The photo above was taken three years ago today – a precious moment with Jessica as we prepared for her to go to theatre for the second time since she was born. I remember it like it was yesterday – the anxious waiting, not wanting to leave her cot for a moment, wanting to spend as much time as we could with her and praying that all would be well. She was so awake and alert that morning, really looking up at us and I can still see that beautiful little face looking back at me. Precious moments before the porters arrived to take her off to theatre. We cried together for a moment after Jessica had disappeared from sight and then headed off to the hospital chapel to light a candle and pray before heading down to the canteen to try and eat something, try and fill the time waiting somehow. I remember the heart-stopping moment when my phone rang with what I knew was a hospital phone number just over an hour after Jessica had gone to theatre – too soon to be telling us the surgery had finished and she was back on PICU. The chill and fear in my heart as I fearfully answered the phone and then the overwhelming relief when it turned out to be one of the midwives wanting to know if I needed a postnatal check. Thankfully the call we were waiting for came a couple of hours later – the surgery had gone well and Jessica was back on PICU.
I’ve been revisiting a lot of memories over the last week as Jessica has recently turned three and my timehop has been full of photos and blog updates from those early days in PICU. Two of Jessica’s ‘heart days’ have been remembered in the last week or so – the first on her birthday as her first open heart surgery was carried out on the day she was born and the second is today – the date that the second part of her hybrid procedure was carried out.
Reading back through my blog updates back then reminds me of what a rollercoaster those early weeks were, those days when we clung to every precious moment we could get with our baby girl and every shred of hope we could hold on to. That first day especially – the overwhelming joy when I heard her cry for the first time as she was born and then later on the fear of whether she would get through her surgery, trying to fill the hours of waiting and praying desperately that all would go well. Seeing her on PICU late that night after her surgery and feeling so immensely thankful to be reunited with her again, knowing that she had got through her first open-heart surgery. The emptiness I felt leaving her there and returning to the maternity hospital across the road – thankfully we’d been put in a single room and my husband had been allowed to stay overnight with me. I remember missing my bump, missing those little movements, missing my baby desperately. It is the most unnatural thing in the world to be separated from your newborn baby and I remember phoning PICU very early the next morning to see how Jessica was, eager to go back over there and be with her.
In many ways those scary days feel like a dream – looking at Jessica now and seeing how well she is doing, how healthy she appears to be and knowing how truly blessed we are to come this far. And yet with the joy and celebration of marking another birthday, another milestone, there is always the tinge of anxiety beneath the surface, the thoughts that I push away on a day-to-day basis. I know that we will have to relive that rollercoaster ride again as Jessica will need her next stage operation in the not-too-distant future. However, she will need to have another cardiac catheter procedure to check how her pulmonary arteries are growing before the next surgery can be planned and at present there are no plans for this to take place until next year. We hope that the next major surgery is still at least a year away but those moments are starting to feel extra-precious once again.