In January 2002 my husband Mark and I fell pregnant with our first child. We had been married for just over three years and decided we would love to start a family. After being told I would have trouble falling pregnant we were very surprised we fell in the first month. Everything was going along quite normally, four months of bad morning sickness (all day sickness) and obsessing over what food I could or couldn?t eat and of course no drinking or smoking or being around anything that could harm our little one.
We had been talking about having children for some time and were over the moon that it was going to happen. I was so excited yet at the same time constantly feeling that something wasn?t right. I think a lot of first time Mums must feel that way but by 20 weeks we hadn?t bought a thing for the nursery or our little bubby. I don?t know why but it just didn?t seem right to create a nursery just yet.
Our worst fears were confirmed at our 20-week scan. After seeing pictures of the baby moving around and the sonographer going along like everything was OK, she said she wanted the baby to roll over, so could I go to the toilet and she would be back soon. About 20mins later she came back with another person who had a look, then turned to us and quite bluntly said the baby?s? stomach is where it shouldn?t be it has a Diaphragmatic Hernia and is probably Down Syndrome you will have to go to the Mater and decide what to do. (After everything we have been through over the past year and a half I still think this was probably the hardest day).
The four-day wait for our appointment at the Mater was excruciating. It was actually going to take two weeks but my Obstetrician pleaded with them to make it shorter.
Gabrielle?s CDH was confirmed at the appointment and they sat us down and explained to us that her stomach had slipped up through a hole in her diaphragm, pushing her heart against her right lung and her stomach pushed against the left lung.
They explained to us that the chance of Gabrielle surviving was 40% as her lungs wouldn?t have room to grow and the blood vessels that pass through her lungs may not be able to cope.
We had an amniocentesis done to rule out Down Syndrome and other genetic problems so we knew what we were dealing with. This was another painful wait of about two weeks but the tests all showed negative.
It was hard for us to go through the next four months looking at baby clothes and furniture not knowing whether to buy them or not and finding it difficult for the excitement to out way the fear of what was to happen.
Gabrielle was born on October 16 2002 by caesarean section. My sister and husband had flown up from Melbourne and all the family were waiting around to meet her. Gabrielle was the first grandchild in our family of 6 girls so you could imagine the waiting room.
At 2:45pm my obstetrician held up a beautiful 8lb 10 baby girl. She was whisked away to be worked on and taken straight to the ICN. When we went to see her she looked so healthy and beautiful, the only way you knew she was so sick was from all the lines and machines hooked up to her. The doctors gave Gabrielle drugs to keep her paralyzed so it was really hard not seeing her move, open her eyes or being able to hold our little girl ? things so many parents take for granted.
Things were touch and go the first couple of days. We had Gabby Christened two days after her birth, as things didn?t look good. Somehow she hung in there and had the operation done to move her stomach back. We weren?t given much hope of her surviving the surgery but somehow, once again, she pulled through.
The next two weeks were like a roller coaster ride; one day she was looking great and the next it didn?t look like she would survive the night.
We stayed with Gabrielle as much as possible going in at least twice a day and spending some nights on sofas in the parents? room.
One of the highlights was the day after Gabby?s operation when for the first time we saw her eyes open and her little toes and fingers wriggle. After such hope we would again come crashing down with the news she was having another bad turn. All we could do was be there for her, pray for her and come to terms with the fact that there was nothing the doctors could do; it was all up to Gabrielle.
On Melbourne cup day, November 5th 2002 we were phoned and told to come in and talk to the doctor ? of course we knew what this meant. The doctor told us that we were just delaying the inevitable and would have to consider turning Gabby?s machines off ? something we could never have brought ourselves to do.
Gabrielle gave us the ?heads up? the night before when we were saying goodnight about 11pm. She looked at us both straight in the eyes intently, first me and then Mark and we knew exactly what she was trying to say.
When we arrived at the hospital we could tell it was time for Gabrielle to end her fight.
We rang our families to come in and say goodbye. We spent the next 6 hours talking with Gabrielle and telling her it was OK to go with God. Thankfully she made the decision for us and peacefully slipped away ~6:30pm that same day. For the first time we got to hold our little girl.
We know why things like this happen, because God needs special little angels and He needs loving parents to be with them for their short stay.
We love you so much Gabrielle, you have brought us so much joy, and taught us so many things, Thank you for choosing us.
Mummy and Daddy.