I’ve pondered, tossed and turned, wondering whether to post this blog.
Earlier this week my son sat sobbing in the bath telling me of something that had happened at school that day. These things always come out in the bath.
They were writing a list of ‘important people’ in their lives and he wrote his stillborn brother's name ‘Joe’.
Joe was stillborn on March 15th, 2003. No explanation was found for his death, he was a perfect little baby, 10 fingers and toes and dark curls, beautiful. Each year on this day I bake a big cake and we have called it ‘cake day’. This year we felt it time that we could tell our son and daughter why we have cake day. I was a little hesitant, I wasn’t sure if they were ready, I didn’t want to upset them. As children do, they took the news very matter of factly and asked sensible questions but then moved onto munching cake and asking for more. I was surprised a little, but happy for them to have the information and deal with it in their own way. Since March we’ve had a couple of days when there have been real tears, anger and upset, questions, questions and a music concert ‘for Joe’.
At school a close friend of my son had made an innocent comment that really upset him. In the rush for assembly, and not knowing of Joe, his teacher quickly defused the situation as a ‘petty argument’ and moved the class on. It was the use of the word ‘petty’ that stuck in his mind. Of course, this was not a petty argument.
So this is why I feel the time right to tell our story.
This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week. Two MP’s , Antoinette Sandwich and Will Quince, have spoken out about their experience of losing a baby. They co-chair the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss and today there will be a debate in the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness and to talk of ways to create more help for families who go through a stillbirth or neonatal death.
I went in to school to explain to his teacher. This was a difficult thing to do, I had to be brave myself, and I have to pass on sad information that is awkward and upsetting for the recipient. She was naturally very upset to have missed how important this was to him and couldn’t apologise enough. It was not her fault, she didn’t know. Later that morning she and my son had a good chat and a little cry together and all was ok.
Many babies are stillborn each year, one in 216 births in 2013. When you have a stillborn baby it’s amazing how many friends and colleagues confide in you that it happened to them too.
I hope that with more awareness it will become easier, more acceptable for bereaved families to talk about their stillborn son or daughter. This way, friends, siblings, colleagues and teachers can mention, refer to, ask questions, and look at photos, be comfortable and ok with talking openly about a stillborn baby.
On Saturday 15th October at 7pmBST the organisers of the campaign have urged the public to get involved by lighting a candle for an hour to remember all the babies who have died. It is to be called the "Wave of Light”.
We will light our candle, we may even bake another cake and I think I’ll take a slice in for his teacher.
Our very best wishes to all families who have lost a son, a daughter, brother, sister, grandchild, niece or nephew.
Much love, Kate, Paul, Zillah and Fenn