‘Always, with all your might, hang on!’

Little Baby Reuben.
Little Baby Reuben.

Kathy Donaghy’s amazing story of a Derry mum, her devoted husband and the birth of their miracle baby

For new mum, Jacklyn Roberts, the road to motherhood was certainly not a smooth one.

Jacklyn and Greg Roberts with baby Reuben.

Jacklyn and Greg Roberts with baby Reuben.

The Derry woman found herself on a heart-breaking journey through miscarriage before she finally welcomed her miracle baby Reuben, last September.

While the fog of early motherhood hasn’t yet cleared and Jacklyn’s day is punctuated by feeds, sleeps and changes, she wouldn’t change a thing. And for her, each day feels like her birthday as she cradles her baby son in her arms or takes him out for his daily walk.

She agreed to speak to the “Journal” about her experience of miscarriage to break the silence around the subject and to let other women, who may be experiencing difficulties conceiving or going through the pain of miscarriage, know that there is always hope.

Jacklyn, who worked for Curtis Opticians on Carlisle Road for 11 years, got married to Greg Roberts in 2011. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a mum and as soon as she was married, having a baby was foremost in her mind.

When she found out she was pregnant in the summer of 2013, both she and Greg, who live in Hampstead Park, were delighted at the prospect of becoming parents. However, their happiness was short lived as Jacklyn lost the baby she and Greg named ‘Hope’ in the first trimester.

“I questioned why did it happen to me? I was heart-broken, not just for me but for Greg as well. You blame yourself and I asked was it something I did or didn’t do?

When friends announced their pregnancies that was so hard. Even though I was absolutely delighted for them, a part of me was thinking ‘why is it not my turn? Even though you’re happy for other people it hurts a lot,” admits Jacklyn.

The miscarriage hit her hard and she began to suffer from anxiety. It was around this time she sought solace in the local Columba Community, led by Fr. Neal Carlin and she attended Masses at Columba House in Derry and at St. Anthony’s Retreat Centre in Dundrean, on the Donegal border.

In 2015 the delight at finding herself pregnant once again gave way to devastation when she lost her second baby at 10 weeks. Losing baby Noah sent her on a downward spiral emotionally which she says tested her and Greg. Even though Jacklyn said she’s always had the support of family and friends in her life, the overwhelming sense of failure she felt, left her isolated and struggling to cope with everyday life.

Looking back, Jacklyn said it must have been very hard for her husband to watch the smiling and vivacious girl he’d married turn into someone he didn’t recognise.

“He’s told me that when we lost those babies he felt like he’d lost a bit of me. I disappeared for a while after the losses,” she added.

In the early summer of 2016 Jacklyn lost a third baby she called Michael. It was the final straw and she became very unwell and simply she couldn’t look after herself for a while. If it wasn’t for the care of her husband, her parents Brendan and Roisin, her two brothers and their wives as well as her extended family, she doesn’t know what she’d have done.

Over the course of the next year, she sought Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – a form of counselling which aims to help people manage their mental health problems by challenging how they think and act. Time out of work helped her process her grief.

Her faith also deepened during this time. “I meditated and I attended Mass – I always, had but I went more often. I think surrendering to God was a massive thing for me that year. I had to give up the struggle of wanting to have everything my way. I handed everything over,” declared Jacklyn.

After that Greg and herself decided that if getting pregnant happened, it happened. They had looked into IVF and joined a waiting list. While they were on the list Jacklyn fell pregnant naturally and found herself in the position of cancelling the IVF appointment.

The pregnancy was far from plain sailing with numerous scares along the way, but Jacklyn said by the time she reached 16 weeks, she knew that her baby would be born.

On September 27 last year baby Reuben entered this world by way of emergency Caesarean Section. He was christened by Fr. Carlin on November 18 last, the same day Greg and Jacklyn celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary.

“I can’t explain how much I love him,” said Jacklyn of her son. “I really know now how people feel when they say they’d die for their child. Being a first-time mammy is a challenge. You’re in a boat and you don’t know where the paddles are but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”

“I have so much support and love in my life. All through my mental health struggles my family has been amazing. They believed in me on the days I didn’t believe in myself.

“When you’re going through something like this, there are days you do give up. You question everything. Some days you ask yourself: ‘Why is this darkness around me?

But there’s a line from the Bible that the light shines and the darkness cannot overcome it and I think no matter what, you just have to hold on. My faith is so important to me and I believe nothing is impossible to God,” she claimed.

Jacklyn believes miracles do happen. Her son is testament to that.

For anyone going through something similar her advice is “always, with all your might, hang on.”

If you have a story you would like to share for our new ‘Friday Feature”, email: kdonaghy4@gmail.com