Lindsey’s incredible story appeared in That’s Life magazine after she emailed us here at photo-features. Lindsey wanted to tell her story in a women’s magazine to pay tribute to the son she lost. Lindsey was delighted with the finished article and we will be helping her to sell her story again.
I didn’t have a crystal ball but whenever I looked into the future, I pictured myself in a bustling, busy house, full of laughter and chatter surrounded by children.
For as long as I could remember, I’d wanted a big family.
Only, it wasn’t working out quite as I hoped…
My husband John and I already had a gorgeous son, Robbie but we were having trouble conceiving our second child.
When I eventually fell pregnant, we were ecstatic. Robbie was thrilled too – he desperately wanted a brother or sister.
However, at 20 weeks we received some devastating news.
Our baby had a rare genetic disorder called DiGeorge syndrome. It also had a very serious heart condition.
Doctors explained there was nothing they could do. Although my baby was still alive, it wouldn’t survive.
It was heartbreaking.
They induced labour and I gave birth to a son, Andrew, weighing just 1lb 14oz.
Although he was tiny, he looked just like Robbie.
He had the same nose and tiny dimple in his chin.
‘This is your baby brother,’ we told Robbie gently.
But after 12 painfully short minutes, Andrew’s chest rose and fell for the last time.
My body shook with sobs.
It was so unfair.
For those beautiful moments while his heart was beating Andrew had completed our family.
We took photos, hand and footprints and held our precious little boy.
‘I don’t want him to go,’ Robbie wept.
‘You’ll always be his big brother,’ I told him. ‘But Andrew is going to be an angel now.’
‘I want a brother I can keep,’ he sobbed.
I knew just how he felt.
In the weeks that followed, Mum helped us through our grief.
Although she was a huge support, I couldn’t help but feel guilty because she already had enough on her plate.
Since his teens, my older brother Sam had battled an alcohol addiction.
He and his partner had six kids but they found it hard to cope.
‘They’re really struggling,’ Mum admitted one day.
Every weekend I looked after his youngest two – Samantha and Leroy.
I adored spending time with them.
But while I really felt for Sam, for now I was consumed with grief for Andrew.
And there was more bad news to come.
Although thankfully Robbie tested negative for DiGeorge syndrome, John was a carrier.
‘If you have more children there’s a 50 per cent chance they will also be affected,’ the consultant said.
‘We can’t take the risk,’ I told John.
It was bad enough for us but I just couldn’t do it to Robbie again.
I was heartbroken.
Instead of the large family I’d dreamt of, it would always be just the three of us.
Still, we are lucky to have Robbie. That’s more than some, I told myself.
Months passed and we threw ourselves into looking after Robbie and caring for Samantha and Leroy at weekends.
But, caught up in grief, I didn’t realise how bad things had got for my brother.
One day I received a phone call from Mum.
‘Sam has a meeting with a social worker and he’d like you to come with us,’ she said.
‘OK,’ I agreed. ‘I’ll go along to give him some moral support.’
At the meeting the social worker explained that with Sam and his partner both battling depression, the kids weren’t getting the care they needed.
Then he turned to me.
‘I understand you’ll take Samantha and Leroy and look after them,’ he stated matter-of-factly.
I stared at Sam, aghast.
I loved these children, but become their full time carer? That was a whole other matter.
It wasn’t something I had ever considered. ‘Is this what you want, Sam?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘Take my kids.’ ‘But why?’ I said, bewildered.
‘I know how much you want a big family, especially after losing Andrew,’ he said gently. ‘I can’t give the kids what they need but you would. You’re a brilliant mum.’
How could I say no? My brother needed me. The kids needed me.
I knew I could give them the love and security they desperately desired.
Suddenly I found myself replying.
‘Of course I’ll look after them,’ I said, without hesitation.
‘Are you sure?’ Mum asked.
I nodded determinedly. My mind was made up.
‘I can’t turn them away,’ I said. ‘Thank you,’ said Sam, hugging me.
Samantha and Leroy were outside waiting us.
‘You’re going to stay with Aunty Lindsey,’ Sam told them.
‘Yay!’ they chorused.
‘Let’s go home,’ I told them, putting my arms around each of them.
When I arrived back with the two kids, John didn’t think anything of it.
But I still had to break the news that they were here to stay.
‘Err, by the way…’ I began nervously. ‘The kids are going to be living with us from now on.’
‘They’re going to be what?’ he asked in shock.
‘Staying. For Good,’ I replied.
‘But how will we cope?’ he asked. ‘This house isn’t big enough for all of us.’
‘We’ll have to manage somehow,’ I shrugged.
He looked at me and smiled. He was just like me. He couldn’t turn them away any more than I could. ‘Course we’ll manage,’ he said.
We both knew how hard it would be but there was no question that we’d look after the kids.
We sat Robbie down and explained to him too.
‘whilst,’ we told him. ‘OK,’ he said.
He didn’t seem too worried. But going from a family of three to a family of five overnight was a huge undertaking.
‘You’re going to have to sleep with us Robbie,’ I told him. ‘But I want to stay in my room,’ he said.
‘Your cousins need it,’ I told him firmly.
It wasn’t easy.
As well as space, what with me working as a nurse and John a lorry driver, money was incredibly tight.
Because we were related to the kids we got no financial help apart from child benefit.
There would be no more holidays or meals out.
‘It’s only for a while,’ I reassured John.
But as the months passed, it became clear that Samantha and Leroy weren’t going anywhere – they were part of our family.
Gradually, Robbie got used to having his cousins around.
‘They’re my adopted brother and sister,’ he’d tell friends.
They enjoyed going swimming and watching films.
I loved seeing the three of them together.
Even though they still called us ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’, it wasn’t long before John and I saw them as our own too.
At our last three-monthly meeting with the social worker, Samantha and Leroy said they wanted to stay with us.
When the kids’ panel ruled that they could,
Samantha clapped her hands in delight and rushed over to give me a cuddle.
It felt so right.
The kids feel secure with us and with every week that passes, their confidence is soaring
Sam still sees the kids every few weeks at Mum’s house.
I know it’s incredibly hard for him.
But the whole experience has been unbelievable really. When Andrew died I thought I’d never have the big family I’d dreamed off and now here I am raising another two children.
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for my brother to make this decision but I’m so glad he did. I can never thank him enough.