Becoming parents is something they’ve always longed for and after eight years of fertility issues, a few surgeries and five pregnancy losses, this Durban couple have welcomed a baby.
Mariske and Donovan Castleman were overjoyed when Mariske gave birth to daughter Kiara earlier this month – but the little girl is now fighting for her life. “I love the idea of being a mother,” Mariske tells YOU. “But I haven’t been able to enjoy the full experience of motherhood because my baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit.”
Thirty-five-year-old Mariske developed complications during her pregnancy and doctors needed to medically induce labour at 29 weeks to save the baby. Kiara weighed a worrying 1,7kg at birth and is now being treated in a private hospital.
Mariske, an online English teacher, and Donovan (34), who works as a machine operator at a factory, started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for their daughter’s life-saving treatment.
Mariske’s journey to motherhood hasn’t been easy. After tying the knot in 2013, she and Donovan battled to conceive. They were delighted when her doctor prescribed clomid, an oral drug used to stimulate ovulation in women with fertility issues. But their joy turned to sadness when she the pregnancy ended. “I was shattered,” Mariske recalls.
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Desperate to fulfil their dream of having a family, the couple tried again. But Mariske had another heart-breaking miscarriage at 17 weeks. Medical tests later revealed she had a bicornuate womb. A bicornuate womb is a heart-shaped uterus, which leaves little space for the baby to grow.The had also developed endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, and further tests revealed she had fluid blocking her Fallopian tubes.
Mariske underwent several surgeries and sought help from a fertility specialist. She became pregnant with the help of IVF but the life she was carrying couldn’t survive because was she’d had an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus.
She suffered three more miscarriages before conceiving Kiara – but after so many gut-wrenching losses, Mariske wouldn’t allow herself to be hopeful. “I couldn’t get excited,” she says. “I didn’t know if this pregnancy was viable, so I didn’t know what to think or feel.”
It was only at her eight-week check-up – when she heard her daughter’s heartbeat – she allowed herself to start hoping.
A month later, she went for a cervical stitch, a medical procedure performed on pregnant women with weak cervixes to prevent the cervix from opening too soon. But little Kiara couldn’t wait to make her way into the world.
She was delivered on 3 March, three months before her due date. Because Kiara was born prematurely, her lungs are underdeveloped, she cannot suck and swallow and she has a feeding tube.
But her parents, who fought so hard to bring her into the world, are determined to get her all the help she needs.
“When I look at her, I can't even explain it,” Mariske says. “I just love the feeling of knowing she's mine.”