I am one of the “lucky” ones. I have had two simple pregnancies. I have carried both my beautiful babies to full term and had normal deliveries without major complications. I have held my minutes old miracles in my arms and wondered at how they were once living inside me. Not everyone gets that gift.
There are many out there who know the loss and pain of miscarriage, still birth and other complications. In the UK alone there are 250,000 babies lost through miscarriage and around 4,000 stillbirths every year. One woman has sought to reach out to those affected by this in a moving and personal way. I spoke to Zoe Clark-Coates from The Mariposa Trust (more widely known by its leading division Sayinggoodbye.org) to find out more:
Rachel: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Zoe: There’s a saying that goes “your life will make sense if you look at it in reverse” and that is so apt for me. I started my own business at a young age and while doing that I trained to be a counsellor, as it was something I had a real personal passion for. Andy (my husband) and I then set up an international company in events, PR and marketing. It quickly became a success when we secured BUPA as our first client. It was then that my biological clock started ticking. After a while, I knew I was pregnant, but sadly, it ended in miscarriage.
Within a couple of months, we were blessed to get pregnant again and this time, it felt more real. I had two scans where I could hear the heartbeat and see our baby kicking away, showing no signs of distress or concern. But then one evening I felt a sudden rush of blood, and I knew that my baby had just died. I knew that her little heart was no longer beating within her or me. Two days later we were able to get another scan to see if the baby was ok, but my question was met with the worst answer “Zoe, I’m sorry to say there isn’t a heartbeat”. Luckily I had my husband – my hero – with me for the turbulent weeks that followed, not always knowing what to say, but being wise enough to know that words aren’t always needed and that just to hold me would often be enough.
Two months later I lost my third baby via a miscarriage. Then we got pregnant again and following a scary pregnancy where we had fortnightly scans, we were finally handed our beautiful daughter. The relief was profound, and there are no words to explain the elation of finally getting to hold and protect my tiny little girl.
I went on to experience another missed miscarriage followed by a traumatic pregnancy where one twin sadly died but the other braved it all and appeared as our miracle baby! Following losing the babies we wanted to do something to help others, and so started a not for profit division of the company we owned running remembrance services at cathedrals, and Saying Goodbye was born.
R: For those of us who have never heard of it, can you give us a quick overview of what The Mariposa Trust does?
Z: The Mariposa Trust is a registered as a charity, it has four main divisions – Saying Goodbye, GowingYou, Waiting for You and Holding Hope. Saying Goodbye offers remembrance services and bereavement support to anyone who has lost a baby during pregnancy, at birth or in the early years. GrowingYou offers support to those who are pregnant following a previous loss. Waiting for You offers support to those who are walking the path of adoption. Holding Hope offers befriending to those having fertility issues. The Trust is a secular charity, as we felt that was what God wanted. The Bible tells us all to help the broken hearted and to look after the grieving. By being secular, we reach more of those people and are welcomed into every hospital.
R: What effect do the Saying Goodbye remembrance services have on those who attend?
Z: The services offer families the time and space to honour the baby they have lost. Often funerals have never been held, or have been conducted in a fog of grief, so having a formal service that recognises their baby’s life is often life changing. We have as many people attend who have lost their babies 50, 60 years ago as those who have lost recently. People often say that the services help them move forward in the grieving process and that they finally feel a peace, as now their baby has been recognised as a child.
R: How important do you think spiritual input is in these kind of situations?
Z: I don’t think it especially needs spiritual input. What is needed is love and compassion. Baby loss is not a clinical issue, even though it is often treated as such. It is the loss of life, and when that is truly recognised it makes the world of difference. I think also recognising that grief is not a choice and not just a phase is important. It is a life long journey that changes dramatically as you live through it.
R: Do most hospitals direct people to your services?
Z: Yes they do, and so do GP’s and other support networks. Our website has around 650,000 hits ever single month and the support the charity offers reaches around 50,000 people a week.
R: Do the people who use the charity stay in touch?
Z: So, so many stay in touch and we hear amazing stories every day of the difference our services have made. Here is a letter we received the other week:
“We contacted Saying Goodbye after the death of three babies within eight months, and they walked with us every step of the way. One to one support through the befriending service was constant. They understood the desperate feeling of falling off a cliff. They knew how it felt to sob and sob until you no longer had the energy to move. Saying Goodbye provided me with the friend to hold my hand through it all when no one else knew what to say to us.
From the quotes they offer as support on social media, the information they gave, and the guidance they provided, I don’t have the words to say how much it helped, and I am so thankful. I had previously suffered from depression and the support from Saying Goodbye, at one of the hardest times of my life, stopped me from teetering off the edge, back into that dark hole.
The charity were offering a remembrance service at York Minster, which we attended. It was beautiful. It gave us the place to remember our babies, give them a physical representation with the ringing of the hand bells and the lighting of candles to honour them. It was an opportunity to lay our babies to rest and know that they would always be in our hearts and never forgotten. What was also so amazing was being able to stand with so many others who were feeling and experiencing the same. It felt normal and OK to be grieving the little lives of our babies that meant so much to us.
The work that Saying Goodbye does is vital for the wellbeing of people like us, and our families, and friends. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. They gave me back my life when I could never imagine being able to continue at all; losing our third baby felt like the final straw, as if life was over, and I had failed. But Saying Goodbye showed me that wasn’t the case: they restored my hope.” Elizabeth, 32
To read all of Zoe’s story and to find out more about Saying Goodbye please visit www.sayinggoodbye.org where there is a list of upcoming remembrance services taking place across the UK. In addition to the regular events, the charity has also established a large and powerful social media following on Facebook and Twitter – you can find the charity at facebook.com/sayinggoodbyeUK and on twitter @Sayinggoodbyeuk.