The beeping of machines, the sweat and blood each woman gives in labour, to be fulfilled with an overwhelming love of holding their new-born baby in their arms. Their shallow breaths and tiny cries…. despite the pain, it was all worth it.
You hear many labour stories like this every-day, we see them on TV and in films, but do we ever stop to think about the babies which don’t make it home?
The ones that don’t get a chance to take any breath at all.
In the UK an average 2,000 babies are born each day. One in nine of those babies are stillborn.
Yet, despite this being a common occurrence, there still seems to be a taboo surrounding the topic.
This means parents up and down the country are left with a hole in their lives, from the minute they are told their child no longer has a heartbeat.
Emma Wiles founded a charity named Isla’s angels which is based in Essex and Kent. After losing her baby this July to what is known as a late miscarriage, she still had to give birth to Isla in her local hospital. Therefore, when speaking about her own experience, Emma struggled to speak openly about stillbirth still being a taboo,
“Unless you are involved as a bereavement midwife, or a bereaved parent, it just feels like we are a problem that people don’t know how to deal with.”
Isla’s Angels is a charity set up to honour her baby Isla, they spend time working with hospitals to improve bereavement rooms and make specialist gowns out of wedding dresses people have donated. These are for babies to be put in before they are buried.
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Emma also highlighted how she has been the subject of silence in her own family. Despite having eight other children, she felt as if speaking about Isla and her birth wasn’t an easy topic to broach with certain family members.
With the numbers for stillbirth each year rising, despite the UK being one of the most medically developed countries, then one could ask, why is there still a problem discussing it?
Louise is the co-founder of the East Kent and Medway Sands group. Sands is another charity similar to Isla’s angels which helps parents and families suffering with stillbirth and neo-natal deaths. Louise has also helped organise many bereavement groups which encourage people to open up about their losses.
“People are uncomfortable on the whole talking about stillbirth. When a baby dies, it almost feels like people expect the baby just magically disappears.”
No one asks about how you’ve given birth, people are shocked that you did give birth because it’s unimaginable to think about really.”
Unfortunately, all the work people like Emma and Louise do isn’t always reflected in society, as even though both women have experienced the trauma themselves, they still seen women who are facing many taboos, so are unable to talk about it.
Louise believes, “opportunities to remember babies are so important, in the early days I found being able to go and hang a star on a tree in the cathedral was really precious, and the opportunities to talk about the babies and know that they are still remembered.”
Despite talking to professionals, the causes of stillbirth are unknown majority of the time.
Therefore, as a country we are still a long way from completely being able to make the numbers of stillbirth decrease.
However, the one thing we can campaign for is less silence.
Let’s stop making stillbirth a taboo, as these babies are people too.