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Terminally ill Belfast mum gets dying wish by giving birth to girl

By Suzanne Breen

Published 04/07/2015

Belfast woman Margaretlee Hilton gave birth to little Zoe Grace yesterday
Belfast woman Margaretlee Hilton gave birth to little Zoe Grace yesterday
Baby Zoe Grace resting on her mother in hospital yesterday
Margaretlee Hilton with her parter David Brennan and their daughter Amy Brennan at their home in Lenadoon

A young mother with terminal cancer has given birth to a miracle daughter.

Belfast woman Margaretlee Hilton gave birth to little Zoe Grace yesterday.

Doctors at the Royal Victoria Hospital carried out an emergency Caesarean section at 25 weeks because they fear Margaretlee doesn’t have long to live.

In an emotional interview with the Belfast Telegraph in May, Margaretlee - who is undergoing chemotherapy and is on a morphine driver - vowed to stay alive long enough to hold her baby in her arms.

“I had a wee baby stillborn 18 months ago and I want more than anything to see this pregnancy through. I have a wonderful partner and family. I know that, if I’m not there, they’ll bring my baby up. All I want is to live long enough to hold my baby in my arms.”

Yesterday, Margaretlee’s wish came true. At 2.36pm her daughter was born. She weighed only 1lb 3oz but Margaretlee was able to hold her in her arms and spend some precious time with her before little Zoe was taken to the neo-natal unit.

Margaretlee’s brother David said: “She is our little miracle. To see her lying on Margaretlee’s chest with her beautiful blonde eyebrows peeping out from under her pink hat was such a magical moment for our family.

“There were many times in recent weeks that we thought we’d never get here. Margaretlee chose the name Zoe because it mean’s life. Zoe is gorgeous and although she is very fragile, she looks perfectly fine.

“It will be months before she is strong enough to leave the neo-natal unit but she will do it. She is brave and a fighter, just like her mum.”

Margaretlee (33), from Lenadoon in west Belfast, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer shortly after finding out she was pregnant in February. She was given around six months to live. She desperately wanted a baby and especially a sister for her nine-year-old daughter Amy.

Margaretlee had a miscarriage last year and a stillbirth in November 2013. She kept the cot, Moses basket, and all the clothes she had bought for her stillborn daughter, Sophia, hoping that one day she would be able to have another baby girl.

But her brother David said that in recent weeks it was “touch and go” as to whether Margaretlee and the baby would survive.

“The doctors had hoped that Margaretlee would be well enough to continue with the pregnancy until the baby was 28 weeks and they’d deliver it then. But last week they feared that we could lose both mother and baby.

“Margaretlee had emergency treatment. Then, because she was deteriorating, the doctors decided even though it was far from ideal, that they would have to deliver the baby at 25 weeks.

“But my sister started bleeding internally on Friday morning and they had to postpone the Caesarean for five hours. Margaretlee needed a blood transfusion yesterday before she was strong enough for surgery. But she was conscious throughout the Caesarean.

“When Zoe was born, she didn’t shed one tear. She was just smiling like I’ve never seen her smile before. She was shining with happiness. My sister is the bravest person I’ve ever met.

“From the moment she was diagnosed as terminally ill she has never uttered a word of self-pity. I have never heard her say ‘Why me?’ or ‘This is so unfair’. All she has wanted is to live long enough to give birth and hold her baby.

“Her desire to do that has kept her going these last few weeks.” 

David said that Margaretlee was “stronger than we ever expected” after the surgery. He added: “We are all so proud of her.”

The Hiltons said they owed “a world of gratitude” to obstetrician, Niamh McCabe, who delivered baby Zoe. 

Following a public appeal in the Belfast Telegraph, Margaretlee’s family raised £40,000 to send her to Mexico for specialist treatment which could prolong her life. But she is currently in too weak a state to consider making the journey.

The family said they wanted to thank Belfast Telegraph readers “from the bottom of our hearts for their incredible generosity”.

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