‘Let me see my baby’ – how GPs can help those learning to live with loss

In Central Queensland, News, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay by Jasmin Midgley

The tough topics of miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death and the subsequent grief felt by parents, family and friends were recently explored in an intimate and in-depth conversation on the Sunshine Coast.

Let Me See My Baby is a panel-led discussion developed and run around Australia by Amy Banson, who founded the bereavement awareness resource centre Little Silk Wings in 2017.

“There is a lack of understanding we seem to have – as a society – as to what to say, and what to do
when someone close to us experiences the death of a baby or young child,” Ms Banson said.

“Let Me See My Baby shares practical knowledge and awareness around the best ways of supporting
a woman and her family through the days, months and years following a bereavement, which is a
uniquely complex and resilient form of grief.

“The aim is to bring us all one step closer to being a community who can be relied upon to be able to
respond with compassion and dignity when a baby dies.”

According to the Department of Health’s healthdirect platform, up to 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies end
in miscarriage before 20 weeks, and beyond that, 1 in 120 births will be a stillbirth or a newborn
death.

At February’s Let Me See My Baby event held in Coolum an expert panel, which included the Director of Paediatric Palliative Care at Children’s Hospital Queensland, a palliative care nurse, a paediatric nurse practitioner, a psychologist specialising in perinatal bereavement, and both a mother and a father with lived experience, shared their experience and expertise with audience of around 120 people.

Over the course of the evening, the panel discussed a range of topics including fear, processing
trauma, guilt, blame, grief, protocols, responses, siblings, fathers, bonding, photographs, terminology,
subsequent pregnancy, and more.

Jo Pennell, Palliative Care Program Manager at Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN, the Commonwealth commissioning agency which supported the event financially, said many of those in attendance were health professionals or community workers.

“The large number of clinicians and parents who came along highlighted the ongoing need for this important conversation,” Ms Pennell said.

“Sometimes, the only memories parents have of their baby are when they are in the care of a clinician, so they can make a real difference.

“A lot of families find value in what’s called ‘memory making’ to support their grief process, and this might be helped through simple actions like taking a lock of hair or journaling.

“A bereavement organisation called Precious Wings has some great suggestions on how to create a memory box, and has a list what kind of things to include.

‘It’s important to encourage these sorts of activities, and acknowledge bereavement, despite how awkward it may be for all involved in order to provide kindness and support to families facing the devastating loss of their child.’

General practitioners who have a patient or family who is in need of some support, can find valuable resources from support organisations like Bears of Hope, Sands, Pillars of Strength, Centre for Perinatal Psychology, National Centre for Childhood Grief, and Lifeline.

GPs or paediatricians can make a referral to the Children’s Hospital Queensland service for any child with a life-limiting illness or families of children with a life-limiting illness.

For urgent referrals contact the staff specialists, Dr Anthony Herbert (Director of Paediatric Palliative Care, CHQ) or Dr Jean Kelly, or the paediatric fellow through the hospital switchboard: 07 3068 1111

Links to the organisations and services above are all listed on the PHN’s website: ourphn.org.au/palliative-care

Children’s Hospital Qld, Paediatric Palliative Care.

A Practical Guide Palliative care in Paediatrics.

If you have a patient or family who is in need of some support we invite you to reach out to one of the following support organisations:

Precious Wings

Bears of Hope

Sands

Pillars of Strength

Centre for Perinatal Psychology

National Centre for Childhood Grief

Lifeline