A Wearside charity, which has supported countless parents across the country in the darkest of times, has donated £30,000 to help a bereaved mum on a new career path.
Laura Clark, 25, from Columbia in Washington, faced every parent’s worst nightmare when, at 38 weeks pregnant with her first child Oliver, she was told by nurses that they could no longer find a heartbeat.
Two days after being dealt the devastating blow in February 2012, she had to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead to give birth to her stillborn baby.
Now, the charity which supported her in her grief, is helping the mum-of-one on the way to becoming a midwife, with the aim of specialising in bereavement midwifery.
Laura, who has since welcomed daughter Thea, four, into the world, has been accepted onto a three-year course at Teesside University, the fees for which will be paid by 4Louis.
Laura said: “Giving birth to Oliver was absolutely horrendous and all the while I could hear mums down the corridor with their healthy babies. When I had Oliver it made me realise that these things, unfortunately, happen and now I want to be there for somebody else.
“I went back to my job in insurance and everyone was asking how the baby was, which was really upsetting. Once I got my head around the grief, I realised that I wanted to be the person who cared for somebody else who may find themselves in my position.”
In 2015 Laura went back to college and this year was offered a place on her midwifery course. After posting about the place on Facebook, Kirsty McGurrell who founded 4Louis with her family, approached Laura to offer to pay her fees.
Laura and Kirsty remained in touch after Laura received one of the charity’s memory boxes following Oliver’s delivery. The boxes, inspired by the still birth of Kirsty’s first son Louis in 2009, contain keepsakes so that parents can remember their children whose lives were taken early.
What started as a project in Kirsty’s parents’ living room in Houghton nine years ago, now supplies up to 1700 memory boxes a month to 650 units across the country, including maternity wards, military barracks and hospices, as well as funding other projects, such as the creation of a dedicated bereavement suite in Sunderland Royal Hospital.
The free boxes are hand-packed by dedicated volunteers at the charity’s base in Hertburn Industrial Estate, Washington, and Laura is one of many who’ve taken part in fundraising activities for the cause.
Kirsty, who is mum to Mitchell, seven, Oskar, five, and Daisy, six months, said: “Not many hospitals have a dedicated bereavement midwife, it’s usually just the longest-standing midwife on the unit at the time, so funding someone with this specialism was something we’d been considering for a while. Then when I saw Laura’s Facebook post it all seemed to fall into place.”
Laura said: “It’s life-changing to have this amount donated by the charity. It’s a crazy amount of money and it’s not something that ever happens to people like me, especially considering the circumstances I’ve been through.
“It was so comforting to have the memory box when I gave birth to Oliver because at the time you’re so distressed, you don’t think about doing things like taking hair clippings because the baby you had planned for is gone. Now I have a box to remember his life and to show Thea when she’s older so she knows about her brother.
“After my training I’m hoping to find a job with that specialism so I can be that first point of support. We can’t change the fact that babies are stillborn, but we can change the level of support that’s offered at that time.”