Kiki deVille appeared on The Voice UK this year and sang Paloma Faith’s Stone Cold Sober at her blind audition but behind her bubbly personality the 40-year-old burlesque singer a personal message she wanted to share, about coping with the loss of her child and learning to live again following her loss.
Wearing two very important tattoos to her, she proved that. On her left wrist is: “As long as we are living our baby you will be.” This is in reference to her son Dexter who sadly died in 2007 at the age of just one month and three days while on her right wrist is the musical score to ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ which was the song that was played at his funeral.
“Turning 40 gave me a newfound confidence to audition for The Voice and reach so many people on a personal level. When you lose a child, you feel guilty for having a great day, for allowing yourself to feel happy. It took me a long time to accept you can enjoy life again. There were times during the show when people wondered if I was taking it seriously because I’m so upbeat and always laughing. But that’s just me. I have a realistic approach to life now. Nothing will ever be as serious as holding my little boy while he died.”
Kiki, whose real name is Kristianne Robinson, gave birth to Dexter on 12 September 2007 for her husband Christopher, 34. Dexter weighed 7lb 11oz and though an amniocentesis had shown that there might be a slight genetic abnormality, there were no chromosomal problems. Because of this Kiki and Christopher thought it was nothing serious.
“The birth had been perfectly normal but when Dexter came in to the world he wasn’t crying. He was very blue and needed resuscitating. I couldn’t suppress a feeling of uneasiness. As I cradled him, I thought back to the birth of my two older children from my previous marriage. Somehow things felt different and I knew something wasn’t right.”
However within just 24 hours, their fears were confirmed. Baby Dexter was moved to a special care unit while doctors told Kiki and Chistopher that he had Zellweger Syndrome. The rare genetic disorder meant he could not break down toxins and he had no muscle tone, so he couldn’t cry. Kiki and Christopher were told that there was no cure for Zellweger Syndrome and that babies rarely survive over six months old. The geneticist told them both that it was a one in 50 million chance that they would meet and both carry the faulty gene.
“Christopher and I stared at each other in shock and all I can remember is an overwhelming feeling that it couldn’t possibly be happening. As I looked at my baby’s perfectly formed, tiny little toes and fingers, I wanted to scream at the unfairness of it. How could someone so small and perfect be doomed to live such a short life?”
Dexter had seizures and could only be fed through a tube. They took Dexter to their home in Earby in Lancashire when he was seven days old.
“We decided we didn’t want the doctors to keep him alive just for our benefit. We had no idea how much pain he was in because he couldn’t cry and we were told he had a very severe form of Zellweger. We couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering. At one month old we had a birthday party for him – the only one we’d ever have. Everyone we knew came to celebrate with us: to say hello and goodbye. The following day, Dexter had a massive seizure. We took him to Derian House Children’s Hospice in Chorley, where we lay with him for a few hours and he just slipped away. You never think you will have to hold your baby as he dies, but I look back now and take comfort that I was the one.”
A month later, as the pair struggled to cope with their loss, Kiki, who is originally from Melbourne in Australia, found out that she was pregnant again.
“We were petrified. There was a one in four chance this child would have the syndrome too. After an agonising seven-week wait, genetic tests showed our unborn baby had escaped. Still, I couldn’t believe we didn’t face the same heartache. I was on edge for the whole pregnancy but when Arlo Dexter came into the world on 16 July 2008 screaming the hospital down, we finally knew he was OK.”
In time, Kiki started to accept that it was alright to feel happy and wanted to ensure that Dexter’s death did not come to nothing and wanted to do something to help others in the same situation:
“I’m an ambassador for the hospice where Dexter died and want to do all I can to raise awareness of the vital work the charity Together For Short Lives does. They need all the support they can get – they only receive nine per cent funding from the Government.”
Three years ago Kiki founded a singing school. She also now performs each week. Though she was disappointed to be knocked out at the battle round stages of The Voice UK she feels she was successful in what she intended to do.
“I wanted to further my singing career, and now I’m being booked for bigger gigs like the Edinburgh Fringe, which I’m so excited about. But most importantly, I’ve had the chance to tell other mums and dads that there is life after the loss of a baby. OK, so things will never be the same again. I know I’m a different kind of ‘normal’ now. But it’s OK to love and laugh – and you don’t have to feel guilty about that.”
Rest in peace Dexter.
For more information or to donate, visit togetherforshortlives.org.uk