Written by: Sharon Hodgson, MP
After 13 years of being a Member of Parliament, I recently delivered the most difficult speech I have ever given in the House of Commons.
I spoke about my own experiences after the birth of my daughter, Lucy, who sadly arrived into the world stillborn at 23 and a half weeks.
When I was first elected as an MP, I never would have dreamt of making the speech, or even speaking publicly about my loss at all.
But after many late nights with my cross-party colleagues, speaking about our own experiences, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Baby Loss was formed, and together we became a support network of parents who have experienced the heartbreak of losing a baby, and became determined to make a change together.
Baby loss isn’t a party political issue and together members of the APPG have raised many issues in Parliament, the first was during a ground-breaking adjournment debate in 2015.
Then, I hid in my office because I knew that it would be too emotional for me.
Three years on, it was of course still an emotional topic for me to speak about; but I am so pleased that I did.
I have received messages of love and kindness from all over the country, and even as far as the Netherlands and Italy. But what has really encouraged me to continue in my campaign for change is the moving messages I have received from parents and families who have also experienced the heartbreak of losing a baby and have been distressed to find that they were unable to register their birth and death because they were born before the 24-week gestation threshold.
Knowing that so many families have been through the same tragedy as me has encouraged me to continue speaking out on this issue.
Since my speech, I have been working closely with actress Kym Marsh, who lost her son, Archie in 2009 when he was born at 21 weeks and four days, and relived the emotional storyline when her character, Michelle Connor in Coronation Street, had a stillborn baby.
Kym and I have met with Secretary of State for Health and Social care, Jeremy Hunt to discuss the need for the change in law, so that no more families have to experience the heartbreak that we have done.
The meeting was positive, and I know that by raising this issue in Parliament and on our TVs, we will reach more and more families and encourage them to speak of their loss too.
With the help of charities; families who have lost a baby are now able to have the care and support I, and many others, never had.
Thanks to developments in healthcare, babies born too soon and before 24 weeks now survive in much greater numbers than ever before.
But babies stillborn before 24 weeks deserve recognition of their existence in the law.
20 years on, Lucy’s legacy lives through my work as an MP and I hope that the Government will soon make this important change so that families who have experienced this tragedy know that, within the law, their baby officially did exist.
Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017 – www.nk-photography.co.uk