Charity gives hope, memories, and support to grieving parents
on 06/09/2012 00:00:00
After extraordinary efforts by the medical staff in Kilkenny and the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin's Holles St, Martha lost her fight 27 hours after she was born.
"At this point the world stopped turning for us," says Paddy. "We were utterly devastated. Being both medical professionals, myself an ICU nurse and my wife being a midwife, did not prepare us at all for this outcome."
While coping with their loss over the past six months, they have been bolstered by amazing support from family and friends and especially from the charity Féileacáin, the stillbirth and neonatal death association of Ireland. Formed by a group of bereaved parents, it offers support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after.
According to its website, the inspiration behind the charity's name comes from Irish mythology where butterflies, or féileacáin, are said to be the spirits of the departed who return to visit their loved ones to reassure them that they are all right.
It is that kind of reassurance that is helping the Cahills to cope with their great loss.
"When Martha died we were given a memory box provided to Holles St hospital free of charge by Féileacáin," says Paddy. "Included in this was a tiny outfit for Martha, a hand-knitted blanket, a kit to take handprints and hair clippings, two little teddy bears, and bereavement information.
"This allowed us to create precious memories of our little girl and it is our most valuable possession. Since then the charity have been a constant source of support over the phone or by email and monthly meetings. Féileacáin do amazing work."
The organisation provides memory boxes to all bereaved parents in maternity and other hospitals around the country. Included in the box is a blanket, two teddies - one to keep and one for burial - as well as a finger or footprinting kit, a box for mementoes, and a camera.
"The memory boxes, which are a core component of the Féileacáin services to bereaved parents, have provided comfort and support at a time of intense suffering and loss for over 600 families over the last two years," says the organisation.
"They are presented to parents whose babies have been stillborn, died around the time of birth, or have lost a baby within the second trimester of pregnancy."
The organisation is aware that some parents may be reluctant to photograph their child but says that experience shows it can be a great comfort in the years ahead.
"Some parents may feel unsure about taking photos but many have told us how much comfort they can give," it says.
Paddy and Maria are anxious to let anyone in similar circumstances know there is support for bereaved parents and that it is OK to talk about their loss and to grieve.
"We have met so many people that have suffered in silence and were not allowed to grieve, especially women who lost babies years ago," says Paddy, whose own mother lost a baby. "It had a devastating effect on her because she did not have the support available to us now."
"I know the subject of babies dying is somewhat taboo still but it happens... a lot, actually, and I think by sharing our story we might reach out to others and encourage them to seek help and advice which is vital in the process of healing."
* For details of the service, visit www.feileacain.ie