A support group for anyone who has lost a baby is starting up tonight (Tuesday, April 5) in the Quiet Room in the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.
The group will be meeting on the first Tuesday of every month and will be facilitated by midwife Joanne Murray-Stewart and hospital chaplain Helen Gallacher. The meetings will be bilingual, for those who may feel more comfortable talking in Gaelic.
Joanne said the baby loss support group – named Sèimh, Gaelic for gentle peace – had been “a long time coming”. It is a support group for those whose baby has died at any stage of pregnancy or close to the time of birth and is also to support those who are planning or going through a new pregnancy.
Meetings will be held in the quiet room by the chapel on the ground floor and will be two hours long, from 7pm to 9pm. Joanne stressed they would be in English and Gaelic, and promised there would be a lot of listening and understanding and many cups of tea too. It is initially aimed at women in Lewis but it is hoped to expand it to take in the whole of the Western Isles and include dads and other family members over time.
Joanne said there was a real need for this group and stressed the meetings will be held outwith the maternity unit.
She said: “There are so many people out there who need this, and it is to help in any way at all. It’s a forum, where people will strengthen each other as they share and value their experiences together.”
Joanne stressed that anyone who has ever suffered a baby loss is welcome – no matter how long ago it was.
“It’s a very, very sensitive issue,” she said. “You have women who, for a long time, have suffered in silence, not being able to talk about their pregnancy loss, but there will be some triggering experience in life that brings back painful memories.
“This group will offer the opportunity to provide time and space for women to share their experience(s) before travelling down a path of restorative wholeness. The first step is acknowledgement, listening, and hearing that voice expressing itself clearly in words.”
There appears to be a need for the collobarative Sèimh group initiative between NHS Nan Eilean Siar and Simba in this local area, building upon the extant works of the local Pregnancy Support Service and the Miscarriage Association.
Joanne has been attending study days with the charity Simba (Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal) which is keen to see support groups like this one grow across Scotland. Simba is similar to Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, and provides a number of support services which also include family rooms, hospital services and trees of tranquillity.
TK Shadakshari, the Bereavement Co-ordinator for NHS Western Isles, said: “This is a very, very useful group. Our role is to facilitate and create a safe space for mothers to come together.”