From the very moment we buried our baby daughter Mia, a fear that she would be forgotten by others quickly set in.
After all, she is not visible to the world and people just forget our story.
It has been over four years following our loss and I have realized that one of the greatest fears of bereaved parents is that others will forget our babies.
This fear was only endorsed by the fact that in the last Irish population Census in 2016, unfortunately, bereaved parents were not given an opportunity to record the name and date of birth of their baby who died.
I am delighted to say however that the Central Statistics Office in Ireland has heard the voice of bereaved parents and Census 2021 will include a “Time Capsule” section for the very first time.
This will enable any member of the public to write a voluntary and confidential message of their choice which will be stored securely for 100 years.
This means that bereaved parents will get an opportunity to write a note about our babies for future generations and researchers to read. Census 2021 records will be released in 100 years’ time under the Statistics Act 1993.
So, when I am gone I will not be in a position tell people about my baby but I will not need to worry – it will be in the records.
Emma, Mia’s twin sister, was only three months old when the last Census was dropped to our door. I remember reading through it and realizing that I would not be able to include Mia on the form.
One of the first questions asked me “how many children I gave birth to,” I wrote down “3” and then I was asked to write down my living children’s names.
Underneath them, I squeezed in Mia’s name and date of birth. I didn’t want her to be forgotten.
I felt that when I am gone, my future descendants would not know that she even existed.
The message that I will write for my future descendants in Census 2021 will tell them that Mia was stillborn and her details can be found on a special and closed Stillbirth register.
I will give them details about where is she buried and tell them that she died from hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
I will also say that no other relative in my generation or the generation before me had a congenital heart problem but in 100 years’ time, there will be more research on this condition and more definite answers about why it occurs in families.
It is so good to know that things are moving forward. This is more obvious when its set against a background of what happened in the generation before me.
Last year, for the first time, I was told by my mother that my grandparents, The Harty’s, had a baby who died around the time of his or her birth. We know that the baby was born about 80 years ago and was born at home and was most likely buried with his or her older brother Mossie, who died at the age of five from appendicitis.
We do not know, however, the baby’s gender or why the baby died. The baby was not given a name and was not mentioned on any headstone. There are no hospital records either as the baby was born at home.
So, in other words, absolutely no record exists about the baby. Nothing! It is only through word of mouth passed on through generations that our family will know that another baby existed.
The Census Advisory Group is to be commended for this significant step forward in the Census 2021 in terms of enabling bereaved parents to acknowledge and remember their baby who has died.
The opportunity to include Mia’s name in the next Census brings me so much comfort to know that she is now being acknowledged by the Irish Government but also to know that she will be remembered for years to come.
You can read the Central Statistics Office press release at https://www.cso.ie/en/csolatestnews/pressreleases/2019pressreleases/pressstatementcensus2021dateandquestionsapprovedbygovernment/.
Niamh Connolly-Coyne is a mother to three daughters – Alice and twins Emma and Mia. Mia lives in heaven. She passed away a few weeks before she was born. Niamh lives in Ireland. She works for a charity. She also volunteers her time with baby loss charities in Ireland particularly focusing on making a change for bereaved parents through campaign and lobbying work.
Niamh Connolly-Coyne is mother to three daughters Alice and twins Emma and Mia. Mia passed away a few weeks before she was born. She had a heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
Niamh lives in Ireland. She set up an awareness / advocacy group for bereaved parents who have experienced loss in a multiple pregnancy called Peas in a Pod: loss in a multiple pregnancy @peasinapodireland. Niamh hopes also to create more awareness and inclusion of the needs of parents who have lost a baby from a multiple pregnancy through campaign and lobbying work.