'I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands' says heartbroken mother

'I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands' says heartbroken mother

A woman, whose daughter lived for 10 seconds after been born, has today praised a charity behind an initiative which allows parents and families of deceased newborns invaluable time to spend with their baby, writes David Raleigh.

Karen Rooney spoke of the "horror" of losing her daughter Phoebe, who passed away seconds after her birth, at Holles Street National Maternity Hospital, 11 days ago.

Ms Rooney bravely told her story in an effort to highlight the efforts of Féileacáin, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland, which offers support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly thereafter.

Féilacain is currently supplying 55 "cuddle cots" to maternity hospitals across the country.

The Moses-type baskets include a mattress which connects to a coolant system regulating the temperature of the cot, helping to preserve the body of the deceased infant.

'I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands' says heartbroken mother

Ms Rooney, from Clondalkin, Dublin, said: "If it wasn't for the cuddle cots in the hospital I would never have got to spend three extra days with my daughter; and have her overnight. It gave me that extra time with her."

Ms Rooney said she plans to take part in a charity run to raise funds for Féilacain, a registered not-for-profit charity.

"People don't understand that if we didn't have access to one of these cots, Phoebe would have been put in a morgue, and that would have been that; and I wouldn't have been able to see her, or have those extra few days with her to say goodbye to her. My family wouldn't have been able to see her either," she added.

A spokesperson for Féilacain said each cuddle cot is sourced from England at a cost of €2,500.

Karen Rooney explained she was 17 weeks and four days into her pregnancy when her waters broke at home on September 15.

When she arrived in hostel doctors told her "Phoebe's survival chances were slim to nothing".

'I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands' says heartbroken mother

Karen (aged 29) took a "turn for the worse" on September 16, and her daughter was delivered 22 weeks early the following night.

"I gave birth to Phoebe after 17 hours of labour. She lived on me for a few seconds and then she passed away," she said.

Having gone through the trauma of loosing her daughter, Ms Rooney - a single mother and full-time career for her nine-year-old son who has special needs - says she faces a funeral bill of €3,000.

A gofundme online fundraising drive to cover her daughter's funeral costs has been set up and donations have reached nearly €1,000.

Ms Rooney laid her daughter to rest in a tiny white coffin last Thursday.

'I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands' says heartbroken mother

"It's been the most horrendous week of my life. Phoebe fought tooth-and-nail for her life. Her heart was beating for up to 10 seconds after she was born, and then she died."

"She died on my chest. She was alive when she came out."

"There was no sound but she moved her arms quite a lot, and you could see her heart beating really, really fast, and then it just stopped."

Ms Rooney added: "She was perfect."

The mother-of-two said she hopes the results of her daughter's autopsy will help provide answers as to what led to her waters breaking so early into her pregnancy.

"I don't think a lot of people understand what the loss of a child feels like. They might think it's just a miscarriage.

"This wasn't a miscarriage. I've had miscarriages.

"I had to bear my child, I gave birth to Phoebe. I had seventeen hours of labour and then had to watch my daughter die on my chest," she added.

She said she was upset her pregnancy was officially classified as "a late miscarriage".

"That's not what Phoebe was. She was my baby," she said.

"I buried Phoebe on Thursday. It was horrific, the most horrific pain I've ever gone through.

"I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands, I walked her up to the grave and I laid her down."

'I could not let her go. I held her coffin in my hands' says heartbroken mother

"It was absolutely heartbreaking. I would not wish it on anybody, going through the pain of losing a child."

She added: "My whole family have been my rocks."

It is the second major tragedy to strike Ms Rooney and her family.

Her brother Daniel (aged 16) died after been stabbed by an older brother in 1999, over a row that got out of control after Daniel had borrowed clothes from his sibling, Michael.

"It was the anniversary of my brother Daniel's death the Sunday after Phoebe died. He is 17 years dead," Ms Rooney added.

Michael Rooney, a heroin addict, served five years in prison after admitting a charge of manslaughter in 2001.

At the time, the presiding judge Patrick McCartan, described the case at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court as "a tragedy beyond description", adding, he was satisfied Michael Rooney had not intended to kill his brother.


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