There are many sensitive subjects that are considered ‘taboo’; personal circumstances that we just aren’t supposed to talk about in polite society in case other people are offended. Heaven forbid we should make someone feel uncomfortable with our unpalatable problems. In some cases you can appreciate this being the way of things, but a lot of the time there are benefits to talking about these taboo subjects in a constructive manner, and I want to talk about one of them now.
Baby loss is, thankfully, an alien experience for the majority of people, but it is still the case that thousands of families are affected by it every year and it is more common than you might think. Over 5700 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth each year in the UK, with each one being a hugely traumatic experience for parents, siblings, and extended family. This is not to mention the quarter of a million miscarriages which happen each year, normally before three months of pregnancy but no less devastating for parents losing a much-wanted baby, however early on.
9th-15th October is Baby Loss Awareness Week, and if you spend any time on social media, the chances are you will see at least one of your friends mention it. In fact, it may surprise you to learn how many of your friends, acquaintances and work colleagues have been directly or indirectly affected by baby loss but have never spoken of it. Of course it is upsetting to hear about, but imagine how difficult it must be to live with the life-changing grief and the memory of it day in day out. It can be extremely cathartic for those who have suffered a loss to be able to talk about their baby, to use their name, to acknowledge their albeit terribly short life and not feel bad for doing it.
One of the greatest advantages to not sweeping baby loss under the carpet is to advance research into stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth, and to raise awareness among pregnant women as to what they can do personally to increase their chances of a successful pregnancy. My good friend Heidi Eldridge set up the charity MAMA Academy to do just this after her first son Aidan was stillborn in 2009. Good can come from such a tragedy – but only if we’re willing to keep baby loss in the public eye.
Visit the MAMA Academy website for pregnancy education and more on our mission to reduce baby loss.