The Internet gives us all a voice. A much louder, more heard voice than what we would have without it. Social media is a fantastic way to spread a message – whatever it is – and connect with people who either are spreading a similar message, or who just blow your mind that they bother spending five minutes listening to yours. I really think its fostered the turning point in baby loss awareness.
This year will mark 40 years since SANDS was formed. A huge shift in awareness, and especially in the way families and their babies were treated, would have occurred as a direct result. So much is still happening – and needs to happen – in order to push forward with even more, much needed change and progress. Just today, Will Quince’s Parental Bereavement Bill was debated in the House of Commons. So many ‘big picture’ things are happening – and its great.
Alongside these welcome political developments, there has been a sea of change in personal, real life, first hand experiences being shared. I guess you could call that the ‘smaller picture’. And it really is social media that has done this. Out from the support groups and online forums, these stories are now in much more public domain. Even since Leo died I have seen so much change in the way people are expressing their grief and their own individual experiences. People are standing up, and speaking out far earlier, with greater ambition and determination to see change – people seem so much more empowered and able to speak, than even just two and half years ago. Thats not to say it isn’t hard still, but it feels like together as a wider community, we can all enable each other.
Being invited to take part in the Still a Taboo News Special on Channel 5 a few weeks ago was a real marker of just how much impact it is all having – these everyday, real life experiences of baby loss sitting alongside the bigger picture of political and medical developments in support and prevention, being broadcast on terrestrial television (and Facebook Live, because its 2018 after all), for 30 minutes. Not just a news slot. A whole dedicated program.
It is not lost on me, the quiet impact that that programming decision by Channel 5 can have. I really hope it sets an example to other broadcasters that its a topic worthy of air time – not just in the news, and not just for fictional depiction. Real people, with raw honest takes of their own experiences have far greater impact on change. You only have to watch the House of Parliament debates and the contribution from Ministers who have experienced baby loss to understand that.
Credit: Channel 5 News
It was such a honour to share the screen with other parents, and Prof Alex Heazell, to make a small contribution to the discussion. It was incredibly well balanced, a huge amount of topics covered (including getting my gay card in!) and plenty of information about the bigger picture. The bigger picture is so important to share as well – people need to see that this is an issue that is being invested in, and that it also needs more investment.
We were so nervous though. The realities of live television! I managed to break my mic, and fiddle with my hair during a pre-record in the space of about five minutes. Seriously, not cut out for television. It took everything to just look natural like we were told – what does that even mean!? Every time there was a break or a roll VT moment, we all just collapsed into a deep breath.
Credit : @dinningroompr
As soon as it finished there was a massive need for a debrief – I think we were all on a high. You see, when you are affected by something that sets you apart from the vast majority of people you know in your day to day, getting together with other bereaved parents is like a natural drug. We could have easily made whole programs discussing each question in detail, so every answer most likely fired off minutes of extra conversation in everyone’s heads, and we were just desperate to talk it all through.
So, tip of the day – if you are ever on live television chatting about stillbirth, make sure your train isn’t half an hour later.
I was so nervous that day leading up to it – I felt like I held 1/9th of the pressure from all bereaved parents, everywhere, to get it right. We have such few opportunities to reach a wide audience, that it just felt like we needed to really make use of it. And I really think we all did – all I have seen is positive reactions, and we’ve heard of stories of friends and family reaching out to people as a result. And this is just wonderful!
The main focus of the program was the isolation experienced by bereaved parents, and I think it hit home to a lot of people. The double hit of loosing your child, and then your friends and/or family just not knowing what to do and abandoning you. Its heartbreaking. It really is, and its something that really stirred up a lot of emotions about our own experiences. Something that I hope to tackle in another blog post – but thats for another day.
Channel 5 also really looked after us – I’ll be honest that I was skeptical at first, Channel 5 have the full range of programming and with this topic, it is always feared that the media will sensationalise it. But I really feel that the program was just a well balanced, approachable and honest program. From the producers and researchers to the make up team (the funnest part!), I felt so comfortable talking about Leo. And leaving with a bunch of flowers was just so heartwarming.
It was such such a great tribute to all the babies who were spoken about. I feel proud to have been a part of it, and whilst the emotional hangover was intense, it was worth it. I just hope its a small step for even more.
If you haven’t seen it, it is all available on Facebook internationally, here: https://www.facebook.com/C5News/videos/1864903120200824/