A real story of baby loss – Changing mindset on supporting people affected by baby loss
Dancing in the Wings is a play that was written by the Founder and CEO of Our Sam, Philippa Davies. The story follows couple Rachel and Jack Bennett, and is based closely on the loss of Philippa and her former partner’s own baby daughter, Sam. Sam was conceived through IVF, but was sadly stillborn at 33 weeks of pregnancy on January 23rd 2012, following a diagnosis of Edwards’ Syndrome.
Sam is one of 5 babies that Philippa and her partner lost at different stages of pregnancy in her journey to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a parent. Along the way, as for so many, Philippa faced additional infertility struggles as a result of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and losing one ovary as a consequence.
With every baby they lost over the 8 year period, Philippa’s mental health deteriorated, as did her isolation from the world, due to her own feelings of failure. She received diagnoses of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite her struggles though, Philippa continued to battle to find the right professional support, and understanding, following her multiple heartbreaking losses, that to the rest of the world were invisible, to enable her to survive and find a life she could cope with.
Philippa is a writer, and used writing to help her cope at her most difficult times, initially writing children’s stories and books, to try and find an outlet for her unrequited maternal love, and also to give herself respite and head space. When Philippa was finally connected with the counseling team at Hope House Children’s Hospice in North Wales, after a 3 year search, they were able to provide her with the right support. Her counselor suggested on a number of occasions that if she were able, at some point, to write her own story, this could help not only other parents and families to not feel so alone, but it could also help those who need to professionally or personally support people affected by baby loss, as well as raising awareness of the real effects when babies are lost at any stage of pregnancy.
With 1 in 4 babies lost between conception and shortly after birth, many people are sadly affected in the UK and across the world, and one of the key critical factors for these parents and families is the level and quality of support they have around them, from healthcare professionals to family, friends and within their work environment.
Dancing in the Wings premiered on stage in February 2020 before it’s run was cut short due to Covid-19. The response to the performances, from a diverse range of people, including healthcare professionals, bereaved parents and general public was huge, and requests to tour the play further led to the initial idea to set up Our Sam to raise awareness, understanding and support for people affected by baby loss.
“My name is Karen Roberts, and I am a Trustee for Our Sam. I am a Matron with Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in North Wales, and I have many years experience as a Midwife. Supporting parents affected by baby loss is something that sadly is an all too regular, and very important part of our job. We know that understanding the real effects of baby loss, through people like Philippa talking about their experiences, is critical in ensuring, as healthcare professionals, we are providing care and support in the right way, and to a high standard. I was inspired by Philippa and her own story, and wanted to be a part of Our Sam after being invited to the launch forum for this play and then seeing it on stage.
After watching Dancing in the Wings, I said that this would change the way we work, and for me it already has. This play is a must-see for all healthcare and support professionals, who come into contact with parents affected by baby loss. However, we know there are few people who don’t know somebody who has been affected by baby loss as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, and therefore, I would recommend anyone to watch this beautiful, honest, heartbreaking and brave, thought-provoking play, in order to understand better the honest and true story of an invisible loss that has a massive, lifelong impact on so many people.”
Due to Covid-19 we unable to stage Dancing in the Wings currently, but through the magic of Zoom technology, we aren’t going to let this stop us in our goal to continue raising awareness, support and understanding for people affected by baby loss. With an immensely talented cast lead by Claudia Whitby-Tillot playing Rachel Bennett, and Si Kneale playing Jack Bennett, directed by the wonderful Lyn Aston, Dancing in the Wings is going to be performed as a one-off online reading on the 22nd January, the eve of what should have been Sam’s 9th birthday.