In 2003 my life changed forever.
Our first child Liam had been born successfully in 2002 and rather unexpectedly 3 months later we found out that we were expecting again.
On 13 April 2003 my wife Sian went into labour whilst I was out, and was taken in to a neighbour's house until the ambulance crew arrived. They attempted to deliver but clearly realised something was not right and rushed straight to the hospital, where I met Sian. It was here that we discovered that Ciara had no heart beat and I stood watching and supporting my wife, as she delivered our beautiful baby girl.
Ciara was a tiny princess with jet black hair. Unfortunately she had Edwards Syndrome, which is a chromosomal abnormality caused by the presence of all, or part of, an extra 18th chromosome. This had affected her internal organs.
It was at this point that we encountered the work of Sands indirectly, through the great work they do with healthcare professionals. They encouraged us to spend time with our daughter and we spent a number of precious hours holding her. We took a photo and foot/hand prints too.
Although the funeral arrangements are now a blur, everything was arranged for us.
The period that followed was tough. My own parents had also suffered a stillbirth and had never got to hold my brother or indeed have a funeral. People at that time did not know what to say and as a result it was difficult for them to talk to others about how they felt. We were fortunate that the support we got was fantastic. Talking about something as traumatic as stillbirth prevents storing unhelpful feelings inside and the potential risk of depression and other related problems.
In 2004 we were fortunate to find out that Sian was pregnant and after a stressful, worrying period were blessed with our daughter Niamh in early 2005. The support from the hospital was first class and the minute Niamh arrived, our emotions came flooding out!
Ciara's death has fueled me ever since. To coincide with my 40th birthday I decided to raise £40,000 for Sands by running 40 miles and cycling 40 miles throughout the year, entering various half marathons and 10ks. At this point I was 17st7lbs.
In the years that have followed we have continued to raise money through charity balls, cook books and numerous sporting challenges including a nonstop running relay from London to Glasgow! I'm now almost 7st lighter and have competed in 12 marathons throughout the world. My wife even completed her first marathon on Ciara's anniversary.
We constantly strive to raise awareness and have an annual event Ciara's Miles, encouraging people to do a mile for Ciara. No donation is required and this is largely awareness focused. In 2015 we encouraged people to do an act of kindness and changed to Ciara's Smiles!
We are delighted to support this year's "Walk a Mile in my Shoes" campaign, as part of Sands Awareness Month this June. Getting moving always makes you feel better.
To find out more about Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity visit www.uk-sands.org.
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