An MP wept as she told the Commons how not being able to register the life or death of her stillborn daughter has left her devastated.
Labour’s Sharon Hodgson’s daughter Lucy was delivered three days short of the required 24 week legal age to be considered viable.
Instead her records recorded the birth as a miscarriage, she said.
Tory Will Quince, whose son was stillborn, told her: “I think Lucy would be very proud of her mummy.”
The emotionally charged exchanges came during debate on a bill to allow heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships, and for all stillborn deaths to be registered.
Many MPs were seen wiping away tears as Mrs Hodgson admitted that although her experience happened almost 20 years ago, she still found it very difficult to talk about.
Had her third child Lucy been born alive, she would have been incubated at 23.5 weeks, taken in an ambulance to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary’s special care baby unit and “had the very best world class care”, she said.
“She would have a birth certificate. She would have been celebrating her 20th birthday this year.
“But sadly she was stillborn. So no flashing blue lights, no incubator and no birthday parties. Ever.
“And I found out to my horror – no birth or death certificate. So as I held her in my arms and had to come to terms with that had just happened, I also then had to come to terms with the fact that unfortunately, she did not exist …
“She was three to four days short of the required 24 week legal age to be considered eligible for a death certificate.”
Mrs Hodgson said she was “further traumatised” when she discovered Lucy’s birth had been recorded as a miscarriage.
“Because she was pre-24 weeks, she didn’t even get the dignity of being classed as a stillbirth,” she commented.
‘She doesn’t officially exist’
The MP said Lucy was named at a blessing conducted by the hospital chaplain, and she was “buried in a tiny white coffin” in the same grave as her grandparents,
A small family service was funded by the Co-op, and because her elder children were only two and three and a half years old at the time, only her husband and their parents were in attendance.
“I tell you all this to highlight that to the chaplain, to the Co-op funeral service, to us – her family – she existed. She was a baby who was sadly born dead.
“Her heart was beating throughout my labour just up to minutes before she was born – she just couldn’t make the final push into this world.
“And because of a matter of a few days, she doesn’t officially exist in any records, other than in our memories and our own family records.
“Even the entry on the deeds for the grave is in my name – as if I or in this case, a bit of me, was buried there.”
Mrs Hodgson said she hoped MPs would understand how hard it had been to deal with what happened, which “was and still is the worst thing I’ve had to experience in all my life”.
Having seen the “miracle” of babies surviving birth before 24 weeks, she added: “Surely there’s a way to recognise a 22 or 23 week baby who didn’t quite make it to their first birthday?”
Mr Quince, who intervened during Mrs Hodgson’s address to allow her to compose herself, said all bereaved parents “want to ensure that our child’s life, however short, has meaning”.
“If you don’t mind me saying, I think Lucy would be very proud of her mummy today,” he added.
Mrs Hodgson, smiled, thanked him and laughed: “If you were trying to calm me down, you’ve probably made me worse.”
Later in the debate, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins told MPs the government would review the issue to see if the law needed to be changed to allow for the registration of pregnancy loss before 24 weeks gestation.
“The Department of Health and Social Care recognises the need to do more to support families affected by a miscarriage,” she said.
“Some families may want their loss to be acknowledged and registered, others however may feel distressed at any mandatory requirement to do so in the circumstances of their grief, and so this issue must therefore be approached with great care and sensitivity.”