October is Baby Loss Awareness Month and Saying Goodbye UK have been posting the below image:
It got me thinking as to what I would personally (and I’m sure it’s different for lots of other people) want people to be aware of regarding baby loss, and how they could show they care. I’ll deal with the latter in a few days but firstly 10 things I’d like you to know;
#1 I’m still a mother
Just because I don’t have my baby with me doesn’t mean I’m not a mother, or Gerard’s not a father. We, and plenty of parents who’ve lost babies like us do the same as parents with babies/children who are in the outside world- they love and protect them as best they can. There’s no such thing as ‘mum’s to be’ and ‘dads to be’- once your baby is there, growing, you’re already a mum or a dad.
#2 Baby loss isn’t that rare.
1 in 300 babies are stillborn in the UK every year. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I don’t say that to scare you (and I know it’s scary , believe me) but only to make you aware that it’s very likely, if not certain, that you know someone who has miscarried, and fairly likely you know someone who has had a baby born sleeping. Once we had our diagnosis and knew what was coming it was amazing how many people spoke to us about their experience of baby loss.
#3 Dad’s are really important too but they are easily forgotten.
Yes women have the physicality of the loss to go through, and there is often a sense of grieving differently within a couple, but that doesn’t mean the father hurts any less. One of the most painful things I have ever witnessed was watching Gerard grieve- if I could have done anything to stop his pain, I would have done.
#4 The words ‘At least’ are a big no no.
One of the worst is ‘At least you know you can get pregnant’. A) Have you ever heard of secondary infertility?!? Yes of course it shows it’s likely, but many couples who didn’t struggle with their first baby/ies struggle to get pregnant later. B) It doesn’t take any of the current hurt away of losing this particular baby just because we can have another one. No baby can be replaced.
#5 Don’t presume people don’t want to talk about their baby loss.
Yes it’s not the happiest of subjects but like any parent, many people who’ve gone through it want to talk about their baby e.g. how they used to kick, their sleeping patterns, their name etc etc. With having such a peaceful birth, I’m also quite happy to join in with labour and birth stories.
#6 Dignity of care for your lost baby is so helpful in the healing process.
The way Aurelia was treated by the midwives after she was born was incredible. Midwives who I’d had earlier in the week popped in to see her and cooed over her beautiful face, one kissed her forehead goodbye as she ended her shift, and after we’d left Aurelia’s body at the hospital one midwife went with her body when she needed to be x-rayed to confirm her diagnosis. Also the fact we were able to get a birth certificate for Aurelia which recognised her legal status was really helpful (though unfortunately parents who lose their baby before 24 weeks aren’t able to get a birth certificate for their baby which can be very emotionally painful).
#7 Many people presume ‘another pregnancy’ will be healing and help people to move on.
However for many the thought of exposing yourself to that kind of loss again can be terrifying, and it won’t necessarily stop being so when they’ve got ‘past the point’ where they lost their baby last time. When you lose a baby you often become (probably over) aware of how many things can go wrong. Couples need to be given the time to decide when they feel strong enough to cope if things don’t go as planned again, and of course, can get enjoyment out of that time too.
#8 Saying goodbye isn’t morbid or scary.
Often you’ll hear about parents who did things to say goodbye to their baby after they’d died such as giving them a bath, taking handprints and footprints, taking photos. It can seem morbid but actually it can be a vital step in the healing process. I’ve heard of so many stories from the past where babies were born still or very ill and were literally whisked away from the mother who never ever got to see their baby. 30, 40 years on they are still burdened with questions and perhaps what you’d call an unhelpful amount of grief- they just can’t let go. I can say from personal experience our time with Aurelia’s body never felt morbid- she looked just like a sleeping baby and when we did leave her it felt the right time to leave her. It’s why suites like we stayed in in Frimley are so important for parents’ long term well being.
#9 Just because I’ve lost a baby doesn’t mean I don’t want to be around other babies!
Of course sometimes watching babies and children can remind me a little that Aurelia’s not with us, or I sometimes ponder what Aurelia would have been like compared to them. However losing a baby has only made me treasure other babies more as I know how precious they are.
#10 There isn’t always good care for people going through baby loss.
We were very blessed to have such supportive medical care round us both before, during and after Aurelia’s birth. Lots of parents aren’t so lucky with a number being treated with a huge lack of compassion and insensitivity. Indeed this is likely to be one of the issues raised in a debate being given in the House of Commons on Thursday the 13th of October (go to Parliament Live to watch it).
Perhaps if you’ve been through baby loss yourself you’d like to add what you’d like people to be aware of below in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.