Brave new mum finds joy amid heart­break

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE - MEGAN HUSTWAITE

WHEN new mum Amie Ro­han holds her baby Bella in her arms she feels the “strength of two souls in her”.

Bella is a twin but her sis­ter Wil­low died five hours af­ter they were born.

Amie and her Syd­ney Swans star hus­band Gary will mark their first Mother’s Day to­day hon­our­ing the spirit of Wil­low and Bella’s strength.

“I feel Wil­low con­stantly over me and al­ways will and she’s in her sis­ter so much,” Amie said.

“Bella is tiny but has the strength of two souls in her.”

Amie and Gary wel­comed Bella and Wil­low at 34 weeks on April 12 but lost Wil­low five hours later to anen­cephaly, a ter­mi­nal con­di­tion where ba­bies are born with an un­der­de­vel­oped brain and in­com­plete skull.

The Ro­hans left the Royal Hos­pi­tal for Women at Rand­wick for their Coogee home 10 days ago, with Amie telling The Sun­day Tele­graph her first Mother’s Day will be filled with mixed emo­tions.

“It’s so spe­cial but bit­ter­sweet, a day of re­flec­tion,” the 24-year-old said.

“It’ll be spe­cial to spend the day to­gether, ac­knowl­edg­ing Wil­low, look­ing at pho­tos of her and be­ing a fam­ily.”

Gary, 26, who last week played his 100th AFL game, said his wife is the most in­spi­ra­tional woman he knows.

“She’s a very strong woman and I think we’ve both pulled each other through this. We couldn’t have done it with­out each other, we’re a team. She’s the best mum in the world,” he said.

“I knew she’d be an amaz­ing mum be­fore she was preg­nant and I’m very lucky to have her as a wife and mother to my two girls.”

The ec­static first-time par­ents, high school sweet­hearts from coun­try Vic­to­ria, had their first scan on Oc­to­ber 6 last year.

“Gary was on one side of the room and I couldn’t see the screen but he looked like he was about to faint, I asked if ev­ery­thing was OK and the lady do­ing the ul­tra­sound grabbed my hand and said ‘You’re hav­ing twins!’. Gary was al­most faint­ing in the cor­ner, so shocked he’d seen two heart beats,’’ Amie said.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to Syd­ney from an off-sea­son hol­i­day nearly a month later, scans re­vealed heart­break­ing news.

“We were told there was con­cern with Twin B’s head struc­ture and I cried, I knew in­stantly some­thing was wrong,’’ Amie said. “Anen­cephaly was men­tioned and I went into fight or flight mode and asked what that meant, and the doc­tor said Twin B is not com­pat­i­ble with life. She said ‘I’m just go­ing to grab you a box of tis­sues’. She was strug­gling to tell us and that’s when I lost it.

“For four days we felt sad and sorry for our­selves. I kept ask­ing ‘Why did this hap­pen to us?’ but it was hap­pen­ing to us, we couldn’t change it, but we had to find a way to deal with it be­cause if we asked those ques­tions each day it was go­ing to be a long nine months.”

The Ro­hans then had to con­tem­plate what no par­ents should: Choose to ter­mi­nate the whole preg­nancy, clamp Wil­low’s um­bil­i­cal cord to stunt her growth and risk a dou­ble mis­car­riage or con­tinue the preg­nancy know­ing pre­cious Wil­low’s fate.

Amie said the de­ci­sion was al­ways to carry the ba­bies full

term. “You see two beat­ing hearts like we did then try to make a de­ci­sion,” she said.

“We said to each other we’ve been blessed with these ba­bies for a rea­son, we have to con­tinue on.

“Peo­ple get given sit­u­a­tions in life be­cause they can deal with it. We are such a strong team.

“I asked the pro­fes­sor what he thought about con­tin­u­ing with the preg­nancy and deal­ing with the end re­sult when we got there and spend­ing what­ever pre­cious time we had with the baby. He said ‘I’ve de­liv­ered ba­bies like this be­fore and I’ll be your big­gest sup­port’.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of do­ing some­thing to my dar­ling Wil­low and po­ten­tially los­ing Bella as well. Look­ing back now, we wouldn’t change our de­ci­sion for the world. Meet­ing Wil­low and hav­ing those five hours with her were the most pre­cious mo­ments of our life.”

On a Thurs­day au­tumn morn­ing at 8.59am, Bella Rae en­tered the world scream­ing. A minute later her iden­ti­cal twin sis­ter Wil­low Ne­vaeh fol­lowed.

“She was so peace­ful and calm the en­tire time. Hav­ing both ba­bies placed on my chest was the best feel­ing in the world and I cried the en­tire time,’’ Amie said.

“Gary felt torn, he wanted to be with Wil­low and I but didn’t want Bella to be alone so he spent time with her be­fore we moved to an­other room and took some beau­ti­ful fam­ily pho­tos to­gether.

“Both our par­ents, the grand­par­ents, came up and met both girls, then Wil­low grew her wings. It’s like she knew we had the sup­port there we needed.”

While Bella slept in the nurs­ery that first night, Wil­low was by her par­ents’ side.

“I just needed to have her next to me one last time. I didn’t want to wake up and not have one of my ba­bies with me,” Amie said.

“On the Satur­day we had a ser­vice at the hos­pi­tal, did a bless­ing and bap­tised Bella. “It was beau­ti­ful.” The Ro­hans are now set­tling well into life at home. Amie said the roller-coaster they have been on for the past nine months hasn’t slowed.

“It’s been re­ally hard for me to deal with and I will grieve for the rest of my life.

“Some days I feel like I’m un­stop­pable with the most beau­ti­ful lit­tle fam­ily and other days I feel like Wil­low’s my lit­tle girl who’s here with me all the time and I don’t ac­knowl­edge her enough. You’ve just got to feel ev­ery emo­tion and mo­ment.

“Peo­ple say ‘you’re so strong and in­spir­ing how do you do it?’ but no one knows how you’re go­ing to get through some­thing tough un­til you’re faced with a sit­u­a­tion you sim­ply have to get through.

“I don’t have an op­tion, I’ve got a new­born who needs my at­ten­tion.”

Amie and Gary shared their preg­nancy jour­ney on so­cial me­dia, have de­vel­oped a close bond with their ma­ter­nal foetal clinic team of pro­fes- sors, doc­tors and mid­wives at the Women’s and through the hos­pi­tal have of­fered their sup­port to par­ents whose ba­bies are di­ag­nosed with anen­cephaly.

“We found out at 11 weeks and an­nounced we were preg­nant at 14 weeks. The best thing we did was share it be­cause we had so many peo­ple reach out and share their sto­ries and of­fer sup­port,’’ Amie said.

“I can’t be­lieve I’m say­ing this but that’s when things got eas­ier be­cause we had that sup­port and other fam­i­lies who’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the same thing were there for us and an­swered all of our ques­tions.”

Gary and Amie Ro­han with new­born twins Bella and Wil­low be­fore Wil­low ‘grew her wings’ and passed away.


WHEN Amie Ro­han and daugh­ter Bella share their first Mother’s Day to­day, it will be with an over­whelm­ing mix of joy and melan­choly. The wife of Syd­ney Swans star Gary Ro­han gave birth to iden­ti­cal twins on April 12, but Bella’s sis­ter Wil­low didn’t...

Pic­ture: Sam Rut­tyn

Gary and Amie Ro­han at their Coogee home with baby Bella.

Gary (cen­tre) in his Syd­ney Swans guernsey.

Amie cra­dles her new­born daugh­ter Bella.

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