Vicky Foxcroft’s emotional account in the House of Commons of the heartbreak of losing her five-day-old daughter struck a chord with many – and powerfully brought home the reasons why baby-loss awareness and support are so important.
Visibly shaking as she spoke, it was clearly incredibly painful to speak so openly of her experiences.
Now the MP says making the decision to join the debate was difficult, but “if my story has shone a light on the inadequate level of support available, then it will have been worth every second of pain I went through sharing it.”
Writing for theguardian.com, Foxcroft explains she struggled with whether to tell of losing her daughter Veronica 23 years ago, given even some friends and family didn’t know what she’d been through.
“The thought of sharing something so personal and painful in public was daunting, I could barely even write it down. It was never about being embarrassed or ashamed, it was just too hard to talk about. It still is.”
But she goes on to say that talking is a way to “tackle the taboo” – and that she hopes it will highlight the need for substantial support services, and change the way teenage mothers are sometimes treated.
In what she now describes it as “the hardest speech I have ever had to write”, Foxcroft told of unexpectedly falling pregnant at 16 and how, after Veronica died, “I felt like most people looked at me as I f I should be grateful, and I wasn’t, and I’m not… I was treated like a kid, not like a grieving mum.”
She writes: “It was, and will probably always be the hardest speech I have ever had to write, but I know it was the right thing to do.
“I know because of the emails and phone calls I have had from parents reaching out, parents who are suffering the type of pain you only experience after losing a child. No one can take away the aching sadness that it causes, but we can at least put in place a better support system if it does.”
She goes on to say: “The government’s commitment to a 20% reduction in stillbirth rates by 2020 is a start but the lack of support for parents now suffering the loss of their child should be treated with urgency.
“Fewer than half of doctors and midwives have mandatory training in care after the death of a baby. Only half of maternity units have a room away from a labour ward for bereaved parents.
“Teenage mothers have three times the rate of postnatal depression and a higher risk of poor mental health for three years after the birth. In my constituency, Lewisham Deptford, bereavement counselling has a waiting list of up to four months. This isn’t good enough.”
In her House of Commons speech, the MP admitted she’d not previously heard of Baby Loss Awareness Week, but emphasised the ongoing need for discussions and awareness around miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death.
Read Foxcroft's full article at theguardian.com.
If you need information or support, visit babyloss-awareness.org for a list of charities and organisations.