"I sang to him, cuddled him and cherished him. We bonded deeply and I felt so proud watching Wilber’s personality shine through." And then she lost him all too soon.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 24, 2020. It has since been updated.
When 39-year-old Tammy Ireson finally got pregnant after 20 long years of waiting, she was ecstatic. Little did she know that she would have to say goodbye to her precious son far too soon. Two decades after having her first and only child, the mother had suddenly and unexpectedly fallen pregnant with her boyfriend Mark's child. And it was just a month after being scheduled for a hysterectomy to relieve the pain and effects of her endometriosis.
"We’d only been together for three months and I worried what Mark would say. I knew I’d be having this baby no matter what because it was a miracle I was pregnant in the first place. Luckily, Mark was fully supportive," she said, according to Mirror UK. So she got ready to bring in her "miracle" into the world. However, it wasn't a smooth journey. At the 20-week scan, during an ultrasound, the sonographer noted that the baby wasn't opening his hands and so Tammy was referred for tests to check if it had any conditions.
But Tammy knew she wasn't going to ever give her baby up. She said, "At every appointment afterwards, I was asked if I wanted to terminate, but I'd waited years to give my daughter Zilanne a sibling and the life inside me felt so precious. Wilber didn't move much but I felt him rolling in response to me rubbing or patting my bump. The connection between us was strong from the start."
But while doctors worked hard to diagnose Wilber, Tammy had to deal with a pregnancy filled with problems. She had to give birth to her son at 32 weeks following an emergency Caesarean section when she developed pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure that can be dangerous for the mother). When the newborn came out though, he wasn't breathing and had to be rushed to the NICU to place him on life support.
It was there that despite all the issues, Tammy and Wilber found a piece of heaven for themselves. She said, "We didn't know if he'd make it through the first night but he pulled through. The nurses advised me not to disturb him with too much physical contact but I could tell my touch brought him comfort. Wilber loved having his bum patted or being massaged. As the days went by, he grew stronger and like any new mum, I got to know my son."
"I sang to him, cuddled him and cherished him. He couldn’t move his arms or legs but after having some physiotherapy, he was able to make little movements and loved having his feet and back rubbed. We bonded deeply and I felt so proud watching Wilber’s personality shine through. He was so alert, cheeky, and even grumpy when he wanted to be, causing the doctors doing their rounds to circle back when he’d calmed down. The nurses joked everybody knew when Wilber wanted something because he stared so intently at the nurses, they could feel the strength of his gaze across the room."
In the meantime, Wilber finally had his diagnosis — he had an RYR1 gene mutation, resulting in central core disease and arthrogryposis - stiffness of the joints. That didn't deter Tammy though and she was ready to take him home from the NICU. However, before she could, tragedy struck. Wilber suffered a cardiac arrest that left him brain-dead. "He did eventually come back but the moment he opened his eyes, I knew my little boy was gone. His gaze was vacant and he no longer seemed to recognise me. Wilber didn't respond to my touch anymore and the connection between us vanished. I was devastated," said the distraught mother.
The damage was irrevocable and keeping him on life-support would only prolong not just his pain but his mother's too. So she made one of the toughest decisions of her life — to remove him from the only thing that still kept him breathing. On the day that he was to be let go, a team of medics made it possible for Tammy to hold him one last time.
"For the first time since Wilber‘s birth, I was able to take him for a walk. But as I moved down the corridor with Wilber in my arms, I realised that was our first and last ever walk together and I broke down. That’s the moment Mark captured this picture of us. We’d agreed beforehand to take as many pictures as we could because even though those moments would be so painful to revisit, not having images of every precious last minute with our son would have been infinitely worse." As he took his final breaths, Tammy sang to him and the nurses helped take prints of Wilber’s hands and feet and save a lock of his hair.
Heartbreaking photo shows the moment distraught mother said final goodbye to her 13-week-old son https://t.co/fZG6OTTzb2 pic.twitter.com/D8WBJeZHPD— readsector (@readsector) February 17, 2020
Soon, he was gone. As devastated as the mother was, she understood that even in his death, Wilber had given her a gift. "I miss Wilber so much and there isn’t an hour that passes when I don’t think about what our future with him might have looked like. But I’m so grateful for the 13 weeks and two days I felt my boy’s warmth." It's because of him that she wants to keep the dream of getting pregnant alive.
"Before I became pregnant with Wilber, I’d given up on my dream of having another baby and booked in for a hysterectomy. I’m so grateful to Wilber for helping me to realise I shouldn’t give up on that dream. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to bring Wilber’s little brother or sister into this world and raise them so they know all about their wonderful big brother." Now, she takes his ashes with her on holiday and ensures that he is still a part of the family's daily life, according to Metro UK.
Here's to Tammy and her family. R.I.P little Wilber.