Lauren Doherty, 22, and Zak Greenwood, 26, are a young couple from Rochdale, in the north of England. The couple welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world in 2015, and they named her Gracie.
Doherty, who studied media, hair and make-up at college, subsequently became a full-time mother to look after their little girl. And then the couple got some fantastic news: Doherty was pregnant with their second child.
But only two months after they found out that they were having another baby, something awful happened. Doherty and Greenwood received the terrible news that their daughter, Gracie, was seriously unwell.
In fact, their little baby had an incurable brain tumor. As a result, the young parents were understandably devastated. But one heart-wrenching question in particular played on their minds: would their second baby ever get to meet its big sister?
After this heartbreaking diagnosis, little Gracie was moved into Derian House Children’s Hospice nearby. She was looked after by palliative nurses, but Doherty and Greenwood were able to stay there with her too, as part of a “respite stay.”
And it was during one of these stays that the most incredible thing happened. Doherty was sleeping at Derian House so she could be close to her daughter when, at 4:00 a.m., she suddenly felt pains in her abdomen.
Of course, this might have been easier to ignore had she not been very heavily pregnant. In fact, Doherty was eight days past her due date. So was she really going into labor at the hospice?
Doherty was rushed to hospital in Bolton in the middle of the night. But a short while later, the contractions that she thought she was having stopped. So Doherty returned to the hospice, thinking that was the end of the story.
But later that same day, Doherty’s waters broke at Derian House – and there wasn’t enough time to get her back to the hospital. So Doherty quickly realized that she was going to have to give birth at the hospice.
Doherty told local newspaper the Lancashire Post, “It had crossed my mind that I might go into labor and we’d brought all the baby stuff, but I didn’t really think I would happen.” Well, it really was happening, right then and there.
One of the pediatric palliative care nurses, Louise Leach, did her best to look after Doherty while they waited for the midwife to arrive. And then, at 10:30 p.m., Doherty gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Little Charlie Christopher was born safely after a speedy labor. Doherty told the Lancashire Post that she expected to have “a long, slow labor, but I was wrong!” And she also praised the support of nurse Leach.
Doherty said, “Louise was brilliant, I couldn’t have done it without her.” She went on to explain how her partner, Greenwood, had been struggling to contact the midwife, but luckily nurse Leach was able to remain “chilled” amid the panic.
In fact, baby Charlie’s birth was a first for the hospice, a place not normally associated with such joyous events. And the chief executive of the establishment, Georgina Cox, was quick to congratulate the young couple.
“It was such a lovely surprise to welcome little Charlie into the world here at Derian House – the first birth in our 24-year history,” Cox said. Charlie’s arrival clearly meant a lot to the staff at Derian House.
Cox described being touched by the “pure joy on the faces of the family,” and she praised the way the nurses reacted to the unusual predicament. “This extra-special delivery shows how our staff can rise to any occasion and provide the support our families need – whatever the situation,” she said.
And their efforts were certainly appreciated by Doherty. “Derian House were amazing, I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she told ITV News. What’s more, the staff were feeling “over the moon” to have been part of such a special occasion, according to the Lancashire Post.
Although Derian House is a place conditioned for treating unwell children and heartbroken families, Cox indicated that Charlie’s story had brought joy to everyone involved. Indeed, the chief executive described Charlie’s arrival as “a true symbol of hope in the darkest of times.”
And the most touching part of this story? Baby Charlie did get to meet his big sister, Gracie, after all. According to mom, little Gracie took the chance to “give him a kiss and a huge cuddle” the first time that she met her little brother.
With Charlie safely delivered, the couple are now eager to cherish the time they have left as a family of four. “We just want to spend as much time together as a family,” Doherty said. Tragically, it’s unlikely that Charlie will ever remember meeting Gracie. But perhaps there’s some solace in the fact that he will always have the photos to show that he was once able to spend some time with his very special big sister.