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Baby loss: 'People sharing stories is the biggest comfort'

Stillbirth is rarely spoken about. But insights from those who have navigated the heartbreaking experience can help parents come to terms with their grief. A new website, Stillbirth Stories, which collects detailed interviews with mothers, fathers and clinicians, has been launched to coincide with Baby Loss Awareness Week. It aims to nurture a conversation about a once-taboo subject. Here are extracts of some of those stories.
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"There was a cold cot that I could put Jannah in. She could stay overnight. And that was really lovely - it was special." At 41 weeks, Rabia went into labour. But in hospital, she and David were told there was no heartbeat. Jannah was stillborn. The couple were able to stay with their baby for two days in the hospital's bereavement suite.
David recalls the time they spent together as a family:"I was with her for two days in the hospital - they were absolutely amazing, what they did. They had their own bereavement suite, so you [could have] your own time with the baby. I never let Jannah be on her own at any moment. I wanted someone always with her - even though I knew she had gone. But I always felt that she had the right to be loved for those days - to be hugged and kissed and whatever, and not left alone. Like a baby."The bereavement suite had a double bed, so I could stay as well. It was like us three sleeping together. It was quite nice to have her with us as part of our family. We spent a lot of quality time with her [there]. We talked to her, made lots of videos, lots of photography, and tried to keep as much memory of her as [we] could. I don't know if it's odd or not, but I looked at every little part of her, right down to between her toes.
Baby loss: 'People sharing stories is the biggest comfort'

"I've got somewhere I can go, and I know she's there. I can put flowers on her grave - but it's not the same."Alexis was stillborn at term. It was 1963 and neither Marjorie nor her husband, Alex, were allowed to see, or hold, their baby. It would be another 50 years before they found out where she had been buried."I knew Alex had to go and register the baby. I must have said to him: 'What are they going to do with herStillbirth Stories is a collection of honest interviews from parents and and those who have worked with them. Besides offering emotional support, the site is a learning resource for clinicians. The project is supported by Wellcome. Why don't people talk more about stillbirths?
Baby loss: 'People sharing stories is the biggest comfort'

"We went to look for it, and couldn't find it. There was no stone, it was just grass. Eventually, I did ask if I could put something on [the grave]. They said: 'No. The grave belongs to somebody, it's registered to somebody. You can put flowers on, but no, you can't put anything else on.' So, for a while, I just bought something that you could stick in the grass and put flowers on. Then I got a bit angry about it. I've had a proper stone flowerpot with her name put on it. "Over the other side [of the cemetery] is where all the babies are buried. And that haunts me - to think that she was just put in a grave with somebody that I don't know. I just hope and pray it never happens to anybody else, because it's one of the cruellest things you can do to a couple. I know I can go there and put flowers on for her, but it's not the same."
Baby loss: 'People sharing stories is the biggest comfort'

"I bathed him for the funeral, which you do in Muslim culture."Mohammed was stillborn at 27 weeks gestation. Parents Shazia and Omar decided to bury their baby according to the Muslim faith. Shazia says the hospital midwife appreciated the need to have the body released for the funeral as quickly as possible, and helped with the process. It was Omar who performed the Ghusl - or ritual bath - for the funeral."So it was just me and him, and a priest. That was the time, I guess, it was just us two."That was the toughest part of all of this for me. That's where, you know, you're sort of past the birth and it's the day of the burial, and the funeral. It's a duty that you need to do. At that time, I guess, religion sort of took on a different aspect for me. "And it was this grief that actually cemented my religion a little bit: maturing and going through that experience, learning what you do when, when it's your responsibility for the funeral. That point where I was bathing him, was the point where I was close to totally breaking down. But I soldiered through - for want of a better phrase."Something that I'm proud of, is that me and Shazia made it through it, having seen some really, really low, low times, to where we are now." At the time of interview Shazia and Omar had recently had their fourth child.
Baby loss: 'People sharing stories is the biggest comfort'

"I just want people to understand it's much more common than they think. There's like over 300 babies a month stillborn."Guy was stillborn on 13 November 2015 at 25 weeks and five days, to parents Sam and Martin. "We had a couple of close friends we'd told at the time [when Guy died]. I just physically couldn't even speak to get the words out to tell people."Once he was born, we just decided to use Facebook. We thought that is the quickest way to get the message out there and not have to speak to anybody really.Tommys - Saving baby's livesSands - Stillbirth and neonatal death charityBaby Loss AwarenessIllustrations by Katie Horwich
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