Mother of son who lived for just 36 hours - ‘I want world to know Daniel existed’

Mary Watters' son Daniel died after 36 hours of life last July. She recounts her moving story here as the Minister for Health Simon Harris pledges that every parent who loses a baby will get the support they need.

ONE year on from the tragedy of losing her son Daniel after 36 hours of life, Mary Watters is still the mother to five-week-old Elizabeth Danielle, as well as two older boys.

From Castlebellingham, Co Louth, Mary has found the maternity services in Ireland to be both good and bad.

“Elizabeth is our fourth child. I have two sons at home, Vincent and Paddy, and we have an angel in heaven, Daniel.

“Daniel was born on July 11, 2015. Daniel was born at 28 weeks after a heterotropic pregnancy which is where there are two babies, one ectopic (where a foetus develops outside the womb, typically in a fallopian tube) and one in the womb,” says Mary.

She explains that what happened next defied the odds and that Daniel was born prematurely, but that she remained very hopeful about his situation.

“The ectopic baby was removed at six weeks and, against the odds, Daniel survived.

“He was born at 28 weeks because I wasn’t well and we expected that we would be up and down to neonatal intensive care for weeks but ultimately that Daniel would be OK and would come home with us,” she says.

“After 36 hours the midwife woke me, on July 13 at 2am, to say that Daniel wasn’t doing too good.

“My husband was called. We baptised Daniel and at 4.11am on July 13, aged 36 hours and 20 minutes, Daniel died,” says Mary.

“We got to baptise Daniel, we got to bury him, and we have a grave to go to, and we’re very, very lucky that we now have Elizabeth Danielle who’s obviously named after her brother.”

Elizabeth Danielle and Mary were both present in Farmleigh yesterday for the launch of the National Standards for Bereavement Care Following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death.

Mary, who contributed to the development of the standards during the public consultation period, says their publication is very important to her.

“These standards are very important to us because the consultation for them came about shortly after Daniel died and it gave us something to focus on and something to contribute to,” she says.

“We had some very good experiences of the maternity services and we had some poor experiences that we felt could be improved, both of which were system related because there are no bad people in the service but there are definitely things that would have helped us and there were many things that did help us.”

Mary says the hardest thing for a parent who has lost a child is never hearing their name called out.

“Even a year later and, I suspect, long into the future, we’ll never forget Daniel and I think that’s really important because people are sometimes afraid to mention his name.

“The hardest thing about being a parent of a child who’s died is that you’ll never hear their name called, you’ll never hear them called in school, you’ll never hear their name read out anywhere.

“So it’s really important to us to remember Daniel and to say his name and to talk about him, because when you see me cry you know I remember him.

“If no one mentions him I go home and I’m angry because people forget him,” says Mary.

“They know my two older sons and they know my little girl but I also want the world to know that Daniel existed and that’s why these standards are so important for us and why Elizabeth and I are here today.”

Sample of bereavement care standards after pregnancy loss

  • “A woman known to have a pregnancy complicated by potential loss, who attends for scanning or other outpatient procedure, should not have to wait alongside other pregnant women. Where resources do not permit such accommodation, the woman’s appointment should be scheduled so as she will be the first woman seen by her sonographer, obstetrician, or midwife on that day.”
  • This standard is available to women with an ectopic pregnancy, experiencing a miscarriage in the first or second trimesters, and where their baby has been diagnosed, in utero, with a life-limiting condition. It also applies to women experiencing an intra-uterine fetal death, stillbirth, early neonatal birth, and where a baby is born with a life-limiting condition.
  • “Parents who receive a diagnosis that their baby will be born with a life-limiting condition are invited to meet a consultant neonatologist or paediatrician and the appropriate medical, paediatric sub-specialist or palliative care team to discuss their baby’s diagnosis. Consultations with parents and information provided may need to be approached with due regard to provisions of relevant legislation such as the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995.”
  • Unlike the above standard, this only applies to parents where their baby has been diagnosed, in utero, with a life-limiting condition or where their baby is born with a life-limiting condition.
  • “At the commencement of employment, all hospital staff providing care to bereaved parents receive mandatory training, appropriate to their role in the hospital on how to communicate sensitively and how to break bad news.”
  • “In the event that parents choose to terminate their pregnancy, they are provided with up-to-date information and contact details of the services available. Information provided or specific consultations with parents must be approached with due regard to provisions of relevant legislation such as the Regulation of Information Act, 1995. Information on accessing bereavement care is provided to all women registered at a maternity hospital.”
  • This only applies to parents where their baby has been diagnosed, in utero, with a life-limiting condition.
  • “A woman admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy or early miscarriage is accommodated in a gynecological ward or in an alternative non-obstetric ward.”

Read the full report here

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