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MPs shed tears hearing colleagues describe loss of their babies

Published 13/10/2016

Conservative MP Victoria Prentis speaks in the House of Commons during a debate to mark baby loss week
Conservative MP Victoria Prentis speaks in the House of Commons during a debate to mark baby loss week

MPs were moved to tears after colleagues shared their heartbreaking baby loss experiences, including one who kept it a secret from friends.

Labour's Vicky Foxcroft delivered the "hardest speech I have ever had to write or deliver" as she spoke publicly for the first time about the death of her five-day-old daughter Veronica.

She paused to take deep breaths while telling the Commons about her experiences as a teenager, and was followed by several others in a highly emotional debate.

SNP MP Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) struggled to speak as she explained how it was "very, very difficult" to sit next to women holding scan photographs shortly after she miscarried at 16 weeks.

For Conservative Byron Davies (Gower), it felt "almost an embarrassment " in the 1980s for him and his wife to talk about losing a child.

He said they were unable to discuss the grief and sadness from the "devastating experience", as he stressed the need for people to share their experiences.

Conservative Victoria Prentis broke down in tears as she urged improvements in care for pregnant and expectant mothers.

The Banbury MP lost her son soon after birth and nearly died after she was struck down by pre-eclampsia and the life-threatening pregnancy complications known as HELLP syndrome.

Labour's Sharon Hodgson also recalled her daughter's stillbirth at 23-and-a-half weeks, explaining: " Because she was born dead, although I always class her as a stillbirth, officially it was put down as a miscarriage and I wasn't given a death certificate.

"It was another trauma, on top of the trauma I'd already gone through, because then on paper it read miscarriage."

Special praise from MPs was reserved for Ms Foxcroft's courage as she sought to break the taboos surrounding baby deaths.

In a backbench business debate to mark baby loss week, Ms Foxcroft (Lewisham and Deptford) said she had been unsure about whether to raise such a personal experience.

After apologising to her friends for not speaking about it with them over the years, t he Lewisham and Deptford MP said of Veronica: " I still love her. She is always in my thoughts. All these years afterwards. Even if I don't talk about her all the time.

"I don't not talk about her because I'm embarrassed. I'm not. It's because it hurts so much to do so.

"I don't have children now because I lived with the fear of the same thing happening and I just couldn't do it twice."

Opening the debate, Conservative Antoinette Sandbach warned ministers that ba by loss is an "injustice" suffered by far too many UK families as MPs called for a major campaign to raise awareness

Ms Sandbach, who lost her five-day-old son Sam in 2009, labelled miscarriages a "silent killer" and cautioned that too little support was offered to the estimated 200,000 mothers and their families affected each year.

The MP for Eddisbury insisted a " sustained public health campaign" informing parents of the known risks linked to baby loss was needed.

Will Quince, who co-chairs the new all-party parliamentary group on baby loss, said his son was diagnosed with the rare chromosomal disorder, Edwards' syndrome, at his 20-week scan.

The Tory MP for Colchester told the Commons his son was "an incredible little fighter" who eventually lost his life at more than 40 weeks old, in the last moments of labour.

It would have been his second birthday on Wednesday.

Mr Quince said: "There is no experience, in my view, worse than seeing your wife give birth to a lifeless baby.

"It is something that never leaves you and every single day, I think about my son.

"I think about what he would have been like on his second birthday, I imagine a small boy running round our house causing havoc, winding up his sisters.

"It's not to be, but every single day you live with that grief. Fathers need that support too."

Shadow health minister Justin Madders paid tribute to his Labour colleague Ms Foxcroft.

He said: "She showed incredible courage to tell us about her daughter Veronica and we could all feel the pain that she must have felt every day for the last 23 years when she spoke about her.

"I think we all admire the bravery she showed in talking about this today.

"I'm sure Veronica would be as proud of her mum as we all are today."

Mr Madders said progress on reducing levels of stillbirths and infant deaths had been made but that rates remain "unacceptable" when compared with similar countries.

He said: "The loss of a hundred lives a week in any circumstances is a tragedy and the kind of figure, were it happening in any particular industry, would no doubt lead to calls for action to be taken.

"That is why the words of those members we have heard from today about their own personal experiences are as important as they are brave."

Health minister Philip Dunne said he had been humbled by the debate, during which there was "barely a dry eye in the House".

"It's undoubtedly the most moving debate I have participated in, in the 11 and a half years I have been in this House," he said.

Mr Dunne told MPs England is a "very safe country" in which to have a baby but acknowledged more could be done "and we, as a Government, are determined to do so".

He said: "Having not gone through this experience myself, I can scarcely comprehend how devastating this must be for parents to lose a baby and it is absolutely important that parents receive appropriate care and support in as sensitive way as possible when this occurs."

He added: "I think it is important that we try, as a Government, to drive improvement in outcomes and I'd like to reassure honourable members that this Government is fully committed to reducing the number of babies who die during pregnancy or in the neo-natal period and to supporting those families who are bereaved."

Press Association

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