Family to pay tribute to those who helped them following heartbreaking loss of baby Charlie

John, Claire and Bobby, with one of the many pictures of Charlie they have around their home.
John, Claire and Bobby, with one of the many pictures of Charlie they have around their home.

A poignant event will be held this Saturday in memory of a very special little boy who was stillborn last year.

John Haire and his wife Claire Kent Haire were excited to meet their twin boys, Charlie and Bobby and understood all was well.

Heartbreakingly, after Claire went into labour at home at 31 weeks pregnant, it was found that baby Charlie had passed away.

When the boys were delivered on September 24, 2018, Bobby was also quite poorly and was transferred to the neo-natal unit, in what was a worrying and distressing time.

Claire, who herself is a midwife at Altnagelvin Hospital, and John told the ‘Journal’ how they experienced a wealth of emotions with the pain of losing Charlie and the joy but worry for Bobby. John described it as ‘like a dream or a nightmare; you wonder if you’re going to wake up.’

Claire added: “I went to hospital as I was in labour and I and didn’t really think more than that. We were then told that Charlie had passed away. I was delivered that day.”

It was a day of many emotions.

John said: “You’re so happy that Bobby is there, but then a split second later you’re thinking of Charlie. It’s hard to describe. It was like a nightmare, really. You don’t know what to feel. You keep thinking, is this a dream? Am I going to wake up?”

Bobby remained in the neo-natal unit for five weeks and his parents were ‘very scared’ for him.

But, John said he “came on leaps and bounds, like a miracle.”

During that time and after Charlie’s death, the couple were supported by a number of fantastic services and facilities. They were also helped greatly by the staff of neo-natal who were ‘unbelievable’ in their care of Bobby, who is now a healthy, beautiful 11-month old.

Claire and John were also immensely grateful to be able to avail of The Lavender Suite in Altnagelvin Hospital, which allowed them and their families to spend precious time with Charlie, for as long as they needed. Claire told how they were ‘protected in our own wee bubble.’

“The Lavender Suite is a special room in the hospital, where you can bring your baby when they pass away. You can have your family there and it has a wee kitchenette in it. You’re self contained and it meant so much to us to be able to spend that time with Charlie.”

John agreed: “You can have your baby with you as long as you want and your family can come as well. It has its own wee door, so no-one has to go in and out of the ward either.”

John and Claire were also supported by Cruse Bereavement Care, who provided counselling for the couple, which “really helped them work through their feelings.’

Claire said: “Our heads were in every direction and we needed a wee bit of something. We saw two different counsellors and my counsellor was amazing.”

“Mine was too,” added John.

“They really helped us work through our feelings.”

SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity)were also instrumental in providing practical support, such as arranging Charlie’s funeral. They also presented the couple with a memory box of Charlie, which are created by bereaved parents and which they treasure.

Claire said: “The memory boxes have got blankets and teddy bears and you take one teddy bear and your baby takes the other. They also have things for doing hand and footprints of your baby.

“Sands also have help lines you can phone and also hold a support meeting in the town on the first Tuesday of every month in the Waterfoot. We go every month and that’s our Charlie time.”

The couple were also grateful to ‘Remember My Baby,’ which arranged for a photographer to take priceless photographs of Charlie and Bobby.

John told: “We have lovely photos of the two boys together. When Bobby is bigger, we’ll be able to show him and tell him.”

Claire told how that, alongside with their family, friends and colleagues, they “definitely would never have got through” that time without The Lavender Suite, the neo-natal unit, Cruse, Sands and ‘Remember My Baby.’ This Saturday, in memory of Charlie, an afternoon tea charity event to raise funds for all of themwill take place in YMCA, Drumahoe, beginning at 2.30pm. There will be a raffle and auction, with over 30 prizes on the day, as well as lots of treats for the kids, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Everyone is very much welcome.

Claire said: “We just to give something back. We definitely would never have got through without all their help. My colleagues at work were fantastic and it was difficult for them, looking after a friend. The whole maternity unit is brilliant and the staff in the neo-natal unit are amazing, they work so hard.

Claire and John said Charlie very much remains part of their family and Bobby is told all about him. their home at Ivy Meads Court is decorated with precious pictures of Charlie and Bobby.

As Bobby grows, his parents understandably wonder what Charlie would have been like.

Claire said: “Charlie looked like his daddy. Bobby is a real mix of the two, but I’ve a feeling Charlie and Bobby were going to be really similar looking. You’re always wondering - who would have been doing something first like walking, or talking?”

John was also instrumental in setting up Sands FC Maiden City, along with ‘brilliant’ Western Trust Bereavement Midwife Melissa Crockett and Ronan Nelis, a football team for fathers and family members who have lost a baby. It has been a huge success and there are now 25 on the team. It’s not just for fathers, the team also has uncles and grandfathers.

John explained: “We were the first in Northern Ireland and there’s one in Belfast now too. We have our first game against them soon. We train every week and we do help each other. We have a chat or talk privately and then there are some who maybe don’t want to talk but being part of the team helps them. It’s not just for fathers. The whole family loses a baby.”

The team is cross-community and includes men who have experienced the loss of a baby in different circumstances and over different time frames.

John and Claire said that, as well as the services and units, they have also experienced ‘amazing’ support from their family and friends.

They hope as many people as possible will turn up at the event tomorrow.

A Just Givingpage has also been set up for donations to the charities. See justgiving/claire kent haire.