Jane was born at 7:10pm and she looked just like her two older sisters, a fine sized baby at 8lbs and 9ozs. When the placenta was delivered it was clear why Alison died, there was a knot in the umbilical cord. The knot formed early in the pregnancy and for some reason, two days before her due date, she pulled it tight and stopped all oxygen to herself. There are many families who never find the answer to why their baby died, I find comfort in knowing what happened to Alison and feel blessed that we were given an answer.It would be an understatement to say the staff were fantastic, they were truly superb. The manner in which we were treated by the staff at the hospital assisted us greatly in our grieving. I wrote to each staff member to thank them for what they had done for me, for us. I cherish the photos taken by the nurse immediately after delivery, Alison's colouring in these photos is similar to a living baby. In the delivery suite we looked at her, smiling one minute, crying the next, totally heart broken, utterly devastated, thinking of what it could have been like, wishing life could be given back to her and cherishing every minute we had with her.I was taken back up to the ward where my husband and I slept beside Alison. I woke up during the night as I could hear my baby cry, this was to happen time and time again. I called for the nurse and asked her could she hear the noises, perhaps a mistake was made and maybe she was alive. With empathy the nurse said there were no baby noises. I said I had to leave the room as I thought I was going mad. She helped me to the oratory where I sat for over four hours. The nurse stayed with me whilst coming and going to do her night duties. It was the morning of Christmas Eve, I looked at the crib, the empty crib, just like my heart and like my crib, my God how was I ever going to get through this.During the day family members came to visit us in hospital. Our daughters, Kate and Emma, came to see their little sister and they were shy and scared. Kate was very brave and held her little sister, she has often said that she is so very glad that she did hold her, even though she weighted a tonne! It's such a bittersweet moment, so happy to see your baby and hold her near, yet knowing that it will all be over and you'll have to say goodbye. The ISANDS booklet was a great help in getting us through those first few days. We spoke to the Chaplain, a marvellous lady, and decided how we would say goodbye to Alison.I left hospital early evening on Christmas Eve. The nurse cradled Alison at the nurses station as I said good bye and took the stairs to the ground floor. I cannot describe the emptiness of leaving hospital without your baby. As I walked through reception there was a set of twins waiting to go home. They could have two babies and I wasn't allowed my one - life seemed so unfair.The next morning was Christmas Day, our house was full of joy as my daughters were excited to open their presents from Santa. I remember we were brought through the day on the wave of excitement my daughters had for the day that was in it. We went back to the hospital in the afternoon to hold Alison, wishing things had turned out differently. We came home but our lovely house seemed so empty, I just wanted to be back in my childhood family home. So my husband drove us there, it's only an hour away and it felt really good to be at home with my family, in the kitchen with the Aga cooker, that has been there for a long as I can remember. I remember we watched Top Gear, the episode where they drive through the southern states of America. It was so funny, we laughed so much. When the program ended it just seemed to hit me that our baby girl had died and here I was laughing at this television program. I realised then that the human mind is strong and whatever happens to us we have the ability to get moments27
through it and a little laughter does no harm along the way.I knew I did not want to say goodbye to Alison too quickly. We visited her almost every day in the mortuary chapel. A week after Alison was born we held a service for her in the chapel of the hospital. I trusted the arrangements to the Chaplain and she did not disappoint us. We had the most beautiful service and said our last goodbye to our beautiful little princess in the chapel. The Chaplain had arranged for Alison to be taken by the funeral undertakers to Glasnevin crematorium. We did not attend Glasnevin crematorium, our goodbyes were said in the chapel. Walking away from the chapel I realised that we had made the right decision with regard to Alison's funeral arrangements. Sometime later my husband collected Alison's ashes and they are now kept in our house. We had intended to scatter them in the Phoenix Park, but for now we prefer to keep them in our house. I think that one day they can be scattered with the ashes of her Mum and Dad.Even though we had lost our daughter I felt grateful for so many things. Grateful that I had been sick during my pregnancy because instead of being at work, I was at home resting and feeling every movement she made, this was my quality time with her. Grateful to the hospital staff for such a wonderful experience. Grateful that we knew how our baby died. Grateful that we had her for one week after she was born. Grateful that we made the right decision in how we would say good bye. Grateful that she was born at Christmas time because the excitement and energy from the girls brought us along those difficult first days.The following days and weeks were a blur. I think one just exists, going through the daily motions, our two daughters kept us busy, kept us going. Support from so many people was astounding, family, friends, neighbours, our parish priest, our community, work colleagues and even people unknown to us posted cards and presents through our letterbox. We were prayed for at all masses on Christmas Day, this gave me such strength. At times like this support is so important and we received so much support it was fantastic - it carried us along, on our painful journey. The next weeks went into months and six months down the road I seemed to hit a brick wall. I couldn't deal with life, I couldn't deal with people's insensitivity, I became very depressed and went to see a counsellor. I found counselling very difficult, tiring, and draining. I could only attend once every 3 weeks. For one hour my brain was fried, one week stewing on what was said, one week trying to figure it all out and one week's rest before the next session. I felt annoyed, angry and frustrated but by the end of counselling I came out a very different and much better person. My counsellor said I could not accept that my child had died. I could have punched him, how can a parent accept that their child has died, it is the most unnatural thing in the world. Over time my feelings changed, I took long walks to think things over, I listened to music that touched me, I talked to my close friends - they listened. I never thought I could say this, I have accepted that my daughter has died, I say this with peace and calmness in my heart. As the months passed family, friends and neighbours never tired of listening to my story, my feelings, going round and round in circles saying the same thing over and over again. When my husband was away on business, during the early hours of the morning, I often sat outside the front door, devastated and heartbroken (unable to sit indoors because I felt the house was falling in on me). My neighbour would come out of her house, we'd chat and 30 minutes later I'd be laughing and able to go back inside and get some sleep. I have several similar stories of such kindness, you can't put a price on friendship like that.In November I felt I would be able to go back to work, but my counsellor thought it best if I got through Alison's anniversary and Christmas and went back in the new year. I was out of work for one year and when I did go back to work at the beginning of January I was in a much better place. I could not have returned any earlier or I would have just fallen apart. I had a few melt-down moments but on the whole I feel I have coped well and am very happy to be back at work now.Kate joined the peer support group Rainbows. Rainbows was a safe environment where Kate could talk about her sister and her own feelings. Kate says she really liked Rainbows as it helped her understand her feelings and I think it gave her the inner peace that I achieved through counselling. Kate also says she likes reading other peoples stories in the Isands magazine because she then knows that it is not only her that has lost a baby sister. Kate and Emma regularly talk about Alison and they ask lots of questions about her, like where she would have sat in the car, at the table, who feeds her in heaven.To commemorate Alison we had an engraved plaque placed on a pew in our local church and we had a brick in the path around the church engraved with her name. We planted 100 daffodils in our garden, they flowered after Alison's 1st anniversary. We often light candles to remember her. We had an anniversary mass last Christmas to remember Alison and we visited the Oratory in the hospital on her birthday. Looking at the empty crib brought back feelings of our huge loss and a gratitude that we are still here, still supporting each other, still thinking of her and never forgetting her. On Alison's birthday Kate and Emma let balloons fly in the Phoenix Park. During the evening we lit a candle in a lantern and left it outside to burn overnight, it was reassuring to see the light still burn brightly the following morning when we drew the curtains.I feel blessed that Alison entered our lives and continues to be part of our lives. Our lives have been enriched, we live life differently, more focus on spending time with family and friends. Having lost a child I now live life for the two of us.Life is not judged by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away. After all we have been through, I have never, ever, wished we didn't have Alison. We are forever blessed to have had our Christmas baby. Our beautiful darling Alison Rachel Jane, happy Christmas and happy 2nd birthday on 23rd December 2010.Mum, Dad, Kate & Emma xxxxYvette O'BrienA wife who has lost her husband, a widow. A husband who has lost his wife, a widower.A child who has lost his / her parents, an orphan.A parent who has lost their child, there is no word.There is no word for a parent who has lost their child, No word can truly describe the horror of it all.