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Oct 11

Baby Loss Awareness Week loses baby

Antoinette Sandbach MP: raised Baby Loss Awareness Week

Antoinette Sandbach MP: raised Baby Loss Awareness Week

A Conservative MP’s question about Baby Loss Awareness Week has highlighted some unfortunate political correctness, as well as the need for church support for bereaved parents.

Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) lost her own baby at five days of age. She is leading a House of Commons movement for better bereavement counselling. Miss Sandbach, who is married to sculptor Matthew Sherratt, initiated a Commons debate yesterday. She brought up the matter again during Prime Minister’s Questions today.

Miss Sandback said (at 12:41): ‘On Monday, at the start of ‘Baby Loss Awareness Week’, this Conservative Government launched eleven pilot projects into a National Bereavement Care Pathway. This ground-breaking pathway supports parents who have lost a child starting from conception to the age of one. Can I ask the Prime Minister to congratulate the parents the charities and the health professionals that have worked so hard to develop this project and to make sure this is rolled out on a wider level once the lessons from this pilot have been learned’.

The Prime Minister responded: ‘Well, I’m very happy to join my right honourable friend in congratulating all those who have worked so hard on this issue which of course brings such distress to so many people including, I know, members of this House and I am sure everybody will want to join me in marking Baby Loss Awareness Week. There was as I know a debate yesterday and I pay tribute to those from across the House who spoke very movingly about their own experience and I’m happy as my honourable friend asks to welcome the launch of a pilot of the National Bereavement Care Pathway this week.’

Improve bereavement care?

Mrs May went on to pledge funding for charities and NHS departments to ‘improve the level of bereavement care’ in the NHS. She voiced an expectation that the project would indeed be rolled out ‘nationally’ in October 2018. As health is a devolved matter throughout the United Kingdom, by ‘nationally’ she meant ‘in England’.  All the same, some of us (remembering’ Liverpool’) might recoil at the idea of an NHS ‘Pathway’ for bereavement – or anything else.

The grief of losing a baby, or indeed of never having one, lasts a lifetime. Minister of State Philip Dunne at the Department of Health spoke first in the debate to which Mrs May referred. He spoke movingly of the ‘numbers of babies who are lost too soon through miscarriage, stillbirth or other causes such as sudden infant death syndrome’. Naturally, being the minister, he wanted to ‘reduce the numbers’.

The Office for National Statistics reveals ‘there were 2,517 infant deaths (deaths under 1 year) in England and Wales in 2014, compared with 2,686 in 2013 and 6,037 in 1984  In 2014, the infant mortality rate was 3.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, the lowest ever recorded in England and Wales’.  ONS figures also record there were 3,284 stillbirths in England and Wales in 2013.  That figure has also reduced   The numbers of miscarriages are not recorded.

There inevitably comes a point at which the numbers of miscarriages, stillbirths and neo-natal deaths cannot fall much further. There can and should be more foetal heart monitoring. Mothers can and should be urged to stop smoking ‘for baby’. Nevertheless, families will still be bereaved and parents will still cry out like king David:

2Sam 12:23b ‘I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.’

Serenity Suite

The Forever Stars Serenity Suite

The Forever Stars Serenity Suite

Anna Soubry MP (Broxtowe) (Con) has been described as a ‘Remoaner’ on these pages for her stolid opposition to Brexit. In this debate she congratulated a charity called ‘Forever Stars’. This was ‘started by two of my constituents’, she said, ‘who sadly lost their baby, Emily, who was stillborn’.

Through their charity, Michelle and Richard Daniels raised £115,000 to build and equip what they call a ‘Serenity Suite’ for parents of stillborn and neonatal babies at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. Decorated in lilac, this is a sort of hotel room-cum-bedsit with a calming seascape view on the wall.

The decoration speaks of an emotional if not a spiritual need in parents suffering such bereavement. Even the name ‘Serenity Suite’ tells us of the need for a tranquility we know is only truly found in Christ. Christian symbolism would not be welcome in a room like that in today’s multi-cultural NHS.  So is a State or a secular version of bereavement counselling ever going to work?  Or should the expertise and understanding of churches nationally, not just in Nottingham, be employed here?  The Church is more aware of emotional and spiritual needs than the State and far better equipped to minister to them.

Baby Loss Awareness Week has intellectual conflict

Which brings us to a strange intellectual conflict rumbling away underneath this whole wider debate. During the debate not one MP said parents had ‘lost a foetus’. Not one spoke of ‘pregnancy loss’.

In PMQ’s, Antoinette Sandbach spoke of the loss of ‘a child starting from conception to the age of one’. Mr Dunne, in the debate, referred more than once to ‘babies who die during pregnancy’.

However, the Baby Loss Awareness Week website steers clear of talking about ‘babies’ lost before birth. Instead, it speaks awkwardly of ‘pregnancy and baby loss’. The website goes to call for bereavement support for families affected by ‘baby and pregnancy loss’. At the same time its Twitter hashtag is simply ‘#babyloss’. What mother suffering a miscarriage says she has ‘lost a pregnancy’?  She says she has lost a baby.

So why is Baby Loss Awareness Week tiptoeing around common sense?  The reason is this.  It is politically incorrect to refer to what is in the womb as ‘a baby’. If it was ‘a baby’ their friends in family planning would not be able to kill it by abortion, would they?  Naturally, there will be no ‘Awareness Week’ for babies lost through abortion.  The State will offer no counselling for those bereaved mothers.  But how embarrassing that Baby Loss Awareness Week has itself lost its baby.

Abortions at a five-year high

Last year, according to the Guardian, the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales was the highest in five years. The paper says the surge was ‘driven by growing numbers of women in their 30s and 40s who are terminating a pregnancy’.  185,824 abortions were carried out on women and girls in England and Wales in 2016, with a further 12,063 in Scotland.  Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom not to allow this barbaric practice.

The abortion figures are thirty-two times the number of stillbirths and neo-natal deaths.  Every one of those abortions is an insult to the parents described by Miss Sandbach and Mr Dunne who have suffered the loss of a baby before birth. Even more so is it an insult to those couples who would dearly love a baby but have been unable so far to conceive.

The NHS will spend money on bereavement suites and better neo-natal care.  if the former is questionable, the latter is wonderful.  But at the same time it will be funding abortions elsewhere in the same hospital.

Schizophrenic thinking

Philip Dunne MP: Schizophrenic thinking

Philip Dunne MP: Schizophrenic thinking

The House of Commons last debated abortion in 2008. Philip Dunne MP voted against reducing the limit on abortions even to 22 weeks. He voted against counselling for mothers offered abortion in the case of an alleged handicapped baby. (Miss Sandbach and Mrs Soubry were not in the House then.) In yesterday’s debate he spoke of ‘babies who die during pregnancy’. In 2008 he voted to kill them.

Mr Dunne’s schizophrenic thinking is typical of our society as a whole. How this United Kingdom needs collectively to come to its senses and repent.

Deut 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

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  1. Rox

    The Forever Stars Serenity Suite would send me barmy. My first thought was “Why have they put a purple bed in a kitchen ?” Yuk !

    Something more like a traditional pub would be better.

  2. Rox

    Stephen’s point about the word “baby” is a clever one. But language does not, most of the time, involve carefully defined unchanging use of words in the way which is usually necessary in science. You’re right — people that were looking forward to having a baby, will think of these events as “losing their baby”. But people who never wanted a baby, will think of the foetus as just a foetus, and will want to prevent the foetus from turning into a baby by being born.

    It’s not unnatural that the same well-meaning person might use the word “baby” or “foetus” when discussing the predicament of couples in the different circumstances. It would be crass to say “Don’t make a fuss, it was only a foetus” to a woman who has lost the hope of a baby. But it would also be crass to say “That is a baby, not just a foetus” to a woman who for some unavoidable reason (as she sees it) feels unable to carry on with the pregnancy, until it really does produce a breathing baby with a birth certificate, and looking remarkably like Winston Churchill.

    It’s a popular myth, or it used to be anyway, but schizophrenia is not the same thing as displaying two distinct personalities in a Jekyll and Hyde manner. That is called “fugue”, and is not so common or so clear-cut as in fiction. Yet in reality, the sufferer may go off exclusively as the new person for an extended period. The distinctive feature of schizophrenia is hearing voices which tell the sufferer to do things; but he is in no doubt that he remains himself, while being to some extent controlled by the voices from outside him.

    Remove the examples in this paragraph if you wish. The Bible is full of people who might be diagnosed by earthly psychiatrists as schizophrenic, and so of course is the communion of saints. St Joan is an obvious example. But fugues are much less common: possibly Saul / Paul might be thought an example (it’s true that he didn’t forget who he had been before, but recovered fugue patients retrieve lost memories too).

    1. Stephen

      No, a match in a match-box is still a match. It does not wait until it comes out of the box to be a match. What is it in the box if not a match? What is a baby in the womb if not a baby? Foetus is just a Latin word which means ‘offspring’. But we use it when we are too embarrassed to admit there is really and truly a human baby the mother is carrying which we want to destroy.
      Yes, I do know this about schizophrenia, but it is a convenient expression to use. As in the old medical joke, ‘There’s a conference on schizophrenia coming up; I’ve half a mind to go…’
      The Apostle Paul repented of his sins and became an Ambassador for Christ. Repentance is not to be confused with medical conditions. Unless you are a Stalinist, of course.

      1. Rox

        It’s not quite like a match in a box, though, is it ? What about the contents of a fertilised egg ? When you eat your boiled egg, the tiny red speck which you sometimes find is not exactly a chick. You would never say “I had a little chick for breakfast today”.

        The milk in a churn is not still milk when it comes out of the churn as butter. Yet it has only been moving about. You can put milk in a cylindrical jar, roll it around the floor, and take it out as butter.

        The bread in a toaster does not emerge as bread after its allotted time in the toaster. It comes out as toast. But you never called it toast before you switched the toaster on. It’s somewhat unclear at what stage the “bread” becomes “toast” during the heating process, but towards the end. If you take it out too soon, it is not proper toast.

        You don’t just take a match out a box, admire it, and put it back. You strike it. That is the birth (or death) moment of the match, and the match is never the same afterwards.

        Perhaps Paul was not a very good example, but I did say “might be thought”. Not by me. I’m not a Stalinist, good heavens ! Can you think of a better example of a possible fugue in the Bible ? I did say it was a rare condition except in fiction. However, recovered fugue patients do tend to feel ashamed of what they did as the other person, so perhaps it could be argued by an earthly psychiatrist that “repenting of sins” is a way of dealing with that.

        1. Stephen

          You did not change as you passed into the daylight. You were not toasted or churned or struck on the way. You just started to breathe on your own. Abortion cannot survive among a people with clear thinking. That’s because a baby always dies.

  3. Rox

    And the egg ?

    Except your matchbox, all examples involve a continuous process within the container.
    Obviously foetuses are not literally toasted or churned. The whole point is that it’s difficult to say exactly when the toast, butter, or baby takes on its new identity inside the container.

    But your match is quite different, because it leaves the box unchanged, and changes suddenly afterwards when somebody strikes it .

    1. Stephen

      Except it is not at all difficult to tell when the baby takes on its identity. It is at the precise moment when sperm fertilises egg and all its genetic make-up is established. All the baby has to do then is grow. And we call that moment ‘conception’. There will never have been anyone like that in the world before and there never will be again. And that in itself is quite astonishing.

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