Stillbirth: death by another name

By Juliette Astrup on 04 October 2018 RCM Annual Conference Stillbirth

Bereaved father David Monteith delivered a captivating and deeply moving account of his family’s experience of stillbirth – sharing not only his story, but also vital lessons about the care, which can make a difference, at the RCM annual conference today (4 October).

Grace Monteith, David’s second daughter with his wife Siobhan, died before she was born in May 2014.

He told delegates he will not use the word stillbirth, adding: ‘I will not give it another name. I need people to realise that my experience is as valid as anyone else’s. My daughter died. Stillbirth is death by another name.’

He took RCM conference delegates through his memories of the day, and how that experience has reshaped him and his family – highlighting the role midwives have to play.

‘You are the gatekeepers to our grief journey and you can mitigate that transition in so many little ways, but you need to tell us what’s out there, what we need to know.’

From fingerprints mementoes to the network of professional photographers who volunteer to take photos, he urged: ‘Find out what’s going on in your local area and signpost – that’s how you can mitigate our trauma.’

And midwives can do a lot to normalise the birth experience he added. ‘Tell us she has her dad’s nose. Normalise that birth for us. As midwives your job is to help us through birth, whether that baby is living or dead. It’s still a birth and that birth experience is important for families, for mothers, whether that baby is living or dead.’

He added: ‘It’s an experience that changes your life. It gives birth to a whole new universe. Pain, anger, paranoia in you next pregnancy. It fractures relationships with friends, families, partners. It rocks up in every other issue you have and bundles it all in with your grief.’

He added: ‘You have an opportunity to mitigate that as best you can. You can’t be responsible for our entire healing – but the little things you do, they’re important – they echo.’

David, with his wife Siobhan, founded Grace in Action, to support bereaved families and share information with birth professionals, and have spoken about their experience all over the UK and internationally.