How to Support a Friend

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, we all have sorrow. But if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow. Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on. (Lean on Me, Bill Withers)

I remember my best friend telling me that she searched the internet looking for advice on how to support me when Liam and Grace died. I also remember my sister telling me that she knew not to say something to me as google had told her so! I can’t remember what it was but I did find it funny and told her she didn’t need to ask google to know how to talk to her sister, she had been doing a good job for over 30 years! But of course I understand their concerns. They wanted to support me and were afraid to say or do the wrong thing. Although I love these people so much that they could never hurt me it did make me think of some of the things that people can say or do which cause you pain. Although I completely understand that they never mean to hurt you (people have been so kind and caring to me) but I have put together some tips to consider if you are supporting someone whose baby has died. This of course, is just based on my experience, but I have met and talked to many bereaved parents over the last year who have shared similar thoughts and experiences.

  1. Say their Baby’s Names
    I absolutely love hearing Liam’s and Grace’s names, I will never tire of hearing them mentioned. People have told me they don’t want to mention their names or acknowledge what happened in case they upset me. Well here’s a big shock……I’m upset anyway, the worst thing that could ever possibly happen to me has happened, my two precious baby’s died and I had to bury the two people I love the most in the World. That’s why I’m upset, not because someone mentioned their names. Trust me they are never more than a thought away from me and by people saying their names I am not suddenly reminded that they died, I will never forget them. And people saying their name is the kindest thing they can do for me. My worst fear is that Liam and Grace will be forgotten (it’s not a rational fear with my lovely family and friends) so it is the sweetest sound when I hear their names.

The mention of my child’s name may bring tears to my eyes, but it never fails to bring music to my ears. If you are really my friend, let me hear the beautiful music of his name. It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul – Unknown

2. Never ask if they’re going to have another baby or say “you’ll be a mammy someday”
If someone loses their husband or wife no one would ever dream of asking them a couple of weeks later if they will marry again (well I certainly hope not!) so why do people think it’s ok to ask a bereaved mammy in the days and weeks following their massive loss if “they’ll go again”. A friend explained to me that she believed people just want to see you happy and they imagine having another baby will do that. But what people don’t understand is that even if I have 10 babies they could never ever replace Liam and Grace, they are simply irreplaceable and there will always be a hole in my heart that they are not here and no one, not even another baby could ever fill that hole.

Also when people said to me you’ll be a mammy some day after Liam and Grace died I felt like they were dismissing my precious babies. Liam and Grace made me a mammy, their mammy, and I will always be so grateful to them both for that. I waited a long time to become a mammy and I will always be grateful to them for choosing me to be their mammy so please never disrespect their memory by taking this away from them.

When a child is born, it is the mother’s instinct to protect the baby. When a child dies, it is the mother’s instinct to protect the memory – Unknown

3. Never tell a bereaved parent that they are lucky
I remember people telling me I was lucky to have two angels to look after me. But I never wanted two angels, I wanted two babies to be here with me, two babies that I would love and protect, no one would ever choose to have two angels in Heaven. Of course, I know that people were being kind but in the early days especially it can seem particularly cruel when people say you are lucky.

For me I have no living children but other bereaved parents have expressed their upset and hurt when people say they are lucky to have other children. It doesn’t matter how many children you have, you will always grieve for your precious baby that died. It must be heart breaking to watch your other children reach milestones, knowing your baby that died will never reach them. Just like us there is a big part of their family who will always be missing and no one should ever consider them lucky when they have to live every day without their precious baby. For anyone lucky enough to have more than one living child, would you consider yourself lucky if one of them died because you have more? Of course not, so no parent, no matter how many children they have should be told they are lucky when their precious baby dies.

There is, I am convinced, no picture that conveys in all its dreadfulness, a vision of sorrow, despairing, remediless, supreme. If I could paint such a picture, the canvas would show only a woman looking down at her empty arms – Charlotte Bronté

4. Never place less value on their life because they are a baby
From the moment Liam and Grace started growing in my belly I loved them. I had so many hopes and dreams for them. I imagined a whole future with them. When they died I lost it all, I grieve for them and the loss of their futures. I don’t believe you can compare grief and I would never compare my grief to anyone else. But I also don’t think anyone should try lessening our grief by saying that at least they weren’t older or you never really knew them. I’m so grateful for the 3 days I got to spend making memories with Liam and Grace, even though they were dead. Imagine how grateful I’d feel if I got to spend years making memories with them, imagine all the happy Christmas’, birthdays and all the ordinary mundane days I would be so grateful for.

I didn’t just lose my child. I lost my hopes. I lost my dreams. I lost everything I wanted and more than words can ever express – Unknown

5. Understand you can’t make it better
Now this is a hard one! I’ve found it difficult when I’ve seen Alan’s pain; I know I can’t make it better. There are only two people who could make it better and that is Liam and Grace. Don’t get me wrong, I can sit with him with his pain, listen to him, comfort him (and him me) but I know I can’t make it better. I’m so lucky to be blessed with such a great family and really close friends who have been comfortable sitting with me in my pain. One friend summed it up recently when she simply said to me….I know you are broken. I feel very lucky to have a connection with these special people who are willing to let me talk about Liam and Grace and all the pain and hurt that comes with them dying without trying to “fix me” or “cheer me up”. I hope that understanding that you can’t make it better will unburden people. Please know by sitting with us on our bad days, letting us talk about our precious babies is already making it a bit easier for us; you are helping us more than you’ll ever know.

Sitting silently beside a friend who is hurting may be the best gift we can give – unknown

6. Be there for them and listen to their story
I am so grateful to all my family and friends who listened to me tell “Liam and Grace’s story”. They were so patient with me particularly in the weeks following their death. I was so terrified of forgetting any tiny detail of the time I spent with them that I wanted to keep telling people. I was also bursting with pride that I had become a mammy to two beautiful children and I wanted to shout it out to the world. I remember a friend asking me lots of questions about their birth when we were walking to their grave a couple of months later. I said to her, I can’t believe I haven’t told you all this and she said, you have, I just want to hear it all again. It was so kind, she got that I just wanted to keep talking about my babies and the nicest thing she could do was let me tell her about them over and over again! As you may have guessed by now I really have the best friends. When some of them realised I wasn’t in a place to go socialising they started organising to meet me to walk to Liam and Grace’s grave. Walking along chatting and having a cuppa afterwards has really helped me and I know how lucky I am to have such amazing support.

If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and …that is a great gift – Elizabeth Edwards

7. Acknowledge Special Days
I’m so grateful to all the people who have sent me lovely messages on special days. Messages saying “thinking of Liam and Grace at Christmas time” etc. I am always so comforted to know that people are thinking of our beautiful babies. However, I know I am one of the lucky ones. There are so many bereaved parents who have said that special occasion such as Christmas and their child’s birthday have passed and no one has acknowledged them. How painful is that. It’s so sad to think that a simple message or card could make such difficult days easier. And I believe most of the time it’s not that people don’t care, they just don’t know what to say. But a simple thinking of you or sending love to you and (baby’s name) today would bring such comfort. I remember people sympathising with us and sending cards which simply said I have no words, it doesn’t have to be something inspirational you say, but please just say something, the silence can be deafening.

The loss is immeasurable, but so is the love left behind – Felicia Moran

I see my life flash across the sky, so many times have I been so afraid, and just when I thought I lost my way, you gave me strength to carry on, that’s when I heard you say, I promise you, I’m always there, when your heart is filled with sorrow and despair, and I’ll carry you when you need a friend, you’ll find my footprints in the sand. (Footprints in the Sand, Leona Lewis)


All I Want for Christmas is You

A ray of hope flickers in the sky, A tiny star lights up way up high. All across the land dawns a brand new morn, this comes to pass when a child is born. A silent wish sails the seven seas, the winds of change whisper in the trees, And the walls of doubt tumble tossed and torn, this comes to pass when a child is born. (When a Child is born – Johnny Mathis)

For me Christmas has always been a magical time, a time of year which is full of children’s innocence and wonder. Growing up in a big family Christmas was always a special family time. I suppose it is no surprise then that I chose to get married at Christmas time 2013. It was a truly wonderful day filled with so much love. The future looked bright and we looked forward to welcoming babies and making lots of new Christmas memories as the Doyle family.

By Christmas 2014 we were starting fertility testing and I was confident this would be our last Christmas as a family of two. But by Christmas 2015 we had completed 2 rounds of IVF resulting in 1 failed cycle and 1 miscarriage. By Christmas 2016 we had another miscarriage, followed by a third miscarriage in early 2017. But by Christmas 2017 we were pregnant with Liam and Grace. We had 3 early scans, had seen their beautiful hearts beating so there was no better day to share our wonderful news with our immediate family than Christmas Day. I will never forget their excitement as I told them we were pregnant. We were still nervous so we didn’t mention twins. But we had booked a private scan for 28th December and for the first time ever we got to hear the wonderful, strong sound of our two babies hearts beating and we dared to dream! We loved sharing the wonderful news that it was not 1, but 2 precious babies growing in my belly. With my mam sitting beside me I rang each of my 5 brothers and sisters to share this exciting news……oh how we laughed when every one of them responded with squeals of delight and told me to f*** off! Such a wonderful, exciting time and I will always be so grateful to Liam and Grace for giving me so many of these special moments, even before they were born.

But then we faced Christmas 2018 without our beautiful babies. And I just wanted Christmas to F*** off! I couldn’t imagine being able to get through it and I’d have done anything to press STOP…..but you can’t! There was nothing I could do except go through it. And actually the lead up to it and thoughts of the day were worse than Christmas day itself. Every day in the lead up to Christmas you are reminded of all the things Liam and Grace are missing out on. The Baby’s first Christmas sleep suits that they can never wear, the Santa letters that they’ll never write, the excitement of waking up Christmas morning and the joy of watching their faces opening Christmas present after Christmas present. It is such a lonely heartbreaking time without them. No one except a bereaved parent can ever imagine the pain of waking up Christmas morning without your precious children, the pain of visiting their grave and knowing that this is now your new Christmas tradition. For every Christmas now myself and Alan will visit our beautiful children in a graveyard and I don’t think I can ever explain in words the heartache of that.

For many years I yearned to take part in the Farrell family tradition of taking photos of our children with my uncle Tom who looks like Santy. It was something I couldn’t wait to do and each year I’d hope I’d get to do it next year. So although Liam and Grace had died I didn’t want them to miss out on something which was so special. I asked my uncle and he said he would be honoured for me to take photos of him dressed as Santy holding their precious photos. Although my heart was breaking taking the photos, wishing with all my heart I was struggling to get two babies to stop crying and trying to get one happy photo, there was a lovely feeling taking them as my uncle lovingly held their photos. He patiently posed for over an hour as I took lots of special photos which I will treasure forever.

He sees you when you’re sleeping!

And then came another tough part of Christmas I hadn’t given too much thought to. Suddenly 2018 was ending and I felt panicked. I didn’t want to leave the year my beautiful babies were born. I didn’t want to leave the year I met them, held them, kissed them, loved them like no other. It dawned on me that it would suddenly become last year and I didn’t want time to be moving on. But again you can’t press stop and I just have to remind myself that Liam and Grace will always be in our hearts and they will be with me for every year I breathe.

In my soul, there is a hole that can never be filled, But in my heart, there is hope, And you are with me still. In my heart, you live on, Always there, never gone, Precious child, you left too soon, Though it may be true that we’re apart, You will live forever, in my heart. (Precious Child, Karen Taylor-Good)

Memories to last a lifetime

Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days, life was beautiful then, I remember the time I knew what happiness was, Let the memory live again. (Memory, Cats)

I remember when our lovely midwife brought in the Feileacain “Remembering”…..Memory box. We knew that Twin 1 (Liam) was coming and sadly he wouldn’t survive. The memory boxes are a gift from Feileacain and includes everything you need for your precious baby; a beautiful hand knitted blanket to wrap them in, 2 tiny teddies, lip balm, a memory card for the hospital camera (which feileacain also provide), a hand and foot printing kit and some information and advice for bereaved parents. I love that Liam and Grace were wrapped in a blanket made with Love, not a blanket bought in a shop. We placed their 2 teddies with them in their cuddle cot. We then put one in their coffin (sprayed with my perfume I wore throughout my pregnancy and the only one I’ll wear now) and kept one with us, we call it Rocky, after our two little fighters.

After Liam and Grace died we were given so many special gifts that we will always treasure, everyone was just so kind. And we really appreciated all the people who bought memory boxes from feileacain in Liam and Grace’s name, it means the world to us. We know how precious these boxes are to families in their worst times. Sadly there will be more parents whose precious baby will die and I hope they get to experience the comfort we got when they are gifted one of these memory boxes. And I love that Liam and Grace are still making such a difference. Every time a memory box is sponsored in their name the lovely girls in Feileacain send us a handwritten card. These are very special to get and I keep each one in Liam and Grace’s memory boxes. We were recently told that they had inspired the most memory boxes and this truly was a proud mammy and daddy moment.

Liam and Grace were buried in their blue and pink suits that we were given in the hospital and wrapped in their lovely hand knitted blankets. But everything else they wore and touched we kept in their memory boxes. I was thrilled when my gifted aunty offered to make us Liam and Grace teddies using these precious items. Using their hats, beds and Man Utd socks they wore, the Love t-shirt I wore the weekend they were home and the butterfly dress and Alan’s tie we wore for their funeral she lovingly made the most beautiful Liam and Grace teddies. It is so much nicer to hold and hug these precious teddies than to keep the items in a box. It is a special gift, made with love, that we will always love and treasure.

Back to Work

The show must go on, the show must go on, ooh, inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on. My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies, Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die, I can fly my friends, the show must go on. (The Show Must Go On, Queen)

March 22nd 2018 was just an ordinary Thursday in work. I had absolutely no idea that in a few hours a bomb would go off in my world which would change me and my life forever. I remember the last thing I was doing was writing a complicated email which would be sent to over 1,000 people and thinking I’ll wait till the morning to read it again and make sure it makes absolute sense before sending it out. I was also aware of my pregnancy brain and how I kept forgetting things so I jotted down a quick “to do list” for Friday. And off I rushed to my appointment with my counsellor. It was 10 whole months before I saw that “to do list” again.

In the past when I had my miscarriages I would crave a sense of normality straight away. I’d want to run away and being busy in work was always my saviour. But after Liam and Grace died I immediately sensed it would be a long time before I could go back to work. I knew I wasn’t able, I knew it wouldn’t be good for me or indeed my job. I needed time and space to process everything that had happened and I was very lucky and I will always be grateful that my job gave me the time off to do that. I could never have imagined it would take 10 months in total but it took that long before I felt strong enough to face work again. I work in a large building with thousands of staff and I knew this would bring many challenges. There were people who would have heard about Liam and Grace, there were people who wouldn’t but knew I was pregnant and there would be people you don’t meet regularly and could casually ask where you’ve been as they haven’t seen you around. I pondered on all the different scenarios and spoke about my concerns with my counsellor. But soon I realised that you can go round and around imagining how you’ll handle all the different scenarios but eventually you just have to go back and face whatever happens.

I’m lucky to have lots of really good friends in work. One of my closest friends works in the same office so I knew I would have lots of support. I had met some of my close work friends since Liam and Grace had been born and died and some of them had even done the mini marathon for feileacain in honour of Liam and Grace, how wonderful are they! When I told people I was coming back to work I got lots of really nice messages of support saying they were looking forward to seeing me back. But I feared they would be looking for the old me and I felt like a totally different person since Liam and Grace had been born and died. I was struggling to understand who the new me was and I worried how I would cope going back to “normal”.

My first morning back, walking into the building, sitting at my desk, seeing my “to do list” and everything exactly as I left it on 22nd March, felt surreal. The half packet of ginger nut biscuits and large bottle of gaviscon in my drawer reminded me that the last time I’d sat there I was just a normal pregnant person. So much had happened and changed since then. As I looked out the window from my desk, I knew the view was exactly the same, nothing had changed at all, but yet everything felt different to me. And really the only difference was me. While I was looking out that window questioning how everything felt so different I was reminded of the day of Liam and Grace’s funeral. I can vividly remember sitting in the back of Alan’s car holding the white coffin on my lap with my precious babies inside and looking out of the window at the world going on. The view was the same but the world looked and felt completely different to me. As people were busy on an ordinary Monday morning they had no idea that inside this passing car was a heartbroken mammy and daddy bringing their precious children to their final resting place. There are moments like this, moments when you’re transported back and you have no control over them. When this happened on my first morning back in work I suddenly felt overwhelmed, thought I can’t do this, I wanted to run out of the building and only for an old boss who brought me into her office, reassured me I could do this, I had to do it, advised me to take it 10 minutes at a time, I got through my first morning back in work.

My worst fear returning to work was that no one would mention Liam and Grace. I was returning to work after giving birth to my two babies, my biggest and proudest accomplishment in life and I feared no one would mention them. It was one lovely brave lady who complimented my L and G chain (which my lovely goddaughter bought me) who provided that special moment, she asked if it was for Liam and Grace. Suddenly I was reminded of my counsellors words and how I would have to lead the way, let people know I wanted my babies names mentioned. So I thanked her kindly, told her it was for Liam and Grace, said how delighted I was to hear their names and how my worst fear was that no one would mention them. And how right my counsellor was…..word spread… the week went on more and more people said their beautiful names and every time some one did it would make me smile and it really helped me and continues to help me each day.

A Year Already

One thing is evident would’ve given all I had, would’ve loved ya like no other. Who would you be? What would you look like? Would you have my smile and her eyes? Today could’ve been the next day of the rest of your life. (Gone too Soon, Daughty)

How can it be almost a year, how can nearly 365 days have passed? How have we got through it? There are so many questions going through my head as we are 2 days away from your 1st birthday. Each day this week I recall what I was doing this time last year, how I was feeling, how I had absolutely no idea how the week would unfold. I didn’t know that these days would become “before” and every day since “after”, they held no significance then. As i write this it’s Thursday 21st March and although it’s tomorrow by date I’m remembering that it’s exactly this time last year I got my first pain. As the pains worsened I remember thinking how am I going to survive labour if I can’t even handle this pain. I had no idea they were contractions till my waters broke. I remember the panic, the rush to the hospital, my heart and mind racing. I remember the pure relief when they immediately did an ultrasound and we saw your beautiful hearts beating. This was quickly followed by embarrassment as I thought I can’t believe I’ve caused such a fuss. But no one else thought that, everyone else in the room grasped what was happening, it was taking me longer to understand my worst nightmare was starting. I remember the realisation slowly starting to register, I remember the panic and terror as I realised I had to give birth to two babies who wouldn’t survive. That Thursday night was by far the worst night of my life.

But you both quickly turned the worst day into the best. It was early Friday morning, 1.42am to be exact, when the best day of my life started, it was my first glimpse of Liam when everything changed, when love overcame every other emotion. I can’t believe that it’s a whole year since I first saw you both, saw how beautiful and absolutely perfect you were and became your proud mammy. I can’t believe it’s that long since I held you both on my chest, Liam on the left, Grace on the right, and felt the most unbelievable rush of unconditional, absolute love for you both. It was my perfect moment. Every time I think of you both lying on my chest with your daddy beside us I can feel that love. You brought so much love into our lives and we will always be so grateful to you both.

Living every day without you both is hard, harder than I ever could have imagined. But the love you brought and the love I feel for you both makes every day worthwhile. It makes every bit of pain and heartache worth it. I know how lucky I was to carry you both, to feel your gentle kicks, to give birth to you, to spend 3 precious days with you both and to make memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you Liam and Grace for making my dreams come through, for making me your mammy, I am so proud to be your mammy and I will carry you both in my heart forever and ever.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you, I’m always asking why this crazy world had to lose such a beautiful life we never knew, Gone too soon, you were gone too soon, yeah! (Gone too Soon, Daughty)

Having A Voice

I’m not saying right is wrong, it’s up to us to make the best of all the things that come our way. ‘Cause everything that’s been has passed, the answers in the looking glass, there’s four and twenty million doors on life’s endless corridor, say it loud and sing it proud. And they will dance if they wanna dance, please brother take a chance, you know they’re gonna go which way they wanna go, All we know is that we don’t know how it’s gonna be, please brother let it be, Life on the other hand won’t make you understand, we’re all part of a masterplan. (The Masterplan, Oasis)

I remember it was Masterplan by Oasis that we sung at our school graduation over 20 years ago (how can it be 20 years?). I didn’t know the song, no surprise really, as I wasn’t that into music. I was always different, while all my friends loved Blur and Oasis, I loved football. But I remember learning it for our school graduation and thinking it was a great song. We were finally finishing school, had our whole futures ahead of us with little idea what lay ahead and where life would take us.

For some reason this song popped into my head this week and as I listened to the words it made me think how different my life is turning out compared to what I always imagined. I have done things the last few weeks which are completely out of my comfort zone. Never in a million years could I ever have imagined talking on the radio or writing a blog. It’s just not me! It’s funny because my sister and sister in laws love blogs and if anyone was going to write one I imagined it would have been one of them. They’d regularly be talking about this blogger and that blogger and I’d be totally lost. Listening to them I pictured bloggers as glamourous, style icons who lived their lives through social media. And this certainly wasn’t me, I’m more a runners and oversized sweaters person who had to ask Google millions of questions to even put this blog together!

When I first considered writing this blog I couldn’t help but worry. Who would read it? Would they like it? Would they understand my desire to share Liam and Grace? Could I express my thoughts and feelings in words? I’m sure even well established bloggers feel very vulnerable when they put their words and thoughts out there for anyone to read. And I was a total novice, I only started reading blogs recently. But this wasn’t about me, this was about my two precious babies. I wanted to give them a voice and tell everyone about them, keep their memory alive so eventually I swallowed my fear and decided to just go for it!

It’s now 3 days since I shared their blog on their first birthday. And wow what a response! Over 600 visitors to their blog in just 3 days…..that means over 600 people have thought about Liam and Grace in those few days and that is what it’s all about. It is far more than I ever could have imagined. But I know better than anyone how much can be achieved in 3 days. Liam and Grace made the biggest impact on our family in the 3 days we had with them last year. Quite simply in 3 days Liam and Grace changed me and my life forever. As well as making me their proud mammy, they have given me a strength and determination I never thought possible.

There was nothing more I wanted in this World than to be their mammy. I pictured being their mammy as loving them, protecting them, teaching them right from wrong and making lots and lots of memories with them and their daddy. Sadly this is not how our lives together turned out. But recently I’ve learned that I can find new ways to be their mammy, ways I never could have imagined. I can protect their memory, teach people about the impact they have made and let people know how they can help other bereaved parents. Liam and Grace have enriched my life in so many ways. They’ve changed me and the way I live my life. I’ve always been a private person and their daddy’s even more private. Yet here we are shouting their names out for the world to hear them, sharing their story so it might make a difference to someone. Sadly I’ve heard so many stories in the past year of people who have also lost their babies through miscarriages and stillbirths but they never spoke about it. We never know what people have been through. In the past stillbirth and neonatal deaths weren’t talked about, there was a stigma around them. But we can’t allow that to continue, thankfully we have come along way but we definitely still have a long way to go and I want to be one of the mammys leading the way in Liam and Grace’s name.

Liam and Grace deserve for everyone to know how special they are and they deserve to make their mark on this World and to make a difference. And as their proud mammy I will always be their voice, I will make sure that Liam and Grace will never be forgotten and I am confident that they will make their mark on this World.

Mother’s Day

Everything changes but beauty remains, something so tender I can’t explain, well I maybe dreamin’ but ’till I awake, can we make this dream last forever and I’ll cherish all the love we share. For a moment like this, some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this, some people search forever for that one special kiss, Oh, I can’t believe it’s happening to me, some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this. (A Moment Like This, Kelly Clarkson)

I never knew the date for mother’s day depends on when Easter falls each year. I googled it this week as I knew I was pregnant for it last year. It was on mother’s day last year that I finally built up the courage to publicly announce our great news. I’d been avoiding saying I was pregnant on Facebook for two reasons; one, I was still so nervous and two, we never know what anyone else is going through. But we had recently had our 20 week scan, we knew we were having a boy and girl (but were keeping it a surprise) and we were reassured that both babies were growing perfectly. I know better than most that reading pregnancy announcements on facebook can be hard as you’d feel a pang of wishful longing (nicer words for jealousy). You are delighted for the person AND you wish it was also you. Babies are absolute miracles, they bring so much love and joy and I will always always celebrate new life but it can still be hard sometimes. But I hoped that my announcement would bring some hope to anyone in a similar situation. We had been through a tough time but now we were looking forward to welcoming our bundles of joy. And it seems that people were so excited for us. My phone buzzed all day with lovely messages of congratulations and best wishes. This was my fourth pregnancy but the first time I got to share our wonderful news with so many people and it was very special. Liam and Grace provided us with lots of these wonderful moments throughout their 6 months growing in my belly and I’ll always be so grateful to them for each and every one. Last year mother’s day was on 11th March and when the memory came up on Facebook this year I re-read all the lovely comments and re-lived the lovely fuzzy warm feeling they gave me all over again.

And now in a couple of days time I face my first mother’s day without Liam and Grace. Writing this now I don’t know how the day will go but then none of us ever know what any day will bring. Just like most mammys it doesn’t take mother’s day to celebrate being a mammy, being Liam and Grace’s mammy is something I’m grateful for each and every day. It’s not the type of mammy I expected to be when I wrote that facebook post last year and of course I’d do anything to be a “normal” mammy but I’ll always be proud to be their mammy and I’ll continue to shout that out for everyone to hear.

I’ll also be celebrating my own mam this mother’s day. On a day when so many people wish they could have their mam here with them I know how lucky I am to have mine. And what a special mam and nanny she is. This week she bought two lovely mother’s day candles for me and put them on Liam and Grace’s grave with lovely messages to me, from them. But being the fun loving Nanny she is to all her grandchildren she put Liam’s candle and message on Grace’s side and Grace’s on Liams side. This gave me a lovely giggle, I knew my mam would have enjoyed doing it and she knew it would give me a laugh before changing them around….how right she was!

In the lead up to mother’s day I’m also reminded how lucky I am to have such an amazing family and close friends. I know I will get a lovely card and a Feileacain memory box from Liam and Grace on Sunday bought by their kind daddy, just like I did for my birthday and christmas. I also know that my lovely family will wish me a happy mother’s day just like I will wish it to them. I know how lucky I am as I know from other bereaved mammys that they are dreading mother’s day as they know they won’t be recognised as being part of the mammys club. There are others that have expressed that they are only included because they have living children, their child that died isn’t recognised. I count myself lucky as I know that will never be me, my family will always recognise me as Liam and Grace’s mammy. Last week for their first birthdays I was blown away by all the lovely things people did to show their love for Liam and Grace. There were candles lighting, flowers bought and planted (my amazing 91 year old granny planted roses for her garden), balloons let off, birthday cake (my parents buy one for all their grandchildren so they bought one for Liam and Grace), my aunty and uncle even turned their house blue and pink to mark their special birthday. It just amazes me how kind and caring people are and how much love there is for Liam and Grace. As I said to my friend the other day, I think if I told my family that if they stood on their head for an hour I’d feel a little better, not only would they do it, they’d stand for 2 hours in case it helped me more. I truly am that blessed and Liam and Grace are blessed with a family who will always love them. I’m sad that Liam and Grace are not here to feel all that love but it makes me burst with pride that they haven’t missed out on any of it just because they are not here with us.

So no matter what Sunday brings I will finish the day with a toast to my precious children Liam and Grace, my amazing mam and I’ll be thinking of all those bereaved parents who sadly don’t have the love and support we are surrounded with.

So, Have you any Children?

In the circle of life, it’s the wheel of fortune, it’s the leap of faith, it’s the band of hope, ’til we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle, the circle of life. Some of us fall by the wayside, And some of us soar to the stars, And some of us sail through our troubles, And some of us have to live with the scars. (Circle of Life, Elton John).

Such an innocuous question for many but asking someone “have you any children?” or “how many children have you?” are such tough questions for others. As a society we place huge value on having children and being parents. And rightly so. But when the road to parenthood and having children is bumpy and uncertain it can lead us to questioning our value and wondering where we fit in.

We live in a busy world and there’s a constant pressure to be always rushing to the next step. Even when we are young we’re in a hurry to find that right person. When we are dating a while we’re asked when’s he putting a ring on the finger, as soon as the bling is proudly worn, it’s about setting a date and giving everyone a day out. No sooner has the day out been enjoyed by all, it’s onto when are you having a baby. And I’ve heard that even when a precious baby is born it’s when you are giving them a brother or sister. So much expectation and pressure to rush to the next step. And of course the steps don’t always follow a certain order. But when the steps don’t happen, when you don’t conform to the “norm” you suddenly feel sidelined.

Everyone always knew I loved children, it was certainly no secret. So I think people close to us realised early into our marriage that we were having difficulty conceiving and didn’t ask too many questions. But over the years it became an issue. I’d dread going for appointments, you know like getting your eyebrows done or going for massages. I’m lucky to have a friend as a hairdresser so at least that was one appointment I didn’t have to dread. Casual conversations with strangers often start with so do you have any children?. And you know the person doesn’t really care too much about the answer, it’s just something to fill the silence. But for so many of us it’s the question we dread, the question that makes our hearts beat faster and our hands sweaty.

I don’t think we have any idea of the rising number of people affected by infertility and miscarriages. Even though we were on the fertility journey for years, I’m still amazed by the number of people I hear that are affected by fertility issues and/or have suffered miscarriages like us. Before we started I’d never even heard of the term “secondary infertility”. And for anyone that doesnt know, it’s the term used for people who have had a baby naturally but then struggle to conceive again. I never would have even considered that someone who has had a baby naturally could need fertility treatment to conceive another child. I’ve learned that we can be so naive to what people are going through. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that none of us know how many people are affected by what seems like a casual, fill the silence question. Over the years, before I became a mammy to Liam and Grace, I learned to answer the question with “not yet” and generally the person took the hint and quickly moved onto….So have you been on holidays lately? Or isn’t it a lovely/terrible day out? ….thankfully lighter subjects we can all fill the silences chatting about.

And then I learned that it’s not just those who suffer with infertility and miscarriages that dread the children questions. When I became part of the baby loss community I was, and I still am, shocked by the sheer size of this group of people in our society. And I’m reminded again that even when I thought I understood how many people were affected by the baby question there was a whole group of people I wasn’t really aware of. And of course I’m sure there are more people I’m unaware of now but the point is it affects such a large proportion of our Society that we need to be more aware of the impact of the “casual questions” we ask people.

After Liam and Grace were born and died the question became even more complex for me. There is no way I could ever not say I am their mammy, their proud mammy I must add. I usually say I have two children but they were born too soon and died. Well talk about a conversation killer! Now everyone is awkward, now there’s a deafening silence in the room. I know I’ve made the person uncomfortable or worse still now they look at me with pity. But I don’t want pity, I just want to acknowledge my babies, just like any mammy. I’d love if they were brave and asked me about them. I’d love to tell them how perfect and gorgeous they both were, I’d love to tell them that Liam was born first, that Grace lived for 31 precious minutes, how their names were picked in a hurry but suited them both perfectly. I’d love to answer any questions they may have but I know that is a lot to expect and really they are only trying to do my eyebrows, they’re not counsellors. But they were the ones that asked, I would never bring up my children in conversation with strangers but I also will never ignore them, no matter who asks.

It is a regular topic on our bereaved parents Facebook page. Parents are frequently left feeling guilty, either for not counting their child who died when asked or guilty for upsetting the person who asked the question. No matter what answer you give you are left feeling guilty. Some parents say it depends on who asks or how they are feeling on the day. One day they may answer 3, 2 living with me and 1 in heaven and the next day say they’ve 2 because it’s easier. But it always leaves them feeling guilty for their baby they didn’t include just because it’s easier. Because people find it tough to hear that babies die, they find it upsetting. Of course they do, it’s tough for everyone, we all wish it didn’t happen but sadly that’s our reality.

So the way I see it is we all have a choice; either we don’t ask personal questions about children to strangers or when we ask them we are prepared for the sad reality that not everyone is living the ideal life with 2.4 children. Personally I think it’s safer for everyone if we stick to holidays and weather talk at least until we get to know people!

Time – Friend or Foe?

How does a moment last forever? How can a story never die? It is love we must hold onto, never easy but we try. Sometimes our happiness is captured, somehow our time and place stand still, Love lives on inside our hearts and always will. (How does a Moment Last Forever, Celine Dion)

Time, how I’d love to make you stop. Or even better how I’d love to turn you back. I’d do anything to go back, to have Liam and Grace safely in my belly again. Even if I couldn’t change one single thing, even if they both still had to die, even if I had to live every day all over again with the pain, I’d do anything to hold them both on my chest again. To feel that completeness, to feel that perfect moment all over again. Nothing will ever come close to that beautiful, perfect moment when I held my two precious babies on my chest. Time is something I’m so aware of lately. Maybe it’s been the few comments of it’s been a year now, like somehow that will make me feel better. But I don’t. Nothing changes after a year so how could I suddenly feel better? And I don’t want time to be moving on without Liam and Grace, I don’t want our perfect moments together to become longer and longer ago. Sometimes I meet a bereaved mammy whose baby would be much older than Liam and Grace and I feel sorry for them, sorry that their memories with their babies are so long ago. And I feel panic, knowing that will be me, years will pass without Liam and Grace and that scares me, time is moving too quickly.

Time first became my enemy when I started on my fertility journey. There is no starker reality check than when you start fertility treatment and are reminded of your decreasing egg supply and their quality as time passes. You are suddenly aware of the ticking biological clock which gets louder and louder each month. You’re told time is of the essence yet fertility testing is frustratingly slow. Some tests can only be done at certain times in your cycle and it can suddenly seem forever till that time comes around again, a bit like waiting for Christmas as a child but without the presents. And once you start treatment timing is everything. Injections and medications have to be done bang on time. Suddenly all you can think about is time. Alarm reminders on your phone, every day is organised around injections and medications. And constant trips to the clinic. And finally you’re told, the time is right, you’re told your body is ready for the embryo transfer, the moment you will hopefully become pregnant. And once the transfer is over time stands still again. You have 2 weeks to wait until you know if it’s worked, if you are pregnant with that much wanted baby. 2 weeks probably doesn’t sound that long but it’s agony when you’re holding your breath the entire time. I remember my first experience of a positive pregnancy test, it was after our second ivf cycle and it felt amazing. We were finally having our own baby and we were blissfully happy.

And after 7 wonderful weeks we went for our early scan with the clinic. Heard those devastating words, I can’t find a heartbeat. But then we were handed a lifeline, told it’s still early days, come back in 10 days and we’ll do another scan just in case. 10 days…..a week and a half…..forever! Time crawled by. You still have be to conscious of time, wanting to give your baby every possible chance by taking your medications bang on time. But you’re living in limbo, hoping your baby heart is beating but also remembering the stark look on the nurses face when she was doing the ultrasound and knowing deep down there is no hope. Eventually the wait was over and we were back in the same room and our worst fears were confirmed. And then we were told it’s best for my body to have a natural miscarriage and in time I’ll lose our baby once the medication is stopped. Weeks passed by in a painful blur as I slowly miscarried our precious baby.

Tick tock, tick tock…..You want to give yourself time to recover physically and emotionally but you are also aware of that loud annoying ticking. When I think back on this time I realise how naieve I was. I was constantly aware of my increasing age and I’d be counting the years in my head. I’d be counting the time it takes for ivf treatment, the 9 months I would be pregnant with our first baby, taking time to enjoy our first baby, tick tock, time to start ivf for our 2nd baby, 9 months pregnant again, 2nd precious baby born and all this before I’m 40…..that was the dream, the constant maths going on in my head. I wanted to get to that time where I could just enjoy our children and never worry about that ticking clock again!

But then our third round of ivf was exactly the same, same room, same nurse, the same heartbreaking news. I say it was exactly the same but that’s not really true. The ivf procedure was the same but we were different now. We no longer had the innocence, the naivety of our first pregnancy. We knew how wrong things can go and this time we tried even harder to do everything right. I knew the guilt that comes with having a miscarriage even when you’ve done your absolute best, when you’ve tried to do everything right. And we really did! But yet here we were back here again, more time had passed but we were no closer to our dreams.

It took a little longer to pick ourselves up this time but we knew we had to, we didn’t have time to wallow. We decided to start with a new clinic, we were never happy with the first one, it always felt like a business and from the minute we walked into the second clinic we knew we’d made the right choice. What a difference! Immediately I felt hopeful, I remember turning to Alan after our first appointment with our lovely consultant and saying I know we’ll have a baby, I felt so positive for the first time in ages. And within a few weeks I was pregnant without any treatment. And when we rang to cancel an appointment with the clinic the consultant rang me back, congratulated us, gave us a prescription for progesterone and an appointment for an early scan. So different! Everything felt right, it was all falling into place, everything we’d been through would suddenly be worth it. We got to 9 weeks this time, got to see our babies heart beating for the first time, got to proudly put their scan picture on the mandlepiece but sadly we also got to hear those dreaded words again, there’s no heartbeat.

But then for the first time we got a reason for this miscarriage, we were told it was a partial molar pregnancy. When the baby started growing so did abnormal cells and sadly our baby would never have survived. It was the first time we had a reason, an explanation for why our baby died but more bad news followed. Because it was a partial molar pregnancy my hcg levels would remain high for months, it would take months for my body to recover and I couldn’t get pregnant. I was crushed. The clock was ticking louder than ever but my body was letting me down again. And then our consultant came up with an idea to try cheat time. I was so conscious of the time passing unable to get pregnant but aware of the effects of time on my aging eggs. She suggested a fresh cycle of ivf but we would freeze the embryos at the end until the oncologist gave the all clear for embryo transfer. It gave me a huge lift, something I could focus on and do while waiting for the months to pass. And that is how Liam and Grace’s journey started. We had the fresh cycle in the summer but it was October before I could start preparing my body for ivf. And on the 2nd of November 2017 I had two embryos implanted and I was pregnant with Liam and Grace. Turning 39 in February was the first one in years I wasn’t dreading, I couldn’t have cared less, I was pregnant with 2 precious babies and I could no longer hear that clock ticking.

Except I could! Only this time it wasn’t the biological clock ticking. This time I was counting the days as I wanted time to hurry up. We held our breaths till we got to the first scan, made it to the 3 month scan for the first time and then finally it was time for the big 20 week scan. The scan that reassured us they were both perfect, measuring a couple of days ahead and we found out we were having a boy and a girl. Oh the excitement! But also the nerves. I was enjoying carrying my precious cargo but I just couldn’t wait for them to be here, to be safe and in our arms. I couldn’t wait for our lives together to start. Now I wish I’d enjoyed this time. I wish I realised it was the only Christmas, the only birthday etc I would spend with Liam and Grace. I wish I didn’t spend this precious time wishing it to hurry up.

But then on 23rd March 2018 I made friends with time. My beautiful babies were born and suddenly every second of every minute counted. I don’t know much about mindfulness but with my limited knowledge of it I think I lived mindfully for every second I spent with Liam and Grace. I knew we had 3 days to make memories to last forever, I knew we didn’t have a single moment to waste. I wanted every second of every minute to count and it really did. Time seemed to slow down, we got to pack so much into such a short time with them. Time tried to have an argument, skipped an hour as the clocks moved forward on the Saturday night, but I wasn’t wasting a second arguing. I was far too happy holding my precious babies, enjoying every second kissing, cuddling and playing with them. It was the most perfect time of our lives.

But now I’ve fallen out with time again. Now it won’t stop moving quickly and it won’t let me go back. But then I remind myself that when it mattered, when it really mattered, when Liam and Grace were here, when I saw them both when they were first born, time stood still. And although I can’t turn back the hands of time I can remember our perfect moments, I can remember the completeness and happiness. No amount of time passing can ever take away my beautiful memories of Liam and Grace. And all those times I did the maths in my head….well I did have my two beautiful babies before I was 40, it just wasn’t the dream I imagined. But I would never change our time together, I just wish it was so much longer.

Minutes turn to hours, days to years then gone, But when all else has been forgotten, Still our song lives on. How does a moment last forever, When our song lives on. (How Does A Moment Last Forever, Celine Dion).

What a Difference A Cert Makes – Update

The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing. You hide behind walls of Jericho, your lies will come tumbling, deny my place in time, you squander wealth that’s mine, my light will shine so brightly it will blind you because 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. Brothers and sisters when they insist we’re just not good enough, well we know better, just look ’em in the eye and say, we’re gonna to do it anyway (Something Inside So Strong, Labi Siffre).

I am so sad to have to write this post. One of the first blog posts I wrote was called “What A Difference a Cert Makes”. I felt it was an important post to write as I wanted to explain how important birth certs are for bereaved parents. I wanted people to understand the cruel reality of the strict criteria that needs to be met in order to be eligible for a stillbirth cert. In the post I told of my joy that Liam met this criteria and that I was given a stillbirth cert for him and a birth and death cert for Grace. I tried to convey the importance of getting certs and formally registering your children by explaining that when the State recognise our children it means that everyone else will also. I described the moment when I was told by the bereavement midwife that I would get their certs as like winning the lotto, it meant the world to me. I also wanted people to understand how hard it must be for parents whose precious babies do not meet the criteria. I felt that by getting these certs for Liam and Grace and by registering our children, we were letting the world know that they existed and that they matter. Within an hour of being given the forms we needed to register Liam and Grace myself and Alan were in the Births and Deaths Office registering our precious children. We couldn’t wait for them to be recognised by the State as our children and I felt both proud and sad when we left a short time later with Liams stillbirth cert and Grace’s birth and death certs.

But this weekend I found out how wrong I was. Yes we got our precious certs but that doesn’t mean the world will know our two babies existed. On Friday night a bereaved mammy posted on our private facebook page that she had registered her babys stillbirth that day and the lady in the registry office told her that when a stillbirth is registered in Ireland the record is only available to their parents, no one else can see that your baby was born. The lady posting asked if we understood her upset as she wanted her babys record public. I had never ever considered that Liams record could not be public before. As I read the post I felt like I was being punched! I tried to console myself hoping that the lady was misinformed. I reasoned with myself that it couldn’t be true, how could it make sense that Grace’s record would be public, that the world could know that she was mine and Alan’s daughter but her older twin brother, would have no public record, the world wouldn’t know myself and Alan were also proud parents to our son. No I reasoned, that simply couldn’t be true. Sure how could it make sense that parents are the only ones to see the record, sure they don’t need to be reminded that their child was born, it’s everyone else that needs to be informed. I swallowed the anxiety I could feel building inside me, calmed myself down as I reasoned it wouldn’t make any sense for the stillbirth record not to be public. I was about to offer the lady some words of comfort, suggesting that the information she’d been given could be incorrect considering it made no sense. But just before I started typing another well informed bereaved mammy confirmed it was true and it was this punch that completely floored me.

The injustice and cruelty of life is something I’ve been thinking about a lot since that post. The biggest injustice of my life is of course that Liam and Grace died before they got a chance to live. We were all robbed of a lifetime together as a family. Myself and Alan were robbed of a future as parents with living children but Liam and Grace suffered the biggest injustice, they were robbed of a life. Who knows what that life would have been, how they would have chosen to live it but I know without any doubt that they would have had a happy childhood, surrounded by love, happiness and security. I’m not saying it would have been perfect, we would certainly have made mistakes, but myself and Alan would have done our absolute best, always putting Liam and Grace first. They would have had a good start in life which I hope would have led to a bright and happy future for them both. And sadly this start in life is not something every baby gets. We are all aware that there are babies born into extremely tough environments, babies born to parents who don’t want them and babies born into a life of cruelty, pain and suffering. I know this would never be Liam and Grace and the fact that they were robbed of a happy life and the injustice of that is something which hurts and pains me deeply.

And now I find out that my beloved son is suffering another injustice. The State won’t publicly recognise that he was born, they think I should want to hide my beautiful son. I find myself wondering if they think a stillbirth is something to be hidden, a secret, something to be ashamed of. I thought we had moved on from these awful taboos, I thought we had learned from the mistakes in the past. My Liam will never be something to be hidden or ashamed of and from the comments on the post over the weekend this is something bereaved mammys feel very strongly about. Being a mammy to Liam and Grace is and always will be the greatest and proudest accomplishment of my life. I am so proud of them both and I will always be proud to be their mammy. How dare anyone think that I should hide one of my precious children. By making Liams stillbirth private it means that if anyone is doing a family tree in generations to come it will look like only Grace was born, that myself and Alan were parents to one child, not two. How can anyone think that is right?

Liam and Grace were always together. Their journey started and ended side by side. They grew together in my womb. Each week I’d read what stage they were at, I loved when I read at 14 weeks that they were now aware of each other and at 18 weeks that they were interacting together more. It comforted me to know they had each other, I hoped they were having fun playing and kicking each other. When they were born they were both placed immediately on my chest, side by side. They stayed close together the whole weekend. And when the dreaded time came to say goodbye they were placed side by side in their white coffin. As heartbroken as I was placing them gently into their coffin it did bring me some comfort that they were together, like they always were. But now the state is trying to publicly recognise that only one of them existed. They are saying that Grace matters more because she breathed. NO! That’s simply not true. They both matter, they are both loved equally by all their family.

It was poor Liam who had the tough birth. He was breech so his journey into this world was hard for him. The midwife tried to reassure me that he wasn’t in pain. He died just before he was born and that will always break my heart. Alan had chosen his name a couple of hours before (when we knew he was coming) and I still can’t believe how he picked the most perfect name for our son. On the Saturday night I googled the meaning of both of their names (something I would have done if we had more time to choose/argue about their names) and I was comforted to read that Liams name means strong willed warrior and protector. His name couldn’t have suited him more. He had the tough birth so his little sister could just pop out giving her the energy to breathe for 31 minutes. We were both so proud of our son, we knew he was the best big brother looking after his sister and twin. And I know if they both lived that he would have continued to protect her and mind her throughout their lives.

As I knew that our time together would be so short I was adamant that I spent equal time holding and kissing Liam and Grace. I would hold one of them and then say to Alan how long am I holding him/her as now I want to hold the other for the exact same amount of time. I wanted them both to know I loved them equally. I was terrified that one of them would have more cuddles or kisses. Alan kept reassuring me they wouldn’t mind but it was something that I worried about throughout our short time together. If I kissed Liam, I immediately kissed Grace. If I held Liam on my chest for 37 minutes it was Grace’s turn to be there for 37 minutes. Everything had to be fair. I remember when the bereavement midwife asked us who we wanted to bath first. It felt like the toughest question to me and I looked to Alan for help. He said Liam as he was born first. Yes I agreed, that makes sense. It wasn’t that we were choosing Liam before Grace, there was a logical reason and I loved that, I could live with that, it was fair. It is the reason we will always call them Liam and Grace as Liam was born first. I needed a reason as I never would like to choose who I named first. And after all that time I worried about fairness and equality the State is now trying to tell me that Grace matters more because she breathed. Well not to me and not to their daddy. We believe that Grace was able to breathe because of the help her big brother gave her by coming into the world so easily. We love them both equally, they both mean the world to us and always will.

In another previous post I spoke about Liam and Grace giving me a voice. I explained that I now have a strength and determination I never knew before because of them. Well now is the time that I will use that voice. I will be Liams warrior mammy and fight to have him publicly recognised as our son. It is the very least our warrior deserves. And our princess knows that although this fight is for Liam we would fight for her if we had to. Because we are their parents and we will love them both equally forever and ever!