SPRING parents raising awareness about stillbirth by Emma Johnston

Categories: News

When our daughter, Daisy, was stillborn during labour in February 2012, I was shocked to discover how many families sadly go through this devastating experience every day.  In fact, according to Sands, the national stillbirth and neonatal death charity, 17 babies are stillborn or die before they are one month old every day in the UK – that’s 4,500 precious babies every year.  Despite these figures (which haven’t really changed in the last decade), it seems stillbirth is only mentioned when it happens to you.  My husband, Nick, and I decided quite early on that we wanted to do whatever we could to raise awareness about stillbirth – to break the taboo – and hopefully play our part in helping to change things, so fewer babies needlessly die in future.  For us, it’s about making Daisy’s contribution to the world.

And so in January 2012, Nick and I joined other bereaved parents at a Sands event at the Houses of Parliament where the charity launched its new report ‘Preventing Babies’ Deaths – what needs to be done’.  Like the other parents there, we had arranged to meet our local MP, to draw attention to the report and to secure their support to bring about change.  We also took the opportunity to tell our MP, Annette Brooke, about how we had benefited from the wonderful support from SPRING.  This was especially important to us because the Sands report highlights how this vital support is not available in a staggering 50% of UK hospitals.

The event was hosted by Dr Dan Poulter, MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity, and member of the Commons Health Select Committee.  He addressed the packed room before handing over to Sands Chief Executive, Neal Long who said: “We want to see real national commitment to tackling this ignored tragedy and preventing all avoidable baby deaths in the future. We want lives saved and families spared the desperate heartbreak of losing their precious baby.”

The speakers were passionate and inspiring – especially Colin Pidgeon, a bereaved father, who so openly talked about the loss of his daughter who was stillborn.

Both Nick and I found the event humbling and emotional.  Being among other parents who had been through similar experiences was strangely comforting and yet sad at the same time (a bit like a SPRING support meeting!). Hopefully collectively our babies’ stories helped to hammer home to the politicians the real impact of baby loss.  Now we watch with interest to see if the recommendations in the report are taken forward.

More recently, Nick and I shared Daisy’s story for an article in the Guardian.  Prompted by the stillbirth of Gary Barlow’s daughter, the piece focussed on what family and friends can do to support loved ones through the death of a baby.  For us, it was an opportunity to talk about – and thank – our amazing family and friends who helped us cope by being there for us and acknowledging Daisy.  It was also an opportunity to tell people about the support provided by SPRING.  We hope the article will help other bereaved parents realise they are not alone, as well as helping their loved ones feel less helpless.

For more information – and to download a copy of the Sands report – visit www.uk-sands.org/Research/Preventing-Babies-Deaths-Report-2012.html

To read the Guardian online article, visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/aug/19/stillbirth-pain-left-unspoken?INTCMP=SRCH