The Belfast mum who found the strength to cope with losing SIX babies
Castlereagh mother Kate McKay suffered five miscarriages and a sixth baby died hours after being born
A mother has told of the heartbreak of suffering five miscarriages.
Kate McKay (43), who also lost a baby girl just hours after her birth, has taken the brave step to speak about the pain both she and husband Gordon (46) have experienced over the last seven years.
The couple had to face the "toughest experience of their lives" and switch off the life support to their two-day-old daughter Ally in January 2008.
After being plunged into grief, the couple found happiness when they became parents to Alex in 2009, but faced further heartache when Kate became pregnant a further five times, but all ended in miscarriage.
The Castlereagh mother-of-one said she and Gordon only got through thanks to the "amazing" help of a specialist bereavement support midwife based at the Ulster Hospital. With one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage in Northern Ireland, she is now campaigning for greater awareness of the impact of baby loss and ensuring all parents have access to services across the province.
Speaking during Baby Loss Week, Kate said: "Every time it happens it is harder to pick yourself up. It's harder to deal with. That's why psychological support is so important for women, because when you leave that hospital and you go home and are just sitting there on your own, women could very easily spiral into depression. I think that is a big gap in the system, the lack of psychological support."
Kate explained she gave birth to Ally on January 13 after a smooth pregnancy, but within hours a nurse spotted that the baby was not well.
"She had taken a massive bleed on the brain and they did the MRI scan and put her on life support," she said. "They were going to transfer her to the Royal for a second opinion from a brain specialist there. By the time we arrived our family had been called to go and meet us at the hospital, which was a great support.
"The consultant sat down with us and told us what had happened to the brain, and how rare it was in a newborn baby.
"We stayed overnight in the RVH but the consultant we dealt with came back in - even though he was off - just to talk to us again.
"He sat and answered any questions we had not thought about; I'll not forget his care."
But the couple were told the next day there was no change.
"They said it was down to us to decide then when we were ready to take her off life support. It's definitely the hardest, most traumatic thing that anyone would have to do," she said.
Kate said that time was "a blur", but they were put in touch with specialist bereavement support midwife Hilary Patterson.
"We would not have got through the last few years and seven pregnancies without Hilary, it's as simple as that. Immediately, she talked us through things that we could never have even thought of to protect us from the rawness - such as the practical things you have to do," she said.
"One thing was registering the birth, but also the death. She advised we should phone through to the council beforehand and tell them the situation, so Gordon didn't have to go and wait in a row of people with their babies.
"It is crucial that every woman has that support. That 'you'll be fine, just try again' attitude doesn't help, and many men don't talk about it, and it can be very lonely for women if it is considered such a taboo subject they don't talk."
After her fifth miscarriage, days before Christmas two years ago, Kate was determined to try and improve overall services.
She is supporting the Patient Client Council event One In Four: Putting Miscarriage On The Agenda, in the Templeton Hotel, Templepatrick, next Tuesday.
She is among women whose experiences after miscarriage have been used to help improve future health and social care services.
Kate said: "It devastates your family every time. We are very lucky we have one very beautiful, very cheeky wee boy, and some people don't have that.
"If I can try and do something good and positive to help other women who sadly will go through this in life, then that will be my focus."
For help and support, contact www.sandsni.org or www.patientclientcouncil.hscni.net.