Friday 13th May 2011. A day that was hugely significant for us; a hospital appointment that would change our lives forever. Looking back, I recall it as a series of flashback moments. Walking into the hospital holding hubby’s hand, my legs shaking and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sitting in the waiting room before our appointment and praying that we would leave with hope, that Friday 13th wouldn’t prove to be unlucky for us. The silence in the room as I lay on the bed, bump exposed, being scanned.
The cool, clinical way in which we were told that our daughter’s heart condition was so severe that it was unlikely she would be suitable for surgery. The quick hot surge of anger that briefly filled me on the assumption that I wanted to terminate and the vehemence of my refusal. The throwaway, dismissive comment about radical in-utero surgery that we barely took in. Feeling lost, broken and confused as we stood outside the room, watching the doctor and sonographer walking away chatting cheerfully together. Those moments of utter despair and desolation as we sobbed out our devastation and grief in the hospital chapel.
How strange the world looked as we left the hospital – everything still going on as normal and yet our world so utterly torn apart. The ice-cream van at the side of the square, school children queuing up, a drunk man asking my husband for a light for his cigarette and attempting to linger for a chat. The relief I felt when he left us alone after my husband firmly and politely told him that it wasn’t a good time. Sitting on a bench in the sunshine and phoning our families with our news, our voices calm and numb. Going to Carluccios and pretending to eat pasta as hubby had an hour to spare before having to go to work and we didn’t know what else to do. My mind racing on the drive home, trying to focus on getting home safely despite my vision all too frequently being blurred with tears.
A day I’ll never forget; a day that was easily the hardest day of my life up to that point. And yet, I knew that even though that day had been almost unbearably painful, there would be worse to come.
Four years on, and whilst the pain in the memory of that day and the lack of empathy at how the news was delivered is something I will never forget; my overriding feeling is one of thankfulness. For although we didn’t realise it at the time, our prayers for hope had not gone unanswered. That throwaway comment led us to question more about the option of in-utero surgery and we were amazed when our team at Oxford offered us the chance to have the procedure in the UK. They had never done the procedure before but we were prepared to accept the risk in order to give our baby girl a chance of life. A miracle moment – the first of many.
Four years on, I watch that little girl laughing and smiling, playing with her toys and chattering away to her little sister. Those big blue eyes that I feared I would never see looking at me are full of joy, that little voice that I thought I might never hear says “I love my Mummy” each and every day and those little hands that tickled me on the inside now hold tight to mine as we walk outside. There have been many dark days in the last four years; many, many hard moments and the road has been intensely painful at times with more dark moments waiting ahead. But then I look at my beautiful girl and know that I would walk every step of that road again and again just to be here with her and know the infinite blessing that comes with being her Mummy.