Tiny Footprints

Tiny Footprints is available to buy from our website shop. All proceeds go directly to the charity.

What is “Tiny Footprints” about?

The book is about the journey of 80 families from around Ireland who have had a premature baby or babies. Each story recounts very vividly the rollercoaster of events that ensues when a baby arrives before it’s time. Each story epitomizes the difficulties faced by ordinary parents who find themselves thrown into the unfamiliar, frightening and highly medicalised world of Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU’s).

Who worked on the book ?

The Chairperson of Irish Premature Babies, Allison Fegan Molloy together with Sarah Murphy, Tara Mackin and Liz Lewis from the fundraising team of the charity. None of us had experience with writing or compiling a book so it was definitely a learning curve for all those involved. It took months of really hard work putting this together, bearing in mind the charity is voluntary and we all have jobs outside the charity. We gave up six months of our free time for the book. When the book was formatted, we got the assistance of a professional proof reader, Elizabeth Hudson from the Little Red Pen publishing service to guide us on specific issues pertaining to overall representation.

How was the book put together ?

The eighty parents who offered to submit their story for inclusion in the book were asked to write their experience and submit photographs that they deemed were appropriate to compliment the story. Some parents found that writing their stories was such a traumatic experience that Sarah and Allison took the story down verbally and transcribed it. Once the stories were submitted, they were edited and reviewed several times by the book team and sent back to the parents to ensure that they were satisfied with any edits that were made.

What was the inspiration behind “Tiny Footprints”?

Since Irish Premature Babies inception in 2009, members of the charity have met some absolutely wonderful parents of premature babies and have heard some truly inspirational and positive stories about the tiniest babies overcoming the most arduous beginnings in this world. The book team felt that these amazing stories don’t often get told in the public domain but felt it was so important that these stories should be highlighted. So we set about getting these extraordinary stories out there, so that we could give people a true insight into what 4500 families in Ireland face every year. Having a premature baby can be life changing for many parents not just while the baby is in the hospital but for the months and years ahead. We feel that a book like Tiny Footprints is a perfect tool for creating awareness and for highlighting the reality of what having a premature baby really means. Similarly, parents who have sadly experienced a neonatal death were keen to submit their very personal and private experience and bring into the open the topic of neonatal death which sadly affects hundreds of parents every year.

What is the purpose or objective of “Tiny Footprints”?

Creating awareness is one of the key reasons for publishing a book like this. Having a premature baby can be a lonely experience, parents can be shut away in the hospital for weeks or months and this can be isolating for the family. But by reading a book like this, we hope that it will show new parents of premature babies that you are not alone, even if at times it feels like it and that so many people understand and have been through the NICU journey. As far as our research has shown, there does not seem to be book of this size ever published (on the subject of prematurity in Ireland?) and it is rewarding after months of challenging work to know that we have worked on unique project. From the charity’s perspective, we hope that the book will reap financial benefits. Everybody in the charity is voluntary so similarly the book team worked on this project for free. Our proof reader Elizabeth kindly donated all her professional time to the charity, for which we are very grateful, as did our photographer Ger Dunne and graphic designer Joan Carty. As we are self publishing and self promoting, we only have the printing charges for the book. All the funding from this book will go directly towards helping to buy parental accommodation in Dublin for parents. Every year hundreds of the countries tiniest and sickest babies will be transferred up to one of the Dublin Neonatal Intensive Care Units based in the Rotunda Hospital, Holles Street Hospital or the Coombe Hospital for specialised treatment. Some of these babies can spend weeks and months in Dublin, during this time parents have nowhere to stay and are forced to stay in private accommodation if they can afford to ( which many cannot during this difficult economic time). Others are forced to sleep on floors, stay in cars or stay separated from their baby. For a family already under huge emotional stress, the added complication of where to sleep at night is a burden these families don’t need.

"Tiny Footprints is both joyous and moving, at once a profound record of every new parent's nightmare and a testament to hope, strength and the indomitability of the human spirit."....................JohnConnolly

"Inspiring stories of hope for any family dealing with premature birth"......... Sheila O'Flanagan

“A moving and inspiring collection of stories that will at times break your heart but will also inspire when you see the resilience of the human spirit especially at such a tiny age. This book will fill your heart” ……………Cecila Ahern

Three Extracts from the book

" Ben Curran Merrigan born at 25 weeks

On October 11th Ben was born in Holles Street Hospital in Dublin by emergency caesarean section due to pre-eclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy associated with significant elevations of protein in the urine). He was born at twenty five weeks weighing 0.45 kgs (1lb) Due to his low weight we weren’t given much hope for Ben. We were told if he is pink and cries we will do everything for him but if not there wasn’t much they could do. Our little angel came out pink and filled the room with his cry.

I didn’t get to see Ben when he was born but his Dad met him for a brief second before he was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Ben was born weighing less than a pound. He had a lot of challenges ahead of him. It was two days before I met my little angel and going into the NICU was such a terrifying experience. I didn’t know what to expect .By day three Ben’s weight had dropped to 390grams (12ozs), he was so small and fragile, I was afraid to even touch him. His skin was so thin you could see right through it. We always tried to be brave and smile and stay positive for Ben. He was three weeks old the first time I held him. When the nurse suggested kangaroo care (skin to skin contact with parent and baby) I was so excited yet terrified. I was afraid to move in the chair with all the cables and tubes attached to Ben, but it was such an amazing feeling holding him for the first time and having skin to skin contact. I craved for mother and baby bonding time and jumped at every opportunity I got to hold him.

While in the NICU Ben had a lot of ups and downs .On more than one occasion, we thought we could lose him but from day one he was a fighter. While Ben was in Holles Street Hospital, he had a Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and was treated for Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) three times. He had jaundice, two hernia operations, chronic lung disease, stage three retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) for which he had laser eye surgery, over twenty blood transfusions and several platelet transfusions"

"Cillian Fegan born at 30 weeks and Oisin Fegan at 31 weeks.

Did you ever get that gut feeling that things are not going the way you imagined? That’s how I felt on my first viable pregnancy after miscarriages. Fourteen weeks of a threatened miscarriage and high blood pressure did nothing to alleviate that niggling feeling. At twenty eight weeks, birth looked imminent but he held on somehow for another two weeks when a haemorrhage broke my waters, triggering labour. Cillian was a Caesarean birth after twenty odd hours in labour. At least I did not miss that joy. At thirty weeks gestation he needed to go into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The first time I saw Cillian, he was on assisted breathing with wires everywhere, had shades on his eyes, was hairy with Lunago, and a nappy on up to his neck. He had the usual litany of premature issues – dropping heart rate, apnea (forgetting to breathe all the time), dreadful feeder, Jaundice and was not much more than skin & bone. Six weeks of life skills learning and he received an honourable discharge.

At thirteen weeks, our little man needed to have an inguinal hernia operated on. A couple of days after his release from hospital he became unwell but A&E assured us that it was a virus that might get a little worse. However, less than twenty four hours later, he was being resuscitated in A&E having contracted Bacterial Meningitis. We spent the most difficult six weeks of our lives in an isolation room at the hospital watching our baby being given many different types of drugs to kill this infection before it killed him. The medication caused his body and face to swell up and he was so sick, his skin was the same colour as a typical Irish day-grey. All his hair was shaved and all his veins had collapsed"

Ruairí Craig (born at 25 weeks)

On Wednesday, 8 October, at 9.38 p.m., Ruairí was born in Mayo General Hospital. He was born at week 25 of pregnancy, weighing 0.81 kg (1 lb 13 oz). Ruairí’s prognosis at birth wasn’t good: the doctors worked on him for 20 minutes without a sustained response. We thought that he would not survive his early arrival as he would only take a single gasp of breath every five minutes and his heart rate was only 24. The nurses dressed Ruairí in a tiny blue Babygro and a woollen blue hat. My baby boy appeared so perfect but seemed so lifeless. Ruairí’s dad and I, along with his grandparents and auntie, were left alone for what we thought would be the last few minutes of his life. After some time, Ruairí began to take more frequent gasps, and from that point onward everything changed. The doctors took Ruairí back into the SCBU where he then only required 50 per cent oxygen and was put on BiPAP. The doctors observed Ruairí overnight, and, like most parents of a premature baby, we could only look ahead an hour at a time.

The next day, Ruairí was transferred to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. The neonatal transport team came from Dublin to transfer him. It took four hours to prepare him as he had to be ventilated for the trip. The doctor and nurse who came to collect him had to observe him and ensure he was stable enough to travel. After all the checks, Ruairí was ready for the journey.

The nurse rang when they reached Dublin. Ruairí was settled, and everything was going well so far. The following Sunday my mother and I went to see him. We were so amazed at this tiny bundle who had fought so hard and who was continuously fighting to make it through. The next evening we were advised to come to the hospital as Ruairí was very ill with an infection and his outcome was uncertain. Ruairí’s infection, which he had contracted in utero, and which had resulted in his premature birth, was deemed very serious. The following two weeks were almost unbearable. Ruairí was put on high ventilation as he had stopped breathing yet again. He required a blood transfusion, and his kidneys appeared to be failing as he hadn’t passed any urine.


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