ANDREW Gower always knew his baby daughter, Lucy, was “daddy’s girl”.
Throughout her pregnancy his wife Emma said she could feel the tiny baby girl kicking furiously whenever he was around.
Andrew was there through the roller-coaster of Emma’s pregnancy and was there when Lucy was born in the late hours of a Friday evening, September 14 last year.
When Lucy died an hour-and-a-half after her arrival, her father was there holding her close.
Andrew and Emma’s story began with a friendship.
In the same Year 3 class at Carinya Christian School, eight-year-old Emma and Andrew met for the first time over school books and lunchtime games.
“We apparently went out for one week in Year 7,” Andrew laughs.
It wasn’t until they left school, and studying university degrees that their childhood friendship blossomed into something more.
“We were good friends all the way through school, but it wasn’t until Andrew’s 20th birthday party that we really hit it off,” Emma said.
And hit it off they did, the pair finished uni and decided to spend their lives together. Andrew proposed in 2008.
Emma finished her nursing degree and became a midwife at Tamworth hospital and Andrew became operations manager at Country Autos.
After their wedding in 2011, Emma and Andrew said they were looking forward to having children, with good news awaiting them after they returned from a holiday cruise in March 2012.
“I just had this inkling about it,” Emma said.
“Then I took a test and it was positive.
“I wanted to surprise Andrew so I went and bought a pair of bright yellow baby joggers and put them on the table with the positive test on top awaiting him when he got home.”
The ecstatic father-to-be rang his mother Ros, who promptly dropped her glass of water in excitement.
“It’s turned into a family joke now. Any time she gets excited, we ask ‘have you got a glass in your hand’?” Andrew said.
Apart from morning sickness and feeling lethargic, Emma said the first trimester of her pregnancy was uneventful.
Their inner circle of family and friends was let in on the secret at 10 weeks. The first hint something might have been seriously wrong with the pregnancy was at the first ultrasound scan, at the end of the first trimester.
“The first two minutes was fine,” Emma recalls. Then she said a doctor came in, took a deep breath, and told the couple some bad news.
He said “there’s a good chance there’s something wrong with your baby”.
The doctor explained the 12-week-old foetus had a large nuchal fold (a flap of skin at the nape of the neck), an indicator of various genetic disorders, including Down syndrome.
The pair walked out of the scan in shock.
“We were in tears. We wanted to see arms and legs, not to find out something like that,” Emma said.
Then began an endless merry-go-round of tests, specialists and endless hospital visits, with the couple referred to John Hunter Hospital for specialist neo-natologists.
After undergoing chroni vili sampling to determine whether or not the baby had genetic disorders, the couple received some good news with the nurse calling them to say their unborn baby had normal DNA.
“We had a mini-celebration,” Emma said.
A further three scans at 19, 22 and 25 weeks revealed the fold of skin had miraculously disappeared and the growth of the baby was normal.
“We felt so lucky, like we’d dodged a bullet,” Emma said.
A few short days later, a grossly-swollen Emma said she knew something wasn’t right and felt ‘this intense, uncomfortable feeling I couldn’t shake’.
Fluid was gathering in her stomach and she said her energy was down and she felt a constant discomfort.
A scan revealed the baby had fluid on her lungs and under her skin and doctors warned the couple all was not well.
Ordered that day by her specialist to John Hunter Hospital, Emma was told the rest of her pregnancy would be spent in a hospital ward bed.
Andrew said he became a “weekend husband”, having to remain in Tamworth for work but ringing her numerous times a day for updates and travelling to Newcastle whenever he could.
Doctors diagnosed the baby with hydrops fetalis at 29 weeks, the serious condition affecting the body’s ability to manage fluid.
Emma spent the final weeks of her pregnancy swollen, tired and frightened about the future of her unborn baby until an afternoon bedside ultrasound revealed the urgency of the situation.
The doctor then told her “baby’s coming out tonight”, and Emma was then prepped for an emergency caesarean section.
“A whirlwind of emotions took over, partly excitement at meeting our new baby, but fear too about not knowing how ill the baby really was.
“I knew the reality was she probably wouldn’t make it.”
Andrew raced to be by Emma’s side, making it in time to give her a hug before she was taken to the operating theatre.
Surrounded by 12 doctors, Emma gave birth to the little girl at 11.38pm.
In the frantic minutes afterwards, and as doctors went to work on the silent newborn, massaging her failing heart, the baby was named.
“She was beautiful with a head of curly, black hair. We called her Lucy. It’s a pretty girly name. She just seemed like a Lucy,” Emma said.
“She didn’t cry; she was alive though. The doctors said she was fighting so hard.”
Emma said she and Andrew were taken to a private room where doctors told them of Lucy’s fate.
“They said ‘we’re trying to save her but we’re not going to win’,” Emma said.
The couple said it was then a choice they had made weeks ago came up, deciding whether to let the doctors continue to work on her, or to spend Lucy’s final hours in peace.
“We asked the doctors to stop treatment,” Emma said quietly.
“She had to be with us.”
Emma said the hardest thing to deal with in the week after Lucy’s death was leaving hospital with her arms empty.
“I just felt like a shell of a person,” she said.
“I went into that hospital with a baby in my belly and I was supposed to leave with a baby in my arms.”
Andrew said he and his wife were “gutted emotionally” and said even though they had suffered together, he could never understand the true nature of her feelings.
“We were supposed to be tired because of a crying baby, not because of an ordeal like this,” he said.
Both parents said the hardest thing when arriving home a week later was looking at the nursery where Lucy was supposed to be.
“It took us a couple of days to open the door to the nursery,” Emma said.
In the hours, days and weeks after Lucy’s funeral, Emma came to a decision.
“I had two choices, crawl up into a ball and think the world is a nasty place, or I could get up and deal with it,” she said.
As a midwife, Emma said the tragic event was especially hard, as she was surrounded by the excitement of new life every day on the maternity ward.
At first every crying baby reminded her of Lucy.
“I had such a supportive workplace, so it got easier. I had to separate my experience from everyone else’s,” she said.
“I had to say to myself ‘that’s their baby’ with their experience and I have my own.”
While still in hospital, Emma received a care package from the organisation Mums Like Me, and was given information from a charity called Bears of Hope.
Logging onto the closed Bears of Hope webpage filled with women talking about their own similar stories, Emma said she could feel the support through the wealth of shared experiences.
“It was nice to know that we weren’t alone, that someone else had gone through this, too.
“They know exactly what you’ve gone through and exactly what you’re feeling.”
She said she gained strength from other couples and individuals who had also gone through their own loss of a baby and now felt able to share their story.
“A lot of people came out of the woodwork and told us they had lost babies,” Emma said.
Both Emma and Andrew said they were open with family and friends about the experience, saying they had become stronger as a couple and better people.
“We appreciate life so much more now,” Emma said.
The couple, along with a good friend, have organised the Lucy Gower Fundraising Night, which will help support the Bears of Hope service.
To be held on February 23, the night is designed to be fun and includes dinner, dancing and trivia.
All money raised also will be used to support local maternity services.
Emma said she hoped sharing her story would help other people who may have gone through the same experience.
“We would welcome them to come along on the night,” she said.
“A lot of people don’t talk about it; they repress it, but it’s something that happens every day to someone out there.”
Throughout our interview Emma touched a heart-shaped pendant around her neck. It was given to her by her sister, Lisa, the day before Lucy’s funeral.
Engraved on it in tiny print are the date of Lucy’s birth and the words ... “It was then that I carried you”.
It’s clear from the many photographs and mementos around their home that far from fading into memories, the story of Lucy will continue to be shared.
Although Emma and Andrew say it’s just too soon to think about the emotional roller-coaster ride of another pregnancy, they know one day, when the time is right, a tiny brother or sister will come home to Lucy’s nursery – where her photos will stay.
“Lucy will always be our first baby and we will always be her parents. Her story will continue,” Emma said.
The Lucy Gower Fundraising Night will be held at the Tamworth Golf Club.
More information is available by contacting Bec Wherritt on 0407 060 156.