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Baby Loss Awareness Week

Baby Loss Awareness Week

First Touch garden
The First Touch garden at St George’s

Sarah Collins, Charity Director at First Touch, who support sick & premature babies at St George's in Tooting, writes about Baby Loss Awareness Week and this Sunday’s annual Neonatal Memorial Service.

This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week. That's absolutely not to say that we shouldn't always be aware of the impact of baby loss on families, but this week focusses on bringing what is often seen as a taboo subject out into the open. 

Baby loss has many forms. At the neonatal unit we know that tragically, despite the love from the family and the best medical intervention from St George's staff, some of the babies born early or sick at St George's are too poorly to make it home, and die at the neonatal unit.

As a charity, we try to support bereaved families through this awful time. We fund two bereavement training days each year for nurses, so that they are equipped with the knowledge and best practice to enable families to say goodbye to their babies with dignity and in the least rushed way possible. Our supporters have enabled us to purchase cold cots for the NNU, which allow families to spend precious time with their babies after they have passed away.

We provide Memory Boxes for every bereaved family, with a memory card for photos, a tiny box to hold a precious lock of hair, a blanket, special ink to take an imprint of their baby's hand and footprints and two teddies – one to stay with the baby and an identical one to stay in the Memory Box. At times when families have been overwhelmed with worry about financial struggles we have paid for a baby's headstone. The Quiet Room at the NNU, which First Touch refurbished largely thanks to the fundraising of long term supporters Suzie Radford and Angela Hegarty, can be used by families to spend time with their baby before and after they pass away.

Each year, First Touch funds the Neonatal Memorial Service at the hospital, where families and staff come together to remember babies who died. Organised by the NNU's counsellors, Patricia and Lesley, the service features readings, songs, lighting of candles, hanging the names of babies on a memory tree and saying the names of babies who are loved and lost. It is emotional, sad, reflective, yet uplifting. Some people have been attending for over twenty years, for some newly bereaved families this will be their first time. Everyone is welcome.

The message we receive from bereaved families most often is a request that we remember their babies and say their names. That we all acknowledge the brief, tiny life and the huge loss.

The annual Neonatal Memorial Service will take place at 3pm this Sunday, October 14th, at the Spiritual Centre, ground floor, Lanesborough Wing at St George's

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