First Christmas

Christmas Eve 11 years ago – The first time I held my baby boy. He was 19 days old. In a hospital across the other side of London and we were still unsure if he would survive.

The pain I felt then was incredible.

All I wanted for Christmas was to hold my baby and to bring him home. For him to survive and experience a life outside of his Perspex box, monitors, tubes and needles.

Ian and I holding Lennon for the first time in NICU Chelsea and Westminster.

It is nothing compared to the pain I am feeling now. Facing my first Christmas without my first born child.

All I want for Christmas is Lennon. To see his face beaming at the sights of Christmas lights, feel

his hands slap me on the back as he watches his sisters getting excited for Santa and to watch him throwing spoons across the table while we eat Christmas dinner.

Enjoying the Christmas displays at Van Hages.
Christmas Day 2016.

In the run up to Christmas, every year my thoughts are consumed by our time spent at Chelsea and Westminster. Sitting over Lennon’s Perspex box, the monitors flashing and singing. Walking up and down the Fulham Road in between the tube station and the hospital, day after day. Christmas lights and charming decorations everywhere.

The shops full of gifts, and passers by full of Christmas cheer. The gigantic Christmas tree in the hospital lobby.

And me.

Entering the hospital with promise for the day ahead. Thoughts that today would be the day my baby would turn this around.

Leaving the hospital in a cloud of dark and sadness, reliving the awful events of each day.

Ever since Lennon’s birthday I have had an urge to return to Chelsea and Westminster. To retake my steps and see Christmas on the Fulham road.

Why? Because I am looking for something. I don’t know what. Maybe memories. But why am I looking for sad memories and not happy ones?

Christmas 2009.
Visiting Santa at Nene Valley Railway, 2011.
Christmas Day 2014.

Maybe because I have been consumed by sadness since Lennon died. There are glimmers of happiness there, occasionally. I try to hold on tightly to them, but they slip through my fingers so very quickly.

If I could hide in bed for the next few days, believe me I would. But I won’t – my girls need me. Ian needs me. My girls deserve to have the most fantastic Christmas and to know that their brother will be looking down on them, expecting them to be enjoying every second of Christmas. For themselves, and for him.

Christmas 2016.

He will be the sparkle in their eyes while they are opening presents, playing games and spreading joy.

I’ll look for that sparkle and hold on to it tightly.

Magic Kingdom, Florida, December 2015.

Memories – The day I became a Mum

Lennon wasn’t planned – none of our three children were. They are all ‘happy accidents’

My children, Lennon, Isla and Florence ❤️

In June 2007 Ian and I had been seeing each other for 15 months. We weren’t living together and we both ‘loved life’. I had a successful career as a pattern cutter and grader, Ian worked in sales and we both enjoyed going out with our friends. We were very much young and free!

Ian and I before children

On the evening of Friday 23rd, Ian and I went out for dinner to one of our favourite restaurants and we briefly discussed my period being late. I was on the pill so we weren’t worried, but decided to buy a test ‘just to be safe’.

We went back to Ian’s parents house, and whilst watching Togo Vs France in the Football World Cup, I took the test.

Positive.

I took the second test in the packet.

Positive.

How?! Why now?! Oh . My . God.

My whole body flooded with emotions – excitement, panic, worry, happiness, and everything else in between. All flying around and colliding inside me like the tickets in the Dome on ‘The Crystal Maze’. I couldn’t think straight, but I instantly knew I wanted the precious gift that I had been blessed with, so very much.

If I’m honest, from early on I had a niggle something wasn’t quite right. It sat there in the depths of my head. Every time the thought pushed its way to the forefront of my mind, I buried it back down again. I put it down to being a first time mum and the worry of how we would both cope with the responsibility of a baby.

Fast forward to November, and Ian and I had brought a flat and moved in together. I loved being pregnant but I wasn’t well. I was puffy and swollen, and my blood pressure was through the roof. I felt awful. I was diagnosed with Pre-eclampsia and was admitted to hospital for observation. I was 27 weeks pregnant.

On the morning of Tuesday 5th December I woke up famished – I had been fasting overnight for a glucose test.

I was put on a CTG monitor (all patients on the ward were routinely monitored morning and evening) and my baby’s baseline heart rate kept randomly dropping. The midwives were concerned and consequently I was booked in for an ultrasound to measure my baby. Ian had left work, as advised by the hospital, and we sat together in a large room on the delivery suite listening to women in labour (Ian was horrified!) whilst the midwives and doctors frequently appeared to check my observations and the CTG reading.

At around 6pm, the consultant on call, Mr Atalla (who also made the decision for an emergency caesarean when I was pregnant with Florence) walked in, launched a pair of scrubs in Ian’s direction and shouted “we’re going”.

After that, everything moved swiftly. I was taken into theatre and the anaesthetist struggled to get a spinal block in my back because I was so swollen.

I don’t remember seeing or feeling anyone panicking – not like the obvious panic and strain on the many faces in the operating theatre the day before Lennon died.

I won’t lie – I was worried. I was 28 weeks pregnant – my baby boy would be born 12 weeks early and probably weigh about the same as 2 bags of sugars.

Would he be ok?

Would he be strong enough to survive?

I wasn’t ready for this – he didn’t have any clothes.

This wasn’t in my birth plan! (It was the only birth plan I ever wrote)

At 18.52 on the 5th December 2006 my beautiful, teeny baby boy entered the world weighing 2 pounds and 9 ounces. And in the split second that he was lifted from my womb, our lives were changed forever.

My son, who had no name at this point, was given straight to the special baby care team that were awaiting his arrival. They stabilised him, wrapped him in a white towel and carried him over to meet and I.

I was instantly overwhelmed with love and I will treasure that short, sweet moment until the day I die. His little face was so unblemished and pristine – My perfect baby.

Deliriously, I declared very loudly that he looked like a little bean! And then he was whisked away.

Lennon’s first night

After surgery I was kept in recovery overnight for my pre-eclampsia to be monitored.


Ian was taken to the Special Care Baby Unit to see Lennon, and the nurses handed him a photo for me. I still have that photo.

The nurses informed Ian that the special care journey was a rollercoaster – plenty of highs and lows – and that once our tiny, precious baby boy weighed 4 pounds and was feeding, we would be able to take him home. They anticipated it would take around 12 weeks, and I can remember making a million wishes on that night alone, that he would be home on his due date – 27th February 2007.

Lennon’s due date – he was still in NICU and we still had another big dip on the rollercoaster to go, before he came home.

I was taken up to the Special Baby Care Unit much later that night and my bed placed outside of the room where Lennon was inside his perspex box. His new home. I so desperately wanted to touch him but I could barely see him. I was unable to move and my bed would not fit in the room. My tears fell silently as I thought of him spending his first night on earth without me. All my dreams of the hours of motherhood vanished in an instant.

And that’s where Lennon’s short life began. On that day never did I imagine that ‘rollercoaster’ ride would have quite as many ups and downs, twists and turns and tears and enjoyment as it did. I never thought it would be quite as unpredictable, frightening and exciting as it was and I certainly never thought my tiny baby boy would change the lives of everyone who spent time with him – including myself.

The day Lennon finally left Special Care – 24th May 2007. He was home for 5 days before being readmitted and put back on full life support.

 

Lennon’s last day on earth – Goodbye

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