Bishop's Stortford mother's £15,000 appeal to help other families after death of longed-for baby Archie
The joy of a much longed-for pregnancy against all the odds turned to shock and fear when doctors told Sarah-Jayne Larkins her unborn son had multiple abnormalities.
Now, as she comes to terms with Archie David's death, she is determined to raise £15,000 as a lasting legacy to her little boy and to help other parents facing the same ordeal.
Sarah-Jayne, the 32-year-old manager at the Royal Mail's office in South Street, Bishop's Stortford, was a long-term sufferer of endometriosis, a debilitating and painful condition where tissue that usually just lines the uterus grows on other pelvic organs.
After two miscarriages and facing a hysterectomy, she decided to try one cycle of IVF in the hope of becoming a mother. She also donated some of her eggs to another woman and was thrilled when both became pregnant. "It was my gift to someone else," she said.
But in July 2019 her world was turned upside down at her 12-week scan when she was told her baby had multiple abnormalities.
Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow referred her to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel for specialist care. Archie had a left-sided congenital diaphragmatic hernia – a hole in the muscle between the chest and the abdomen – and agenesis of the corpus callosum, which is an absence of an area of the brain that connects the two cerebral hemispheres.
He was given a survival chance of 30%. Despite the poor outlook for her only child, Sarah-Jayne was determined to continue with the pregnancy.
"You find yourself googling everything you can, reaching out to strangers on social media and finding charities who can give you any information you can, all whilst answering questions from friends and family – finding yourself too scared to be excited and having termination pushed heavily by the hospital," she said.
"For some parents, termination is the right choice for them, but for me in our case, it wasn't. This made me dread appointments more, knowing I would get asked again.
"Everyone I reached out to... has had similar experiences no matter what the abnormality diagnosis or hospital they were under and what path they chose – continuing with the pregnancy or termination."
The experience has had a profound effect. "I've spent many hours in that waiting room watching parents walk out with the same shell-shocked look and having no mental health support or person to point them in the right direction," said Sarah-Jayne.
"I want Archie to have an impact on making a positive change in ensuring future parents have more than just medical support."
After getting to know her son through dozens of detailed scans, where she saw him pouting and frowning, Archie's life came to an end 13 hours and 14 minutes after he was born on January 23.
As a specialist team stood by, doctors used forceps to deliver him after a long, hard labour in which Sarah-Jayne continued to suffer the sickness which plagued her pregnancy.
After encouraging brain scans, Archie passed away as medical staff tried to transfer him for treatment on a heart and lung bypass machine.
"He couldn't cope with the change," said Sarah-Jayne. "He coded three times. The doctors did everything they could."
When it was clear there was no way back, she cradled him in her arms and made the decision to let him go without further medical intervention.
"I told them to stop and to pass him to me. I just didn't want him to be alone in his final moments.
"One of the last things he did was grip my mother's hand."
Sarah-Jayne, who has lived in Great Hallingbury for six years, is originally from Kent. She is staying with her parents there while she plans Archie's funeral and launches her campaign to help other parents cope with the mental stress of facing an abnormality diagnosis in their unborn child.
To support her appeal visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/archiedavidlarkins?utm_term=xZbJkJXzP.
More by this authorSinead Corr