Young mum loses newborn son in hospital just after brother dies

Lee Paaki and Aroha Nicola only had a few minutes with their baby boy before he died. Photo:...
Lee Paaki and Aroha Nicola only had a few minutes with their baby boy before he died. Photo: Supplied
Aroha Nicola's voice shakes as she speaks about spending a week in hospital alone, knowing her baby she'd been counting down the days to meet would die moments after being born.

"He grabbed my hand and he smiled and pulled my finger closer, and then he took his last breath," she told the Herald through tears.

Nicola spent just 10 minutes with her precious baby son before he died after entering the world on Thursday evening, in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown.

A month earlier she farewelled her 28-year-old brother Cody Ayers, who died suddenly after suffering cardiac arrest. The young father who grew up in Papanui, Christchurch, had no known heart problems.

After being rushed to hospital with severe bleeding last Sunday, Nicola and her partner Lee Paaki, 28, were given the heartbreaking news that their son wouldn't survive long after birth because of medical complications.

The 23-year-old then spent the next five days in hospital alone, because of the lockdown, without the support of Paaki and whānau, before delivering her son three days ago.

In that time she missed her older son's first birthday.

"That was really tough," she said.

Cody Ayers with eldest son Tawhā, who celebrated his fifth birthday shortly before his father...
Cody Ayers with eldest son Tawhā, who celebrated his fifth birthday shortly before his father died last month. Photo: Supplied
Nicola and Paaki wanted to share their devastating story to help New Zealanders understand the serious impact of Covid-19 and the importance of staying at home and following the Ministry of Health's instructions.

Under Ministry of Health regulations, hospitals are restricting visitors and only allowing one person to attend a birth during the alert level 4 lockdown.

"Reducing the number of people reduces the risk of infections spreading," the ministry's website says. "This is a really important part of helping stop the spread of Covid-19 and will help protect you, your family, your newborn baby, other patients in the hospital and the staff looking after you."

Nicola said she understood and respected the lockdown rules around giving birth but said it was hard for her to put aside her own feelings.

"Not having my partner or my mum with me while I was grieving was really hard. I get anxiety and it was really tough.

"I was grieving alone for my brother, knowing my baby was going to die after I gave birth to him."

People needed to realise this was going to happen to others.

"When people die, you're not going to be able to have your family and friends and it is going to be extremely hard.

"And there's going to be heaps of people going through this if we don't listen to the lockdown rules," Nicola said.

She did not want to name the hospital where she gave birth as the couple didn't want to put any blame on the district health board for the restrictions.

Her partner was allowed in the room only when Nicola went into labour.

Nicola was able to hold her baby boy - they named him Te Whakanga after his late uncle - for a few minutes before he was "ripped away".

"My partner had to take the baby off me because I was crying and in so much pain. It took away that moment and was really hard."

The couple and their four other children were able to bury their baby at their marae urupa, and said they would hold a memorial for extended family and friends when the lockdown ended.

"We still haven't been able to see anyone outside our immediate family.

"This was really hard for us because as a Maori family we always have all the family at burials and it's really important for us."

Paaki said: "Our son will always be in our hearts."

The message Nicola wanted to share with New Zealanders was to stay home.

"I've seen how hard our healthcare workers are working. One of the midwives I met was such a lovely lady but she was just so tired and you could just tell she is trying to fight for our community."

"I don't want to see anyone else going through this heartache so I'm begging you, stay home."


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