Goodbye is the hardest word

Katrina with her kids Eva and Billie. Pictures: Rob Carew

By Melissa Meehan

No parent should have to say good bye to their child.

But Katrina Jenkinson has had to say goodbye four times.

She’s lucky enough to have two healthy daughters, Ava and Billie.

But that doesn’t take away the sadness of her losses.

The 35-year-old Mount Evelyn mum her husband, Brad, started trying for a baby as soon as they got married.

They were excited to find out they were expecting their first in 2014.

“The 12 week scan was perfect, but the 20 week scan showed an obstruction in the bowel of the baby,” Katrina told Kids Today.

“They did a heap of testing and said he’d be transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital when he was born and have surgery to remove it and he’d be home with us four weeks later.”

Hamish was delivered at 37 weeks.

He was transferred straight to hospital as planned when he was six days old, they did his surgery as planned, but after six weeks nothing had changed.

“He wasn’t getting any better,” Katrina said.

“So they did another surgery to find out what was going on.

“But the surgeon came out half way during his operation and said there was absolutely nothing he could do because his obstructions were there again and assumed it was genetic.”

Hamish passed away the next day. He was just six weeks old.

His death destroyed both Katrina and Brad.

Their eldest son had suffered from a really rare genetic condition called TTC7.

It causes bowel obstructions.

“After we had his funeral, all we could think about was having another baby,” Katrina said.

“It wasn’t worth living for us if we didn’t have one.”

Katrina said she just needed to be pregnant. It was the only thing that helped her survive.

She became pregnant 12 weeks later.

“I think I just existed for nine months – I just sat there and waited, and waited,” she said.

“We had genetic testing done, so we knew we were all clear – but it was a long pregnancy.”

And so, by miracle, Eva was born on the night before what would have been Hamish’s first birthday.

She’s now five years old, healthy and not a carrier of the genetic condition that claimed the life of her brother.

That condition is so rare that there are only two other families in Australia with it.

Years went by and while so grateful for having Ava in their lives, Katrina and Brad decided to try for their third baby in 2018.

They were over the moon to find out they were pregnant with twins.

But genetic testing found that one of the twins was found to have the condition.

The decision was made to end Sadie’s life at 16 weeks to save the life of their daughter Billie, who is now two.

“I’ve always tried to prepare myself and think of ways to get through especially waiting for these results, but at the time when you’re told, you just get destroyed, absolutely distraught and it’s just so hard to get through,” Katrina said.

“But at that time I was lucky enough to have one healthy twin to focus on, but there was a big risk of losing her as well so it was a very stressful time and there’s just nothing you can do to get through it really you just have to actually just push on.”

Katrina carried Sadie and Billie before giving birth to both of them at 35 weeks.

“I think the processing came later on, which I thought would happen at the time but so much is happening,” Katrina said.

“When you deliver a baby and there’s so much excitement, so much joy from yourself and your family.

“And I think it came, you know, a few days later. That’s when it really hit me that I lost her because there was so much to do with that, you know, signing paperwork for her and all these things realising you’ve just got the one.”

Obviously so grateful to have Billie, Katrina said it was a really hard time.

“I cried. I felt so much pain throughout my body all of the times that I received bad news or a loss, it was just really hard to pick myself up out of that dark place,” she said.

“But you’ve got this baby that is relying on you. They are the ones to keep you going.”

The plan was always to have three living children.

So Katrina and Brad tried for another.

They became pregnant during the 2020 lockdown but kept the news to themselves.

The scans were perfect, so perfect in fact that the head of obstetrics made a special visit to tell Katrina how perfect her baby was looking.

“We did the testing, and I think that was probably the rudest shock I’ve ever received in my life and she was actually affected by the gene,” she said.

“So, last year in lockdown, you know, all by myself, no partner allowed in the hospital, basically, I had to go and have Stella at 16 weeks.”

The pandemic made the situation so much worse.

She couldn’t have Brad’s support in hospital and couldn’t even go and have coffee with a friend to debrief afterwards.

“That was probably the worst I was last year I think in June, it was the lowest I’ve ever felt,” she said.

“And probably because of the lockdown to I guess it was just a big shock.”

Katrina then started to work on herself.

She knew she needed to get into a positive mindset if they were to try again.

They tried again and she became pregnant in December 2020.

And in February this year they got the news that the baby was affected with the condition again.

And she had to have Quinn at 16 weeks.

“It was still overwhelming, but I think that I had worked on myself so much, I had come a long way because I used to think this was happening for a reason,” she said.

“That I had done something wrong, so I was being punished. But now I know that it is not true. And these things just happen.

“So I think I was able to handle it a little better.”

Katrina and her family remember Hamish, Sadie, Stella and Quinn on a daily basis.

“We celebrate their birthdays, especially Hamish, because he was here and he lived and we have all of his stuff still,’ she said.

“And we love to take part in Run for the Kids and the Good Friday Appeal.

“We love raising money, because we feel something good is coming out of our heartache.”

They also have a garden at home that’s dedicated to the children who aren’t here.

There’s a plaque with their names and it’s a spot they can go to think about them.

“It has been such a rollercoaster, I feel like I have literally cried for six years,” she said.

“I’m hoping for some light at the end of this tunnel.”