At yesterday’s Women’s Voices conference among the many interesting speakers there was one phrase in particular that stood out.
Stories that dismay as well as inspire.
This quote is by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, from her book with a title that will no doubt be familiar: Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.
During the Q&A I put up my hand. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I said something along the lines of how that quote had stood out for me. The quote was especially resonant that day (October 1) being the start of Pregnancy and Baby Loss Awareness Month because this is a group of women whose voices are not heard. For example, we bereaved mothers (and fathers) are still actively excluded from the CQC neonatal and maternity patient surveys because to include us would, apparently, be ‘upsetting’. In fact, it is more upsetting to be patronised, excluded, to deny us a voice.
I said how I am recovering from perinatal PTSD, that the support I needed was so long in coming because the respective services failed to notice my needs were perinatal. They were confused by the lack of a baby, you see.
I have been pregnant twice and while I do not have a living child, I am a mother.
We need to make sure that every woman who endures the death of her baby, no matter at what stage it occurs, receives the care and kindness she deserves.
But we can only do that if we listen to these women’s voices. The voices of the partners, too.
That women and their partners should receive care and attention less than they deserve simply because their baby is no longer living is unacceptable.
More than that: it is heaping more pain and distress on top of deep, deep sorrow.
It is already too much to know that the memories you have of your pregnancy, your bump, your baby, are the only ones you will ever have.
No new memories can ever be created.
No milestones can ever be reached.
No celebrations can ever be made.
It is already unbearable to know that the photographs you have, (should you have any), are the only ones you will ever have.
It is already painful to realise that you will never know how that little life will turn out.
That you will never know what they will be like, what they will be interested in, who they would be.
Pregnancy and baby loss – whether miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss – is still a stigma and taboo.
Let’s break that stigma.
Trample on the taboo.
We need to make sure we hear these women’s voices.
We need to make sure we hear about their babies.
We need to say those babies’ names.
We need to remember that they, too, matter.
Let’s enable these voices to be heard.
Because while these stories cause dismay – no one likes to think of babies dying. No one likes to think of the heartbreak – these stories can inspire.
Let these women’s, these mothers voices be heard. Loudly and proudly.
Seek their opinions.
Invite them to speak.
Do not try to silence them.
For, to use the concept of Ulrich’s wider quote, to enlarge our understanding of maternity experience, it must include stories that dismay as well as inspire.
And – let us not forget that despite the sad ending for these babies, they inspire.
They inspire love,
They inspire passion,
They inspire CHANGE.
And that is why these voices need to be heard.
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