A COUPLE who suffered seven miscarriages and had a baby die shortly after birth said their prayers have been answered with a precious daughter.
After an unimaginable nine years for her parents, Ellianna Hope Marie Thompson will be 18 months old next week.
Ellianna means "God has answered me".
Proud mum and dad, Noreen and Ger, who live in Murroe, Co Limerick, have told their story to help others who have suffered miscarriages.
Last weekend, Ger spoke at the annual remembrance Mass for babies in the Holy Rosary Church on the Ennis Road.
He did so through "a fog of tears" and his wife said the "whole church was sobbing".
"Like all couples we thought it was a case of not if, but when we would have our first baby," he said.
"We couldn't have been more wrong and Noreen and myself would face a nine-year – almost ten-year – battle. I remember when Noreen told me the first time she fell pregnant.
"We were the happiest couple in the world but it was short-lived and Noreen suffered an early miscarriage.
"As you could imagine we were both devastated so we slowly got back to normal life and it wasn't long, maybe a few months or so, before Noreen fell pregnant again. This pregnancy also resulted in a miscarriage."
Over the next number of years Noreen became pregnant another three times. She suffered early miscarriages. Noreen's sixth pregnancy was different but the result was no better. She went to the hospital in some pain and discomfort. The pregnancy was ectopic.
"Noreen was sent to University Hospital Limerick where she had to undergo a medical termination," said Ger.
"It was almost like it was normal life dealing with loss at this stage and we were getting weary from it, but nothing in the world would prepare us for what was to come. If this life story could get any worse, it did."
In their seventh pregnancy they went home with their first picture of a baby after a three-month scan. However, Noreen had pains and went into labour at just 22 weeks.
"The nurses and doctors informed us that our little baby would not survive once delivered and baby Kayla Elizabeth Thompson was born in 2009.
"Kayla Elizabeth Thompson let out three little cries and every time I put my head down, even to this day, I hear them," Ger said.
At this stage the couple thought "never again".
"It was just too hard," Noreen said. But the couple found strength to continue and Noreen fell pregnant for an eight time but again miscarried. On the ninth occasion the pregnancy reached three months but there was no excitement at the photo of the scan.
At 16 weeks Noreen was taken into the University Maternity Hospital. "We made it to 20 weeks, surely this was our time – life couldn't deal us another bad hand.
"Noreen kept going and going and on May 19, 2012, Noreen finally gave birth to a baby girl weighing 4lb 6oz," said Ger.
After being in the neonatal ward for two-and-a-half weeks they brought her home on June 6, 2012.
"We couldn't be more grateful for what we have or more thankful. It's been almost a 10-year fight," said Ger.
"Noreen is an amazing woman with great courage and I hold her head and shoulders above any other woman I know."
Noreen said she would never forget the moment she saw Ellianna for the first time.
She said: "She had all these tubes but they said I could hold her. I will never forget the feeling when they put her in to my arms. She is the greatest miracle ever."