Earlier this year, Royal Surrey Charity funded a comfortable counselling space for families dealing with baby loss, to support respectful and compassionate care. 

A dedicated ‘quiet room’ has opened in the shared Antenatal and Gynaecology space. Previously, bereaved families attending the department for the post-mortem results of their baby, or women with severe gynaecological concerns affecting their fertility or receiving bad news, had to attend appointments in a space shared with pregnant women.

The impact of this on women and their families already attending a difficult appointment cannot be underestimated. The team has created a dedicated counselling space away from the antenatal and ultrasound clinics, so women and their partners can receive the care and support they need, without added distress.

Kate Conway, Matron for Antenatal and Gynaecology Services, said: “The impact of this project is significant – up to 50 bereaved families a year will now benefit from this dedicated space for post-14-week pregnancy loss and stillbirth appointments, as well as providing a calm supportive space for women receiving cancer diagnoses.

“It was vital that we made this space as comforting as possible for families going through some of the most distressing and vulnerable times of their lives. Appointments are spaced so that the room is always available when women arrive and there is never any need to wait in the shared antenatal/gynae spaces.

“We are grateful to the charity for supporting this project and to everyone who has raised funds or made donations to make this project possible.”

Roxanne and Chris West welcomed plans for the room after their baby Oliver was heartbreakingly born sleeping in 2018. The family has raised over £2,700 for soft furnishings and decorations, to help make the room feel less clinical. Roxanne said:

“When we heard about the separate counselling room, we were determined to help. We are extremely lucky to have had such amazing support from the doctors – for Oliver, but also over the years with our other two sons, Logan, 7, and Daniel, 4. We really appreciated our time with Oliver in the Forget-Me-Not room [a private room for bereaved parents to deliver, recover and spend time with their babies].

“No one ever thinks they’re going to come home without a baby at the end of a pregnancy. I went in for a planned caesarean at 39 weeks. I was waiting to go into surgery, and the nurse came with a Doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat. After a few minutes, she told us she needed to get a different device, and shortly after, a consultant was wheeling in a mobile ultrasound machine. From then, everything was a blur. They told us our baby had died and Chris broke down…but I didn’t understand what was happening  – I’d felt him kick the night before; this couldn’t be happening. There were lots of emotions and decisions to make.

“After surgery, I remember waking up in a lot of pain. They put him in my arms and I was panicking that they were going to take him away. We got to spend time with him in the Forget-Me-Not suite and had photos taken. He was beautiful and looked like any newborn.

I remember trying to will him to breathe…I thought he would just start breathing at any moment. But as the time passed, it started to sink in.  

"He was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital in London for an autopsy and that was the last time we saw him. They couldn’t find a reason as to why Oliver died. 

“A month after we lost Oliver, we had to wait for his post mortem results in the antenatal waiting area, surrounded by pregnant women who were waiting for scans and happy news. We had been in the same position weeks before and everything had been fine with our scans. And yet here we were, waiting to hear about the results of Oliver’s post mortem – it wasn’t easy at all: you can’t be confronted with that happiness when you’re not happy. But there was no alternative at that time.”

Roxanne added: “It feels brilliant to have supported the project – there was such a need for it. It doesn’t change what happened but it hopefully makes it a little easier for families going through what we went through. To be able to go to that room and have a discussion with their partner about what they’re going through, without having to worry about those around you.” 

To raise money for the room, Chris cycled 96 miles to complete the journey Oliver took – from the Royal Surrey, up to St Thomas’, and on to where he was buried in Midhurst. We are extremely grateful to the West family for their support and for sharing their story, and to everyone who has donated and made this project possible.  

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