They Shall Not Grow Old

When I answered a newspaper advert twenty years ago, I could never have imagined how different things would be today. At the time, I was desperately searching for answers and this ad offered my first real glimmer of hope. I was no longer alone, somebody else was in the same boat as myself. Shortly afterwards, the Miscarriage Association of Ireland was born.

When I had my first miscarriage in 1986 (having had a normal first pregnancy ), there was no support network in place despite the fact that every year in Ireland, approximately 14,000 women suffer a miscarriage. I felt very alone and wanted to talk to someone else who’d been through a similar experience. I couldn’t find information anywhere (miscarriage was a taboo subject in those days) so in desperation, I turned to the UK and discovered there was a Miscarriage Association 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 to do something to correct the lack of support available following miscarriage and that’s when I saw the newspaper ad looking for people willing to form a support group. I contacted the person behind the ad and together we co-founded the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. I’ve long since moved on from the work of the Association but it has continued to go from strength to strength as a fully registered charity.

I was delighted to be invited to a Service of Remembrance last Sunday in St. Teresa’s  Church, Donore Avenue, Dublin 8. Prior to the service, a new memorial stone was unveiled in the grounds of the church to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Association. This stone is dedicated to all babies lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, to honour their memory.

stone1

(photo taken on camera phone)

The large church was packed to capacity for the interdenominational service. Every family was invited to light a candle during the service in remembrance of their lost babies. It was incredibly moving to look at all those candles flickering at the altar knowing that each one of them represented a life lost, and to reflect upon what might have been. This beautiful service brought me back to all those years ago when I had yearned to share my grief with others who had suffered a similar loss.

candles

These days there is a full range of support services available through the Miscarriage Association. It has it’s own website and offers a telephone support line to bereaved parents. It holds a monthly meeting where people can meet in a supportive environment and if they wish, they can share their experiences with others who have been through similar experiences. The Association also has a series of specially commissioned Books of Remembrance in which to commemorate babies lost during pregnancy.

Thankfully, the majority of women who suffer pregnancy loss, go on to have successful pregnancies and healthy babies. My next pregnancy did result in another miscarriage but amazingly, it was a twin pregnancy and seven months later, I finally got to bring home a bouncing bundle of joy.

This being Remembrance Day and the 90th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, the words of Laurence Binyon’s poem are particularly close to my heart…

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

11 Responses to They Shall Not Grow Old

  1. Grannymar says:

    And what a bundle of joy she is too! You are really blessed with your family.

  2. Baino says:

    I don’t know Steph. I miscarried and it was horrible but I didn’t seek or need any more support than that of my family. I didn’t carry what was little more than an embryo for more than 16 weeks but I don’t think about what ‘might’ have been. I have since had my pigeon pair and that awful time is behind me. Maybe I’m just a bygones be bygones person. I feel more about the fact that the War to End All Wars .. well . .just wasn’t

  3. Bendy Girl says:

    Steph, I’m so sorry for your losses. I’m similar to Baino I think, I’ve had a couple of very early miscarriages (I think many women with EDS do) and I felt it was an intensely private affair I didn’t want to talk about at the time.
    Having said that, you should be so proud of yourself for being involved in those early beginnings of an important group, hugs BG x

  4. Steph says:

    Grannymar – thank you! I am indeed blessed to have them both.

    My experiences of miscarriage taught me so much. I learnt to look at life through different eyes and to take nothing for granted. I have a lot to be thankful for 😀

    Baino – I’m sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I’m glad you said that about not needing support as it’s something I should have put in the post.

    Many women manage perfectly well following a miscarriage with the support of their own network of family and friends and have no need for outside help. The MA group doesn’t chase it’s clientèle – it’s a support service that is readily available to those who do feel in need of support. Some people might contact the association once for information and then never get in touch again while others feel the need for regular support. I reacted differently to each of my miscarriages depending on the circumstances at the time. It was very much a taboo subject in Ireland in those days and I found myself very frustrated by the lack of a forum in which to discuss my concerns. None of my friends or family had any experience of miscarriage so I felt very alone in my grief. As I wrote in my previous post ‘Daniel’s Day’ re miscarriage, I’ve no need for remembrance services etc but this year was a special one for the association and I was surprised by how easily those delicate emotions were re-awakened.

    Bendy – thank you! You again demonstrate how different women can be in their reaction to having a miscarriage/s and btw, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been there too.

    I had already had a successful pregnancy when I had my first miscarriage and it left me feeling very confused about why it had happened and also about what the future held. Sadly, for many women infertility goes hand in hand with miscarriage and while not so in my case, it’s a double tragedy when a miscarriage does occur. It took us 7 years to reach our goal of having another child and wow! did it feel good when we finally got there!

    It was lovely to see the Association providing so much support to people on Sunday and yes! I was a very proud Steph! 😀

  5. Steph, good on you for getting involved in such excellent work. I remember many years ago a friend in the Channel Islands miscarried and aside from her family – and an incredibly intuitive dog who never left her side – she had no other support . I’m so sorry for your losses, I don’t think one ever forgets, nor should one, though it’s good to know that there is a reason for everything – and I’m so glad that you finally were able to come home with your bundle of joy!

  6. Steph says:

    AV – Thanks! 😀

    My bundle of joy was well worth the wait. She’s 18 now (her brother is 25) and has been my buddy since Day 1. My hubby and I each grew up with 3 brothers; no sisters and so it’s great to have equality of the sexes in our home. And yes, the mess in her bedroom has to be seen to be believed 😉

  7. Ian says:

    It’s great there is support now.

    When Herself had her first miscarriage our bishop called, “These things happen” was his consolatory remark.

    The second time, we didn’t tell him. He asked a colleague if what he had heard was true, he didn’t so much as pick up the phone.

  8. Barbara says:

    Thank you for writing that article. I had a miscarriage in 1971 and there was absolutely no support or comforting help. It is interesting that one of your comments has remarked on an intuitive dog – I had a very intuitive cat. I then went on to have two threatened miscarriages but with lying in bed and having hormone injections I have two wonderful sons. I dont think one forgets. How wonderful to see all those candles lit and each representing a child and a love that was not realised.

  9. Steph says:

    Ian – thanks!

    I’m sorry to hear that you and your wife have also been touched by miscarriage. I think you have to have been there to understand the sensitivities involved following a miscarriage. Many of the people who contact the Association, do so because of the lack of understanding they receive from society at large. It seems that society would rather it remains a hidden grief and this is why a support network is invaluable.

    Our celebrants at last Sunday’s Service of Remembrance were Fr. Sean McArdle and Rev. Sonia Hicks. Everyone who attended the service got to take home two beautiful mementoes of the day – a silver Newbridge ‘Dove’ to hang on the Christmas tree and a sapling tree to plant in memory of their babies.

    Barbara – hello and welcome!

    Thank you for your kind comments. It’s very rewarding for me to hear that a post has served some purpose.

    I agree totally with you (and AV) about the intuition of pets – my two cats stay by my side whenever I’m unwell and I always get the sense that they know exactly what’s going on.

    I’m really sorry to hear that you got no support following your miscarriage. When we held our very first support group meeting back in 1988, an elderly lady came along with all the other young women/couples to talk about her experiences of miscarriage. Her memories were as vivid as if it had only happened yesterday and meeting her, gave us even more determination to get the Association up and running.

    I’m delighted to hear that you went on to have two wonderful sons. All babies are precious but when you’ve experienced baby loss, they really feel like a miracle!

  10. K8 says:

    What an amazing achievement… to put such grief to such unexpected great use, it’s such a bittersweet story. Because of you and the others who set up this support network, so many people have and will be saved. Much respect.

  11. Steph says:

    K8 – you’re very kind! 😳

    My involvement with the Miscarriage Association was born out of a frustration with the lack services available following a miscarriage. There were no books on the subject in those days and I was incensed that I was expected to turn to the UK for support. I also felt that it was very wrong that women were being discharged from hospital with no back-up except the offer of a 6-week check-up. I vowed that if nothing else changed, at least women would leave hospital with a contact number to phone if they needed to talk about their loss.

    A great deal of the work of the association in the early days revolved around meeting with social workers etc in the maternity hospitals, to resolve the missing links in services. We got great encouragement from the hospitals at all levels and were often called upon to deliver talks on miscarriage to medical students and the pastoral care teams. These days, all the maternity hospitals have information booklets available with FAQ’s on miscarriage and the association also supplies beautiful teeny tiny wraps for the miscarried babies to be presented to their parents in. Gone are the days of the kidney dish for this purpose. Of course, not everyone wants or needs support following a miscarriage but it gives me great comfort to know that today, help is available for those that do!

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