As #SandsAwarenessMonth draws to a close it’s a good time to share all that has gone on during this month of fundraising, awareness raising, blogging and political activity (the good kind).

I’m turning orange because…

The #SandsAwarenessMonth campaign encouraged people to turn their online profiles orange to mark the month.  Throughout this month I have shared, liked and retweeted all the people that have turned their profiles orange.  I have collected the names of all the lost babies those profiles represent into a Storify page.

What Sands means to me

I started this month with a post on what Sands does and what it has done for for me.  I wrote about its role in research and campaigning as well as its support for all those affected but the loss of a baby.  I also used the post to link to Sands resources supporting parents, friends, colleagues and health care professionals.

I hinted at the horrors lying behind those simple statements by keeping the stories behind them low key and unobtrusive hyperlinks for those who wanted to know more.

In a way the post was partially drafted with a view to being the basis of fundraising at work so I didn’t want to expose the full horror and madness of that day and the many that followed to my workmates.

That text (along with some tasty chocolate orange fudge – recipe available on request) helped raise £50 for Sands.  It also allowed people I had barely exchanged more than a hello with before to share their stories of loss and confusion.

It gave me the confidence to know I would be supported in further activities to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week in October.  I just need to work out what it is I’ll be doing…

Fundraising

#5for5Challenge

Aoife’s Mighty Mountain Challenge

The #5for5Challenge was created by Seamus’ parents to celebrate what should be his fifth birthday.  Aoife went big for her challenge and not only has she climbed 5 mountains, she has done so with individually named pebbles bearing the name of a lost baby.

For this challenge alone she has raised over £800 for Sands and Tommy’s.  The 5for5Challenge team has raised over £10,000 in total.

Screen shot of 5for5Challenge fundraising

Personal blog challenge

This month also saw me finally complete my #5for5Challenge target of 5000 views and raising a further £50 for Sands to cover the day cost of running the helpline that gave me valuable support when everything felt as though it was falling apart.

I am proud to see that at least 700 of those views were for my posts on #endstillbirths and not just my mysteriously popular Paw Patrol rant.

By making connections through a wide range of blog link ups and directly with health care professionals through Twitter, researchers and politicians I have worked to raise awareness of the issues still be resolved and some of what needs to be done to make the initiatives work.

It’s also about breaking the stigma by talking candidly about these experiences to help people that haven’t been through it to understand.  It also offers help to those that find themselves unwilling members of this most terrible club.

Blogging

Many others have shared their stories and this post from The Legacy of Leo is another personal reflection of the good  Sands can do to support and educate.  It features one of the bleakest jokes capturing all the messy contradictions of this month:

“June is SANDS Awareness Month.

It’s like Christmas for the baby loss community online. Just with orange and a bucket load of sadness. It’s incredible. It’s eye opening. It’s comforting.”

It’s a fantastic read and if you don’t already follow The Legacy of Leo blog you should.

While I hid my sorrow from my fundraising efforts for fear of scaring the horses. Laura (at 5 Little Doves) felt differently and laid out in heart crushing detail the pain of losing her son, Joseph and all the hopes, unrealised dreams and the pain that still aches a decade later.

“Imagine that. And I can promise you that however heartbreaking it may be to even consider, for us parents, the reality is a million times worse.”

This month also introduced me to the terrifyingly talented Ana, a woman that writes with such brutal eloquence and in a way that staggers me.  She has contributed two guest posts to the site that you need to read now.

It was through her I was lead back to the long abandoned Sands forum whose members in turn introduced me to a sanctuary of kindred spirits.

Parliament

Westminster Hall Debate

Alongside the awareness raising there was a positive, truthful and harrowing debate on stillbirth in the House of Commons.  There was a grasp of the issues and a collective will to do more to prevent stillbirths and neonatal deaths and support those that have lost their babies.  It was difficult to watch but I’m glad I did.  It helped reaffirm my faith in politics as a force for good.

Commons Health Select Committee -Maternity Services Inquiry

Following on from the National Maternity Review the Health Committee has been taking evidence on implementation issues.  I almost missed the chance to submit my evidence on the missing pieces around stillbirth prevention,  mental health, pregnancy after loss and the need for further research.

On Tuesday there was an oral evidence session including Sands and the authors of the Maternity Review.  It wasn’t a thrilling session.  There was little of the passion seen at the Westminster Hall debate and at several points you can see a member of the audience losing a battle against sleep in that deadly post lunch lull in a nice warm room…

The session briefly touched on issues around stillbirth prevention but the main focus was on wider topics.  I wait to see what the inquiry report says (if anything) on the topic or if there are any more evidence sessions.

Sands Awareness Month

At the time of writing the total raised for Sands is 80% of its target.  If you haven’t already done so please consider donating towards their goal.

Donations help towards the efforts of Sands and Tommy’s to prevent what happened to us from happening to more parents and supporting those where that wasn’t possible.  It also goes towards training and supporting the professionals involved in maternity care so they can help parents and also have their own emotional support.

Chances are if you reading this blog then you will be familiar with my story and the often brutal accounts of the raw grief that is always there and never fades.  You may have also read my posts on the good and bad of maternity care and the good work going on and what needs to be done to #endstillbirths.

If you have then you will know why a charity like Sands is important to not only parents like me but to expectant parents in helping maximise their chances of a safer birth.

If you can, please click on the image to donate

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