It’s been a long road, hasn’t it? There are so many things I remember from the last 18 months.
I remember sitting on a vinyl sofa at a soft play centre, cradling you in my arms as you slept, knowing exactly what was wrong with you and being terrified of the journey that it could take us on.
I remember feeding you in the middle of the night only to have you throw the whole lot back up again five minutes later. I lost count of the number of times I blearily changed bedding in the unholy hours between 11pm and 6am.
I remember how many doctors told me that you were fine and what the hell was I even worrying about because you were clearly getting food into your system. I always wanted to tell them that the only reason you fed at all was because I rocked you – sometimes for hours – until you fell asleep, then switched your dummy out for a bottle when I hoped you wouldn’t notice. But I was too exhausted to think straight and I felt like no one really cared anyway.
I remember spending whole days listening to you cry, knowing there was nothing I could do to comfort you and wishing it would all just go away.
I remember feeling like I had failed you in the worst possible way when I had to admit to myself that I could no longer produce enough milk to keep expressing for you. You were nine weeks old and I cried on my bedroom floor until
I was sick.
I remember our Sunday afternoon in A&E, which ended with me going home without you in the early hours of the following morning and under investigation by Social Services. I remember how, as black as that day was, I finally felt like there was some hope for you. And I no longer cared what happened to me.
I remember when things started to get better. How my heart felt like it would burst the first time you took a bottle without any fussing or crying. You may not have cried, but I did that day.
I remember that sometimes we would have setbacks and I would feel terribly afraid for you, that I wouldn’t be able to help you or that the doctors wouldn’t listen to me all over again. But you had a consultant by then and he was on your side every step of the way. I will never be able to thank him enough for what he did for you, and for us as a family.
Before you were born, I used to think that it mattered whether or not I did something spectacular with my life, like I would have wasted some God-given opportunity if I didn’t. There was always a voice in the back of my mind whispering, “You’re meant for more than this”. But sometimes it turns out that destiny doesn’t look a thing you thought it would. Here’s one thing I know for sure: For the first year of your life, being your mother was the hardest job I’ve ever done. In fact, the same little voice that had once told me I was meant for more began to sneer, “You’re not cut out for this”. There were times along the way when I believed that voice and I felt like I absolutely, definitely wasn’t good enough for you. Because even on the hardest days, I knew that there was something really special about you, and I knew that you deserved better than me at my best, let alone my worst.
Despite everything you’ve been through, you are the happiest, most sociable child I have ever known. You love everyone and everything. Your smile lights a fire in my heart every single time I see it. When you climb into my lap, lay your head on my shoulder and sigh, everything in the world suddenly becomes very quiet. It feels like forgiveness, even though I know you don’t remember the times I sat on the floor in your room and cried with you because I didn’t know what to do anymore. I know you don’t remember the day I asked your daddy, “Why did we think it was a good idea to have another baby?” I know you don’t doubt for one second that I love you – and you shouldn’t. Because I do. So much.
Why am I writing this for you today? Because yesterday we saw your consultant and he told us what we already knew; we are nearing the end of this journey. Everything about you suggests that you are getting better. We’ve spent the last six months weaning you off one of your medications and now we have the green light to start reducing the other. The bottom line is this: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.
Do you know what my worst fear was? I was afraid that you would have to deal with this for the rest of your life. I was afraid that you were going to be dogged by this condition forever. Yesterday I finally felt like it was safe for me to hope that your future will have nothing to do with the battle you fought for so many months. Here we are, standing on the other side and I can’t believe how far we’ve come.
So it doesn’t matter how many people try to trivialise reflux. I’ve stopped listening. I saw what you went through and there’s just one thing I want you to know:
YOU ARE MY HERO.
Thank you for teaching me how to be your mother. I thought I knew how to handle motherhood before I had you. I thought I’d learnt everything I needed to know from your brother, but you threw me a curveball and you will never know how grateful I really am for that. No, it hasn’t been an easy 18 months… But I wouldn’t change it – or you – for the world.