Cherley’s road to motherhood was not an easy one, but she wouldn’t have changed it for anything in the world, because that is how she crossed paths with Sainte-Justine. And everything she has gone through has made her a wonderful mother, celebrating her very first Mother’s Day.
Cherley has always dreamed of having a child. Of carrying life inside her, and bringing that life into the world. She lost count of the number of pregnancy tests she did while undergoing fertility treatments, of how many times she hoped to see that wondrous pink line pop up on one of them. And one October morning, it was there. But their happiness as expectant parents was short-lived. The baby’s heart stopped beating after eight weeks. “And mine was shattered,” recalls Cherley.
Back to square one. Cherley’s polycystic ovary syndrome complicated the process. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic only added to the stress. But her maternal longings would not be denied. Against all odds, that little pink line appeared once more.
It took a few weeks for Cherley to really accept and enjoy the idea of being pregnant again. Her fears of another miscarriage slowly subsided. When she went in for an ultrasound at 21 weeks, the team at Hôpital Anna-Laberge noticed her cervix had shortened and perhaps even dilated. The risks associated with her condition meant that her next destination would be Sainte-Justine. Despite how uncertain the situation was, her maternal instincts kicked in and told her it would be all right. She felt reassured the minute she crossed the threshold. And that feeling of calm and composure stayed with her.
She underwent a surgical procedure known as cervical cerclage to place a stitch around the neck of the womb to delay her labour for as long as possible. Every extra day counted.
Dr. Audibert is the love of my life! (laughter) Just the way he talked made me feel so much better. His words of comfort, including those in my mother tongue of Creole, helped me get through the surgery and more.
Three weeks later, Cherley was back at Sainte-Justine. Outside the hospital, the world’s focus was entirely on the pandemic. But inside, her joy knew no bounds: she was a mother at last. Éleonore was born by emergency C-section at 24.5 weeks.
Cherley was shocked the first time she saw her daughter. She was so tiny. Fear started to creep into her heart alongside her elation. She knew Éleonore would have to fight to survive. She thought back to what she had heard from Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt, Chief of the Neonatology Division: “Our teams are here for Éleonore and we’ll give her the very best care. But to win her battle, she’ll also need you to be there for her constantly, with your love and tenderness.” These words gave Cherley’s role new meaning. She was determined to do everything in her power to funnel her love of life into her daughter.
That’s when the support of the Foundation’s donors became more important than ever to her. Their contributions to the Centre of Excellence in Neonatology make it possible for the teams to take their expertise to new heights, have access to the latest equipment and hone the care they provide to preemies and expectant mothers.
Éleonore was born after a miscarriage and years of fertility treatments. The reason I know the happiness of being a mother now is because of Sainte-Justine. The teams at Sainte-Justine saved my daughter, and they saved me too, as a brand-new mother.
The power of a second family in a pandemic
Éleonore spent 130 days in the neonatal unit, including two and half months in intensive care. Every day, her parents were astounded by her sheer will to live. After every setback, she’d recover and get stronger. Cherley firmly believes that being there every day made a huge difference in overcoming the challenges that come with being born very preterm. And the reason she could was the support of the Foundation’s donors, who help fund the “Chez Cachou” temporary housing facility where she lived for four and a half months.
Sainte-Justine became Cherley’s “home away from home.” Her partner couldn’t stay with her full time because of work. And the pandemic made it impossible for her mother and sister, whom she is very close to, to help out. But she was able to count on a devoted network — a family — of nurses, attendants, doctors, spiritual care professionals, social workers, lactation consultants and support staff every step of the way.
Her introduction to motherhood was certainly not what she had dreamed of. But Cherley found her footing, with the support of the neonatal teams. “Thanks to them, I felt more and more confident with each passing day,” she recalls.
My first Mother’s Day will be a dream come true for me. I feel blessed that Sainte-Justine came into my life. In Haiti, where I’m originally from, they simply don’t have these kinds of facilities to care for babies born so early. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for this privilege.
Today, Cherley is extremely proud of the mother she has blossomed into, thanks to everything she learned at Sainte-Justine, which she now continues to build on at home. Éleonore has blossomed too: from a 740-gram preemie to a healthy little girl meeting all the milestones of her corrected age.
For her first Mother’s Day, every moment of which she will treasure, Cherley is thinking of the Foundation’s donors and every single person who helped her learn the ropes as a new mother: “Your generosity and your expertise made all the difference for my daughter and for my own motherly heart. I am eternally indebted to you all.”