Tag Archives: Pregnancy

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

“And Frankie Makes Three.” Guest Blogger Lisa Ventura on the joys and challenges of pregnancy

Baby Frankie's 23 week Scan

Baby Frankie’s 23 week Scan

Lisa Ventura is this weeks Guest Blogger. In this post she explains how she dealt with the news of that her unborn baby has a cleft lip and possibly palate. It is inspiring; life affirming; energising and beautiful- and I will be following her posts on her blog http://www.babyandcleft.co.uk. Her words speak for her and here is her story – so far…

Proud Mum-To-Be Lisa Ventura

Proud Mum-To-Be Lisa Ventura

“I first found out about this wonderful blog when I saw an article in the Worcester News about it last summer. It was very timely for me as I was going to write to the Worcester News to say a huge thank you to Jane Brassington and the staff at the Early Pregnancy Unit at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital for their support and care in the early stages of my pregnancy, after suffering six miscarraiges over the years. I also wrote to David, who featured my email to him and subsequent letter that the Worcester News printed, and spent hours reading all the positive good news stories contained in the blog.

All was progressing well with my pregnancy but at 23 weeks my unborn baby boy, who my husband and I named Francesco Enrico, was diagnosed with a unilateral cleft lip and possibly palate. I’d had my 20 week anomaly scan at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital where my husband and I found out I was having a baby boy, and I was asked to return at 23 weeks as the sonographer couldn’t get a good look at his heart and face because his hands were in the way. So it was at that 23 week scan that we were told he would be born with a cleft lip and possibly palate.

I was referred for an urgent scan up at Birmingham Women’s Hospital to confirm the diagnosis and was amazed to get an appointment up there literally 3 working days after the cleft lip was first picked up. The scan in Birmingham confirmed the diagnosis – my husband and I were initially devastated. I knew nothing about the condition, and blamed myself for it even though I have never smoked, hardly drank and even gave it up completely before I was pregnant, took folic acid every day without fail along with a pregnancy vitamin and took it as easy as I could during the early days. It was simply put down to “one of those things”.

Once I had come to terms with the diagnosis a little more I came across the Cleft Lip And Palate Association (CLAPA) and got in touch with them . They were incredibly supportive and let me ask as many questions as I needed. The more I found out from them, the more reassured I became. I was astonished to find out that 1 in 700 babies in the UK are born with a cleft lip and palate, and there is no known cause as to why.

With such a high rate of 1 in 700 babies being diagnosed with a cleft lip and palate, I decided to use my skills to raise as much awareness of the condition as possible and provide a much needed support network to parents locally. CLAPA doesn’t have a branch in Worcestershire/The West Midlands and I have been in touch with them about setting this up. If it can go ahead then I hope it can happen in partnership with Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust and through antenatal clinics, midwives and other support networks such as NCT. I am also in the process of hopefully setting up a Happy Smiles group, also in conjunction with CLAPA.

Parents-to- be generally have vaguely heard of the condition but have no idea exactly what it is until they get a diagnosis – I know that my husband and I certainly fall into this category. Coupled with society’s view of perfection and beauty I feel that much needs to be done to raise awareness of cleft lip and palate in Worcestershire and the Midlands. We are fortunate enough to be near one of the best cleft lip and palate teams in the country at Birmingham Women’s and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals, and in the coming months I will be trying to raise as much awareness as possible of the condition through blogging, PR, fundraising, using social media and interacting with parents/children who were born with a cleft lip and palate. In addition, according to statistics from CLAPA that were released at their latest annual conference 60% of parents were unhappy with how their diagnosis was delivered to them. I would like to see some support and additional training for sonographers to help them let parents know about a cleft lip and palate diagnosis in a sensitive and empathetic way.

I was so inspired by the Chaplain’s Blog and the great work that David is doing that it encouraged me to start my own to document my journey as a Mum to be of a baby boy with a cleft lip and possibly palate – http://www.babyandcleft.co.uk. Not only will it be a way for me to share what I’m going through and the journey I’m now on with my husband and my unborn baby boy, but I hope it will become a positive blog containing success stories, good news about cleft children who have overcome the condition and an information resource for parents. I look forward to liaising more with Rev David Southall about this condition, and would love to hear from anyone or any parents whose children have been diagnosed with cleft lip/palate and would like to help me with my awareness campaign, or have their success story featured on my blog.

Please get in touch with me via enquiries@babyandcleft.co.uk – I’m also on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/babyandcleft, and twitter http://www.twitter.com/babyandcleft. I look forward to hearing from you and if any of you out there who have children with a cleft lip/palate, or are expecting a baby with a cleft lip/palate, you are definitely not alone.”

I am hugely grateful to Lisa for this story. And I feel supremely privileged that she would let us see the scan of her beautiful boy.

If you would like your story to feature on the site, or be a Guest Blogger- just post me something via the contact details above.

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