Babyloss charity spotlight – The Maypole Project and Abigail’s Footsteps
5 Min Read
This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, and this year we wanted to talk about some of the excellent charities we work with that provide vital support to families affected by baby loss.
The Maypole Project
The Maypole Project is a charity which supports families all over the UK who have a child with complex medical needs, including if their child has passed away.
The charity was set up by Sally Flatteau Taylor and is currently celebrating its 20th year. Sally previously co-directed the Bereavement Centre where she found that a large number of families simply didn’t fit the mould. The death of a child will have a devastating impact on a family and a small block of counselling sessions didn’t provide families with what they needed. Therefore, Sally had ambitions to set up a charity that would support all families, for as long as they need and at any time after the death of their child. This led to the creation of the Maypole Project.
The charity has deliberately chosen the broad term ‘child with a complex medical need’ so it can capture as many families as possible. This means if you are pregnant and are told your child has a serious medical condition and you are offered a termination for medical reasons, the Maypole Project can support you through this. They also support families of baby loss even if there is no specific diagnosis and the advice is that it was ‘one of those things’.
The charity has a helpline which you can call or email, and a befriending service. The Maypole Project aims to make itself different by being there for as long as families need them (including during rainbow pregnancies, anniversaries and any anticipated losses), and offering support many years after the bereavement. The charity’s support is then tailored to each family, depending on what they say they need. This can include individual, couples or family counselling. Sally recognises the impact baby and child loss can have on a relationship and the importance of having support available to help keep families together. This family centred approach means that their users have described the charity as an extension of their own family and the glue that keeps them all together.
If you would like to find out more, visit the Maypole Project website.
Abigail’s Footsteps was set up in 2010 by Jo and David Ward following the death of their daughter, Abigail, at 41 weeks. They found that although 13 (14 at the time) babies die before, during or shortly after they are born, many hospitals simply didn’t know how, or have the appropriate resources, to support families. Therefore, their aims are to improve bereavement training for professionals, provide vital equipment to hospitals in the form of Abi Cold Cots, provide support and counselling for bereaved families, and champion the provision of bereavement suites.
Abi Cold Cots
The charity raises funds to provide Abi Cold Cots to hospitals across the UK and Ireland. They work in close partnership with a specialist commercial refrigeration company to create the specially designed cots which allows parents to spend more time with their baby. This can be vital for families for the grieving process, allowing parents to spend time with their babies and go through the steps that any other parent would, including bathing and dressing their baby.
Each Abi Cold Cots is donated in memory of a family’s baby and has an engraved plaque with the baby’s name.
Ideally, the charity would like every hospital to have two Abi Cold Cots. With each unit costing £2,800 the charity is progressing towards this target, donating 57 cots in 2021 and 35 in 2022.
Counselling for parents and children is provided in-person in Kent, Surrey, Essex and South London, as well as online if possible, and is completely free. Additional support is also offered to families before falling pregnant again and for healthcare professionals affected by baby loss.
There is no mandatory stillbirth training in the midwife curriculum and Abigail’s Footsteps aims to plug that gap by providing free training materials and specialist bereavement training courses.
Two short films have been commissioned based on real experiences with the aim to improve bereavement care for parents and raise awareness. The first film, Deafening Silence, has been viewed in 175 countries and won several awards. It focuses on parents receiving the devastating news that their baby has died and the mother needs to give birth. It had an immediate impact, leading to positive changes in maternity wards around the country. While the second film, Say My Baby’s Name, concentrates on the experience of a mother having a child after baby loss.
Abigail’s Footsteps want to ensure that bereavement suites are located away from the main maternity ward as this can be distressing for families experiencing baby loss. They assist with this by funding sensitively designed delivery rooms away from the main labour ward.
The charity has been involved in setting up bereavement suites in three hospitals: Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, and Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent. These units provide a space where bereaved families can stay to spend time with their baby away from the main maternity ward but with healthcare professionals nearby.
If you have been affected by baby loss or would like to access more information visit the Abigail’s Footsteps website.