Parents raise money for Rubislaw Ward as thank you for help

Kevin Laing with his  wife Claire and daughter Maeve, three
Kevin Laing with his wife Claire and daughter Maeve, three
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For parents facing the worst of times, it is like a little cocoon from a very cruel world.

The Rubislaw Ward at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital is where mums and dads go when they have lost a baby, sometimes early in pregnancy or perhaps just days before it had been due.

Maeve, three

Maeve, three

It has seven rooms and is designed to give parents comfort and privacy, as well as the highest quality medical care.

Crucially, it is separated from other parts of the maternity hospital where families are naturally celebrating the safe arrival of their newborns.

Kevin Laing and his wife Claire both felt the same about the ward after staying there for over a week. They just didn’t want to leave.

The couple lost their son Harris just two days before he had been due to be born with Mrs Laing still having to endure a labour.

During that dreadful spell, the Rubislaw Ward had become a safe place where they could harbour from the real world and spend time with their son before going home.

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Mr Laing, 39, said: “Myself and Claire said exactly the same thing when we left - that we didn’t really want to leave. It was homely in there and you are pretty much protected from everything.

“When we came out of the ward it felt quite strange.

“It didn’t feel right to be out. It was a very safe environment considering what had happened. It definitely helped us to have a place where we could chill out and get our minds together.”

Staff at the Rubislaw work with the charity Sands, which offers support following a sudden and neo-natal death, to create the best possible atmosphere for parents like Kevin and Claire.

Things like pictures on the wall, comfy chairs, subtle lighting and co-ordinated colour schemes all help but massively important are the keepsakes that the midwives carefully prepare.

A lock of hair, a footprint, a wristband and a teddy bear are all given to parents - as are a tiny set of gloves and a bonnet for their baby to wear.

Midwives take photographs of baby for their parents to keep.

Lynn Cameron is a midwifery manager at NHS Grampian and helped set up the ward.

She said: “When you lose someone as an adult you have got all these memories you can look back to. You don’t have that with a baby you lose to a stillbirth.

“We want to give parents something to connect them to the experience that their child was alive and that other people saw the baby.

“That might be a photo of you holding your baby, a hat that the baby wore or a teddy. It is about creating those memories of the baby.

“Twenty or 30 years ago people didn’t get that. It was almost as if the baby didn’t happen.

“Our midwives spend a lot of time making sure that the parents have the best memories to take away.”

Ms Cameron said research had shown people recover from loss if they have memories to work with.

Mothers tended to bond with the midwives, who are quite often the only other person to have seen their child.

The aim was to have the same midwife work with families through all stages of their loss, including the counselling offered thereafter with fathers and grandparents also supported. The Rubislaw midwives attended study days with Sands to get the best possible understanding of the issues facing families and Ms Cameron said the support between colleagues on the ward was “fantastic”.

Mr Laing, a college technician of Aberdeen, said he and his wife, who have since had a daughter Maeve, now three, could not have got through the loss of Harris in 2011 without the help of the staff there. He is competing in the Tough Mudder challenge at Drumlanrig Castle next month to raise funds to help Rubislaw help other parents. This could help buy another cold cot for the ward so that parents can spent more time with their babies or help decorate another room.

Mr Laing said: “You are never going to get over it completely but Rubislaw helped us massively face up to what had happened. They put up on the right track and we can speak about what happened to Harris. That is so important, that we can speak about him.”

To support Mr Laing’s fundraiser, visit