Support available for bereaved parents will be showcased at Walsall Manor Hospital this Baby Loss Awareness Week.
Bereavement services are available for women and parents who have suffered a miscarriage, a stillbirth, neonatal death, sudden infant death or termination of pregnancy due to fetal abnormalities.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has been a pilot site for the successful National Bereavement Care Pathway and has also appointed a Specialist Bereavement Midwife, Laura Atkinson.
Laura said: “Baby Loss Awareness Week aims to highlight the key issues affecting those who have experienced pregnancy or baby loss and here in Walsall it creates an opportunity for us to let people know the range of maternity bereavement services offered.
“I’m a parent myself and I can’t imagine how difficult it is to lose a baby but I am proud of the support that we offer; support that is there for as long as it is needed. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and bereaved parents experience all sorts of emotions and need the space and time to be able to do so. We want parents to know we’re here for them at whatever time they choose. This may not be in the immediate hours and days after experiencing a loss but may be some weeks and months in the future.”
When a baby has died Laura is contacted so that she can offer support to the parents. At Walsall Manor Hospital there are two bereavement rooms on the delivery suite, away from the main unit, which have en-suite facilities and are designed to create a homely feel.
Cold cots and cuddle cots are available to allow parents to spend time with their babies for as long as they wish.
Memory boxes are available and given to parents, donated by the charity 4Louis. The memory boxes come in a range of colours and sizes, small ones appropriate for those smaller babies and larger boxes for babies that are stillborn or have lived then passed away. They have equipment to be able to take hand and footprints, both ink and clay, and an SD card so parents can take their own photographs.
Walsall Healthcare also offers the option of professional photographs by either clinical photographers or an external volunteer company ‘Remember my baby’ for those babies of more than 24 weeks gestation. There are items so baby can have their first bath and a small story book, so their parents can read them a bedtime story as well as a balloon which can be sent to heaven on a special occasion and seeds to plant in memory of their baby.
Additional items such as a bracelet (for mum) and a keyring (for dad) are added to the box – these were kindly donated and thought of by bereaved parents who lost their baby and were cared for in Walsall. An angel for comfort and a candle to light on special occasions or anniversaries are also included in the box.
Laura added: “We have recently made connections with a local charity called ‘ Aching Arms’ which supplies us with memory bears that are given to parents to use as a comfort, when they need a hug or to feel something close to them.
“Parents are also provided with ‘Family support packs’ donated by SANDS (stillbirth and neonatal death charity). These packs are full of support leaflets and literature to enable the parents to make decisions initially but for support during their period of grief.
“We help parents with making funeral arrangements. Parents can choose to make private arrangements or as a Trust we can work with the parents in planning the funeral and covering some costs.
“Chaplaincy support is available for all faiths, beliefs and religions, as well as those who do not follow a faith. Chaplaincy can also help with baptising baby or simply carrying out a naming ceremony, should the parents wish to.”
Postnatal support is also provided by the Bereavement Midwife once the parents return home. Laura will also offer antenatal care and support for parents’ future pregnancies.
An event will be held in the main atrium of Walsall Manor Hospital tomorrow (Wednesday 10 October) from 9.30am-10.30am. There will be a display of the bereavement services offered here and information from the local (Walsall) SANDS support group. There will be cakes for sale and gifts, and a raffle with some prizes to give away.
Laura will join Nicola Wenlock, Walsall Healthcare’s Divisional Director of Midwifery, Gynaecology and Sexual Health at the Parliamentary launch of BLAW and memorial service at Westminster.
She said: “Baby Loss Awareness Week will be an extremely distressing time for many bereaved parents but I think it also encourages us all to stop and reflect and to consider how others are feeling.”