MPs bravely reveal personal pain of child loss ahead of new bill aiming to support bereaved parents - 'A little bit of you dies'
Their decision to speak out comes ahead of a Private Member’s Bill which is being debated in the House of Commons
A Government minister and a Labour shadow minister have spoken movingly about their experience of baby-loss.
Conservative Employment Minister Guy Opperman and Labour’s Shadow Minister for Skills and Further Education Toby Perkins told how they had both suffered the devastation of losing twins.
Their decision to speak out comes ahead of a Private Member’s Bill which is being debated in the House of Commons tomorrow (Friday).
The Miscarriage Leave Bill aims to increase the level of support bereaved parents receive, including creating more statutory time off work to allow victims to grieve.
Speaking to GB News, Mr Opperman said he backed the bill and admitted he felt some “pressure” to get back to work following the death of his sons Teddy and Rafe in 2020.
He told Gloria De Piero: “I was a Government minister at the time I lost my twins. I was taking forward two pieces of legislation, one of which was in relation to the triple lock.
"No one else could do the legislation. I took a week off, and the House was sitting at that time when the boys got sick and then died.
"Then I went back to work, slowly but surely. I think it's a very difficult job to say you're not going to go back to work.
“There is a great deal of pressure in an employment situation that needs to be understood. Now there is a bill going through the House of Commons, that I very much support which means when you have a loss that there is a degree of time off.
"The next day I was utterly useless as a minister, and as a Member of Parliament.”
Asked whether the Government would support this bill, Mr Opperman added: “I think they are. It's still in process, it's a process of negotiation as it’s a private members bill, but yes I believe they are.”
On the other measures he’d like to see introduced he said: “I think there's a few things. The first would be a sort of uniformity of care throughout the country.
"So if you have a traumatic incident and lose a child in one trust, you can be treated very differently in that trust to another and that's not necessarily because they're worse or that they are better.
"It is because there just isn't really the standard practice, there isn't the degree of teaching and learning across different trusts.
“Also if you have a baby under 24 weeks you can't validate its existence. You can't have a birth certificate or a death certificate. It's extraordinarily difficult, this certification of life or death, particularly when they're stillborn.
"It is very, very hard and that sort of stuff needs to change.”
Mr Opperman - who recently had a baby boy who he named Christopher - said the House of Commons still had some way to go before it could class itself as family-friendly.
He said: “It is not a family-friendly job, per se. The building itself is definitely not family-friendly.
“I think we need more back office support for those parents who have children so that in reality, it works better for them. And we also possibly need some sort of parental pairing. The whips have tried to work on that. But then you get tight votes, and then things get complicated.”
The Shadow Minister for Skills and Further Education, Toby Perkins, also opened up for the first time on the loss of his twins Joshua and Jennifer.
He told Gloria De Piero: “You go and have the scan when you discover you’ve not only got one on the way, but you’ve got two. We then ended up going back for a scan to check if everything was okay.
"We got told that they can only find one heartbeat and you realise that this means that a baby has died. I guess at that moment you think, well, we’ve still got one. But actually, the reality came very quickly.
"My ex-wife gave birth to the dead child – my son Joshua. And, within a few moments, she gave birth to my daughter, Jennifer, who was alive, but it was only 23 weeks into the pregnancy.
"I think nowadays there might’ve been more of a chance of survival, but we had about six hours with her, and then she died also.”
He continued: “I think the two things that will always stay with me from that is the moment when you first hear (that your child has died).
"And the second is walking into the church, where five months before I’d been married, with two tiny coffins in my arms.
“The wail I remember that came from my mother seeing her son with her two grandchildren in his arms, is obviously something that you would never want anyone to suffer. There’s a part of you that goes through that grief, but a little bit of you dies in that moment.”
On the advice he had for others going through the ordeal he added: “I feel everyone just finds their own way. Some people will need to spend a lot of time repeatedly acknowledging it, in years going forward.
"Others will handle it in a different way, and I don’t think anyone can tell anyone else how they should handle it. Everyone sort of finds their own way. But I think it’s the same thing I’d say about any grief – losing a parent or any other – which is that the acuteness of the grief will pass.
“I think for us – we were in a better position than others, in so much as fundamentally there was no reason why my ex-wife couldn’t have more children.
"Sometimes people going through this have had miscarriage after miscarriage, and it’s all the more brutal for them. But my son was born and then a few years later we adopted my daughter.”
The interviews will be broadcast in full on Sunday on Gloria Meets on GB News from 6pm
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