Beckenham mum-of-two Obiélé Laryea will appear alongside TV star Ben Fogle in a new film about the life-saving research of charity Tommy’s, airing on BBC1 this Saturday (27 February) at 1.15pm, having sadly found herself among the 1 in 4 parents who experience baby loss.
37-year-old retail consultant Obiélé is expecting a baby girl next month and has a 2-year-old son Tetteh-Kwei, thanks to the pioneering research and specialist care of Tommy’s, the UK’s biggest charity funding research into why pregnancy goes wrong and how this can be prevented.
In 2011 Obiélé and her partner Nii-Addy’s first baby Sapphire-Rae was sadly born far too soon to survive, when Obiélé was just 20 weeks pregnant. 6 years later when they were expecting again, Obiélé asked her doctor about having a stitch put in her cervix, which she had read online could help women like her to keep their babies safe inside for longer – but the operation wasn’t done in time and she lost Isabella-Rae at 23 weeks.
Desperate for help, the couple came to Tommy’s clinic in St. Thomas’ Hospital on Westminster Bridge Road, where the charity was founded in 1992. When Obiélé fell pregnant again later in 2017, the Tommy’s team performed the surgery she’d requested before so that she could carry Tetteh-Kwei to term, and they’re now supporting her again through pregnancy with her daughter due this spring.
Obiélé said: “The first time was a deep dark sadness, but the second was just rage – I’d miscarried a healthy child because nobody listened – I’ve never been so angry in my life. I’d got to a point where I thought I’d never be a mother, nobody was listening; it was a lonely place. I didn’t know where to turn, I couldn’t face losing another baby and wanted to find someone who could help me.
“A month after losing my second daughter, I met Professor Shennan. He was the first person to listen to me, took his time to explain everything to me, described the different types of stitches available and outlined the things that could go wrong but didn’t focus on the negative. He assured me that, with the right help, I would be able to have a living child. I walked out in awe. I had absolute confidence in the Tommy’s team and felt totally supported by everyone, from the consultants to the research midwives.
“Tommy’s gave me my child and they gave me hope. Tetteh-Kwei is doing very well, absolutely adores the outdoors and seems to be aspiring to become a stunt man – and I’m going to have a little girl, have a bit of female company! They’re called rainbow babies for a reason: they fill your life with colour and love. We are eternally grateful.”
Tommy’s has research centres across the UK, such as the central London clinic where Obiélé is a patient, where its ground-breaking studies are put into practice to make pregnancy safer for parents at risk of losing their babies. Professor Alexander Heazell, who leads the Tommy’s team in Manchester and also appears in the new BBC film, explained: “For many years, the idea of baby loss as ‘one of those things’ meant no one asked why; that left us starting from basics, so research has a lot of catching up to do in comparison with other areas of medicine. In a way, the taboo is similar to that surrounding cancer 50 years ago – without discussion of signs and symptoms, people didn’t come forward early enough to save lives. Lifting that taboo is critical.”
Other families who share their heart-breaking stories alongside Obiélé in the new BBC film include broadcaster and author Ben Fogle and his wife Marina, who sadly experienced a miscarriage in 2008 and lost their son Willem to stillbirth in 2017. Like Obiélé, their personal tragedies led them to Tommy’s, and they’re all encouraging others to support the charity’s lifesaving work.
Ben commented: “1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth – and shockingly, most parents never find out why. The truth is that so much pregnancy loss could be prevented, but we need more research to improve care; that’s why I’m a huge advocate for Tommy’s and it’s a charity very close to my heart. Across the UK, Tommy’s dedicated researchers, doctors, nurses and midwives are finding causes and treatments to save babies’ lives. More research will make pregnancy safer and healthier for everyone and save babies’ lives. Together, we can make it happen.”
Marina added: “I was lucky to survive the placental abruption that killed my son. While trying to recover emotionally and physically, I found exercising really cathartic, which is how I ended up running a half marathon for Tommy’s. As soon as I heard their ground-breaking research was already having a significant effect on saving babies’ lives, I had to get involved. I hope my support for Tommy’s will ensure that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will become parents in a world where baby loss is extremely unlikely to affect them in the way it has me.
Opening up about their experience of baby loss, Marina went on: “I was 33 weeks pregnant when I suddenly fell ill. At the hospital, I started bleeding heavily, so I was rushed in for an emergency caesarean. Our son Willem was stillborn. Initially, I was in shock and very ill; I met our son, I held him, but I was feeling very numb. It was three or four days later that the tears came. It was incredibly sad, the realisation that the baby we’d prepared for was never coming home. It comforts me to know that, thanks to Tommy’s, other families will not have to experience the heartbreak we did.”
The film will be repeated on BBC2 at 3.10pm on Tuesday 2 March and available to watch all month on iPlayer. Support the appeal at bbc.co.uk/lifeline and find out more about the charity by visiting tommys.org or following @tommys on social media.