As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week, Dave (my lovely hubby) and I decided we’d go to see a screening of the film ‘Still Loved’, a film that explores life after having a stillborn child, surviving baby loss and how it affects people in so many different ways. It was held at The Everyman Cinema in Harrogate and hosted by the wonderful charity Our Angels.
I felt, when I booked the tickets that this was really important for us, as loss parents we should be supporting this film, after all we knew it would echo the current reality of our life. However, as the evening grew nearer and nearer, Dave and I grew increasingly more anxious about the screening. I had heard so much about it but it was shrouded in secrecy, mystery, the unknown. The BBC have refused to show the documentary so in my head I assumed it was going to be horrendous. What was it going to show? Why is it not to be shown on national television? Were stories of other parents who had suffered a stillbirth going to be that horrific to watch?
We arrived at the cinema, being brave, trying to put our armour on and knowing that our overriding feeling was to support this film. The nerves didn’t come from the subject matter of stillbirth or child loss, it came from how I felt this film was being portrayed by the outside world, the outside world who haven’t seen it but have their own opinion on what the film must be about.
The BBC don’t think anyone would like to watch a documentary on ‘dead babies’ and to be fair they probably don’t when it is described in such a way. They have also stated that, because some of the funding for Still Loved (around 1%) was provided by baby loss charities and bereaved parents, it is a documentary funded by ‘pressure groups’ and as such cannot be screened on the BBC. So me, a mum, Dexter’s mum who loves him so fiercely is a member of a pressure group? Surely I am just someone who is trying to make a difference? Trying to raise awareness and share our story? I am not thrusting our grief down people’s throats, I am not dragging people to the cinema, I am just trying to parent my child who I don’t physically have and one of those ways is supporting anybody that is trying to raise awareness of the realities of living after the loss of a child.
So we took our seats and Dave began to cry. Cry with nerves. Cry with fear. Cry with memories. Just cry. I leant over and said to him that if it was too much then we could just leave. After all, we had only just lost our son 4 months ago. But the film started and that was it, we were in. The film follows the lives of 7 families over 3 years who have suffered a stillborn, some multiple stillborns. The film was heart-wrenching, honest, poignant, educating, insightful and hopeful. It was hard to watch sometimes which does naturally come when you consider the subject matter but it was nothing if not hopeful. It was in no way full of ‘dead babies’, it was in no way distasteful and it was certainly in no way an inappropriate subject matter. It showed families’ beautiful stillborn babies who looked like they were sleeping, just as Dexter did when I delivered him, wrapped in his blanket, warm and smelling like a newborn. It told the story of dad’s and how they get forgotten and how isolating that is. And it gave hope; how to survive this journey, how to wade through this shit and how to look to the future whilst remembering the child you have lost. I am aware that I will hold more bias to this film because of what we are going through but sadly this is real life for so many. 5,000 parents in the UK leave hospitals without their babies each year. 1 in every 200 pregnancies end in stillbirth and yet it feels like such an isolating world.
“…THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST NEGLECTED, MARGINALISED, STIGMATISED ISSUES IN GLOBAL HEALTH TODAY. WE SIMPLY DON’T TALK ABOUT STILLBIRTHS.”
RICHARD HORTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE LANCET.
Since losing Dexter I have found so many mums and families that have all suffered or experienced child loss in some way, whether it be through miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, SIDs or the death of a child. Each story is devastating, there is so many of us and yet we all feel isolated. No one wants to talk about child loss. No one wants to acknowledge it. No one wants to admit it happens. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why – it is such a heartbreaking experience for anyone to go through but what we need is support. We need people to try. We need people to acknowledge our children. We need people to care and most of all we need people to talk. It’s not like we chose this life. I for one will not go silently through life not acknowledging my son. Dexter made me a mum, he made Dave a dad and what a powerful title that is. Our job as his parent is in some ways harder because he isn’t here. I can’t change his nappies, I can’t soothe him when he’s poorly or clap when he plays Joseph in his first Nativity play. But what I can do is talk about him. I can write about him. I can raise awareness and I can go and watch a film that tells you just how bloody hard this journey is.
How we are all wading through shit every day.
*It is my intention to hold a screening of the film in Baby Loss Awareness Week in 2018 in York. That is of course unless we win our battle and someone finally realises the importance and the poignancy this film portrays. If you would like to join the campaign then please click on this link.