'There are no words'. I have lost count of the amount of times that has been said to me since losing Holly. And its true, often there are no words as we just don't know what to say. However, this month I was part of something incredibly special. A day dedicated in sharing words, sharing stories and sharing advice on child loss. The charity Our Angels, organised a conference with the Bradford University midwifery society on bringing an understanding of baby loss to midwives and student midwives. It was the first of its kind and I hope the start to other universities and hospitals acknowledging the importance of care for those going through baby loss.
I met Chris Binnie from Our Angels on a facebook site for bereaved parents (Otis and friends - childloss support, set up by Natalie Oldham) and was truly honoured that he asked me to come and speak. I was invited to come and speak as a mother to Holly but also as a midwife. Having experienced both it was felt that I could bring another aspect to the day, two sides to the same coin. Prior to Holly, I wouldn't have dreamed I would have the confidence to speak in front of 400 people but after losing a baby things suddenly don't seem so scary. I spent a month writing up my speech and practicing it over and over to my husband, who by the end of it knew it by heart. As the conference grew closer my nerves set in but I was doing this for Holly and I was never going to let her down.
The conference started with fantastic speeches from the Director of the RCM, a local bereavement midwife and SANDS. It was refreshing and comforting to be surrounded by people who all had the same agenda, understanding baby loss for the better. We watched a heartbreaking documentary, 'Still Loved' and many tears were shed.
Later, Dr. Alex Heazell, clinical director of the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre spoke on his work into the prevention of stillbirth and improving care for parents, which left many people inspired. The Saving Babies' Lives Care Bundle was presented by Julia Walker-Brown, the information and knowledge these presenters had was invaluable.
Then there were the parents. My tears started when Chris presented. I knew he had lost his little boy, Henry but hadn't known the full story. I won't share his story, as video's of the conference will soon be available (links will be posted when I have them) and I wouldn't do Henry's story justice but it was emotional. Hearing another bereaved parents loss is just so raw, whether you've gone through it yourself or not. I have no doubt that his story touched the hearts of many students and midwives that day. What he continues to do in Henry's memory with Our Angels is incredibly touching.
Heidi Eldridge, CEO of the Charity MAMA Academy also presented. Another bereaved parent whose loss of her little boy Aidan, inspired her to set up the Charity to promote safer births. Another example of a warrior parent keeping her baby's memory alive every single day.
The tears continued as David Monteith spoke about the loss of his daughter Grace. A truly inspirational man who rightly shows that fathers matter too. You could have heard a pin drop during his speech and his words resonated exactly with how I felt.
Stalls were set up with various charities, proudly showing what they do to support bereaved parents and in honour of their babies. Such charities including 4 Louis, offering precious memory boxes to the parents, Hand on Heart offering precious keepsakes and Otis and Friends providing much needed sibling memory boxes. The care, consideration and honour put in to these charities work is truly inspiring.
Soon it was my turn to speak. In the lead up to the conference, I hadn't worried about getting emotional during my speech, which sounds so silly now. I thought I had learnt how to hide my emotions pretty well. But the day was SO emotional. I had been dealing with my grief privately but suddenly being exposed to grief all around was both comforting and heartbreaking.
Standing up in front of 400 people I realised that sharing Holly's story to strangers was different. These people didn't know Holly's story, they didn't know what happened and how it all ended. I needed to share her story in 20 minutes, from start to end and that was hard. So I was emotional, I had to take pauses and catch my breath. I had moments where I didn't think I could do it but then I would picture Holly's face. If I can birth her and say goodbye to her then I sure as hell can share her story. And I did it, I somehow got through it for my girl.
The conference was unique and inspiring. It has ignited a passion within me for supporting bereavement care and its shown me that people do care. The students who attended that day are truly special. They now have the power to bring a little light in to the worst days of a parents life. Their presence at the conference means that they believe baby loss is just as important as bringing a live baby home. I am so thankful that they attended, they will never know how much it means.
That day will always have a special place in my heart. For the first time since losing Holly, I was surrounded by people who had lost babies. People who I had spoken to over the internet and could finally meet in person. People who I had shared some of my closest and hardest thoughts with were suddenly there in the flesh and it felt like home. No one was offended by what you would say, nothing was too 'in your face'. I was free to say whatever I wanted and for the first time be surrounded by people who absolutely understood and passed no judgement. I 'got' these people and they 'got' me. I met other warriors that day and I am SO proud to call them my friends.
There are no words when you lose a baby. But we created a day full of words, a day full of love to bring hope to future parents suffering loss. And you can create these words too. Share our stories, keep your mind open, be kind to us and listen. Make the words happen and increase awareness for baby loss.
I made firm friendships and my grief was at its most calm that day. No one has to be alone when they lose a baby and no student or midwife has to feel unprepared. The support is out there for us all and I thank Our Angels and University of Bradford midsoc for showing that understanding baby loss can be done and needs to be done. I hope, I really, really hope that this starts a trend as the experience of losing your baby is just too important to not get right.
To all the babies honoured that day and my darling Holly. I know we did you all proud. X
On the 7th September 2016 at 25 weeks gestation, Holly was born, still after a battle with complete heart block.