Written by Amy and Brendan, proud parents to Monty Fox McCauley
Rewind back to October 2020: the month we found out we were 3 weeks pregnant. Given that we’ve never been “baby people” i.e. the type to always attend a BBQ after 6pm to avoid couples with children, there were undoubtedly mixed feelings at the beginning. However, as the pregnancy progressed and the nausea subsided we found out we were having a boy and everything changed. We couldn’t wait to welcome a mischievous little boy into the mix.
On the 13th of June, 2021, Brendan and I welcomed our first baby into the world: our boy, Monty Fox McCauley. After a healthy ‘low-risk’ pregnancy and natural MLU-led labour, he was born four days before his due date at 12:04pm, weighing in at a healthy (and chunky) 9lbs 7oz. He was utterly perfect and so handsome. He quite literally entered the world ‘showing off’, with thick, dark hair, the biggest lips and a dimpled chin. We decided very early on that he was going to go by his middle name, ‘Fox’, and I smiled every time I thought of him introducing himself to new people as soon as he was old enough : “My name is Monty but my friends call me Fox”.
When Fox was born, the midwife passed him to me for immediate skin-to-skin and, whilst being in complete awe of my new boy, I noticed that he looked very pale, limp and wasn't crying. I wasn't too concerned at this stage, as I assumed he just needed a quick towel rub to kick-start his breathing, and I thought his pale skin was down to vernix. It was only from the quick change in atmosphere, and urgency of the midwives, that I began to panic and knew something was wrong. Within minutes, the room filled with doctors and nurses, and it became very clear that Fox was being resuscitated. This continued for forty minutes, and at some point during their efforts they managed to spark a heartbeat. Before we knew it, he was transferred to the SCBU accompanied by several staff.
After a healthy pregnancy and a natural short labour it was difficult to process what had just happened. All we knew was that Fox was very poorly and needed to be transferred to Singleton hospital where he would be admitted to the NICU for further care. It was later that day that we learnt that Fox experienced what doctors described as an “event” during labour in which he was starved of oxygen, and, as a result, was diagnosed HIE (Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy):
Hypoxic = a shortage of oxygen in the blood
Ischemic = a shortage of blood flow to the brain
Encephalopathy = resultant brain damage
We reunited with Fox a few hours later at Singleton NICU to find him attached to endless wires, lying inside an incubator which he looked far too healthy to be in. There were monitors and machines all around him, keeping his little body going, as well countless staff who were constantly checking him. It was heartbreaking to see a seemingly healthy 9lbs 7oz baby, our baby, in such an environment. We spent the next 2.5 days in NICU with Fox, where we sat next to him, held his hand and tried to comfort him (and ourselves) in any way we could.
On the 15th of June, the nurses told us that they needed to x-ray his chest to check his lungs for mucus build-up, so we retreated back to the room while the nurses went ahead with the x-ray. Unfortunately, ten minutes later there was a stern knock on the door with a nurse on the other side telling us that we needed to follow her immediately. We walked into the unit to find Fox in a near-fatal state and were advised by the doctors to hold him in case this was the last opportunity. Naturally, I immediately sat down ready to embrace my son, wires and all. I certainly didn’t envisage our first physical encounter to be this way, nevertheless it was the first time I held him and it was magical. After a few minutes of being in my arms, his oxygen levels increased and he eventually stabilised - I like to think that he caused havoc to get what he ultimately wanted: a cuddle from his parents.
In the hours following his latest episode, we learned that our brave boy was not going to recover. He had shown no signs of improvement, had very little brain function and was having more and more regular seizures. Despite the copious amounts of medicine and ventilator support, he continued to deteriorate each day. We knew the inevitable was fast approaching, so we wanted our family to meet their perfect Grandson/Nephew. That afternoon, Fox was surrounded by so much love meeting his Grandparents, Aunt and Uncle for the first time.
Later that day, we were transferred to a private family room, where myself and Bren got to experience some firsts with our son; we washed, dressed and played music to him, finally wire and tube free. At 7:30pm that evening we said goodbye to our beautiful boy, something that no parent should ever have to do. Fox was brought to us freshly dressed and wrapped in his blanket while a nurse manually hand-pumped oxygen into his lungs. As she stopped, we played him our favourite song, reminded him to be brave and assured him that we’d meet him again soon. Before he took his last breaths, he miraculously opened his eyes - something that we had not witnessed since he was born - looked at us both for a few seconds and smiled. I feel a great sense of comfort knowing that he slipped away peacefully in our arms and truly believe that in his last moments he thanked us for letting him go.
Even though our time together was short, the love and happiness Fox brought to our lives will be everlasting and never forgotten. He taught us so many lessons but above all not to take anything for granted and to appreciate every happy moment in life, no matter how short-lived. We are so blessed that he entered our lives, and he will remain in our thoughts and hearts forever.
Our first boy, Foxy.
“I will spend my life waiting to meet you on the other side where the end is just the beginning.”