In May 1976 I gave birth to my first child. She was stillborn.
I had a perfectly normal healthy pregnancy. I knew something was wrong from my examination at 34 weeks. I was sent for a scan. No-one would talk to me. I later learnt that a decision was made to tell me nothing. At 36 weeks they said my baby was small and it would be better if she was born now.
After 36 hours of labour I was finally told my baby was dead and that I needed an emergency Caesarean Section. I remember everything, every detail, every word spoken, every action, every feeling. I thought I was going to die and I wanted to.
Then nothing. A blank space, a void where there should have been a new life starting.
I asked questions which were mostly avoided or went unanswered. I was not allowed to see or to hold her. I was told to forget, get on with my life, to get pregnant again. I was told my daughter had Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida. When I asked about the funeral was told that she had been 'slipped' in with someone-else. When I tried to give her a name I was told there was no provision to name a stillborn child.
I named her Angela and wrote the name on her certificate myself.
Then in January 2001 came Organ Retention and the knowledge that the hospital I was in was one of the ones being investigated. Now everything I hadn't been told was menacing. After several months, and only after I had been advised who to write to by a solicitor, I started to get answers.
My daughter was not involved in any organ retention but suddenly I had more information than I ever dreamed possible. My daughter had a funeral. She was in a public grave with four adults and six babies. I have all their names. I remember the moment I spoke to the cemetery because that was the moment she became real to me and I felt her, close to me, within me. We were together at last.
I have never forgotten her or grieved for her or come to terms with her loss. I have missed having her and knowing her. I have been aware over the years of times that I was crying for her but the emotion had to be suppressed. No-one would understand the tears after all the years.
I have visited, with my son, the patch of grass that is her unmarked grave. I wrote a letter to her telling her of my feelings. I wanted to bring her home and hold her close. A shrub that will flower in May, around the time of her birthday, has been planted in our garden. A tree to grow and flourish, as she did not, has been planted in the land of her ancestors, Scotland. I took a page in the book of remembrance at the hospital.
There must be so many women like myself who were trying so hard to forget but not succeeding. I used to say that I had lost a baby and I truly had in every sense of the word. No one had the right to make decisions for me or keep information, that was my right as a mother, from me. At last I have been able to grieve, to feel anger and the hurt and pain and to cry the tears that needed so badly to be shed, to begin a healing process. Andrew, my son, understood and grieved with me for the sister he had never known. He was a great support and comfort to me.
I am smiling in my heart and holding you close, we are together at last.
Written on Mothers day, 2002
Ann later added:
I have found a great inner peace since locating my daughter. It helps me enormously to be able to see her page turned in the Book of Remembrance on her birthday. Now I have somewhere to go in May each year. This has brought closure after many years of feeling emptiness.