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Mum steps out to keep son’s memory alive

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Mum steps out to keep son's memory alive

SHONA Dalton should have been organising a tenth birthday party for her little boy. But instead she's doing a charity fundraiser in his memory after he was born sleeping a decade ago.

Since the tragedy in November 2010, Shona, from Annan, has worked hard to make sure her son, Cairn, is not forgotten and to raise awareness of stillbirth.

She said: “Cairn is such a big part of our family, he is spoken about every day. I do not hide the fact I have a son, if anyone asks how many children I have, I say three.

“I love to talk about him and the very precious time we had together.”

She was 34 weeks pregnant when events unfolded: “I’d been to a routine antenatal appointment where I heard a very healthy heartbeat, two days later he had died,” she recalled. “I had been experiencing reduced movement so I saw the midwife who sent me to Cresswell, where they confirmed there was no heartbeat: the words that will haunt me forever.”

Cairn was stillborn three days later after several hours of labour, weighing 5lb.

After a night in hospital, Shona was able to take him home for a short while. She said: “I’m so thankful I was able to do this as I didn’t know how I was going to walk through the hospital doors without my baby.

“I spent time with Cairn at home, looking back now I don’t know how I decided the moment I would say goodbye, less than 24 hours after meeting him. My whole body ached especially my arms and my heart, I couldn’t stop being sick, I thought I would never do anything normal again.”

She credits daughter Chloe, then aged eight, for giving her the strength to keep going every day afterwards, as well as the support of her ‘amazing’ friends and family.

However, Shona admits daily life was a struggle, saying: “I was frightened to take Chloe to school in case I saw someone with a pram. People would cross the street when they saw me. I couldn’t sleep, I just wanted my baby.

“I had very little awareness of stillbirth before this, I was very much in the mindset that once you were by 12 weeks you were in the safe zone, never did I think my baby would die six weeks before he was due. I had everything ready, his nursery, pram, I even had his bottles and bibs ready in the kitchen.”

A month later, she went to a Christmas candle lighting service organised by charity SANDS, then started attending support sessions and meeting other bereaved families.

And a conversation about her own experiences led to a new SANDS initiative whereby every affected family at Dumfries now gets a wee white coffin donated to them.

Nursery worker Shona said: “It helped to know I’d made a difference.”

She made another huge difference when she held a charity barn dance and raised over £6000 for them.

Five years ago Shona’s smile returned with the safe arrival of daughter Emmie, but her birth also brought lots of emotion with it.

She said: “You often hear people say just have another but that’s one of the worst things you could say to someone who has lost a child. Having another child will never replace the one you have lost.

“My ‘rainbow baby’ Emmie is now happy, healthy and a little character but my pregnancy with her was so hard. I was constantly worried and I was scared to buy anything or get excited, I just sat at home counting down the days.”

Emmie has grown up aware of her big brother and helps to mark his birthday on November 15 every year. They have had firework displays, lantern walks and beach picnics, but Shona’s favourite was random acts of kindness. She said: “Last year people donated food and I dropped it off at a local foodbank. I’d like to thank everyone who donated and supported me and the girls over the years, it is very much appreciated and it makes a hard day a little easier.”

For his tenth birthday this year, she is taking part in StepsForSands and is aiming to do 310,000 steps throughout October and has already raised £464.

Reflecting on what she has been through, Shona said: “Losing Cairn has changed me, I was angry that my little boy hadn’t been given the chance of life.

“I always say a piece of me died with him, but I’m also stronger and appreciate how precious life is.

“I hope he’s looking down on us and is proud of myself and his sisters and knows how much we miss him. Happy tenth birthday Cairn!”

  • Shona and her daughters are pictured at Cairn’s grave

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