40 stories for #Sands40
40 stories for #Sands40, | 7 June 2018

As part of Sands 40th anniversary this year, we will share 40 stories by 40 parents, family members and friends affected by the death of a baby. Starting in June to coincide with Sands Awareness Month and our #FindingTheWords campaign, we aim to show the sheer number of people who are affected by the tragedy of a baby’s death, help other bereaved parents to understand they are not alone and raise awareness of the issues surrounding stillbirth and neonatal death. Visit our 40 stories for #Sands40 to view other blogs in the series.

My name is Sue and I would like to share the loss of our daughter, Rebecca. We had one beautiful daughter, Emma, and decided to add to our family. I had an uneventful pregnancy and the scan given due date of 7th December 1984 came and went but, we were not unduly concerned as we knew babies rarely arrived on time!

I remember going to bed on 5th January 1985 and thinking that I hadn’t felt much movement that day. I prodded my bump with no response but just assumed the baby was sleeping (oh, how I regret thinking that). I was woken in the early hours by labour pains so recruited the grandparents to sit with Emma and set off excitedly for the hospital.

Initial monitoring failed to find a heartbeat but the midwife explained that sometimes this happened due to faulty equipment. However, following a scan, we heard the devastating words: “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.”

Our world fell apart and I couldn’t believe that I was expected to deliver our baby with no hope of life. The staff were amazing and supportive but giving birth was the worst (and best) moment of my life.

We only got to spend a little time with Rebecca (there were no bereavement suites then), and only myself and my husband got to see her. We have two treasured Polaroid photos of her but, sadly, no other mementos.

My husband and I both coped differently with Rebecca’s death, he threw himself into work and I resumed family life with Emma. After some time, we both felt that we needed more support and also, wanted to help others going through the same tragedy.

So, with the help of a local midwife, we set up a support group locally where bereaved parents could come and share their experiences. We also did fundraising to equip a bereavement suite at our local hospital. We felt that, in this way, something positive came from our loss.

As time has passed, our grief is not as raw as it once was but I feel sad when I see parents with hand/foot prints and the fact that extended family get to spend time with the baby. Special occasions like Mother’s Day are also tinged with sadness that there should be an extra card on the mantle.

As time has passed, treatment of bereaved parents has, thankfully, improved but I feel that there is still a huge stigma around the loss of a baby, many of my friends still hesitate to mention Rebecca so that it, unfortunately, becomes like she was never here, which is very sad.

In memory of our beautiful daughter Rebecca Ann xx

Photo: Sue Butcher's daughter Rebecca

15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK. We want to reduce this number, but we need your help. Support #FindingTheWords initiative now to help ensure a bereaved parent doesn't have to cope alone. Thank you. 

If you would like to share your story please email media@sands.org.uk, call 020 3897 3449 or send a letter to Lee Armitt, Press Office, Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death charity), Victoria Charity Centre, 11 Belgrave Road, London, SW1V 1RB. 

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