Pregnancy & Birth

Jane and Martin Weekes’ baby joy after tragedy

While the grief of losing their 2-year-old triplets in a mall fire in Doha “never fully goes away,” Jane and Martin Weekes "have so much to be thankful for" with the arrival of baby Gunner.

Jane and Martin Weekes’ Auckland home is a hive of activity. There are builders swarming as they put the finishing touches on a major renovation project, the family’s two dogs are curiously sniffing around, relatives are due any minute from the airport and a small emergency means Martin has to rush off to find a missing piece of essential building equipment.

Suitcases are waiting to be packed for a trip to Vietnam the following day, and four-year-old twins Poppy and Parker need collecting from kindergarten.

But among the chaos, there’s one person who seems utterly unconcerned by the hubbub around him. Twelve-week-old baby Gunner is snoozing soundly in his mummy’s arms – a perfect little cherub who, like his siblings, has brought untold joy into his parents’ lives. Joy that was once unimaginable for the grieving couple, who lost their two-year-old triplets Willsher, Lillie and Jackson in a devastating mall fire in Doha, Qatar, on May 28, 2012.

“We have so much to be thankful for,” smiles Jane, who recently graduated top of her class in a counselling degree. “The grief never fully goes away, but I tend to be more surprised by it now. Someone described it as a grief ambush. Out of nowhere, it will rush over me, but I no longer anticipate it.”

She and Martin are happy to share their story again in the hope it will give strength to anyone else going through tragedy. Their marriage is stronger than ever, the house is filled with the sound of children’s giggles and life is good.

Jackson, Lillie and Willsher

Like all the Weekes’ babies, little Gunner was conceived via IVF. After having Poppy and Parker, whose embryos were created at a fertility clinic in San Francisco, there were two remaining fertilised eggs, so Jane and Martin decided late last year that they’d like to expand their family.

They again travelled to the US with the dream of another child, a welcome positive to focus on after Jane’s dear mother Jo passed away after a short but brutal battle with ovarian cancer.

“Both the embryos were thawed, but only one survived and that’s Gunner,” smiles Jane as she gives her boy a gentle kiss on his head. “I am really sad that Mum never got to meet him. She’d have loved to see another grandchild.”

Other than high blood pressure towards the end, Jane’s pregnancy was straightforward and after a scheduled Caesarean section on September 28, she and Martin were delighted to welcome their sixth – and final – child.

“He was quite indignant and let out a huge cry,” tells Martin. “We both just felt this huge amount of relief that he was here safely. It was instant love. He’s just perfect and it feels wonderful to have him here. It feels right, like it’s meant to be.”

While his first name is a nod to Jane’s dad Ron, who was a gunner in the army, their little boy’s middle names are

a tribute to his oldest siblings. James was Jackson’s middle name and Willsher, his big brother. Parker’s middle names are also James Willsher.

“We just thought it’s kind of nice for the boys of the family to have the same names. It ties them all together,” tells Martin.

Even in the delivery room, Jane and Martin were thinking of their triplets.

“I was feeling quite anxious, so a lovely nurse put some music on to take my mind off it,” says Jane. “Then ‘Nothing Else Matters’ came on. It’s my favourite song and the line ‘So close, no matter how far’is also on their headstone.

I cried, but I couldn’t really pinpoint if I was sad or happy. It was amazing to hear that at that moment.”

While Poppy and Parker have taken their new baby brother in their stride, Jane tells us they’re getting to an age where they ask more questions about Willsher, Lillie and Jackson, whose photographs are dotted around the family home.

At bedtime, Poppy in particular often wants to talk about the big brothers and sister she’ll sadly never know.

“We’ve always said we’ll be open and honest about what happened, but it’s difficult,” admits Jane. “We talk about how they died because of all the smoke in the fire, but it is confusing for them. It’s about giving them enough information without scaring them.

“Poppy once asked why their parents weren’t there,” recalls Jane, with tears in her eyes.

“I don’t think she quite understands that her mummy and daddy are also Jackson, Willsher and Lillie’s mummy and daddy.”

When strangers ask Jane if Gunner is her first baby, she has learnt to reply, “We have twins at home.”

She tells, “I’d never want to say I have three children because I don’t – I have six. But it just avoids having to go through it all every time.”

With Poppy and Parker due to begin school in the middle of 2018, Jane is looking forward to starting work as a counsellor.

After three years of study, she graduated in 2016, just before becoming pregnant with Gunner. She is passionate about helping other people who are facing difficult times, particularly those who have suffered the loss of a child.

“I feel a responsibility to do this,” she insists.

“If there’s something I can do to help someone going through something similar to us, then I’d love to do that. I want people to see hope in us – hope is the greatest gift you can give. We are no stronger or more skilled than anyone else, yet we came through it. We survived. Other people can too.”

Jane and Martin cherish memories of the beautiful triplets they tragically lost in a mall fire. “The grief never fully goes away,” says Jane.

They’re also keen to dispel the myth that the loss of a child often spells the end of marriages, telling us they’re closer than ever. “It’s a horrible thing for people to worry about on top of everything else,” says Martin.

“If your marriage was good before a tragedy, then it’s just not true that losing a child will end it.”

Jane adds, “The reality is that nobody else has had that loss the way Martin and I have, and that will never change. We’ve always been good at talking to each other and being respectful of each other’s grief, particularly in that first year.

If one of us was having a really crap day and the other was having a good day, we had to give each other space.”

“We have so much to be thankful for,” smiles Jane as her cute twins Poppy and Parker snuggle up with Mum, Dad and baby brother.

And with that, their “cruisy, content” baby Gunner begins to stir. Poppy and Parker are home and it’s time for the photo shoot to begin. But Jane’s in no hurry to rush his feed.

In fact, the doting mum just wishes things would slow down with her adorable last baby.

“The first time around, I was so excited for each new milestone. But this time, knowing it’s my last, I am just really happy going slow and enjoying every little moment. He’s very special.”

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