To my incredible son on your 100th day in this world,
What a 100 days it’s been. We knew from the word go things were unlikely to be simple. Two lines showed up on the pregnancy test on Friday, September 2, just days after your sister turned one. Your dad and I stood in our bedroom for a while just looking at each other in shock.
We never had a conversation about what we would do. From that second you were my baby and we would take on the risks to get you here safely.
The next few months were filled with worry. We tried to carry on as normal and in general you gave me a really easy ride during the pregnancy with you – much more so than your sister who made me feel really poorly most of the way through. But sometimes we look at each other and panicked. Especially in the latter weeks, I spent so many hours lying awake in the middle of the night contemplating what might happen.
We reached 24 weeks and while we could breath a little sigh of relief that we had a chance at a ‘take home’ baby, utter fear took over every time I thought about what might happen in the weeks after your birth. Fast forward another eight weeks and there was a hospital admission and talk of early delivery.
I sat for ten days in hospital not knowing if I’d be coming out with or without you, pregnant or not pregnant. There was still a risk at this point your dad would be taking you home on his own. We avoided induction and even booked in a date for 37 weeks. But of course we didn’t make it that far and instead they decided at nearly 35 weeks we needed to get you out.
Holding you in my arms for the first time was the most empowering moment of my life. Many, many medical professionals helped deliver Alexandra but I gave birth to you without any extra assistance and I felt so strong in that moment. Looking at you it was like everything fell into place. A little hole in my heart was filled in and everything was complete.
I made your dad go with you up to the ward while I had to stay downstairs for a while. And then came the explanation that you’d showed a couple of worrying signs so you’d been taken to NICU. How could we know then the journey we were in for? You spent ten days on the unit with the incredible highs – getting to cuddle you for 15 minutes each on day four, being extubated both times, starting tube feeds. And the crashing lows – being told you needed to be ventilated, hearing your pained cries as you struggled to breath, not being able to see your eyes for a week while you were having jaundice treatment, two lung collapses.
And then on day ten we had our answer. What was going on apart from the sepsis, pneumonia and jaundice. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Something I’d never heard of before but is now a common phrase I use. My baby boy had a hole in his diaphragm. It was action stations from then on as you were transferred to another hospital for your surgery.
An operation you absolutely powered through like the brave boy you’ve been since day one. Even the doctors couldn’t believe how well you recovered, getting home a week later when most babies would still be on a ventilator in intensive care.
And so we took you home and began our journey as a family of four with our bouncy active toddler and our tiny little boy. But the time we had at home getting to know one another was to be fairly short and you were less than six weeks old when you were admitted to our local hospital this time.
We kept calm at the time but looking back that night was terrifying. You were becoming more and more pale and cold and listless. The doctors had to abandon a planned lumbar puncture when you spaced out for a few moments. There was talk of transfer to a specialist hospital, of more surgery, of a potential liver condition.
But of course three days later we discovered the problem was an extremely severe dairy allergy. We were relieved in a way to finally know what was wrong with you and how we could make you better. So began a long process of getting dairy and soya out your system and once you were back on full feeds we had our happy baby boy back. I was so tired at this point having been up through most of the nights as you were so upset from being restricted with your milk, plus the machines and trying to express and a horrible camp bed. Your sister and daddy were down the road at home in an attempt to keep things normal for her. It was awful being separated again so after five days taking you back home was wonderful.
Since then you’ve dealt with so much more: reflux which we were told to expect you to have given your CDH, brain scans, X-rays, appointments. You’ve finally begun putting on weight and actually reached the 0.4th centile whereas before you weren’t even on the graph.
We don’t know what the future holds for you, whether anomalies on your brain scan will cause developmental issues, whether your dairy allergy will be lifelong, whether you will reherniate and face more surgery. We watch you every day for signs of your breathing deteriorating. I read the ingredients list three times on everything I eat just to check I’m
not exposing you to dairy.
But for all of the drama and tears and fears and hospital visits, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Your smiles are just incredible. Your cuddles are wonderful. Watching your bond with your sister grow each day is just the best thing ever.
Alexandra had to fight to get here safe and sound. Never did we imagine how hard you’d have to fight both in the womb and for the last 100 days. Miscarriage and stillbirth rates for APS sufferers are appalling, and CDH only has a 50 per cent survival rate so even without all your other complications, you are a miracle.
You and your sister have taught me so much. I never realised how calm, composed and strong I could be in a life or death situation. I never realised how intensely I could love another human being. I never realised how protective I could feel. How selfless I could be. How utterly devoted to a family I could be.
As I write this you’re sleeping on my chest and it feels like you were always meant to be here. I hope you never stop wanting to cuddle me. I hope you never stop smiling as beautifully as you do now. I hope whatever challenges life throws at you, over and above those faced by others, you continue to tackle them so bravely. I am so proud of you and I’m so thankful you came into our lives. You were meant to be Max. Meant to be.