Two mothers from Northern Ireland tell Stephanie Bell about becoming mums ... without mum.
The joy at the birth of her beautiful son Astala was tinged with sadness for Peaches Geldof because her mother was not there to share it with her.
The 23-year-old socialite, who is engaged to rock star Thomas Cohen, had been due to give birth to baby Astala Dylan Willow Geldof-Cohen on April 24 — the same birthday as her late mother Paula Yates who died in September 2000 of an accidental heroin overdose.
Although he was born six days prematurely, Peaches later said she felt the date was “a little wink” from her mother.
She says: “I've felt mum's presence all the way through my pregnancy and that has been really comforting. Becoming a mum has made me feel closer to her than I have ever felt, but it's also made me miss her more than ever.
“It has been upsetting for me that she hasn't been around to guide me and advise me and share in it all. She would have been such a cool grandma.”
The daughter of rock legend Sir Bob Geldof also said she was following her mum’s example in feeding her son herself: “He sleeps in bed with me and Tom, just as I and my sisters did with mum and dad in our early infancy. And I feed him myself on demand, like mum did with us.”
Pregnancy and the birth of a child is a time when most girls especially need their mums. That Paula was not there to share it with Peaches made this momentous occasion a bitter sweet one for her.
We talk to two local women who know exactly how the young socialite felt and who also missed their mums’ presence during what should have been some of the happiest occasions in their lives.
‘It’s sad she’s not there to see the grandchildren she so wanted’
Ciara Daly (33), from Belfast, is a single mum who runs the Ciara Daly School of Make-up on Belfast’s Lisburn Road. She has two children Jay (4) and Darcy (3). Ciara lost her beautiful mum Sharon Daly, an air stewardess, just a few weeks before her wedding in 2006, when she died suddenly of a massive stroke, aged just 48. She says:
Mum died very suddenly in July 2006 just five weeks after getting married again. My wedding was planned for September and mum and I had really bonded that year because we were both planning our weddings together.
Two months before she died she took a massive headache while on a flight with work and was diagnosed with an aneurism but told with the right diet and medication she should be OK.
Then she took a slight stroke and was taken to hospital but she really played it down and convinced me and my two sisters Leanne (35) and Ashley (28) that she was fine and we had nothing to worry about.
Then in July we got a phone call to say she had had another stroke. We went to the hospital and found her in a coma. She died three days later on July 11.
Mum couldn’t wait to be a granny and she had me tortured to start a family as soon as I got married. My oldest sister was three weeks pregnant when mum died and she never knew.
Mum was a real character. She was very beautiful and glamorous because of her job which took her all over the world. When she was working we couldn’t wait until she came home and told us all the stories about her travels. She always brought fabulous products and presents for us from around the world.
She was the type who had her teeth lasered years before it came here and she had gel nails before they were even heard of in Northern Ireland. She was very beautiful and loads of fun and very loving.
My wedding was booked in Cyprus and because everyone had paid to go I went ahead with it. The whole day was surreal because we were still in shock at mum’s death. It had only been a heartbeat ago.
On mum’s wedding day I had done her make-up and tan and fixed her hair. On my big day it felt like the main person was missing and I was just lost.
I got pregnant two weeks after I got married. That was just awful. I was very sick throughout my pregnancy and when you are sick you just want your mum and I wanted my mum. I was still grieving and it was scary being pregnant for the first time, not knowing what to expect and not having mum there to ask. It was extremely hard and I really missed her.
My son was born four days after the first anniversary of my mum’s death. The only way I can describe it is he filled my heart back up and took away the emptiness I had felt when I lost mum. At the same time it was very sad because she wasn’t there to see the grandchild that she wanted so much.
Mum’s death taught me that life is short and you should follow your dreams. Because of her I had always had a love and fascination for make-up.
I had been working as a sales rep but I decided to use my inheritance from her to train as a make-up artist and I went on to open my own make-up school. I launched the Shaz Awards in her memory in 2010 which is a big night when I present awards to my students and raise money for charity.
The school has given a real lift to so many people who are facing difficult times because they are able to do something for themselves, so fittingly it has become not just about make-up but about people.”
‘My daughter has so many of mum’s traits'
Rachael Harriott (35), who runs her own PR company, Harriott Communications, is married to Craig, a postman. They have two children, Jake (9) and Evvie (4). Rachael lost her mum Terri (51) in April 2003 when she died suddenly from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. She says:
My mum was an entrepreneur and had always worked for herself. In the ’70s she was a freelance window dresser and, if she was working at weekends, she would have brought me and my brother Mark with her and we would have seen her in action.
She then set up a company called Amelia’s Dolls importing dolls from China and then dressing them in Irish costumes. She was a hard worker and the type who would work through anything. She was never sick.
The Christmas before she died she was complaining of feeling the cold and not being able to get heat into her and she wasn’t eating very well. Her symptoms persisted and she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.
She was working on a consignment of dolls for St Patrick’s Day and had to go to America to appear on the QVC shopping channel to sell them. She got to America and couldn’t go on TV. Dad took her to hospital and she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was allowed to fly home and was admitted to the City Hospital for tests.
Everything happened very quickly after that. She was a week in the City and they moved her to the high dependency unit and then to intensive care and within a week the machines just kept building around her.
We still didn’t know what was wrong and weren’t prepared that she was going to die. I was in Tesco when my dad rang to tell me she had gone. I was stunned; I hadn’t expected it at all.
We got a post- mortem done and it revealed she had pancreatic cancer and basically her organs had been failing.
It was very hard: it seemed like one minute she was healthy and the next thing she was dead.
Mum was a real presence in our lives and to have that taken away from you is the most gut-wrenching thing.
I’d had Jake the previous year and she had been there for me throughout my pregnancy and she had met Craig. She was really fond of Craig and delighted he was in my life.
Without him and Jake I wouldn’t have got through it. We got married three years later in Prague. That was hard. She was remembered all the way through the day; we toasted her and talked about her all day. She is always talked about and her spirit is still very much about.
Mum was also my inspiration for starting my own business and I know she would have been proud as she was always self employed. My brother also works for himself and so her legacy is there.
I know she would have doted on her grandchildren and they are missing out by not having her in their lives and she is missing out on them. It was really hard when I found out with Evvie at my 20 week scan that I was having a girl.
All the feelings of missing mum came back as I knew what it would have meant to her to have a granddaughter. Evvie has so many of mummy’s traits and looks very like her.
My mum was my best friend as well as my sister, I loved her very much. She was the first person I went to when anything happened, good or bad. Mum was a beautiful woman, very glamorous and she taught me how to put my make-up on.
She was more like a sister but was a mum when she needed to be. Every Friday night we had a girly night when we got a Chinese, ice cream and Maltesers and watched Coronation Street together. A friend said to me that one of the best things I could do for her is be the mum to my children that she had been to me, and that really resonated with me.”
and what would mother advise ...?
1. A bedtime routine is critical for babies and should continue from the newborn stage to toddlerhood and pre-school. A bath and bed at a set time every night should help induce slumber. Be consistent to ensure a good night’s sleep for everyone
2. Feed baby first, then yourself. This settles a baby or young child and enables you to eat afterwards. Mum needs her energy too
3. Get your family involved. Having a baby is exhausting, so be open to support and advice from family members
4. A soft toy can be a great source of comfort to a pre-school child who may feel restless at bedtime
5. Read to your baby at any time, they love the closeness
6. Babies should try different textures of foods when they are weaning
7. Get some fresh air. A stroll with baby in the pram can relax both
8. Use a dummy if you need too, as it can content a fretting baby
9. Gripe water can help a baby after a feed
10. Stroking your baby’s cheek when they are in their cot can help them nod off contentedly