Most people would consider the role of a midwife to be a positive and exciting experience every day, one which is filled with joy and plenty of magical moments. Midwives are responsible for helping to bring new life into the world, they are by our side during the most intimate and life changing moments, moments that families will never forget. Yet, inevitably there is a side to the role that many don’t really consider, which is the heartache and tragedy that they also have to encounter. Here at NCIC we have specialist Bereavement Midwives who step up in these moments to take care of those families affected by baby loss.
This week, to coincide with Baby Loss Awareness Week we met with Andrea Ewing, Specialist Bereavement Midwife based at the Carlisle Infirmary. We asked Andrea to share some of her experiences and her advice for anyone who has suffered from baby loss.
Can you describe a little about your current role?
As a bereavement midwife, we provide sensitive holistic care to parents and their families following a baby death either during pregnancy or soon after the baby has been born. The care we provide is parent centred as every parent is unique and has different needs. The experience can vary from a miscarriage, stillborn baby to a neonatal death (where the baby has lived and died). The parents require physical, psychological and emotional support following the death of their baby.
Alongside the wider team of obstetricians, chaplains and midwives our role is to coordinate and help them with the decisions they will encounter during their time from the moment their baby has died to the funeral arrangements and follow up care. We will help them make precious memories of their baby such as taking footprints, a lock of hair and photographs.
We will coordinate their care throughout their time in hospital and also when they go home, making sure they are informed about what is going to happen to their baby. For example if a post-mortem has been arranged, we will ensure the parents are informed when the baby is due back. We will help support parents with making decisions about a funeral and ensure they have an appointment to return to see the consultant to discuss what happened and if there was a reason why the baby died.
What motivated you to do the job/role that you are doing now?
To make a difference to parents and their families going through this traumatic experience is so important. Although it might seem like it is the worst job in the world, it is on the whole rewarding and special. We are helping parents go through an experience they never would have imagined they would have to face and that is all the motivation that is required.
Who else do you work alongside in terms of baby loss support or prevention? Are there any charities that support you, or perhaps a colleague/volunteer that you couldn’t manage without?
We have a local support group in Carlisle where Rosemary and Philip from the Sands charity provide local support for families. I also have to mention that we have an obstetric secretary called Laura Bell who is an amazing support to the parents and staff as she has a real interest in pregnancy loss. The bereavement team is amazing at NCIC where the members include obstetricians, chaplains, midwives, head of midwifery, Gynae nurses who strive to make a difference to women and their families.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention a special SAS Doctor who has worked tirelessly for the maternity bereavement service within our Trust as well as her other specialities. Her name is Dr Laura Hipple and we will be sorry to lose her as she has chosen to take early retirement next year. I would like to thank her for her dedication and commitment to this service on behalf of her colleagues and patients she has looked after over many years.
We have listed the helpline charities here.