The death of a child - whether that is through a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or afterwards - is one of the most devastating experiences a family can suffer. As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week, ELIZABETH BIRT visited a group of mums in Pontllanfraith who found strength in each other.

GRIEF is always challenging to come to terms with - but when it's a child who dies the parents can feel like their world has ended.

Although counselling sessions are available, some parents who have gone on to have another child after losing one have said there is a lack of support - as well as an element of stigma.

One mum, Laura Jones, found this out the hard way after the death of her second child, Hollie, during birth. Mrs Jones, who already had a daughter, Isla, eight, said she found Hollie's death extremely difficult to cope with - and was shocked to hear other mums talking about how it must have been something she had done during the pregnancy, despite almost losing her own life during the birth.


And when her third child, Ellis - her "rainbow child" - was born three years ago, Mrs Jones found attending baby and toddler groups daunting and awkward due to the reactions of other parents when they asked what she called "the dreaded question" - “is he your first?”

“I would brace myself for the question, not knowing how they would respond when I briefly explained about Hollie," she said. "Most of the time, they wouldn’t know what to say and would just walk away. It made me uncomfortable.”

Mrs Jones didn’t know anyone else who had gone through the same thing as her, and came up with the idea of setting up a support group for people who have had children after the death of a child.

“People thought I was crazy to try and do it on my own," she said.

"I never expected it to be a big group and in fact I was worried that there would not be anyone else turning up.”

The mums have shared their stories as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week, which runs from Wednesday, October 9 to Tuesday, October 15. The theme of this year's campaign is 'Break the Silence'.

As part of the campaign, a baby loss memorial service will be held at St Julians Methodist Church in Newport, at 2.30pm on Sunday, October 13. The event has been organised by Newport-based charity Ffion's Gift, which was set up by Sarah Davies after she and her partner David Hope lost their daughter Ffion, who was stillborn in March 2015 after a diagnosis of chromosome disorder Edwards Syndrome was made during pregnancy.

South Wales Argus:

Sarah Davies

Last year, Newport Civic Centre clock tower was lit up in pink and blue to mark the awareness week - one of scores of buildings across the UK to deliver a very visual message about baby loss and the need to talk about it. And the civic centre has been lit up again this year, and other sites will also project pink and blue, including SSCL (Shared Services Connected Limited) at Celtic Springs Business Park in Newport, and King Financial Services in Pontnewydd in Cwmbran. The balustrades at Newport's Friars Walk shopping centre will be first pink, then blue, as the week progresses.

Mrs Jones said she was especially thankful to Rev Sue Phillips, minister at the Elim Baptist Church, for letting the group - dubbed Butterflies - use a room at the church for their weekly meetings since it was formed in September 2017.

Angela Carroll, from Risca, lost her second child, Libby, in 2014. When Libby she was born she had undeveloped lungs, and was rushed from the Royal Gwent Hospital to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital. After three weeks there, she was transferred to Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales - but died aged just six months. Mrs Carroll, who already had a son, Evan, now eight, has sine welcomed a "rainbow child", three-year-old Rosie.

“I saw about the group on Facebook and went along to the first session," she said. "Now I help Laura to run it.”

Mrs Jones said: “On the first session, Angela turned up and has been here ever since,” she said.

Another long-serving member Lizzie joined the group after a chance meeting with Mrs Carroll when they both took their children to a swimming lesson.

Lizzie, who lost her first-born child, Joel, has since gone on to have three more children.

She believes the simple gesture of the group has made a massive difference to her.


"It’s just a massive difference to have that understanding," she said. "It's nice to have people who get the tension of the blessing of the children you have but also the feeling of sadness at missing the child you have lost.”

The group is not all sadness, despite the topic that is bringing them together. It is a place for them to laugh and enjoy each other’s company and help each other when they are struggling.

Mrs Jones said: “Parenting after loss is different than parenting in general. Your whole world has crashed around you and then you have to carry on for the sake of your new child.

“Everyone who attends the group has a different story that centres around the loss of their child. We have some who lost their child at the age of seven, others through miscarriage or stillbirth.

“It’s nice to have a safe space where we all have a secret understanding.

“We’re the same as any other baby/toddler group but we’re all angel mums. Here there is none of the awkward treatment from the normal groups. We already know that if you’re attending, you have lost a child."

Butterflies meets at Elim Baptist Church in Pontllanfraith every Monday between 10am and midday.

South Wales Argus: