“Speaking Olivia’s name honours her memory – it’s a reminder to the world that she existed, that her life mattered and that she will always be loved.”
When Olivia Grace was born, she looked just like her big sister, only much, much tinier. She was my third child, who we were so proud to call our daughter. Born at 23 weeks' gestation, Olivia’s heart beat for a full minute after she was born before she died in our arms.
It had been a harrowing few weeks up until the day of her birth. At our 20-week scan we’d been taken into a room and told she had bilateral multicystic dysplastic kidneys. Usually this just happens in one kidney and the other can compensate, but in Olivia’s case it was both kidneys. Without her kidneys functioning she couldn’t produce enough amniotic fluid for her lungs to fully develop. We were told the condition was incompatible with life, meaning there was no treatment that could fix the problem. We were shattered.
The choices we faced were pretty grim. I could continue the pregnancy and carry the baby to term, and she would die shortly afterwards. Or I could be induced and end the pregnancy. In the beginning I was sure I wanted to carry Olivia to term, but as the weeks went by things became much harder than I anticipated. I also had my two older children to think of and the impact that continuing the pregnancy would have on them. We decided to induce labour and meet our baby girl.
We spent three days in the hospital cuddling her. We were lucky enough to get photos of Olivia with all of our family who had come to meet her. I treasure those, and the other keepsakes we were able collect to remind us of the time we had together.
After Olivia died, I made a commitment to myself that I would honour her memory by speaking her name regularly.
I’m grateful that this year Say Their Name Day will provide a platform for me to publicly speak her name and tell people she was here.
At the time of losing Olivia, what I needed most from family and friends was practical and emotional support to get through the early days of grief. I needed to speak about my experience, I needed shoulders to cry on and arms to melt into. I needed patience from friends and family.
What makes the biggest difference now, six years on, is to have the opportunity to say Olivia’s name and to talk about her whenever I can. When family and friends acknowledge and celebrate Olivia’s birthday with us, for example, it shows me they understand that even though she is not with us, Olivia remains part of the fabric of our family.
My husband, Matt, and I will be lending our voices to the cause by downloading the free Say Their Name sign from the Say Their Name website, writing Olivia’s name on it, and posting a photo of the sign with the hashtag #saytheirname in the lead up to the Say Their Name Day on 25 March.
I think every small gesture, every hashtag and every time someone says their beloved child’s name, it helps to raise awareness of pregnancy, baby and child loss and helps to encourage families who are currently experiencing this feel less alone.
Hearing others speak Olivia’s name doesn’t make me upset, it makes me proud. Proud to be her mother and proud that others recognise the impact she had, and will always have, on our lives.
Say Their Name Day is on March 25 – a special day to remember all of the little lives we have loved and lost, and support bereaved families.