Tuesday 23 January 2018

Baby joy on the treble for delighted families

Baby Alice Mary Black, who survived against all medical opinion, with her mum Marie
Baby Alice Mary Black, who survived against all medical opinion, with her mum Marie
Sgt Lloyd Murphy with daughter Molly and wife Winnie
Amy Balfe and Thomas Donnery at the Topaz filling station in Swords where Katie was born a fortnight ago

Elaine Keogh

Alice Mary survived against all odds, Molly was a miracle after six devastating miscarriages and Katie was born at a filling station. Meet three little girls who’ve put big smiles on their parents’ faces

Alice Mary’s story

THEIR baby girl hadn't been born yet, but already her heartbroken parents had chosen a graveyard plot and booked the priest for her funeral.

Niall and Marie Black were expecting the worst. They'd been told it was a miracle their daughter had lived so long in the womb. Even if she survived the birth, she would not live for long, the doctors warned, and she would be mentally and physically disabled.

But yesterday, the Blacks' miracle baby Alice Mary visited Santa for the first time. She's just four months old, but she's already defied doctors' predictions by reaching all the developmental milestones for her age.

For her parents, Christmas has come early.

"We are in awe of her, she doesn't accept what they (doctors) say she should be doing, she does her own thing," her father Niall said at the family home near Drogheda, Co Louth, yesterday.

Marie added that in such a situation, "you pray for a miracle and that's what we did; the funeral had been arranged and we had a plot bought".

Her parents had their other two children -- Oisin (6) and Conor (4) -- with them when they went for what they thought would be a routine scan at 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

Instead they were told there was an anomaly. "There was fluid on the brain," explained Niall, a teacher at Gormonston College in Co Meath.

The fluid was preventing the brain from forming properly and Marie was monitored closely.

Niall and Marie were told a number of times that their baby had a terminal condition and would probably not even survive the pregnancy.

"We were devastated over that," Niall said.

As time passed, the amount of fluid kept increasing and, as a result, her head kept expanding. Hospital staff said they "could not believe she was still alive in the womb", Niall said.

Expecting the worst, the Blacks only brought a single Babygro with them when they went in for the delivery -- a Caesarean section -- at eight months at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

During the delivery the fluid was drained twice from the baby's head.

It had to be done because her head was so large they couldn't get the baby out otherwise. The couple was told the procedure "would more than likely kill her".

Last night, the Blacks praised the expertise of their obstetrician, Dr Haife Rabbi, who carried out the procedure and the delivery.

Alice Mary was born and "we presumed she was gone", said Niall. He was able to see that his daughter had been delivered but was blue.

"About 30 seconds later we heard a cry out of the corner of the room. It was just like winning the Lotto, it was an unbelievable feeling," Niall added.

"They repeated an MRI on the day of her birth because her responses were so good and they couldn't understand how this was.

"It came back much the same as the earlier MRI and we were told we had 24-48 hours and just to enjoy her," said Marie.

She did not receive specialised attention because she wasn't expected to live. Family members came to say their hello and goodbye in the one visit.

However, on day five, "she was still around and still without any medical intervention. We were just feeding her and we wanted to go home," Niall said.

And instead of a funeral Mass, Fr Ailbe O Murchu, the priest they'd asked to officiate at that sad occasion, looked after the Christening instead.

"It was a wonderful celebration instead," Niall said.

The Blacks told other couples going through difficult pregnancies that it was a doctor's job to give people the worst-case scenario, but "where there is life, there is hope".

The family said they were taking each day with their miracle girl as it comes, and had cut back on the number of hospital tests she was undergoing.

"We've decided to leave her be and grow up and if something happens we will deal with it -- every day with Alice is a good day," her father said.

The inspirational story of baby Alice Mary has won her the SMA Nutrition Maternity and Infant Awards baby story of the year.

Molly's story

IT was a special day for tiny Molly Arizona Murphy -- not that she seemed to notice.

The seven-week-old met her father, Sergeant Lloyd Murphy, for the first time yesterday as he and 219 other Defence Forces troops returned home from a tour of duty in the Lebanon.

Gazing down at his sleeping daughter for the first time, Sgt Murphy admitted to feeling a whirlwind of emotions.

He and wife Winnie, from Ballymahon in Co Longford, have more reason than most parents to treasure their newborn, having suffered six miscarriages in the past.

"Words can't describe it. After waiting so long -- I'm a bit emotional," he said, cradling Molly in the arrivals hall of Dublin Airport. "She's stunning, just like her mother."

Sgt Murphy, who was returning from his fourth tour of duty overseas, said he was full of excitement over the last few days as he waited to fly home.

"I didn't sleep at all last night," he laughed.

"It was tough, especially being away from Winnie. But she sent me photographs every day."

While other families were holding big parties for their loved ones' return home last night, Winnie said she, Lloyd and Molly would be spending it relaxing together as a family for the first time.

"It was very emotional going through it without him. Him not being there and missing so much of her life already. He has missed waking up with her and going to sleep with her," said Winnie.

Meanwhile, other dads were being reacquainted with their newborn daughters.

Corporal Mark Healy from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, was on leave from the Lebanon when he last saw Carly, who was then just three weeks old.

"She's fantastic, she's got so huge," he laughed as he saw his now three-month-old daughter.

For wife Joanna it has been a hectic few months as she cared for the new baby as well as her older children, Rebecca (9), Marcus (4) and Matthew (2).

"He was away for five months and that was hard. It's all go," she laughed.

Medic Graham Whittaker, from Athlone, Co Westmeath, was on his third overseas tour of duty when daughter Emma was born six months ago. He last saw her while on leave when she was just 17 days old.

He was nearly bowled over when his older children, Matthew (8), Sean (3) and Christina (2), ran into his arms moments after he walked through the arrivals doors.

Despite being rushed off her feet running after four children, wife Denise still felt Graham had the harder job.

"It is really tough, he misses out on so much when he's away. "But I think it's actually harder on him going away than on me being home," she added.

Katie's story

TWO weeks ago, Dublin electrician Thomas Donnery burst into the small cubicle of a roadside Topaz garage to discover his partner Amy had given birth. It all took about 30 seconds and two pushes.

"She should have been in the Rotunda Hospital, not in a toilet," the 28-year-old father said yesterday, with a hint of understatement.

Yesterday, exactly two weeks to the day since Amy Balfe and her new daughter Katie 'chose' a petrol station as their maternity ward, the trio returned to pay their respects to staff and emergency services. There will be no shortage of stories when young Katie grows up.

The couple, from Rush, north Dublin, had decided to go to hospital when Amy began to have contractions.

On the way, Amy (28) asked Thomas to pull into the garage in Swords because she needed to go to the bathroom.

Once in the toilet, however, things began to develop very quickly. "She was in there for about five or 10 minutes; the pains were getting stronger and stronger," said Thomas. "I had left my phone in the car outside and I ran out to the desk to ask staff to call 999.

"By the time I got back in there, about 30 seconds later, the baby was in her arms."

The couple had to unwind the umbilical cord and Thomas described having to scoop the placenta up to keep the baby alive until medics arrived to sever the cord.

Luckily, Katie was perfectly healthy. "I kept looking at her to make sure she was okay," said Amy.

Yesterday, Topaz management presented the couple with a bracelet of actual topaz for Katie -- coincidentally the November birthstone.

Irish Independent

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