Having lost her two-year-old daughter Aimee a day after being given her newborn to hold in her arms, Jacqueline Abela Degiovanni tells Simonne Pace that every day is a blessing.

Motherhood will never be the same for Jacqueline Abela Degiovanni, whose two-year-old daughter Aimee passed away a day after her baby sister Niamh was born. Mother and daughter were a few rooms apart in the same hospital.

God picked a beautiful flower whois now an angel in heaven. I have faith in Him... Niamh and my husbandgave me a second chance to live

The young mother recalls painfully how her husband frantically ran to her room telling her that Aimee had stopped breathing.

The distraught mother describes how she rushed to her daughter’s side, praying to God not to take her little girl away as doctors tried to resuscitate Aimee. The girl had been admitted to hospital because she was vomiting and had to be put on a drip.

“I prayed so much. My dad was near me and was praying too. He kept saying: ‘Take me instead of her…’ These words keep echoing,” she mutters, wiping off the tears.

Aimee’s death in February last year has left a gaping wound in her mother’s heart. However, after such a difficult time, Ms Abela Degiovanni is slowly regaining control of her life both for the sake of her living daughter, who is now walking and starting to talk, and her extremely supportivehusband Carlo.

Having always worked with children, Aimee’s mother has also set up her own organisation called Hand In Hand, to help children with special needs through early intervention and play therapy.

“I am doing it more from the heart now more than ever, because I can understand better suffering parents,” she explains.

Aimee’s family is still in total shock and trying to get to grips with the tragedy that has hit them. The healthy toddler’s sudden and unexpected death has turned their lives upside down and changed their outlook on life completely.

The biggest pain for Aimee’s mother is that her two daughters never met.

“Aimee had seen her sister Niamh on ultrasound scans. I was on the phone with Aimee the night Niamh was born. She told me she loved her baby sister, even though she hadn’t yet seen her.”

For Aimee’s mother, the day she was discharged from hospital was the “biggest heartache”.

“Leaving with Niamh and leaving Aimee behind was horrible. My husband carried Niamh, as I walked along the corridor towards no destination. I was so blanked out. Another hurdle was having to go home and face Aimee’s toys, her room, her pictures.”

But Aimee’s dad is full of positiveness: “Since Aimee smiled a lot, this filled me with courage, knowing that our daughter never wanted to see us so miserable. She is in a better place,” he smiles.

Following Aimee’s death, her mother’s feeling was that she did not want to live.

“I did not want to get out of bed in the morning: I refused to take care of my little girl and held her just for a few moments. If it wasn’t for my husband, I would have never made it,” she admits.

“Aimee’s funeral was horrendous. Burying your child is unexplainable. I was so angry at God. I didn’t even want to walk intochurch. Seeing the tiny, white coffinand knowing my daughter was in it was just too much.”

Despite having Niamh, it took Aimee’s mother a long while to snap out of a rut of pain and denial after her daughter’s death. She wanted Aimee back and without her she was ready to end her life.

“A parent never thinks their child can die before them. Now I am more aware that there are mothers suffering because their children are dying. I still fight with God, but I have more faith now and I thank Him for what I have.”

Plucking up the courage even though it was very difficult, Aimee’s mother woke up one morning and went off to work.

“Working with children was the hardest thing to do but I could not just quit as I knew a lot of children and parents needed my help.”

She would see children and would cry uncontrollably in public. She would make an effort to take her daughter to the beach and would pack up and leave soon after she arrived.

“People stared at me. They obviously had no idea what I was going through. It was a slow and painful recovery and Aimee will always be part of us even though she is not physically here with us and I still miss her like crazy, but my other daughter needs a mother.”

Last Mother’s Day, Aimee’s mother couldn’t find it in her heart to celebrate. This year she will do her best. She simply wants to spend the day in the company of her daughter and husband.

She doesn’t think about suicide any more. “Life is precious. There is life after a hurricane.”

She is convinced the pain will never subside because “you will only miss your child more. But the suffering will heal slightly as you learn to live better. God picked a beautiful flower who is now an angel in heaven. I have faith in Him because He knows what He is doing. Niamh and my husband gave me a second chance to live.”

Jacqueline Abela Degiovanni is a dedicated early years specialist and play therapist who wanted to share her story to help encourage, inspire and empower other mothers who might be suffering. Share your stories with her at handinhand.mlt@gmail.com.

If you’re sad, lonely or cannot cope, call Crisis Resolution Malta on 9933 9966 or e-mail crisismalta@gmail.com. This organisation offers immediate care when you need it most.

The health and family service at Appoġġ also offers support to families going through a difficult time in their lives. Call 2295 9000.