Mother recalls the horror of losing her newborn triplets (one by one), before husband's death due to brain cancer
Sophie Smith and her husband, Ash thought that had all the happiness when they discovered they were pregnant with triplets, but their life soon turned upside down.
Like any other parents, when Sophie Smith and her husband, Ash realized that they were expecting triplets, they felt they were 'the luckiest people in the world.' However, their world came crashing down when Sophie went into early labor at just 21 weeks. Sadly, in a span of 81 days, the couple lost all three of their newborns.
Speaking about her pregnancy, Sophie said: "Having three hearts beating inside me felt like the greatest miracle, and I thought we had been blessed - I was so proud to tell people I was pregnant with my first three."
The couple had started preparing to welcome their children. "We understood they would probably be born early and would need a stay in hospital – we knew we might have to wait to hold them, and that would be hard, but I had no idea just how early they would arrive," she added.
At just 21 weeks, Sophie felt a gush of liquid flowing out while she was at a supermarket. "It didn't even occur to me that my waters had broken… I finished my shop and drove home, but it started happening again much more forcefully, and it was then that I started to worry," she told Daily Mail.
"I went straight to the hospital, they checked the liquid, and a doctor told me, 'Your waters have broken. You will most likely go into labor within 24 hours, and all your babies are going to die,'" Sophie recalled.
Five days after she was admitted into the hospital, Sophie gave birth to her first triplet, Henry, who weighed just 450 grams.
"He gave the tiniest cry, really just a squeak, and I felt his heart beating against my own," she said adding, "His tiny hand squeezed onto my finger and we spent one very beautiful hour together before he passed away."
Surprisingly, Sophie's other two children were not born on the same day. With each passing day, the couple's hope for their children grew stronger. "At 24 weeks exactly my waters broke again; Jasper and Evan were born via emergency c-section," Sophie said adding: "We had come so far and were full of hope for Jasper and Evan when they were born - they were given a 50 percent chance of survival. I truly believed they would make it."
Despite weighing just 620 and 760 grams, the two babies responded well to the treatment. However, Evan suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage at just 10 days old. "The first time I held him was when doctors removed his life support, and he died in my arms. My heart shattered into a million pieces that day," she said.
However, Sophie was keeping her hopes high for Jasper, who unfortunately developed chronic lung disease which caused his respiratory system to collapse. 58 days later, Jasper passed away.
"When I look back on Jasper's life, I like to remember the happy times we shared together - there were the four times we got to take him out of his humidicrib and hold him, the day he opened his eyes for the first time, and the day he tried to breastfeed," she recalled. "I am so grateful that we had 58 days to get to know Jasper in a way we didn't with Henry and Evan." A few days after Jasper died Sophie came across a poem titled 'Mummy.' "The last verse jumped out at me – "Please don't be sad, Mummy, go on and live for me. It's so important that you do, as it's through your eyes I'll see" she said. Those words helped me get up each day and face my future without my boys."
After the death of their triplets, Sophie and Ash then decided to start Australian charity, the 'Running for Premature Babies Foundation' which inspires people to run half marathons in aid of neonatal equipment and research. "Having something positive to channel my grief into really helped me," she said. Losing a baby can be incredibly lonely as people around you often don't know how to respond to such a tragedy – it can feel uncomfortable to even speak your baby's name. Organising a team for the hospital in my boys' memory, I had "permission" to speak their names, and that helped me heal."
She continued, "Knowing that our fundraising was helping other premature babies to live gave me great comfort." Twenty months after Jasper's death, Sophie and Ash welcomed son Owen who brought 'much light' into their lives. I genuinely loved everything about being a mum to Owen… the sound of him crying was music to my ears, as my triplets had been too sick to cry," she said. "He was the most beautiful, happy, healthy little bundle and Ash and I were smitten. While we still grieved our triplets, Owen brought a new joy into our lives, and we felt whole again."
However, their happiness fell short. Owen had just turned six months old when Ash was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given one year to live. The couple then decided to have another child via IVF which gave them 'something positive and hopeful to cling to.' They welcomed their son Harvey with Ash being in remission. Unfortunately, five years after his initial diagnosis Ash's cancer returned more aggressively.
After battling cancer for one year, he eventually succumbed to his illness in February 2016. "Ash was my best friend as well as my husband. He was an amazing man…he taught me it's never okay to give up," Sophie said. "That's why I threw myself into Running for Premature Babies after he died and was determined to achieve the goals we had set together for Henry, Jasper and Evan's 10th birthday year."
Just three months after Ash's death, Sophie and 520 runners ran the Sydney half marathon and successfully raised $2.5 million for the charity. "This race was extra special as it wasn't just for Henry, Jasper, and Evan, but in honor of Ash too. I ran that race faster than I ever had before and felt like Ash was right there beside me every step of the way," she said. Sophie has since written a memoir called 'Sophie's Boys' in memory of her sons and husband, and all the proceeds will go to the Running for Premature Babies Foundation.