I didn’t know it when I first met him.
They took him over to the corner. I tried to see but they were blocking my view. I opened my mouth, nothing came out. A hand on my shoulder gently guided my head back onto the damp pillow. “You’re not finished yet, one more push, good girl” someone reminded me. “Is he ok?” I panted. “10 fingers, 10 little toes” he’s perfect someone answered from the crowded corner.
“Hey mommy, there’s someone here to meet you” I opened my heavy eyes, trying to focus my eyes on the blanket in her arms. “You passed out sweetheart,you lost a little bit of blood darling, so we had to give you a transfusion. You’ll feel better once you eat” she bent down to reveal his button nose and pink skin.”Oh, okay” I tried to sit up. “I’m going to pop baby in here and get you some tea and toast” she gently placed him into the plastic cot beside my bed.
I watched him. I tried to pull the cot closer, I couldn’t. I leaned over trying to get a proper view of him. She came back. “Darling, we will be moving you to the ward later. Here eat some of this. He’s beautiful.” She smiled as she poured my tea.” I haven’t met him yet” I blurted out.” What weight is he? ” I quietly asked. “9lb even,big boy” she winked. Smiling, I began to eat.
Visitors came and visitors went. He slept the whole day, sucking on his thumb. I tried to sleep,to no avail. His first night on this earth, he whimpered. I gently shimmed myself over to the edge of my bed, letting my legs fall off the side. Finally, he was ready to meet me. I nervously picked him up. “Hi” I felt my eyes sting. He blinked. “Hi, I’m your mammy” I smiled, kissing his soft forehead. “Are you hungry?” I grabbed a bottle. He guzzled it, burped and placed his thumb back into his mouth. I laughed as I placed him on the bed and changed his nappy. He slept the whole time, as I recall, he slept right up until the next morning.
“Doctor will be here around 11am,to give baby the once over, and then you and your bundle can finally go home” she smiled. “Nice one, thank you”,after three days in the hospital, this was music to my ears. I began to pack, checking the baby and the clock every few minutes.
“Has he been sleeping like this since he was born?”, the doctor stood at the foot of my bed. I nodded. He took the baby in his arms, smiled at him, handed him to me and asked me to strip him. I did. The baby didn’t whimper. His eyes still shut, the doctor checked his reflexes and hips.” Funny little fellow, not a word out of you” he handed him back to me. I began to dress him.”Ok mom, you can go home. He’s perfect. Enjoy him” and off he went, investigating other new borns on the ward.
A first time mum, I was nervous about leaving the hospital. I knew,from the moment I found out I was pregnant, that I would be responsible for this baby, me and only me. I quickly adapted, loving him was so easy, caring for him; simple, providing for him was definitely the hardest. His biological father, preferred to drink what little money he earned, so it all fell on me and my job, which came as no shock to me.
Three weeks before my 21st birthday, I spent one week in hospital, with my now three month old baby. He had, what appeared to be meningitis. I was scrubbed down, masked and covered from head to toe before I could see him. I had never known real fear before that day, but fear and I would become old friends in time.
Three days passed, when they finally told me, my baby had not meningitis but a viral infection. Experience would teach me that, when doctors tell you it’s a “viral infection”, the truth is, they had no clue, they treated with different types of antibiotics and luckily one of them worked.
By the time my 22nd birthday rolled on by, my toddler was toddling! He was a handful! Talking and walking all by the age of 1! I was convinced, I had a special, gifted child on my hands…I was right, but not in the way I imagined.
He was 18 months old, when we began our first steps on ( what I now know ) the road to a diagnosis. I honestly thought, he was just having hearing issue. I was determined to get him grommets or hearing aids, whatever he needed, I was willing to fight tooth and nail to get it. I knew going private was not an option, my income was just about enough to tie us over, week to week. I would have to get help from our government health care system. Naively, I believed I could just ask for help and they would give it. How can a child at 18 months old, suddenly stop speaking?
In the five years that followed, being told I was over anxious, ridiculous and over reacting, oh and my favourite one, ’ every child is different’ , I sat listening to that very same doctor, who met my baby 5 years and exactly 10 months previous, telling me and D, “there’s nothing we can do, there is no cure. Take him home and love him. I’m so sorry”. My child was terminally ill, battling a condition that takes him bit by bit, until there’s nothing left.
I didn’t know it when I first met him, but my baby, my son would be my teacher. He would bring me into a secret world, a world where everyone is loved, everyone has gifts and everyone is equal. He would show me all the abilities in a world full of disabilities.
He lit a fire in me that I never knew was there. He gives me strength, hope and unconditional ‘Blove’ – I guess, I was right all those years ago, I do indeed have a gifted, special boy.
So when you’ve read this and you wonder how am I so strong, it’s all him, it’s all my boy Ethan and I am lucky and privileged to be his mammy.