Tuesday, 11 December 2007

11Dec07 - Holly May

I have started reading a book called, "Different Dads", which was recommended to me by "Contact a Family" and it has been comforting to find that I am not so different after all. The book is a series of accounts written by fathers whose children have a wide variety of complications. From the few accounts I have read so far there is a common theme which is so familiar to me. For each account I have read, I have thought, "It could be me writing that!". Each starts with the confusion and despair of being thrown into an unexpected situation. The accounts of the moment of realisation immediately after birth have been especially difficult to read. It has brought back vivid memories of those first hours. Your child is born and nothing is as it is supposed to be. You immediately know that something is not right. When Lucy was born my first thought was, "OK no problem the midwife will pat her on the back, clear her lungs, she will cough and then start crying". Seconds later I knew that I was wrong. My next thought was, "Oh no she's dead, they are going to try and bring her round but its no use, she is already dead!". At the same time I am telling Dawn, "Everything is OK, the baby is fine", knowing how ridiculous it sounds. I couldn't tell Dawn what I really thought, not after the hell she had just been through but I knew she was already thinking it as well. Lucy was not breathing but the midwife still asked me if I wanted to cut the cord. Why did she do that? I watched them carry Lucy's lifeless body to the corner of the room where they started bagging her (They place a mask over the mouth and manually squeeze the bag to try and get air into the lungs). This was obviously having no affect. All the while Dawn was asking what what going on because from where she lay she could see nothing. I kept telling her it was fine and that everything was going to be OK. She said to me,"She's dead isn't she?". I knew I had to keep saying that she wasn't but I didn't believe it. The Pediatrician arrived and tried to use the oxygen mask that was in the corner of the room but it didn't work so Lucy was rushed out of the room to the neonatal unit. We were just left in the room with a midwife who tried to say that it would be OK and then left us. We were both thinking the worst. We asked a few times what was happening but nobody could tell us. Our newborn baby had been taken from us and we didn't know whether she was alive or dead and nobody could tell us what was happening. After what seemed like an eternity somebody came and said that we could go and see her. The relief to know that she was still alive was enormous and at that moment I found myself being optimistic that it had just been a complication and now Lucy would be fine and everything was going to be OK. I should say that at this point Lucy was going to be Holly May and we hadn't really named her yet. When we got to the neonatal unit Lucy was still lifeless but alive. This is a photo taken only a few hours after she was born.We didn't know the implications of what had just happened, we just knew that our new baby girl was alive. We introduced ourselves to her and decided that we had better give her a name in case she didn't pull through. We didn't want her hospital tag not to have a name on it. I don't know why but we changed our minds at the last minute and called her Lucy May and not Holly May. Lucy is such a pretty name and it has always suited her. Lucy is definitely the right name for her and I am so glad now that we changed our minds. We had decided on Holly May as a name after we found out that our baby was going to be a girl and there had never been any real question that it was going to be anything else but when she was born she was just not a Holly. For a long time after and still now sometimes I think about Holly. Holly was the little girl that didn't come to us. She was the little girl that we lost. Lucy came to us and I love her to bits and now I wouldn't be without her but the baby I dreamt about and prepared for when Dawn was pregnant was Holly. I can't help feeling that I lost Holly when Lucy was born and I think it took me longer to accept Lucy because I was grieving for that other little girl. In a small way I probably always will. I loved her but I never got to know her. I pictured her taking her first steps and saying her first words. I imagined her wedding and I thought about meeting her children for the first time. I see her now in all the little three year olds that I meet or see running around the supermarket. I wonder what she would have been like now and I feel cheated that I never got to find out. I feel she was cheated in that she never got to be part of our family and Joshua was cheated because he never got to do all the things he was looking forward to do with her. I have even thought about having a funeral for Holly May, planting a tree, making a small memorial or just something to signify that she is lost to me so that I can move on. These feelings are not without guilt. Every time these thoughts creep into my head I am wracked with guilt about Lucy. I should not see her as unexpected or different and I know that really I don't. I like to think of Lucy as our surprise gift. It is true that I didn't expect to have a daughter like Lucy and if I had expected it I probably would have been filled with dread. What Lucy has given us is something completely new and wonderful. We have had to acclimatise to our new environment but what we have found is that it is becoming a really nice place to be. Lucy shines like the brightest star on all our lives and continues to teach us that everything is not quite as it seems. Just because things are different doesn't mean that they are bad. I look back on the last three and a half years and feel really proud of everything she has achieved and also of everything Lucy has given us. I have a wonderful daughter in Lucy and I wouldn't change her for anything. Holly May will always be a memory of a life I used to have and I won't forget her. I will probably always selfishly miss doing all the normal things I planned to do with her but I like my new life and I love that Lucy is part of it. Lucy May has brought us so much more than I ever expected and she has given us a new and wonderful life. She has taught us to appreciate everything so much more. Every good experience is magnified several times and I no longer take for granted that what I expect is always the best outcome.


fairenuff said...

This is something that we have discussed amongst my liver families and it's something I wanted to share with you. I think I have talked to Dawn about this before but it never hurts to remind ourselves of it. I think your post today is honest and from the heart... and beautiful. Thank you...

Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Mom & Dad T said...

Yes Lucy is a very special star and we're so glad she's part of our family. I feel very proud that you've both been able to face up to the hurts & trauma of the past 3years and accept and love Lucy unreservedly and give her the best home and care she could have.

Some sort of memorial for Holly is a lovely idea.

Nicky said...

Your comments always give me a lot to think about, not only about your life but it also makes me look at my own. I once heard someone say that it is how we deal with difficulties that makes us who we are and that when facing these difficulties we are given a chance to make something better. It is hard to apply but your life does illustrate exactly what they mean.

Anonymous said...

Such a poignant reminder that all wonderful and beautiful gifts come at a price, as the Holland poem says you have to accept the loss in order to fully appreciate the beauty of the unexpected gift you've been given although I am sure it is such a difficult thing to accept. I really think that you've also been such a gift to Lucy as well as her to you. All her achievements were achieved in your loving care, and I am filled with such joy to see all of you together facing the difficulties as a family.
All my love
cousin Emma