A son’s gift

Author Peter shares his family's story in his book A Son's Gift.
Author Peter shares his family's story in his book A Son's Gift. 

Expecting a baby is such a precious gift and my wife, Kylie, and I were awaiting our first. Ultrasounds provide a unique opportunity for dads. For a dad, an ultrasound is our first bonding experience. While a mother can feel the tenderness in her breasts and the first tiny movements of her child, it’s at the moment of the ultrasound when dads can say, ‘That’s mine!’

On Friday May 28, Kylie and I went along for the exciting three dimensional viewing of our ‘new life’. Within 30 seconds of the ultrasound starting, the sonographer kept hovering over the image of our child’s heart. No words had been said, yet Kylie sensed this ultrasound was different from the 12 and 20 week procedures.

The sonographer turned and asked if we had any previous scans and whether anything had been mentioned about our baby’s ‘condition’. Looking into my wife’s eyes, I could tell that this was not how she had imagined the ultrasound. Tears rolled down Kylie’s face and this strong Taurean lady was trembling and looked broken. There’s a problem with your child’s heart, there was a non-functioning right ventricle in our baby’s heart. She explained that as they had never seen this form of scarring on the heart before at the clinic, they would require a further examination with a pediatric cardiologist.

Dr Miller explained clearly that this condition was very serious and that the baby may not survive at all. At the diagnosis after the ultrasound, Kylie and I were offered some choices. Firstly, that even at 30 weeks, there would be no resistance from the ethics committee if we chose to terminate due to the severity of the heart condition. The second option was that the baby might not even reach full term. A third possibility was to go full term and the baby may need some form of apparatus support for the rest of its life.

Fourthly, simply to hope.

The sonographer turned and asked if we had any previous scans and whether anything had been mentioned about our baby’s ‘condition’.

Basically, our child would not be able to provide oxygen to its lungs. The heart was not able to function normally to support the baby. This baby would not be able to breathe by itself. While it was in utero it did not require oxygen, yet as soon as the baby came into the world it would need its lungs to work.

They told us to go home and come back on Monday. We were given a video of our child. The most important decision of our life – and all we have is a heartbeat. I saw no option but to terminate. Delivering a child to an existence of life-support would be more than inconvenient; it would be pointless. I began to tell friends of my decision and gathered reasons to reassure myself that it was the right thing to do. Although I was telling friends, I hadn’t yet found the bravado to share my decision with my wife.

As I tried to sleep that night, my dreams were of the worst possible outcome. I managed to doze off for a couple of hours and awoke to find that Kylie was not at my side. I went downstairs and saw a sight that caused me pain. At 2:00 am on May 29, 2004, my wife sat on the lounge in the dark, watching on the wide screen television the black and white video of our child. She was motionless, the reflection of the television screen highlighting the tears that poured down her face as she focused on the erratic and struggling heartbeat of our baby.

I was witnessing my wife surrendering to the power of love as only a mother can; her own love allowed her to be moved by the force that is in her heart. My wife wept tears because she was alive in a way I didn’t understand. In turn, I realised for the first time what a coward I had been. I had made a decision to terminate a life without understanding what was possible. I was willing to terminate a life that had a greater will to live than I had. In the early hours of that morning, my wife had made a decision and commitment that would change and transform our lives.

On Monday, May 31, 2004, we were back at the hospital having another ultrasound with Dr Philippa Ramsay and Dr Miller. They believed they were still viewing an extremely rare visual of a foetus with probable Uhl’s anomaly. Dr Miller explained to us as clearly as possible that this was a very serious ‘problem’ and the outlook for the future of our child was bleak. At this point, Kylie and I decided to find out the sex of our child. The magic she was carrying was a boy. A son. With genuine kindness and compassion, the doctors asked us if we knew which option we wanted to take. Kylie set the direction and when asked about termination, she said firmly, ‘He is my son; there is no decision to be made’.

I recall looking at Kylie when she spoke her words with such conviction, and being in awe at the power in her voice. Even with the tears flowing down her face, when Kylie made her statement about choosing life for our son her voice was resolute and anchored with energy. On May 29, 2004 Kylie made a powerful committed decision to take our child to full term. Kylie’s decision was based on unconditional love. Over the next 8 weeks we were out to achieve Destination: miracle.

On July 28th 2004 at 2.07pm our son was born and I heard him cry: ‘Hear me roar!’ he announced. ‘I am here in this world!’ A beautiful Leo star sign was welcomed; we had a son with the heart and strength of a lion. It was at the moment of my son’s cry that I understood some of the rewards of being a parent. Then as a great gift they brought Zane over to us, all beautifully wrapped in a blanket. Zane was breathing on his own. My wife held him in her arms, close to her heart and Zane rested so peacefully. I watched in wonder and humility as two beautiful hearts connected. To this day, I am humbled by the experience of the beauty, power and fragility of seeing my wife holding a miracle named Zane. Her love towards Zane expressed in her hug was such a physical presence that I felt as though I’d been hugged.

To read the full story of how in eight weeks one unborn child had an impact on the life of so many people, you can purchase A Son's Gift book or e-book.