Ken (left) and Linda Walsh (right) at the handing over of their cuddle cot to representatives from the Rotunda, along with their daughters Leslie-Ann and Niamh.
Ken (left) and Linda Walsh (right) at the handing over of their cuddle cot to representatives from the Rotunda, along with their daughters Leslie-Ann and Niamh.View More Images
By Meghan Smith
One local family has found the silver lining within their own personal heartache and provided the promise of cherished memories to other families facing infant death.
Linda and Ken Walsh of Ashbourne, who were faced with a tragic stillbirth less than a year ago, recently donated a 'cuddle cot’ and a number of 'memory boxes’ to the Rotunda Hospital which will bring comfort to many other families.
Last year, Linda and Ken, who have two daughters, Leslie-Ann, age 9 and Niamh, age 6, were delighted to be expecting their third child. However during their routine 20-week scan the couple learned there was a problem with their new daughter’s development.
Further testing at 23 weeks told the couple that their daughter had Edward’s Syndrome, and that she would not live long beyond her birth, if at all.
This crushing news was devastating for the family, and with help from family Linda began to look into supports for people in her situation. This is when she came upon an organisation called Feilecain, the stillbirth and neonatal death association of Ireland.
Through the network she learned about memory boxes, which the association provides to families all across Ireland facing stillbirth, as well as to all maternity hospitals in the case of unexpected infant death. The memory boxes allow parents to save items and record information to keep with them long after the passing of their child.
Linda received a memory box prior to her daughter Caoimhe’s arrival, and found that it provided wonderful ideas for saving memories.
“The memory boxes are priceless and mean so much to bereaved parents when faced with the devastating news their child is going to or has already died,” said Linda “Your world turns upside down.
“If your baby has died you usually deliver the child over the next day or so. From this you are thrown straight into arranging a service for the child. That is why the memory boxes are so special, because they help parents to gather as many memories as they can. It can also trigger them to add in extra items, bearing in mind they only have two or three days to get as many memories as possible of their beautiful child.”
After Caoimhe’s stillbirth, the Walshes were able to bring her home in the hospitals 'cuddle cot’, which is a Moses basket specifically for deceased infants, allowing their families to spend a little longer with them before saying goodbye.
This time was cherished by Linda and Ken, and they decided in the month’s after Caoimhe’s funeral that they would raise money to buy an additional cuddle cot for the Rotunda, along with as many memory boxes at they could. Friends, neighbours, family and the business community in Ashbourne were extremely supportive of the fundraising efforts, according to Linda, and a table quiz held in March at the Fox’s Den brought in enough money to purchase the cuddle cot.
Other initiatives such as the Women’s Mini Marathon, music gigs and online fundraising brought in additional funding, allowing the Walshes to support Feilecain and purchase memory boxes to be kept at the Rotunda.
The family gathered at the hospital earlier this month to hand over the items, and it was an emotional time for Linda and Ken.
“There is not a day goes by when we don’t think of our beautiful baby girl, nor a day were we don’t wish we had her here to hug and kiss. But we do take some comfort in knowing Caoimhe was more loved in her little lifetime that some people get in their whole life.
“Also Caoimhe has done so much good for others. Most people when grieving focus on the memories of their loved ones and the years they had together. With Caoimhe, we were blessed to have such magical memories during such a short time.
“Caoimhe, in her own way, is hitting milestones with the help, love and support from her family and friends who have and thankfully still are fundraising in her honour. This will help so many other couples just like ken and I,” said Linda.