“I had to organize the funeral for one baby while I was strong for the other and fighting for her life”

The pain of losing a child is the most haunting and heartbreaking feeling; having to do it in public is just unimaginable. What happened to Georgina Rodríguez and Cristiano Ronaldo Last week – the horrific loss of her new daughter’s twin brother during childbirth – brought back so many memories and opened up some poorly healed wounds. When it happened to me almost 12 years ago, I just wanted to shut out the world and make the pain go away.

When we found out I was pregnant with twins, our daughter Zoe was only 12 months old. I can remember crying; not with joy, but with shock. I didn’t know how to deal with it.

When I look back now after the journey that followed, I regret those tears. The guilt of crying has stayed with me ever since. If I hadn’t cried, would Emily still be here? The “what if” has never left me.

The pregnancy was tough. It was high risk, with many rollercoaster moments, but I took it one day at a time and was determined to bring my girls safely into this world. I chatted with them and stroked my ever-expanding belly daily with as much love and affection as I could muster.

However, determination and positivity just weren’t enough: on June 8, 2010, my world changed forever.

The girls were born via emergency room at 29 weeks. Heidi came out screaming, Emily said nothing. She was gone. Our perfect beautiful baby girl looked like she was sleeping.

I begged her to wake up. I hugged her tight and hugged her so close to my chest to keep her warm, wishing her perfect little hand would clasp mine, wishing her eyes would just open and look up at me. They never did.

Our lives were thrown into the world of prematurity, survival and bereavement on the same day. Heidi was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit, where she was stabilized for the first few days and given vitamins through her belly button.

I wasn’t able to meet her until the next morning and it was a surreal experience. She just seemed so helpless, lost in this big incubator.

The days turned into weeks. Heidi had good days and bad days. She survived so many complications and setbacks, but she was a fighter – and won every time. I spent every possible minute with her, watching her every move, watching her grow and thrive in front of me.

While she fought on, a funeral had to be arranged for Emily. No expectant or new mother should have to deal with that. Pregnancy is all about those swollen ankles, cravings for car seats and nursery curtains. It should never be about picking tombstones, hymns and coffins.

After we laid Emily to rest, on a day that I remember so vividly, our lives revolved around the ICU and bringing Heidi home to meet her family and friends.

It was such an emotional minefield; try to mourn for Emily, be strong for Heidi and not let our other little girl at home suffer from this terrible situation.

I kept a diary – a daily account of everything she went through in the hospital. Any treatments she received; small comments about how I felt; how great the staff were and how great she grew.

I found this therapeutic. It was like my own little counseling session every day.

“16. June: You scared us today! Doctors couldn’t put a line in the tiny little veins on your hands or feet to give you your special “health juice,” so they had to put one in your temple. It looks so big and strange next to your beautiful little face but they have assured me that you are not in pain. Hopefully this works now and you continue to get all the goodness you need to grow big and strong.”

“30. June: There’s a new kid on the block! Alex was born at 26 weeks and just moved into the incubator next to you. His mom is so nice and talkative which is great for me as you know I love to talk! We joked that he will be your friend for years to come. I told her you can’t look at boys until you’re 21, so he’ll wait a very, very long time! You look so tall next to him, you’re growing right before my eyes and I couldn’t be prouder of you.”

“13. July: NO MORE OXYGEN! The last tubes are gone and we can see your beautiful face unobstructed. What a sight! Your feeding tube is gone, you smash them with the bottles, you’re done filling the oxygen tubes and now all you have to do is gain some weight and WE CAN GO HOME! You smash it, Heidi, you just smash it.”

Heidi now loves reading this journal and remembering how far she’s come. She is very proud to be a Gemini and oozes love and pride when talking about Emily. All my kids do, and it’s so important. She existed, she is real.

Our homes are crammed with pictures – I’m old school and I don’t think there’s anything better than a framed photo. There are also many Emily. From the moment they could understand it, all my children were told all about them. Every question was answered; every curious little thought discussed; Each memory was relived with a tear, followed by a strong group cuddle.

Heidi loves nothing more than picking up jewelry with Emily’s name on them. Jewelry is her favorite. Wearing it like a badge of honor, she loves nothing more than someone who asks her about the necklace she may be wearing and takes a look at her back catalog from her warrior days in ICU.

But firsts are tough — the first day of school, First Communion. Then there’s Christmas and all the things Heidi wishes her twin was with her. She often asks, “What would Emily do? Do we think she would have the same taste or style?”

Heidi is a very outgoing and strong young lady and she believes this is because her sister is always on her shoulder and encouraging her to be the best she can be. My eyes fill up every time she talks like that; it’s just so bittersweet.

Losing a child is a never ending journey full of emotions and memories. It’s something no family should ever experience, but it happens every day. What gives us some comfort, however, is that while they may not have been with us, they existed, they grew in our bellies, and we felt them move. They will always be our babies.

Emily is an integral part of our family; We speak openly about her and she will always be remembered. I am a mother of four children, one too precious for this earth. She is our hero.

Sharon Keogh is chair and co-founder of the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (inha.ie)

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/i-had-to-organise-the-funeral-for-one-baby-while-being-strong-for-the-other-battling-for-her-life-41581731.html “I had to organize the funeral for one baby while I was strong for the other and fighting for her life”

Fry Electronics Team

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