I’m Sharon Kirsopp, and I’m a reproductive loss co-ordinator

Sharon Kirsopp. Photo: Julian Kingma

Sharon Kirsopp. Photo: Julian Kingma

I manage the reproductive-loss service within The Royal Women’s Hospital, which provides support and care to bereaved families and their deceased babies.

The death of a baby is absolutely devastating and traumatic. So it’s really important for us to ensure that we give families opportunities and information about creating memories with their babies.

That might be encouraging them to spend time with their baby; holding and cuddling and dressing them, and having photographs taken or handprints and footprints. If they want to, they can take their baby home for a visit.

It’s overwhelmingly sad; I mean the amount of grief and death that we experience, and in my job that’s all that I encounter. I’m very grateful that I have a lovely family at home. My kids are teenagers now, so they really understand what I do. When I come home and say I’ve had a bad day and I need a hug they’ll just give me that extra-long hug.

I’m also the point of contact where families are coming back post-discharge to find out more information. It might be a family whose baby died perhaps a few months ago but, more commonly, many, many years ago. Each year we have a memorial service to acknowledge and remember babies who have died and invite families back.

Society’s view of little babies dying has altered dramatically, as has the way in which hospitals, health care services and the community respond to death. Back then, it was normal practice to not encourage women to spend time with their babies or see or hold them, thinking that if they didn’t see them, they wouldn’t become attached.

One woman who came back had a baby who died in the 1960s. She actually wasn’t even sure if it was a little boy or a girl – she never saw him. When I helped her find out about her son, whom she then named Brian, she had a plaque placed at his gravesite: “Never held, never seen but never forgotten.”

I think that is the message that all of us need to remember and know is that these little babies, no matter how small, no matter how long they have lived or didn’t live, that these little people are important and will never be forgotten.

As told to Larissa Ham

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