A bereaved mum has raised over £18,000 at a special charity ball in aid of Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity’s Woodland House Appeal, to help bring a standalone bereavement centre to the hospital for people experiencing pregnancy and baby loss. She hopes to create a lasting legacy for her son, James, who was stillborn six years ago.

Lynette Parkes, from Hagley, has been backing the charity appeal since its launch in April 2019, knowing first-hand how the bereavement centre would’ve helped her during the most difficult few days of her life. Lynette’s pregnancy had been plain sailing, but at seven months, she spotted a pinprick of blood, so went for a precautionary scan at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. That’s when she was told that her baby had no heartbeat. The devastating news came as a total shock to the then first-time mum, who was advised to go home to collect an overnight bag and return to the hospital to give birth.

Lynette was admitted to the Abby Suite, the hospital’s current bereavement suite, where she gave birth to her little boy, James. She and her husband Matt were able stay overnight and spend precious time with their son before saying goodbye. However, as the Abby Suite is situated right next to the hospital’s delivery suite, they could hear the tormenting healthy cries of other people’s babies, knowing that James would never cry and that they’d be leaving with empty arms.

When built, Woodland House will be the first of its kind in a hospital setting and has been designed following patient feedback, which advocated the need for a standalone facility that was quiet and private.

The new centre will boast bespoke counselling rooms, a private garden, a large communal lounge area for support groups, and a family room with its own private access and garden, as well as a small, sensitive mortuary. Crucially, the centre will feature separate and private access, meaning there’s no chance of running into pregnant families.

After sharing her story to raise awareness of the Woodland House Appeal at its launch, Lynette also took a place on the charity’s bereaved parent committee to help shape the look and feel of the centre, but she wanted to do more to help make Woodland House a reality. Ever since losing James, Lynette had dreamt of holding a ball in his name and memory and this was her chance.

Lynette spent months planning and preparing for her ball which was due to take place in 2020, on what would have been James’ fifth birthday, but sadly, the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. Lynette wasn’t fazed though and rescheduled her event for autumn 2021.

After a year of lockdowns and isolation Lynette was thrilled to see the surge in ticket sales and support of her special event, as friends, family and local businesses looked forward to dressing up and socialising for the special cause.

On the night, guests arrived at Spring Grove House at West Midlands Safari Park, where they enjoyed a three course meal and entertainment. They dug deep for a silent auction and raffle, inspired by an emotional speech as Lynette shared her story.

Lynette said: “It is so hard to be in a place that is so geared up for new life when you’ve just lost a baby, so having Woodland House will mean so much to families at Birmingham Women’s Hospital facing the unbearable pain of losing their child.

“I always knew I would hold a ball in James’s memory and the Woodland House Appeal was the perfect fit. I was totally overwhelmed by the support I received in making it happen too. From friends, family to other bereaved parents and local businesses, so many people got behind it and I’m over the moon with the amount we raised together to  help make Woodland House happen.”

Miranda Williams, Head of Public Fundraising at Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity, said: “With just £1million left to raise, Woodland House is in reach of becoming a reality for the 2,000 women and families who experience pregnancy and baby loss at our hospital every year.

“We’re so grateful to Lynette for bravely sharing her story and of course for her incredible fundraising which has brought us another step closer to setting a new standard of care for bereaved families experiencing pregnancy and baby loss.”