Two bereaved parents have come together at Birmingham Women’s Hospital to unveil artist impressions of a brand-new, purpose-built centre, where heartbreaking pregnancy and neonatal loss conversations can take place.
Space within the hospital is limited and as such conversations currently take place in rooms and locations that don’t reflect the significance of a family’s loss. Patients often speak of feeling rushed and of having ‘nowhere to go’ after receiving devastating news.
To change this, Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity intends to raise £3.5million to make Woodland House – the name of the planned centre – a reality.
Lynette Parkes, from Hagley, and Leon James, from Great Barr, have both been on the receiving end of such terrible news.
Lynette was seven months pregnant, when she was told her baby had died. The news came as a total shock to the then first-time mother, who was advised to go home, collect an overnight bag and return to the hospital to give birth.
Leon’s wife, Amy, went into premature labour at 23 weeks. Their son Ezra passed away in their arms just three hours later.
Approximately 2,000 women experience loss at Birmingham Women’s Hospital every year, whether that is through miscarriage, failed IVF, stillbirth or neonatal death.
The appeal will see Birmingham Women’s Hospital set the standard for pregnancy loss and neonatal death care, nationally.
Dr Fiona Reynolds, Chief Medical Officer at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our bereaved families will never forget the time they spend with us and whilst we can never ease the heartbreak of losing a precious child, we can create an environment that recognises and honours their loss.
“Our plans for Woodland House mean that, in the future, women and couples facing the terrible shock and distress of loss will be able to spend time together as a family in a quiet, non-clinical space away from the hustle and bustle of the main hospital. They will be given all the privacy and support they need during one of the most upsetting and difficult personal experiences imaginable.”
Woodland House will be the first of its kind in a hospital setting and has been designed following patient feedback, which advocated the need for a standalone facility that was quiet and private.
Located to the right of the hospital’s main entrance, the new centre will feature separate and private access and will boast bespoke counselling rooms, a private garden, a large communal lounge area for support groups, and a family room with its own private access and garden. It will also have a private and sensitive mortuary, offering families the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones in comfort and serenity.
Explaining how a space like Woodland House will have benefited her, Lynette remembers: “We were completely devastated. Everyone was gentle and supportive, but coming back with my hospital bag was so distressing. I looked like any other expectant mother – someone even wished me good luck on the way in.”
Lynette gave birth to a little boy, James. She and her husband Matt were able to spend precious time with their son.
She added: “James was tiny, but absolutely beautiful, and looked like any other newborn. We both cherish every second that we spent with him. However, the suite we were in was next to the delivery suite. All we could hear were the healthy cries of other people’s babies. It was so hard to be in a place that was so geared up for new life. We left the hospital by the back entrance to avoid see other mums and dads with their babies. Having Woodland House will mean so much to families facing the unbearable pain of losing their child.”
Leon added: “Ezra was born, lived and died in the same room on the delivery suite. We were in there for hours. The midwives and doctors came to visit us, but we just felt trapped and wanted to escape. We wanted to get away from the room and the negative space where our world had just been turned upside down.
“When we went to visit our son in the mortuary, we had to walk past people who were just going about their day – happily chatting away without a care in the world. It felt like we had a secret to hide. Having somewhere like Woodland House would have provided that private safe-haven for us where we could grieve in our own time.”
Woodland House is the first major appeal at the hospital in 10 years, since the Tiny Babies, Big Appeal launched in 2009.
By raising £3.5million, Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity will be able to improve the lives of thousands of women who experience pregnancy or neonatal loss at the hospital every year.
Building work will only start when the money needed has been raised.
Find out more about the Woodland House Appeal or make a donation online at bwh.org.uk/woodland-house. Or to donate £5, text WOODLAND to 70970 (standard terms apply).