Joshua and Maya Davey

You are god's precious little angels now

Two perfect little stars in heaven

And when you shine brightly in the sky

We smile knowing you will always be there

Watching over us, like we should have done

Wishing life hadn't dealt the cards we got

But hoping that things will get better 

With carrying such heavy scarred hearts

We've survived these tough years though

Not without harsh words exchanged

Here's hoping that the next few years

Are kinder to us so that we can heal...

Like many couples we thought we could easily have kids and have a nice happy family by the time I was 32. Unfortunately in 2012, our hopes and dreams started to slowly shatter.

I got pregnant with our son after 2 years of trying, surprising my husband by secretly taking a test then waking him up almost shoving the result in his face. That was the start of the happiest 10 weeks of our lives, especially when we had our first scan. I couldn't wait to tell friends and family. Then I remember the next day after the first scan, the Friday, I got the call... there was something wrong with my bloods.

We were booked in for a CVS test for the Monday, my 31st birthday. They explained that my baby was at higher risk of downs, but then because of his positioning they couldn't carry out the CVS safely, so we had to wait another month for an amniocentesis. Funny, a month felt like a year. We waited anxiously in the waiting room with other happy, excited couples, me clutching my husband Graham's hand. Little did the consultants know I have (well had now) a big fear of needles, but little did I know at the time how big the needle would be!

We walked in to find our consultant, Myles, who talked us through things. He first scanned me to check the position of the baby again. I still remember his face, you can always tell there is something wrong, I've become an expert in it now. He asked me to wait; he wanted another persons opinion. Helen walked in and started scanning me. She confirmed that our baby had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. Graham and I looked at each other and I felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on us. After the amniocentesis they gave us the only leaflet they could find. I walked out of the consulting room, past the happy waiting room, completely numb. What was happening? Within 30 minutes my midwife had heard and was on the phone wanting to see me, but I didn't want to see anyone, I didn't understand what was going on.

That evening I rang her and went to see her at the hospital. We listened to the baby's heartbeat and everything seemed normal. Graham and I wanted to give our baby a fighting chance so we were referred to Bristol's team as they had the expertise and equipment to handle this. I am lucky, I work at a medical school so I started researching and my boss found information about the CDH UK charity. I wanted to be armed with all the information so I could get the best possible care for my baby.

Two weeks later we were in the car driving up to Bristol...and my phone was my consultant Myles...more bad news. Our baby boy had the end of chromosomes 7 and 20 missing. A boy. We were having a boy, we only had girls’ names. I didn't want to hear what Myles had to say about him, I still wanted to see the consultants in Bristol. But they said the same thing, his quality of life wouldn't be great, and he probably wouldn't survive the whole pregnancy. They all sang from the same hymn sheet. But why wouldn't he survive? He had a strong heartbeat, I heard it, they heard it, so why?

We drove away both knowing what decision we had to make, but not wanting to make it. How could we? In the end Graham rang Exeter to talk to them, the midwives there were waiting for us, they said they had been thinking about us. I couldn't face anyone. Graham called people for me: my parents, my sister. I couldn't face saying that I was choosing to end my boy’s life. My boy with no name. Cue the start of sleepless nights, not knowing what I had done wrong in this pregnancy to get to this point. The date was booked; my son was to be born in July, only 5 months into the pregnancy. I had just started to feel him move a few days before I went into hospital. So how could I end it? I began to shut down, Graham had to take over life for me. I went to work but was like a zombie, emotionless. That's how I ended up coping, by shutting down. My mom flew over; my sister came down from London to be with us.

On July 19th Graham and I went into hospital. My midwife made sure she was on shift to be there for us. The unfortunate thing was that it was the same ward as others go to have their babies and bring them home, but we weren't bringing our son home. We named him Joshua in the end, a name that came to me at 3am one morning. He took 17 hours to come out, born on July 20th perfectly formed, with his tiny toes, fingers and even nails. Looking at him you wouldn't think there was so much wrong. To his parents he was perfect and always will be. We buried him the same day, we didn't think he would be so stubborn and take that long to be born. That was one regret. We wished we had longer with him, I wish I was more prepared to see him like he was. But how can you prepare for something like this? And why would you? Being pregnant is supposed to be the best time of your life, something I am yet to experience.

A week later we met with Emma who would become our geneticist. She carried out blood tests and told us that Graham had a balanced translocation of chromosomes 7 & 20. Something we would never have picked up if we had had a normal pregnancy. The likelihood of it happening again was less than 2%. So we thought ok, let's try again after a few months. And we were lucky, on December 5th (the day Joshua was due to be born), we found out we were pregnant again. I rang Emma immediately who was thrilled and my midwife who started crying with happiness.

Unfortunately over Christmas Graham's father passed away and we had a hard time over the holidays. But soon January came along and we had our early scans and started the ball rolling with booking in the CVS. That soon came along and everything seemed fine, except I could tell Helen wasn't best pleased with the size of the baby even though she didn't make a great play of it. Waiting... weeks felt like ages, and soon I was calling Emma everyday for answers. By then I was passed the point of no return and we had to go for an amniocentesis as the CVS results were inconclusive. I felt my heart sinking again, and myself slowly shutting down to protect myself. I was 16 weeks and knew I would have to give birth again if there was something wrong. I didn't want to, not yet. I felt like I was reliving my nightmare.

Graham and I had started couple counselling to deal with our grief and my phone rang during one of our sessions, it was Emma with the results. Our baby girl this time... had the same problems. "How sure are they? Please tell me this is wrong and could be a mistake", I say. She tells me it's not a mistake. I can't do this anymore. Within 4 days I was back in the same room I was in less than a year ago. Our baby Maya was born on Graham's parents wedding anniversary March 17th, 2013. A few weeks later she was buried with her brother so he could look after her, and they were together.

Making the decision to end a baby's life - I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy - it's the hardest decision any parent has to make, regardless of what age the child is. And you question yourself, what if I didn't end it, would they have survived... were all those tests wrong. You can make yourself go mad with that. Our kids will always live in our hearts, and losing them is a scar we will bear with us for the rest of our lives. We have just had to learn how to live and cope with it every single day. Some days are good, some not great, some horrendous, but one thing is that it's tested our relationship to the max but we have stuck together.

Graham has been my rock, and I think fathers are forgotten in these situations. Yes, women have to physically go through the pain of birth, but I am sure most husbands out there would rather go through it for us than watch us. Sure I've been angry at him, at life, for these past two years, but we have had to deal with it and work together at it. The thing is it's not over; we are going through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) at Guy’s Hospital this year so we are going to go through a lot more grief. Graham is the more positive one and I think he is determined it's going to work. I admire that in him, and am grateful he is. I do feel that I am blessed to have known my two precious babies, as they have shown me how strong I can be and how we can get through some of the hardest times still intact and smiling in the end. And they have shown me how precious life is, and that we should be thankful for what we have and who we have. It has shown us who is there for us, true friends and how important our nearest and dearest are. 

Antoinette Davey