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.
For all the babies and children that don't get a tomorrow #SayTheirName @SandsUK pic.twitter.com/Ff5xmenBoj
— Rakhee Thakrar (@RakheeThakrar) September 1, 2015
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.
@RakheeThakrar handled a sensitive subject outstandingly. I hope her on screen bravery helps others to grieve #SayTheirName
— Sarah Dowd (@AuthenticMuffin) September 2, 2015
The only campaign that has raised my awareness thank you @RakheeThakrar for being just simply beautiful for starting this #SayTheirName 😘
— Sharon Sandhu (@gooness78) September 2, 2015
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.
@RakheeThakrar my beautiful boy Hugo Christopher Dylan Parker 20/2/14 – 37/3/14 #SayTheirName #HugosLegacy pic.twitter.com/YHMtaSrwzi
— Leigh Kendall (@leighakendall) September 3, 2015