Fiona's son Andrew was born in Dublin at a time when support services were very poor for mothers with sick babies. He was diagnosed with anencephaly, and Fiona says that her time with Andrew when he was in the womb was hugely important. "We had nine months together, and we had sing-songs, and we went to the park, and we smelled the grass.. and he knew he was with his Mammy and he was loved and snug and warm".
"3 weeks before I was due little Andrew, they told me in the hospital that that his brain didn’t develop. Little Andrew was born then. But they took him away and they didn’t let me see him, but I suppose 30 years ago that was the way they handled things like that, you know, and I didn’t get to hold him or see him or smell him, and he actually lived for 27 hours, little Andrew did.
But nowadays you can get photographs and hold him and touch them and smell them, which is wonderful. But within that 27 hours Mammy and Daddy got to hold him. I wanted little Andrew baptised. So they got the priest around and little Andrew was baptised and we have a birth certificate and we have a death certificate and a baptisimal cert. So I have those things that I take out and I look at.
"But me and little Andrew we had 9 months together. And we had sing-songs, and we travelled on the bus, and we went for walks in the park, and we listened to the birds together, and we smelled the grass. and he knew he was with his mammy. He was loved and snug and warm inside me for that 9 months. And I rubbed him and held him and loved him so much.
He is carved in my heart
"Hang on to that little baby as long as you can, every moment every day, even though you know he’s not going to live or maybe he will live, you know for 27 hours Andrew lived. Just hang on to that baby and cherish those special moments because he’s nice and snug in there and warm and being fed and cosy. You will appreciate that afterwards when he’s gone, that you did have that time, those special moments. On the bus having a sing-song going to the park, you know, the little baby will know, that his mammy had that time with him, and that you had that time, and that he had that time with you.
"Like I still have a relationship with Andrew, you know, even though I didn’t see him. I will always have that relationship with Andrew and he’s carved in my heart; the shape of him is carved in my heart and that will be there forever."
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ANENCEPHALY is a neural tube defect which means that the baby's skull and brain do not develop correctly in the womb. A recent study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that 72% of babies with anencephaly lived for a short time after birth. Of those children, 25% lived up to 5 days, while up to 7% lived up to 28 days after birth.
Jacquier M, Klein A, Boltshauser E. 'Spontaneous pregnancy outcome after prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly.' British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2006; 113:951–953