Carrie-Ann Dring hopes to break the silence surrounding one of society’s taboos by sharing her own story
In 2017, I was pregnant with my first child. As my 12-week scan approached, I was nervous but excited, and so was my husband – I remember listening to Common People by Pulp in the car on the way there, making a note of it on my phone so I could tell them about it when they were older.
But sadly, things did not work out as we had hoped. The sonographer scanned my tummy but couldn’t see a baby. She got a colleague in to double-check, and while there was everything else you would expect to see in a pregnancy, the baby was missing.
I had had what is called a missed miscarriage, where something goes wrong early in pregnancy, but the body carries on as if everything is fine. I had to wait for a few days to see if things kicked off naturally but, when they didn’t, I had to have an operation which went fine, but nevertheless I felt scared and sad about what had happened.
A few months later, just before Christmas 2017, I found out that I was pregnant again. We learnt that we were having a girl and decided to call her Dorothy; we loved the name, and one of our favourite characters in a TV show we loved was called Dorothy, as was my great-aunt.
Unfortunately, unlike either of her chronically late parents, Dorothy was very early (13 weeks) and, despite some truly phenomenal efforts from the NHS team – people I will always, always be grateful to – she was very poorly and passed away soon after she was born.
The kindness and sensitivity they treated us with was remarkable. We were given our own suite, away from the rest of the ward, and told to take as long as we needed to spend with Dorothy, before saying goodbye.
In the 24 hours we were all together, she was given a christening outfit made from someone’s old wedding dress, before the hospital chaplain came to bless her. She got to meet some of her family, and we had some gorgeous photos taken by a photographer volunteering for the charity Remember my Baby.
While we were in hospital, we were given so much paperwork, and had some difficult decisions to make. With the paperwork were a series of booklets for grieving new parents, written by the charity SANDS.
People don’t generally ask grieving new parents to see photos of their babies, and it meant the world to me
Everyone from the hospital emphasised how helpful they were, so I started reading them (I couldn’t concentrate on the Marian Keyes novel I had taken with me – I had barely started packing my hospital bag, but that was in there). They were clear, concise, and full of helpful advice that we didn’t know we needed.
When we returned home, one of my colleagues came to see me. She asked how we were, and asked to see a photo. People don’t generally ask grieving new parents to see photos of their babies, and it meant the world to me. When she left, I gave her the SANDS booklet with advice for employers, and I asked her to pass it onto whoever needed to see it.
When my HR contact rang, she was incredibly kind and sensitive. She asked how we were doing, if I needed anything and reminded me that it was entirely up to me how often I wanted to stay in touch – I should take off as much time as I wanted.
I had been in therapy before Dorothy’s birth due to anxiety, and it turned out to be a lifeline after she died. Processing all the traumatic events around Dorothy’s birth was horrific, but vital in pulling me out of that place. I continue to have therapy today and it is still beneficial, nearly four years on.
Just before I returned to work, I sent an email to the team with a few details about Dorothy and saying that I was happy to talk about her, but understood if people would prefer not to. It was helpful for me to set the boundaries, and I hope my colleagues found it useful as well.
Child loss is one of society’s taboos, up there with the menopause
During my return to work, my team was amazing. They were incredibly protective of me. At times, the office felt a bit overwhelming, and I used to pick up my laptop and pop downstairs to our breakroom, where it was much quieter outside of lunchtimes. I could get some work done and take a bit of a breather, and everyone was very understanding.
Child loss is one of society’s taboos, up there with the menopause. People know it happens, but they don’t want to talk about it – whether it’s because they feel uncomfortable or they worry that they are going to upset the family it has happened to (I promise, as long as you are not being malicious, you won’t).
Kier’s pregnancy loss policy
- All employees – whether they, their partner or surrogate directly experience a loss – are entitled to two weeks’ paid leave in case of a loss before 24 weeks of pregnancy.
- When returning to work, employees can request accommodations, which will be offered wherever possible. These include a phased return to work and agile working.
- The policy also includes some guidance for line managers, to ensure they can best support employees going through a traumatic experience.
- This is part of Kier’s new wider family-friendly policies.
It is easy to spot when people mean well, even if the words don’t quite come out right. Last year, I was approached by Kier’s group HR director, Helen Redfern, to see if I could help with the creation of the pregnancy loss policy and I am so, so proud to have worked with a team who truly care about offering support to colleagues.
The policy offers two weeks’ paid leave for all employees who experience a loss, whether it is they, their partner or surrogate who has directly experienced it, which is extremely important. Although everyone is different and for many, two weeks is not enough time to go through the grieving process, it is time to have some of the necessary medical appointments and begin to heal from the loss. And not requiring a doctor’s note means employees can focus on what they need, rather than logistics.
The accommodations we also outline in the policy as people return to work after a loss are, I believe, equally as important.
My hope is that, with the introduction of Kier’s pregnancy loss policy, we are starting to break the silence a little bit, and encouraging people to talk more openly about it if they feel able.
Losing a child is something that is entirely out of your control, and I feel fortunate to have been working for Kier when it happened to me, as it felt like they had given me some control of my life back.
Every Person Counts
Building’s Every Person Counts Campaign aims to provide a place where debates about skills, employment and workplace culture can play out and solutions can be shared.
We know the construction industry has no shortage of suggestions for tackling the skills crisis. From reforming apprenticeships, to offering more flexibility, to increasing diversity, to supporting wellbeing and mental health, to providing better pathways from education to the workplace. We will be picking up on all these themes in more depth in future articles.
If you have an employment initiative you want to tell us about, email us at email@example.com with the subject line “Every Person Counts”. You can also contact us via Twitter @BuildingNews and LinkedIn @BuildingMagazine, please use the hashtag #everypersoncounts. We look forward to hearing your employment stories.