Subscriber OnlyYour Family

Sinéad Hussey: ‘We treat miscarriages as a blip or something that’s easily forgotten’

Parenting in My Shoes: RTÉ journalist says she will always remember the babies that didn’t make it because remembering them keeps them close

It was only when some of Sinéad Hussey’s friends started to have children that Sinéad felt she had “better get moving”.

“I wasn’t one of those people who had a plan for how many kids I wanted,” says the midlands correspondent with RTÉ. “I just wanted kids.”

Sinéad was 34 when her daughter Aoibhín was born. “I had two miscarriages before I had Aoibhín,” she says.

“I was younger and I felt like I had so much time on my side. My mam had a miscarriage and had told us about it. And I just assumed that this is one of these things that happen and I wasn’t worried.

READ MORE

“Aoibhin was born in September, 2017 – 10lb 1oz and we were delighted. We were so, so happy. It was the best day of my life. Sinéad enjoyed attending mother and baby groups, swimming and music with her baby daughter, but admits she missed work. “I missed that network. Maternity leave, while it’s enjoyable, it can be very lonely. It’s very isolating when people are not in that same space as you. Your phone goes dead, literally overnight, because people are busy with their lives.”

Sinéad returned to work after maternity leave, but as time went by and Aoibhín became aware that other friends had siblings, Sinéad and her husband decided to have another child. “I assumed that when I wanted to have a second baby, there would be no issues. And I think that’s probably the hardest part. It took me completely by surprise that this could happen,” Sinéad says, referring to her difficulty in having a second child. “January 2021 was the start of what happened to be a very long road. I think if I thought then what was ahead of me, I’m not sure I would have been able for it.”

Sinéad’s third miscarriage happened in July 2021. Pandemic restrictions on hospital visits were still in place. “I went to the scan on my own. Brendan thought he’d sit in the car and wait outside and I was, ‘no it’s fine – I’ll be grand’.”

Sinéad’s mum travelled with her and waited in the car.

“One of my standout memories from that day is, when I got bad news, I just walked out, and it was a July day, but it was actually quite cold, and you’re standing facing Merrion Square, and the wind was blowing. And I just didn’t know where to go, or what to do and I couldn’t get to the car quick enough. I couldn’t even pick up the phone to tell Brendan what was going on.”

I knew I was changed as a person. I knew that my interactions with people were different’

Sinéad tried to console herself, as she had done the first two times she had miscarried, that this was “one of those things”, and she planned to try again when she had recovered.

In December of that year, Sinead miscarried again. “I think it was the 22nd of December and I had to just get on with it. I remember getting ready for Christmas and having to put it all behind you and put on a brave face for the world.”

Sinead tried again but miscarried twice more. “Sometimes, people say things like ‘at least you have a child, all is not lost’,” she says. “But when you’re in that zone and you’re desperately trying for a sibling for your child, it’s very difficult. And hearing those words ‘there is no heartbeat’ or ‘the heartbeat is very slow’ ... ”

In addition to the grief, Sinéad explains her life was put on hold as she held out hope for a successful pregnancy. “For the past three years or so I’ve either been pregnant, miscarrying or recovering from a miscarriage. It’s just been a never-ending circuit of putting your life on hold. You’re wondering, ‘will I book that holiday because maybe I might be pregnant. Or maybe I shouldn’t because I don’t want to be flying.’ And everywhere you turn then, when you’re in that zone, everyone seems to be pregnant and everyone seems to be moving on with their lives.”

Sinéad says she found it difficult when anyone she knew became pregnant. “That used to eat me up inside. That sort of, ‘why can’t I be happy for them’? But it wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for them, I was just so sad for myself. I was so sad for Aoibhín. I felt like I couldn’t give her what she wanted, and what I wanted for her.

“There was one day when we were coming back after school and she was in the back of the car and she was saying to me how she was so upset, and I said ‘why’? She said all my other friends had two photographs taken and I only had one ... because they all have brothers and sisters. She didn’t even realise the impact of what she was saying.

“I remember pulling into the driveway and trying to fight the tears because I just felt so bad for her,” Sinéad says, becoming emotional at the memory. “There were so many times that she would ask, ‘when can I get a brother or a sister as if I could walk into a shop and pick one up’. I’d try to explain as she got a little bit older, when she was four or five, that I’m trying. And then she used to say to me, ‘will we just ask Holy God for one’.”

While caught in the cycle of recurrent miscarriage, Sinéad said she was conscious of trying not to let her daughter’s childhood “pass you by”. She also knew what she was going through was having a huge impact on her. “I knew I was changed as a person. I knew that my interactions with people were different. I knew I had retreated back from going out to places. I just wasn’t myself and how could I be when all of this was going on?

‘I had myself convinced by even going into the baby clothes section of a shop that ... somehow I was going to jinx it all’

“I was very difficult to be around. I was just very sad, resentful, jealous. All these horrible ugly feelings you don’t want to feel, but you do and then you feel absolutely terrible for feeling them. It’s like this vicious circle of you’re out, you see someone’s pregnant, you’re very angry, resentful and then you feel terrible for feeling that way. It’s horrible.”

Sinéad says it was difficult for her husband too. “He didn’t know what to be doing and I think he could see what I was going through and often wondered if it was time to say, ‘stop. Let’s just forget about this. It’s not worth it. But I don’t like to stop.

“I started telling people what was going on because I felt like I needed to explain myself – why I was so sad. And, sometimes, people don’t know what to say and don’t know how to react. They mightn’t say anything at all and, sometimes, they can come out with what is a well meaning comment, but can be very hurtful, like ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’, or ‘at least you have one child’, and that can really cut you like a knife.”

And then you wonder if your reaction is proportionate, she says. “You feel, ‘am I overreacting? Am I making a big deal out of this.’ You’ve nothing. You might have a scan picture. You might have a pregnancy test stick, but you don’t have anything else. And you just don’t know what to do or where to channel that grief.”

But she also found huge comfort in the kindness of friends, colleagues and medical staff who supported her through such difficult times.

Sinéad became preoccupied with having a baby before she turned 40, but says her consultant told her to stop putting that pressure on herself. She had tests carried out which didn’t reveal any issues. She was told to make contact with her consultant if she hadn’t become pregnant within six months. In April, 2023, Sinéad became pregnant again.

She was monitored constantly throughout her pregnancy. “Every week for the 40 weeks I was pregnant with Darragh, I thought that I was going to lose the baby. I’d be terrified to see blood every time I went to the toilet and right up until Darragh’s first cry and he was placed on my chest I never believed he would make it.

“I never bought any clothes for him up until about a week or two before he was born. I had myself convinced by even going into the baby clothes section of a shop that I was letting myself believe this was going to happen and that somehow I was going to jinx it all. And I don’t think I realised how heavy the fear was until it lifted, when Darragh was born. I was just in fight or flight mode until he was in my arms.

‘I think as a society we treat miscarriages as a blip or something that’s easily forgotten, particularly when someone goes on to have another baby, but, for me, it’s changed me’

“Even the night before I had him, I spent most of the night crying because I was just so afraid something was going to go awfully wrong. That’s what happens with pregnancy loss. You lose confidence in everything, in yourself more so than anything. You feel like your body has failed you. It feels like it won’t work out because when you’re on the wrong side of statistics a couple of times, a lot of that hope is gone. And a lot of that innocence is gone.

“Darragh arrived on the 2nd of January.” Her immediate feeling was “relief”.

“I couldn’t believe that he was actually here. It was very emotional,” she continues, describing a phone call to tell Aoibhín to tell her brother had arrived, and a visit from her dad who told her, “he was worth the wait”.

Five months on and Sinéad says she’s doing well, but concedes, “there’s an awful lot to process over the last three years. A lot of trauma and I’m still trying to process it. There’s a lot of emotion that’s still there and I try to validate everything that I feel. There’s days that it’s still overwhelming and I wonder about all those other little babies. My heart breaks for anyone who’s going through it. I still follow different miscarriage forums and I suppose it’s always going to be part of me now. People think it’s all over when you have the baby at the end of the journey.”

Sinéad has explained to Aoibhín, in an age-appropriate way, about her miscarriages. “She accepts that there’s babies in the sky that we have, but they’re not here,” she says. “In my eyes, these babies existed and she’s entitled to know that too.

“I think as a society we treat miscarriages as a blip or something that’s easily forgotten, particularly when someone goes on to have another baby, but, for me, it’s changed me. I’m definitely a more grateful parent because of what happened. But I am infinitely a more anxious one.”

She says it has “opened my eyes to a lot of things. I love my job, but my family are the most important thing to me. And the people that were there for me when this was happening. It’s also made me realise that we’ve very, very fortunate to be in the position we’re in. Darragh has healed some of the pain, but I’ll always remember the babies that didn’t make it. I’ll always remember their due dates because remembering them means I can keep them close to me.”

Sinéad is very conscious of the pressure to get back to normal after giving birth and is trying not to be too hard on herself. She has returned to running. “it’s something I used to absolutely love doing. I never got back into it after Aoibhín was born, and then for the last few years I’ve been saying, ‘I’m not going to now because I’m pregnant or I’m miscarrying’. That’s given me confidence again in my body. No matter how slow I’m moving, I keep saying to myself, ‘well aren’t you great’?”

She’s also loving life as a mother of two. “I was so uptight during his pregnancy I thought he’d be very anxious baby, or that I’d pass it all on to him, but he’s absolutely a dream child. It’s amazing how I can’t imagine him not being in our lives now.”

She’s also enjoying the experience of raising a boy too as she comes from a family of all girls. “For me, it’s a complete novelty because there were never any boys in our house growing up.”

Though the road to having her family was difficult, motherhood has brought many highs too. One of note for Sinéad is hearing from Aoibhín’s school principal and teachers about her daughter’s sociable and kind nature. “I cry during parent-teacher meetings,” she says, laughing. “And her meeting Darragh for the first time was the most magical moment.

“It’s a moment that I’d been dreaming of, and it was a moment in my head that I just kept focusing on that one day it will happen.”

Parenting in My Shoes

Read More

Recommended