A Moray mother who lost her baby at 21 weeks will always “treasure” the memory box gifted to her from a leading neonatal and stillbirth charity.
Leonie Wilson and her partner Shane Donaldson, from Lossiemouth, lost their baby Aurora in November 2020 after learning she was ill.
But the charity Sands was there for her during a difficult period.
The couple has now donated vital funds for the refurbishment of the bereavement room in Dr Gray’s Hospital.
‘It could happen to anybody’
When Leonie and her partner opted to find out what had happened to Aurora, they learned she was “very poorly”.
“We were told she had half a heart and Down Syndrome – so there were many things against her,” she explained.
“I personally blamed myself. I thought, ‘Was it something I’ve done? Or was it something that I picked up? Is it something that I’ve eaten?
“I needed to know why. And then we found out she was very poorly.”
Leonie added: “I don’t think she would have had a very good quality of life.
“And I’m glad that God made the decision, and I didn’t have to make the decision.
“I don’t think I could have made it.”
Reflecting on the help provided by Sands, the mother-of-three says she was offered essential support through a confusing and difficult time.
She said: “There are just so many things that they can help you through this really tough time.”
“Lots of mums don’t think that it’s going to happen to them and I asked myself ‘Why us?’, but it could happen to anybody.”
Memory boxes important for grieving parents
Sands made it possible for a pastor to speak to the family, and offer a blessing.
“When you’re in the room, spending your time with your wee one, the pastor came and spoke,” Leonie said.
“He was lovely. He spoke about family and gave Aurora a blessing. It was such a comfort and a lovely thing to do.
“And I think the best thing you get from Sands is the care.”
A memory box is put together by the charity for expectant parents who face the death of a baby in pregnancy or shortly after birth.
These boxes are an important part of many bereaved parents’ journeys since they can store meaningful items.
“It’s such a big thing for me because we’ve got the photos and we’ve got a wee heart, a keepsake one.
“One in her box and one in ours and it’s just these wee things that matter. It’s a big deal to us.”
Leonie raised more than £1,100 for Sands
The memory box proved the inspiration for Leonie to give back to the charity.
She dedicated her 40th birthday celebration to fundraising more than £1,100.
She added: “There are lots of things that Sands does and it’s a hard time for mums and dads.
“Going through it ourselves, I personally think that money is going towards a good cause because of all the things that they do for you.
“And it’s all it’s all done on donations.”
Funds for a new bed in bereavement room
Tina Megevand is a befriender with the Moray branch of the charity.
Sands befrienders are individuals who have also experienced baby loss and undergone training to help support bereaved families.
She says, because of donations like Leonie’s, Sands is able to continue with its mission and vision.
The money can go towards supporting those who have lost babies in receiving the care and support they need.
Locally, this can be training befrienders and midwives, enabling monthly meetings for the bereaved and providing memory boxes.
Tina said: “Moray Sands would like to say a huge thank you to Leonie and her family for her courage in sharing her story and raising such a fantastic amount for our charity.
“Her donation will go towards the current refurbishment of the bereavement room in Dr Gray’s Hospital.
“We are aiming to raise more funds for a new bed which both parents can stay in, in place of the current fold away single.”
Room gives parents privacy to grieve
Tina explained in the past, women had to birth their babies in the labour ward, “hearing the cries of newborns when their baby was silent”.
“They were often not shown or didn’t get to hold their baby, had no time to say hello or goodbye,” she added.
“We now recognise how important the process of grief is and what can enable that process.
“A room away from the labour ward, dedicated to providing privacy and precious time, with as many home comforts as possible and cared for by respectful and trained staff is all part of that process.”
In order to raise the funds needed to purchase the bed, Sands will be hosting a fundraising walk on Father’s Day.
The community event will take place on June 19, and you can find out more on how to participate here.
For support, visit the charity’s official website.