Welcome to the latest addition to the It Still Takes a Village – Working in Baby Loss Interview Series where we take a closer look at those who dedicate their day to day to preventing baby loss and supporting those affected. You can read more interviews, here.
I should expect that most people consider the role of a midwife to be a pretty positive and exciting experience everyday – helping to bring life into the world. Its a job that must be filled with plenty of magical moments! Yet, I should also expect that people don’t really consider the flipside – the heartache and the death that they also have to encounter, often within moments of eachother. I never knew the role of a Bereavement Midwife until I had reason to meet one. Its a privilege to share the experiences of one Bereavement Midwife in today’s spotlight. Meet Karen…
So, to start us off, please can you let us know a little about your current role?
I am currently a midwife working at a consultant led unit in the North East of England. I am also the named bereavement midwife for the trust where I work. I’ve been a midwife for over 10 years and work on a busy delivery suite. No two days are ever the same in my job so it’s hard to tell you what a typical day looks like! (That’s why I love my job and hate it at the same time, you never quite know what’s waiting for you when you turn up on the ward!).
“I would also like to see better support for midwives and health care professionals who are involved with traumatic births and pregnancy loss.”
What are you currently working on? Is there a particular project or aim that you’d like to share with people?
I’m currently involved with setting up a charity that will support parents whose baby is being cared for on our neonatal unit. I think peer-support is massively important for these women and also for women who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. In my role, I aim to develop this area of peer support across the maternity network. I would also like to see better support for midwives and health care professionals who are involved with traumatic births and pregnancy loss.
What motivated you to do the job/role that you are doing now?
I always wanted to be a midwife as pregnancy and birth always fascinated me. It still does to this day. There is no better feeling than watching people become parents. And this process of becoming parents does not stop when a baby dies. I love being privileged enough to care for people who have lost a baby and help them make memories with their precious babies.
In what ways does your current job/role allow you to get involved in the baby loss cause?
In my role I mostly deal with supporting people through pregnancy loss, however, using the new perinatal mortality review tool I have been involved in multi-disciplinary discussions and reviews of cases. This has proved extremely valuable in learning from incidents that could have improved outcomes for mothers and babies.
“Parents relish the opportunity to talk about their babies, even the ones that unfortunately haven’t survived.”
What are the biggest frustrations or constraints that you face in supporting those affected by baby loss or preventing baby loss in the first place?
I think a great deal of work has been done around reducing the stillbirth rate, however, we still have a significantly higher rate than some other developed countries. As a midwife I find this extremely frustrating and wonder what else we can learn from other countries in how to reduce our rates further.
Do you think that Baby Loss is still a taboo, and if so, why? Do you encounter issues with it being a taboo in your day to day work?
I think baby loss is becoming less of a taboo now. Mostly thanks to the great work and campaigns of charitable organisations such as SANDS, 4Loius and Tommy’s.
Who else do you work alongside in terms of baby loss support or prevention? Are there any charities that support you, or perhaps a colleague/volunteer that you couldn’t manage without?
In my role I work very closely with the trust bereavement support team and mortuary staff who are always on hand to help. I have close links with local charitable organisations as well.
“I think a great deal of work has been done around reducing the stillbirth rate, however, we still have a significantly higher rate than some other developed countries.”
When the job/role is hard, what one thing reminds you to keep on keeping on?
When the job gets too hard, I try to remember the positives and remember the impact I have on people’s lives. Generally, the good outweighs the bad. I love being able to make a difference.
We are in a shift change with the understanding and awareness of baby loss. What would you say to someone just starting out in a job/role associated to baby loss?
I would say don’t be afraid to talk about pregnancy loss. Parents relish the opportunity to talk about their babies, even the ones that unfortunately haven’t survived.
It’s likely that a newly bereaved parent is reading this. What would you like to say to them?
I would encourage them to get all the help and support they can. Whether thats from midwives, doctors, counsellors or friends and family. There are so many great support groups and organisations out there who understand what you are going through and will not judge how you’re feeling. You are not in this alone.
“You are not in this alone.”
We have some ambitious targets for baby loss currently in the UK. What are your specific hopes for the future in terms of maternity and baby loss?
I hope we see a dramatic decline in pregnancies that end in baby loss. We will never be at zero though so I hope the work in supporting parents improves in the future.
This blog post is part of an ongoing spotlight on those working in baby loss. To read more from the It Still Takes a Village Blog Series or to share our own experiences, visit the hub page here.