This morning I was meant to leave early to go past the market to buy fish food. My husband, Paul left the empty pot by the door as he knows what an airhead I can be!
As I came back home from dropping our son to school, the radio was on, toast popping up and my ears tuned to ‘Midwife of the Year’ on BBC Radio2. Parents Mike and Cat Blewitt were introduced to us and they began to tell their story. I knew how their story would go. I sat down with my coffee and toast and listened. They bravely shared the birth of their triplets and of their appreciation of the amazing care and support they received from their bereavement midwife, Nicky Taylor.
They spoke of the joy of meeting their babies, being able to spend time with them, dress them, care for them, wash them, walk with them, cuddle them. And of course, they spoke of their sorrow and the painful goodbye. They were born at 20 weeks, all of sudden, with no warning. They were born but could not stay.
I sat and cried for them. I fetched the photos of our firstborn son and studied them, taking in as many memories and details of his face, fingers and toes as I could. His perfect, tiny hand is in the photo above. I read some of the letters and cards we received from friends and family. I cried again. The painful memory of a child you no longer have never goes away. Of course, you find your way, you carry on and do whatever you need to keep their place in your family. Life does go on and we have been amazingly lucky to have had two healthy babies since losing our first.
This week from 9th – 15th October is the 16th annual Baby Loss Awareness Week, a time to talk openly about the indescribable grief of losing a baby and to commemorate all babies who died during pregnancy, at or soon after birth and in infancy.
‘Now in its 16th year, Baby Loss Awareness Week calls for tangible improvements in research, care and policy around bereavement support and highlights bereavement support and services available for anyone affected by the death of a baby at any stage’
In 2003 when our son was born we wanted desperately to acknowledge his birth, we wanted to show photos, tell our family and closest friends how beautiful he was, how he was perfect with ten toes, fingers and a dark tufty hair. It was and still can be a very difficult, almost taboo story to tell; for the story-teller and for the person who listens, who perhaps asked an innocent question, unwittingly brought up the subject, not knowing.
Last night I finished reading the recently published book ‘Ask Me His Name’ by Elle Wright.
Elle wrote her book to tell her story of her son Teddy. It’s a story of a mother leaving the hospital without her baby. She bravely and generously shares his brief life and his death. She tells of her return home, her grief, her ongoing recovery in the hope that it will help others talk openly and sensitively about the babies who do not make it, who are here and then are gone.
It’s a beautiful book that needed writing, a book I sobbed through, but not always sad sobs. It’s a book that will be a valuable go-to support for families and friends wanting to help, to understand a little, to know what to say, what to do when a baby dies. If you haven't read it yet, I urge you to do so. Congratulations and thank you Elle for publishing your story.
So, I didn’t get the fish food, they'll have to nibble algae for a day, if thats what they do. I haven’t dusted, hoovered, answered emails or checked my messages. I came into the shop and I sat down and typed. All because I listened to the lovely couple on the radio this morning. It’s important to tell these stories, it’s incredibly helpful and so welcome to be given the opportunity to talk about your baby that didn’t come home. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t say nothing for fear of upsetting your friend, your sister, your cousin, your colleague who has tragically lost their baby. Ask their name, their weight, the colour of their hair and look at their photos xxx
You can take part in Baby Loss Awareness Week. On Monday 15th October at 7pm light a candle to commemorate all babies who have died too soon. You could also make a donation to the ongoing fundraising.
Join the #waveoflight when all families and friends who have lost a baby light a candle to commemorate them.
The day before I will be blowing out my birthday candles (big chocolate cake I hope) and on Monday I will light our candle for our son.
His name was and is Joe.
Nicky Taylor is the Bereavement Midwife at Heartlands Hospital, University Hospital Birmingham
Listen to Mike and Cat Blewitt on the Chris Evans Show, BBC Radio 2, Oct. 9th
Read Elle Wright’s blog, buy her book and find out about her fundraising for Tommy’s, funding research and saving babies lives.
Spotty Herberts donates 1% of all takings to Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity
Read more about our son Joe and personal fundraising by our children…