But she tried to ignore the pain because in just a few hours’ time she’d be walking down the aisle and she didn’t want anything to spoil her big moment. Jena Carolus’ baby wasn’t due for another week. Surely, she thought, the little one would hang in there for a bit longer. But babies play by their own rules and this one had decided it was time to enter the big, wide world.
Still, Jena (31) went about her preparations without breathing a word to anyone. First she picked up her wedding gown, then went to have her hair done. But an hour before the wedding ceremony was due to take place at a church in her hometown of Vredenburg in the Western Cape, the pain became unbearable.
“I burst into tears,” she tells YOU. She begged her parents to take her to hospital but her mom, Dottie Andrews, tried to persuade her to hang on until she’d said her I do’s beside her groom, Shelwyn, in front of 100 guests. The pain got worse, however, and Jena had to get to hospital fast, wedding hairdo and all.
Gordanlee, a healthy boy weighing 2,9kg, was born half an hour before the wedding had been due to start. “Luckily no one had arrived at the church yet,” Jena says. “I reckoned I probably shouldn’t be getting married that day but my mom insisted we go ahead.” Thanks to the staff at Vredenburg Provincial Hospital, Jena got her wedding that day after all – in the hospital, with baby Gordanlee present.
“It was a miracle to have him there too,” Jena says. Baby Gordanlee is blissfully unaware of all the drama surrounding his arrival when we meet mom and son at home. The little boy is Jena and Shelwyn’s fourth child – they’re also parents to Miriska (10), Abdul (8) and Kelcy (4) and weren’t planning on having another.
But when she learnt she was pregnant again she was happy – all babies are precious gifts, she says. It was also the final push for Jena and Shelwyn to tie the knot. “Shelwyn asked me to marry him during my first pregnancy but I wasn’t ready,” Jena recalls. They discussed marriage off and on over the next few years – but it wasn’t until baby No 4 was on the way that they decided it was time to take the plunge and make things official.
“My mom said she wanted us to get married before the baby was born so we set the date for a week before my due date.” And Gordanlee clearly decided he needed to be there too. When guests heard of the change of plans and that the hospital had arranged for a pastor to marry the couple there, some headed over, hoping to witness the occasion. But staff didn’t allow them in and only their parents – and their new baby – were witnesses.
The reception at Shelwyn’s parents’ home went ahead as planned, but minus the bride, who was discharged with Gordanlee the next morning. Celebrating without Jena was difficult for Shelwyn. “He cried a lot when he made his speech,” says Jena’s best friend, Beaunette Slingers, who was to be the maid of honour.
“He was sad his wife and baby weren’t there.” “It was a tough day,” Shelwyn says. “Everything happened so quickly.” Now the couple will have two reasons to celebrate their youngest’s birthday – it’s also their wedding anniversary. It was a double blessing, Jena says. “Gordanlee was a wedding gift from God.”