Daniel’s Day

This day every year is a special day in our family. It is a time to reflect on what might have been. If only …

Twenty years ago today I miscarried a baby son mid-way through a pregnancy. He was perfectly formed with ten fingers and ten toes but he was very tiny. He was also completely still. He never got to take a breath. I had been admitted to the maternity hospital one week previously with severe pain and bleeding and was put on bed rest for observation. An ultra-sound scan on admission showed that the baby was the right size for dates and was active – I treasure the images I was shown of him sucking his thumb in utero. This was my third pregnancy – my first went full term with a normal delivery (our son) but my second pregnancy had ended in a ‘missed miscarriage’ at the end of the first trimester. I was told at that time that miscarriage was a common occurrence and was unlikely to happen again. I believed them but sadly, I was to prove them wrong. I became increasingly unwell while in hospital, my waters finally broke and some 36 hours later I miscarried the baby. I was taken to theatre for surgery while my baby was taken away for a post-mortem. Leaving the hospital several days later ’empty-handed’ really brought home the enormity of the loss.

No parent ever expects to have to bury their own child. It goes against the natural order of life. My husband and I were grieving and still in shock and yet we were being faced with decisions that no parent should ever have to make. In those days there was no support network in place in the maternity hospitals to help to guide parents through the experience. We finally decided that we would like to have our baby cremated and made the necessary arrangements through a funeral director. It is our own wish to be cremated when the time comes and therefore it was fitting to consider this option for our tiny baby son as well. Cremation in Ireland at the time was still somewhat frowned upon (for religious reasons) though things are very different today. We chose a name for our baby – Daniel – to give him the identity he deserved. We have never regretted any of the decisions we made at that time. Three years later our sorrow turned to joy with the birth of our daughter. Life goes on but you never forget what might have been, if only …

Thankfully, miscarriage is no longer the taboo subject it once was. There is now an excellent support service available through the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. The Association is a charitable body set up by, and with the support of women (and men) who themselves have been through miscarriages. They offer telephone support to bereaved parents and hold monthly support group meetings. They also have a specially commissioned Book of Remembrance in which to commemorate babies lost through miscarriage.

Today, like every other year on this date, I will place an apple from the tree in our garden at the place where Daniel’s ashes lie. For me the apple symbolises the sharing of a part of our family life with Daniel. His time with us was very short but he was an important part of our lives and there will always be a place for him in our hearts. This is his day.

9 Responses to Daniel’s Day

  1. Nancy says:

    Steph,

    You will most likely not get a lot of comments on this post because most people do not know what to say. I don’t know what to say either,except I’m sorry this happened to you and your family.

  2. steph says:

    Thanks Nancy. You’re so right about people not knowing what to say. That’s exactly why I wrote about it. Miscarriage/Baby Loss should not have to be a hidden grief. It taught me a great deal and I’ll always be grateful for that. Yesterday was a celebration of life!

  3. EashtGalwayWoman says:

    You brought tears to my eyes. I am glad that you both had the fortitude that week to name and mark your son’s short existence here and thus acknowledge his important part of you life. Last year I visited a cemetery and on one gravesite there was a shiny new tiny stonewith a sweet message from the Mother that marked a stillborn birth from 30 yrs before. It was obvious that it was recently installed. 30 years later that mother still grieved and it seemed that the stone validated the child’s existence. Thank you for the post. It reminds us all to hug our children tighter and straighten our priorities

  4. Harry says:

    Steph, that was very insightful. A fitting tibute though.

    It bought back a faint childhood memory of my mum having a miscarriage – I was so young that I’m not entirely sure that it actually happened, but I think it did. All I remember was having to stay in my room with my other brothers and there was a doctor downstairs. She’s never spoken about it though. I’m not sure I should ask really.

  5. Feebee says:

    Steph – sorry to hear that this has happened to you. We also buried one of our babies and it means a lot to me to have a grave to visit. Thankfully things have changed and we did get a certain amount of support from the hospital. It is still a very lonely process though – nobody else remembers our babies.

  6. Steph says:

    Thanks! Fiona

    You’re right about the loneliness. The Miscarriage Association holds a remembrance service annually to give people an opportunity to remember their babies. I’m pretty sure ISANDS does the same as well. Personally, I’m happy to remember Daniel ‘my way’ and I leave it at that.

    I always find it strange the way baby loss is so often not talked about in families. I was very touched to see that my father had added Daniel’s name and date of birth/death to our family tree and yet my parents have never mentioned his existence in 20 years. When my father-in-law was cremated a few years ago, my husband’s eldest brother stunned us during the service by mentioning that Daniel had been cremated in the same place. It blew me away totally as I wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil that followed. However, it was appropriate to have Daniel’s memory included at an important family gathering.

  7. […] which could provide the support I needed. Unfortunately, the following year I suffered a second miscarriage which left me wondering if I would ever again carry a baby to full term. This time I was determined […]

  8. K8 says:

    Oh no, halfway through… that’s an awful experience, I’m so sorry you had to go throught that sort of physical and mental endurance. Daniel is -I’m positively sure- extremely proud of his mommy for putting experience to great use, you’ve made sure his memory will always live, and will always be associated with something quite miraculous. Well done Steph, this must have been so hard to write but it’s hugely appreciated. *hug*

  9. Steph says:

    K8 – thanks!

    Losing Daniel was awful but I’ll always be grateful for the insights it afforded me. I think part of the reason why miscarriage tends not to be talked about is because it combines two taboo subjects – menstruation and death.

    Having miscarried Daniel as a fully formed baby, we found ourselves floundering around trying to make decisions about his burial. The maternity hospital wanted a quick decision but we stood our ground. I left the maternity hospital leaving Daniel behind and despite daily pressure from the hospital, we took our time finding the right decision for us. To this day, I’ve no regrets about the path we chose and I know we’re really lucky to have somewhere special to remember our baby.

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