'I wanted her to die in my arms': Mum's fight for one cuddle

"I knew I had to be strong for the sake of my unborn baby."  

At nine weeks pregnant, Stephanie woke up feeling like the entire universe was collapsing around her.  

The UK mum could barely open her eyes as she battled intense waves of nausea.  

This was her second pregnancy but Stephanie definitely didn't have symptoms like this the first time around.  

"I finally managed to stagger to the bathroom, and then I just couldn't stop vomiting," she told The Sun.  

"The next few weeks were a living hell.  

"The pain in my head was so severe I couldn't even stand up.  

"I was literally crawling around the house, carrying a bucket in one hand to throw up into, and nappies or bottles for nine-month-old Lexie in the other."  

But as the violent morning sickness continued well into Stephanie's second trimester, doctors began to suspect something more serious was going on.  

 

The mum underwent intensive brain surgery during her pregnancy. Source: The Sun
The mum underwent intensive brain surgery during her pregnancy. Source: The Sun

"They thought I might have a brain tumour," she said.  

But they decided to do the scan first to check the baby was OK.  

"I thought I was going to die, I thought it couldn't get any worse, but then they told me my baby was going to die, and my whole world collapsed."  

"They gave her just a 30 per cent chance of survival."  

Tragically, Stephanie's unborn child had had a severe type of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH).  

The rare condition affects the development of the diaphragm, meaning that Stephanie's baby's abdominal organs were growing in her chest, preventing her heart and lungs from growing.  

Doctors recommended that she terminate the pregnancy.  

“As soon as I walked in, I knew she didn’t stand a chance.
“As soon as I walked in, I knew she didn’t stand a chance." Source: The Sun

 As Stephanie struggled to come to terms with the heartbreaking news, doctors wheeled her away for her own scans. 

It was then that doctors discovered the heartbroken mum had Hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid on the brain.  

But Stephanie decided to continue with her pregnancy, even as she faced treatment for her own life-threatening condition.  

She was 30-weeks pregnant when she went into surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain.  

She was awake as surgeons drilled into her skull, with only a local anaesthetic and paracetamol to help with the pain.   

"It was the most terrifying hour of my life. I could actually feel the blood trickling down the sides of my head," she said.  

"They'd strapped me down to keep my head still. All I could do was lie there, crying my eyes out.  

“I wanted her to die in my arms.
“I wanted her to die in my arms." Source: The Sun

"But I knew I had to be strong for the sake of my unborn baby. I'd have done anything for a chance to meet her - brain surgery included."  

The incredibly brave mum was able to get through the procedure, carrying her baby to 39-weeks before she was delivered by C-section on April 29, 2013.  

"My first words after the birth were 'is she alive'. They rushed her straight to NICU, and I was taken up to see her," she said.   "As soon as I walked in, I knew she didn't stand a chance.  

"There were so many machines around her cot keeping her alive, compared to all the other babies.  

"I could see at one glance that she was the sickest.  

"It didn't matter though, she was still beautiful to me. I named her Layla."  

Sadly, as little Layla had been born with half a heart and just one lung, doctors were unable to do anything to save her life.  

So just 25 hours after meeting her daughter, Stephanie made the devastating decision to turn Layla's life support off.   "I knew she could hear me. Every time I kissed her head, her wee eyes fluttered open," she said.  

"I wanted her to die in my arms, I wanted to take her off the machines and give her a cuddle. I decided to do the right thing and let her go peacefully.  

Stephanie with now-eight-year-old Lexie has had nine brain surgeries. Source: The Sun
Stephanie with now-eight-year-old Lexie has had nine brain surgeries. Source: The Sun

  "Lexie was able to meet her too, although at 18 months she was too young to know what was going on - she was just jealous that I had another baby in my arms.  

"Slowly Layla slipped away. The nurses kept coming over and checking on her, and saying 'she's still with us'.   "But I knew that she'd gone when she stopped opening her eyes as I kissed her."  

But Stephanie had no time to mourn little Layla - just six weeks later she was back in the hospital for another major brain surgery.   

Since then she has undergone nine more extensive surgeries to release the fluid on her brain.  

"Mummy has a magic tube in her head," Lexie, now eight, said.  

"I went through some dark times," Stephanie added.  

"For years after Layla's death I was so ill that I was just in and out of hospital  

"I was grieving for her and fighting for my own life. It hit me like a tonne of bricks but my family were incredible."  

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been reproduced here with permission. 

News Corp Australia


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