Dr Anne Tracey's new book on the 'invisible earthquake' of baby loss

Doctor Anne Tracey says her new book 'Stillbirth and Miscarriage, a Life-Changing Loss: Say My Baby's Name' is not one whose topic would be 'readily selected' from bookstores or ordered online.
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However, within this book are experiences that need to be told and conversations that need to be had surrounding the deeply emotive issue of baby loss.

Based on one-to-one interviews with five men and 27 women across the island of Ireland, it looks deeply and poignantly at what is one of the most devastating losses one can experience and its lifelong impact.

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"The very second you find out you're pregnant, the relationship with that wee baby begins,” said Dr Tracey, who has counselled with Foyle Cruse Bereavement Care, Foyle Hospice and lectured in the School of Psychology at Ulster University.

Doctor Anne Tracey.Doctor Anne Tracey.
Doctor Anne Tracey.

"The messages from the parents in this book are very, very powerful. And yes, while it is sad, it is also a book of love and hope."

Anne told how, from the moment she began interviewing the parents, she knew she'd 'move Heaven and earth to have this book written'.

"What they were telling me was so important - their stories, their experiences, and the need for their wee baby to be acknowledged and validated and for them to get an opportunity to say that and remember their baby. That is why I put the subtitle 'Say my baby's name,' because there were so many pleas from parents to others to acknowledge their baby and their presence in this world."

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While Anne wrote the book and the series editor is Dr Marie Murray, she said it belongs not just to her, but to all who told their story and who wanted to help other parents experiencing the same, unthinkable loss.

Dr Anne Tracey's new book is out now.Dr Anne Tracey's new book is out now.
Dr Anne Tracey's new book is out now.

Anne herself grew up knowing about the pain of losing a baby. Her mother and father were devastated when their son, Patrick, was stillborn at full-term. Her mother, who lost her own mother when she was just a little girl, lived with the 'weight' of loss and as Anne grew older and researched into areas of study, she looked at the impact of grief. Patrick was born in an era when grief and loss were not readily talked about, but ‘silently endured’.

Her first published work examined the psychological impact of daughters on the early loss of their mother.

The research and work was a long process, but Anne knew that a book of this nature was vital to support those who have experienced loss and those who will do so in the future.

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In the foreword, Dr Marie Murray says she was impressed by the ‘depth and wealth of information the book contained’.

"But more than that, I was moved by the stories. As I came to know the narrators, to hear their voices. to understand their pain and to appreciate the individuality of their accounts, my admiration grew.”

Along with testimonies from parents, there is also sections outlining parents’ experiences and dialogue with the healthcare system, and awareness for other parents, the general public and to religious organisations.

Each chapter is titled with a quote from a parent. They include: 'Something was wrong,' 'Why did my baby die?' 'The silence was deafening,’ ‘Men are not in the line of vision,’ a chapter on bereaved siblings and 'Honouring my child.'

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There is heartbreak, sadness, but also beauty and hope and one chapter is titled 'Finding a saviour.'

Anne said she hopes that anyone who picks up the book 'will feel helped, comforted and know they are not alone'.

"One of the things that occurs to me is that, if someone picks up this book, they have had a loss. Hopefully other people will read it, like health professionals and this is also a book for families, parents, friends and employers. For those who are struggling or suffering, I would hope that they would get something from the book to feel helped, supported and comforted in some way that they're not alone. That other people are willing to share their story, to support and help others and maybe also, there's a wee bit of healing there and some ideas of what you could maybe do to help you later. Some parents share how they have marked their baby's memory and maybe some of those ideas will help."

Anne told how a father described the loss of a baby as like 'an invisible earthquake' on one's life and she believes this is an accurate description.

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"It's huge and the experiences in this book are raw. But there is so much love there."

The cover of the book, she said, is gold, 'as there is gold in this book'.

"The powerful messages are gold and the light that it shines on miscarriage and stillbirth is gold."

Dr Tracey said the book is much more than ‘an informative text.’

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"It is a tribute to all those who died before birth, to their parents who yearned for them; who did what they could to keep them and who continue to honour, commemorate and remember them. The length of a life may be but a positive line on a pregnancy test, a fluttering in the womb, a moment, a heartbeat or a single breath, but it matters to those who loved them and the people they might have become.”

The book is available online on the site of its publishers, Cork University Press AT https://www.corkuniversitypress.com/. It was launched in Dublin in November and will be launched locally soon.

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