Almost eighteen months ago, I submitted our story in response to to a call out on Twitter. At that point, I didn’t really know much about the project, other than it was endorsed by Tommys and SANDS. Once I heard more about it, it transpired that Nicola Gibson and Emma Beck where working on a Radio 4 documentary about stillbirth, ‘We Need to Talk About Stillbirth’ as well as a larger archive project.
Both Nicola and Emma have worked in media, and both had sadly experienced baby loss. Who better then to portray the complexities of stillbirth to a mainstream audience? The wider project, funded by The Wellcome Trust, is ‘Stillbirth Stories’ – an online archive of stories, told in the form of recorded interviews, from people both professional and personally affected by stillbirth. Currently Leo’s story is one of a few, but I have every hope that it’ll grow and showcase the broad spectrum of experiences and families.
Nicola came to see us in November last year, when I was just a few weeks pregnant with Eli, and recorded an interview with me about Leo and our experiences since his death. At that point, I’d been writing about it for months with relative ease. But there is something so much more emotive in speaking out loud. Equally, there is something more poignant and emotive about hearing those words, as opposed to reading them. That is why I think this project will be groundbreaking in baby loss awareness and understanding. Emotion in this topic is key, it can’t be hidden, it shouldn’t be silenced. To hear and feel that emotion is important and vital to ensure people understand the impact stillbirth has on an individual.
The archive is launching today (9th October) to coincide with Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK, and I am so proud to be apart of it, and of the team who have put this together. As with everything, it is the parents before us that are bettering things for the parents of the future – and for those parents who are yet to say goodbye to the much loved babies, I am glad this resource is there. To listen and ‘meet’ others who understand, who are ahead of you, who have survived, is a gift. A pure, forever remembered gift. Especially in the early days of shock and grief.
This project is not just for those who have experienced baby loss – it is for everyone, and I hope that people feel able to listen to the interviews (although, I’m currently avoided listening to my own one!). If listening to a whole interview feels a little bit emotionally daunting, the website also has snippets on particular topics, such a funerals, post mortems or subsequent pregnancies. This is really fantastic aspect of the website, to help people ‘dip in and out’ of the resource.
I invite you to have a look at the website, explore some of the archives, and please, please share with friends, family, colleagues. This is a really powerful way to improve understanding of baby loss, grief, trauma, and the rest, and the impact will be felt far and wide. My biggest hope will be for people to just listen, really listen to people’s experiences, and use it to enhance their own understanding and to help them help others experiencing baby loss in the future.
I’m really pleased to say that there has been coverage of the project in the national papers – and I’ll keep this page updated with the relevant links.
The website can be accessed here : www.stillbirthstories.org
My full interview is here : http://stillbirthstories.org/story-categories/parents-stories/
I’d love to hear what you think of the project, feel free to get in contact.
– J x
From the website…
Stillbirth Stories is an audio archive funded by Wellcome. It is a unique collection of interviews with parents and clinicians talking about their experiences of stillbirth. We believe the opportunity to listen to and share in people’s stories, told in their own words, will engage others with this taboo subject in a way that statistics and facts alone cannot.
These personal and professional recordings will create a resource for those directly affected by the experience: an alternative peer support for bereaved parents and their families and a learning resource for professionals. Some of the parent interviewees’ experiences date back five decades to the 1960s whilst others are from the present day. There are 16 interviews with parents and five with clinicians (from student midwife to senior obstetric consultant).
In 2015, one in every 227 babies delivered in the UK was stillborn: a baby born with no signs of life after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It can conservatively be estimated that more than a third of a million women living in the UK today have experienced a stillbirth; with an even greater number of bereaved fathers, family members and friends all affected by the experience.
There is a genuine gap in the documentation of people’s experiences of stillbirth and a need to create a permanent record, otherwise the insight they offer will be lost. The testimonies featured in the Stillbirth Stories archive are authentic, compelling and poignant and illustrate the impact stillbirth can have personally and professionally. They also give a sense of perspective from within different communities and over time.