Sunday, September 02, 2007

Family's Hope after a series of baby tragedies

Sep 2 2007 - MIRACLE baby Jessica Waby’s middle name says everything about her journey into the world – Hope.

Her loving parents Sarah and Stephen Waby thought they would never smile again after the death of their baby son Thomas and three devastating miscarriages.

But after four years of heartache, the couple’s dreams of having a family have finally become reality with the arrival of their beautiful baby girl.

“Our gorgeous girl was born in March, healthy and strong. That was the moment Stephen and I truly smiled for the first time in five years,” said Sarah, 35, from Llansamlet, Swansea.

“We’ve been blessed. Now we have her whole life to look forward to.”

The couple were left devastated by the death of Thomas in 2002 from a rare heart condition.

“The moment he was born I fell in love with him – with his sweetness, the softness of his blond hair,” said Sarah.

“But the next day, he turned blue. His heart was deformed – it had no separate chambers, as well as two holes and a murmur.”

Only 11 days after his birth, Thomas had open-heart surgery to improve his blood flow. But corrective surgery, to make separate chambers, couldn’t be done until he was three.

When he was just 19 months old, his condition took a turn for the worse.

“Our son was like any other baby – except he was breathless. He cuddled toys, chuckled at the TV. Then, at 19 months, his heart started failing. I found him gasping in his cot, whining in pain,” said Sarah.

“We rushed him to Singleton Hospital. His heart stopped beating in A&E. Seeing the crash team trying to resuscitate him felt like a terrible dream. Stephen began screaming. We’d lost our beautiful baby boy.”

Desperate for another baby, Sarah and Stephen, 43, who works at Days Truck Centre in Plasmarl, were overjoyed when Sarah fell pregnant the following year. But more tragedy was to follow when she had a miscarriage.

“In the next months we existed in a haze of grief, not really living. I became depressed and it put a great strain on our relationship. A year later, when I was 30, I fell pregnant again. But the 10-week scan showed the baby had died,” said Sarah.

“When the same thing happened the next year, Stephen said ‘Let’s stop trying’.”

But Sarah refused to give up hope, thanks to the memories of her brave little boy.

“I found an inner strength from my memories of Thomas – through his hardest times, he’d never stopped smiling. So I had to keep going,” she said.

Sarah was referred to a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. He told her high levels of “killer” cells in her body during pregnancy were attacking her babies as if they were a disease, causing her to miscarry.

“My body saw a foetus as an alien invader and attacked it. It made me feel guilty, like it was my fault,” she said.

“He couldn’t say if the cells had caused Thomas’ condition. But treatment was possible – steroids to quell my immune system.

“A month later, I was pregnant again. But the steroids hadn’t had time to work so I miscarried early. I’d been lurching from one pregnancy to the next and we decided we’d wait a while before trying again.”

When she found out she was pregnant again 18 months later, Sarah’s joy was mixed with dread at the possibility of losing yet another baby.

“I can still feel the sense of urgency at that first scan, waiting to see if there was a problem. But everything was fine. I couldn’t wait to hold her in my arms,” said Sarah.

“I was weaned off the steroids at 16 weeks, monitored and reassured nothing was abnormal in the scans.”

Jessica was born by caesarian section at Singleton Hospital on March 23, weighing a healthy 7lb 4oz. At last, the couple’s pain had turned to joy.

“We were both absolutely ecstatic,” said Sarah, who has taken a year’s maternity leave from her job in HSBC’s customer service centre to spend every waking moment with her precious daughter.

“She had been talked about for so long,” said Sarah. “Deep down I knew we would have another baby one day. That’s why we gave her Hope as a middle name – without hope it would have been impossible. Stephen and I were meant to be together so we could help each other through this.

“We are lucky that we have had a baby boy and a baby girl. Jessica hasn’t replaced Thomas – even though she doesn’t understand yet, we always talk to her about her older brother. We will always have two children. And I’m sure Thomas had his own little way of helping Jessica make her way into the world.”


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