'I am so proud that my body was Carragh’s safe haven for those 38 weeks, that it was her home'

I took comfort and healing from the 38 weeks Carragh and I spent together, writes Mandy O’Neill.

OUR DAUGHTER CARRAGH was diagnosed with a life-limiting condition when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I never knew such a diagnosis even existed.

We were completely devastated. I couldn’t understand how my little baby, who I could feel wriggling around inside me, could be so sick and that there was no cure. She couldn’t be fixed.

Our options

Following Carragh’s diagnosis we were given two options, travel to Liverpool to end the pregnancy, or continue to carry her until Carragh decided to arrive.

I feel that all of the focus of the media discussion around these situations is on abortion, even though most Irish parents decide to continue with their pregnancy, as we did.

We decided that Carragh would make all the decisions, and we took that time to make memories that will last a lifetime. We took so many photos of my growing bump. We went for walks. We sang to Carragh and we read to her.

We laughed when she reacted to loud noises, and then to her Daddy’s voice. She was such an active baby. She was mostly quiet during the day but at night-time, when we went to bed, she would kick, and wriggle, letting us know she was happy and safe.

I carried Carragh for 38 weeks, the most amazing, rewarding 38 weeks of my life.

Giving birth

Carragh was born on November 3 2015, after a long and difficult labour. When she was placed on my chest, the love I felt for her was indescribable. She was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

Her Dad and I just could not believe how beautiful and perfect our darling daughter was. Carragh had my small nose, and her daddy’s long fingers and long legs. She had the most perfectly pouted rose-bud lips, and a full head of dark silky hair.

Looking at how peaceful Carragh was we knew she made her own decision about when and how she would come. We placed all our trust in her when we were given her diagnosis 18 weeks previously.

My baby daughter never experienced life outside of my womb. Her little life consisted of 38 weeks inside me where she lived, grew and was loved, and to me that is truly amazing, a life of knowing only love. I am so proud that my body was Carragh’s safe haven for those 38 weeks, that it was her home.

She has made us better people

The love that Carragh brought into our lives is indescribable. She has made us better people and better parents. We appreciate everyday life now and we no longer take anything for granted.

Carragh’s very short but beautiful life has forever changed our lives. She left us with beautiful memories to cherish forever, and a love that we will continue to live on, in her memory and in her honour. Our little girl is with us every day. It’s in our hearts and in our minds. She is never far from our thoughts.

The grief and pain of losing your baby is a pain like no other, and the weeks and months following Carragh’s death, was the darkest and hardest time of my life. I just wanted her back. My arms felt so empty. They were aching for my beautiful daughter who I birthed and then had to kiss goodbye.

Seeing the beauty in life again

Slowly I began to see the beauty in life again, I took comfort and healing from the 38 weeks Carragh and I spent together.

I’ve learnt that the bond between Carragh and I can never be broken. She will forever be mine, not even death can change that. She will walk with me through the rest of my life, guiding me, giving me the strength and determination I need to live my life to the fullest for both of us.

Carragh is my inspiration and I want to make her proud. She is, and always will be, a very special little girl, and her little life has had a huge impact on our lives and on our family.

When I think back to the day we were given Carragh’s diagnosis, I’m happy that the Eighth Amendment was in place. It not only protected Carragh’s life and mine, it ensured we both received the best standard of care throughout our pregnancy and after.

I am privileged to have carried Carragh and to call her my daughter. I would relive every minute of our pregnancy again just to hold her one more time and kiss her soft cheek. She was worth every second.

Mandy O’Neill is in the final year of a politics and history degree. She returned to finish her degree after Carragh passed away.

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