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 during 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.
Marion Currie is one of the founders of Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK - now in it's 16th year - an opportunity for bereaved parents, their families and friends, unite with each other and others across the world to commemorate the lives of babies who died during pregnancy, at or soon after birth and in infancy.
In 1988 US President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month – the 15th was chosen by Robyn Bear to be a day in the middle of the month for parents and families to come together to remember their babies.
For me personally 1988 was quite a year – submitting my doctoral thesis and surviving my Viva Voce to gain the hard-earned degree of Doctor of Philosophy and getting married – Ronald Reagan’s proclamation didn’t feature anywhere in my list of highlights from 1988.
In summer 2002 I found myself part of a supportive online community of mums who had all gone through some form of pregnancy loss. We chatted, shared our experiences and helped each other through the difficult days. It was suggested that we should join in with the American Wave of Light on 15 October to remember our babies and at the same time we could make and sell pink and blue ribbon pins to raise some funds for the charities that many of us received support and information from.
From this small beginning it quickly became a week which gave us greater scope for holding events, and by fixing the dates to always culminate on October 15 with the Wave of Light it had the perfect finale. We’ve organised Wave of Light services to bring families together and hand-made ribbons to sell. It has created a space for families to celebrate their babies and acknowledge their place within their lives. It has now become part of the calendar, acknowledged in Parliament and finally made it onto the sofas of breakfast television.
Over the years I have watched Baby Loss Awareness Week grow, reaching places that I never dreamed of in 2002 when our idea was simply to have a space where we could publicly remember our babies with a ribbon pin to wear with pride. I have made thousands of those ribbon pins over the years and know each one would be worn proudly to remember babies across the UK and beyond.
This year, as every year, we have continued to raise awareness one ribbon at a time – never forgetting that each ribbon represented a much-loved baby.
With the help of the ladies at the Musselburgh Area Yarn Bombers I was able to gather together pink and blue ribbon loops to form two panels that we have publicly displayed on a busy footbridge in Musselburgh. Each panel highlights the fact that during Baby Loss Awareness Week 105 babies will be stillborn or die with the first four weeks of their too short lives.
The creation of the Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss in 2016 has added an important dimension to the week which has led to greater media awareness and attention. However, let’s not forget that at the heart of this are four bereaved parents who happen to be MPs. Each in their own way seeking to remember their baby.
Birth is no less a life-changing event if your baby has died. Society accepts that you change and are different when you have children, why is it so hard to understand that this is especially true for all those parents and families that have experienced pregnancy or baby loss?
Throughout the week bereaved parents, their families and friends, unite with each other and others across the world to commemorate their babies’ lives. Baby Loss Awareness Week also provides a chance to raise awareness about the issues surrounding pregnancy and baby loss in the UK. Seven days of focus for what for those involved is really 24/7, all day, everyday reality.
The week is important as it allows us to be bereaved parents to our lost children and openly celebrate their part in our lives, but it also highlights that this is also true for the other 51 weeks of the year. You don’t stop being a parent when that child dies.
Everyone’s experience and grief journey following a pregnancy or baby loss is unique, but at the centre of most is the continuing need to parent and acknowledge the existence of those babies who never drew a breath. Seeking ways to make their lives count for something, leaving footprints because they cannot.
This is for Lesley Kathryn and Jon Alexander my shining stars and guiding lights, I am so proud of the footprints you have helped me make.
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 Sands now to help ensure a bereaved parent doesn't have to cope alone. Thank you.