I would describe being a same sex couple experiencing baby loss as being in a small pond, within a small pond. Whilst neither pond is actually that small once you start swimming around in it – you have to search far and wide to find others like yourself.
Our son died when I was 37 weeks pregnant, unexpectedly. We went, abruptly, from debating baby names and pottering around his nursery to working out how to deliver a baby who could not cry, registering his still birth and planning his funeral. Surreal is such an insufficient word for it.
Life doesn’t equip you to understand how to deal with your child dying. We were in unknown territory at every turn. We still are, two years on. What we did learn quickly was how relatively common baby loss is. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a loss, with 15 babies a day in the UK dying before, during or after birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Leo was one of those babies born on the 17th January 2016, dying just three days earlier.
Behind those statistics, are babies, parents, grandparents, siblings, families, friends, colleagues. The impact of baby loss is far reaching, and the social cost is huge. It affects peoples mental and physical health, relationships and employment. Sadly, support can be limited and varied, often non-existent. There are some incredible charities working relentlessly to not only reduce the number of babies dying, but to improve support and care following a baby's death. But for some, they are alone, scared, and broken.
One of the first places we ventured to for support was social media. Social media gets a sketchy reputation, but very quickly I realised its power in connecting us with others who have been there, who get it, who aren't afraid to have the conversation, who are willing to hear Leo's name and his story, who are passionate about improving care and who are proud, so very proud of their babies. These people are now my closest friends. I know their stories. I hold a place in my heart for their babies. We've walked the same, dark and unmapped road together.
Baby loss is varied - there are so many experiences. Often, when we are looking for evidence of not being alone, we seek experiences that reflect our own, in some small way. This is in part, why I started Leo's blog, The Legacy of Leo - to tell his story and add it to the collection of stories out there for others to read and relate to. I've always known that being open about our baby loss experiences whilst also being a same-sex couple is important - when I look around, there aren't many other couples sharing their story, yet baby loss occurs in 1 in 4 pregnancies - and it doesn't discriminate. It can and will sadly happen to any type of family.
Throughout the past two years there have been times when other same-sex couples have been signposted to our blog and Leo’s story, by fellow readers or even charities and healthcare professionals. It’s not that heterosexual couples can’t provide support (of course, any support is hugely valuable), it’s just that there can be different layers to the confusion of baby loss when you are LGBT, from conception to identity and everything in-between. Charities and support organisations are inclusive in recognising that same sex couples are also affected by baby loss, but often there is only one or two examples of families that have been affected. Whilst this is brilliant, there are so many variabilities in each story that mean it can be tricky to find another experience that echoes yours. And similarities, whatever they are, help us to feel less alone.
This is why I’m setting up the #LGBTBabyLoss blog series, as an ongoing collection of experiences, diverse and varied, from across the world. Not just people’s loss experience, but also how they have adapted and responded to the death of their child. The more experiences shared, the more chance that the next couple who needs support, will find a family and loss experience that looks like theirs. There is power in knowing you aren’t alone, and it can have a huge impact on your healing.
I am also passionate about everyone having their voice heard, so I am keen to share this blog series with charities, organisations and health care professionals. Each and every experience has lessons, small or large - they are all valuable, and should be heard. By creating this collection of blogs, on loss, love and life, it is my hope that others will also start to further understand the dynamics of baby loss overall and for an LGBT family specifically, and with that, improve care and inclusivity within maternity and health services.
If you would like to share your experiences, please do get in touch - [email protected]