A photographer who takes beautiful keepsake photos of babies who are stillborn was among the inspirational people honoured at a national awards championing support for families after baby loss.
Jo Cope was among 12 award winners at the 2018 Butterfly Awards, held to honour the achievements of people supporting others and those campaigning for greater awareness around miscarriage and stillbirth.
Jo, who initially turned to photography to capture precious memories of her baby boy, Kamden, was among hundreds of parents, healthcare professionals and supporters celebrated – and celebrating the lives of their babies – at the national awards.
Mel Scott, author of Finley’s Footprints, began The Butterfly Awards after being inspired by her own baby boy who was stillborn in 2009.
“The Butterfly Awards ceremony celebrates the work of charities and professionals whose work is often hidden,” said Mel.
Butterfly Awards founder Mel Scott, left, with her mum Sue Leaver. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
“It was a night to remember all those we carried, but never met; those we met, but could not bring home, and those we brought home, who couldn’t stay.
“The evening brought together people across the baby loss community, and raised awareness of an issue that remains a taboo. It was unique opportunity to encourage people to improve care for the bereaved and share examples of innovative ideas.”
Meet the 2018 Butterfly Awards champions
Nicola Gaskin – Author/Blogger of the Year
Blogger of the year Nicola Gaskin, right, with award sponsor Natalie Oldham. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
Nicola’s world fell apart when her baby boy Winter died a day after he was born in October 2015. She began to share her grief journey on Instagram, as a way of healing and finding meaning in her changed life, before launching a blog, onedayofwinter.com.
Nicola lost two babies to miscarriage and welcomed a rainbow baby, coping with fears and anxieties along the way. Her writing inspired a book, Life After Baby Loss – A Companion And Guide For Parents, supporting readers as they cope with unfamiliar and conflicting emotions after the death of their own baby.
Tracey Harewood – Bereavement Worker of the Year
Tracey Harewood pictured holding her award. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
As a bereavement care coordinator at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Tracey Harewood counsels families through the initial painful months after baby loss, giving them time and space to grieve in their own way. She has created peaceful spaces in the hospital where families can mourn in private and helps parents create precious photos and mementos of their baby.
She combines compassionate support with practical help and advice, continuing to support people through their grief in the months after their loss, as they adjust to day-to-day life in a changed world.
Stacie Goddard – Awareness Advocate of the Year
Awareness advocate Stacie Goddard. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
Stacie Goddard’s much-longed for baby Peter was diagnosed with renal agenesis, which prevented his kidney and lungs from developing properly. She was 20 weeks into her pregnancy with him when he died July 2016.
Devastated by her loss, Stacie signed up to parenting groups on social media to share about her joy and sadness over her beautiful little boy. But instead of receiving supportive feedback, she was turned away and told her posts were “upsetting” for other mums.
“I decided to make my own group and promised myself and my son that I would try and make a difference that he wouldn’t be hidden away,” she said.
She started her own Facebook group, Angel Parents, Mums and Dads, Rainbows and TTC, which has grown to become a support forum for over 3,000 members affected by miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.
Stacie created headlines in October last year when she created a memorial wall on Margate seafront, inspiring thousands of people to add the name of babies and children they are grieving. Although the structure was later pulled down, the story went global.
“The message,” says Stacie, “stayed in people’s hearts.”
Warrington and Halton NHS Trust – Best Bereavement Care
Warrington and Halton NHS Trust’s bereavement support team. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
Warrington and Halton NHS Trust’s bereavement service is for families who experience loss during pregnancy, birth, or soon after their baby is born.
It provides parents with a dedicated bereavement suite at the hospital’s maternity unit and has established strong bonds with bereavement support charities and throughout the wider community, to provide families with the immediate compassionate care and ongoing support they need.
Helping families spend precious time with their baby and create meaningful memories, they also acknowledge that each family wants to say goodbye in their own way, helping arrange ceremonies or blessings in the hospital, if they wish.
This caring team has established a support group, Tiny Stars, which provides bereaved parents with the opportunity to get together with others and share about their loss.
Tiny Souls Bereavement Photography – Cherished Keepsake Award
Photographer Jo Cope, centre. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
“The visual proof that my son did exist.”
The photos Jo Cope had of her baby boy Kamden became her everything, after he was stillborn in 2010.
Jo had known that Kamden’s heart had stopped beating for almost a week before he was delivered, a blessing, she says in retrospect, for the time it gave her to prepare for making memories.
It gave her time, as her world crumbled, to research into photography and take precious portraits of her baby when he came into the world.
Crippled by grief and supported by the baby loss community, her experience inspired her as she healed to help other bereaved parents capture precious moments after the death of their baby.
She launched charity Tiny Souls Bereavement Photography to provide professional photography services to parents who lose, or are facing the loss of their baby, beyond the 14th week of pregnancy.
Serving parents in the Mid-Essex area, Jo has used her photography skills to give hundreds of grieving parents beautiful visual reminders of their child.
“Knowing that this is often the one and only chance for families to record these moments, I will capture as much as possible,” she says.
Nicholas Embleton – Healthcare Professional of the Year
Millie Cann, left, of the Skye High Foundation collected Dr Nicholas Embleton’s award. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
After 20 years of working with premature and sick newborns on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Newcastle, consultant neonatologist Nicholas Embleton led a series of research projects into the grief journey of parents who lose a baby.
One of the studies, aimed at informing medics looked at how, in the case of multiple births, parents coped with grief – when one baby dies and the other survives.
The research led to the Neonatal Butterfly Project and the global adoption of a Butterfly cot card. These help doctors and nurses identify parents who are bereaved of one of their children, making them aware of the empathy that’s needed.
“Parents didn’t expect us to be miracle workers, social workers, counsellors or psychologists, but they did always expect that we acted with kindness and humanity,” says Dr Nicholas.
“They appreciated even small expressions of empathy. To me, this is summed up with the phrase “…it’s the little things that count.”
Chris Binnie – Inspirational Father of the Year
Chris Binnie. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
After their son Henry was stillborn at 38 weeks in May 2014, Chris Binnie and his wife Briony found support through baby loss community Our Angels.
“I reached out to them because I wanted to feel normal,” says Chris, who found himself part of a club that no-one wants to join, but is an amazing group of people to be among.
Supported by the group to cope with the grief he still lives with, Chris was determined to give back. He also wanted to raise awareness to help professionals, parents and wider society support others bereaved by baby loss. He helped Our Angels secure registered charity status, then embarked on a series of outdoor challenges, which have seen him raise more than £20,000 for the charity.
Chris has become an advocate for parents bereaved by baby loss, regularly addressing maternity and healthcare professionals and academics, as well as helping inform parents themselves.
He says: “Education of professionals and students is SO important – not just to ensure that they provide compassionate care following the loss of a baby, but also to bring about changes in practice that help more babies arrive safely, reducing the amount of bereavement care needed.”
Demi Pitt – Inspirational Mother of the Year
Demi Pitt was accompanied by partner Jay and rainbow baby Vinnie to collect her award. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
In the four weeks that she spent preparing for her son Ronnie’s funeral, Demi knew that she didn’t want to feel like it was the last thing she was doing for her little boy.
Ronnie was stillborn in January 2016, but the family had two precious days with him at the hospital, thanks to Cuddlecots provided by baby bereavement charity Sands.
Since Ronnie died, Demi has raised more than £30,000 for Sands and to help hospitals improve bereavement suites and provide Cuddlecots to families. Taking every opportunity to host events and advocate – Demi has even been involved in awareness campaigns held at supermarkets – she’s hosted scores of charity events, provided training days to midwives and other healthcare professionals, memory-making gifts for bereaved parents and organised community memorial services for babies who are mourned and missed.
For Demi, her achievements are part of a lifetime’s mission to keep Ronnie’s memory alive.
Keiley Tuck – Midwife of the Year
Pictured right, Midwife of the Year, Keiley Tuck. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
Keiley Tuck has been a midwife for 26 years and a bereavement midwife for a decade. Many of the parents she supports know that their baby has died, before he or she is delivered.
Keiley’s role goes beyond the delivery room at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton and into the community, where she provides families with at-home support and time to talk, in the weeks following their baby’s loss.
“I cannot put into words how important this part of my job is, as this unlimited time with the couple allows them to talk about their baby with someone willing to listen.”
She provides comfort and reassurance, also giving families practical advice on how to cope with their loss and in their relationship, finding that although united in grief, parents can express and deal with their loss in different ways.
Keiley looks out for new items such as plaster cast kits that can be used by mums and dads to make mementos of their babies. These are funded by charitable donations, while Mel Scott is behind a charity, Towards Tomorrow Together, which provides the parents that Keiley supports with memory boxes.
She’s also on hand to chat with parents she’s connected with, who need a little extra support and reassurance through a rainbow pregnancy after their loss.
Louise Wright – Most Valuable Contribution Award
Louise Wright, centre, is a fundraising champion. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
Louise Wright says she still struggles to make sense of the loss of her miracle baby, Billy, who died 12 days after her was born in June 2017. Born a healthy 8lb8oz, Billy had been conceived after five-years of trying for a baby.
“Our world as we knew it fell apart,” says Louise, who vowed to “pay back” the support she and her husband received from charities including Edward’s Trust – in Billy’s name.
Louise’s family and their “rainbow” team of supporters have already raised more than £18,000 for charities and bereavement support services. Zumabathons, summer balls and parties are among the fundraisers Louise has organised.
“I will never stop fundraising,” says Louise.
“I will never stop trying to help others on this unthinkable journey and I will never stop talking about my beautiful son Billy.”
Anthony Oldham – The Thank You Award
Special dad and grandad Anthony Oldham. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
“Thank you for holding your grandson and gazing at him with the same love and admiration and devotion as you did my living daughters.”
Natalie Oldham’s moving thank you letter to her dad Anthony inspired the 2018 Butterfly Awards thank you honour.
In a beautiful tribute to her dad Anthony, Natalie, whose son Otis was stillborn in June 2016, describes how he was there for her.
From gently breaking the news to her small daughters that their baby brother wouldn’t be coming home to giving the family practical help in overwhelming circumstances, Natalie also thanks her dad for understanding how grief comes in waves and for his unconditional love and support when days turn difficult.
“You are my hero” she said.
4 Louis – Support Organisation of the Year
4 Louis: Kirsty McGurrel, right, and partner Michael Knight. Picture: FinleysFootprints/BusyBee Photography
Kirsty McGurrel’s son Louis died 38 weeks into her pregnancy and week later, she was taken into a delivery room knowing that she would be meeting her longed-for baby boy – and saying goodbye.
She and partner Michael Knight had time in hospital making memories with their little angel and were able to take him home to her mum’s where close family members and friends had the chance to see how beautiful he was.
The seeds of 4Louis were sown at the funeral, when the family requested donations instead of flowers, to help found a charity in Louis’s name.
Overwhelmed by her own loss, Kirsty wanted to provide comfort and support to other families bereaved by miscarriage and stillbirth. The mission of 4 Louis is to improve bereavement care and support in hospitals across the UK, which has been described as a postcode lottery for bereaved parents.
“It’s heartbreaking to imagine that a lack of resources available reduce the precious memories and keepsakes captured in the short time the family spend with their baby or child,” says Kirsty.
4 Louis provides healthcare professionals with a better understanding of how to support grieving parents after their loss, also providing them with resources they can give parents to make memories with their baby, in a safe and comfortable environment.
- Read more: NHS trusts urged to help end ‘postcode lottery’ for parents grieving baby loss