Coronation Street star Kym Marsh has revealed that she took on tonight’s baby loss storyline as a mark of respect to late son Archie.
This evening’s episode of the ITV soap saw Marsh’s character Michelle deliver newborn Ruairi at 23 weeks, only for the baby to die in the wake of his birth. The plotline echoes the actress’s own experiences, in the respect that she herself lost a child at a similar stage of pregnancy back in 2009.
“The decision to do this storyline was left in my hands,” Marsh said. “Our producer Kate Oates said, in no uncertain terms, that if I didn’t want to do it then I wouldn’t have to. But my gut instinct was to do it – I’ve always tried to raise awareness of baby loss and help people talk, discuss and heal. So what better way to do it? And it was also to honour my own son, to be quite frank.”
Speaking about the effect she hopes Michelle’s tragedy will have on viewers, Marsh added: “When you lose a baby, it’s not something that ever leaves you. But it’s something you learn to deal with and accept.
“And learning to accept what’s happened to you only comes from talking. This subject has been taboo for far too long. And I think people should share, because sharing is absolutely imperative to being able to put the pieces of your jigsaw back together. So that’s what I’m hoping people may gain from this.”
Upcoming episodes of Corrie will see husband Steve left at a loss at how best to support his wife; his decision to bag-up the contents of Ruairi’s nursery for charity only resulting in more heartache for Michelle.
Actor Simon Gregson, who plays Steve, explained the different approaches taken to the portrayal of grief on the soap: “Kym and I have both been through similar things. Me and Emma [wife Emma Gregory] have lost children, the first one at 21 weeks and four days.
“And, as a bloke, being there to witness all this just leaves you feeling completely helpless. Your wife has carried the baby and has now had to give birth and all the man can do is offer support.
“So, as we know, men and women do end up grieving differently, for all sorts of reasons. And, as originally written, there were certain scenes where Steve was really supposed to break down and cry, but we came to the decision that Michelle should be the one showing the raw emotion, while Steve would be there for support. But his grief will come afterwards.”
Producer Kate Oates also revealed that she took the unusual step of consulting Marsh on the storyline arc prior to the events being scripted:
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. But I wanted Kym to read it in storyline form beat by beat. Just to make sure that we’d got it right and so that Kym could endorse it.
“So Kym was hugely involved, but we were lucky enough to have other people’s experiences in there too. We watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, went on forums, read blogs and pulled all sorts of experiences together.
“It needed to be universal. What’s important is that viewers at home see something of themselves in there. We want them to be able to turn to their partner sand say, ‘that’s what’s happening in my heart too.’”
One aspect to particularly affect Marsh was the terminology used in hospital surrounding the death of her boy Archie. Taking objection to the term ‘late miscarriage’ – which is used where the baby in question has died between 14 and 24 weeks of pregnancy - the actress said:
“That was one of the things that really got to me. When they called my son a ‘late miscarriage’. It really annoyed and angered me. I would love for us not to use that term. I’d just given birth – I didn’t miscarry. And the thing that upsets a lot of women is that you can’t have a birth certificate for your baby.”
Michelle’s own anguish will continue to play out in the months ahead and Marsh ended by pointing out that fans will be seeing a very different side to her character:
“You’re going to see a Michelle that many people won’t recognise. And it’s important to get that across because she is quite broken. You might see glimmers of her return in future storylines, but there’s a lot of grief and anger that has to be explored first.”
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