“How do you celebrate Mother’s Day, when you don’t have your mum or your baby?”

My mum passed away in 2004, from a rare condition called MSA. I was 18 years old. I thought that would be the hardest thing I would ever have to go through in my lifetime.

But unfortunately it wasn’t.

At the end of 2014, my partner and I found out that we were expecting, we were so happy. My pregnancy was straight forward, a bit of morning sickness early on but nothing serious.

Watch: Nikki Gemmell on the unbearable reality of her mother’s death (post continues after video)

Video by MWN

Our 13 week scan was great, as was our 20 week scan. We also had a number of blood tests that came back fine. We found out we were expecting a baby boy. Because I was relatively young, and everything seemed to be going well, our doctors didn’t see the need for any further scans or tests after 20 weeks.

I made sure I was super healthy during my pregnancy. I did everything by the book. No alcohol, no coffee etc. We gave birth, at 39 weeks, on July 14, 2015, a day before my birthday.

Cooper was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. We were told he was fine.

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Things took a turn for the worst later that day. Cooper was breathing heavily, and one of the nurses noticed, and took him to the nursery to be checked.

And so began the worst few days of our lives.

That night we were told there might be something wrong with Cooper’s heart, he would need to be transferred for further tests. He nearly didn’t survive the trip from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.

The following day, on my birthday, we were told that it wasn’t his heart. He had a rare condition, called Vein of Galen (genetic, but completely unrelated to what my mum passed away from). A rare condition, which affects approximately 1 in 3 million babies and is rarely detected during pregnancy unless you have a scan after 30 weeks. Some cases can be operated on but Cooper’s was too severe. He was immediately put on life support.

Image via iStock.

That night we were told there might be something wrong with Cooper’s heart, he would need to be transferred for further tests. He nearly didn’t survive the trip from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.

The following day, on my birthday, we were told that it wasn’t his heart. He had a rare condition, called Vein of Galen (genetic, but completely unrelated to what my mum passed away from). A rare condition, which affects approximately 1 in 3 million babies and is rarely detected during pregnancy unless you have a scan after 30 weeks. Some cases can be operated on but Cooper’s was too severe. He was immediately put on life support.

The next five days were a blur, we asked ourselves so many questions, how could this be happening? Why was this happening? Was it my fault? Would we be able to have another baby?

Cooper survived another night with us by his side. And passed away on the morning of July 19. Our first born baby, the love of our lives, was gone. And there was nothing we could do.

Listen: I don't know how she does it - Libby Trickett on Miscarriage (post continues after podcast)

For the next 6 months, everything hurt. The pain was emotional and physical. As if the grief wasn’t hard enough, your body is also telling you that you should be looking after a baby. My milk came in and I had to take tablets to make it stop. My post baby body was a constant reminder that I had given birth, but had no baby. We had to pack up a beautiful nursery that we’d spent months setting up. We had to visit the funeral home. And of course we had to make sure all our friends and family knew what had happened.

It was a time when a girl really needed her mother, and I didn’t have her either.

I returned to work a few months later and everyday someone new asked me how my baby was going. I had to explain over and over, usually through tears. In saying that, going back to work was the best thing I could have done. I had somewhere to be every day and my colleagues were unbelievably supportive.

But the main reason I kept going was thanks to my amazing husband and our families, for them I will be forever grateful.

And of course the thought that one day, we would hopefully have another baby.

We started trying again around 6 months after losing Cooper. The first few months that we didn’t fall pregnant were extremely hard. I wondered if I was ever going to get pregnant again. There were a lot of tears. But finally it happened.

Our second pregnancy was a lot more stressful than our first. We had extra scans and tests, and constantly worried that it was all going to happen again.

It was a long 9 months. But we made it.

Its been a long road, but we made it. (image: istock)

On February 17, 2017 we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Zara, the light of our lives.

For a long time I wondered if we would truly ever be happy ever again. But I can now say we are getting there. It’s been tough, but one thing I’ve learnt is the road to motherhood is not easy for so many people. And sometimes it’s just not fair.

Last year Mother’s Day was terrible. How do you celebrate a day, when you don’t have your mum or your baby? I just cried and cried.

This year will be different though.

This year I will celebrate Mother’s Day with my beautiful baby girl, and we will remember her amazing brother and my mum, who were both taken from us far too soon.

Every day in Australia, 7 families are faced with the devastating and heartbreaking tragedy of their baby dying during or shortly after birth.

Sands is a not-for-profit organisation that provides emotional support and information to parents and families who experience the death of a baby, as well as offering resources and education to healthcare professionals. Sands Volunteer Parent Supporters offer a real sense of understanding and hope; they too have been through the devastating loss of a baby.

Author Courtney Zagel - Gold Coast Journalist. 30 years old, Wife to Leon. Mother of two, Cooper (passed away in 2015 at 5 days old) and Zara (now 10 weeks old)

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