The penultimate day of the inquiry into the death of my daughter was today. As the parent of the babe I was permitted to offer a statement to the court once my evidence was concluded, reflecting on the loss of my daughter in my life, and that of her family. This is the statement I made which was tendered as evidence. Final submissions will now be June 25 and findings could be back by August but we have no way of knowing just yet.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the court. Firstly, I would like to thank his Honour for the words of sympathy he extended to my family yesterday. I found it a moment of kindness and humanity in what has been a foreign experience to us and I am grateful for his genuine acknowledgement of our loss.
When a woman is pregnant, it is a family and a community who expects a baby. Roisin has a brother and sister who anticipated her arrival with all the uncomplicated joy of young children. They were 5 and almost 3 at the time of her birth. Roisin has grandparents, Trevor’s parents and my father, as my mother is deceased and never met any of my children. She has aunts, uncles and cousins who also awaited her arrival with joy. She has a father who first held her at birth as he did his previous daughter and son. She has a mother who only held a moving babe in her belly, not in her arms. I am a mother of three children with only two visible to the world in which we move.
Had my birth ended differently and we were not in this court, I could share the life and joys of my three year old daughter. I could share the interactions she would have had with her siblings. Her father could report on his relationship with her, shoulder rides and pretend disappearing games were popular with her siblings and I can only imagine so it may have been for Roisin.
Since I cannot share these, I can perhaps share instead some of the meaning of her loss to me, and to her family. The loss of a babe is a visceral, primal wound. It is a loss of such magnitude that it echoes through our close community of friends, many of whom have attended this week, who held us in love then and now. Her loss will form a part of my family’s tapestry for generations as has the stillbirth of my nephew and my mother’s loss of my younger brother.
The loss of this child to me as her mother has also changed me in profound ways. I had hoped to call this daughter Carys, which means love in Welsh. Her father named her as we were in the hospital, and chose a beautiful Irish name to reflect my family’s heritage. What Roisin has come to mean in my life is an awakening to love and to compassion, and perhaps it is fitting her name means rose since I hope to always grow in love as a tribute to her. This child will never grace family occasions with her presence, she will forever remain a newborn even when I am a woman of eighty. I will feel her loss every day for the rest of my life.
My older daughter has now lived more than half her life as we have awaited these proceeedings. My son tells me now, “When the inquest is over, mummy, let’s never talk about it again, please.” This inquiry has cast a long shadow through these last three years. I hope the court will forgive me for commenting that it can also be an onerous process on top of such a loss as we have experienced. Despite this I am grateful I live in a country where the unexpected loss of a baby is recognised as worthy of community attention and I hope these proceedings offer hope and information which help other bereaved families or help those hoping to reduce stillbirths in Australia.
Our loss has touched another family deeply as well and I can only offer such a small thank you in the face of the generosity, love and care given freely by Marianna Duce and her own family. I have no other words with which to express my deep gratitude to her but I hope she knows I will feel indebted to her for the rest of my life. There are so many other friends who I will not name but I hope I have at some point, or will at some point, communicate my deepest thanks to each of you and your families.
Philip Strickland and Peter O’Brien have cared for us through this last while in a way which offers a small glimpse into the hearts of two very special and dedicated men. Again, a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid but one which I hope I can communicate to them in some small way much dwarfed by their own compassionate response to us in a time of stress.
While it is I who have written these words, and delivered them, I cannot leave Roisin’s father out of this narrative as he has been so frequently disappeared from media and other reports of the loss of his own child. Trevor is a father to a babe he will never see grow up and two living children whom he cherishes deeply. Despite our separation last year, I know him to be an honourable, loving man with a deep commitment to family and hope he always remembers the love we shared as I know he will always carry in his heart the pain of the lost child for whom we both wished so dearly.
No words can ever do justice to the experience of losing a child. All we can do is form small sentences which go almost nowhere to touch the distress, the grief, the yearning, the slow turning pain. I feel grateful that I have been allowed to say some of these important things which live in the confines of my mind, my home, my family and my community but which are necessarily invisible to those more removed from our sphere. Thank you.Tweet