I am confused. The BBC news websites have been host to coverage of the recent findings of the MBRRACE report on stillbirth and neonatal deaths.
The BBC also has covered the topic of stillbirth with critically acclaimed performances in EastEnders with the lead actor then going on to become ambassador and influencer in baby loss awareness charities.
“We wanted to handle this sensitively and truthfully but you never know how it will land. Thankfully, the response was incredibly moving. I couldn’t believe the messages we were getting. Women saying thank you, for showing the utter devastation and heartbreak of the situation.
Parents and families sharing their stories. Non-bereaved people being absolutely floored at what many parents go through every day. I was very aware we had an opportunity here to help even more, which is why I started the #saytheirname campaign on Twitter and Facebook after the Tuesday night episode (with that dinner table scene, where Shabnam implores her family to acknowledge Zaair).
Here’s a chance for parents and families to openly acknowledge their babies under a unified movement. And that’s exactly what happened, but it went further, they shared pictures, stories, feelings and more. We were helping to break down this taboo, this stupid unnecessary taboo. It took off in a way I hadn’t expected, it was very special.”
Despite all of this the BBC will not show a documentary on the impact of stillbirth on families.
“I asked our commissioning team to look at Still Loved. They found it a moving and well-made film but felt that the stark depiction of infant mortality would make it very difficult for a terrestrial broadcaster to show it in its present form.”
Violence, rape, unrelenting graphic depictions of the most horrific acts are all fair game but the line must be drawn somewhere. Fictional accounts of infant mortality are fine but real ones are a bit too real.
“The BBC also has very strict rules about the ways our output can be financed and it won’t be possible for us to broadcast this film because of the way it was funded. Our impartiality guidelines do not allow us to show programmes which have received funding from charities who have an interest in the subject matter.”
This is just bizarre. The film was funded by parents like me that had lost their children and wanted to see this documentary made and seen by a wider audience. It would be impossible to make a film about baby loss without mention of charities like Sands and Tommy’s. Indeed the BBC’s own coverage of stillbirth and baby loss (ironically titled We Need to Talk about Stillbirth comes with links to these charities.
The film isn’t an attempt by charities to raise funds, it features families that find purpose in fundraising in memory of their lost children and working to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
The whole point of articles and awareness raising efforts is not necessarily to reach other loss parents (although it does help to feel less alone).
It’s to tell those stories to those that haven’t lost so they can have a better understanding. Fear thrives in the unknown and isolation. Hiding these stories make them seem somehow shameful shrouding them in taboo and entrenching it.
“So on the evenings that the key episodes aired, I had this outpouring from parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles – loads of people getting in touch to talk about their experiences. All these viewers wanting to show that their babies have had a profound effect on their lives. So it demonstrated that there’s a clear want and need for this to be talked about. And it felt like EastEnders had given a platform to those who’d been affected.”
“It’s really unfair because it often falls on the bereaved parent to make the situation comfortable. We, as the non-bereaved parents, need to talk about it so that we take on this burden. I think there are moments in which we can all help in those situations.”