ROBIN AND LEE-ANNE ADAMS
IT WAS 48-hours no-one could have prepared us for. An emotional roller-coaster of the scariest kind. Just two weeks earlier our doctor confirmed the pregnancy was going well. On Friday April 23 she said: “Baby has to come out right now.”
A whole two and a half months early. We were scared sh*tless.
We'd always dreamed of having a baby. We spoke about it at length while living in Istanbul and then decided to pump a large part of our savings into making it a reality.
Shortly after our wedding in Cape Town on the leap year day last year, we started our first round of IVF. Having spent almost triple figures on the process, we were gutted when it didn't work. So much so, we cut our honeymoon short, and returned to Turkey.
We needed time to heal, because we desperately wanted this. We didn't talk about a baby again. Seven months or so later, a chance meeting with a stranger golfing by himself on an Istanbul course would set a series of events in motion that would change our lives forever.
Turns out, this stranger is one of Turkey's top IVF specialists, Dr Cem Demirel. Robin and he spoke at length in the golf course bar, and after consulting with Lee, round two of IVF commenced.
A pregnancy was confirmed on a hole-in-one emoji on WhatsApp – Dr Cem is funny like that. And we got to see a foetal heartbeat for the first time on November 28.
We moved back to Cape Town for good on Robin’s birthday on Christmas Eve.
Everything was progressing perfectly. And then, in the blink of an eye, it all changed at the end of April. Pregnancy complications resulted in an emergency C-section at Groote Schuur Hospital. On April 25 at exactly 2.15pm, Ayla Grace Adams was born. Doctors gave her a 50% chance of making it.
Ayla is Turkish for a halo of the moon or moonlight. And on the day she was born, there was the most beautiful super moon, with this incredible halo around it.
Weighing just 650 grams (roughly half a gatsby), she was rushed to the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU). She would spend the first 83 days of her life in hospital.
It was the most stressful time of our lives. We drove to the hospital four times a day to drop off the tiniest amounts of breast milk. We were anxious, exhausted and depressed. We just felt so helpless. It was so hard leaving Ayla there every day. Robin was not even allowed to see her due to Covid regulations.
The immense support from friends, family, and even those on social media, carried us through. Our girl came home for good in the middle of July, which is when she was actually supposed to be born. The house has been filled with even more joy and love and happiness ever since. Ayla Grace, the warrior, the fighter, the little champ who is adored and loved by so many around the world, now weighs 4.5kgs.
Six days after Ayla's birth, the Moses family from Heideveld welcomed little Abdul-Khaaliq into the world. Born at 24 weeks and weighing 630g, the young man had absolutely no business arriving so early.
Mother Nawaal said she felt “very overwhelmed” at the time. “Doctors told me 24-week old babies don't normally survive. I had mixed emotions, but I just believed in my God,” she said.
After a 71-day hospital stay, they were able to take baby Moses home. Today he weighs 7kgs and is in good health.
Heinrich and wife Fiona Saayman from Vredendal also gave birth to a micro-premature baby, Hayfah in August 2015. Born after just 25 weeks and weighing only 440g, the parents say it was a pretty scary journey.
“The doctor said we must take one day at a time. It was four months before we could hold her for the first time. And that was the best moment for us as parents,” they said. Hayfah spent eight months in hospital before she was able to go home.
Today she is a Grade R pupil at Holy Angels Academy. Her grade one place at Vredendal-Noord Primary is already secured.
“She is our sunshine for every single day,” boasts Heinrich. “And she talks nonstop. Sometimes we need to ask her to slow down because no normal person can talk so much.”
Just this week another premature baby made international headlines. Curtis Means from Alabama in the US is the most premature infant to survive. He defied all odds – born at 21 weeks and one day, weighing 420g. That was more than a year ago. Now he's marked his spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Curtis, Ayla, Abdul, Hayfah, and the rest of the babies who arrived in the world too soon, but are thriving, serve as a timely reminder that miracles happen every day.
People are encouraged to wear a purple ribbon in support of World Prematurity Day, on Wednesday.