I have spoken many times about the support I was incredibly privileged to receive from our midwife Michelle. Her unwavering commitment to us through Orla’s pregnancy and birth, our fraught and anxiety ridden journey through pregnancy after loss and the hugely reparative birth of Esme was incredible and we will be forever grateful. Throughout this time, I did wonder about the impact that this had on her; did she lose sleep too, wondering if our baby would make it into our arms safely? Was she counting down the days until our planned early induction? Was it actually her who breathed the biggest sign of relief when our baby came out screaming?
As a healthcare professional myself, I know first-hand how there are times when you can’t help but take your work home with you. When you wake in the middle of the night with a particular client on your mind. When you desperately await their call so that you can reassure yourself that they are okay. But it wasn’t until I head Michelle speak at a workshop for midwives that the true emotional impact of the work of loss and bereavement really hit home. Maybe it was only then that I could even allow myself to go there and recognise it before then, but it really floored me. We are all in this together and it is important that everyone who comes into contact with loss is cared for, because this is the only way in which to create sustainable and compassionate systems in which to practice.
Baby Loss Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the key issues affecting those who have experienced pregnancy loss or baby death in the UK. For some, this may be educating about the long-term impact of grief, or helping others to know what to say and do if they know someone who has lost a baby. But it is also about helping to educate and empower people so that fewer babies die: sharing research and practices that we know can reduce risks.
Yet sometimes it can be hard to hear these things. As someone who has lost a baby, hearing of new (or old) research can be painful and trigger intense feelings of guilt and shame. And on the flipside, hearing of people who disagree with such findings can lead to all sorts of complex emotions. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions – but as someone who has lost a baby, and who knows that it can and does happen more than it needs to, it can feel like a kick in the teeth.
Farrah lost her son from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and in this powerful letter, she wants to let others know the impact of not following safe sleep advice can have. This isn’t about debating what the evidence does or does not say; it is about the impact that loss from SIDS can have.
I’d never heard of a doula until I was pregnant with Orla. At first, the idea seemed a little unusual to me – why would you want someone else with you at such a private and intimate time?! But as I immersed myself in preparing for birth, hypnobirthing and how important it is for the women to feel calm, supported and empowered, I came to realise what a wonderful thing it must be to have one.
And yet the thought didn’t enter my mind about what would happen if the plan didn’t go to plan and a baby died before birth – would a doula still attend? How would they manage this utterly tragic, but possible reality?
This letter from Beccy captures the support she has given to many women through loss. I sobbed when reading it as it captures everything I would wish for all parents going through loss: the unwavering support, the compassion and tenderness both during and after and the ability to recognise the finer details that others may forget. Be warned, this is an emotional read, so maybe not one for the commute to work, but if anyone wants to know how to support a parent through and after loss, please read this and share widely.
This feels like the perfect letter to start the week of letters to the other chair for Baby Loss Awareness Week. The loss of a baby is such a pivotal moment; a life before existed and a life after beckons. In the life before, there was so much excitement and anticipation. Fuss, nurturance and hope. And in one fell swoop, the red carpet to motherhood is whipped away and is used to shroud your existence.
In this beautiful communication to the world, Emma captures the essence of life before and life after.
Emma Jefferys is a coach living in Tunbridge Wells. Her first daughter Amelia was stillborn in 2012. She has since brought Amelia’s sister Ophelia home and is a proud mother to both her girls. As well as heading up bereavement support locally for SANDS, it was Amelia’s death that led to a change of career helping others. Something she is passionate about and a change that she will forever be grateful to her daughter for.
Emma can be found at here and on Instagram at @twtigress and @action_woman
Do you remember me? I hope so. I was the pregnant woman.
Do you remember? The one wearing her bump with pride and fizzing with excitement and anticipation about what was to come?
A letter to the woman who has just been told that her baby has died
As I prepare to give birth again, I look back to just ten and a half months ago and wonder what advice I would give to myself now. The person who had just been told that her baby had died at 37 weeks gestation, without any warning. Her baby who was healthy and perfect in every way, who she had seen wriggling around at the 36 week scan just five days before. Whose heartbeat she had heard just two days earlier.
That woman, who lying on the triage room bed, had just seen her baby’s still heart on the ultrasound screen. Who was surrounded by doctors and midwives, being told that she had no choice but to labour and give birth, that she had to start the process that evening; that all she was allowed to do was to go home and pack a bag before returning for induction. The woman who wanted to be put to sleep and never wake up, who couldn’t fathom that she had to go through the process of birthing, something she had so lovingly prepared for, knowing that the outcome would be silence and leaving the hospital empty handed. Knowing that she had to break the news to her family and friends that she had let them down in the worst way possible. That she had failed to protect her much loved and longed for baby.