Melinda Cruz and her miracle babies

When doctors told 18-year-old Melinda Cruz that she'd better hurry up and have babies, she was shocked she had been given such a clear ultimatum. But because she had been diagnosed with endometriosis and a bicornuate uterus (where the uterus is shaped like a love heart with two separate halves) Melinda had less time than most women to become a mum.
"The doctor said there will be three possible outcomes," recalls Melinda, now 29. "Either I wouldn't fall pregnant, I'd have miscarriages or I would have premmie babies." Thinking she was "invincible" Melinda delayed pregnancy until she was 25 but when another doctor told her she would require a second round of surgery on her endometriosis unless she had a baby there was no putting it off any longer. Melinda and her husband Chris, 30, had no problems falling pregnant. The troubles started at 29 weeks when Melinda could feel a tightening in her stomach. She was having contractions but she was determined not to deliver the baby just yet. Young Elijah was lying in the right side of her bicornuate uterus and there wasn't much room to move. "They gave me steroid injections to help his little lungs develop and I spent two weeks in hospital," says Mel, who was allowed to go home. But at 32 weeks while watching Skithouse on the telly she laughed so hard her waters broke. She spent another two weeks flat on her back in Sydney's Liverpool Hospital until Elijah, now three, arrived at 34 weeks, weighing 2.2065kg and was taken straight to newborn care. "Thankfully after three weeks in neonatal care he had no complications and was soon a thriving little boy," says his mum. It wasn't long before Melinda was pregnant again. This time the baby chose the left-hand side of her womb to set up camp. Then one day while at playgroup with 18-month-old Elijah, five-and-a-half months pregnant Melinda started feeling serious pain. She knew a 26-week-old baby had little chance of surviving and she wanted to give her new son every possible chance. "I lay in agony on the hospital ward for four days. They said I wasn't contracting but I was. When a nurse finally gave me an internal examination she realised I was 10cm dilated and the baby was coming any minute. There was no chance to warn the neonatal unit that a 27-weeker was threatening." Tiny Dillon was born weighing 1.185kg, resuscitated and rushed straight to the newborn care unit. The doctors told Melinda and Chris the first 24 hours were the most crucial. "He was born at 2.20am and the next morning I was sitting by his crib looking at all these tubes coming out of him and I looked up at the clock as it ticked over to 2.20am and I knew he had a chance," says Mel. "The floodgates opened and I sobbed for what seemed like hours." Dillon wasn't out of the woods for nine weeks and while spending so much time in the neonatal care ward of Liverpool Hospital it got Melinda thinking what she could do to help the "wonderful doctors and nurses" and the parents of premmie babies. "I started Miracle Babies which is dedicated to supporting parents and families of premature and sick newborns born at Liverpool Hospital by providing emotional and practical support," says Mel, who along with a bunch of other like-minded mums raised $35,000 in the first annual Miracle Babies dinner dance. While she was setting up Miracle Babies, Melinda fell pregnant again but this time the doctors acted early. "At 12 weeks they stitched up my cervix," explains Melinda, who was lucky the procedure held because at 24 weeks she felt those same pains again. "Thank God for that stitch!" It saved Jasper from entering the world until he was 37 weeks and a healthy 2.8kg and now the Cruz family are happy they have done as Treasurer Peter Costello has asked and had one for mum, one for dad and one for the country.