One of the most important aspects of what we do is the running of our support group meetings. They give parents and families a safe environment where they can talk about the child they have lost without fear of being judged or simply not being understood.
When a baby is lost, you can feel very isolated and feel as though no-one understands your experience or your feelings.
This is why it is so important that there is somewhere you can go to get help, sympathy, support and advice from people who have walked in your shoes. Our meetings are very informal, and there is no pressure to talk or “tell your story”, you can simply listen if that is what you need.
Being around others who have worked through this devastating time can really help with the healing process.
The very first thing we decided upon was that we wanted to provide Harrogate’s maternity ward with memory boxes that could be given to any parent that had been through the loss of a baby. The boxes contain a number of small items that can become precious keepsakes of their baby. There is also enough space for parents to add their own “living memories” to the box. The boxes are provided along with a very comprehensive pack of leaflets and booklets. These can provide the parents and extended family with more information and answers to many questions that they may have. Many of these leaflets are reproduced on this website with the kind permission of SANDS.
We have provided the Harrogate Maternity Unit with a few pieces of specialist equipment that can allow families to spend time with their baby that has sadly passed away. We provided a cuddle cot which can be used in a Moses basket or wrapped under baby while being held. The cuddle cot uses a cooling effect meaning that the deterioration that happens after birth is kept at bay. This gives parents precious hours with their baby.
One of the first projects we decided to take on at Our Angels was the refurbishment of the Ferndale Suite at Harrogate Hospital. We are very lucky to have this room at all but we felt it needed a little work to make it as relaxing and comfortable as possible. The Ferndale Suite is a self-contained room away from the main delivery suites where ladies will often give birth to a stillborn baby. It is also often the only place the family gets to spend time with their baby so keeping it well-decorated and furnished gently is a very important project. We fundraised specifically to be able to do this and the result is a beautiful room that provides the parents with their own precious personal space at this sad time.
Every year we hold a very special day, a day when we can all gather together with friends and family to remember and honour our angels who have gone too soon. We run low-key fundraisers like a raffle, a tombola and a cake sale on the day and these help us to raise much needed funds. It is a special day as knowing that everyone in the room has been touched by the loss of a baby - be it their son, daughter, sibling, or grandchild - provides a genuine comfort and a bond. Knowing that you are not alone is a very important realisation.
One of the things we are most proud of at Our Angels is the training we have provided for local midwives and health visitors. We have now run four intensive bereavement training seminars. So far around seventy midwives and ten other health professionals have been through this training. This means that they now have the tools to better deal with the physical and emotional trauma of child loss when they face it in their working lives. This allows them to better handle the family concerned sensitively whilst coping with the strain on themselves better as well.
Expanding this training out from midwives to include consultants, junior doctors, and other staff that come into contact with bereaved parents was an important progression for this work. We are now exploring ways to introduce it to student midwives and junior doctors in Yorkshire during their training, increasing the proportion of health professionals who are well-equipped to deal with these tragic situations.
We feel that getting it right at the first stage is so important. Health professionals only get one chance with each family’s experience to get it right. Given the right support, families can have an experience that is as gentle as possible. The NHS has now published research showing that provision of the right kind of care has a significant impact on the psychological recovery of the parents, so we believe this work is truly vital.
The feedback we have had from the midwives has been wonderful. They “feel better prepared to deal with any situation they find themselves in” and also “capable of giving all the support needed at this heartbreaking time.”
We have expanded this training out to include the sending of midwives and student midwives who are keen to specialise in bereavement midwifery to specialist conferences in 2015 and 2016. Expanding the amount of work we do in this area is an essential focus for us going forward.
There are sadly quite a few practical matters to consider following the loss of your baby. We have created this section to try and give you some guidance to hopefully make some of these aspects easier to handle.
The decision about whether to consent to a post-mortem is often a very upsetting one, and is difficult to comprehend and come to terms with. The medical professionals supporting you will be able to give you advice and guidance to help you with the decision and any paperwork that results. We are available for any support or difficult questions you may have.
Here in Harrogate the hospital has an arrangement with the local Co-Operative Funeral Care for the organising of funerals for stillborn babies. In our experience the Co-Op do a fantastic job of supporting parents and families through this difficult time and making things go as smoothly as possible. Of course it is your choice as to whether or not you wish to hold a funeral, and the bereavement midwife will be able to support you in your decision-making and answer questions you might have. We are also available to support or guide you if you need us.
Whilst it is probably the last thing on your mind after losing your precious baby, there are a number of practical aspects that either remain in place or become active, such as free prescriptions and maternity leave. The bereavement midwife will be able to guide you with much of this and we are also available to help advise you as well.
With so many things going on, this may either be at the forefront of your thinking, not even in your mind, or somewhere in between. This is a practical, emotional, and often also financial, issue and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to the questions surrounding it. It’s perfectly normal to have fears about returning to work after a loss, and Our Angels will provide you with whatever support we can to help you prepare for this significant step.
One of our aims in 2016 is to sit down with parents preparing to go back to work and chat with them about different aspects of their expectations on returning to work. At that point we’re then able to provide employers with an insight into the way individuals want to be supported in their work environment on returning to work. We also now have a small booklet of thoughts and reflections that can provide some comfort once back into work.