The ambition of the archive is to provide an authentic and intimate insight into the experiences of parents and clinicians and the impact that stillbirth can have personally and professionally.
To date, we have recorded 22 interviews: 17 with parents and five with clinicians. We wanted to reflect diversity of experience whilst also being realistic about the number of interviews we could undertake given the funding available.
Having completed a bespoke oral history training course with an accredited Oral History Society Trainer, the interviews were conducted in the spirit of the oral history tradition, with non-directive questions. However, it is important to note that we came to the project with professional interviewing skills and experience as documentary makers.
We interviewed people in familiar surroundings (at home or some clinicians in their workplace) using a small hand-held, broadcast quality recorder. The interviews can be listened to in full or short clips are searchable by theme. Parental themes include: Being told your baby has died, Deciding about a post-mortem and Pregnancy after loss. Clinician themes include: Showing emotion, First experiences and Talking to and supporting families. We had editorial control of the selection of clips.
The parent interviewees were invited to talk about their hospital experience, clinical care, access to bereavement services and additional care offered during subsequent pregnancies, as well as their personal feelings. Clinicians were invited to reflect on their personal feelings in response to stillbirth and bereavement, as well as their experiences of training and their professional role and duties.
It was important to us that interviewees found the interview experience constructive and throughout we were aware of the ethical considerations involved. We ensured that everyone we contacted was given clear information about the intentions of the project and issues around consent.
As documentary producers we understand the emotional impact of talking at length to someone about a personal experience and exploring sometimes long guarded feelings and thoughts. With these ethical considerations in mind, we worked with St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester – where our co-applicant Professor Alexander Heazell works – so that parents could access follow-up support if or as required. The hospital is home to the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre: a leading research centre into the causes of stillbirth and best practice for bereavement support.
Despite being located in Britian’s second city and serving a broad cross section of contemporary British society, we found it difficult to find a representative group of parents willing to be interviewed. We felt strongly that diversity was essential to the value of the archive, so some parent interviewees responded to a request we posted on social media. Two of our historic interviewees – a couple – we found via a newspaper article.
To reflect the differences in bereavement care across different maternity units, we selected some parents who gave birth to their stillborn child at another hospital – but received subsequent care at St Mary’s – and we selected the clinician interviewees from various hospitals across the country.
Working closely with one maternity unit at this pilot stage enabled us to trial a methodology that if successful we could roll-out to other trusts in the future.
It is our hope that the opportunity to access this material online, with the relative privacy that this medium can offer, will be particularly attractive to individuals affected by stillbirth who may have never accessed bereavement support before.