a project at my local hospital, to build a family room that provides a safe haven for families being given the news that their baby has severe abnormalities, may not survive or has died, as a resting place for women who have had invasive screening tests such as amnio or CVS, which can be used by the screening team or bereavement midwives. To learn more about this please see The Opal Project
With more awareness, understanding and support, more spaces like this can be created at hospitals across the country, giving families a place where these conversations can happen with privacy and dignity.
There is also the charity SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity) who work to support families affected by the death of a baby, by both improving the care bereaved parents receive, and try to create a world where stillbirth rates are reduced through promoting research to reduce the loss of babies' lives.