On what should have been a joyful day, the due date of my firstborn daughter, Jenna, I found myself grieving for the child I never got to hold. Jenna died in utero (Intra-partum Death) due to hypoxia caused by Pre-Eclampsia that progressed to HELLP Syndrome, a life-threatening complication that can occur in pregnancy. Losing a child is a profound and life-altering experience that leaves an indelible mark on one's heart and soul. It's a pain that never fully goes away, and many parents struggle with feelings of grief, guilt, and isolation for years. Depending on the circumstances of your loss, those feelings of guilt may be heightened. I had to work through the mental and emotional trauma of coming close to my own mortality. While I was rushed into an emergency caesarean section, I was unaware of the urgency of delivering my daughter. I thought that they had found a faint heartbeat, that's what they told me, what I didn't know was that it was MY heartbeat, they were losing me ... rushing me in for an emergency c-section meant saving my life. My daughter had already died.
Since losing my firstborn daughter Jenna, I have been blessed with two beautiful children, both of whom were born early due to pre-eclampsia. While their births were challenging, I am grateful for their presence in my life every day.
In the UK, it is estimated that around 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, and around 1 in 200 births will be stillborn. According to the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS), approximately 15 babies die before, during, or shortly after birth every day in the UK. Additionally, it is estimated that around 3,500 babies die each year in the UK from stillbirth or neonatal death.
In South Africa (Jenna’s birth country), the statistics are similar. According to a study published in the South African Medical Journal, the stillbirth rate in South Africa is around 14.7 per 1,000 births. Additionally, the infant mortality rate is 22.1 per 1,000 live births, which means that approximately 1 in 45 infants will not survive to their first birthday.
Child loss can have a profound impact on the mental health of parents. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that parents who experience the loss of a child are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation. Additionally, parents who have experienced child loss may struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation.
Mothers who have experienced child loss face specific challenges when returning to work. They may struggle with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and sadness, and may find it difficult to focus on their job responsibilities. Additionally, they may face insensitive comments or a lack of understanding from colleagues or employers who have not experienced similar losses. To support mothers (and fathers) who have experienced child loss, companies can create policies that provide paid leave, flexible work arrangements, and counselling services. These policies can help mothers (and fathers) to take the time they need to grieve and heal, while also staying connected to their jobs and colleagues.It's important for companies to raise awareness of child loss and to create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture for all parents.
At ASquared, as a People First Employer, we have signed up to the Pregnancy Loss Pledge, and we commit to supporting our staff through the distress of child loss. We provide counselling with Spill and encourage access to peer support groups with charities like SANDS. We recognise that every person's grief journey is unique, and we strive to create a workplace culture that is compassionate, inclusive, and supportive of all parents.
In conclusion, child loss is a difficult and painful experience that affects many families each year. On this Mother's Day, let's honour the memory of the children we have lost, while also recognising the importance of creating supportive workplaces that acknowledge and address the impact of child loss on mental health. By raising awareness of this issue and providing support to families who have experienced loss, we can help to reduce the stigma surrounding child loss and create a more compassionate and inclusive society for all.