Big love for lit­tle life lost

Leo lived for only a few min­utes but he will be trea­sured for­ever

The Chronicle - - READ - BY Kiri ten Dolle

NINE pre­cious min­utes. That’s how long Rhi­an­non Jones and her hus­band Miles spent with their first-born child, Leo. The Mur­willum­bah mother car­ried her son for nearly six months when she went into un­ex­pected labour. Her hus­band cra­dled him in his palms for his whole life.

“Miles held Leo while I looked on,” 24-year-old Rhi­an­non re­calls.

“Miles was cry­ing, he was in­con­solable. As a first-time par­ent I was so proud to see what Miles and I had cre­ated, ini­tially I smiled of pride, but once the sig­nif­i­cance of the sit­u­a­tion hit me I joined in with Miles. Our boy took his last breath and in that mo­ment a part of us died with Leo.”

At their home in north­ern New South Wales a large print of baby Leo hangs on the wall of their liv­ing room. It is a black and white photo of Leo ly­ing in the palms of his dad’s hands. It is one of many dot­ted through the house.

“Af­ter Leo was born we were asked by mid­wives if we wanted a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher from Heart­felt to take photos of our lit­tle fam­ily. We spent some beau­ti­ful time hold­ing our an­gel to cap­ture photos that we will trea­sure for­ever,” Rhi­an­non says.

Leo was born 15 weeks early, weigh­ing only 630g, in Jan­uary 2013.

“I fell preg­nant with­out any dra­mas. I found out I was preg­nant at five weeks, and I had a to­tally nor­mal preg­nancy,” Rhi­an­non says.

“I was com­pletely un­aware that I had an in­com­pe­tent cervix un­til I be­gan bleed­ing at 23 weeks and was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal where I was told my cervix was fully di­lated. Doc­tors told me my cervix was in­com­pe­tent (mean­ing it can­not hold a baby through to full term) and that I’d be de­liv­er­ing our son nat­u­rally within 24 hours.”

What un­folded next was some­thing no par­ent ever wants to ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I had con­trac­tions for roughly 24 hours. Through the night I lay awake, feel­ing my son kick for the last time, know­ing that when he was born he wouldn’t live for long.

“Labour was aw­ful. My body was not ready to give birth, and my son wasn't ready to be born, so I strug­gled both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally to cope. Miles never left my side.

“He was re­minded by mid­wives to eat as he had hardly eaten in a day. We cried a lot of tears through the labour process. By the end, I was drained.

“I birthed our beau­ti­ful boy Leo. Leo let out a huge cry, stretched all of his limbs, and was passed to Miles.”

Leo was born on the cusp of sur­vival. If he had been born at 26 weeks then doc­tors would have been obliged to at­tempt to keep him alive. Ba­bies born be­fore 23 weeks gen­er­ally have a low chance of sur­vival. In most cases at 24 weeks they are ad­mit­ted into in­ten­sive care and par­ents have the de­ci­sion to re­sus­ci­tate or not.

“We were told Leo’s like­li­hood of sur­viv­ing af­ter re­sus­ci­ta­tion would be highly un­likely, and that his qual­ity of life would be poor,” Rhi­an­non says.

“In the end we de­cided to fol­low the doc­tor’s pro­fes­sional opin­ion. We would not re­sus­ci­tate our son.”

Rhi­an­non finds strength in deal­ing with her son’s death by speak­ing openly about preg­nancy and in­fant loss. She shares her story through blog­ging and so­cial me­dia un­der the han­dle @the­ma­machron­i­cles.

“Leo has cer­tainly left his foot­print on the world. Within a year of his pass­ing we raised over $5000 in his mem­ory for Bears of Hope,” Rhi­an­non says.

“I wanted Leo’s life to be recog­nised and re­mem­bered, but I also wanted cou­ples who’d faced the loss of a child to be com­forted by the fact that they are not alone on this aw­ful jour­ney. I feel as though speak­ing about preg­nancy and in­fant loss is ta­boo. And that needs to change.”

Rhi­an­non knew lit­tle about her con­di­tion prior to Leo. And although los­ing a baby due to an in­com­pe­tent cervix is al­ways on the cards, hav­ing surgery lim­its the pos­si­bil­ity of it re­oc­cur­ring.

This pro­ce­dure in­volves the place­ment of a stitch high in the cervix prior to fall­ing preg­nant again.

Within six months of los­ing Leo, Rhi­an­non and Miles be­gan try­ing for baby num­ber two. In March this year, the cou­ple wel­comed baby Valen­tine into the world.

“It has taken years to be con­tent with our lives,” Rhi­an­non says. “It wasn’t un­til our son Valen­tine was born that we felt com­plete again.

“I lie awake at night watch­ing him sleep, pinch­ing my­self be­cause I never thought I’d fi­nally be where we are to­day. Valen­tine looks very much like Leo, which is beau­ti­ful.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Rhi­an­non Jones de­liv­ered her son Valen­tine by ma­ter­nal as­sisted cae­sarean.

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