Last night when I was lying in bed, reading Red magazine, something caught my eye. A small column, but a really significant one. A woman wrote it called Helen Salberg and she told of how she suffered a stillbirth three years ago - losing her daughter Grace, who she never really met, due to being horrifically ill and asleep for 3 days after her emergency C section. I can imagine nothing more horrendous in life than having a stillborn child after going through pregnancy. What I cannot imagine is how someone begins to come to terms with such a devastating loss, or how life ever feels 'normal' again.
I know several women who have sadly gone through this experience and I have always struggled with what to say to them - what words are good enough? Once you are pregnant your whole body changes - from your glossy hair to your swollen toes and your head gets to grips with what is happening and what will happen. There are tonnes of books to read, websites to pour over, friends to swap stories with - even strangers smile at your bump in the street. You pick out names, plan the nursery, imagine yourself out with the stroller, stroke your belly, feel the life kicking inside you. Your future is planned - the weeks counted off. The biggest moment of your life is about to happen. No matter the heartburn or the breast pain, or the sore limbs, swollen feet, aching joints, sickness and nausea, it is all worth it at the end.
But to go through all that and then - an empty cot... What is meant to be a time of joy suddenly being a time of unmeasurable grief. While all around the world carries on its merry way and seemingly every other celeb announces their 'great news' that they are expecting. It is so terribly unfair and unjust and sad.
Helen did something incredible - at a support group she went to, she found that lots of women noticed changes in their baby's movements before losing them. So she designed wristbands, which have babies footprints on them with the idea that when a pregnant woman feels her baby kick she turns it over - so it acts like a warning signal. A fundraising event she held on what would have been Grace's second birthday provided the funds to start production of these bands. Her local hospital is trialling them with 300 women and the feedback so far has been amazing. She hopes to go national. Helen strikes me as an amazingly brave woman - to try and find positivity through such heartache. To want to help so that others will never suffer what she has. Women like Helen render me speechless. I am simply in awe.
I've read several articles recently where women lost babies after their due dates had passed - one woman wrote an incredibly moving piece about how she always thought she was 2 weeks ahead of the hospital's due date that she was given. She is convinced that if her son had been born earlier that the tragedy would have never happened. There has been a call for the government to fund more regular scans during a pregnancy - (at the moment in the Uk you get 2 in the whole 9 months - at 12/13 and 21 weeks which seems ridiculous when a pregnancy lasts 40 weeks). Hoping for the Tory government to do anything positive seems futile (when we have to fight tooth and nail to stop them privatising the NHS with their planned reforms) so why not check out www.gracesgift.co.uk ?
This tragedy happens in over 4000 births a year - which is 11 a day. If a wristband helps in any small way, then that is brilliant and a wonderful legacy for Grace. I wanted to write about this so we can help Helen to help others. I have never gone through this so I can't pretend to have any idea of how soul destroying and life changing this heartache would be. But as a mother, it touches me. So if you can donate, please do. Thank you.