This is my Mother in Law’s apple tart. It’s Conor’s Daddy’s absolute favourite. No other apple tart comes close, such is his loyalty to his mother’s. For this reason I would never attempt to make it. This tart has been made by generations of Irish mothers. I have memories of it from visiting elderly relatives during my childhood summers in Ireland. It is always baked on a dinner plate. No one seems to follow a recipe. The pastry is prepared by look and touch. The tart is ready when it looks cooked. It all sounds so simple. It’s miles away from my generation’s approach to baking with ingredients carefully weighed out on digital scales. Tarts have changed and we now have a year round supply of alternative fruits and additional ingredients at our disposal.
The approach to baby loss has changed over the years too. My mother’s friend lost her first baby over 40 years ago. She knows she had a little girl but did not get to see or even name her. She has only recently found out where she was buried. Since Conor died I have heard of other babies lost within our families. My mother’s Aunt & Uncle lost a baby through a full term stillbirth. My mother does not know if they even knew if it was a boy or a girl. After giving birth the mother was told to say a “decade of the rosary” and forget about her baby. Conor’s Daddy learnt of an uncle Seamus who died of a cot death aged 3 months (with 11 surviving siblings inc his favourite Apple Tart baker). We also learnt that Conor’s Irish Grandad had a sister (1 girl among 11 brothers!) who was stillborn. He cannot recall her name.
We knew that Conor had died just prior to his birth. On “bad news day” we learned that I would be induced and would give birth naturally. The term “Labour Pains” is well known but the physical pain did not come close to the mental torture of knowing that we could not bring our baby back to life. Before Conor was born we were given information about creating precious memories with our baby. We were given a memory box supplied by an Irish charity. This is now one of our most treasured possessions. Initially the thought of taking photographs was frightening but I am so glad we did. At 10.31am on 10th August 2014 we got to see our little boy for the first time. He was 7lb 9 1/2 oz of perfection. It was both the proudest and saddest moment of my whole life. We got to hold him, name him, wash and dress him. We spent over 24 hours with Conor in the room with us in hospital. He was visited by grandparents, Aunts & Uncles. We met some of the kindest hospital staff inc midwives, doctors, a chaplain, bereavement and household staff. People spoke to us about our baby, they told us how handsome he was (like his Daddy) and were not afraid of our grief. There are no rules for a baby’s funeral and we were given choices. We opted for a small service in the hospital chapel followed by a burial at a beautiful graveyard north of Dublin.
I would like to thank the generations of Apple Tart making mothers (and Apple Tart eating fathers) who have worked to change how hospitals, the church and society handle baby loss. Without them our baby boy would have no name, we would not have such treasured memories and would not have been able to bury Conor in a place of our choosing. Conor existed and kicked for 41 weeks. Its by telling our story that I hope to heal my broken heart. 1/200 babies dies before/during/shortly after birth. 1/200 families leave hospital by the back door with coffins instead of car seats. There is no word for a grieving parent (like “orphan” or “widow”). I believe its our generation who can continue the work through the use of social media to give a voice to our babies and their bereaved parents. My hope is that all babies lost are remembered.