This is my first time blogging, normally it’s my husband’s witty blogs that you read and it looks like I’ve caught the blogging bug which thankfully doesn’t require medical attention as I’ve seen enough of doctors, therapists and hospitals this week. I want to share a bit of testimony with you about a small part of my journey but somebody who is a HUGE part of my life; our daughter Hannah.
In March 2003 we discovered I was pregnant. We were really excited we had already a son Adam who was 8 months old. We were looking forward to our two children being really close together and good company for each other as they grew up. My pregnancy was progressing really well. I was healthy and had gone back to work after my maternity leave with Adam. Life was good and our baby was due on Christmas Eve. We were really looking forward to our big scan coming up and we decided that we were going to find out the sex of our baby this time. I was just too impatient and had to know.
On the morning of our scan we left Adam off at my mums and headed off to the hospital. My mum is amazing she knows everything about everything and I am just like her! When I was pregnant with Adam I used to give off because I was never called to see my consultant. I always just got one of her registrars and my mum told me stop your complaining you will only see your consultant if there is something wrong.
We were so happy that morning and excited to see our baby and find out if it was a boy or girl.
Eventually my name was called and in we went. The scan was underway and there wasn’t very much talk out of the sonographer so we asked her to let us know the sex of the baby. She told us she would see what she could do. She took a lot of time doing the scan and was extremely quiet and I can remember thinking she is being very thorough. Then she said she thought we were having a girl but it was hard to see as the baby seemed to be sleeping. She then said she just needed to nip out for a moment. I still didn’t think anything was wrong at this stage. I was getting excited and thinking about which shops I was going to hit after I left the hospital to buy everything pink I could see.
A few minutes later a woman entered the room with the sonographer and introduced herself to me as my consultant and my heart sank as I knew there was something wrong. She scanned our baby and then informed us that our baby had Spina Bifida and possibly hydrocephalus and that things were not looking good for her. I can remember thinking that this can’t be happening to me things like this don’t really happen it was all a bad dream. I could see her mouth moving but I couldn’t hear anything. Next thing I knew there were other nurses in the room with us and I looked at Stephen and he had turned grey; that’s when I knew it was real.
I had heard of Spina Bifida before but didn’t know what it was or how it would affect our baby girl. We were fortunate enough that day that the doctors and consultants who we needed to speak with were there to give us information and tell us what to expect. We spoke with one doctor who told us that our baby if she survived the pregnancy might only live for seconds, minutes or days and if she did live she would be both physically and mentally disabled. She wouldn’t be able to talk, walk and in his words would be brain damaged. He advised us that we should have our pregnancy terminated and gave us 24 hours to think it over. I can remember thinking there is no way on this earth I am giving up on my baby and was worried my husband wouldn’t have thought the same as me.
The doctor left us alone for a few minutes and we both agreed there and then that we were not giving up on our daughter and we were going to cherish whatever moments we were going to be blessed with her and remember them always.
We told the doctor our decision but he still insisted that we think it over and really did try and persuade us to change our minds.
At this time my husband belonged to a Presbyterian church and I belonged to a Catholic church but to be honest neither of us ever practiced our faith or even prayed and when we look back now we have both wondered how we get through that part of our lives when we weren’t walking with God. We do believe now that this was all part of God’s plan for us.
My mum works in a convent beside the hospital and we left and went over to see her and told her what had happened. As soon as she saw me she just knew that we had received bad news in fact she knew when I was at her house before I went to the hospital. From that day nuns and priests the length and breadth of Ireland were praying for our baby.
The next morning at 9am my husband rang the doctor and told him that we were not giving up on our baby and going ahead with our pregnancy. The remainder of the pregnancy was just full of appointments monitoring everything with the baby and each time they were giving us the most terrible news but we were still not giving up on our baby girl.
I experienced very mixed reactions from people regarding my pregnancy; both of our families were very supportive but what shocked me was my friends that I had been through everything with telling me that I was being selfish and not thinking of Adam and how it was going to affect him; another friend of my mums asked her, in her words, “why did she not get rid of it”. They couldn’t understand that whatever time, whether it be long or short, we were going to have with our baby was going to be the most precious time of our lives. I know I couldn’t have lived with myself if I had have given up on her and I now thank God that it was us that he trusted with that decision for our baby and not them.
I got a real strengthening of faith over the next few months and started going to mass and praying more that I probably ever had before. The nuns prayed for us every day and they had a few special masses for us. The last mass that was said for us was the weekend before I went into hospital for a C Section to deliver our baby into the world. During the mass I noticed a beautiful butterfly on the altar and it stayed there all throughout the service. I can remember thinking I have never seen a butterfly in December before as in Ireland this is very rare. At the end of the mass one of the nuns lifted the butterfly and brought it over to me and placed it in my hands. Now if you have ever tried to lift a butterfly and carry it across a room and place it in another persons hand it is extremely hard to do. The butterfly just sat in the palm of my hand and didn’t move, I actually thought it wasn’t real until it started to flutter. This butterfly has always stayed in my memory and I have always thought there was something very significant about it.
When thinking about this recently I googled butterflies in the bible and was guided to the following scripture 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, a new life has begun. And all of this is a gift from God.”
The Christian symbol of a butterfly is the resurrection of Jesus. The caterpillar disappears into a cocoon which is like the tomb Jesus lay in after he was crucified; after a while the caterpillar emerges from the cocoon having been transformed into something more powerful – a butterfly.
To me the caterpillar represented my life before I became a Christian. I was stuck in the earth dirty and ugly with sin. Then I stopped running and hiding from God; he saved me and transformed me into a new creation – a butterfly.
On 10th December 2003 at 10.30am our baby girl Hannah was brought into the world weighing a whopping 8lb 12oz. She defied everything the doctors had said and would continue to do so. My husband had a quick cuddle with her before she was taken away to the neo natal unit. When I was brought out of theatre I was brought to see Hannah it was very funny she was the biggest and healthiest baby in the neo natal unit filling the incubator with this massive head of brown hair. I knew then and there that she was a fighter and that everything was going to be just right.
I didn’t get to see Hannah again until later that night. I couldn’t settle back on the ward and one of the nurses on the night shift said that if I was able to get out of bed they could get me a wheelchair and take me up to see her. She didn’t have to tell me that twice I was up and out of bed right away. When I got to the neo natal unit the doctor was doing the rounds and he told me yet again how my baby wouldn’t walk, talk or be able to do anything for herself and that we wouldn’t know until she was a year old what damage there was going to be to her brain. I was petrified as it was nearly midnight and I was sitting here on my own in the hospital with my baby in an incubator and I still couldn’t get to hold her. The nurse came and brought me back to the ward and gave me a sleeping tablet to help me sleep but it never happened and I couldn’t wait until morning when my husband would come and see me.
The next day our little girl was transferred to the Children’s Hospital to have her first of many surgeries and that evening I signed myself out of hospital and went to see my daughter where I finally got to hold her for the very first time.
On Christmas morning we got the best present ever and we were allowed to take our baby girl home from hospital. The first six months of Hannah’s life were spent in and out of hospital and either myself or her daddy were with her at all times and Adam was never neglected or felt deprived in any way.
Hannah is now 13 years old and she is the most amazing and outgoing girl you could meet. Don’t get me wrong she is a typical teenager; mood swings and temper tantrums are a daily occurrence in our house. Hannah did and continues to defy everything that the doctors said she couldn’t do. She can talk, boy did they get that one wrong, the only problem we have there is getting her to stop! She sings, dances, writes, reads and is currently rehearsing for a Stars in their Eyes charity show to raise money for a Children’s Cancer Unit. The only thing the doctors got right is that she can’t walk and so far she hasn’t proved them wrong but we pray and believe that one day she will if it’s part of God’s plan for her.
My advice to anybody that finds themselves in a similar situation in their life is to have hope and faith in God as there is nothing that he will take you into that he can’t help you get through to the other side. We are all God’s children; he has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us and he knows it before we are even created and has it written out on our scrolls in heaven. We are all different and unique in our own way. Some of us are black, some of us are white, some tall, some small, some thin and some not so thin and then there are the Limited Editions who have a very special, unique plan that only God knows what is ahead for them. Every baby deserves a fighting chance of a life and it is God’s decision as to how long or short that life will be.
Psalm 139 v13-14
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;