Author Jeanette Archer from Lazy Seamstress
17 babies are still born or die shortly after birth every day in the UK.
In July 2009 after a robustly healthy pregnancy and normal natural delivery my youngest daughter collapsed and died just six hours after she was born.
Before Florence was born, I was aware that sometimes things didn’t go well. I was even vaguely aware that sometimes babies died before or shortly after birth. I think, like most people I pushed the thought to the back of my mind, too awful to contemplate, and anyway it was something that might happen to “other people”, maybe with good reason….
I was so wrong. We don’t know why Florence died. We are luckier than some, we had an inquest and we have an official cause of death, but still no reason. Nobody can explain why.
In the words of the consultant Paediatrician, Florence was “A perfect little girl”.
This is not unusual, for many of the babies who die before, during or shortly after birth, no cause is ever found.
Losing a child this way impacts on every aspect of your life. In the early days it’s all many parents can do to remember to breath.
There are practicalities to deal with, and in our case, four older children also grieving, and needing our attention.
Certainly for us, we found solace in cocooning ourselves at home and living through each moment as best we could. Minute by minute was often all we could manage.
We are lucky; we had lots of support from friends and family. We had hot food left on our doorstep by loving friends, and family shopping for us. Most importantly we had good friends willing to sit with us and just “be”.
People often ask what they can do when a tragedy like this happens to someone they love, and I would say , don’t be afraid. Don’t think you have to say something profound when you next see the grieving parents, all you really need to do is say hello, and say how sorry you are, and maybe say the child’s name.
Please don’t cross the road if you see the parents heading your way, or suddenly find the nearest shop window intensely interesting. (Believe me it happens!)
Remember, you can’t make the parents any sadder than they already are by speaking about their child. You can’t “remind” them. They are already heartbroken, they might cry, but chances are it’s not for the first or last time that day.
I realise the death of a child is shocking to most people, but please do try to refrain from saying things like “So, did you actually give birth then?”.
I was thinking the other day of the small things that meant so much to me in those early days, the neighbour who saw me come out of my front door, and simply enveloped me in her arms and kissed my head over and over, the Mum at school who held my hand, gave me a card and kissed my cheek, the lovely blond haired woman who smiled at me every day and asked me how I was, and even the lady who walked right up to me in the playground and simply said “If I don’t talk to you now, I never will.”
Everyone is different, maybe the things I found comfortable others wouldn’t. I can’t speak for every grieving mother.
I can say that I did manage to breathe again, and even laugh, and enjoy life, but oh how I miss my little girl, and always will. And, oh how I love it when she is remembered, and I have the perfect reason to speak her name.
Finally, I’d like to say to those reading this fresh from losing their precious child or children, I’m so very sorry. I know your pain, and sadly so many more do too. Please join us here on the forum. We will sit with you, and we will listen and understand.
Baby Loss Resources from Jeanette’s Blog: