A young mum whose son was stillborn has launched a charity to help children cope with the death of a sibling.
Natalie Oldham, 22, of Stanley Street, Accrington, set up Otis and Friends following the death of her baby Otis at 35 weeks’ gestation.
The group, for which charitable status is pending, will provide meet-ups, counselling and support for youngsters whose siblings were stillborn.
After Otis passed away at Manchester Royal Infirmary on June 5, Natalie saw a bereavement midwife and was referred to an online support group. However, she was unable to find support for her two daughters, four-year-old twins Cora and Maisie.
Seeing the girls struggle with the loss of their brother has driven her to set up Otis and Friends, which she hopes will help other children cope.
Natalie, a psychology student, said: “Cora and Maisie came to the hospital to visit Otis the day he was born. They held him, they kissed him, they stroked his soft skin and played with his beautiful little feet and hands.
“Since getting home, I have really struggled to find support for them outside our family.
“They felt very lonely, they struggled, asked a lot of questions. They didn’t know any other children who had gone through this. One day, a girl in the park called them weird for talking about Otis, and I knew I had to do something.”
A launch event for Otis and Friends will be held on November 11 at Burnley Football Club, and Natalie plans to run counselling sessions for youngsters and meet-ups so they can spend time with other children whose siblings were stillborn.
She said: “We will be making memory boxes, so they can keep things like a blanket, teddies, poems and keepsakes. Then they have something physical to look at and remember their brother or sister.
“We want to hold a social group once a month, so the children can spend time together and will know they are not on their own.
“If we can get enough funding, we also want to provide bereavement training for midwives.”
Otis and Friends covers Accrington, Blackburn, Burnley, Pendle or Nelson. The launch event, for adults only, will start at 7pm, with food, a bar, raffle, auction and live performances.
For more information, email Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Otis and Friends on Facebook.
‘I left hospital in dad’s car while Otis left in a funeral car’
Natalie Oldham had a problem-free pregnancy with Otis, until she went into early labour at 27 weeks.
The baby was not born, however, and Natalie was sent home. Then, during Natalie’s 32-week scan, doctors found a growth on Otis’ brain and a series of haemorrhages, and it was decided that he should be delivered earlier than the full 40 weeks.
Two weeks later, at 34 weeks, damage to Otis’ brain tissue was discovered and Natalie was told that he wouldn’t survive.
He was stillborn at 35 weeks, weighing 5lbs 1oz, and his sisters, Maisie and Chloe visited him in hospital.
Natalie said: “Otis and I left hospital on June 5 in separate cars – me in my dad’s car, him in a funeral car. It’s only been three months since he died and I don’t want to just sit at home or to let his memory fade.
“The doctors were surprised he made it past 12 weeks, so the fact he survived as long as he did means something.
“Maisie and Chloe were very involved with Otis all along – when I found out something was wrong, I told them, and they were at his funeral. Now they ask me what heaven is like.”