28/03/2019 by Rikki Loftus 0 Comments
MY NEWBORN SON’S RACE AGAINST TIME TO MEET MY DYING MUM
I was over the moon to discover I was pregnant, but delight quickly turned to horror when I realised my mum might not be there to meet the baby… By Joanna Forde, 28,
Sitting on the edge of the bathtub, I stared down at the pregnancy test in my hands and beamed as the two little lines stared back at me.
My hubby Shane, 29, and I already had a little boy, Liam, four, and after trying for a few months, we couldn’t wait to welcome another addition to the clan.
‘We need to let my mum and dad know,’ I told him and we rushed round to my mum, Helen’s house. I couldn’t wait to share the news and celebrate with the family.
Mum had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2015 and it had been a turbulent time for us, but she had always been active and she was fighting fit.
Taking her condition in her stride, Mum’s regular runs and cycle rides reassured us she’d be around for a long time.
There was the odd indicator, whether it was her slurred speech or low energy that reminded us it was there, but other than that she was her usual happy and healthy self.
‘What is it?’ Mum asked, noticing the look on my face as I walked through the door. I was bursting with excitement.
‘We’re having a baby,’ I announced and she threw her arms around me. She knew how much I’d wanted two children.
‘Joanna, that’s fantastic news,’ she grinned. ‘God is good.’ Mum had always had a strong Christian faith and it kept her going as she battled her condition.
Already a doting nanna to Liam, Mum was ecstatic over the news and immediately started to help me prepare for the new arrival.
‘Liam’s going to get a playmate,’ she cooed as we went shopping for baby clothes. ‘How great.’
‘I know,’ I beamed, blissful in the baby glow. ‘I bet you can’t wait to have them both round.’
‘You know I’ll be the first in line for babysitting,’ Mum replied, revelling in her nanna duties.
Mum was due for a routine check up at the hospital and so when Dad picked her up, we agreed to see them later that day. So I was shocked when a few hours later Dad appeared alone.
‘Where’s Mum?’ I asked as I opened the door, surprised to find him here without her. I saw the tears in his eyes and I started to panic.
‘She’s resting at home, but I need to tell you something,’ he said softly and I gulped. ‘I think you need to sit down for this.’
‘Is it bad news?’ I asked and my heart sank to see him nod. It had been a routine check up, surely they already knew the state of her condition.
‘It’s not good, Jo,’ he replied. ‘They’ve told us your mum only has six months to live.’ The bombshell hit me like a ton of bricks and in complete shock, my legs gave way and I fell to the floor.
‘Are they sure?’ I asked, my eyes filling up with tears. This had to be some kind of mistake. Mum was so strong, this couldn’t be the end.
‘They’re sure,’ Dad responded, helping me to my feet. Mum had been doing so well, it didn’t make sense.
Amongst the shock, I slowly realised another blow - six months from now would be November, but I was due in December. Surely this couldn’t be happening, could it?
I was absolutely crushed to know that Mum would miss meeting her grandchild by just a few weeks. I was completely devastated.
The next day, I went round to see her, crying as I curled up beside her on the sofa. I felt so helpless.
‘It’s going to be ok, Joanna,’ she reassured me, wrapping me in a warm hug. ‘God has a plan.’ It was something she always said in hard times, but I couldn’t help but worry what the outcome would be.
In the weeks that followed the diagnosis, it was a slippery slope. Heartbroken, I watched as Mum’s speech deteriorated and it wasn’t long before she needed round the clock care.
I quit my job to look after her full-time and I loved being able to spend quality time together but with every pregnancy milestone we celebrated, there was a tinge of sadness.
She communicated through a whiteboard, often writing me messages about the baby and she even taught Liam to sign ‘I love you’ in makaton.
As her condition worsened, she started to sleep throughout most of the day but occasionally we’d make it out for a walk around the park.
‘Can the doctors make Nanna better? Liam asked me as he skipped next to Mum’s wheelchair.
‘I don’t know, darling,’ I replied, knowing deep down that I was preparing myself for the inevitable.
It felt like a race against time trying to keep Mum fit and healthy but as my bump grew, the more she deteriorated.
It wasn’t long before she needed help going to the toilet and washing herself. I was desperate for her to meet her grandchild but as time wore on I started to lose hope.
I hope I get to meet the baby, she wrote the note and passed it to me. I felt my eyes begin to fill up but I smiled at her.
‘Me too,’ I replied and I gave Mum’s hand a small squeeze. Determined to not let my mum be beaten by this, I begged doctors to induce me early.
‘Please, just get my baby out - Mum needs to meet him,’ I pleaded. Doctors warned me of the risks but thankfully, because I’d had a healthy pregnancy they agreed to plan an early delivery.
But in November, just a week before I was due to be induced, I was rushed into hospital with severe chest pain and on the same day, Mum was taken into a hospice. I was crushed.
Anxious and exhausted, I was desperate for doctors to let me deliver the baby, but I had no choice but to wait until the pain had subsided.
Mum sent me a text everyday to tell me she loved me and that she was thinking of me and the baby. She was extremely weak and bed-bound, but I prayed this wasn’t going to be goodbye.
Finally, five days later than planned, I was induced. But as I headed into the delivery suite, I was terrified that I wouldn’t see my mum again.
Everytime I closed my eyes to push I could see her face. I hadn’t spoken to her for several hours and I was petrified that she had already passed away.
But the birth was quick and in November 2017, my baby boy was born. I named him Harlen, after my mum, Helen, and the next day we were discharged from the hospital.
We all piled into the car, rushing straight round to the hospice. I had no clue if Mum was still with us and the drive to see her felt like an eternity.
I wanted to cry out in joy when the hospice staff told me she was ok and as I walked in, holding her newborn grandson, Mum’s face lit up.
I carefully lowered Harlen into her arms as she cried in relief that she was here to meet him. Mum couldn’t speak, but she didn’t need to. She couldn’t take her eyes off him.
Incredibly, Harlen shared three precious weeks with my lovely mum, making memories to last a lifetime. She chose his middle names, Liam Brian, and she looked forward to her daily visits from him.
On her better days, she was able to hold him, and when she was tired, I’d place him close to her so she could see him.
On the last day we were all together, she signed ‘I love you’ in makaton to both Liam and Harlen. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
A few days later, I was getting ready for my daily visit at the hospice when I got the dreaded call from my dad.
‘You need to come down to the hospice as soon as possible,’ he warned me. ‘I don’t think your mum has very long.’
Devastated, we gathered the family together in Mum’s room. We quietly said a prayer with her, something she used to say to herself everyday.
I placed Harlen on her bed next to her and I teared up as he grabbed hold of her finger. A few minutes later she peacefully passed away and as she calmly took her last breath, she smiled.
It breaks my heart that she isn’t here to watch my babies grow up but it meant the world for her to meet Harlen, and I’m grateful of the time she got to spend with him.
It was the race of a lifetime and, although I miss her everyday, I’m so glad she got to meet my baby boy.
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