It is a very sad fact of life that not all pregnancies go to full term, not all pregnancies result in a live birth and not all babies live beyond a few days or weeks. Like a shooting star, some babies shine very brightly, but only for a very short time.
When this happens, the immediate effects on parents and their wider family can be devastating. And can have far reaching long-term consequences if appropriate support is not offered in a timely way. And yet the support offered to families affected by baby loss varies across the country.
At Forget Me Not, we have developed a service which supports parents from the point where a scan reveals issues with the pregnancy, through to the birth and beyond. Families are supported to develop a birth plan that takes account of the specific concerns surrounding that pregnancy which helps them feel a little more in control. We can attend meetings and scans, helping translate what can sometimes be very complex information so parents feel better able to make informed decisions. We can be there at the birth if that is what parents wish, and the family can choose to come to the hospice afterwards to spend time with their baby to make memories or learn how to adapt to their baby’s needs. Some families like to do this at home and we can offer support there too.
If a baby dies, we are able to provide high quality bereavement support, and longer-term counselling so that families can find a way to move forward with their lives. Some babies survive and we can provide ongoing support with regular stays at the hospice, family activities and opportunities to do things they just can’t do at home.
Many parents affected by baby loss go on to have subsequent pregnancies, which can be a very anxious time. We step in and support these families as they prepare for the birth of their rainbow baby. They can join our rainbow baby group of parents who can provide peer support from their own unique experiences. Many parents find this incredibly helpful.
In West Yorkshire, the levels of perinatal (the period of time from 20 weeks of pregnancy to 28 days after birth) deaths is rising. Despite this, services are patchy and there has been no investment into our service from statutory sources. Forget Me Not can evidence that this service works and changes lives. We want to shout about the impact we can have in the most traumatic of circumstances so that everyone can access the support they need when they need it.
One mum we have worked with, Fatima, had 2 tragic losses. Without our service, she would never have been able to spend precious time with her babies. Without our service, she would never have met other mums from whom she drew strength. Without our service, she would still be isolated at home, feeling unable to talk about what happened to her. These are the things that make a difference. This is what our shooting star appeal is all about.