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Deborah DeWilde speaking on the “Holding Time”

On Mon 20th June, we had the privilege of having Deborah DeWilde speak to us on the “Holding Time”. Deb is a Midwife/Social Worker with an interest and expertise in caring for families who experience the death of their baby as a consequence of stillbirth, or in the new born period.

Deb was awarded an Order of Australia in 2005 for her work and after an hour and a half of listening to what her job entails, I’m sure we would all agree she definitely deserved it and more.
She showed beautiful photos of families with their baby in their arms as she spoke about what the different families had gone through. Each baby was dressed and named.
Deb works at three of the big maternity hospitals in Sydney, the Mater, North Shore Private and Prince Alfred.

Deb told us how she never knows when she is going to be called out. A lot of the time it is at night or the early hours of the morning. The Parents, of course are in so much shock that the process of helping them grieve takes time, patience and above all great respect and empathy.

Allowing the family to see, cuddle and spend time with their baby seems to help the process,  but it is not rushed or pushed upon them.
She reminded us of how it was “back then” when the dead baby was taken swiftly from the mother never to be seen or spoken of again leaving such a painful gap in the mother’s life as she wondered what the baby looked like and where it had gone.

This way the family has a chance to grieve, let go and plan a funeral – all important steps in the acceptance of the death of a loved one.
She spoke from the heart and it was quite obvious that this was a ‘calling” or vocation for Deb rather than a job.

She has been doing this work for over 30 years and doesn’t look as though she will be stepping away from it.  She is married to one of our prominent Paediatricians Dr. Peter Barr and has two teenage daughters and somehow manages to juggle her family life and her work.

At Christmas time, Deb organises a special church service for all those who have lost a baby/child. It sounded absolutely beautiful with photos of the children on view and special mementos that the parents could put on the tree or keep in their pocket.
As she said ” It’s the one day of the year where it’s about the child that they lost and they can speak and grieve openly in a safe loving environment amongst other parents who have been through the same experience.”

Those at the meeting that day were indeed touched and affected by meeting Deb and hearing her talk. She is a truly inspirational woman, who is highly regarded in the medical world, and is loved by all the families that she has helped over the many years.

We were truly blessed having her with us that day.