‘When I was born in September 2003, I became the 34th baby born as a result of the Life FertilityCare programme. My name is Dominic. Without the loss of my sister Gabrielle and this scheme I would not be here today. I am told that my arrival brought great joy to my parents and my extended family of grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The greatest gift is life. I’ll let my Dad tell the story from here.’
‘Dominic’s Mum and I were married in July ’96. During Eileen’s first pregnancy, through the autumn and Winter ’98 to ’99 all went well. She did not seem to experience any of the challenges some girls do. Every appointment Eileen had at the hospital I tried to attend. I wanted to be involved from the start.
I am sure that there is no significance but unfortunately on the day she was to have the 36 weeks check up, I was not able to go with my wife due to a business appointment in Warwick. During that appointment my mobile rang I answered and noticed it was my wife’s number. However, the voice at the other end was not. I do not recall who it was I was talking to but I was encouraged to come to the hospital to join my wife.
To cut a long story short, we learnt that the baby Eileen was carrying, our first child, Gabrielle Lucy, would be born asleep. We were later advised that she had Down’s syndrome. I will leave to the reader’s imagination the feelings, thoughts and observations that you make at a time like this. Suffice to say I would not wish it on anyone. However, without our faith as Catholics, I do not believe that we would have coped . . .Unfortunately over the next few months we were not being successful with this plan and maybe came to think that was what was intended for us.
In all the years I have known my wife, I believed that she was someone who would make a brilliant mother having witnessed her rapport with children that she knew and those to whom she was an Aunt or older Cousin. So in 2001 when I first heard of the Life NFP programme and that there was to be a meeting in Leamington Spa to discuss it Eileen and I attended. On my part because I believed it sounded ‘just the thing’ for us. By ‘just the thing’ I mean that we had probably been considering other fertility programmes but always fell at the hurdle of, ‘was it acceptable to our Catholic beliefs?’ Of course it was not but they had seemed to be the only option.
The meeting was presented to two distinct groups of people those who believed it could help them and those who wished to promote the programme by a medical practitioner working for the charity. The presentation delivered a scheme that to our understanding was ethical and moral when compared to others and was not being driven by an organization with a commercial goal.
During our use of the programme the patience and perseverance of my wife was needed but we continued to follow the NFP procedures and for us we were to be blessed with what we had sought and Dominic was born in September 2003. I say blessed because, to us, children are not commodities for trading nor are they something we deserve as a right. Every step of the way the team at Life were very supportive and, for us, we have chosen to remain friends with them . . .
Very early on in Eileen’s pregnancy we were advised that the child we were expecting could have ‘Downs Syndrome’. It had been identified that Eileen’s records suggested a strong chance of this. Like any parent this was not news we wanted to hear. But after the initial shock we placed ourselves in the hands of God.
To us this information was of great support because it then allowed us to prepare for this likelihood and we also received great support from the medical team supporting us at this time. A beautiful moment occurred during a scan, towards the end of the pregnancy, when we were involved in the hospital’s trial of the 4D scanner. We clearly saw a definite ‘human’ image of our son being broadcast and in a brief moment this child raised his fist and gave us the ‘thumbs up’.
My wife has always been active in our church and has regularly visited Lourdes in France on pilgrimage. In 2005, as a family, we returned to Lourdes in thanksgiving and, as Mary, presenting our Son at the ‘temple’ to the Lord in ‘this place’. Dominic’s presence seemed to encourage those who choose to work voluntarily here and to entertain the sick. Today he seems to be a ‘healthy’ child much loved by his family and community. His initial health was however challenging but again we have experienced the love of the Lord at these times when he must have surely carried us through by those he sent to help us.
The loss of Gabrielle was the loss of hope and expectation that all parents must experience as they ‘plan’ their future. Today, every day is like a birthday. Our joy is to wake up with Dominic and after a day at work to return home to see him and witness his development.’