Remembering our stillborn baby Sean

Baby Sean Curtin was stillborn ten years ago this month. His mum Belinda tells CHRIS DUNNE how the family are honouring his memory by fundraising for Féileacáin, who supported them after their loss
Remembering our stillborn baby Sean
Belinda Curtin with husband Seanie and their four children, Lelaina and Dion, Millie and Finn.

EVEN though it is nearly a whole decade since baby Sean came into the world, his mum, Belinda Curtin, can remember every single detail about her perfect son.

“His lips were ruby red,” says Belinda, who lives in Ballyhea, Charleville.

“His tiny fingernails were a darker colour and baby Sean’s big sister, Lelaina asked me; mummy, did you paint his nails?” says Belinda, smiling.

“I remember he had a light down on his ears. Baby Sean was a buster, weighing in at bang on 8lbs. He was just perfect.”

Sean’s 10th anniversary is on May 27.

“His dad, Seanie, caught his eyes with his for a split second,” says Belinda.

“Even though I had no movement when we drove to the hospital, Seanie still had hope. ‘If I get you there; you’ll be fine’,” he said.

But it wasn’t fine.

Belinda and Seanie’s third child was stillborn. That May day, with all its promises and joys of summer to come, is frozen in time for his mum and dad.

“It is only in the last year or two years, that I realised there are an amount of people out there that lost babies, when I read their stories on the Féileacáin website,” says Belinda.

Féileacáin aims to offer support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after.

“I felt that I’d like to do something for the support group, which is Cork-based. The coffee morning I held in The Four Winds and Second Wind, Charleville, raised €1,300 already, which is great,” says Belinda.

“There are still donations coming in. I’ll hand over the cheque to Féileacáin in May.

“Féileacáin sent me a memory box, which is a lovely idea, it is a keepsake for special mementos of your baby.

“Ten years after losing baby Sean, I felt now that I could do something to help.

“The day we buried baby Sean, a white butterfly circled above me,” says Belinda. “The butterfly is the symbol for Féileacáin.”

She then takes me back 10 years. The promise of summer was in the air. Birds were singing and buds were bursting. Baby Sean was due to be born.

“Sean was a textbook pregnancy just like his sister, Lelaina, and his brother, Dion,” says Belinda.

“I was a week overdue, just like the other two. Three days previously, I had a scan. Everything was fine. But that morning, I felt no movement. It was like the calm before the storm. At one stage, I felt the baby sway to one side, like there was no room for him. I told the kids, ‘Mummy is going to have the baby today’.”

The in-built natural instinct of a mother kicked in.

“I knew something wasn’t right. The midwife couldn’t get a heart beat,” says Belinda.

“There wasn’t much hope. Then it was confirmed that the baby didn’t make it,” she says sadly.

“Seanie was out of the room. I needed a moment to be strong. My world crashed down. I was devastated. I didn’t know yet if it was a girl or a boy. I rubbed my tummy. I still carried this little person.”

Baby Sean, would have been ten this year.
Baby Sean, would have been ten this year.

And Belinda still had to give birth.

“I wanted to go home and never come back,” she says. “I wanted to live with the bump forever.”

When she was in labour, she wondered if everybody was wrong. Maybe a miracle would happen and baby Sean would be able to come home and live with his mummy and daddy, together with his brother and sister.

“I went through every pain and contraction for 10 hours,” says Belinda.

“I decided,I’m going to do this myself. When baby Sean was laid on my chest I felt the worst sorrow and the greatest joy. For a moment I nearly forgot. My emotions were all over the shop.”

Belinda went through the same emotions with her new baby that every mother does.

“I delivered him and I got to see his eyes before they closed,” says Belinda.

“I gave him a bed bath and I changed his nappy. I still got to be his mummy. He was so advanced; he even had a soiled nappy. His colour was so good. He was beautiful,” says Belinda.

Lelaina and Dion met their baby brother.

“They got to hold him and cuddle him. My family all came to see him. We are very close.”

Belinda and Seanie marvelled at the sheer perfection of their boy.

“We examined him from head to toe,” says Belinda. “I looked at baby Sean on his dad’s shoulder and I said to Seanie, we’ll call him after you. Do you mind?

“Baby Sean was too perfect for a post mortem. We wanted to spend as long as we could with him.”

The baby came home and he met his grandad.

“I walked out of the hospital with him in my arms,” says Belinda. “Baby Sean stayed in my arms the whole way home. This was my son and he was perfect.”

Granddad called baby Sean his ‘Prince’.

“I left him briefly with my dad,” says Belinda.

The two bonded.

“Dad gave baby Sean his first haircut,” says Belinda, smiling. “The lock of his hair is in dad’s tobacco box since dad passed away. Dad was a big softie and he called baby Sean his prince.”

Baby Sean was loved and cherished.

“Our baby slept in the bed between the two of us,” says Belinda.

“I remember I had the cot sheets out on the line in the fresh air and the Moses basket was all ready. I was devastated. My milk came in and I thought, why can’t I nurse him? I breastfed the others, I loved the night feeds. I loved all that.”

Mother and son spent precious time together before they said goodbye.

Belinda wrote her son pages of her love for him.

“And I kissed him a million times,” says Belinda.

“I said to him; wake up for Mummy. The yearning and the emptiness I felt was unbearable.

“The time we had together on our own was special,” says Belinda. “I still got to be his mummy for two days.”

The aftermath was hard.

“Sometimes, people who knew I went full-term would ask; what did you have? A girl or a boy? I’d cringe,” says Belinda. “Like I was stabbed in the heart. I went to baby Sean’s grave every day for months after he was buried. I didn’t cry that day, but I cried every day afterwards.”

Belinda and Seanie’s loved ones stayed close to the couple.

“My mum thought I would collapse,” says Belinda.

But it was their love and support that helped them get through their unimaginable grief.

“The kids were three and four. I had to get up every day for them,” says Belinda.

She continued to function.

“I had to,” says Belinda. “I couldn’t do that to them. My mother and my three sisters were huge support. So was Seanie. Us girls drank tea at 3am. I think men grieve differently. They don’t sit and cry. Seanie would say, ‘Call to the girls. I’ll drop you to your sisters’.”

Does Belinda visualise what her beautiful baby boy would have looked like now, ten years old?

“All mine are rogues,” says Belinda. “And if baby Sean was 

the naughtiest or the boldest; I would still love him just as much. He could never be replaced.”

Belinda says Sean definitely had a look of their youngest boy Finn.

The sadness felt by his loss was eased with the arrival of another member of the family.

“Millie says; I was sent to make mummy better,” says Belinda.

“We keep Baby Sean’s memory alive always. We sign his name on cards and I want my kids to tell their kids about their little brother.”

There are always reminders of what should have been. What might have been.

“When children of baby Sean’s age started school or made their First Communion, it was tough,” says Belinda.

“Those milestones hit closer to home. My nephew and baby Sean would have made their First Holy Communion in the same year.”

The month of May will always remind Belinda of her perfect boy, the “piggy in the middle”.

“He will always have his place in our family,” says Belinda.

Plans are afoot to celebrate another May Day.

“Yes, Millie is making her First Communion,” says Belinda.

“We’ll have a party at home. Seanie is in the bouncing castle business, so everybody will be delighted, having fun and playing games.”

SUPPORT IS AT HAND

Féileacáin, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland provides support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during or after pregnancy.

The not for profit organisation ( CHY – 19635) was formed by a group of bereaved parents who supported each other after the death of their own babies and have now come together to formally offer support to other parents and families who find themselves in a similar situation.

The aims of Féileacáin are:

To provide hospitals with our memory boxes to be given to bereaved families.

To offer a befriending service and support helpline.

To host regular support meetings which allow bereaved families space and time to remember their baby.

To offer support and provide a safe and confidential setting, in which those bereaved through stillbirth or neonatal death can share their experiences.

To promote research into the causes of stillbirth and neonatal death and the effects of grief on the family.

To work in co-operation with support services and other support organisations.

To hold remembrance services and family events.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, Féileacáin are based at 37, North St. Skibeereen. They can also be contacted by phone, 028-51301 or email:info@feilacain.ie

For more about their work, or to support their fundraising efforts, see http://www.feileacain.ie for more

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