My perfect little boy is sleeping beside me. He is exactly 7 months and one day old. He’s doing all the things most seven month old babies are doing; starting to crawl, getting used to solids, teething. If you’d just met us you’d think things were completely normal, and I suppose they basically are now. They didn’t start off that way, however. Theo was born with a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot that meant when he was just 10 weeks old he needed to undergo open heart surgery.
I want to say upfront that he is ok. We don’t know exactly what the future holds- he may have to have further operations when he’s older, we hope he may never have to. Either way, we have every reason to believe he has a long, heathy life ahead of him and there is not a day goes by that I don’t feel amazingly grateful for that. Never once have I asked myself “why me?” rather I ask myself “how are we so lucky?”. With that said, I have never been through anything so challenging in my life and I sincerely hope I never have to go through anything like it again.
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a while now but I’ve been struggling. Part of me feels I could never have enough words to get across everything, another part of me feels I have absolutely nothing to say. I did write at the time of his operation. In fact I wrote a post while he was in surgery, desperate to find anything that would eat up the time before we saw him again. Somehow it felt different writing then. I was in the thick of it, desperate for an outlet to express something of the avalanche I was being swept away in.
Since then, rather than express it all , I’ve tried to suppress it. Suppression gets a bad name- so what if I want to wrap up all the scary things, put them in a lead lined box and bury them deep down? Ok, so maybe that’s not the healthiest long-term plan but right now it’s keeping me (nearly) together. The reality is, parenthood is relentless and you do what you can to keep going, whether or not it’s the best option. So I choose to suppress – at least for the time being. However, that doesn’t quite go with the idea of blogging about it. I realised that I needed to find an angle where I could talk about his condition without dredging up the lead lined coffin of fear. So I thought, instead of talking about the fears of the past, I would focus on his future. Here are my hopes for how this experience will affect him for the better:
- I hope he grows up appreciating his health. In my teens and early twenties I discarded my health like an unwanted present. I didn’t exercise, I smoked like a chimney, I made dangerous decisions and generally gave my parents lots of reasons to worry. I hope growing up knowing the importance of his health is incentive he needs to take care of himself from the outset and to make better choices.
- I hope he understands he has tremendous power. When he came out of surgery he was in an unexpectedly large amount of pain and they couldn’t get him out of it. I saw him struggle with this for 2 days, in and out of extreme agony, before they got him more sedated. I want him to know he can get through anything. I’ve seen him pushed to extremes and come through. If he can get through that and bounce back to his smiling self as fast as he did, there is nothing this boy can not combat when he needs to.
- I hope he loves life. If he had been born in a different century or even today in a different country, where he could not receive his operation, he would die very young. In all likelihood, as his case is particularly severe, he wouldn’t have made it out of his first couple of years. He has been given the gift of life twice, not just by his dad and me but by his surgical team. I want him to seize this gift with both hands and carve out a life he feels proud and excited to lead.
- I hope he is full of gratitude and kindness. During his time in hospital he was the recipient of a level of love I have never seen anyone else receive. The effort and concern they universally displayed towards him is something I will never forget and something I hope to teach him to be both thankful for. Also, to give out some of the love he received, to be like them and make the world a better place by going above and beyond obligation.
When we came home after his initial recovery period, he had a lot of nightmares. A month after he was sent home, we went back for a check. It was as if he’d never left the hospital, he was fearful as we walked into the building, nervous of the staff, screamed when he was touched. Three months after that we went for another check and this time it was as if it was all completely new to him. It was all a big adventure. Everyone told me he would forget it all but somehow you can’t believe its true, how could he forget the trauma. How could the nightmares stop? But here we are! Just 4 months after it happened and I’m sure he can’t remember a thing. I’m so glad, that he doesn’t have to relive it. From now on, to him, it will always be the story we tell him of how he is a real life superhero.
A Guest Blog from Grace Bishop
Grace is an actor, singer, accent coach, girl band member, a whole bunch of other side-lines and now, most importantly a mummy! She lives with her husband and baby boy and blogs about all sorts including motherhood, veganism, film and travel. You can follow Grace on Instagram and Twitter or read her blog.
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