The Lopez Family - North Canterbury

It was December and Blanche Lopez was starting to nest in anticipation for the arrival of her first baby, due in early February. Originally from the Philippines, the Lopez’s live in Oxford – a rural township 45 minutes’ drive north of Christchurch - where Louie works as a dairy farmer. Blanche had woken with a craving for tuna pasta – a request husband Louie happily granted. 

“It was pretty early in the morning and Louie decided to go fishing with his co-worker,” Blanche explains, “I decided to tidy up around the house and maybe start on some gardening, when suddenly I felt a sharp pain around my pelvis.” At 32-weeks-pregnant, Blanche was used to niggles, but didn’t want to panic so she decided to rest for a bit. When Louie returned, the pain had become worse and Blanche remembers, “at that moment I knew – something was wrong. I felt so uneasy; I wanted to shout at Louie to ring an ambulance, but I didn’t want to overreact.” 

Louie decided to call their midwife, who quickly recognised that Blanche was in preterm labour – and advised the couple to get to the hospital as soon as possible. “We just looked at each other, we couldn’t believe it – I kept saying it’s too soon, I’m only 32 weeks!”. The drive from Oxford to Christchurch Hospital took roughly an hour due to traffic, which Blanche remembers as being agonising, “I just kept praying – please, let me and my baby make it.”  

Upon arrival at Christchurch Hospital, a midwife was waiting on standby with a wheelchair. Blanche was whisked to a delivery room and examined – she was at 10cm dilated and ready to push. Moments later, their baby boy was born and immediately taken to NICU to be monitored and assisted in his first few weeks’ earthside. 

Blanche and Louie were offered free accommodation a short walk away from the hospital at Ronald McDonald House. “As first-time parents, we would give anything to see our new baby every day. Having to pay for petrol back and forth each day, and being so far from our baby would have been extremely difficult,” Blanche says, “it’s a three-minute walk from the House to the hospital and it meant we could stay together as a family during Sebastian’s first weeks of life.” 

From the moment Blanche stepped foot through the glass doors, she felt welcomed. “The staff are so accommodating and warm,” she says, “our room was lovely – it felt like we were on holiday!”. She notes their extended family being able to visit as a real highlight, ensuring she had her village close during the overwhelming first weeks of being a new mum, “it was so heartwarming to have that support from our family in what were very trying times.” 

As Sebastian was born so close to Christmas, RMHC provided the family with plenty of gifts on Christmas Eve – a special touch that left its mark on Blanche. “These people are so kind-hearted; it means a lot. We felt blessed to receive such generosity.” 

Sebastian was “one strong preemie” and the family graduated from NICU after 40 nights, traveling back to Oxford together as a unit of three. Now six-months-old, Sebastian is the light of his parents’ lives – a blessing. “Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts,” Blanche says, “you gave us a life support and enabled us to experience what it’s like to be a family from the very beginning, and that means everything to us.”