TWO years ago, Shelby Kennedy’s life came crashing down when she tragically lost one of her twin boys four weeks after giving birth.
The 26-year-old, from West Berkshire, started suffering with postnatal depression (PND) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and found it difficult to care for her daughter Amelia*, who was 15-months-old at the time, and her newborn Jacob*, all while grieving the loss of her son, Delton.
After giving up her job in residential care work, money worries only added to the stress.
There were nights she didn’t eat just to make sure there was food on the table for her family.
Hitting rock bottom, Shelby, who receives Universal Credit and is on full housing benefits, “didn't know where to turn to.”
But then she heard about a charity named Home-Start – a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support which helps families with young children through their challenging times.
They supported Shelby with a weekly postnatal depression group and she was offered clothing and items from the baby bank – including blankets, socks, clothes, milk and a stairgate.
Like many grieving families, it offered Shelby a “lifeline.”
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous for our new campaign, Baby, Bank On Us in partnership with Save The Children and Little Village in support of UK baby banks, Shelby, who is no longer with the father of her children, explains: “When my daughter was six-months-old I fell pregnant with twins.
How YOU can support Fabulous’ Baby, Bank On Us campaign
– Give money by donating here or by scanning the QR code.
– Give clothing, toys and essentials to a baby bank, wherever you are in the UK.
– Give your time volunteering. To find your nearest baby bank, visit Littlevillagehq.org/uk-baby-banks.
“It was a straight-forward pregnancy until 30 weeks when they found a cyst on Delton, so I was back and forth getting that looked at."
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Following a routine scan, Shelby was informed the twins weren’t growing as much as they should've been, so was advised it'd be safer to get them out.
They were born at 36 weeks via C-section, weighing 4lb 3oz and 4lb 11oz.
“When they were born, Delton had to have surgery to drain the cyst,” she explains. “Unfortunately, he didn’t make it through the surgery.”
Following the traumatic passing of her son, Shelby started suffering with PTSD and PND.
“I was waking up and still thinking he was here,” she recalls. “If I couldn’t see him, I’d wake up and think he’d rolled off the bed.”
Shelby went to stay with family for a short period, but when she returned home, that’s when it “really kicked in.”
She explains: “I didn’t want to go back inside because for me, my family wasn’t complete at that point.”
“My daughter at the time was only 15 months and I was caring for her and Delton's twin brother who was only four weeks at the time.
There were nights I wasn’t eating just to make sure my kids ate…I’d nibble on a banana or a packet of crisps every day just to make sure I was able to give them what they needed and I’d just go without
“Trying to balance that and grieve the loss of my son was difficult.
Struggling to cope, Shelby gave up her job in residential care work, but money worries soon became a concern.
“I only had a small portion of savings but that automatically went on the funeral,” she says.
“I couldn’t afford a lot. I applied for a grant which paid for most of the funeral but then to get flowers and make it unique for a baby, I had to spend pretty much the whole of my savings on that.
“After, I had less than £50 in my account and I was solely relying on Universal Credit. That was a struggle because I couldn’t afford the bigger things.”
She continues: “Previously I’d saved up to get a triple pram for all three of my children but after my son passed I couldn’t use it anymore.
“It was really big and maybe it was an anxiety thing but I didn’t want to use it anymore knowing it also belonged to my other son.
“Universal Credit paid for the bare basics but I thought: How am I going to keep up with the clothes and the milk?”
Shelby became increasingly concerned she wasn’t going to be able to financially support her family.
“What if I couldn’t provide enough food?” she says. “There were nights I wasn’t eating just to make sure my kids ate. I wasn’t eating a full meal.
“I’d nibble on a banana or a packet of crisps every day just to make sure I was able to give them what they needed and I’d just go without.”
Noticing her struggles, a key worker at Shelby’s supported living accommodation suggested she get some help.
“The key worker referred me to Home-Start and the baby bank and it was then that I started to let loose and was able to talk and get the help that I needed,” she says.
“I didn’t know what to ask for or what I needed at the time.
What are baby banks?
– Baby banks provide essential items for babies and young children whose parents are living in poverty – including nappies, wipes, clothing, bedding, Moses baskets, cots, blankets, toys and books.
– There are over 200 baby banks in the UK, and they run out of shops, community centres, warehouse units and even people’s living rooms and garages.
– Last year 4.2 million children in the UK were living in poverty and 800,000 children lived in a household that used a food or baby bank.
“But one of the support workers from Home-Start contacted me and said, ‘we run the baby bank and we’re sorry for your loss – is there anything we can do? This is what we offer…’
Shelby explained that she’d appreciate anything for a 15-month-old and newborn and was delivered “bags and bags” of essential items within days.
“Blankets, growers, socks, clothes, milk, stair gates,” she says. “It was really overwhelming the amount of things they gave. They’d send things really specifically catered for my children, too.
“If they were sending toys, they’d find out what colours they like, what they’re into, what size they are. They wouldn’t just bring one toy each, they’d bring bags and bags.
"Not just old little tattered things. They’d put things with unicorns and cars on to make the kids smile and that was really important.”
Shelby recalls one time she was sent a twin pack of gloves and mittens.
"That was a really emotional touch because they knew what had happened – it was not only for my living son but they also included the twin that passed,” she says. “It really felt like someone was listening to me.”
For the next year and a half, Shelby was in constant contact with the charity and baby bank.
Using the baby bank and Home-Start was 100% a lifeline for me. Without them I really don’t think I’d be where I am today
“While I was grieving, I was struggling with buying the essential things,” she explains.
“Weekly, I could call the baby bank any time I needed clothes. If I didn’t have nappies, they were just a phone call away and they’d deliver them in a matter of days.
“The clothes, even a packet of socks…having socks on a child’s feet to take away that coldness is one less thing you need to worry about compared to the ten other things on your list.
“Taking that stress off helped a lot. It meant I could sit and have my moments of crying knowing that my kids were supported at the same time.”
For Shelby, the baby bank gave her something to focus on.
“It held me above water,” she says. "I really don’t know where I’d be without it.
“I thought they’d just deliver to my local area but even when I was staying away with family and I was nothing to do with them, they’d still call me – they sent me baby bouncers and my daughter a high chair.
“No matter where I was, they always made the extra effort to make sure I had what I needed.”
Through Home-Start, Shelby was also offered counselling.
“They gave me a volunteer who would sit with me once or twice a week too,” she continues.
“They helped with little things like the children, washing up, cleaning the house or just someone simply to talk to.”
She recalls: “I remember at one point, it was close to December time, and the support worker came and helped me wrap my childrens’ Christmas presents.
“Little things like that just took the edge off. If I didn’t have to worry about that, I could just focus on something else to make sure I got that done right and that I wasn’t failing.”
For anyone nervous about reaching out for help, Shelby urges: “Don’t feel that you can’t ask for help.
“I never used to like handouts and would think, ‘I don’t want to be the one who keeps asking for help because I can’t do it myself, it’s embarrassing.’
“The survival of my children was worth way more than a little embarrassment that I may have felt initially asking for help.
“And when you do ask for help it doesn’t feel like a handout, it feels like family, like someone’s really listening to you."
She adds: “Using the baby bank and Home-Start was 100% a lifeline for me. Without them I really don’t think I’d be where I am today.
“I’d probably be stuck between a rock and a hard place. But with their help I was definitely able to pull myself out and survive.”
Laura Chaffer, Baby Bank coordinator at Home-Start West Berkshire, commented: “Our baby bank is relatively small, but our reach within the local community has grown significantly over the last 18 months.
“The current financial strain means that many families are struggling to meet the basic needs of their children.
"Our baby bank provides a lifeline to families like Shelby’s by offering essential items like nappies, clothing and equipment, ensuring that infants and young children have what they need to thrive.
“As a charity and a baby bank, we are only as good as those who support us; we have some incredibly devoted volunteers who work with us week in, week out to provide this invaluable service.
"We are also reinforced by a dedicated local community who provide our quality second hand clothing and equipment and even new items such as nappies and mattresses.”
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For more information visit: https://home-startwestberks.org.uk/baby-bank/
*Names have been changed
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