In 2006 my husband Ash and I were amazed and delighted to become pregnant with triplets. However our hopes and dreams for our instant family were dashed when my waters broke, just 21 weeks into the pregnancy.
Five days later, our first son Henry was born, so beautiful and perfect and looking just like Ash. He gave a tiny cry and was laid on my chest where, for one precious hour, I held him and felt his heart beating against mine. His tiny hands squeezed onto our fingers and then, an hour after he was born, he passed away.
Incredibly Henry’s siblings didn’t follow their brother into the world that day. As intervention isn’t given to babies born before 24 weeks, we had a long way to go. But as the days passed our hopes grew.
At 24 ½ weeks, after three weeks of bedrest in hospital, my waters broke once again and Jasper and Evan were born by emergency caesarean. They were immediately intubated and transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal Hospital for Women.
Weighing less than a kilo each my boys had a long fight ahead. However, babies this small had survived before and we were optimistic.
The first few days were promising. Both boys were taking my expressed breastmilk through tubes into their stomachs. We spent every day sitting by their humidicribs marvelling at how beautiful they were and falling in love with them.
But when our babies were ten days old we rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night as Evan had taken ill. We sat with him through the night and in the morning learned that he had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage. Heartbroken, we had no choice but to remove him from his life support.
This was the first time Ash and I had held Evan. We told him how much we loved him, kissed him and he slipped away while he was in my arms.
Over the next few weeks Jasper began to grow stronger. Amidst the worry and sadness of this time, we also have some beautiful and happy memories of our time with him. There was the amazing day that he opened his eyes for the first time, the handful of times we were allowed to take him out of his crib for a cuddle, and the time I gave him one precious breastfeed.But, like many such premature babies, our baby had chronic lung disease. Jasper’s lungs kept collapsing and many times over the next few weeks we came close to losing him. However each time he amazed his doctors and fought on.
At 58 days old Jasper’s lungs collapsed again, but this time he could not be revived. Once again we took our baby out of his crib, and held him while he passed away.
The days and weeks following Jasper’s death were terribly hard. Ash and I talked about them all the time, and about the incredible love that they had brought into our lives. We were determined that they would never be forgotten and that something good would come from their lives.
When I should have been run off my feet looking after three tiny babies, I instead was facing maternity leave with empty arms. To help me get through the days, Ash suggested I train for a half marathon, and dedicate it to Henry, Jasper and Evan, raising some money for the Royal Hospital for Women in their memory. I asked a few friends to join me and put out a flyer at a few local cafes. That’s where things snowballed and Henry, Jasper and Evan’s legacy was born.
Nine months to the day since Evan and Jasper were born, and six months after Jasper died, I ran the SMH Half Marathon with a team of 98 people! Together we raised $80,000 for new humidicribs. With the help of the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation we set up the Henry, Jasper & Evan Smith Trust Fund, to provide life-saving equipment for critically ill premature babies in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Hospital for Women.
Each year since then I have organised a team to train and run the SMH Half Marathon to raise funds for my boys’ Trust Fund. In the 5 years since they left us, over 700 people have run with me and over $520,000 has been raised in their memory. This has bought ten humidicribs and ten neo-natal monitors, which are saving the lives of hundreds of premature babies just like mine.
Each year a group of amazing people join my team – some are also parents of precious babies who have died, others are parents of miracle children who have overcome their premature start to life. Many are just inspired by my brave little boys! So many generous people support us – Five months of free weekly training is provided for the team by a professional excercise physiologist and runners also get a free team singlet and cap, donated by Running Bare. This year Tommee Tippee have joined Running Bare as our major sponsors. We have loads of fun along the way, and I organise regular social events in the lead up to the race as well as a team after-party.
My goal for 2012 is for a team of over 250 runners – our biggest yet – and to raise $140,000 for two special ventilators which are gentle on even the tiniest lungs, and are urgently needed by the hospital. Please, if you’ve ever thought of running a half marathon, make 2012 the year you do it, and join me in saving premature babies in memory of Henry, Jasper and Evan.
Knowing that my beloved babies Henry, Jasper & Evan are helping other premature babies to live makes me the proudest mum in the world.
Sophie Smith is a primary school teacher and mother of 5 boys – triplets Henry, Jasper & Evan (who died in 2006 following brave fights for life at one hour, nine weeks, and ten days old respectively); Owen (3 and a half) and Harvey (12 months). She is dedicated to raising funds for life-saving equipment for premature babies in memory of her triplets, by organising teams to run the SMH Half Marathon each May.