How Katie found hope after devastating loss
Katie and Stewart are sharing their story in support of the Women's fundraising appeal. You can donate to ensure a brighter future for women, newborns and families today.
My name is Katie, and it’s thanks to the amazing team at the Royal Women’s Hospital that I’m here today.
My husband Stewart and I always dreamed of having a big family, and after more than a year trying for our second child, we were over the moon when I became pregnant with Ivy.
Our son Lennox, who was three and half, couldn’t wait to be a big brother. I’ll never forget the day we came home with our first ultrasound photo and he came running down the hallway filled with excitement.
But at 28 weeks I became extremely unwell with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. After five days of increasingly severe symptoms, I ended up being rushed from my private obstetrician to the Women’s, where they told me they needed to get Ivy out straight away.
Ivy was born with a severe brain bleed that most likely occurred during the final 24 hours before her birth. Six days later our baby girl was gone.
Losing Ivy was the most heartbreaking moment of my life, but I got through it thanks to the exceptional level of care I received at the Women’s.
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Before arriving at the Women’s, I had no idea how fatal my condition could be, even though I had pre-eclampsia before with my first pregnancy. But when I woke up with an excruciating migraine, vision problems and swollen face – it was time to act.
From the moment I was wheeled into the theatre at the Women’s, I knew I was in good hands. There were about 30 staff in there, and the level of professionalism, compassion, and expertise was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
When Ivy was born, I was able to hold and kiss her straight away, which was such a special moment. It was a completely different experience to when I had Lennox under a general anaesthetic at another hospital and wasn’t able to hold him until the next day.
When Ivy had her brain scan and her bleed was discovered, the staff really took their time explaining to us how bad Ivy’s condition was. It was so important at the time, especially because I was still very sick and recovering. A couple of days later, we made the most heart wrenching decision of our lives, which was to say goodbye to our little girl.
Stew and I were completely devastated, but we wanted to be the best parents we could possibly be in the little time we had with her. We wanted Ivy to only know love. The team at the Women’s organised a photographer and social workers to help us. They gave us books we could read with Lennox to help him understand what was going on.
The dignity and kindness we were all treated with had such an impact on our family and is still felt today. Lennox still talks about having a little sister called Ivy who was only here for six days. If we didn’t get that support, I don’t know how any of us would’ve gotten through that difficult time.
I’ll forever be grateful for the care I received at the Women’s. The staff truly go above and beyond to make sure patients not only receive life-saving treatment, but also vital support services to overcome trauma and loss.
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When we took Ivy out of intensive care, removing all the tubes and equipment that was keeping her alive, the nurses told us she might breathe on her own for a few hours. She ended up breathing on her own for two days. My Mum and Dad attended our now treasured photo session, and we were able to take Ivy out to the park – something that we had looked forward to doing regularly as a family of four. Ivy felt sunshine on her face, wind in her hair, grass on her toes and water on her skin. It was so precious to be able to have those photos and share those memories with our family and friends.
I struggled a great deal emotionally when Ivy was gone. Some of my good friends were welcoming healthy babies and the envy I felt tore me apart. I also felt an intense hatred of my body for not keeping Ivy safe; my primary role as a mother.
When our obstetrician at the Women’s who delivered Ivy mentioned the possibility of having another child, we immediately had our fears. We both knew how close I was to losing my own life, and I remember Stew saying, ‘There’s no way we’re putting you at risk again.’
The obstetrician suggested we make an appointment with Professor Shaun Brennecke AO at the Women’s, and a couple of months later we went to meet him. He told us about the amazing research they’d done, and his confidence that my risk of pre-eclampsia could be managed with medication. It was a glimmer of hope amongst the utter devastation we were going through. Very soon after that I got the shock of my life – I was pregnant again.
It was a no-brainer to go to the Women’s for our next pregnancy after Ivy. The care I received was second to none, and the security of knowing we were working with Professor Brennecke gave us a tremendous amount of reassurance.
Edmund was born via a planned caesarean section. To walk into the hospital on a planned date all prepared was a wonderful feeling. And to see one of the midwives from Ivy’s birth who was there especially to support us was incredibly special. A couple of years later Monty came along following another safe and healthy pregnancy managed by the Women’s.
I’m so thankful for the research that allowed us to grow our family.
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Not a day goes by that we don’t think about Ivy. The beautiful photos we have of her make it easy for Stew, Lennox and I to remember her. Even when someone says, ‘Oh, three boys – will you try for a girl?’ Lennox pipes up and says, ‘I’ve got a sister Ivy, she’s just in heaven.’
Now that Edmund’s a bit older, he sees the photos and listens to our conversations and knows he has a big sister in heaven too.
One of the wonderful things the staff at the Women’s did when Ivy was born was to get Lennox to bathe Ivy and do things he would normally do as a big brother. We have that on video, and for the boys to see their sister alive and kicking in the bath is really important for them.
I’ll always be grateful for the medical team at the Women’s who were there at Ivy’s birth. I’ll never forget the day one of the nurses came to visit on their day off to hold Ivy when she was out of intensive care. I was so touched by their genuine compassion. The guidance and support that the Women’s provided during that time was extraordinary.
The regular meetings, follow-up phone calls and annual remembrance ceremony were just some of the ways they supported us through such a difficult time. But the hope and ability they gave us to safely have other children was the best help we could ever wish for. While Edmund and Monty in no way replace Ivy, the healing and joy they’ve brought to our lives is indescribable.
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