The parents and friends of a beautiful baby girl, Carragh, who was stillborn in November 2015 have turned their grief into something more positive by fundraising to provide a facility that will allow parents in similar situations to spend quality time with their child’s body.
Mandy O’Neill, her partner Marty Fox and the wider O’Neill family have raised some €7,000 - part of which was used to deliver a ‘cuddle cot’ for this region. Now the specially designed cots are available in every hospital in Ireland, allowing parents to bond with their child before they say their final goodbye.
Mandy’s baby was diagnosed with a life-limited disability in the womb - an unbalanced chromosomal translocation resulting in Trisomy 7 and Monosomy 13, a condition which affects just one in every 15,000 babies.
When they were first informed of the condition, they were told that Mandy could “choose” to carry the baby to term or travel for a medical termination. For Mandy and Marty, there was no choice to be made. “Carragh had a life inside me for 38 weeks, that was her little life. Although it was all too short, it had meaning and value and she deserved the best possible chance regardless of her diagnosis.”
Mandy added: “Carragh was absolutely perfect. It’s not like she didn’t look like a baby. She was beautiful, really beautiful. Carragh’s my baby. She was a sick baby, but she was my baby... I felt is wasn’t our decision as parents and, when she would leave us, she would decide herself, and she did.”
Mandy is an active member of Every Life Counts (ELC), a support and advocacy for parents of children diagnosed with a terminal conditions in the womb.
‘A great gift’ Féileacáin
The money raised by the O’Neills was donated to Féileacáin, a charity that provides support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during or after pregnancy. It was established in 2010 by a group of bereaved parents, who found that there was little or no support there for parents who had experienced such a death.
“This family have fundraised for this cot, which will be for this region. It is designed to keep a little baby cold after they have died so that they can stay longer with mammy and daddy. It provides a few days extra, so that they won’t be whipped away like they were in the past,” said Marie Cregan, chairperson of Feileacain and one of the founders. Feileacain is Irish for ‘butterfly’. Explaining the significance of the name, she said that people in Ireland long ago used to think that the white butterflies were the spirits of children.
Marie further explained that the cot is like a little cooling unit, which is totally discreet and it better than seeing the baby in a cold mortuary and cost around €2,000. “This is a great gift that this family have given to this region and it will be there for families in the future,” she said.
Belinda McDermott said they raised the money through a series of events like coffee mornings and there was a sing-along in O’Neill’s Pub in Redhills and they also participated in the mini marathon. Almost €7,000 in total was raised, which includes the price of the cuddle cot. Both Helen O’Neill and Belinda wish to thank all the people in and around Redhills for their outstanding generosity in helping to raise all that money for the cot and Feileacain.