Bereaved Yorkshire father calls for end to stillbirth ‘taboo’

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A Yorkshire father who has campaigned tirelessly since the death of his baby boy has called for an end to the silence surrounding the “unspoken taboo” of stillbirth and losing a child during Baby Loss Awareness Week.

As the UK-wide initiative got under way, Chris Binnie, from Harrogate, whose son Henry was stillborn at 38 weeks, attended the launch of the new National Bereavement Care Pathway at the House of Commons, where he spoke to MPs about the issue, and also told his heartbreaking story on national radio.

Mr Binnie, 37, who is a trustee of Harrogate-based baby loss charity Our Angels, is driving to improve support for parents in hospitals, including more specialist midwife training, and is helping to spearhead a campaign calling for a documentary on baby loss - Still Loved - to be aired on national TV to raise awareness.

Every day in the UK, 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth, according to stillbirth and neonatal death charity SANDS.

Mr Binnie said: “We want to raise the bar so everybody gets a standard level of care regardless of which hospital they are accessing. A third of hospitals in the UK don’t have a bereavement suite for parents to spend time with their babies who have died. And around a third don’t have specialist bereavement midwives.

“So there is a push to make sure there is somebody who is responsible for bereavement support in maternity units and all professionals get the right amount of training, resources and support available to them to provide a good standard of care.

“Although the standard is improving all the time, it still really varies from hospital to hospital. This is what this week’s launch has been all about.”

Mr Binnie’s son Henry died in 2014 and he and his wife Briony have been helped through their grieving process thanks to a local support network.

However, Mr Binnie said he appreciated that many still feel like they can’t talk about their loss in fear of upsetting friends and family.

He said: “The most emotional part of this week was a phone-in I was involved in on Radio Five Live. It wasn’t so much talking about our story, but what some of the people calling in were saying. There were parents who had lost their babies 20 to 30 years ago, who were clearly talking about their babies for the first time to someone outside their immediate families.

“There was something so powerful about that. You could literally feel that weight of two decades of emotion lifting off their shoulders.

“It’s a big step forward and the age of social media has made it easier for people to speak out. However, for people who lost their babies in the 70s and 80s, that network didn’t exist.”

Mr Binnie explained that unlike losing a parent or grandparent, losing a child was incomprehensible to most.

He said: “People can’t relate to someone who has lost a baby. Because when you do, you have not only lost a child, you have lost birthdays, Christmases, first days at school – all of that disappears in the blink of an eye. A lot of people find that so difficult and upsetting that they avoid talking to that person at all. That makes that period of bereavement very isolating.

“What we are trying to achieve across the whole country, not just Yorkshire, is it’s all about conversation, gaining momentum and driving it forward.”

Read Mr Binnie's blog - Pine Cones and Study Days - here.