Tomorrow night, I’ll be on live television (please do not swear) alongside other families and professionals, discussing attitudes and support following stillbirth. I’m honoured to have been asked whilst at the same time trying to ignore the whole ‘live television’ aspect of it all. It’ll all be alright on the night, right?
The programme is particularly looking at attitudes and support following a small survey led by Tommys, the Baby Charity that confirmed almost half of those asked felt isolated and alone, and somewhat abandoned by friends or family after experiencing stillbirth – its no doubt going to be a poignant programme on many levels.
The media has such a huge role to play in tackling difficult subjects. Most people don’t seek out these conversations, unless it affects them directly, so to have an opportunity to discuss stillbirth on mainstream television is incredible. With the frustrations behind getting Still Loved on television, this is such a welcome step to normalising stillbirth as a topic that deserves its own programming – and not just headlines on the news or a flash-in-the-pan storyline now and then.
Even then, on the few times I’ve been approached on some level by the media – your instinct is to run away from it. Leading up to this programme, I keep asking myself Why do you do it to yourself? On one hand, I’d always jump at the chance to add to Leo’s story but on the other, I’m afraid of him being sensationalised, of incorrect details, or the comeback below the comment line, or the emotional investment just being too much. Its a hard balancing act and one where you have to tread carefully and decide whether the emotional input is worth the gains. And on this occasion, I feel hopeful that it absolutely is.
I could sit and watch the program, and feel frustrated that my voice wasn’t represented, or I could be apart of it, and do my bit – no matter how small or insignificant it may be in that days broadcasting. I feel this is particularly important as a gay woman (I know, waving that flag, yet again) but diversity within the conversation of parenthood and baby loss is so needed. I don’t see myself reflected in the limited conversations we currently have – so I figure others won’t either, and I have an opportunity to change that. This one aspect is honestly such a big driver in me saying ‘yes’ to these sort of things.
All of that said, I’m still bloody nervous. This isn’t about me, or about Leo – its about everyone, and all of the babies. Those living, and those not. There is such a wave of change happening at the moment, and its been brewing for the past 40 years – progress, after progress. We need to get to the point that we can stop apologising for stillbirth being a difficult subject for people to listen to, or applauding those who can embrace the topic. We need to get to the point of normalising it. Stillbirth happens. To normal people. It does not discriminate. It happens more than we know or realise. And my only wish from coverage such as this, is that it can become apart of everyday conversation for people. Whether affected by it or not. And in turn, not shun their best friends when the worst happens.
It should absolutely still shock people. It should still devastate them. It should always have the same impact. Because its shocking, and devastating and its impact is wide. But it shouldn’t silence people, or leave them isolated. You shouldn’t have to deal with burying your baby and your closet friends disappearing without even an explanation or a goodbye, at the same time. You shouldn’t have to walk back into your workplace, and feel out of place and ignored. You shouldn’t have to explain why it hurts so much to have buried your child, or why you are terrified (beyond terrified) in a pregnancy after loss. The impact it leaves is (to quote my counsellor) normal, given everything that we have been through. And it is this that needs to be normalised, and understood – by achieving that, people can get the support that they need, from the people that they need it from.
Please, if you feel able, join us and watch the Channel 5 News program at 6:30pm tomorrow evening (Tuesday, 1st May), and then continued on Facebook Live (as well as throughout the day on Facebook). I hope it does what parents need it to do, and most importantly, I hope it shows that stillbirth is a worthy topic for broadcasters to cover.