I was born in a little village called Holy Cross in Tipperary, Ireland in 1937. I was the second youngest in my family and have 4 sisters and 3 brothers in total. Sadly, one of my brothers died when he was a couple of months old. Another of my brothers died in his early twenties. Amongst this tragedy, we were still a very happy family. People liked spending time at our cottage, and it was full of fun and laughter. My mother was a strong woman and was very hard working. My parents loved each other deeply and there was never a cross word between them. I always knew I wanted a family when I grew up.
Moving to North Wales and falling in love
I had relatives who were based in a seaside town in North Wales. I first visited the area when I was around 12 years old and promptly started working at a little café. In those days, we worked for a living from a very young age. At around 15 years old, I decided to move to London where I got a job at the French Embassy training to be a lady’s maid. I started to prepare to move to America to continue my new, exciting career. However, when I was 18, a family tragedy brought me back to North Wales.
On St Patrick’s Day in March 1956, I was out at a dancehall when I saw a very handsome man. His name was Arthur and he was a solider in the Welsh Guards. As soon as I set my eyes on him, my plans changed. We spent the rest of the year courting and were married on Boxing Day that very year. It really was a whirlwind romance!
Excited to start a family
Arthur and I moved in with one another and I fell pregnant soon after. Pregnancy was quite a shock! You couldn’t just pop out to buy a pregnancy test back then, but my intense sickness was a good indicator that something was going on.
Back then, the expectation was that you just got on with it. I now know that the extreme morning sickness I experienced has a name – hyperemesis gravidarum - and is taken very seriously. I was in and out of the hospital for most of the pregnancy. Nevertheless, Arthur and I could not wait for our precious baby’s safe arrival.
I was very shocked when I went into premature labour at around 30 weeks pregnant. I knew it was very early but held onto hope as I was giving birth. Our first daughter, Anne-Marie was born on 12 January 1957. I’ll never forget her head of curly black hair. She looked just like her daddy. She was a good size and weighed around 4lb which gave me hope. But very soon after her birth, she was taken away to be looked after. I never got to see her again.
Anne-Marie died the next day. I wish I could have held her but, back in those days, that didn’t happen. Baby loss was just ‘one of those things’. We were full of questions, but nobody would tell us anything. It was as if it was none of our business. She was lost and that was it, end of story. We held a funeral for our daughter and buried her in a local cemetery. It was absolutely heart-breaking.
If my daughter was born today, there’s a good chance she would have survived due to the amazing advances in clinical care thanks to charities like Tommy’s. Not a day passes by where I don’t think of our beautiful little baby.
Joy before more heartbreak
My next pregnancy went much more smoothly – although I still felt very ill throughout. Our second daughter, Julie, was born in March 1960. Bringing a baby home in our arms felt like miracle, a dream come true. I used to stand looking over her crib, I just couldn’t believe this precious little baby was ours.
I became pregnant again soon after. My bump started to grow, and we started to prepare for life with another little one. At around 6 months pregnant, we travelled to see my sister in London. One evening, I started feeling pain then went into labour. Our little boy was born sleeping, with the cord wrapped around his neck. I can still picture him in my mind’s eye even though I never saw him alive.
A midwife arrived and placed our son into her bicycle basket before casually joking about how funny it would be if he fell out as she cycled down the Strand. I never saw him again.
Nobody could give me any support. There was no consideration for me whatsoever. They were dark times for us as a family. My babies were the most important part of my life and it broke my heart to lose them.
Our family kept on growing
I went on to give birth to 2 more healthy little babies: a daughter called Cathy, and a son called Stephen. We also adopted our wonderful daughter Paula. Our 4 children brought me and their dad so much joy. I am so proud of each and everyone one of them.
I am also the proud grandmother of 7 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. I have 2 more great- grandchildren on the way at the moment. My pregnant granddaughter was recently admitted into hospital with some complications at 30 weeks. It brought back all the painful memories of when we lost our darling Anne-Marie. I was so fearful and upset. Thankfully, everything turned out okay. I know she’s been supported by Tommy’s throughout her pregnancy and I’m so thankful the service exists.
Our babies are now with their Daddy
My darling husband Arthur died 4 years ago. He was such a wonderful dad. He loved his children so much and he was the love of my life. He was kindness itself. I find it comforting knowing that he’s looking after our babies in heaven.
Leaving a gift to Tommy's in your Will is such a wonderful thing to do. I wish I had been able to access the support I needed all those years ago. I believe it’s incredibly important to ensure that future generations of women don’t have to suffer in silence like we did.
Leaving a gift in your will to Tommy’s will lead to breakthroughs that make sure that we can achieve our vision: making the UK the safest place in the world to give birth.
In this blog, Lucy from Worthing reflects on her experience of stillbirth during a very difficult time in her life, as new Tommy's research shines a light on how social stresses can raise risks.
Natalie and Sean from Warwickshire were delighted when the found out that they were expecting twins. At 25 weeks pregnant, Natalie went into premature labour. Their daughters, Daisy and Georgie, passed away soon after birth. Natalie went on to have 2 heart-breaking miscarriages before getting support from Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research. Their rainbow baby Livvie was born in 2019.
Harri, 35, has written a children’s book in support of Tommy's and in memory of her son Rupert - who tragically died within a day of being born due to a bacterial infection.
Rob is an engineer and lives in Northampton with his wife Kate and their daughter Elsie. In this blog, he reflects on coping with the death of son Theo and how this loss has changed him.