A Donegal couple will be sharing their personal story of stillbirth in an upcoming documentary airing on TG4 on Wednesday 12th April.

Bernard and Charlotte McCauley

Saol Gearr – Short Lives is a documentary about the journey of parents and families through stillbirth and the work of the charity Féileacáin.

Charlotte and Bernard McCauley’s baby girl Rachael was born sleeping in 2013. The couple have dedicated their efforts to keeping Rachael’s memory alive and have been prominent campaigners to highlight the Féileacáin Stillborn and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland.

“Rachael was not going to be yet another stillbirth that would be forgotten,” said Charlotte.

In Saol Gearr – Short Lives, Charlotte and Bernard are filmed in Letterkenny, at home with their daughters and at baby Rachael’s grave. They are also shown attending the Feileacain Remembrance Service in Dublin.

There will be scenes of the couple opening their memory box containing little items of Rachael’s, as they discuss the impact of her death.

Young spirit

Filmmaker Donal Haughey told Donegal Woman how Charlotte and Bernard were the first couple he met through his research for the documentary. Charlotte is also the youngest mother to be featured out of the three couples.

“Charlotte is a very vocal supporter of Féileacáin and how other mums should be able to talk about their babies. She is so young and has a great spirit. She won’t let Rachael become another statistic,” Donal said.

“I was delighted to work with Charlotte and Bernard and I cannot praise them enough. I was a stranger to them going up to Donegal to do the research. From the get-go they were so welcoming with cups of tea for me. We’re both singing off the same hymn sheet – I wanted to make the programme and they wanted to talk about stillbirth,” he said.

Keeping memories alive

Charlotte explained how the memory of Rachael is keep strong in her family, which will be shown in the film.

“Our part in the documentary was basically showing that we discuss Rachael on a daily basis her sisters talk about her and she will always be part of our family. We wanted to stress that Féileacáin are there to help and no one needs to suffer in silence any more after the loss of a baby,” Charlotte told Donegal Woman.

“We discuss how Féileacáin have helped us grieve Rachael and how they have supported us through out emotionally in coming to terms with losing her,” she said.

Saol Gearr – Short Lives explores how, for parents and families, the experience of stillbirth is one of pain, sadness and deep loss.

Forgotten infants

Donal was inspired to make the documentary after his previous film about Oilean na Marbh (Island of the Dead), off the west coast of Donegal. The film focused on the many stillborn and unbaptised infants who lie in unmarked graves in children’s burial grounds, or Cillins, across Donegal and the rest of Ireland.

For generations stillborn babies were cloaked in a veil of silence by a society that found it difficult and discomforting to deal with stillbirths, who, were often, not officially documented or recognised.

Feileacain chairperson Mairie Cregan features in both Oilean na Marbh and Saol Gearr. The charity Féileacáin (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland) has been to the fore in bringing the issue of stillbirth out of the shadows.

A voice to grief

Through its support network and remembrance services it has allowed parents give voice to their grief, their bereavement and in doing so have ensured that their stillborn children will not be forgotten.

Saol Gearr is the first documentary of its kind in Ireland which explores the personal stories of parents who experienced stillbirth. It is an emotional journey of parents and families through the experience of stillbirth and how, through memory boxes, bereavement photography and cuddle cots, the presence and memories of their stillborn babies, live on.

“You can’t but be moved by this,” Haughey said.

“Saol Gearr – Short Lives” airs on Wednesday 12th April at 8.30pm, on T.G 4