Their Journey Begins

My child we will not forget you, you will always belong, In my womb I held you, Mother and Child as one, And for the shortest time, I was yours and you were mine, And Darling you are always on my mind. (The Shortest Time, Colin Deady)

On Friday 23rd March 2018 my biggest wish in life came through and I became a mammy to two beautiful, precious little babies, Liam and Grace. Sadly Liam died just as he was making his entrance to this World while Grace lived breathing on her mammy’s chest for 31 minutes before she joined her big brother. Although Liam and Grace’s time here was short they have made such an impact and as a proud Mammy I want to share this blog as their legacy.

There is no Footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this World


A poem to Our Warrior and Princess

This time last year you were safely in my tummy
And we couldn’t wait to be your Daddy and Mummy
Precious cargo we called you our little Rocky One and Two
As we counted down the days till we’d get to meet you.
With each passing week Mammy’s belly swelled
And from the rooftop we both yelled
After each nervous scan
We added to our plan
A future full of pink and blue
It seemed our dreams were finally coming through.

Bang! Our hearts shattered, our world spun
As premature labour suddenly begun
It wasn’t our choice we need you to know
We never wanted to let you go
We wanted to move Heaven and Earth
As right now we didn’t want to be giving birth.

At 1.42 it was Liam we saw first
And we thought our hearts would surely burst
A brave Warrior you led the way
To keep our Princess safe you did pay
A better brother you would never find
You simply are one of a kind.

At 1.49 little Grace was here
Next to your brother we held you near
31 minutes breathing on Mammy’s chest
Clear in our memories these we love best
But to be with your brother you had to go
He’ll always protect you, of this we know.

A weekend we got to always treasure
Filled with love you could never measure
We played, we sang, we held your hand
Why time so brief, we’ll never understand.
A single moment we didn’t want to miss
We felt blessed with each and every kiss
Made clay prints of your hands and feet
Your loving family you got to meet
As they held you close, a million tears they cried
If love could have saved you, you never would have died.

All too soon the dreaded time was here
And we had to face every parents worst fear
Together we placed you in your white casket
Oh how we wished it was a moses basket.
We questioned how anyone could feel such pain
But then look at all we did gain
Daddy, Mammy, Grace and Liam
United forever, our own special team.
With our hearts breaking our final goodbye came too soon
But always remember we will love you to the moon (And back)

All Our Love Forever and Ever, Mammy and Daddy xxxxxxxxxx

Our Journey to become Parents

One step closer, I have died every day, waiting for you. Darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years; I’ll love you for a thousand more. And all along I believed, I would find you, Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more. (A Thousand Years, Christina Perri)

Our journey to become parents started in 2015 when following numerous tests we were told we had unexplained infertility. And so we began our long IVF journey. Our first cycle was unsuccessful but we were so happy when we became pregnant on our second round. Sadly at 7 weeks there was no heartbeat. Our next attempt was the same and we got to 7 weeks again until our baby’s heart stopped beating. Just before we got to start IVF number 4 we got pregnant naturally. Amazing! This felt like our little miracle. And when we got to see our beautiful baby’s heart beating….it felt like our dreams were coming through. Sadly at 9 weeks our baby’s heart stopped beating and following a d and c we found out it was a partial molar pregnancy. Cue weekly blood tests to check my HCG levels were dropping. My body still thought it was pregnant but cruelly it wasn’t.

Due to the risk of another molar pregnancy we decided we would try ICSI – a form of IVF and we would put in two embryos this time to try increase our chances. We were desperate to be parents. We have so much love to give, every decision we have made together was for a future filled with children. We bought a house with a front and back garden in a cul de sac with a park down the road and a school in the estate. We were so ready and all we were waiting for was a precious baby to love. So this time we had lots of scans, for the first time we made it to the magical 3 month scan and we got to tell people it was twins. It felt amazing, double the joy! Terrifying but magical all at once! When we got to share our good news, everyone was so happy for us and we dared to dream. But then at 22 weeks, 6 days our World came crashing down. I went into premature labour and our babies were coming too soon. Poor baby Liam died just as he was being born. Our baby girl Grace spent 31 precious minutes breathing on her mammy’s chest before she joined her big brother. Although I think my heart broke at this time it was also the most wonderful, special and happy time of my entire life. We were a Mammy and Daddy to the two most beautiful, perfect children I have ever seen. I couldn’t stop smiling. They were both so perfect, perfect in every way except they were dead.

My dreams came true because of you. From this moment, As long as I live, I will love you, I promise you this, There is nothing I wouldn’t give, From this moment, I will love you, As long as I live, From this moment on. (From this Moment On, Shania Twain)

The Greatest Love of All

I knew you before I knew your name, I loved you before I saw your face, I longed for you for all of that time, And I held your heart in mine. I kissed you a hundred million times, I tasted the tears that I cried, I held you my beautiful child, And I’ll keep your heart in mine. I love you to the moon and back my little winter bear, I know you know how much that is cause you’re already there. I never knew a love like this could ever possibly exist; I love you to the moon and back as long as I live. (Winter Bear, Coby Grant)

I remember the panic and fear when my worst fears were confirmed on 22nd March and I was told I was in premature labour and my two precious babies would not survive. I can’t possibly put into words the devastation we both felt when we heard the worst words imaginable. Little did I know then that in a few short hours I would feel a love and happiness like no other! I could never have believed I was about to have the best, most special weekend of my entire life and every bit of pain and hurt I was experiencing (and I don’t mean the physical pain of being in labour) would be worth it.

At 1.42am on Friday 23rd March I saw my beautiful son Liam for the first time. I will never forget my first glimpse of him, yes he was small, but oh he was just so perfect. I got the first immediate unconditional rush of love as I carefully cut his cord and he was laid on my chest. Just 7 minutes later his little sister Grace popped out and I heard the most beautiful little whimper before I cut her cord and she was laid on my chest beside her big brother. The only way I can describe this moment is like feeling complete. I felt a love, a contentment, a completeness like I’d never felt before and I remember thinking so this is what life’s all about. For 31 precious minutes Grace breathed on my chest. I asked her daddy if he wanted to hold her but he said no. A few hours later he told me he couldn’t possibly take her from my chest, he said he did it for me and Grace. He knew how happy I was holding Grace on my chest for every second of her short life and he wanted Grace to lie on her mammy and hear my heart beating, a sound she knew from my womb. When I heard that, I thought my heart would burst with love. Not only was Alan the best husband for giving me this precious gift, he was also the best daddy, he had sacrificed holding his daughter when she was alive so her mammy and Grace could have this special time. I don’t think there is a greater love or a greater gift anyone could possibly give us both and I know I will love Alan forever for giving us both this time together.

The day Liam and Grace came into our lives was the most special day for myself and Alan. We were finally parents, we finally got to hold, touch and kiss our beautiful babies and it felt amazing. I remember thinking this day just keeps getting better and better. We were in a private room on the Gynae ward and everyone who came into our room acknowledged our beautiful babies. The chaplain came and did a beautiful Naming Ceremony for Liam and Grace and I remember how proud I felt as myself and Alan held our babies for it. Also the bereavement midwife came and helped me bath them both. She also gave us blue and pink vests and baby suits with hats which fitted them both perfectly. After their baths as I was putting their tiny nappies on I remember turning to Alan to say I told you I would only put pampers nappies on our babies, I wanted them to have the best of everything. These were such special, happy family moments and I will treasure each and every one of them forever.

It was because I was having such a wonderful day that I nearly made the biggest mistake. I had been given a leaflet about the charity NILMDTS about getting a photographer to come and take photos of Liam and Grace. I thought I’m having the best time, we’ve had such an amazing day and tomorrow we get to bring them home to make more memories. I thought I don’t want to create any more fuss so I didn’t contact them. However, a lovely nurse came into my room around 8.30pm who encouraged me to contact them and I’m so glad she did. I spoke to a lovely girl who organised for a photographer to come to the hospital early on saturday morning and he took the most beautiful, precious photos of our babies. He was the gentlest, kindest man who took 25 special photos which we will treasure forever.

I wish I could freeze this space in time, the way I feel for you inside. This is my moment, this is my perfect moment with you. (Perfect Moment, Martine McCutcheon)

Feels Like Home

If you knew how much this moment means to me, And how long I’ve waited for your touch, If you knew how happy you are making me I never thought that I’d love anyone so much. It feels like home to me, It feels like home to me, It feels like I’m all the way back where I come from, It feels like home to me, It feels like home to me, Feels like I’m all the way back where I belong. (Feels like Home, Chatal Kreviazuk)

I can vividly remember the moment the bereavement midwife told me I could bring Liam and Grace home. It felt like I had been told I’d just won the lotto! I’d been sitting there all morning looking at my beautiful babies wondering what happens next, but been too scared to ask…..I was terrified someone was going to come in and take them from me. When I found out we could bring them home my heart jumped with pure joy. This was possible due to the amazing charity Feileacain, a lady would come to my house and set up a cuddle cot to keep Liam and Grace’s temperature cold (although I must admit they didn’t spend long in it, we were too busy cuddling them ourselves).

I loved walking out of the hospital with their daddy carrying our precious babies, I felt like the proudest mammy in the world. I couldn’t wait for them to come home and meet their loving family. It was such a special time as both my family and Alan’s family got to meet Liam and Grace and we took lots of photos. There was of course lots of crying over the weekend but I also remember lovely moments of laughter too. I think the best description of our house for the whole weekend was like being wrapped in a huge cosy blanket of LOVE. All I could feel was love. Love for Liam and Grace, love for me and Alan, I have never felt such love. Although I said there was lots of crying, I don’t remember crying at all, I think I got teary at times but I didn’t cry. I remember thinking there will be lots of time for crying after but I’m not wasting this precious time crying while Liam and Grace are with us. I was simply too happy to be finally holding my precious babies to be crying.

When the lovely lady from Feileacain arrived she had the clay ready to make Liam and Grace’s hand and foot prints. All our family got to watch this special moment and I know how grateful they feel for being present for it. I proudly held Liam and Grace as she carefully did their prints. Of course our little diva Grace didn’t want her hand straight in her print, I mean why be the same as everyone else, and her pinkie was crossed in her print. I LOVE this! I believe she was making a pinkie promise and her print really suited how we imagine her personality would have been. Liam being a good boy made a really strong hand print, and I believe this would have suited his personality. I absolutely love both prints and the beautiful memory of making them surrounded by the love of our family will stay with me forever.

There were so many memories from that weekend…..from playing “All around the Garden” and “This little Piggy” on their hands and feet, taking photos of Liam and Grace with all the things that matter to us – our wedding rings, a scan picture we have of our 3rd miscarriage, their great granny’s brooch, I wanted to connect them to everything. It was such a lovely, happy family time and a weekend we will treasure forever. That weekend I believe Liam and Grace made our house a home. And although they are no longer here with us, our home is filled with special memories of them and I will always be so grateful to them both for giving me the best weekend of my life and for making a house their home.

My daddy held me close a love pure and true, Mama keeps me in her broken heart that’s how the light gets through, They say that home is where the heart is and I know within your hearts I’ll always have a home. (The Shortest Time, Colin Deady)

What a Difference a Cert Makes

I’ve known it from the moment that we met, No doubt in my mind where you belong. I’d go hungry; I’d go black and blue, And I’d go crawling down the avenue, No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do, To make you feel my love. (Make you Feel my Love, Adele)

A few hours after Liam and Grace were born and died I got the first feeling of panic and dread. It suddenly dawned on me that Liam and Grace, my two beautiful children that looked so perfect could be classed as late miscarriages. Suddenly I was panicked. With my beautiful, perfect children beside me, I googled, “how many weeks to be classed a stillborn and how many weeks to be classed a late miscarriage”? The results were conflicting. I was very confused as some pages were saying 20 weeks, some 24 weeks. This meant everything to me, I literally felt I wouldn’t / couldn’t survive if Liam and Grace weren’t recognised as my children. I wanted nothing more in life than to be their mammy and I wanted / needed this to be formally recognised.

Soon the bereavement midwife came into the room and I asked her if Liam and Grace would be formally recognised by the State as it meant so much to me. I noticed her worried face as she asked me Liam’s weight. I felt she visibly relaxed when I said 640grammes, yes she said Liam will get a stillbirth certificate as he weighed more than 500grammes and Grace will get a birth and death cert as she was born alive. Well, I felt like I had won the lotto! How ironic is that? My heart was broken, I had my two dead babies beside me but I couldn’t have felt happier as I was being recognised in the eyes of the State (and therefore everyone else) as their mammy. Liam and Grace mattered and that meant the World to me.

The midwife explained that I wouldn’t be entitled to maternity leave as they were born before 24 weeks but nothing else mattered except those precious certs. But how cruel would it have been if Liam had been born a little bit smaller? How cruel is it that my grief would have felt so much harder by not getting a cert for him? I feel so sorry for any parent whose precious baby does not “fulfil the criteria” to be given a cert. For anyone who is blessed with a living child I’m sure the birth cert doesn’t mean a lot to them, it’s just a piece of paper, but for bereaved mammy’s and daddy’s it is everything. It’s all you’re left with to formally say your baby existed, to tell the World that your child mattered, to make you their parent.

Feileacain understand the pain and devastation for parents not to be given a cert and they are currently campaigning for all babies born before 24 weeks weighing less than 500grammes to be given a certificate of life. I don’t understand how anyone can tell a mammy who has just been through labour and holds her beautiful baby in her arms that they won’t be recognised in the eyes of the State. It is beyond cruel. I hope each and every one of these courageous parents, who are currently fighting so hard, get to experience their lotto winning moment and are given Certs of Life for their precious babies.

The further you take my rights away, the faster I will run. You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away, No matter ’cause there’s something inside so strong, I know that I can make it, though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong, you thought that my pride was gone, oh no, there’s something inside so strong, oh something inside so strong. (Something Inside So Strong, Labi Siffre)

To Be With Woman

Well you showed me how it feels to feel the sky within my reach, And I always will remember all the strength you gave to me, your love made me make it through, oh I owe so much to you, you were right there for me. (There You’ll Be, Faith Hill)

I remember it was a few weeks after Liam and Grace were born and died (during the Referendum) that I learned the word Midwife means “to be with woman”.  I didn’t know that on the 22nd and 23rd March but I certainly felt it.  From the moment we went into hospital I was treated with the best of care.  Sadly, over the last few years I have had experiences where the care I received was lacking so I’ve experienced both the good and bad.  But what a difference it makes when it’s good. 

There were 3 lovely midwives and a doctor who cared for me at different times while I was in labour.  I’m sure when they signed up to be a midwife they looked forward to delivering lots of healthy babies and the absolute joy of being part of something so wonderful each day. Looking back I think they realised very early that my babies were coming and they wouldn’t survive.  But they gently took our lead and gave us the time and space we needed to accept our worst nightmare was coming through.  They really guided and supported me through every step of my labour but I think it was after my beautiful babies were born that they really cared for us. 

My favourite memory just after Liam and Grace were born is the midwives congratulating me on becoming a mammy and what beautiful words to hear.  I had just become a mammy for the first time, my two babies didn’t survive, but I was still their mammy and I will always love that they congratulated me.  I remember them telling me how beautiful my babies were and I knew that they meant it.  They really looked at them and bereaved mammys will tell you that we know the difference of when someone just glances, not really seeing your baby and when someone really looks, and I know they really took in every feature of our babies.  After giving us some time alone together as a family, they came back into the room and gently took their hand and foot prints on the card from the Feileacain memory box.  They carefully wrapped Liam and Grace in their beautiful hand knitted blankets and took the most special photos of us as a family.  This level of care continued throughout our stay in hospital and the bereavement midwife gave me another of my favourite memories with Liam and Grace, the time to bath them both.  It was such a lovely thing to experience with my beautiful babies and I’m so grateful to have these special memories.

It is so sad to hear that other bereaved parents have had such bad experiences in hospital when they have given birth to their precious babies.  However, I cannot speak highly enough of the care we, as a family, received and I will always be grateful to the wonderful ladies who cared so lovingly for Liam and Grace.  So thank you Dr. Kate, Ellie, Lynn, Michelle and Brenda, I will never forget your kindness and please know that the compassion and care you gave to us all during our worst nightmare, made such a difference to our lives, the night we became a family of four.

Travelling the World

Fly, fly do not fear, Don’t waste a breath, don’t shed a tear, Your heart is pure, your soul is free, Be on your way, don’t wait for me, Above the universe you’ll climb, On beyond the hands of time, The moon will rise, the sun will set, But I won’t forget (Fly, Celine Dion)

For Liam and Grace’s funeral my aunties made blue and pink ribbons for everyone to wear. I remember my brother coming over to the car the morning of their funeral and the first thing I noticed was his lovely ribbon. I was really touched when he told me my lovely aunties had made one for everyone.

A few days later my sister in law who is an air hostess sent me photos of her ribbon on a seat in first class and in the cockpit with the pilot. She was bringing her Ribbon to New York with her and leaving it in Central Park as myself and Alan had gone there on our honeymoon. I was just blown away by her thoughtfulness.

From that day on our lovely family and friends have brought their ribbons with them on their travels and send us photos of them in iconic places. So far they’ve travelled to Old Trafford, Orlando, San Francisco, Lanzarote, Disneyland, Spain, Portugal, Washington and the White House and they even cruised down the Mississippi. I loved seeing photos of Mickey Mouse holding their ribbon in both Disneyland Paris and Disney World Orando as it’s the place every child dreams of visiting. And their ribbon even appeared on Sky Sports during a Man United game my Godson was at. It makes us so proud. Of course it is heartbreaking that Liam and Grace will never get to visit these places but it is the nicest thing our family can do to let us know they are thinking of our precious babies and bringing them with them around the World. Fly high our beautiful Warrior and Princess, we can’t wait to see where your next adventures will bring you!

My wonderful Nephews and Nieces

I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be. (The Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston)

I’ve always been surrounded by children. I was the eldest of six at eight years old. My dad comes from a family of fifteen and my mam a family of six so we also had lots of cousins and family was always so important. My godson, my nephew, was born in 2001, followed by my goddaughter, my niece, in 2004. They lived with us in our family home for a time and this brought a special bond and love I will always hold dear. I have welcomed eight more precious nephews and nieces, each one unique (even my twin nieces), each one I love dearly. Sometimes I wondered if it was because of my love for them that I yearned for our own baby to love, but the truth is I always wanted to be a mammy, for as long as I can remember, and I will always be grateful to Liam and Grace for making me their mammy.

When I told my nephews and nieces that I was pregnant they were so excited (the ones old enough to understand), they had been innocently asking me for years when I was going to have a baby. I remember them rubbing my belly and asking each week how Rocky 1 and 2 (the nicknames I had given my precious cargo) were doing. They’d laugh when I’d tell them Rocky 2 was misbehaving again, wouldn’t stay still for a scan photo. I remember my niece saying Rocky 2 was her favourite and she bet she was a girl, how right she was!

It breaks my heart that they were left devastated when their little cousins died. I hate that they had to learn that babies die, I wanted them to hold onto their childhood innocence for as long as possible, I never wanted them to know how cruel this World can be. But I think I underestimated their strength and resilience. I’m so proud that my nephews and nieces have always shown their unconditional love for Liam and Grace. They said their names right from the start, they include them in their conversations and they ask me lots of questions about them. While some adults were struggling to find the right words I love that children just say what they’re thinking. I’ll always be grateful for their innocence, curiosity and above all their love for their little cousins.

On a Saturday morning all the cousins meet in my mam and dad’s and play together (and fight). Oh how I wish Liam and Grace were in the middle of all the mayhem. My 9 and 10 year old nieces regularly put on a concert to showcase their latest dance moves and songs. I get the VIP seat (closest seat to the stage with a free bottle of water, lol) as they include a “sad song” for their cousins Liam and Grace. It amazes me all the ways they find to include them; sending me cards and pictures with their names on them, buying and making things for their grave, telling me they weren’t afraid to go on the big slide as Liam was on one shoulder and Grace the other, to putting on blue and pink eyeshadow…..They find lots of ways to include them and it makes me so proud. Each one of them enriches my life, they make me smile, laugh, (when no one else could) and they’ve helped me more than they’ll ever know. So thank you Sean, Shauna, Aoibhe, Ciara, Ellie, Molly, James, Mya, Kyle, Sophia and Alex xx

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.

The People I’ve Met

It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return, while we’re on the way to there, why not share? And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all, he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. (He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother, The Hollies)

There are so many special people who have come into our lives because of Liam and Grace. I am so delighted to have met these wonderful people; I just wish we could have met another way. Most of these people are through Feileacain and are bereaved parents too. There are certain things in life I believe you can only really know and truly understand if you’ve been through it yourself. I had sympathised with other bereaved mammys (Including my two Granny’s whose grown up children had died) before Liam and Grace and I remember feeling so sad for them as I imagined outliving your own child must be the hardest thing in life. I think I thought I had some idea what they were going through. Now I KNOW I had no idea! I had no idea of the pain of living every second of every minute without your precious baby. It is a pain that you carry all the time, you don’t just lose your children, you lose all the hopes and dreams you had for them, you now have to live your life with a massive part of you missing. There is a private facebook group which is solely for bereaved parents and although all our stories are completely different there is a connection which is hard to explain, it is an understanding that no one wants to get as the only way you can really get it is to go through it and I would never want that for anyone. But it brings an instant connection. Recently a lady from the page organised a morning on the beach for bereaved mammys to meet. I was driving there early one Sunday morning thinking I never imagined this being my life, I could never have imagined driving to the beach to meet a group of people I’d never met before and looking forward to it. I was looking forward to it as I knew I was meeting a group of people who “got it” and I was looking forward to sharing Liam and Grace with them and hearing about their precious babies. It is absolutely heartbreaking hearing so many people’s experiences of baby loss but it is also such an important thing to do as everyone wants the space to talk about their babies and we all know and appreciate the pride and love when we talk about them.

When the lady from Feileacain walked through our door on 24th March I was instantly inspired by her and I have also had the absolute pleasure of meeting another wonderful bereaved mammy who answers calls and meets bereaved parents on behalf of Feileacain. Sadly when their babies died they were told to go home and get on with life without their precious babies…..and we’re not talking about a long time ago! They knew first hand that bereaved parents need so much more help and support and they set up Feileacain. I think their kindness and generosity is amazing, they provided us with so many opportunities to make memories with Liam and Grace because they know the pain of not having them. How amazing are they! I will always be indebted to these wonderful people.

Of course it is not just people who have experienced baby loss that help you on your grief journey. I will always be so grateful to all my wonderful family and friends and I feel truly blessed to have such amazing support. But in the early days, particularly, these people were also hurting and grieving for Liam and Grace. They had been with me every step of my journey to become a mammy and now they felt our pain. I think it’s because of this I really benefited from having a counsellor to talk to. It was great to have somewhere to go to talk about Liam and Grace without worrying about upsetting the person or burdening them. I was lucky because I had met a really great counsellor on my fertility journey. Ironically I finished an appointment with her at 7pm on 22nd March with no pain or inkling that in a few short hours I would be in hospital delivering my babies. I contacted her again shortly after Liam and Grace were born and died and although I don’t really remember much of these early sessions I do remember it was the one time of the week I looked forward to. It was my time to talk about my babies in a safe space and I knew any thoughts and feelings were safe to express. I honestly don’t know how I would have survived the early weeks and months without having this wonderful counsellor to listen, advise and reassure me when I needed it most. I feel lucky to have found someone I trusted to bare my soul to, I find it helps me to put into words all the thoughts and feelings I have and no matter how difficult the session is, I know I will feel better for it. One of the things that sticks with me most is that the thoughts we have (and believe me, I’ve had some mad ones) lose their power when we verbalise them. Sometimes it is not easy to do this and of course it takes time to really trust someone but I honestly believe it has really helped me to verbalise these scary thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. Of course, we are all different and we all have to find what works for us when we are grieving but I will always be grateful to have found a wonderful counsellor and I know how much it has helped and continues to help me on my grief journey.