CHRISTMAS presents come in all shapes and sizes but, for Therese and Damian Powick, their precious gift comes with an underdeveloped foot and missing fingers on her right hand.
Matilda Mary Powick was born on November 24 with amniotic band syndrome, a rare condition that can cause deformities and sometimes amputate the limbs of a baby while it’s still in the womb.
It occurs when the inner layer of the amniotic sac around the baby is damaged, allowing fibrous, band-like tissues to float around the baby, often entangling around the body and cutting off vital circulation.
Matilda, the Powick’s first child, had a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the third trimester and if she did make it, was expected to be born with a dead foot.
Therese said the second half of the pregnancy was her “penance”.
“It was mental anguish not knowing and being told it’s a ‘wait and see’, that we’ll find out when she’s born,” she said.
“So it was actually probably the most penance I’ve had.
“I learned a lot of patience.”
Pregnancy was already a difficult journey for the pair, who met in Brisbane through the Brisbane Oratory parish community.
Therese had two early miscarriages since they married in 2017; it was actually a shock that they couldn’t fall pregnant straight away.
“Since we got married, it was an expectation – we’re Catholic, we’ll fall pregnant,” she said. “You just sort of think it’s going to happen straight away. It’s not like that at all,” Damian said.
In January this year, Damian moved to Christchurch, accepting a job to raise money for a new cathedral to replace the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which was damaged in the 2011 and 2012 earthquakes.
Therese joined him in February.
“We had to move to New Zealand to fall pregnant,” she laughed.
“It was something we wanted and were hoping for, so we were ecstatic when we did find out.”
Aside from the “bad morning sickness”, the first 20 weeks of the pregnancy were normal.
The couple even attended the March for Life in Christchurch on August 15, with a little baby bump, in opposition to New Zealand’s abortion legislation.
But they got a “test of faith” two days later at the 20-week ultrasound.
The Powicks’ technician couldn’t detect blood flow through their baby’s left foot.
“They thought it was a dead limb,” Therese said.
“So the doctor came in and basically said, ‘Your baby has amniotic band syndrome’.”
Their baby, which they learnt at the same appointment was a little girl, had a band around her left foot and around fingers on her right hand but most critically, there was one around the umbilical cord.
“The doctor said outright … your baby might not make it to the third trimester because there was one band around the umbilical cord,” Therese remembered.
“It might make fifty-fifty.
“Going to a pro-life march two days before really put things into perspective because we walked the walk, could we talk the talk?
“So that was really a test of faith, and accepting God’s will.”
The couple were told about their “choices” but Damian told the doctor: “From the get go, this baby is loved and wanted already”.
“And they actually respected that which is quite interesting – they thought, ‘Right, we’re going to do what we can for you’,” Therese said.
“It just seemed crazy to me that at the same hospital, in probably a different room, if it wasn’t wanted, that was the end.
“I went in for a scan each week and the professor who was looking after me, she wanted this baby to survive. We were praying for a miracle.”
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt of the front page story of the Christmas 2020 edition. To read the story in full, pick up your free copy of the newspaper at a Brisbane archdiocese parish from this weekend, or subscribe to The Catholic Leader digital newspaper to access the December 20, 2020 edition in the digital archives (a link will be included in your subscription welcome email).