Tomorrow is my daughter Liberty’s fifth birthday.
Libby was stillborn on May 30, 2012, so as you can imagine it’s a trying time for the whole family as we reflect upon what might – what should – have been. It’s always been a day filled with sadness, but it’s also been a day filled with love.
We’ve had two little rainbow babies since Libby’s birth, Melody, who has just turned four, and Heather, who is 15 months old, so we’ve always tried to do something nice as a family to mark the occasion and make sure that our first born will never be forgotten.
It’s fair to say that the days after Libby’s death were extremely painful, and words can’t really do justice to what we felt in the days, months and years that followed. I suppose they never will.
But I’ll never forget the incredible support we were given from volunteers with one organisation in particular, namely Fife Sands. The charity does incredible work with parents whose babies are briefly known but forever loved, and my wife Lyndsey and I are forever indebted to them for their kindness, their help, and just generally being a listening ear when we needed them.
One thing we found particularly poignant was the group’s annual balloon release at Lochore Meadows Country Park, where mums and dads, grans and grandads, brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles could gather in the one place, write a message on a balloon and send it skywards. Like-minded people who could empathise and sympathise with each other’s situations came together to do something symbolic, something that was meaningful for them.
It was a simple act, but meant a helluva lot to all those concerned.
So it baffles me, nay infuriates me, to see Fife Sands have to change their plans this year due to Fife Council’s blanket ban on balloon releases and Chinese lanterns on council land.
This coming Sunday, rather than releasing balloons at their summer family day, those involved with Fife Sands will be commemorating their babies in a different way. All will be revealed on the day.
But while I appreciate the fact that balloons and lanterns were banned by killjoy councillors because of a perceived danger to wildlife and the environment, using a sledgehammer to crack a nut was the wrong thing to do.
By its very nature, the charity has always been a responsible one – and sourced biodegradable balloons with the environmental impact in mind.
Banning this particular balloon release, for me, was a bit extreme. One might even say insensitive.
Libby and all the other babies taken too soon will be remembered on Sunday. Just as they are every day.
But sadly Fife Council’s intervention in this instance won’t be forgotten either.