There have been far too many tales of personal suffering throughout this pandemic, but sometimes the NHS seems determined to add insult to injury.
Pregnant Then Screwed, the forthrightly named campaign group, has highlighted the predicament of thousands of women who have been devastated by having to go through some of the most traumatic experiences of their lives alone.
It is simply unforgiveable that, months after the height of the pandemic, pregnant women are still going through vital scans on their own, only to discover their pregnancy has ended, to endure miscarriage without a friendly hand to hold, and at least one woman forced to giving birth to a stillborn baby alone.
More than 60 MPs have now written to NHS trusts to demand that they lift their draconian ban on partners at the bedside during births – a ban that has endured despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock urging NHS chiefs to end the policy last month.
I can only imagine what these women must have gone through. My husband and I lost four babies to miscarriage. I could not have got through the pain of losing those pregnancies without my husband to comfort me – and for me to be there to comfort him.
Once again, the NHS has taken to extremes their focus on keeping hospitals safe from Covid-19, while ignoring the resulting price paid by other patients and their families. And, once again, they have been slow to change those rules once the pandemic peak passed.
London’s Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is among those whose website continues to tell mothers-to-be: “Please do not bring anyone to your scan. You must attend your appointment alone.”
New fathers are only allowed to stay for the duration of the labour and birth, but they are chucked out soon afterwards – unless the baby has the foresight to be born during the regular visiting hours of noon to 7pm, when they can stay. It is almost as if the NHS thinks fathers are just an irritation, extras on a film set to be despatched away, rather than playing an integral role in their child’s life.
After all, babies don’t get conjured up out of thin air. Babies need fathers as well as mothers. And fathers also care for and grieve for their lost babies just as mothers do.
Miscarriage is one of the hardest things for both parents to deal with because often no one outside your relationship or immediate family even knows you are pregnant. It is hard to talk about losing a baby that no one actually saw or even knew had ever existed.
Yet that pain of losing a baby feels just as real. I can still remember, 16 years later, the deafening silence of the sonographer’s machine that should have been pumping out the pulse of my first baby’s tiny heartbeat at 12 weeks. And I can still see the expression on her face as she broke the terrible news to us, and the pain, anger and bewilderment that my husband and I felt as this news hit us with the violence of a punch in the stomach.
The thought of going through that on my own, without his arms to hold me and mine to hold him, is beyond my comprehension. This cruelty must end today.