BBC NI reporter explains how daughter’s shock diagnosis inspired new career path
When Erinn Kerr became pregnant with her first child, she expected her to resume her career as a senior journalist at the BBC in Northern Ireland.
But just weeks after the birth of her daughter Ivy, Co Antrim’s wife’s world was turned upside down when she was told her seemingly healthy newborn had cystic fibrosis.
Erinn explained: âI went on maternity leave in September 2019 and I was planning to return to work in a year full time or at least four days a week, I did not even intend to to work part-time.
âThere aren’t a lot of good journalist jobs in Northern Ireland so I was very lucky I was a senior BBC reporter on the digital team and I was very lucky to have this working and it’s not something I would have given up or strayed easily.
“I think before you have kids you don’t really have a clue.”
After what Erinn described as a “lovely job and birth” bringing her daughter into the world on September 25, 2019, she and her husband Russell had “no idea” what they were going to face.
âIvy did the little heel prick test on the fifth day after she was born and she must have been about two weeks old and my husband was on her first day back from work and she was so upset. I was breastfeeding and I think they are using this as an excuse to explain that the babies are really unstable and that the health worker said it was only normal for them to be upset, to have very bad diapers and to feed a lot.
“But now we know, all the symptoms [for Cystic Fibrosis] were there if you had been an expert and knew what to look for, but I was just an exhausted new mom for the first time, so I had no idea.
“She wasn’t sleeping very well and that morning Russell went back to work and the nurse called me and asked if she could come. I had just put her to sleep and didn’t want to wake her up to sleep. come and undress her, weigh her and start all over again and I said she was just asleep and I needed to sleep so I asked if we could do it another time. ‘was not a regular date so I wasn’t expecting it, but the health visitor insisted they come and talk to me and I immediately thought it didn’t sound right, “Erinn added .
The following hours were blurry for the 31-year-old who said she couldn’t fully remember what was said, but remembers being handed the phone to speak to a consultant at the Hospital Royal Victoria.
“I don’t remember much, I don’t know if the consultant said Ivy had cystic fibrosis or she might have cystic fibrosis, but I remember she said ‘don’t worry not, she will go to a normal school ‘and I was just in shock, I didn’t know what to think.
“She told me not to go and Google anything and the health visitor asked if I could ask someone to sit with me so I called my husband and he was at work about two hours on the first day of his return and had to go straight home.
“We tried not to google and the consultant was awesome, she came down and sat on the sofa in my living room that night to make sure everything was ok, to talk to us about it and answer any the questions, I think because they really don’t want you to google it.
âIt was such a shock to the system that we really didn’t know where to turn,â Erinn added.
Despite Ivy’s diagnosis, the Glenariff native said she still planned to return to her journalistic career and planned to take care of her daughter.
“They told us it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to send her to regular daycare, but Russell’s mom was going to take care of her, so at this point I always thought about going back to work. after a year. “
But when the pandemic struck and the Kerr family were protecting themselves in an effort to do whatever they could to protect their daughter, Erinn found a creative side of herself that she had never known was. she had.
“I didn’t start making bracelets until February 2020, right before the pandemic hit and I honestly can’t tell you how I started doing it. I’m not inclined to make bracelets at all. things, so it was very strange. I just know I saw someone on Instagram wearing a bracelet from America and searched Etsy to find one to buy it and there was none and something happened in my head to make me go, you should try to make them.
“I’ve never done anything in my life, so I don’t even know how it happened, but it did.”
After starting it own Instagram account With encouragement from friend and influencer Anna who runs Blossoming Birds, Erinn was amazed at the demand for her handmade creations.
“Anna was telling me that I should start selling them and they would fly away and they did! During the pandemic we were protecting and I literally had nothing else today, I wasn’t even not allowed to go to the store because Ivy was protecting and at this point I thought if I went to the store to get some milk I would catch the coronavirus and bring it back to her and she could get really sick and die, that is how my mind worked at this point.
“It was just one thing after another with becoming a new mom, Ivy was diagnosed, Covid is happening, it all happened in about six months.”
Erinn, who now lives in Ballymena, said she had always planned to make her new creative outlet a hobby as she returned to her job at the BBC, but the thought of being away from her daughter beloved turned out too strong.
She told Be: “I was working on making the bracelets on Instagram and it was going really well and until a week before I went back to work, I still intended to go back and make the bracelets on. side. Then it hit me that I wasn’t going to be with her all the time and be there to do her physio and just be with her.
“And also because of the lockdown we were together the whole time so I just talked to my boss who was absolutely amazing and I was so upset I just said ‘I don’t think I can do this’ and I never expected the business to go as well as it did, I just expected it to be enough to keep me going for a little while. “
Erinn now plans to open her first premises in Broughshane for her company, Ivy Gold, and they currently have five employees.
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âI didn’t expect it to take off, it’s gone so well and we have so much support from local influencers and I’m taking each day as it comes, but it’s been going so well. just three days a week from home now and I’m with Ivy much more than if I had returned to work in journalism and was able to protect her by not having much contact with anyone. “
Ivy turned two in September and Erinn said she was doing “very well” and had also used her new business to raise awareness about the disease and fund charities.
âWe also have a blog where I tell people about the stories behind their bracelets and then we donate Â£ 100 every month to the charity that person chose. Last month we donated to the CF Trust because it was an awareness period. and I did an article the other day about how 1 in 20 people in Northern Ireland are carriers. I think in the rest of the UK it is one in 25, so it’s more common here because we apparently have a limited gene pool. We want to help continue to raise awareness as much as possible, “Erinn said.
You can find out more about Ivy Gold via their website.