Countless empty arms, countless grieving wombs…

As a Church of Ireland parent of a stillborn, I was shocked to read of the shameful stillborn burial practices in Catholic Ireland. Those poor children were “outside the Pale” in abstract church doctrine, and were not “allowed” graveyard burials. Instead these sad stillborns were secretly buried near rivers and beaches, without priestly ministration or any succour…


Hear that hammer hitting, nailing down your sorrow,

your still born baby silent, your heavy heart unhallowed,

motherhood murdered, O cruel, poisoned arrow.


O un-baptised baby with such indifferent eyes,

such plaintive questions, kissed tenderly goodbye;

creation heaves, your heavenly Father cries.


Guardian angels quietly watch and deeply weep,

secret graves stubborn spades dig deep,

keening midnight mothers refuse to sleep.


Accursed limbo lies! sad Cillini plots moan,

parental pain observed by silent sentinel stones,

sand pitifully exposes scattered baby bones….


Countless empty arms, countless grieving wombs

there’s no human hope to fill such a vacuum,

stillborn babies wait beyond this hopeless gloom.


Not ‘unknown souls’, as clergy wrongly claimed,

all your hairs are numbered, you are newly named,

loved by the heavenly Father, freed from such shame.


illustrations by

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