A woman whose son lived just ‘two precious days’ has raised more than £20,000 for a hospice who helped her through the tragedy – by shaving off her four-foot dreadlocks.
Jessica Herbert’s son Oaken was diagnosed with a deadly genetic condition and was asked if she wanted to terminate the pregnancy ‘numerous times’.
At her 12-week scan doctors discovered the little lad had Edwards syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of all or part of chromosome 18.
Sadly, only one in 10 babies born with the condition live past their fifth birthday.
Tragically, Oaken sadly died two days after he was born in August.
But Jessica, 46, said she was grateful to have been able to hold him and even christen him before his untimely passing.
Following the pregnancy, Jessica and husband of 10 years Simon, 48, were supported by Martin House Children’s Hospice who she said made a ‘positive difference’ in their lives.
She decided to chop off the hair she has not cut in more than 11 years, which has grown to 4ft2in and weighs ‘unimaginably heavy’ to raise funds so the hospice can help other families like hers.
The transformational cut is set to took place on Saturday (July 31) at the Deer Shed Festival Base Camp Plus event at Baldersby Park in Thirsk, North Yorks.
Her husband Simon and daughter Willow, six, chopped the locks off one by one in an emotional day attended by roughly 50 people.
Jessica, from York, said: “It was very emotional for me, and for everyone who watched.
“But it was so liberating and also exciting. Even if I was a bit scared at first.
“I cried quite a bit.
“Having my hair piled up on my lap was so strange. It’s something I’ve had with me for more than a decade.
“My daughter WIllow shaved off a few locks which was very cool.
“I feel proud of what I’ve done to raise awareness and to help people talk about these things.”
She added: “I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of how it would look but I’m quite happy, I think I look alright. I’m relieved.”
Jessica was only given two days with Oaken before his tragic passing, but she said she was grateful for the support she received from the hospice.
She said: “We only had Oaken for two precious days, that’s all we had.
“He was a brave little man who had so much character but his medical difficulties were too severe and there was little the wonderful medical teams involved could do to help him so we went to Martin House.
“It was a tragic situation, but the support we got from the hospice was truly outstanding.
“I really wanted to do something for them, they made such a positive difference to our lives.
“It’s going to be a massive weight off my shoulder, I’m excited and nervous. The hair has become a big part of my identity and the last time I cut it was in 2010.”
She added: “My neck is really looking forward to the change, but I’m a bit scared.”
Oaken was born by caesarean section on Aug 27 weighing just 3.5lbs and against all odds he was breathing.
Jessica said that due to the syndrome, she ballooned to more than 48 inches in circumference and was full-term size after just six months.
She said: “We received the diagnosis very early on, so it was extremely stressful. I had to have many scans and tests.
“I became absolutely enormous, I was 48 inches circumference.
“I had over five litres of excess fluid and that’s because Oaken was receiving food through the umbilical cord and peeing it out but he wasn’t then taking it back in.
“It was scary and uncomfortable.”
Jessica, who works as a tree surgeon, said that holding him for the first time was ‘just incredible’ after she spent the entire pregnancy thinking she would lose him.
She said: “It felt like a tsunami when they opened me up to scoop him up.
“I didn’t even know if he was alive, but they told me he was.
“They made sure he was breathing, and I was allowed to hold him.
“It was just incredible. Having spent the entire pregnancy expecting to lose him, then having him in my arm, alive, looking content. It was amazing.
“I can’t express the feeling love, relief, happiness. All of those good and positive feelings.”
Husband Simon spent 30 minutes carefully shaving each lock one by one, and said he was proud of Jessica and the journey they went through together.
Simon, who is also a tree surgeon, said he was happy with the result as it looked ‘really cool’ and joked that Jessica had a ‘good head shape’.
Simon said: “You’ve seen people with no hair so you try to transpose that image onto her, but when I was faced with the task of doing this with 50 people watching – I just didn’t want to mess it up.
“There was a bit of pressure, but when it was all off it actually looked really cool – she’s got a good head shape.
“I’m immensely proud of her, and all of the work she has done to raise funds.
“With everything we went through, with the baby loss, this helped lessen the stigma attached.
“We’ve made friends and spoken to people, and we’ve struck a chord with the fundraiser as people have left such thoughtful messages and massive donations from strangers.
“It’s been a fulfilling journey.”
Jessica has raised more than £21,000 so far. Visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jessica-herbertdreadlockheadshave to donate.