A few months ago she lost a baby and nearly died after contracting listeria in Spain.

Now, Brigitte Purcell has been given the greatest gift for Mother's Day.

She's pregnant again and at 23 weeks, is a week further along from when she lost her child, who she named Jude, last year.

"It was amazing how quickly my body bounced back, I was surprised it wanted to take on a baby so quickly especially after what I've been through. We weren't trying mostly because I didn't feel any time would've been right. It doesn't replace Jude but it takes away a bit of the pain."


In August, Purcell, her husband Danny and their daughter Delilah travelled to France for a friend's wedding. They also spent time in a Tamariu a seaside town in Spain. During their stay, there was a severe outbreak of listeria in Spain which claimed the lives of five unborn babies.

"The strain of listeria in Spain was really specific, my one was 'you would never know where it came from', and that was upsetting. I was cautious about what I ate so it could have been cross-contamination but you can also get listeria from fruit or salads.
But as careful as I was my odds were one in a million and I lost."

Before Purcell flew back to New Zealand in October she started to feel "off". She had hot and cold flushes and vomited. Her health worsened on the plane and she nearly collapsed at Auckland Airport.

The following day she went to see a doctor who thought Purcell had influenza. She was sent home feeling extremely poorly.

"I was waking up at night, I couldn't breathe, I was hyperventilating and every muscle pain crippled me. I knew something was wrong."

Two days later she was admitted to hospital where she nearly died. Numerous blood tests revealed Purcell had listeria monocytogenes in her blood which is deadly for the elderly and pregnant women with a weak immune system. Once it's in the blood it can kill babies in utero.

"Because I couldn't breathe, I had my lungs checked and a nurse asked if I wanted to see the baby. It was that moment I found out he wasn't alive. He was motionless. The listeria didn't just kill Jude it was shutting down my body. I thought what I felt was him moving but it was my uterus contracting in reaction to my body turning septic and a baby that had passed away a week ago. I couldn't believe what was happening."

Purcell was forced to give birth to her stillborn baby. Not long after she had taken medication to induce the birth, her organs shut down and she started shaking uncontrollably. She remembers that 15 adult resuscitation staff working frantically to save her.


"I honestly thought I was going to die, I couldn't control anything that was happening. It took a long time to get me back. It could've gone either way."

Purcell fought with all her might to stay alive - all she could think about was Delilah not having a mother.

Brigitte Purcell with husband Daniel and their daughter Delilah. Photo / Dean Purcell
Brigitte Purcell with husband Daniel and their daughter Delilah. Photo / Dean Purcell

'"I had to fight for Delilah because the worse thing would be leaving her without a mother that's what got me through." Two and half hours later Jude was born. He was "perfect."

Two months later, in December, Purcell discovered she was miraculously pregnant again.

But the former NZME and Newshub reporter kept it a secret. She gift-wrapped the pregnancy test and gave it to her husband on Christmas Day.

"Danny was shocked and overwhelmed. His face lit up and he started crying. I was also coming to terms with it, too. I had been pregnant for a year and it felt like Jude was coming back to me."


Twelve weeks into her pregnancy Purcell was told that she was having a boy.

"I planned a surprise picnic with Danny in the garden and we had a gender reveal. He was so thrilled."

In another surprise, two weeks ago her scan revealed a healthy baby girl.

The parents haven't decided on a name for their daughter who is due in September. They would have included the name Jude if the baby was a boy.

"Jude is such a powerful name for a little boy that I wanted for such a long time, it wouldn't be right to give that name to a girl. I think Delilah is such a 'girly girl' who lights up the room. She is full of life, sassy and we have a strong feeling her sister will be the same, so we will choose a 'pretty' but 'strong' name."

In February, the family had a memorial service for Jude. Delilah had met her brother briefly before he was cremated. His ashes are at home in a star-shaped urn, she points at them and says "baby."


Purcell, who has asthma and a compromised immune system, has taken extra caution during COVID 19.

She had stocked up her pantry and organised Delilah's activities and went into self-isolation before the country went into lockdown on March 25.

"I know how vulnerable it is to have asthma and not be able to breathe. Every day seeing the numbers rise gave me anxiety but I feel a lot more relaxed about venturing into the street now."

She is encouraging other mothers who have lost their babies to be open about sharing their grief and loss.

"Nothing takes away the pain but it's important for mothers to talk about it. Death is the elephant in the room and it shouldn't be."

Delilah, who is nearly two can't wait to be a big sister. She is cuddly and constantly kisses and pats her mother's tummy and says "baby, baby, baby".


Every day Purcell thinks of her son Jude.

"I carry him with me. There are days I do cry because I wish he was here - he should be here. I know he is not going to come back but this baby is a beautiful little gift. But part of me doesn't want to accept it's real until it is safe in my arms because anything can happen."