After years of knowing they wanted an addition to their family Amy and Kelly Rowan embarked on the journey many LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland find pain-staking, actually getting pregnant. Across the rest of the U.K fertilisation treatments are available to LGBT+ couples but Northern Ireland – as with Same-Sex marriage – is behind the times.
Remarkably, the couple’s quest for parenthood was rapid, Amy explained: “We were actually really lucky after we decided we were ready to have our first child, after only two attempts at insemination over three months I found out I was pregnant.”
When the day of their scan fell on Kelly’s 30th Birthday the excited couple made their way to the hospital. Kelly exclusively told OutNews Global: “We were told that Bella had a retracting chin which they called Pierre Robin syndrome and her right leg was missing her fibula bone, meaning her leg was turning in. We had no idea what this meant at the time even after hours of research and countless appointments at the foetal medicine clinic.”
The couple vowed to love and cherish their daughter regardless of her physical disabilities. They were devoted and set out to prepare their baby her perfect bedroom.
And on March 6 last year the pair had their lives thrown into a whirlwind of joy when their little 5lbs 5oz daughter Bella was born via caesarean section at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.
But that was the start of the most difficult time the couple had faced together.
“When Bella was born we only got to see her over a screen, she let out a faint cry and then there was silence.” Kelly remembers.
Amy added: “The doctors rushed her out of the room to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where she needed to be incubated as she couldn’t breathe on her own. Later that night Kelly was allowed to go and see her but I didn’t until the next day. It was another 14 days before we got to hold her.”
Bella spent the first 2 weeks of her life in the NICU where doctors began genetics testing before she was transferred to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“When Bella was moved to the PICU she had a tracheostomy for her extremely narrow upper airways.” Says Amy. “And a harness placed on her hips as they were dislocated.”
Months passed and Amy and Kelly made their way to the hospital every morning and returning home late evening when their little girl was safely tucked up in the care of the nursing team.
Amy hoped to have Bella home in time for her first Christmas: “Along with the doctors we were confident that Bella was coming on leaps and bounds, we were attending discharge meetings and being trained on how to care for Bella at home.”
Four months after Bella was born the couple were told that she was diagnosed with a severe form of Campomelic Dysplasia which had caused her skeletal abnormalities. Around the same time Bella contracted multiple infections meaning doctors were forced to place her on an oscillator which is a higher frequency ventilator.
And then the news they had been dreading.
“The consultant called us in when Bella had been on the oscillator for over a month which they said was a really long time,” Says Kelly. “She said that they were doing so much but nothing was helping and they were going to start looking at end of life care. It was just surreal, nauseating and we were in complete shock.”
During her last few days of life, Bella continued to bring joy to her family as Kelly explained:
“The nurses were fantastic, they had different crafts for us to make that we could keep as memories of Bella. The staff went out of their way to let us hold Bella even though it’s unheard of that a baby on an oscillator is held, that was a highlight for us, that we got to hold her and she knew we were holding her.”
Baby Bella passed away on August 29, 2017. It was ultimately because her little lungs had not developed. The couple’s lives would never be the same.
Kelly says: “It’s just the worst experience of your life but you’re also happy that your child is no longer suffering.”
Speaking of Bella’s heartbreaking journey home, Amy recalled: “We took Bella home in the car with us, I held her on my knee and we brought her to the funeral directors, we didn’t want to leave her at the hospital alone. The next day Bella got to come home and spend her first night in her bedroom.”
With Baby Bella cemented into their hearts forever the inspirational couple are asking for your support to keep their little girl’s memory alive.
The “Bella’s Journey” fund has been set up to raise at least £15,000 towards a piece of equipment with a plaque in memory of Bella in the PICU.
Amy summed up the cause: “Your donation will help Bella’s Journey to support Doctors and Nurses in the PICU to continue to deliver the world-class care they gave our daughter.”
You came into the world a little too soon
Still both of your Mummies were over the moon
The sweetest little baby with a little button nose
Little fingers that gripped your Mummies and the cutest little toes
Your stole your Nana’s hearts and those little cheeks they’d rub
Before you even had a name, you were everyone’s little Bub
Your curly little locks and blue eyes so bright
You needed the perfect name it needed to be just right
Your Mummies looked and they knew the name for you
You were always going to be their little Bella Boo
You brought sunshine to them in the midst of the cloud
You fought long and hard and made them so proud
Your angel wings were growing but you fought another fight
Until your Mummies got to hold you, and you knew the time was right
Your Mummies hearts are heavy and they will miss you everyday
Friends and family will think hard for the best words to say
But nothing will take the pain away or stop the last tear
Except you gripping their finger and reminding them you’re near
You’ll be with them every day in the win and the sun
The best days of your angel life have only just begun
Bella means beautiful and beautiful you are
The perfect angel baby and the brightest shining star
- Written by Nora Calder for Bella’s service of thanksgiving