Northern Ireland mum Gemma McGowan who lost son hour after birth shortlisted for award
A Belfast woman has been shortlisted for a national award that recognises mothers who have gone through difficult pregnancies with courage.
Gemma McGowan, a 32-year-old eyelash technician who lives in west Belfast with her partner Brendan and her two children Taylor and Jessica from a previous relationship, has been selected as one of the finalists for the Tommy's Awards.
Eighteen months ago, she was a single mother raising two children alone after the breakdown of her marriage.
For a time the family was homeless and slept in Gemma's car, but she did her best to shield her children.
Gemma met her new partner Brendan and when they found out she was pregnant they were so excited they booked a private gender scan.
However, Gemma was immediately advised to go straight to a specialist.
After numerous scans she was told her baby had a rare condition called Potter's syndrome, which affects one in 100 million, and was advised that her child would not survive.
However, Gemma and Brendan made the decision to carry on with the pregnancy.
On Mother's Day this year, at 10.58am, she delivered her son, who weighed 4lbs 11oz.
Gemma and her partner named their newborn baby Brendan but, tragically, he only lived for 59 minutes.
Brendan was nicknamed 'Little Wing' by Gemma and her friends and family.
The couple held a funeral service on Friday, April 5, during which their baby was buried in a white coffin.
Gemma was nominated for the Tommy's Inspiration Mum Award by her cousin Aisling Meli, a 30-year-old dental nurse and receptionist, who also lives in Belfast.
Aisling said: "She smiled when people rubbed her tummy and asked her due date.
"Inside, though, her world was falling apart.
"She never wanted the pregnancy to end as she knew her little baby was inside, where she could keep it safe from harm. She dreaded the labour, only because of the unknown.
"When Gemma should have been excitedly preparing for her baby's arrival, she needed to plan a funeral.
"No parent should ever (have to) prepare for this heartache.
"Gemma is an inspiration. She's strong, beautiful, dedicated, selfless and inspiring.
"She had what she expected to be a small service, but it turned out to be hundreds of people.
"We are lucky to have her. Her kids are so lucky.
"For everything she's been through and still be able to have strength, she's incredible."
"We know behind Gemma's smile is a breaking heart. We know, behind her laughter, that deep inside she's falling apart. We know, behind her eyes, tears are falling at night. Her heart is shattered and she can still smile through it all.
"She's doing it for her two other beautiful children, her partner Brendan and her little angel."
The winners of the Tommy's Awards will be announced on July 11 at the Oxo Tower in London.
The awards will be presented by celebrity mum and author Giovanna Fletcher.
The Tommy's Awards celebrate the courage, strength and amazing support given by family members, friends and health professionals, as well as acknowledging those who have triumphed against adversity.
The categories include Super Sibling, Little Champion, Inspirational Mum, Dad and Family, Healthcare Hero, Star Researcher, Mum's Voice, Act of Kindness Partner's Voice and more.