Sunday 19 August 2018

'Unfortunately, there's still a view that parents should just 'forget about' infant death' - charity chief

The chairperson of a stillbirth and neonatal charity in Ireland has said that
The chairperson of a stillbirth and neonatal charity in Ireland has said that "there's still a view that parents should just 'forget about' infant death."
Viewers have praised the handling of an emotional topic as Kym Marsh and Simon Gregson lost their baby at birth
Amy Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

The chairperson of a stillbirth and neonatal charity in Ireland has said that "there's still a view that parents should just 'forget about' infant death."

On Wednesday evening, Coronation Street was praised for "raising awareness" about stillbirths after Michelle Connor, played by Kym Marsh, lost her baby at 23 weeks.

"This subject has been very taboo for far too long. Sharing is absolutely imperative to being able to put the pieces of your jigsaw back together," Marsh said of the heartbreaking issue.

However, Mairie Cregan, chairperson and co-founder of Feileacain, the stillbirth and neonatal death association of Ireland, said that Ireland still has a long way to go when it comes to infant death.

"There is still a view in our community that infant death should not be discussed - that parents should 'forget about it' and 'get on with their lives,'" she told Independent.ie.

"They are still told that they 'have other children to be grateful for', 'you are young and can have more', and a number of other statements meant to be helpful but are in fact deeply wounding.  What people are saying, while trying to offer comfort, is that 'this baby doesn't matter - he or she is replaceable.'"

"Families never forget a baby who has died, and often we have mothers coming to the end of their life reaching out to Feileacain to help them find their child's grave - they never forget."

Mairie said that while Michelle and her husband Steve McDonald's storyline in Coronation Street was dealt with "sensitively and accurately" for the most part, it "jumped a bit too fast into the future."

Viewers have praised the handling of an emotional topic as Kym Marsh and Simon Gregson lost their baby at birth
Viewers have praised the handling of an emotional topic as Kym Marsh and Simon Gregson lost their baby at birth

"Wednesday night's episode of Coronation Street where baby Ruairi was born too soon was powerful viewing, and for the most part was dealt with sensitively and accurately. 

"In Ireland we have a set of National Bereavement Standards which would mean that hopefully the couple would have been more prepared for what was to happen once the couple were told of the onset of Michelle's early labour - and all staff entering the labour room would have introduced themselves and their role and try to reassure the couple as best they could.

"It also jumped a bit too fast to the future when Michelle spoke of how many children she will tell people that she has, as most couples at this stage are trying to get though the next few days and organise the funeral. 

"Our experience is that this issue does not raise its head for a few weeks or months."

If you want to support a bereaved parent and acknowledge their loss, Mairie suggests calling the baby by his or her name.

"Let the parents talk about the child and don't run away from them because you don't know what to say," she advises.

"Tell them that you are sorry and find it hard to put into words how sad you feel for the parents, but that you are there for them. 

"Don't tell them you know how they feel unless you too, have had a very similar experience.

"Many people ignore a baby's death rather than risk upsetting the parents, but remember - they are already upset. 

"If they cry that's ok.  If they don't want to talk at this time they will let you know, but they will be grateful that their child has been acknowledged.

"Remembering birthdays and anniversaries is also very important as well as Mother's and Father's Day - bereaved parents are still parents, even if our children aren't with us."

If you've been affected by this article or storyline, you can contact Feileacain on 0852496464 or feileacain.ie.

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