An inspiring mum who lost her husband nearly ten years after the deaths of their three sons, has shown her incredibly positive outlook on life, describing herself as “lucky”.
Today would have been the 12th birthday of Sophie Smith and her husband Ash’s firstborn triplet Henry. He was born at just 21 weeks when Sophie unexpectedly went into labour, and was followed three weeks later by brothers Jasper and Evan. Tragically however, all three babies lost their fight for life shortly after being born in 2006.
The couple turned their grief into an incredible legacy, and spent the following years forming a charity that helps fund the life-saving neonatal equipment needed to save other premature babies.
But just months before the tenth anniversary of the boys’ passing, Ash died age 43, after fighting an aggressive brain tumour.
Despite losing her husband and her three sons, Sophie — who is also mum to Owen, 10, and Harvey, seven — says she “wouldn’t change a thing” about her life, and has dedicated herself to their charity, Running for Premature Babies.
“I feel like I got something different from each of my children and I’m so grateful,” she tells Be.
“I don’t want to downplay the absolute deep devastation of losing my babies but I feel lucky I have been able to turn around and channel that grief into something positive.”
Sophie — who is currently gearing up to run in this year’s City2Surf event in Sydney — explains that when people hear her story, their reaction is usually one of sympathy.
“People often say, ‘it’s not fair’ or ‘you’re very unlucky’ but I don’t feel that way,” the 48-year-old says. “I say to them, ‘absolutely not’, because I genuinely feel so blessed to have experienced such love.”
“I would go back to the day I met Ash and re-live my life again,” she continues. “I feel lucky to have such an amazing husband. I wouldn’t want to change that for anything.”
Despite her positive outlook on life, Sophie admits she has experienced a lot of pain and suffering.
The pair from Coogee, in Sydney, were devastated when Sophie went into labour just 21 weeks into her pregnancy with doctors telling them it was likely “all three of your babies will die”.
“It was like being hit by a truck, it was like my whole world just came crashing down,” Sophie says. “I can’t describe the horror and devastation we felt.”
Henry arrived a few days later, and survived for a “beautiful” hour before he passed away.
“Through our distress, Ash said to me, ‘He’s alive, we have to give him a good life’.”
They did just that, cuddling, kissing and cradling their first born and soaking in every minute they shared together.
She remained in the delivery room as doctors expected the other two to arrive too, but they didn’t, and it gave the couple a glimmer of hope.
Jasper and Evan managed to hold on until 24 weeks, but doctors told them they had just a 50 per cent chance of survival.
Evan survived ten days before losing his life to a brain haemorrhage, while Jasper was alive for eight and a half weeks before his lungs gave up. Both are common complications in premature babies.
“As a way of trying to make sense of our tragedy, we wanted to do something in their names that would benefit other premature babies,” she said.
The next year, Sophie and Ash took part in a half marathon, running 21kms with their boys’ tiny handprints on their backs.
It quickly caught on, becoming an annual event that 250 people joined in with, many of them parents who had been affected by a premature arrival too.
Three years after Sophie and Ash lost their three boys, their son Owen was born, and Sophie explains they couldn’t believe how much “joy” he brought into their lives.
But their happiness was short-lived when Ash started complaining of headaches and was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Despite being given just a year to live, Ash was determined to fight and underwent an invasive surgery to remove a 7cm tumour.
A year later, while he was in remission, Sophie fell pregnant with Harvey.
Things were good for several years, but a routine check-up in 2015 shattered their living miracle.
The tumour was back and this time Ash couldn’t beat it, despite several attempts from surgeons to remove it.
“I knew it was going to come back at some point,” Sophie said, explaining she spent the final “difficult” months of her husband’s life caring for him.
Ash died in February 2016 and just like when they’d lost the boys, Sophie turned to running to get her through.
They were just three months from the tenth birthday of their triplets, which they celebrated on the date of Henry’s arrival, and she decided she wanted to mark the milestone by going even bigger with their usual efforts.
That year she doubled their 250-strong running team to 500, and decided to ran the half marathon in New York, finishing with her fastest ever time.
“I’d been looking everywhere for signs of Ash since he’d died and could never see him,” she recalled. “But that day when I was running, I could feel him there with me.”
Since then, Sophie has worked tirelessly on the charity that now honours her husband and their three boys, raising over $3 million for the Royal Women’s Hospital.
Even though she’s felt unimaginable loss, Sophie insists she wouldn’t turn back the clock for anything.
In fact, she’s so passionate about telling her sons’ stories, she’s penned a book called Sophie’s Boys that was released earlier in the year.
Later today, Sophie, Owen and Harvey will make a cake to mark Henry’s birthday, something that has become a tradition for them. They’ll do the same next month for Jasper and Evan too.
“While I know my story is a sad one, I hope people find it uplifting rather than depressing, and a story of hope rather than just a story of tragedy” she finished. “My life is richer for having been Henry, Jasper and Evan’s mum and Ash’s wife, and I’m proud of their legacy giving premature babies a better chance of survival.”
For support on miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death you can visit Sands.
To donate or run with Sophie click here.
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