The two photos below were taken three years ago today. They capture some precious moments 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, praying that all would be well. She was so awake and alert that morning, looking up at us so intently. I can still see that beautiful little face looking back at me. A precious moment together 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. We lingered in the canteen afterwards, trying to eat something, trying to fill the time somehow. I remember the heart-stopping moment when my phone rang with a hospital phone number. It had been just over an hour after Jessica had gone to theatre. It was too soon to be telling us the surgery had finished. Too soon to tell us she was back on PICU. I can still feel that chill and fear in my heart as I answered the phone. The overwhelming relief when it turned out to be one of the midwives. Just a routine call to check if I needed a postnatal visit.
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. My timehop has been full of photos and blog updates from those early days in PICU. We’ve celebrated two of Jessica’s ‘heart days’ in the last week or so. The first was on her birthday as her first open heart surgery was carried out on the day she was born. 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. 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 stands out in my mind. The overwhelming joy when I heard her first cry as she was born. The fear of whether she would get through her surgery. An endless wait for news, trying to fill the hours, praying desperately that all would go well. Our joy at being able to see her on PICU late that night after her surgery and the relief 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 had a single room where my husband could stay overnight with me. I missed my bump, missed those little movements, missed my baby desperately. Being separated from your newborn baby is the most unnatural thing in the world. I remember phoning PICU very early the next morning to see how Jessica was, eager to go back and be with her.
In many ways those scary days feel like a dream when I look at Jessica now. She is doing so well and appears to be so healthy. We are truly thankful to have come this far. Yet with the joy and celebration of marking another birthday, another milestone, comes that tinge of anxiety beneath the surface. The thoughts that I push away on a day-to-day basis are harder to ignore.
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 another cardiac catheter procedure beforehand to check how her pulmonary arteries are growing. 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.