A charity fundraiser who lost his daughter two weeks before her due date says that dads often don’t receive the support they need after stillbirth.
Ben Moorhouse of Halifax, West Yorkshire, and his partner Gaynor Thompson want to raise awareness of issues around stillbirth in the UK, which lags behind many other wealthy countries in the latest statistics, following the death of their first child, Kallipateira, in October 2018.
The Stillbirth Statistics
“Most people think when your pregnancy goes past 20 weeks, you’re safe, but people need to be educated that this does happen,” says Ben, “and the UK stillbirth rate compared to other countries is shocking.”
Although the rate of stillbirth in the UK, defined as the death of an unborn child after 24 complete weeks of pregnancy, has dropped over the last decade, it is still worse than the majority of the world’s other high-income nations. And the petrifying thing is that, no one really knows why. There are a few statistical issues with each nation’s definition of stillbirth differing that might account in some way for the UK’s position in the table, but the fact that 1 in 200 pregnancies in England end in stillbirth seems scarily high.
Ben and Gaynor’s Story
That Gaynor’s pregnancy was so advanced will be another surprise for many who would assume reaching less than a fortnight away from due date meant that the risk had disappeared.
Just hours before the sonographer had to break the terrible news to the couple, Kallipateira had been moving around as normal. Two days later they returned to Calderdale Royal Hospital, where she was born weighing 7lb 3oz.
Although the pair have nothing but praise for the NHS staff who helped them through this most tragic of times, the facilities at the Yorkshire hospital were plainly inadequate for their purpose. The bereavement suite is located right next to the maternity ward and, as they cradled their lifeless daughter in their arms, all they could hear were the unmistakable noises of newborn babies crying.
Support for Dads After Stillbirth
Another painful aspect for Ben was that he felt almost sidelined after the event. As if his feelings didn’t matter and he shouldn’t need to grieve, or at least he was left to grieve alone. Of course attention has to be paid to the bereaved mother after these traumatic events, but dads also need support.
“Everything seems to be based around mums only,” he says, “dads have to be strong, they are expected to go back to work immediately. But they are still part of the family, and they do need to speak more about stillbirth and mental health in general.”
This seems to be the problem. A hangover from the days when men were expected to suffer in silence.
“There’s nothing wrong with people showing their emotions,” insists Ben, “people have said on numerous occasions that I must stay strong for Gaynor, but who’s going to stay strong for me whilst I’m trying to deal with my own grief?”
The problems Ben faced are not exclusive to him. There are numerous stories available to read online that echo his experiences exactly. It’s a societal issue that we need to break down, much like the stigma around mental health, without Twitter-warrior numbskulls like Piers Morgan shouting men who are suffering down as “snowflakes”. Yes, men didn’t used to talk about their feelings, but that doesn’t mean they were okay. People have lived miserable lives, and have taken their lives, because society told them to speak out or to seek help was weak. That must stop.
The good news is that steps are being taken to rectify the situation. Stillbirth charity Sands has written a pamphlet for dads, called Mainly Fathers, and Tommy’s’ website features blogs by dads too. However there is evidently still a way to go when it comes to what actually happens on the ground.
Ben and Gaynor are coming out fighting in the only way they know how. The couple have previously raised a phenomenal £14,000 for the Steve Prescott Foundation between them over the last few years, following a number of extreme challenges.
Last year’s trial saw Ben walk all the way around the coast of Rhodes in 45 hours, during which time the mercury tipped at a sizzling 42 degrees. A heavily pregnant Gaynor was there on the finish line to welcome him back.
This year, the pair have started their own campaign, Stillbirth Awareness and Fundraising.
They hope to spread the word about stillbirth, encourage dads to talk about their feelings after suffering it, and raise money for a new bereavement room at Calderdale Royal.
“I think for the hospital, if we could raise £10,000, it would be a good start,” Ben says, “but I want to raise more – between £15,000 and £20,000, so they can once and for all take this room away from the normal labour ward.”
Events include the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge on Saturday 8th June, where they are inviting anyone who wants to join them to climb the White Rose county’s three biggest mountains and raise money for the cause.
In addition, Ben will take on the 125-mile coast-to-coast walk between Morecambe in Lancashire and Bridlington in Yorkshire. However, he aims to run it within 48 hours.
Are you a dad who has experienced stillbirth? Did you feel you had the support you needed? Let us know in the Comments.