Mother who lost baby supports plan to soundproof Royal Berkshire Hospital bereavement rooms

  • Some viewers may find the themes discussed in Charlotte Briere-Edney's report upsetting

A mother from Woodley is backing a fundraising effort to refurbish and soundproof bereavement suites at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Nicky Johnson and her partner used one of the suites in the maternity wing when their daughter Flora died after 31 weeks of pregnancy.

Nicky opened up to ITV Meridian reporter Charlotte Briere-Edney about the moment doctors told her Flora's heart had stopped beating: "They said the devastating words that there was no heartbeat. My world just completely crashed.

"I'm pretty sure I fell to the floor. Me and my partner both clung to each other.

"I was 26. It was my my first baby. How could this be happening to me? I did everything right. But, you know, life is cruel."

The Royal Berkshire currently has two bereavement suites that can be used by families, but they are in need of updating, and are currently not soundproofed.

The two bereavement suites at the Royal Berkshire Hospital are in need of updating

It means parents who have lost a child are often able to overhear what is going on elsewhere on the ward, and including the sounds of other babies.

Nicky Johnson recalls a particularly upsetting moment: "Throughout the night, I remember twice I could hear this lady's baby crying. And it was such a bittersweet sound because I just longed for Flora to just wake up and to scream and cry, and do the stuff of baby stuff.

"But she didn't. Obviously, she couldn't.

"So it was so hard being there, almost kind of teasing me with what I was so close to having, but didn't. It just broke me."

Laura Payne, the lead bereavement midwife at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, explained: "They're not soundproof at the moment, which means that women, if it's busy, they can sometimes hear babies crying, which is particularly really difficult. And fathers as well have said that they found that really, really challenging.

"When you've got your little one next to you and you just all you want them to do is wake up and cry, and you can hear other babies crying, that parents have told us that's really, really difficult."

Laura is one of two midwives on the bereavement team, which co-ordinates care for women and guide families through the formalities which need to be completed, including making visits to patients' homes.

The bereavement suites are on the maternity wards at the Royal Berkshire Hospital

The specialist midwives also train other staff to provide sensitive, parent-centred care, and are a source of information on best practice.

Amid discussions about the future of the hospital buildings, Laura Payne said waiting was not an option.

"For those families it can make such a huge difference, it's really worth putting the effort into people," she told us.

"We've only got one chance to get it right. That is the memory of them with their baby and we need to protect that as much as we can, we need to make it really special, we need to make it as private as possible."

The Royal Berks Charity is attempting to raise the £40,000 needed for the soundproofing as part of its Christmas fundraising appeal - the charity said: "With your help, we can make sure that families who experience loss of a pregnancy or death of their baby get the support they need at this difficult time."

For advice and support you can contact the following organisations:

Sands - 0808 164 3332

Tommy's - 020 7398 3400

The Lullaby Trust - 0808 802 6868