#SayTheirName and EastEnders: Helping Break the Taboo of Babyloss

During the past couple of days Twitter has been lit up with photos of beautiful babies, shared by their proud parents. Sadly, these babies will not get to grow up. Their parents wanted the world to know their babies existed, that they are loved, and for others to say their name.

EastEnders character Shabnam gave birth to a stillborn baby boy in a recent episode. Shabnam is played by actress Rakhee Thakrar, who undertook extensive research including talking to mothers who had lost their babies to ensure she was able to portray such an emotive issue as sensitively as could be possible.

On Tuesday evening, she posted a tweet in memory of all the babies and children that don’t get a tomorrow, with the hashtag #SayTheirName.

Zaair is the name of her character’s baby boy, born sleeping.

 

The tweet encouraged legions of bereaved parents to share the names of their lost little ones.

The actress retweeted as many as she could, leading to #SayTheirName trending on Tuesday evening.

I was in Manchester preparing for NHS Expo that evening so unfortunately missed the main body of tweets, but was incredibly moved when I looked up the hashtag.

So many photos of beautiful babies. Some were wrapped in blankets in their parents’ arms, others in moses baskets. Some photos gave a peek of a exquisite, perfectly formed hand or foot, while others shared an image of a hand or foot print.

Some babies were born asleep – some as early as 20 weeks, while others were at full term. Some babies’ time on Earth was only fleeting, whether they had been born prematurely, with a serious condition, or because of illness.

As Rakhee pointed out, the babies and children of these broken-hearted parents do not get a tomorrow.

The parents lose the future they had dreamed of, too.

The timing was particularly poignant, being in the week when children are starting or returning to school. My Hugo would have been a few years away from starting school, but I am aware that the start of school term is a milestone that causes sadness for bereaved parents knowing their son or daughter should be joining the children in their new school uniforms, and that they should be at the school gates tearfully waving them off.

Responses to the storyline, and the tweets, have been overwhelmingly positive. This was a relief for me after reading a few negative responses to the announcement of the upcoming storyline on social media – I really hoped a storyline on such a popular soap opera would help raise awareness about baby loss, and give those who have not lost a baby a small insight in to our world.

Below are just a couple of the supportive tweets.

 

I don’t watch the show, and didn’t watch the episodes because I worried they would be too triggering for me but I understand they were very sensitively portrayed. According to what I’ve read, they showed very crucial things like Shabnam holding and dressing Zaair.

Death in general and baby loss in particular is such a taboo subject meaning many parents don’t know what they are ‘allowed’ to do, or what is ‘acceptable’. I hope no one who watched the relevant episodes has cause to use that learning – but if they do, they now have the knowledge that holding, dressing, and taking photographs of their baby (if they want to) is perfectly acceptable. They will have the opportunity to create precious memories.

The EastEnders storyline exemplifies the positive power of television to inform and educate.

Well done, EastEnders, the BBC, and Rakhee Thakrar.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to #SayTheirName, to show the world that our babies count, that they are valued, and that they matter.

To give us the opportunity to help chip away at the taboo.

13 Comments on #SayTheirName and EastEnders: Helping Break the Taboo of Babyloss

  1. Hannah Budding Smiles
    September 7, 2015 at 2:22 pm (2 years ago)

    Such a beautiful photo of your darling Hugo xx I don’t watch Eastenders but I did decide to watch these scenes and I cried my eyes out for every second of it, thinking about Hugo, my cousin’s son Jack, my friend’s daughter Layla and so many others who sadly aren’t here. The acting was sensitive and beautifully done, I highly commend everyone involved (never thought I’d say that about Eastenders!) Loads of love xxx

    Reply
    • Leigh
      September 7, 2015 at 3:54 pm (2 years ago)

      Oh bless you for watching it lovely Hannah. I hope you only have to know about this experience from tv, and from the experience of others. I love the photo of Hugo too, one of my favourites xxx

      Reply
  2. Sara | mumturnedmom
    September 7, 2015 at 1:53 pm (2 years ago)

    Obviously I wasn’t able to watch, but I’m so glad to hear that it was handled well. This is such an important message and I do hope that it has helped raise awareness and given people a better understanding. Really love that photo of you and Hugo x Thanks so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x
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    Reply
    • Leigh
      September 7, 2015 at 3:54 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Sara xxx

      Reply
  3. Morgan Prince
    September 4, 2015 at 1:41 pm (2 years ago)

    What a beautiful photo of Hugo.

    I don’t watch Eastenders but am glad they have managed to tackle the subject so sensitively. I’m pleased that it has given a chance for grieving parents to share their story.

    You’re right about people not knowing what they should or shouldn’t say to a grieving parent. It’s a difficult topic.

    I marvel at your strength Leigh, you are amazing!

    And I love Hugo’s full name. xxx
    Morgan Prince recently posted…That Fleeting Holiday FeelingMy Profile

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  4. Jo Winwood
    September 4, 2015 at 11:11 am (2 years ago)

    I’m so glad that I read this post. I don’t follow Eastenders so missed the relevant storyline. I have a Twitter friend who has recently gone through this experience and the heartbreak is so real at the moment. Anything that raises awareness and focuses attention on the plight of these wee angels and their parents is welcome.
    Jo Winwood recently posted…The Prompt – FleetingMy Profile

    Reply
    • Leigh
      September 6, 2015 at 6:01 pm (2 years ago)

      You’re right, just talking about it is progress. I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss xxx

      Reply
  5. Mary Smith
    September 4, 2015 at 8:40 am (2 years ago)

    OOOOO another post that got me all teary leigh!! I don’t watch Eastenders but couldnt avoid all the attention it was getting. I think sometimes people forget that this our reality, aint no soap!! What an amazing campaign – may things like this continue and light up such an awful issue x
    Mary Smith recently posted…Infant loss – No one understands but you can be understandingMy Profile

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    • Leigh
      September 6, 2015 at 6:00 pm (2 years ago)

      Absolutely, for some people the pain doesn’t stop when the programme ends. xxx

      Reply
  6. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)
    September 4, 2015 at 8:28 am (2 years ago)

    So glad that the storyline was handled so well and is helping to give a voice to bereaved parents out there – so important that their babies are remembered by name. I love that photo of Hugo that you shared, snuggled close to you – it is such a beautiful photo of your gorgeous boy.
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    Reply
    • Leigh
      September 6, 2015 at 6:00 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you Louise, that picture of me and Hugo is one of my favourites – reminds me of very special times xxx

      Reply
  7. Potty Mouthed Mummy
    September 3, 2015 at 8:07 pm (2 years ago)

    I’m so glad it was handled so well. Because of you and your lovely blog I was aware the story line was coming up and I knew how important it was to you that it was done in the right way. I love this beautiful sentiment, such an important one xx
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    • Leigh
      September 4, 2015 at 8:19 am (2 years ago)

      I’m really glad to know you were aware of the storyline because of my blog, Sian. I’m also pleased it was handled really well. Thanks for your kind comment, lovely xxx

      Reply

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