Brave new mum finds joy amid heartbreak
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...
Gary and Amie Rohan at their Coogee home with baby Bella.
Gary (centre) in his Sydney Swans guernsey.
Amie cradles her newborn daughter Bella.