Prominent broadcaster Cassandra Crawford knows the true meaning of the word “miracle”. She has been looking at one every day for the past seven months –– each time she gazes into the eyes of her beloved son Liam.
After the heartache of two failed pregnancies, and the anguish of burying her still-born daughter Naeema Eden Amor, Cassandra is finally experiencing the joys of motherhood with the relish and fervour of someone who knows what it is to have loved and lost.
“The joys are endless. It is a miracle that he is here. I say to people that my husband and I thought we were just enjoying each other’s company, but we have had a rough time. Together, this is our third pregnancy, but this would be my fourth pregnancy in total,” she revealed in a candid interview with Barbados TODAY, while at ease at her Kingsland, Christ Church home.
“For us, getting pregnant was easy, but then keeping the babies was difficult,” said Cassandra, who was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix –– a condition, which, though not uncommon, makes the process of carrying an unborn child very difficult.
That’s why the birth of her son is so special. During the interview, Cassandra stopped to bottle-feed her adorable son, kissing him at times, playing with his cheeks and even singing to his delight.
There is no doubting the love she feels for Liam and the joy she feels as a mother “to be able to see a little person that you were apart of helping to create”.
“One day I would have interesting stories to tell him,” she added.
Back in August, 2012, the 38-year-old and her husband thought they had beaten the odds when she give birth to a baby girl on the 14th of the month. However, their hopes were shattered as soon as Naeema came out from the comfort of the womb and into the world as a stillborn with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.
“I believe in my heart that she was supposed to be here. I have strong feelings that somebody in my emergency situation didn’t do all they could to make sure that she was well, but it was an experience that would stay with our family.
“Somewhere in my heart, I just thought, ‘That was it!’ and that she was meant to be the child that I was going to have,” said Cassandra, noting that her age was becoming a factor.
“But you were still hoping, because I still checked after I lost her. If you were a few days behind, you would still check. But I, in a sense, figured that that was it, and it isn’t going to happen and we [she and her husband] were just enjoying each other’s company.
“I used to say that I always wanted a daughter because I think girls are so easy. I have lots of nieces. But once I found out the fourth time that I was pregnant and it was a boy, it was just a matter of readjusting my mind and just being contented, because I didn’t expect this at all. I thought that that last pregnancy was it,” she stressed. But through all of the ups and downs in her pregnancies, the complications and the hoping, Cassandra always had a strong support system made up of immediate family and friends. But the one person who she recalled never left her side was her husband. Amidst the grief and the pain, he was always there, being brave for her.
“My husband, he has been incredible because it’s a real sacrifice. Pregnancy affects my work. When I was pregnant with the girl, I was home for practically the whole nine months. With Liam, I was home for maybe part of the last trimester and that was much easier and much better.
“Some women have a really easy pregnancy. They don’t get much medical attention; they can walk around, lift bags, bend, swim, run. Not me. I had to take it easy, wear flats all the time. Rest. Weekly visits to the doctor for the entire pregnancy. Progesterone injections weekly.
“Once, I came home from work; when I go up the stairs, that was it. My husband would pretty much take care of bringing my breakfast, bringing me snacks. He pretty much took care of all the work in the house.”
As she did her best to ensure her pregnancy with Liam was a success, the television personality who is one of the lead anchors on Mornin’ Barbados on CBC TV8, was forced to maintain a close relationship with her doctor, who stayed with her from the beginning of her pregnancy until the delivery date.
Cassandra credits her health care provider with doing a fantastic job for her and advising her during the process.
However, three months into the pregnancy, a setback occurred –– a mere day before she was scheduled to have surgery to help protect the baby, Cassandra experienced a scare, and once again the thought entered her mind that there was not going to be a happy ending again.
“So automatically for us we were thinking that it’s over. My husband said, ‘I feel like we can’t catch a break’. But everything worked out fine, though that was taxing emotionally and otherwise.”
Affectionately glancing at her bundle of joy as she fed him a bottle of formula, the proud mum proclaimed that her prayers were answered on October 10, 2013 when Liam was delivered by Caesarean.
“I knew he was okay. He was screaming like somebody interrupted him from his sleep. It was around 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning, and he was screaming like he was interrupted,” she recalls.
“Daddy cut the umbilical cord and he and the pediatrician brought Liam and rested him on my chest, but I couldn’t hold him for very long then because it was a Caesarean.
“Good is not capturing how we would have felt. Everybody was just elated, including the doctors and nurses, because they know our history and they just wanted the best for us.” Liam’s birth not only caused Cassandra to shed tears of joy, but also tears of sadness. Her little girl whom she buried just over a year ago was on her mind.
“I also remembered our daughter Naeema; and the tears still come because you think about the babies before her that had gone, but that one in particular had come the farthest along. She is the person that we saw and held, that we have laid to rest at St Philip-The-Less Anglican churchyard.
“She is apart of our family always. It is difficult sometimes when you start rehashing and thinking about everything,” she said.
When it comes to being a devoted mother, Cassandra’s life is not her own any more. In an unpredictable profession as hers, which is not an ordinary nine to five, she and her husband are forced to do a lot of juggling of shifts and practise time management to accommodate their Liam.
“I have realized that this is something that you have to do with people that you really love and care for. My mother is a big support when any of us can’t be here with him. It has made me realize that it is about whatever the baby needs, when the baby needs it. I am tired at times and it is just a matter of saying forget sleep right now, don’t think about sleep, just try to get him to sleep.
“Sometimes he wants to play at two o’ clock in the morning. Though I have to get up to get to work at five o’ clock, he would be looking at me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You have to rise to the occasion and do what you have to do; but I don’t have to do it alone,” she said.
Wiping away milk from around Liam’s mouth, she added: “My husband is wonderful with him, doing everything that I do. He says the only thing that he can’t do for him is to breastfeed. So when we started feeding Liam from the bottles, he was very happy that he could be a part of that and he said, ‘Now I can feed him milk too; so now you are optional’. He is our little sweetheart and we are happy for that.”
Still, Cassandra would not mind having a little girl to also call her own, as a son and daughter were what she had always wanted. However, because of the many factors that would have to be considered as a result of her condition, the couple has no plans for making another baby. What she wishes for more is for her son to be “a good little boy and grow into a fine young man and be a light to the world and do good things”.
“I want him to impact on people’s lives in a good way. He has to be special, because he is here when we didn’t even expect it. He is a miracle. Now he is playing peekaboo and he is laughing out loud. He is curious, he is changing. He is trying to stand up before he creeps. He is developing well.
“The pediatrician says that he is above average size because he is tall; but that is expected, because Mummy and Daddy are tall.” Some days, talking about her journey with others comes easy to Cassandra. But then there are days when she just feels to cry. And she does.
“But I have a good circle that gives me support. And, having grown up in church, I have a source of strength to call on,” she says. Admittedly though, she is still working on forgiveness over the situation surrounding her daughter’s death, but she is trying hard not to hold grudges and to move on.
“I just try to make peace with that situation and be grateful that we do have a son, though our daughter is gone. But I do believe in God, and I know that she is an angel and she is in a better place than I am; and I now have to work hard to get there and have that kind of peace,” Cassandra said contentedly.