Baby loss should be taught in schools, says bereaved mother

By Nicola Bryan
BBC News

Media caption,
Heatherjane Coombs' first and only child Xander was stillborn at 36 weeks

Baby loss should be taught in school as part of sex education, a woman whose baby was stillborn has said.

Heatherjane Coombs, 44, from Ely, Cardiff, said stillbirth and neonatal death remained a "taboo subject" and children should be told "not every pregnancy ends happily".

Her first and only child Xander was stillborn at 36 weeks in 2003.

The Welsh Government said schools were given the freedom to deliver topics which best meet their learners' needs.

Mrs Coombs said: "Giving birth to a baby you know will never cry, after hearing seven other babies being born is heartbreaking...

"The midwife passed me Xander and I was able to hold him. I spoke to him, told him how I was feeling, how much I loved him and he would always be loved and always be remembered."

Image caption,
Mrs Coombs and her husband Dave have filled their home with mementos of Xander

Mrs Coombs, who is Welsh network coordinator for the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, wants children to be taught about baby loss: "Stillbirth and losing babies is such a taboo subject.

"I just feel that if we target an earlier audience then eventually it won't be taboo anymore.

"[After] that 12-week scan people start telling family and friends that they're pregnant because they think they're home and dry.

"Maybe, when they're doing sex education in schools they could say, 'if you do become pregnant not every pregnancy ends happily'.

"Just planting a bigger story for children and making it an easy topic that they can speak about."

Image caption,
Mrs Coombs and her husband have not been able to have another child since losing Xander

Since losing Xander, Mrs Coombs has suffered two early miscarriages and has not been able to have a child. She now works with Sands to support other women who have suffered a stillbirth or lost a baby in the first month after birth.

Naomi Stocks' son Aneurin died when he was four days old after being born prematurely at 30 weeks in 2012.

The 38-year-old, from Cardiff, then suffered two early miscarriages before going on to have another son who is now three-and-a-half.

She said: "People are still very scared and nervous. They're worried about saying the wrong thing and upsetting you.

"Some people do say stupid things but what was actually more difficult for me was when people didn't mention it at all.

'Still a taboo'

"It's still a taboo. The truth is people like to think it doesn't happen."

She also wants to see schoolchildren taught about neonatal death and stillbirth: "It needs to be done sensitively and at an appropriate age. It needs to be part of the conversation.

"My little boy knows all about his brother. He goes to his grave. For kids who have a brother or sister who's died, if you're having conversations that would be easier for them."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "When planning their health and emotional wellbeing provision, schools are given the freedom to deliver those topics which best meet the needs and experiences of their learners and wider communities.

"Schools are also encouraged to work with specialist providers to support and enhance their delivery of health and emotional wellbeing education."

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