I lost my baby on a clear May morning nine years ago. The sun went behind the clouds for a second, and bam, suddenly I knew my precious little cargo was no longer with me.
For anyone who has suffered a miscarriage or a baby loss, the pain can be intense in every way. Because from the moment a pregnancy is first discovered, most of us count in days and then weeks, carefully ticking off every milestone, from the twelve-week scan to the first flutters of movement. And as the morning sickness gradually passes, we begin to feel more confident and start looking forward to watching our little bundle of joy grow and thrive. Except, sometimes we don’t. One in four could be the saddest statistic ever,
the reality being that a quarter of parents-to-be will lose their baby along the journey from conception to bringing their tiny newborn home.
Here in the UAE, Joanne Hanson-Halliwell and Lala Langtry White, the forces behind Small and Mighty Babies, are working to improve the bereavement support for families affected by baby and pregnancy loss. They and their team have undertaken a very special project which they have called Upon a Star, to bring memory boxes to families suffering neonatal loss, stillbirth and miscarriage. “Our hope with the project is to use our experience to create a loving and a well-thought memory box for hospitals to offer and give parents the choice to have,” explains Hanson-Halliwell.
“We have involved parents, professionals and medical units who have assisted us to provide a ‘step by step’ so that the parents are treated with the utmost professionalism, love and care in this incredibly sensitive situation.”
Each box, simple in design, contains items which will become important touchstones for parents as they grieve their loss. A notebook to record their thoughts, a private letter to the parents from Little Angels – Love through Loss Support Group, a hand crocheted sleeping cocoon for the baby, a drawstring bag to store those treasured keepsakes, assistance in figuring out the funeral arrangements, grief consultation with Lighthouse Arabia, Treasured Memories Inkless paper kit for hand and footprints, Barefoot Dubai Remembrance
Photography, information to create hand and foot castings, a private letter from Small and Mighty Babies and an Upon a Star candle. Eleven items, each one with a very important purpose, to record a moment in time and a little life that was so important.
Hanson-Halliwell and Langtry White collaborate with other caregivers, all seeking to provide gentle care during a heartbreaking time. Lighthouse Arabia is one of these organisations providing grief support for bereft parents and a safe space to talk about their feelings. It promotes the simple ethos that grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one and that within each of us is the natural capacity to heal one’s self.
There are also a number of support groups enabling those suffering a pregnancy or baby loss, to come together and talk, to cry or simply just to listen. Little Angels in Dubai and Footprints in the Sand in Abu Dhabi both offer solace at this time through weekly coffee mornings and meet-ups.
October is the month that enables us, the one in four, to come out from behind the shadows, the false smiles and the “we’re doing fine” appearances, as we remember those little sparkles of light that we lost. Every year from October 9 to 15 is Baby Loss Awareness Week.
Throughout the week bereaved parents, their families and friends, unite with each other and others across the world to commemorate their babies’ lives. This time also provides an important chance to raise awareness about the issues surrounding pregnancy and baby loss.
This year’s campaign is an important one as it is calling for improved bereavement support for families affected by baby and pregnancy loss, which is exactly what Hanson-Halliwell and Langtry White are striving for. Grief, Hanson-Halliwell believes is really just love. “It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corner of your eyes, the lump in your throat and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go,” she tells us.
I will be lighting a candle for my baby this month, and as the wave of light spreads across the night sky, I hope that anyone who has to become a member of the saddest club in town will find the support they need through programmes such as Upon a Star.
So, please, light your candle and spread the word...
Upon a Star, www.smallandmightybabies. Lighthouse Arabia, www.lighthousearabia, (04 380 9298). Little Angels Support Group Dubai, facebook/littleangelssupport. Footprints in the Sand, Abu Dhabi, facebook/footprintsinthesandUAE. Baby Loss Awareness Week, www.babyloss-awareness.org.