HeadLine: THEY CAN ONLY PRAY
The Mirror, 07/01/2002, p4&5
by SHAUN MILNE & JEREMY ARMSTRONG
HOUR after hour, Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah sat beside their
stricken baby and willed her to live.
In just a few short days, their joy had turned to anguish and they were
facing every parent’s nightmare.
Ten-day-old Jennifer lay critically ill after a brain haemorrhage. Now
they could only pray.
A brief statement issued on behalf of the distressed couple could not
disguise their heartbreak.
It read: “Sadly, Jennifer’s condition following her brain haemorrhage
has deteriorated over the last 24 hours.
“Gordon and Sarah are with her and are grateful for the support and
good wishes they are receiving at a difficult time.”
It had all been so different when the baby was born by Caesarean
section at Forth Park Hospital in Kirkcaldy.
Jennifer Jane was seven weeks premature and weighed only 2lb 4oz.
But the Chancellor, normally not given to public displays of emotion,
was unable to contain his delight at becoming a father for the first
time at the age of 50.
He was a member of the Doting Dads’ Club and didn’t care who knew it.
His little girl had come into the world early but well.
And it was time to celebrate with family, friends and the rest of the
Earlier, a worried but excited Gordon and Sarah had been told they
could wait no longer.
A routine scan at the maternity unit had shown Sarah had low levels of
amniotic fluid in her womb.
Doctors said she would have to have an emergency Caesarean.
If the pregnancy was allowed to continue, the unborn child’s natural
growth would be inhibited during the final, crucial weeks of her
development and it was too great a risk to take. Next day, Mr Brown
stood at his wife’s bedside.
He held her hand and shared the moment of birth.
Mother and father were able gingerly to stroke Jennifer, smiling and
laughing over her tiny body.
Even when they learned she had to be treated for jaundice and fed by
intravenous drip, they were told it was normal when babies are born
Gordon went home to North Queensferry, Fife, at 8pm and shared a bottle
of champagne with his older brother John.
The baby was named Jennifer Jane – Jane is Mrs Brown’s middle name and
the couple chose Jennifer because they thought it suited the baby.
Next day John and wife Angela drove the Chancellor back to the hospital
at 10.30am and he slipped through a side entrance to embrace his wife.
They spent about half an hour together in a private room, talking about
what the doctors had told Sarah overnight.
Then, hand in hand, they walked to the neo-natal unit to see their
By now she was breathing unaided thanks to extra oxygen being pumped
into the incubator. She was also being kept under “photo-therapy lamps”
to combat the jaundice.
The smiling Chancellor, dressed casually in open-necked shirt, stepped
jauntily out and told reporters: “I’ve probably waited longer than most
people to be a father and it’s just a superb feeling.
“I know every father says his baby daughter is the most beautiful in
the world, but she is, and we are so delighted. It is a big change in
my life and I am looking forward to it. Politics seems a lot less
important to me today.”
The baby would have to remain in hospital for at least six weeks.
Mr Brown, who announced he was taking two weeks’ paternity leave, spent
the next couple of days travelling between home and hospital, a near
permanent grin on his face.
But there was no smiles from the new mum when Sarah, clutching a
bouquet of red roses, was allowed to leave hospital last Thursday. The
worry at leaving her baby was written all over her face. Doctors were
pleased at Jennifer’s progress.
She had been breathing independently and tolerating small amounts of
food. But like any new mum, Sarah was reluctant to leave her new-born
She waited in the special-care unit until the consultants had made
their round before agreeing to go home.
As her husband lavished praise on the NHS staff caring for his child,
Sarah looked down at her feet. At every possibly opportunity the couple
returned to hospital to be with Jennifer.
Then, on Friday, came the dreaded news.
An ultrasound examination had uncovered something which started alarm
A police escort was scrambled and an ambulance raced Jennifer the 20
miles to Edinburgh’s world renowned Royal Infirmary.
The parents have since spent every minute with their baby in the
Simpson Memorial Pavilion, one of the top neo-natal units.
Family and friends rallied around. MP Nigel Griffiths said: “We are
desperately anxious for them.”
Sarah’s divorced mother Pauline and her husband Patrick Vaughan spent
an hour at the hospital last night.
The premature baby charity BLISS offered words of comfort.
A spokeswoman said: “The staff at the Simpson neo-natal unit will be
doing all they can with the expert knowledge that they have of sick,
“They will be discussing all the options with the parents and any
decisions about treatment and future care will be taken jointly.”
The spokeswoman added: “The Browns will be devastated at this moment,
having already gone through a roller-coaster of emotions that parents
of premature babies do with the unexpected birth and the ups and downs
of a seriously ill baby.”
Gordon Brown and Sarah Macaulay married in August 2000.
The private ceremony in front of 30 guests was low budget and low key.
The couple were toasted with 11.99 bottles of champagne from
Mr Brown’s brother John took them to the airport and they chose to fly
economy class to Cape Cod in America although Virgin upgraded them.
The couple honeymooned in a budget hotel room but later threw a big
party for friends on their return.
Psychology graduate Sarah formed a PR consultancy a decade ago with
Julia Hobsbawm, daughter of Marxist historian Eric.
She met Gordon at a Labour Party fundraising party eight years ago.
Mr Brown’s former press secretary, Charlie Whelan, later recalled:
“I’ll never forget the day she came through the office and I could see
a glint in Gordon’s eye straight away.”
Categories: Daily Mirror articles