It’s been both inspiring and draining all at the same time to be part of #SandsAwarenessMonth.
It’s inspiring to see that after so many years of research making the scale, scope and solutions to this epidemic abundantly clear the issue of stillbirth is finally getting on the health agenda and wider public consciousness.
My Twitter feed is a river of orange as the #SandsAwarenessMonth tag streams by with the names (so many, many names) of sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, grandchildren all lost in stillbirth or in the early days of their brief lives.
Every tweet naming a lost baby and the hashtag has been shared and I have recorded them on the #SandsAwarenessMonth Storify page.
It was part of this stream that I saw that there was going to be a debate in Parliament on stillbirth.
I’ve written before in defence of politicians, how they are not “all the same” and the good that can be achieved beyond petty party politicking and point scoring.
The Westminster Hall stillbirth debate was case in point. It showed that this was something bigger than parties and there was a desire and drive to do more while recognising the good that is going on.
When members of the SNP talked of how the Scottish Government had worked to improve stillbirth rates it wasn’t to boast about how Holyrood had managed what Westminster hadn’t.
“The Scottish Government responded to a parliamentary petition in 2010…by forming a stillbirth working group and setting an aim in 2012 to reduce stillbirths by 15 per cent by 2015”.
She also noted a subsequent reduction of 18% in stillbirth rates, which
“shows that a combination of approaches”
can make an impact. Importantly, she stated that
“ministers were determined to reduce rates further.”
It was to demonstrate how Government and Parliamentary support could make a difference not in 10 years time but 3. At the same time recognising there is so much more to be done.
There was a real understanding of the many issues around stillbirth prevention, bereavement care, research (and gaps) and the continuing impact on families.
These were powerful speeches well worth listening to or reading. They were informed by personal experience, profound loss and the stories of their constituents.
It was genuinely emotional. There was no sense from anyone that they were playing to the gallery or that their tears were reptilian.
There was much talk in the limited coverage about bravery. I didn’t see it as brave. I saw it as a natural expression of love for the too many lost babies and not allowing stigma or taboo to silence their lives and memories.
I saw righteous fury forged in the bitter battleground of having to fight to be taken seriously, to be given an honest answer and be treated with respect not suspicion.
I felt the rage of having the most personal of experiences laid bare only to be met with bland, sterile standard lines.
I saw the subtle show of compassion and empathy in the looks of reassurance and a gentle hand squeeze as parents told the stories of their babies.
After such a tearful and tragic litany I almost felt sorry for Justin Madders. He delivered a competent speech highlighting important issues of nursing morale and resources but after so many deeply harrowing accounts of loss and the terrible aftermath it all felt a little flat.
It was one of the hardest debates I’ve watched but I’m glad I did. If you can bear it it’s worth 90 minutes of your time. Reading the transcript (or Storify summary) won’t take as long but the words while still powerful on page don’t convey the full impact.
After what has felt like an endlessly awful time it feels refreshing to see what can be done once rhetoric is cast aside and the human side is allowed to come through.