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'Breaking the silence': Three couples from Bury St Edmunds share their stories as Baby Loss Awareness Week gets under way

The death of a baby is not a rare event. It can happen to anyone.

This year, Baby Loss Awareness Week UK will go ahead for its 18th year between October 9 and 20.

Every year, organisers aim to raise awareness about pregnancy and baby death in the UK, this year highlighting the isolation many people experience after pregnancy and baby loss, be it women, partners, other family members or friends.

Jessica Rudd with husband Sam with 'Rainbow baby' baby Hunter. Picture by Mark Westley
Jessica Rudd with husband Sam with 'Rainbow baby' baby Hunter. Picture by Mark Westley

The effect of social distancing from Covid-19 has also had a major impact on access to care and support and has complicated grief and responses to pregnancy and baby loss, they say.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, feelings of isolation have become more widespread around the world and many people have begun to talk more openly about loneliness.

This week many venues and businesses will be lighting up their premises in pink and blue to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week - in a bid to raise awareness and break the taboo which surrounds the subject.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the Apex in Bury St Edmunds are just two venues taking part.

Angela Carter, chair of West Suffolk Sands. Picture contributed
Angela Carter, chair of West Suffolk Sands. Picture contributed

We spoke to two women and one man about their experience of losing a longed for child.

'I was told just to go home and have another baby'

Angela Carter, 68, Bury St Edmunds.

Angela is chair of the West Suffolk Sands group which supports all those who have been affected by the the loss of a baby.

"I was 25 when I lost our baby Dominic. It was 1978 and not so long after I had married.

Tom Large and wife Kira, with Olivia. Picture used by kind permission of the Large family.
Tom Large and wife Kira, with Olivia. Picture used by kind permission of the Large family.

I found out he had passed 20 minutes before he was born. He was absolutely perfect in every way, but he wasn't breathing,

That was 40 years ago, and things were very different then.

At the hospital, people didn't know what to say. People walked into the delivery room, asked: what has she had, and then just walked out again. Even the nurses turned their faces away, embarrassed

A few days later a doctor arrived and asked if I was breast or bottle feeding. He hadn't read his notes,

My husband, Barrie, and I, were just numb. Barrie still can't talk about Dominic to this day.

We ran a pub at the time in Norfolk where they had organised a guess the name of the baby competition. people would come in, ask what I had had, and then just walk out.

People would even cross the road to avoid us, not knowing what to say.

Couples react to baby loss in different ways. Some don't want to talk about it, others do.

Unlike today, we hadn't even really been able to see Dominic before he was taken away. We saw him just once.

I was just told that I was fit and healthy, and to go home and have another baby.

My daughter Lucy, was born exactly a year later. She was our 'Rainbow Baby' (a baby born after a loss), as they are known today.

I was nervous through the whole pregnancy, and afterwards. I even made my husband drive home at 20mph from the hospital to make sure we got home safely.

A son followed two years later and though our family was complete, we always thought, and still do, think of Dominic.

I am a believer in fate, and whatever comes your way but it is a slow process learning to accept.

The hardest question people ever ask me is how many children I have. What do I say? I had three, but I only have two?

Because we didn't have a cremation or a burial, I have little Hummel figure of boy holding a lamb on my bedroom windowsill, which I think of as Dominic.

I look at it, and think of him every day."

'Following the birth of our daughter at 36 weeks, we had to start planning the funeral'

Tom Large, 24, from Bury St Edmunds, is a technical engineer at West Suffolk Hospital.

"In December 2019, I, heard those three words that no expectant parent ever wants to hear: there’s no heartbeat.

I had taken my wife Kira, and son, to the hospital one evening following some concerns about reduced movements, which sadly followed with this devastating news.

After arriving and waiting for midwife checks, we were then asked to come into a side room so they could have a better listen. Having a background in medical engineering as I worked at the hospital, I had that awful feeling of what was coming whilst we followed the midwife to the room.

The days and weeks that followed were some of the hardest moments we have ever experienced as a family. I don’t think the reality really hit home for a long while.

I think this is because I was trying to be the support my wife needed and just being in complete shock as this had been such a straightforward pregnancy compared with our first.

And it wasn't until a few days after the delivery of our daughter that it began to feel real.

Following the birth of our daughter, Olivia, at 36 weeks, we then had to begin planning things such as the funeral and registering her death.

It is now coming up to what would have been her first birthday, and we are now expecting another child, in November, around the same sort of time, which has definitely been a lot to cope with emotionally for all of us.

We have had such amazing support from friends and family, but also the West Suffolk Sands group which has been a crucial part of coming to terms with what happened, as well as having the opportunity to speak with others who have also experienced such a loss.

To begin with, this was not the easiest for me to attend due to general anxieties and not knowing what to expect.

After persuasion from my wife, I have found this has really helped talking with other couples, especially other partners who have been in this position and still trying to support their partners through these hard times.

Even now, there is still taboo around baby loss. Things have changed but we still need to raise awareness."

* The couple our now raising money for West Suffolk Sands. Learn more here.

'People would cross the road to avoid us'

Jessica Rudd, 25, lives in Bury St Edmunds.

"My husband, Sam, and I are extremely passionate about raising awareness of baby loss as our daughter, Evee, sadly passed away during our pregnancy with her in 2018.

Seeing St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds light up pink and blue last year was really touching for us to see and I know many of our friends who have lost children felt the same.

This year for baby loss awareness week I decided to contact as many places as I could think of to see if they would join in with lighting up their buildings pink and blue to show their support to all those affected by baby loss.

The idea of places being lit up is to try to break the silence around baby loss. When we first lost Evee, we found people would cross the road to avoid us and some people would avoid acknowledging the fact we had even had Evee as they felt they didn't know what to say.

At the time you are going through the unimaginable and for people to then avoid you and act like nothing has happened, really felt like a kick in the teeth and caused us such unnecessary hurt. Everyday we talk about Evee. She is always in our thoughts.

By raising awareness of baby loss we would also like to break the silence around stillbirth, miscarriage and neonatal deaths. Saying something is so much better than saying nothing and to many people hearing the names of their babies brings them great comfort.

We will always love hearing Evee's name mentioned and will always want people to talk about her.

Earlier this year we were very fortunate to have had our 'Rainbow Baby', called Hunter. Evee will always be very present in Hunter's upbringing even though she is not physically here.

He is still a little brother and has a big sister.

Since losing Evee we have attended the West Suffolk Sands support meetings.

Anyone is welcome to attend who has been affected by baby loss a parent, grandparent, family member or friend. Also anyone is welcome to attend who has lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy or during early infancy.

The support group is run by a committee of ladies who have all sadly lost a baby or babies. We find it is really important for us to be able to access support from people who have experienced baby loss too.

From attending the West Suffolk Sands Support Group we have made many friends from other people who attend.

We meet up outside of the group sometimes for further support. It is nice to be able to surround yourself with people who fully understand and who you can openly talk about your babies with.

Some of the couples who attend the group have recently had Rainbow Babies too so we meet up regularly

"It is really lovely for the babies to have friends in each other as they will all grow up without their siblings and will no doubt be great support to each other."

For more information visit West Suffolk Sands here or email: support.westsuffolk@sands.org.uk

You can visit the national group here

Visit Baby Loss Awareness Week

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