Every birth is a little miracle and Maryanne Dowle, a parishioner from St Thomas More, Coventry, shares her dramatic story of the birth of her son George proving that miracles do happen!
When my waters broke at 20 weeks, I was told that the next 12-48 hours were critical, and the most likely outcome was stillbirth. Facing isolation and total bedrest, alongside weeks of sick leave, I was anxious about the future. My consolation was the registrar’s words that night: ‘miracles do happen’.
Surviving the first 48 hours was the most relief I’ve ever felt. From that moment, I prayed through each day with as much stoicism as possible. I set some milestones along the way: firstly, making it to 24 weeks (a 50-70% chance of survival for baby). After a week-long hospital admission, I stayed on total bed rest, separated from my one-year-old daughter who I couldn’t lift, cuddle or play with.
At my 20-week scan, the sonographer told us that her waters broke at 20 weeks, but her son wasn’t born until 30 weeks. This helped to renew my strength. We wanted to give our baby powerful Saint names, deciding on George (for the strength of St George) and Benedict (for the protection of St Benedict, and because Pope Benedict XVI had a special significance, may he rest in peace). Like his heavenly patron, George showed incredible strength and determination. I prayed the Joyful Mysteries every night, thanking God for the gift of enduring another day, and praying for continued protection.
At our first appointment with a very senior obstetrician, specialising in pre-term babies, the staff team couldn’t believe that no more water was lost: it was a miracle. The doctors were clear about the likelihood of either losing more fluid, going into labour, or developing an infection necessitating immediate delivery. At 24 weeks, babies’ lung development is key to their survival, and amniotic fluid is essential. Being very aware of the risks, I focused on the next milestone: 26 weeks. As I prayed my Rosary that evening, I was reminded that the mother’s womb is a tabernacle, and I praised God for keeping this tabernacle a safe haven for George.
Soon after, I was readmitted with heavy bleeding and more fluid loss. Being constantly in and out of hospital at just over 25 weeks, my prayer was to keep labour away for as long as possible. I sampled most of the beds on the antenatal ward, hearing many interesting stories. Emotions run very high, and many women are desperate to have the end in sight. On the contrary, for myself and George every extra day in the womb was a blessing. The seemingly miniscule target of one day at a time was nothing short of all-consuming and totally exhausting.
A pertinent observation was the emphasis of so many people on ‘remaining positive’, having ‘positive thoughts’, and sharing ‘positive vibes’. Whilst positivity was hugely important, my eyes were opened to the raw and harsh reality that, sometimes in life, positivity isn’t enough. Everything was completely out of my control, including my emotions. When positivity seems unattainable, there is a desperate need for a much higher power than ourselves: the Grace of God.
George remained happy and healthy, already weighing 2lbs, 11oz. Our consultant said that the bleeding would trigger labour within the next two weeks. By 28 weeks, a baby’s lungs have begun to develop, and they have a 95% chance of survival, but there is still a high risk of developmental problems.
At the end of my hospital bed, I kept the 20-week scan picture of George, a prayer card to St Gianna Molla (Patron Saint of the unborn), and an icon of Ss Benedict and Scholastica for George’s protection. I received ongoing support from a Catholic Chaplain who told me about his sister’s pregnancy in Uganda. She gave birth to her child very prematurely, and they drove miles to reach a hospital with the necessary facilities to care for the baby. Despite the limitations of their circumstances, the child is healthy and happy: another inspiring story of faithfulness in the face of challenge.
The following weeks were tough. The bleeding was getting worse, and I was rushed to the Labour Ward several times a week. Being prepared for imminent childbirth, I was given a 20-hour dose of Magnesium Sulphate for George’s neurological development. I had horrendous migraines, and felt like my body was on fire. I met the Neonatal staff who provided an overload of information about George’s prospects. By another miracle, no signs of labour occurred and George seemed completely unfazed. My consultant commented: ‘this pregnancy is turning into a nightmare’, and, ‘if I could deliver him now, I would’.
George’s journey was anything but ‘textbook’. At times, I wanted to get the birth over with. At others, when I was experiencing significant pains or being rushed around, I wanted to remain pregnant. My mother was an amazing support, visiting me most days, keeping me well-supplied, and staying with me. One night, she slept on a camp bed on the labour ward, whilst I waited to see if it was George’s appointed time. In those desperate, darker moments, I needed new hope.
Miraculously, my scan made visible that George’s lungs were working. The consultant said I’d been ‘praying too hard’, since the bleeding should have triggered labour. The power of prayer was self-evident during an evermore unpredictable journey. The same night, I was rushed to the Labour Ward again. My midwife saw my Rosary and told me how she struggled to conceive her son, having been born with half a womb. She placed her Rosary on her tummy every night, believing it was crucial to the healthy development of her son. George’s story was beginning to prove itself a real witness to the Faith.
George’s growth had slowed, and there were serious concerns about a major haemorrhage. We decided to elect for a caesarean section: an incredibly overwhelming moment. The next morning, on the Feast of St Patrick, Baby George was delivered, weighing 3lbs 11oz. I cried as I heard his cry: the sound of a child very much alive. The surgeon briefly showed him to us; his tiny, beautiful face was smaller than the palm of my hand. It took several hours to resuscitate him. After two blood transfusions and a day in recovery, my consultant wheeled me into the NICU to meet George for the first time. The next morning, he was already off ventilation support and began rapid progress. We added Patrick into his name, to keep the Irish side of the family happy!
George came home six and a half weeks later, on 1st May (the beginning of Our Lady’s special month). We were astounded by the exceptional care of the hospital staff who, on several occasions, expressed that miracles do happen. The power of prayer was an awesome witness, and a reminder that God is great. It is within circumstances such as these that faith in a higher Good, and trust in a higher Grace are crucial for full healing of the body, mind, and soul. We are eternally grateful for the miracle of George’s life, and for the prayers of so many. I hope this story brings renewed strength and knowledge of God’s Grace to anyone who needs it.