Every year, over 2 million babies are delivered stillborn worldwide. There is little known about what causes babies to die before or during birth, however, there are some factors that may lead to it. Some of these include, a genetic or physical defect in the baby, heavy bleeding after 24 weeks of pregnancy, pre-eclampsia or infection.
A couple from the United Kingdom, Kerry and Sam McPhee, lost their daughter when she was delivered stillborn at 19 weeks fetal age.
Everything was fine until a holiday to Gran Canaria when Kerry was 17 weeks pregnant and her waters broke. She said: “When we got to the hospital they wheeled me in and told Sam to wait outside. I kept saying I wanted to see him but they said no men were allowed in.
“I was terrified, it was terrible and they wouldn’t let me see him.”
A scan showed there was no fluid surrounding her baby. The doctors advised her to have a termination but the mum-to-be wanted to give her baby a chance. Kerry added: “It was very traumatic. This was all on the first day. In the hospital, there was a language barrier and I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
“I decided enough was enough, there was no pain or contractions and I felt I could go home but they said no and told me if I wanted to leave then security would stop me because they’d think I was crazy.”
Desperate to return home, Kerry and Sam left the hospital secretly and got the first flight back to the UK, landing at East Midlands Airport and driving straight to Glasgow’s Southern General. The doctors warned there may be nothing they could do but Kerry pleaded for time to give her baby a chance. However, two weeks later, they accepted the inevitable – that her daughter would not survive.
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“They took us into a room with tissues on the table and we knew it wasn’t good,” she said. “They said the baby didn’t have any fluid around it at all, which is needed to help the lungs develop between 16 and 24 weeks. They said the baby was not going to survive and that we had to deal with it right away and terminate the baby.”
“After some sleep I asked if it was a boy or a girl and they said it was a girl and she was in the next room in a Moses basket, wrapped up with a wee hat on her. I was too scared to look, I didn’t know what to expect but they took a photo and they showed it to me.”
After Kerry looked at the photo, she spent all morning with her daughter. She was afraid that she couldn’t bear the sight of her baby’s tiny body but decided to go to her daughter’s side and embrace her. Now the picture of their daughter sits in the couple’s living room.
Three months after their daughter’s death Kerry found out she was pregnant again and was blessed with a baby boy named Ashton. Ashton miraculously survived after being delivered at 23 weeks, which was 17 weeks before his due date. Doctors gave him an 11% survival rate and even asked Kerry if she wanted a post-mortem examination carried out on her baby. They asked her right before she gave birth.
Kerry said, “It was between contractions when I was in full labor, which shocked us and is something that will stick in my mind forever. It was terrifying. But he had a really strong heartbeat and I knew he was strong. When I heard him cry I knew he was breathing on his own. We knew statistically that the odds were stacked against him, but there was still a little bit of hope and that’s what we were clinging to.”
Ashton was so tiny that he could fit in the palms of Kerry’s hands and needed to be placed in a plastic bag to stay warm. He had major heart surgery, 10 blood transfusions, two brain bleeds, and a string of infections. But Ashton was a fighter and is living at home with his parents now. He does have cerebrally palsy and has been on a machine to help him breath because of his lung disease. However, doctors are positive that he will eventually come off all breathing aids.
Kerry concluded, “He is an absolute miracle. Words can’t describe how amazing it is to have him home. All our dreams have come true.”