Thinking About Them Every Day

Thursday 1st of May 2014  |  Category: Opinion  |  Written by: Leoarna Mathias

I’m not that good at keeping up with celebrity news via the internet. But I did see this interesting story on Lily Allen’s experience of still birth just recently. In it, Lily talks of how devastated she was at the loss of her son, Sam, at six months. Though she has gone on to have two healthy daughters, she says;

‘I nearly died. But I was numb and I didn't care. I'd just lost my baby… [I] still think about [him] every single day and feel he is part of [the] family... We've got a little stone in our garden with his name on. And lots of different things that I do, rituals, I have him in my mind... My husband and I shared this horrible thing together but it kind of brought us closer.’

SANDS, the charity that works to support families who suffer stillbirths or neonatal deaths, say that there is much research left to be done in this area. Stillbirth is more common than cot death, which tends to gain a higher profile via the media. The rates have remained static in the UK since the 1990s, with 1 in every 200 babies born stillbirth, and 1 in every 300 hundred babies dying within the first 4 weeks of life. A study published in The Lancet found that the UK has one of the highest rates of these types of baby deaths in the developed world, and in up to 30% of cases, no obvious cause is identified.

Listing statistics is useful to a point – given that here at Mum Network we like to keep you in the picture on all aspects of maternity and motherhood – but it can’t tell you the whole story. Though I did not endure the heartache that Lily describes, I did suffer two miscarriages in the midst of fertility treatment, and though years have now passed and we are fortunate to now have two healthy children, the anniversaries of due dates and ‘loss’ dates stay with me. I’m sure this is very much the same as it is for families who endure stillbirth or neonatal death. In situations such as these, newspaper headlines can catch you unawares; just yesterday, I read of the distressing circumstances at a hospital in Edinburgh where the ashes of children who died at birth have not been returned to their families. Perhaps the best source of support in the face of such ongoing reminders is the sharing of stories with others who have also suffered. Author Ben Wakeling has written a book entitled How I Came To Hold You about his own experience of baby loss, and around the book an online community has developed, where other parents blog their story and release digital balloons for their los children. Profits from the sale of the book go to SANDS to further support their research.

We share such stories with you, not to be overly gloomy, but to be honest about the picture of childbirth here in the UK. If this story has effected you in anyway, please contact your GP, or SANDS for support.

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