REAL LIFE

Little Family – Big Love

After suffering a terrible heartache, Donna and Davey hoped for a miracle.

Donna Williams, 30, Adelaide, SA

Could I accept? Should I accept? Staring at the Facebook friend request on my computer, all the old feelings came rushing back. Davey was back in my life. My first love was now 36, and I hadn’t seen him in 14 years!

We’d met for the first time at a little people convention in Melbourne. I was born with achondroplasia, or dwarfism, and I stand at 135cm tall. That day at the convention I had felt thrilled to know there were so many people out there just like me. And I was even more thrilled to meet Davey.

There’s something special about him, I remember thinking. I was a teenager back then and Davey was a little older than me, with brown hair and a stunning smile. We lived in different states – and although I was instantly attracted to him, I knew that it wasn’t to be. We kept in touch on the phone and caught up at conventions, but then Davey moved overseas for work.

I always thought of Davey

I was 19 when I heard through friends that he had married. My heart sunk – I’d secretly hoped we were meant for each other. It hurt to realise I was wrong. Trying to move on, I got married a few years later. But as time passed and my marriage fell apart, I always thought of Davey. Now, here he was again on my computer screen.

Nervously we started messaging. He told me he was divorced and working as an actor in Cairns. I’ve always remembered you, he wrote. I felt like an excited teenager all over again. Was the love story I’d dreamt of meant to be after all?

Davey and Donna

Six months later I was flying to Cairns to see him. Meeting up, even after all that time, felt completely natural. So much had happened, but our connection had endured. ‘I love you,’ I told him that week. ‘I love you too,’ he smiled. Moving up to Cairns, life couldn’t get much better. Still, there was one thing we both craved. A baby.

But we knew that there were risks, and when I fell pregnant a year later, the doctor had sobering news. ‘There’s a 75 per cent chance your baby will have dwarfism too,’ a geneticist told us. ‘But there’s also a small chance it will have a double dose of the dwarfism gene. If this is the case it won’t survive out of the womb, as it will be too small.’

It was an agonising wait for our 20-week scan where we’d find out. I’d already fallen in love with this little life, and I couldn’t bear the idea it might be taken from us.

‘You’re having a boy,’ we were told. ‘And he does have the dwarfism gene – but not the double dose.’

What an enormous relief! Davey and I were both proof that having achondroplasia needn’t hold you back. We were sure our baby would have a bright future too. Sure he might get teased at times like we had, but we’d teach him the bullies didn’t matter.

Davey and I felt on top of the world, but when I was 27 weeks pregnant, everything changed. It was the night of Davey’s father Robert’s funeral. ‘I think my waters have broken,’ I whispered, worried.

I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be right.

We rushed to hospital, where I was given an ultrasound to check on our precious baby. But as the test was carried out, the room fell silent. ‘It was missed before,’ the doctor said quietly. ‘I’m afraid your baby does have the double dose of the achondroplasia gene. I’m afraid he won’t be able to survive.’

I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be right. As the doctor gently explained there were no recorded cases of these babies living past birth, my hands shot instinctively to my tummy and tears flowed down my face. ‘What do we do?’ Davey asked in shock.

The next six weeks were the worst of my life. I carried our baby, Robert – or Bobby, as we called him – until he was born via caesarean on April 24, 2011. While other new mums cradle their newborns, excited and joyful for their future, we had to watch helplessly while our son struggled on for five days.

Davey and I took turns holding him in his final hours. ‘Your grandad will look after you in heaven,’ I whispered to him. ‘Mummy and Daddy will always love you.’

Leaving the hospital without our baby was heartbreaking. I never would have got through Bobby’s funeral without Davey. We sobbed together and shared the grief no parent should ever have to feel. ‘How will we ever get through this?’ I cried.

Unable to face being back in our old home, we moved to Adelaide to be near family and finally I returned to work. But Bobby had changed me. Something was missing in my life and, although I could never replace him, I knew I wanted a baby more than ever. It was almost a whole year before we were brave enough to try again. When we discovered I was expecting, we felt incredibly blessed.

This time, at 15 weeks, I had a more accurate test for the double dose gene. ‘You’re having a boy,’ I was told. ‘He has achondroplasia but we know 100 per cent it’s not the double dose.’

Of course Davey and I were still petrified that they could be wrong, but this pregnancy felt different. The little man, who we named Mason, even looked different on the scans.Because my pelvis is too small for childbirth, I had Mason via caesarean on September 20, 2012.

‘Is he okay?’ I gasped, waking from the general anaesthetic. ‘He’s great,’ a midwife said, smiling back at me.

‘He’s great,’ a midwife said, smiling back at me.

I was so relieved, and as our baby boy was wheeled in to see me, I thought my heart would burst with happiness. ‘You’re perfect,’ I sighed, as his tiny hand clasped my finger. When we took him home I felt how a new mum should feel – in love and exhausted! There was a raft of health problems connected to Mason’s achondroplasia to come – but, after what we’d been through with Bobby, I knew Davey and I could cope.

Mason is 20 months old now. He has a tracheotomy to help him breathe because his airways are so small, and he’s had several operations to drain fluid from his skull because of his size too. But he’s doing amazingly well and we are so proud of him. When he grows up we’ll tell him all about his big brother in heaven too.

We may be a family of little people, but we have a huge amount of love to go round!

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