I first met David Monteith via a big hug - he doesn't do handshakes.
He’d just survived another summer parenting day but whirlwinded in to the Neros where we were meeting to have a milkshake and educate me about male grief with his punchy, inspirational style.
If you have a look at the image for this post (above) you'll see David and his wife Siobhan have three daughters - Grace, their middle child, died before she was born and Siobhan chose to have a waterbirth. This family sound incredible to me, David dug Grace's grave as a way to be physically involved with his grief and Siobhan chose to be a breast milk donor.
David is an actor, teacher, director, and writer. He uses his skills as a stillbirth activist.
In this interview, David offers countless gems of insight into caring for bereaved parents. I’ll hand it over to him!
What would you most like student midwives and midwives to know about infant loss?
One of the most wonderful things was a midwife talking about Grace's fingers and begin able to have a conversation comparing them to mine. At a time when everything changed little moments of normality are so important. In so many ways you need to treat our babies as you would a live one.
What’s poor advice you hear given about infant loss?
Not so much personally - the only thing I would say is make no medical assumptions about treatment or about the way you interact with parents at such a time. Don't draw on your own worldview in being 'helpful' but be mindful that babyloss is not an event but an ongoing continuum of grief in which your words and treatment will echo for a long time.
What are your favourite resources that teach about infant loss?
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elixabeth McCracken - at a time when reading is hard this book based on the authors own experience of baby loss was easy to read. Perehaps because she was already a writer it has a tone and structure that was mesmerising.
Carry Me by Dan Berry - a wordless comic about a Dad carrying his daughter through a field trying to keep her safe from a wolf. Beautifully drawn. It's not a comic about stillirth but in the weeks after Grace died it came to mean so much to me
The author said: 'Being a new parent is strange. Having a small new life who is totally reliant on you really got me thinking about death rather a lot. My death, my daughter’s death, my son’s death, my wife’s death: Death. DEATH. I’d obsess about it. Carry Me is a story about death and coming to terms with the inevitability of it all.'
In that unspeakable period of shock and grief just after a child dies – is there something someone did or bought for you which made things even a tiny bit more bearable?
Food is the best thing. At a time when you can't think, can't plan, working out meals is a much harder task than it has any right to be.
I got really annoyed with the amount of flowers we got. My daughter had died and people were buying me something I had to take care of and would also die within a week (disclaimer: Siobhan liked the flowers)
But we also ran out of vases after the 5th delivery!!! The other beautiful things were plants that would last - We have a rose bush and a Magnolia tree that still bring us comfort and stuff like this that acknowledges Grace's place in our family.
If you could have a giant billboard out there that everyone would see, what message would it have on it?
Dead or Alive
The baby is still a baby
The parent is still a parent
The birth is Still a birth
David is doing amazing things in the baby loss community and uses his incomparable talent for public speaking to teach. He has a huge range of thoughts and strategies to offer, and if he’s inspired you, check out his lectures and videos.
Now we’d love to hear from you.
What is one thing you took away from this post which will help you care for families who’ve suffered infant loss? Professionally or personally?
Much Love x