As I have grown older, I have realised the importance of talking, to people, to my friends to myself and how much I love it. My husband won’t argue with me there, I love to talk. And it’s important to talk, especially during times when you’re vulnerable. During pregnancy, we can sometimes feel our most vulnerable. During pregnancy, you’ll want to talk about your expectations, your wishes and your fears. It is just as important that you talk after your pregnancy, about your birth story, about your postpartum story, whether it be a happy story or a sad story it’s good to get it out there.
If your experience during your pregnancy or birth was a traumatic one, this is when it can be essential that you tell your story. I love talking about my birth stories, and I love getting the conversation going with my friends. We can talk over endless cups of tea time and time again – it’s one of those subjects that can be retold without ever getting boring. But sometimes birth stories aren’t happy ones or easy ones to talk about. One of my birth stories I tend not to talk about is one that I think I should talk about more. It’s a story I’m sure many women, many families, can relate to and who know how hard it is to start the conversation.
When I first became pregnant, my husband and I were elated, to say the least. It had been discussed, put on hold then chatted about again, eventually planned and I’m happy to say easily conceived. I had finished my pregnancy yoga training and had all the information in my head to encourage me to daydream endlessly about how I wanted my pregnancy and birth to be. I would while away the hours at work staring out the window imagining me with my baby. My husband and I attended the most amazing antenatal classes which were based on the ‘Birthing from Within’ strategy. My sister had agreed to be my other birth partner and I was all set.
Then my due date arrived and no baby! What was I thinking expecting my baby was going to arrive on the due date? First-time rookie mistake? I nested while I waited. Having done all the research about what newborn babies see, I had decided that painting the nursery in black and white was a bit grim, so I set on baby yellow walls as we didn’t know the sex of our baby and stencilled deep blue stars in different sizes. I had the drawers packed with clothes and the pram waiting in the hall. Ten days past my due date I went into labour. My sister braided my hair during contractions and my husband cooled my head with a wet washcloth. I laboured for almost 24 hours, when finally, my beautiful baby boy was born.
Within seconds the room filled with a heaviness I will never forget. The midwife stayed with me while I delivered the placenta, All I knew was that he had blonde hair. He was hooked up to all sorts of machines. The midwives asked me did we have a name. I had no other name in my head other than Fionn.
That night in the hospital was horrendous, the following day we had decided to turn off the machines. They removed all the tubes, wrapped him in a white blanket and gave him to me. He passed away peacefully in my arms.
He would be 14 years old this month. Back then there were no organisations that I knew of that offered care and support for bereaved parents of babies. We were told about ISANDS, but they had disbanded in Cork as there was no volunteer to run it. I was given the name and number of a chaplain to talk to. I remember being given a pill in the hospital and being told that it would dry up my breast milk. On day three when I was sitting at home with my husband and other family members my milk came in and my breasts started leaking. It was the most vivid memory I still carry with me to this day.
Since becoming a postpartum doula – I have been thinking about all my postpartum days, this one especially. I began looking up articles about doulas and how they can help after the loss of a baby, there are some beautiful articles written by inspiring women. This prompted lengthy discussions with my husband and we both agreed how different it would have been to have had someone like a doula. Especially at a time like that when my milk came in. My husband was dealing with his own grief and at the same time trying to hold me together. To have had someone there who was sensitive and committed to helping us but not emotionally involved, someone who knew what to say and how to comfort us both, would have been so valuable.
Subsequently what I have come to realise is how imperative it is that you talk about events the likes of this. They can have a profound effect on you as a person, on your relationships and your outlook for the future. For me I had become a mother, so I had changed in that respect, but I was grieving too, which changed me again on a different level. When I became pregnant with my second baby, without realising it I was extremely anxious. I didn’t know how much until I went into labour. It was long and arduous, which I put down to my fear and anxiety and my inability to let go. The ward was filled with the world and his wife. We had obstetricians, gynaecologists, nurses, midwives you name it they were there. And I don’t think my husband, or I took a breath until we knew our baby was breathing. It was an unsettling moment rather than one of joy and happiness.
It was only after his birth, when I was pregnant with my third baby that I learned about birth trauma, so I investigated further and looked into getting counselling. I went to see an amazing lady who specialised in birth trauma and when I went into labour this time it was totally different. I was calm, relaxed and so was my husband. I knew what I wanted but I wasn’t set on it. I was more willing to let go and to go with it. When we got to the hospital, I went straight to the labour ward and he was born within hours of getting there… and the only people present this time were my husband, me, the midwife and Bob Marley.
My motivation behind writing this blog and getting this message out there is to let everyone that has ever experienced any kind of pregnancy loss or trauma feel seen and worthy, please don’t for one minute think that your experience is less than the next person, it’s your story. It may be that you had an emergency section, that your plan didn’t go accordingly, or you miscarried, whatever your story is it’s your story and you should talk about it, it is your beautiful truth.
My reason for sharing my story is to let mums to be, mums, dads and families know that there are people to talk to and services available. There are doulas all over Ireland, doctors, midwives and nurses who have taken the relevant training so that they have the skills to be able to support you should you need it and to help you find the appropriate resources. Most importantly there are now some incredible services at hand like Féileacáin. Féileacáin (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland – SANDAI) was formed in 2009 and subsequently registered as a charity in 2010. Féileacáin was formed by a group of bereaved parents to offer support to anyone affected by the death of a baby around the time of birth, and the organisation is now the national charity supporting families affected by perinatal loss.
I would love to thank Cork Kids and Moms for allowing me this space to write my story and hopefully encourage others to talk about theirs.
I think I must be the lucky one
I was the one who knew you the longest
I knew you for nine months
I knew your shape
I knew your heartbeat
I knew your kick
I think I must be the lucky one
I was there when you drifted into my life
And I was there when you drifted out
I think I must be the lucky one
To know such unconditional love
And to know true heartbreak
I am the lucky one
I am your mom
In loving memory of my beautiful blonde angel baby.
We would like to sincerely thank Genevieve for her courage in sharing her story with us. We are honoured to have been trusted with her personal journey and we know her sharing may help other women out there too. If you need support in the area of infant loss you can contact Féileacáin on 085 249 6464 or through their website Féileacáin
About The Author- Genevieve from Helping Hands Pregnancy Yoga and Postpartum Doula Cork
My name is Genevieve and I’m a postpartum doula and Pregnancy Yoga Teacher. I’m originally from South Africa. I’ve been living in Cork for 20 years with my husband. We have four beautiful but wild boys and a dog. The boys are 12, 10 and for added fun 7-year-old twins! I am a trained yoga and pregnancy yoga instructor too. I provide support to families welcoming newborns into their lives during the postpartum period and teach pregnancy classes in Ballincollig. You can read more about what I do in this Cork Kids and Moms Article “A Day in the Lide of a Postpartum Doula and find out more about my yoga classes in the Yoga & Pilates Listings section of Cork Kids and Moms