When you are expecting a baby, you picture your child’s life; all the dreams and hopes you have for them and you look forward to both the fun and the challenges that raising a baby brings, said Langley resident Lora Boshoff.
In January 2012, Boshoff was nine months pregnant with a girl she and her husband had already named Mia.
She and her husband Sean had just purchased their first home in Langley, painted the baby’s room pink, hung up all the cute little clothes they’d purchased.
They could not wait to meet her.
“A few years prior, we’d had two miscarriages which was very sad, so once we got through the first few trimesters with Mia, we never thought we would hear the tragic words ‘I’m sorry, but we cannot find her heartbeat.’
“It’s those words that stop your world, wondering what went wrong, and if there was something that could have been done to prevent her death,” said Boshoff.
Now, nearly three years later, Boshoff is a volunteer with Still Life Canada and is helping organize a one-day conference on stillbirth prevention and care on Friday, Oct. 2 in Vancouver at the SFU Segal Building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She will be speaking at the conference.
She is encouraging bereaved families and health care professionals to attend.
Shortly before she was given the devastating news in 2012, Boshoff remembers noticing she hadn’t felt her baby kicking much, and knew something was wrong. She went to her OBGYN who sent her to hospital, where the couple received the devastating news.
“Our sweet baby was gone,” she said. “My due date was in one week, we had just had a baby shower, the gifts still with the tags on and the excitement of her arrival. Now we were planning her funeral.
“We were able to spend time with Mia in the hospital, dressing her and holding her and taking pictures. She was beautiful, looked just like her Daddy, with my heart-shaped lips and chubby cheeks.”
The hardest part was leaving the hospital without her, Boshoff said.
They had support from a social worker at the hospital. The community nurses called for a few weeks. “I would just cry and they would listen.”
Thankfully, the couple had plenty of support from family and friends Boshoff was also sent to the Fraser Health Reproductive Mental Health clinic in Surrey, where Dr. Samantha Saffy, her psychiatrist, helped her work through the grief and pain.
Boshoff organized a group session with other families going through stillbirth which was really helpful, she said.
“My advice to any families going through the death of a baby is to talk about them as much as you can and to connect with others,” said Boshoff.
In 2013, she was introduced to Still Life Canada, a grass-roots organization in Vancouver formed by bereaved parents dealing with stillbirth and neonatal loss.
Now Boshoff is a volunteer and along with International Stillbirth Alliance, they are co-hosting the conference this Friday.
Researchers, physicians, nurses, midwives, social workers and other health care professionals in attendance from all over the world will join families to raise awareness and issue a call to action toward stillbirth prevention.
The deaths of stillborn babies are invisible and devastating losses deeply affecting families across B.C. Yet, societal perception is that they are rare events and rarely talked about.
Sadly, stillbirths have been estimated to be 10 times as prevalent as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Still Life Canada will highlight new and emerging best practices to prevent stillbirth at the Oct. 2 conference.
“For too long there has been a void of discussion on our babies who are born still,” said Jaime Ascher, president of Still Life Canada and chair of the conference planning committee. “As a mother affected by stillbirth, I am excited to see research, physicians, nurses, midwives and other health care providers join with families to raise awareness about this.”
The hope of the conference is to highlight new directions in research for prevention of stillbirth, to review best practices in the care of families affected by this and to bring parents and families into the dialogue with researchers and health care providers.