A mother from Northern Ireland who tragically lost her first baby when he was only two-days-old is one of the people involved in helping to set up a support group in the County Tyrone town of Cookstown. Edel Campbell has been working with Steven Guy, the Northern Ireland co-ordinator of SANDS (stillbirth and neonatal death charity) and fellow befriender Ann, to establish a much-needed group for the area where mums and dads can seek help after the loss of a child.
A few years ago, Edel gave birth by Caesarean section after collapsing following an aneurysm which left her on a life-support machine fighting for her life. But as mum rallied round, little Conan tragically passed away, leaving Edel and her husband Brendan devastated.
Edel told me that there is a real need for a group such as this to help parents come to terms with their loss. She pointed out a startling statistic – that each day in the UK, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth.
“It’s a place where people can come for a friendly chat and meet other people in the same situation,” said Edel. “It just helps you to feel normal again and it doesn’t matter if your child passed away recently or if it was 20 years ago, everyone is welcome, no matter what. And there’s no age limit – people may have had miscarriages or stillbirths, or lost babies or toddlers,” she said.
Recalling her similarly tragic experience, Ann, who lost her baby at three-days-old, said she left hospital with two A4 pages with details on ‘what to do after your baby dies.’
“It’s a really traumatic experience for any parent and I didn’t realise there were help and support groups like Sands out there until maybe nine months after,” she said. “That’s when the reality of it just hits you but the hurt lasts a long time and you need that friendship.”
And Edel added: “There’s only so much talking to friends and family you can do. It’s especially difficult at times like Hallowe’en and Christmas when it’s all about children, so a support group is a great way for people to get together and share their feelings.”