Casey Nathan would have turned 21 on October 13, but instead of attending a birthday celebration, her family visited her grave at the family urupa near Waingaro.
There Casey lies with her baby son Kymani lovingly held in her arms, while her family want answers about their deaths.
The pair died in Waikato Hospital following a difficult birth in May and now Casey's parents, Caz and Turama Nathan, are preparing to face Christmas without their youngest daughter and new grandson.
Casey died on May 21 - six hours after giving birth at Huntly Birthcare. Her baby son, Kymani, died two days later at Waikato Hospital where he had been in critical condition in intensive care.
Seven months on and Casey's family are struggling to find closure.
"We need answers, we need to know why our baby girl isn't with us," Mrs Nathan wept.
Casey's eldest sister Kitty, 34, sits comforting her grief-stricken mother. She too weeps for the sister she described as "loving, beautiful, kind and happy" and repeats the question everyone is asking: "Why"?
"I have eight children, there were no issues, no problems, so what's gone wrong for Casey," she asks.
The family is now waiting for the findings of an expert panel instructed by coroner Gordon Matenga to review Casey and Kymani's deaths.
"We are hopeful the coroner will find enough reason to hold an inquest," said Casey's uncle, Tem Ormsby.
"I have discussed this with him a couple of times and I am confident the inquest will come - it really does need to - for the sake of the family," he said.
The family understands that Kymani was born at Huntly Birthcare with breathing difficulties about 11am on May 21, soon after Casey became seriously unwell. An ambulance was called and both mother and baby were taken to Waikato Hospital where, despite the best efforts of hospital staff, Casey died about 5pm. Her baby son was placed on life support but died two days later.
"The doctors at the hospital said they did everything they could, but for Casey there was not a lot they could do because she had haemorrhaged so badly," Mr Ormsby said.
The family have not returned to Huntly Birthcare where Casey's labour took place, nor have they spoken with their daughter's midwife who had less than 18 months' experience, having graduated at the end of 2010.
They are hoping an inquest will answer the questions about what happened "for everyone's sake".
In preparation for an inquest, the Nathan family have also enlisted the help of Action to Improve Maternity founder Jenn Hooper who believes an inquest was entirely appropriate for the family.
"At the end of the day we have two deaths here involving an otherwise healthy, low-risk young mum and her new baby," she said.
Together with the Nathan family, Mrs Hooper continues to gather information about the events that led to Casey and Kymani's deaths and said there had been "considerable delay" in getting the information required.
"But it seems that every piece of information that we do acquire, rather than answering questions, seems to lead to more."
Mr Ormsby said Mrs Hooper had worked tirelessly in helping the family find the answers they desperately seek.
"We could not have done this without her, she really has spent so much time on this case and we truly appreciate her support."
Now the Nathan family will wait for the findings of the expert panel assembled to review the evidence.
"People say we will get over it, but I will never get over it," Mrs Nathan cried. "She was an important link in our family chain and now that chain is broken and we don't have any answers as to why," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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