Tag Archives: neonatal death


None of this for my friend 49 years ago...

None of this for my friend 49 years ago…

Today I heard a tragic tale from someone I count as a friend. They had seen that I had been shortlisted for a Butterfly Award for my work with parents who have lost their babies (see my profile here: http://www.thebutterflyawards.com/index.php/voting/userprofile/revdavidsouthall ).

It started as a friendly good morning hug and a chat about the glorious weather and then she said: “I wish you’d been around 49 years ago!” I looked puzzled and so she explained why: “I was pregnant with my fourth child, and my Son was stillborn. There was no one to support me and when he was born I didn’t even get to hold him! It was barbaric and inhumane! And then they said: “we’ll bury him for you” – and that was the last I knew. My guess is that he was buried with 6 or so others but I just don’t know. I don’t even know where my baby is buried … and I never had the chance to grieve.”

I listened.

49 years ago … and it still leaves its mark!
49 years ago…and when her husband died recently she had a plaque in honour of her Son put on his gravestone: “RESTING ELSEWHERE.”
49 years ago and the questions persist.

We hugged and said our goodbyes.

And I was left with the questions:

How did this practice come about?
Who thought it was a good idea: medics; midwives; society?
Were the midwives compassionate?
Was any thought given loss and grief and bereavement?
Was the system to blame?

And the comparison struck me hard. Just the other day I took a funeral of a little one. Tragic, desperately tragic. Always desperately tragic! But this couple had been supported by our Specialist Bereavement Midwife and by the Chaplaincy. They had been able to hold their little one and spend time with her. They had photos and a lock of her hair; handprints and footprints. They stayed for a couple of days in a special hospital room on Delivery Suite without the noise of other babies around them. They had a full funeral service planned by them with my help; and they will get on-going support from the Hospital and other helping agencies.

How different the world is now. But then 49 years is not that long ago is it?

And it set me thinking …

Are there things which we are doing now which will be seen in the future as barbaric and inhumane?
Are there practices which we will look back on in 50 years’ time and shudder to think that we were part of it?
Are systems in place which militate against compassion and humanity?

It seems to me that the real geniuses in the NHS are the ones who spot these things ahead of time; who see into the future and say:
“Hang on a minute…can’t we do this another way; a better way?”

I wish someone had done that for my friend 49 years ago…

but because I can’t turn back the clock, I hope there are visionaries and future-gazers looking now.

TOMMY’S BUBBLES: So Perfect…So Fragile. Reflections on a neonatal death

So pefect...so fragile

So pefect…so fragile

Tommy was a beautiful baby; I’ve seen the photos! But after a 10 day fight he passed away in the arms of his lovely Mom Amy along with Dad Chris in the parents room of a West Midlands Hospital.

I’d seen them before; I buried their other son Jayden who died in the womb at 20-something weeks gestation a year ago.

And when Amy and Chris contacted me to tell me that Tommy had died it broke my heart. That it should happen at anyone is tragic; that it should happen to this couple for the second time in one year is without words. And when they asked me to take their son’s funeral, well…

And on the day of the funeral family and friends turned up to pay their respects. Each person was given a pot of bubbles and, at the request of Mom and Dad, I was asked to invite those present to blow their bubbles- which they did – all except me! Why? Because, whilst I managed to get the top off the bubbles, I couldn’t get the wand out. And the more I tried, the slippier my fingers became and the more impossible the task. I told the people at the funeral about this, and they laughed! They knw what I’m like.

The service proceeded, and it was at the point in the service when we were all listening to a piece of music as a reflection, that I succeeded…the bubbles were open. And from behind the lectern, where I was sitting listening with others, I blew bubbles for Tommy. Important, because in his short life amongst us Tommy blew lots of bubbles, and his parents wanted to mark that aspect of his time with us.

They’d told me so much more than this of course. Of his beautiful black hair; his beautiful eyes; the way in which, whilst he would play up for the midwives, he would open his eyes when Mom spoke to him, and curl his little hand around Dad’s finger. Of how he was a fighter, and fought for 10 days (‘stubborn like his mom’) and when he passed away ‘he seemed to wave goodbye with his hand.’ Of how they still sleep with his blanket which holds the smell of him.

And still I blew my bubbles, in the crematorium chapel, and in my mind a picture formed. The picture of something so perfect, and yet so fragile. And one of the bubbles landed on the floor, it stayed for just a little while longer than the others; and just as I thought it might stay forever, it was gone.

At the graveside, after the service in the Chapel, we laid him to rest with his brother Jayden whose funeral I remembered as if it were yesterday. “One on top of another,” said Mum, “like the bunk beds we would have had for them.”

That was a while ago now. I still think about Amy and Chris, of Tommy and Jayden and of all the family. I have met some incredible people in my life; some inspirational people in my work as Chaplain; and Amy and Chris are up there at the top. I wish them good fortune, happiness and peace.

And the other day I saw some bubbles…

…just some kids playing and havig fun…… but guess who I thought of?