For me, this was a big thing. Even though I work in Westminster it was a huge honour to be invited to the Houses of Parliament and have the opportunity to talk about all the things I’ve been writing about and campaigning about for the last year.
Keith Reed invited me to join him along with Sharon and Kujan at the Speaker’s reception for #BabyLossAwarenessWeek. Usually I’m on the other side so it was interesting to see if from another perspective. The room was suitably grand and the canapes faintly ridiculous. Many kudos to the man that relentlessly tried to make us eat tiny ice cream cones of Welsh Rarebit.
I learned that the Chief Executive of Sands recognised my Twitter handle and I got to meet Baroness Cumberlege and talk to her about the NHS Maternity Review as well as the practicalities of trying to improve continuity of care. What was surprising for me was that I didn’t feel like an imposter for once.
I met Leigh Kendall by accident (Hi, Leigh!) and talked to lots of fine people from charities. There was a cautious sense of welcome to the All Party Parliamentary Group’s vision statement and the speeches from Ministers. Optimism mingled with the defensive stance that comes with having fought so hard and not wanting to hope too much so as not to be disappointed.
Chris Reid from Teddy’s Wish delivered a speech that misted eyes and the chairs of the APPG on Babyloss Antoinette Sandbach and Will Quince added their own harrowing stories. When hearing the stories of others it is nearly impossible to avoid being pulled back to our own.
It was difficult to listen to those stories and give them the full attention they deserved. All the good work and good people there were a tangible reminder why we were there.
After the reception had finished I had planned to go back to the office but instead found myself pulled to join everyone at the Chapel for a remembrance service. It was plugged as a non-denominational service but was by its nature heavily steeped in Christian belief and Biblical verses. Hymns remind me of school rather than churches so it took a little while to build the confidence to sing along with the familiar and unfamiliar.
I’ve been to these sorts of things before and they take me back to the the funeral catching me by surprise and leaving me dazed. Many of the verses and passages were familiar but I hadn’t heard them read with such emotion before. Voices stuttered, caught and had to pause as certain lines triggered memories in the readers.
My own voice caught on the refrain
We will remember them
I wrote down the names of my sons on a little leaf to add to a tree and then confused sat on the wrong row. Afterwards I took the opportunity to talk to some of the MPs that had worked so hard in Parliament and as part of the APPG to raise the profile of baby loss and work with charities and parents to make changes.
The day and its limited press coverage had focused on the co-chairs Antoinette Sandbach and Will Quince but I wanted to say something to Patricia Gibson too. She had secured the Westminster Hall debate where she spoke with such passion and conviction about not only the pain of losing her child but the further pain she faced when trying to get answers.
These experiences are always mixed. The hope of finally seeing that people are listening and there is a political will to change things is contrasted by the sadness of the events that have lead us to this day, this room surrounded by others like us. For all that to be followed by something as deeply personal as a memorial service was overwhelming but I’m glad I did it. I’m glad that I was part of something bigger and not just a lone voice writing in a void.