Vicky Foxcroft, the Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, moved MPs to tears in the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon when she described how she battled to cope with the death of her baby daughter.
The politician delivered an emotional tribute to her "little angel Veronica", leaving other MPs in tears as she described how the loss had affected her. Foxcroft said many of her friends did not know about it but that she had decided to speak in the parliamentary debate to increase awareness during Babyloss Awareness Week.
Foxcroft said many of her close friends did not know she had ever had a child: "I don’t not talk about her because I’m embarrassed – I’m not. It’s because it hurts so much to do so."
Conservative MP Nicholas Soames praised her for being "brave and courageous" by sharing her story, during a debate in which several MPs shared their personal experiences of losing children or having miscarriages.
Foxcroft said there needed to be more counselling made available to people who lost their babies, greater understanding of the effect losing a baby had on mothers, and more support for bereaved parents. But she concluded with a message for other mothers who have been through similar experiences: "You’re not alone."
Read Vicky Foxcroft's speech in full:
“This is probably the hardest speech I have ever had to write and deliver. This week has been a tough week, as I had never heard of Babyloss Awareness Week but it’s been all around me. There have been online discussions, commemorative badges, and a debate in the chamber today. I have struggled debating with myself as to whether or not I should contribute in here. It's such a personal issue. And do I want to share my very personal experiences?
"The absolute truth is that I struggle to talk to my family and my very close friends about it. But during the events this week I can see a large focus is on people talking about their love ones, supporting each other, and making sure that when needed important issues are raised and addressed.
"I want to thank all my friends who have come into the chamber today to support me, as they know how hard this is for me. I also want to apologise to my many friends who I haven’t told. It’s not because I don’t want you to know or I’m embarrassed, it’s just because I find it so very hard to do so. Ever since I was elected I’ve said I want to be the kind of politician who’s able to share my experiences, not for therapy but to empower others and to seek to change things for the better. Lewisham bereavement counselling service tell me there's a two- to four-month waiting list and this just isn't good enough.
“So I guess now is the time for me to talk and pay tribute to my little angel Veronica. When I was 16 years old I became unexpectedly pregnant. At first I was terrified and even debated having her adopted. But during my pregnancy something changed – I became attached, I was excited, I was going to be the best mum ever!
"Me and my partner at the time named our baby girl Veronica. We couldn’t wait to meet her – I went full term and was 10 days overdue so they had to induce me. I was in labour for a long time, I was sick, tired, and in a huge amount of pain. Veronica’s heartbeat was checked regularly and everything was fine.
"Once I was dilated they checked for a heartbeat again and they couldn’t find it. This went on for about 20 minutes, checking with different machines, because they weren’t sure whether the equipment was broken. Eventually the doctor was called and I was rushed to the emergency room where I had to push and forceps were used to get her out.
"The umbilical cord had been wrapped around her throat for the whole 20 minutes. She’d lived for five days but we had to agree to the life machine being turned off. I got to hold her then for the first time until her heartbeat eventually stopped. She stayed alive for hours. I never wanted to let her go.
"My baby awareness week is every year, the 22nd to the 27th of February, my five days of her being alive. She was never able to cry, to smile, but I loved her and I desperately wanted her. I still love her. She is always in my thoughts all these years afterwards even if I don’t talk about her all the time.
"I don’t not talk about her because I’m embarrassed – I’m not. It’s because it hurts so much to do so.
"After Veronica was taken from me, my coping mechanism was to chuck myself into college and work. I couldn’t talk about it, my heart was broken. I don’t have children now because I’ve lived through the fear of the same thing happening and I couldn’t do it twice.
"I have to say, as a young woman going through this, I felt that most people looked at me as if I should be grateful. I wasn’t and I’m not. Every organisation I dealt with felt like they gave me that same message. Every time I wanted to do a campaign to highlight the problems that led to her life being taken away so unfairly I was treated like a kid, not a grieving mum.
"I was her mum. I also hoped one day I’d be her best friend. If she was alive today she’d be 23 years old.
"The pain does get easier to deal with over time but it never, ever goes away. I really welcome this debate today and I really pay tribute to the members for bringing it forward. And I hope one day nobody else has to endure this pain.
"And I want my experience to be heard by young women in my constituency and across the country who have or may go through this in the future. And just to say: You’re not alone."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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