Baby Loss Awareness Week

We remember all the babies born sleeping, those we carried but never met, those we held but could not take home, those who came home but could not stay.

Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place every year between 9-15 October. It’s a wonderful opportunity for parents and whaanau to come together and acknowledge precious losses.

In our rohe of Counties Manukau a new team has been created to care for anyone experiencing infant and pregnancy loss. We aim to give anyone touched by this a safe and supportive space to share their experiences and feel that they are not alone.

Counties Manukau used to have two separate services, one for families who lose pregnancies over 20 weeks, and the other to care for people who lose pregnancies under 20 weeks. We’ve now formed a team who look after all women in our rohe who have a pregnancy loss at any point in the pregnancy. All women now get offered the same support, follow up, counselling and memory making regardless of what gestation the pregnancy was lost.

Perinatal Loss Midwife Specialist Lisa McTavish says the new team meet all women who have a diagnosis of pregnancy loss and talk whaanau through the process, explain what their expectations should be, what might happen, and what their options are.

“Some women come in unexpectedly with miscarriage or still births and we don’t have time to make any plans, but we visit all women dealing with pregnancy loss in our wards.”

Lisa says that an important component for parents and families dealing with loss is finding a way to remember their baby, in a way that suits them. 

“Memory making is something that we offer whaanau and Baby Loss NZ are the main charity who support us with this. They do hand and feet castings, hand and footprints, help parents wash the babies and dress them, take photos of that process and keep in contact with those families.

“We also work with Heartfelt who are professional photographers who come in on a voluntary basis and provide photoshoots for the families. They keep a digital database of all the photos, so if they work with a whaanau who perhaps don’t want the photographs straight away, they can have them at a later date.

“Sometimes we have families come back three or four years down the track who feel ready to view them.

The service also works with a charity called huggable hearts.

“The charity is run by a woman in Hamilton who makes heart shaped pillows that are the weight of babies that have been lost. This gives families a tangible thing they can hold which is the same weight as their baby.”

The service also works closely with our amazing bereavement care team to ensure whaanau know what support is available to them, and support through this process.

“Often whaanau who have early losses won’t know what’s available to them, but the service will organise hand and feet castings from as early as 10 weeks. Te Whatu Ora also fund free grief counselling for our families through The Grief Centre once they leave the hospital,” says Lisa.

On Saturday, 15 October from 7pm, Baby Loss NZ  is running an online candle lighting event on their Facebook page during which a candle will be lit for every baby lost. The baby’s name will be read out as a candle is lit for them.

We encourage anyone who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss to register their baby’s name on the Baby Loss New Zealand Facebook page and watch as a candle is lit in their honour.

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