Communicating with parents
Trigger alert – baby loss

Anyone running a family focused business is likely to meet people who have experienced or been affected by a pregnancy loss or the death of a baby.

According to Tommys 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Sands says

‘The death of a baby is not rare. Every day in the UK around 15 babies die before, during or soon after birth’.
The Lullaby Trust say
‘255 babies and toddlers still die every year of SIDS in the UK’.

SIDS is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

I’m not highlighting this to scare or sadden. I’m sharing these statistics to demonstrate the need for me, as a Certified Infant Massage Instructor, to be loss aware in my communication with parents, and of course with grandparents & siblings, in my classes.

As I communicate via social media, through the booking process and during my classes I am not always aware of the stories of those reading my posts or joining my classes. What have they experienced, or what are they still experiencing?

Having worked for baby loss charities for over a decade, 7 years of those on bereavement support helplines, I know some of what can happen. I have been privileged to hear parents’ stories. I understand some parents want to talk about their baby who died and others choose not to. A decision that I respect and support. I try to communicate with all parents in a way that is understanding, accepting, calm and empathic. In my view, all new parents need this.

"Is she your first"?

Some parents experience mixed emotions during subsequent pregnancies and when parenting after a loss. Some feel anxious about joining antenatal or postnatal classes in case people ask questions or make assumptions about their stories. For example, “Is she your first”?

Baby Loss

Some parents feel confident in answering this question, whether with a “She has a brother at home, and a sister who died”, or a change of subject. There is no right or wrong way to respond to this question. Each parent will explore answers until they find one that feels comfortable for them.

I am mindful of asking this question, though I have asked it in my class. I asked it recently. The response I got was that the babies’ have an older brother who died.

When a parent shares some of their story with me, in whatever way they do that, I feel honoured. I hear what they have told me and I aim to respond with warmth and gratitude. I try and gauge whether they want me to ask about their baby or simply and silently acknowledge them. I don’t see these moments as awkward or difficult. I am aware though, that it might feel that way for the parent or for others in the group. I do reflect on these conversations. I think it’s important to think about my communication and to learn.

As long as I have responded with kindness, acknowledging what has been shared with empathy, focus and warmth, I know I have done my best and I hope the parent and the group feel able to continue to share their stories with me and each other, if they wish to.

Sands - https://www.sands.org.uk/about-sands/baby-death-current-picture, accessed 22/03/19
The Lullaby Trust - https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/professionals/statistics-on-sids/, accessed 28/03/19
Tommys - https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/our-research/research-miscarriage, accessed 22/03/19

March 2019

Author

Cheryl Titherly
Certified Infant Massage Instructor with IAIM
Cai Baby Massage

caibaby.co.uk       @caibabysussex       cheryl@caibaby.co.uk