Viki Ferguson, 45, hopes her experience at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle, will serve as an example to other hospitals who may not currently provide such a high standard of care.
The mother chose to share her story during Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October) after charities revealed current levels of care offered to women after baby loss are “worryingly inconsistent” across the UK.
The charities have called on the government to ensure all hospitals have accessible bereavement rooms and a member of staff to lead on bereavement care.
Ferguson believes these demands are achievable as she received a high standard of care after her stillbirth in 2013.
“I don’t know what more the staff could have done to help us through that time,” Ferguson told HuffPost UK. “Everything they did was for our benefit.”
In March 2013, Ferguson was 35 weeks pregnant with her first child when she went in for a routine scan.
She and her partner Colin knew their daughter had a heart condition, so she was having checkups on a more regular basis than most mothers-to-be.
At the appointment, she was told there was no heartbeat, her baby had died.
“The rest of that afternoon was a bit of a blur,” Ferguson explained. “But what I can remember is how supportive the staff were, they talked us through everything that was going to happen.”
Ferguson was told she had a choice of being induced or waiting for labour to start. She chose to be induced.
What surprised Ferguson when she went back to the hospital to give birth on 16 March 2013, was that she was given a private room away from other pregnant women.
“Within the maternity ward they have a bereavement suite,” she explained. “There are two rooms especially for anyone who will have a stillbirth. It is away from the noise, you can’t hear anyone else in labour or any crying babies.
“It was really well thought out and very self-contained. I had my own bathroom.”
Ferguson was assigned a specially trained bereavement midwife as soon as she arrived. The midwife stayed with her and, even when she finished her shift, a second bereavement midwife took over.
“If you want them there, they are there,” Ferguson explained. “If you wanted to be left alone, they left you alone.
“They looked after us so well, they made sure Colin was looked after as well, he was part of it – they brought another bed in the room so he could stay with me overnight.
“Things like that really made a difference to me.”
“The care was exemplary. I don’t know how it would have felt not to have that. If they want a model to work on, that was it.”
When Ferguson gave birth, she was surprised how comforted she felt by the midwife and staff in the room with her.
“They bathed my daughter, they put her in a babygro and treated her if she was still alive,” the mum explained.
“They were talking to her and made it the nicest experience it could’ve been. It wasn’t like it was all over as soon as she was born. How they treated her meant so much to us.”
Ferguson gave birth at 8.20pm and she and her husband had a couple of hours with their baby that night. The midwife stayed with them until after midnight, speaking to them and checking they were okay.
“I really couldn’t have faulted the care,” she said.
“The next day we had another couple of hours with our daughter and then we had staff coming in to talk us through everything that happens with funerals, who would be in touch with us, and the counselling that was available. It was all the information we needed.”
Ferguson said she didn’t feel rushed to leave the bereavement suite – she was told she could stay as long as she wanted, but she decided to get discharged the next day.
On leaving the suite, she was given a memory envelope with photos, hair, footprints and handprints taken from her daughter, and knitted teddy bear twins – one that stayed with her daughter and one that stayed with the couple.
In the weeks following, Ferguson had a visit from a chaplain to talk through the funeral, two visits from the health visitor, a counselling session, and her GP ensured she didn’t go back to work until she was up to it.
“The care was exemplary,” she added. “I don’t know how it would have felt not to have that. If they want a model to work on, that was it.
“The staff were completely lead by us, I didn’t feel like we were forced into anything. Everything was for our benefit.”
Ferguson believes good care does “not require a complete overhaul of the NHS”.
She said small gestures such as the memory box and the empathy shown by the midwives made her experience as good as it could have been.
“Every hospital should have a midwife or midwives trained in bereavement,” she said. ”Just to have someone to know how to deal with death and what to expect – simple things like that made such a difference.
“It’s shocking that there is a postcode lottery of care.
“It helps so much to have support at a time like that. If there is a consistent level of care, it helps you through the grieving process.”
For information and support:
Sands: Stillbirth and neonatal death charity with a helpline, information online and support groups.
Kicks Count: A charity empowering mums-to-be with knowledge and information about their baby’s movements to prevent baby loss.
Tommy’s: A charity funding research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage, and providing information for parents-to-be.