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Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach tearfully recalls baby son's death in Parliament

The MP received huge support for her brave admission during calls for better bereavement care

Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach broke down crying in the House of Commons as she bravely recalled the night her baby son died.

The 46-year-old, who made history as the constituency's first female MP in May this year, couldn't hide her tears as she spoke of her anguish after losing five-day-old Sam to a sudden infection as he slept in his cot in 2009.

Conservative member Ms Sandbach was supported by dozens of colleagues as she drew on her own experience to call for better bereavement care in hospitals.

And she warned that nearly a third of neonatal units offer parents no access to the psychological counselling which she said was her 'lifeline'.

The former Welsh Assembly member said: "The night my son died, I woke to find him not breathing.

"Arriving at hospital, after looking at a flat line in the ambulance for more than 20 minutes, a crash team was waiting for me, but it was too late."

"Staff at the hospital were wonderful, but I found myself in a plain room with questions being asked of me.

"I was told that I had to wait for the police. I had left in such a panic that I had left my telephone behind and I could not remember any telephone numbers, and I was there on my own."

Despite having to stop after becoming overcome with tears, Mrs Sandbach then continued:

"That night, I was given a leaflet by the Chrysalis Trust, on which there were telephone numbers that gave me invaluable information about the help that I could access.

"I arrived home later that morning to find police officers going through my house. Clearly, they had to investigate the death as it had been away from the hospital.

"I had to explain to my six-year-old what had happened. It was then that the advice in the leaflet came into its own, because it was made clear to me that I should not say that my son had gone to sleep.

"It was at that point that I realised that I would need additional help, as I did not know how to cope with what had happened.

"I called the number for the Chrysalis charity, and it organised counselling for me, which was a lifeline."

Ms Sandbach was among the MPs leading an adjournment debate calling for better care for bereaved families in maternity units.

They want to improve on 'patchy' bereavement services by making sure every maternity hospital has resources to deal with grieving parents.

There is 'excellent' care, they stressed, but improvements had to be made - and no parent should ever have to cope with their loss within earshot of happy newborns.

And Ms Sandbach later told The Mirror that more parents should agree to post mortems for their babies.

The post mortem for Sam found he had died of a streptococcal infection, helping bring closure for the MP, but many other cot deaths remain a mystery.

She said: "I agreed to Sam having a post mortem and I saw him when he came back to the hospital and they put him in the chapel of rest.

"You have visions of your baby being cut up, which I know sounds an awful thing to say. But actually he just looked really peaceful and lovely and I was really glad to see him."

The MP's Conservative colleague Will Quince also spoke emotionally of how his baby was stillborn in October last year, and was praised my Mrs Sandbach who said it was 'quite rare' to hear a male voice in the debate.

Mr Quince said he had mistakenly assumed every maternity unit in Britain had a bereavement suite.

"No parent should have to face being taken to a room in a maternity ward of crying babies when you have just gone through a stillbirth," he said. "The precious hours we spent in what I can describe only as beautiful silence afterwards helped me and my wife come to terms with what had just happened.

Health minister Ben Gummer later praised his 'very brave' colleagues, telling the Commons: "I will now, as a consequence of his raising this issue, ensure that we get a proper assessment of the number of bereavement suites.

"Already, all new-build maternity units will have a bereavement suite in the right place.

"I intend to toughen up the guidelines so that they are not so much a suggestion, specifically about proximity to the rest of the maternity unit, but something rather more forceful than that."



David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
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