A remarkable midwife has managed to turn personal tragedy into essential support for others after she lost her baby daughter three years ago.
Stephanie Wild set up her Stockport-based charity Beyond Bea in January 2018 and for the last two years has been raising awareness of baby loss and educating health care professionals on how to help parents going through the unimaginable.
Her daughter Bea died in November 2017 after Steph and her then partner had to make the heartbreaking decision to terminate their pregnancy.
A total of 23 weeks into what was otherwise a normal pregnancy, besides some bad vomiting for Steph at times, her unborn daughter Bea was diagnosed with a rare brain condition in the womb as well as other complications.
The conditions would have affected Bea’s sight, her ability to walk, eat and communicate and she would have needed around the clock care as a result.
Steph said: “We’d been to the Trafford centre and had baby clothes in the back of the car. We were on the motorway, he was driving and I got the call.
“He pulled over because he knew it was the hospital. Because my partner was a doctor and I’m a midwife, we both knew it was quite severe. He burst into tears and I had to drive us home.
“We’d just moved into a new home and were picking out new furniture. We had a nursery all set up.
“But she wouldn’t have had a normal life. She would have been a very unwell child with regular seizures and there was a possibility she never would have been able to speak, walk or even eat.
“As two health professionals, we would never wish that for anyone, least of all for our own daughter. It was absolutely horrific, but we wanted to do the best thing by her.”
Steph chose to go for a compassionate induction to start her labour in hospital, something which took its toll both on her, her partner and their entire families.
Before her own loss, Steph was training as a midwife with a focus on bereavement support for grieving parents, but she never expected to experience it herself.
First-hand, Steph found there were gaps in the care given to patients in these difficult moments.
She said: “I had pretty good bereavement care, but when getting the diagnosis the doctor wasn’t the kindest. I thought something needs to change.
“It was never explained what would happen next and there were things that should have been communicated that weren’t and we were just trying to work out what to do next.
“It’s one thing giving the care, but being on the other end, that’s totally changed my perspective. I just thought there are massive gaps we’re not address. You don’t truly know until you’ve been there.”
One of the hardest things for Steph and her family was the waiting around in between stages of the procedures she had to go through. Sometimes days would pass, which Steph said left them feeling like they were ‘in limbo’.
Her experience has prompted her to provide training days, free of charge, for universities, other charities and NHS staff as well as guidance for families going through similar experiences to her own.
The guides include suggestions of things to do to pass the time between procedures, what to pack for hospital trips as well as what to expect and other information.
Steph said she wanted her classes to be free so students or staff ‘don’t have to chose between attending and feeding their kids’.
She said: “I started with setting up a conference, but I thought one day isn’t enough. I can’t do enough in one day, so I thought how can I make this different.”
Steph first set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for Beyond Bea and has since been funding the study days she and her team offer through donations and gifts from parents, other charities and other investors.
She has now created a space for grieving parents to be able to talk about their experiences, get support and information.
She said: “A lot of parents want to talk about their babies, it’s quite touching. Parents go from being quite shy to talking with confidence and they can do that in the baby’s memory. It’s amazing to see.”
For Steph personally, her charity has also given her solace.
She said: “I think it’s incredible that so many people know Bea, all over the world, that wouldn’t have otherwise and she’d only be three years old now.”