Belfast Telegraph

My daughter Cara was 'born sleeping', now I want to help other mothers who lost babies

 

By Victoria Leonard

Eilish Telford should be buying her youngest child Cara her first Halloween costume.

But instead of a new baby in the cot, the ashes of Eilish's fourth child, who was "born sleeping" this summer at nearly 18 weeks, are a reminder of the tragedy which has motivated her to help other grieving mums.

Mum-of-three Eilish (34), who is from Mexico City but now lives in Moy, Co Tyrone, gave birth to little Cara alone in Craigavon Area Hospital this summer, and had her baby taken away from her side to be stored in a medical refrigerator in the next room.

She says she was told there was no cuddle cot - a cooling basket which allows parents to keep miscarried or stillborn babies with them for an average of two to three days - available.

Eilish is now fundraising to secure several cuddle cots, which cost £1,570 each, for every hospital in Northern Ireland.

"I went to my doctor's in Coalisland on May 2, and the baby's heartbeat was slow, so I was sent to Craigavon Area Hospital for a scan," she said.

"I waited for four hours as the hospital was very busy. When I had the scan there was no heartbeat. It was awful, there are no words to describe it. I went back on May 4 and another scan confirmed she was dead.

"I was given the option to either wait for nature to take its course, to have a D&C (dilation and curettage - a surgical procedure performed after a first-trimester miscarriage) or to have labour induced.

"I wasn't given much information on what would happen next, and the baby, who I named Cara, was not considered a person - they referred to her as a 'product of conception'.

"I wanted a post-mortem, so I took the tablets and two days later went back to deliver the baby.

"I have three young girls, and my partner stayed to look after them. I went through most of the labour on my own - there was a nurse on duty, but at the moment when I gave birth I was alone. Cara was perfect, her eyes and ears were perfect, but that's when it dawned on me that she hadn't started crying."

While Eilish wanted to spend time with her daughter, the lack of an available cuddle cot meant the nurse had to take Cara's tiny body to be stored in a medical refrigerator.

"The condition of a baby's body when it is born sleeping deteriorates very rapidly, especially a younger baby," Eilish said.

"My baby had to be kept in a wee box in a medical refrigerator for the post-mortem, as there was no cuddle cot available to keep her cool.

"I could go and see her and the nurse could bring her to me for a while, but they had to keep taking her to the fridge. The nurse even brought the medical refrigerator closer, to the next room, but I didn't like the thought of her being in there. I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could. It was horrendous to be separated from her."

Eilish received help from Angel Wings Baby And Child Loss Support, a group of mums who have lost babies.

"They sent me a 'pocket of love' to put Cara in as she was so small, as well as a blanket and a teddy bear to put in with her," Eilish continued.

"We had her cremated and held a small memorial service. I have her ashes in a wee memory box, I'm not ready to let go of her yet."

Eilish is now fundraising on behalf of Angel Wings, and hopes to help other mums.

"Thousands of women go through miscarriage and stillbirth in Northern Ireland every year, and I want to make sure they spend as much time with their babies as possible," she said.

"It may help them deal with their grief. I would like to see several cuddle cots in every hospital. We don't want hospital staff to have to choose which grieving mother gets a cuddle cot."

A Southern Trust spokesperson said there are five cuddle cots at Craigavon Area Hospital, with plans to introduce more.

They added: "We are disappointed to hear reports of this lady's experiences whilst in our care and we would welcome the opportunity to talk to her about those experiences and respond to the issues/concerns she has raised.

"We greatly appreciate efforts made by parents and others to fundraise for additional cuddle cots for stillborn babies in our hospitals.

"Our obstetric and nursing staff follow care guidelines and a pathway is in place for late miscarriages which is followed by all our staff.

"As part of this pathway, information is always given to parents ahead of delivering a late miscarriage and what will happen next is fully explained to them.

"The Trust expects high quality care to be delivered and our priority is to ensure that patients receive high quality treatment."

To donate to Eilish's fundraising, visit Northern Ireland Cuddle Cot at gofundme.com

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