ONE of the greatest joys in the world is holding your first born child for the first time… but for Anne Marie Smyth from Ardglass that moment sadly was not to be.
Her son was stillborn in September 2010, one of the four babies a week that are stillborn in Northern Ireland, and across the UK yearly that figure rises to 400o babies. Anne Marie named her son Colin. She was heartbroken like any mother would be and still misses he son.
Immediately after the birth, Anne Marie’s great expectations were shattered and she looked after Colin for another three days and finally had to say goodbye to him when she left the hospital. It was a desperately sad time for parents Anne Marie and David Briggs.
Anne Marie said: “I found it very difficult coming home with no baby. I really had no after care plan in place and I felt completely shattered, so much along, and very very sad. Fortunately I got in contact with SANDS (Stillbirth and Neo-Natal Society) and made friends there with other mums who had experienced still birth. They accepted me and were prepared to listen to my experience about losing Colin. This was the beginning of my healing process. Now I can talk about this time in my life freely and had good memories of my son Colin for the short time I knew him.
“I found the SANDS organisation very supportive and eventually I decided to give something back to them. I gave been chatting with another local mum, Donna White from Killough where I now live, and we are now good friends. Donna’s son Marcus was sadly stillborn in January 2012. We decided to set up a local SANDS group to support mums and families who have gone through the tragedy of stillbirth. I can remember the support I received from mothers who had experienced the bereavement of their lost children. This was a very difficult time but I came through it with their help.”
Anne Marie now has a baby boy born in December 2012 called Sam who keeps her busy through the day. The pain of having lost her first child will never leave her, but Anne Marie said that she will always remember Colin. A short time after the birth, Anne Marie expressed her frustration with the South Eastern HSC Trust over the death of her baby and felt more could have been done to monitor her as she approached the birth. But she has now move don and is looking forward to proving the care and support for other mothers who face stillbirth.
“I became really alarmed for the first time when the nurse said after scanning me that I would have to go to Belfast for further checks. She did not say that she could not detect the baby’s heartbeat at that point. Eventually I was told the baby had passed away and I was devasted. It was the following day that I had to give birth and then I just held him in my arms. I just loved him then.
“I understand the enormous pain and grief that other parents have and will go through and I want to help them if I can to ease their burden. Myself and Donna will set up the Downpatrick SANDS branch and our first meeting is scheduled for:
Thursday 2 May at 7.30pm in the Conference Room at the Downe Hospital.
“This is really a good way to honour Colin’s memory by helping other parents going through this dark moment in their lives. We will play an important role as in our society no-one really want to talk about still birth. It is just a taboo subject. The group will be open to families across Down.”
The SANDS groups are run by bereaved parents for bereaved parents and provide comfort, support, reassurance, and understanding. In the UK there are around 100 groups. SANDS also provides training for health professionals, so important in dealing with the trauma of still birth, and its after effects on the family.
Anne Marie added: “When friends, family and work-mates had forgotten my dead baby, my friends at SANDS still listened to me and allowed me to remember him as a precious member our family. This group will keep Colin’s memory alive and I’ll continue to show people his wee photo. He was so beautiful, and I want to help other parents now to fully understand and come to terms with their loss and pain.”