Couple turn personal tragedy into a way of helping others who lose a baby.
A Halifax couple are channeling their own grief to help other parents who suffer stillbirth and miscarriage. Catherine Scott reports
Just nine months ago Ben Moorhouse and Gaynor Thompson were looking forward to becoming first-time parents.
But just two weeks before Gaynor was due to give birth, she was told the devastating news that her longed-for baby daughter had died in the womb and their world changed forever.
“Our baby girl Kallipateira died in the womb at 38 weeks of pregnancy last October,” says Ben , who is a customer services advisor for Together Housing.
“At an extra scan appointment, we were told there was no heartbeat. Only a week before we were told by a doctor everything was okay.
“We had to return to the hospital two days later and on October 26, 2018, our baby girl was born sleeping less than two weeks until the due date.
“Like many of the stillbirths in the UK our daughter was fully developed and healthy. Her death could have been prevented.
“In the last trimester Gaynor developed gestational diabetes which is not tested for, and this was the probable cause of death. Our baby girl should be here with us in person.”
The couple are now lobbying to try to get the national guidelines changed when it comes to diabetes in the late stage of pregnancy.
“All it takes is one more blood test to save babies lives. In 21st century Britain, babies should not be dying like this.
We had so many hopes and dreams for her. This has broken our hearts in so many ways but I made a promise to our daughter that we would continue to do her proud.”
As well as lobbying for change Ben and Gaynor, who have been together for 14 years, want to see changes at a local level that would help parents who find themselves in a similar situation.
“While we were at the hospital holding our dead daughter in our arms, we could hear babies been born and crying next door on the ward,” recalls Ben.
“We didn’t even have a window when all we wanted to do was stand in some natural light with Kallipateira. When we left the ward, we were met by a family coming in with congratulations balloons and a car seat.
“A bereavement suite away from the normal maternity ward will give parents and their families a quiet, secure and private place where they can spend time to create vital and precious memories.”
Both already keen fund-raisers they have been taking on a number of challenges to raise awareness and money to create the bereveavement suite.
They have so far raised £16,000 this year and hope that their dream will become a reality as soon as possible. Earlier this year they were thrilled to find out that Gaynor was expecting again.
But in May, when the couple were due to attend an awards ceremony for their fundraising, their second child died at nine weeks when Gaynor miscarried.
An hour after been told the news in hospital, they attended the awards ceremony to pick up their award for fundraisers of the year from Pulse Radio.
“Like stillbirth, which is a word I hate, miscarriage is something that many people think you can just get over but you don’t – they are both devastating.”
In the past Ben has raised £11,600 for the Steve Prescott Foundation, in honour of international rugby league player Steve Prescott who died of stomach cancer, aged 39, in November 2013.
Over the last four years, Ben has taken on increasingly extreme challenges, most recently in August 2018 when he became the first person to walk the whole 150 miles of Rhodes in 48 hours – in temperatures of 40C plus.
The challenges have now become a way for Ben and Gaynor to cope with their loss and daily pain.
Earlier this month Ben walked 130-mile Coast to Coast from Morecambe to Bridlington, in 45 hours with no sleep. Ben, 37, was helped by his support team of partner Gaynor Thompson and friends Mark Milsom and Gary Hawksworth. All money raised will go to the bereavement suite at Calderdale Hospital.
Ben is also keen to create a support group for men who have suffered baby loss locally later in the year.
“Stillbirth is just as devastating for dads as it is for mums but somehow it doesn’t seem socially acceptable for them to grief in the same way,” says Ben.
“There is this expectation that men have to be the strong ones for the rest of the family. I want to break the taboo around it and reassure men going through what I went through that it’s okay not to be okay.”
The couple were due to return to their beloves Rhodes next month as a family. But they will now be going without Kallipateira – something they know is going to be emotional.
The island holds a special place in their hearts and this is why they decided to give their daughter a special Greek name.
“We decided on the name Kallipateira after talking for many hours with the vice- governor of the island Mr Yiannis Flevaris,” explains Ben.
“Mr Flevaris in the government office gave special authorisation for us to use the name.”
Although the couple know returning to Greece without their daughter will be emotional, they also think it will give them time to try to start the healing process, although they are determined to keep her memory alive.
“We do need to spend sometime thinking about ourselves, we do alot of fund-raising for others, but the time in Rhodes will give us the opportunty concentrate on each other.”
Ben added: “We are not strong. We are not brave. We are just doing what we have to do for our daughter and to help others.”
When a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy and before or during birth, it is known as a stillbirth.
In 2016, there were 3,430 stillbirths in the UK. This means that one in every 225 births ended in a stillbirth. That is nine babies every day. Research into the causes of stillbirth is as vital as ever.