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'I was 8 weeks pregnant through IVF. Then my husband died suddenly.'

Jess Baxter knows hardship. But nothing could prepare her for this. 

In the eastern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, Jess, 36, and her husband Dan Baxter, 39, were waking up on the Friday morning of May 1.

They were preparing to go to her mum’s place for the weekend, leaving their own four walls for the first time in a month thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"I really don't want to go; I don't feel well," Jess remembers Dan telling her. 

"I just thought he didn’t want to go," Jess laughs, speaking to Mamamia

Dan "begrudgingly" got out of bed and told his wife he would prepare her poached eggs whilst she had a shower to get ready to leave.

Jess and her husband Dan, who have been together for five years. Image: Supplied. 

"I got all my stuff ready to put in the car, and then I came inside and the egg water was still boiling," Jess remembers. 

"He's obsessed with fish and he has about 20 fish tanks in our garage. So I thought, 'I bet he’s out there playing with those fish tanks.'

"When I went out there, he was on the floor. 

"I was really confused. I was trying to wake him up. He was on his side, so I rolled him over and started trying to do CPR. I called 000."

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Jess' neighbour, who happens to be a nurse, came rushing up the driveway after hearing her in distress and helped perform CPR.

In what felt like "forever", the ambulance arrived 15 minutes later.

"They said, 'Look, just go inside. We'll come and tell you when there's something to tell you.'"

As she went inside, Jess remembers looking at the clock. It was 11am. She waited, with her neighbour by her side, to hear from the paramedics. 

"About 20 minutes later, the ambulance officers came back in and said, 'I'm so sorry. There's nothing you can do.' 

"I said, 'What do you mean? What do you mean you're sorry?’

"They said, 'He's gone'."

She was eight weeks pregnant. 

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The couple had gone through a long and expensive journey for Jess to become pregnant. 

"In 2014, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer," she explains. 

"I went for treatment. I had surgery. I did radiation treatment and unbeknownst to me, that had affected my fertility."

Jess and Dan started dating in 2015, after being friends for 10 years prior. 

In 2017, they spent about $20,000 on a vasectomy reversal for Dan, which saw them dip into his superannuation. 

Dan and Jess started their IVF journey mid-way through last year. Image: Supplied. 

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In 2018, they married and in 2019, they began their IVF journey

"It is quite a long process before you even get started," Jess shares. "We did our first round of IVF at the beginning of this year."

"Luckily, that was our first one, and it worked, I fell pregnant."

At the seven-week scan, everything seemed perfect. Jess remembers Dan being beyond elated.

"He cried. It was amazing. It was beautiful. We were so excited. That was Wednesday and then he passed away on Friday."

Preliminary findings say there was an infection in one of his heart valves that triggered his death. 

Remembering his character, Jess says Dan "was so funny."

"He had a really like rough exterior, but he was so soft and sweet and caring. He loved to get a laugh out of people."

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Now, Jess is 23 weeks pregnant and navigating being a first time mum without her husband by her side.

"It's been a real struggle," Jess, who is a full-time chef, explains. 

Jess says trying to return to her everyday routine without her husband by her side has been unimaginably difficult, especially when so much of her life reminds her of him. 

"Going back to work was really hard because we got married at my work," she shares. 

"Plus, preparing to give birth to our baby and not having him here has been really, really hard because it's kind of like another reality check that he's really not here."

"Going back to work was really hard because we got married at my work." Image: Supplied. 

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It’s now not just the emotional grief Jess is reconciling with, but the financial stress too. 

Jess is a New Zealand citizen, but has lived in Australia for 14 years. The majority of her family lives in the neighbouring country.

"I had applied for my permanent residency in Australia, but because Dan [a permanent Australian resident] has passed away, I'm not eligible anymore for the partner visa."

It also means she is not eligible for any government welfare benefits.

After exhausting their savings and superannuation on their future baby, Jess was left with little financial support.

"If he was here, and he was still working and bringing in an income, it wouldn't have been so bad. I just basically got left with nothing – just my weekly income, which I now need to support the entire household with. So that has been really stressful."

To help alleviate some of this stress, her two best friends set up a GoFundMe page for her. Whilst she admits she was at first hesitant, she says after a couple of months she realised the financial pressure she was under, as she questioned whether she would be able to stay in their house on only one income. 

Within mere months, Jess went from experiencing one of the most joyful experiences, to one of the saddest. 

You can access Jess' GoFundMe page here


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