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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Mothers remember lost infant children with Dubai candle-lighting memorial

'This makes my heart extremely happy because I can see they are healing each other', says Alexandra Sullivan, who lost twin boys in late pregnancy

Left to right, Aya Baker, Sarah Hall, Alexandra Sullivan and Melissa Lindley all lost infants in childbirth. Victor Besa / The National
Left to right, Aya Baker, Sarah Hall, Alexandra Sullivan and Melissa Lindley all lost infants in childbirth. Victor Besa / The National

Mothers who have lost infants and suffered miscarriages will come together in for remembrances event this week that will see them light candles on a Dubai beach to remember their loved ones.

Support groups Little Angels – Love Through Loss and Small and Mighty Babies have organised commemoration events in Dubai on Saturday and Monday.

Along with thousands across the world to mark Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, a group will light candles at the Palace Beach on Al Sufouh road in Dubai on October 15. They will be part of a 'chain of light' crisscrossing the globe for 24 hours.

“We will light floating candles together saying our baby’s names. It is a very powerful message because no matter where we are in the world, we will light candles at exactly the same time, at 7pm, and it will be like a wave of light going through the world to remember the babies we have lost,” said Alexandra Sullivan, founder of the support group Little Angels, which meets every month.

She lost twin boys in late pregnancy in 2011 in Sweden. When she moved to Dubai later that year, it became important to reach other women to let them know they were not alone. The group held a similar event last year.

Ms Sullivan said since information about the group was published in The National earlier this year, mothers have come together to meet for coffee and keep in touch on social networks.

“Now it’s really a community. New families have heard that we are here,” said Ms Sullivan.

"The mothers support each other in chats. This makes my heart extremely happy because I can see they are healing each other."

“It is important to able to highlight that our babies mattered and we are still mothers. The day is another reminder that we must talk. It is a physical gesture to highlight pregnancy and infant loss because it does happen quite a lot and it’s very much important to talk about it.”

Dubhai, U.A.E., October 10, 2016. A group of mums is meeting to discuss wooden stars and candles that will be used in ceremonies next week to help families come to terms with losing infants and help them remember babies lost due to miscarriages, stillbirths or due to sudden infant death syndrome. Victor Besa / The National Section: NA Reporter: Ramola Talwar
The mothers display the names of their children on stars. Victor Besa / The National

There were 2.6 million stillbirths globally in 2015 - more than 7,000 deaths a day, according to the World Health Organisation.

Despite the high numbers, people are uncomfortable talking about infant loss. The Baby Loss Awareness Week that began on October 9 aims to raise awareness ending with the Wave of Light on October 15.

The Small and Mighty Babies will hold an Upon a Star Baby Loss Commemoration Afternoon on Saturday, October 13 within the Al Barari private gardens in Dubai.

The group will offer a small wooden star engraved with the baby’s name or simply with the words ‘baby girl/boy’ or ‘little star’ to families who have already registered.

Families who have suffered loss and would like to be part of the gathering can still register on the group’s website or Facebook page for a wooden star that will be given to them later.

Experts say memories such as locks of hair, photographs or a baby’s prints give solace.

Lala Langtry White, who is a doula or birth companion, the week is important to meet families she has supported either by bringing babies into the world or helping them deal with loss.

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“It gives them a chance to recognise their baby as the individual person that they are, to speak their name and hold something tangible related to their baby,” said Ms White, who works with the Small and Mighty group, supports women with high risk pregnancies and is an experienced bereavement doula with grief training.

The annual remembrance is held by Small and Mighty Babies along with IVF Support UAE, Little Angels and Lighthouse Arabia, a community mental health and wellness clinic.

“We have mothers who lost their babies 20 years ago and are able to shed another perspective on what living with loss is like,” said Ms White.

“Parents can come with children who can talk about their sibling who passed away. It’s a chance for people who want a private moment of grief to have a moment of solace. There will also be professional support.

“It is an afternoon to remember with love. Of course there are tears, there always are when it comes to grieving a baby but there is so much joy, togetherness and connection. We all know someone who has lost a baby. It’s about being able to recognise that this happened and remember each of those babies.”

To register for a wooden star, contact Small and Mighty Babies: smallandmightybabies.com/new-events/

For details on the Wave of Light, contact Little Angels: facebook.com/littleangelssupport/