19th July 2018
This is my son, just a week old. Those are my hands, shaking as I lift him up in his incubator. He should still have been in my tummy for another 16weeks. He was vulnerable, critically ill and I was terrified by how much I loved him.
The photograph was taken by the hospital chaplain, who was preparing an exhibition of photos of hands in the hospital. I was thrilled my young man would be in it. But the day he came to give us the photos he’d taken, he found me weeping by the incubator. 30 minutes prior, two consultants had taken us to one side and explained that Josh had a life-threatening perforated bowel and needed emergency surgery. The surgery would be performed in a hospital 40 minutes drive away. Except our car was still at our local hospital 100 miles away. So we had to choose whether to travel with Josh and be with him for the surgery or stay with Darcy who was incredibly poorly. We knew we had to go with Josh and so when the chaplain arrived I was torn between staring at the son I might lose tonight, who would soon be whisked away and blue-lighted down the A19; and soaking up time with my daughter who I had to leave behind, who was so poorly I feared I’d never see her again.
He asked if we’d had bad news and Adam briefly explained. He asked if we were “into praying” and I could have bit the poor man’s head off. Though I would, over the next 6 surgeries, utter prayers into the darkness for the safeguarding of my babies; I knew I could never reconcile the existence of a benevolent God with the injustice of my long-awaited children being expelled from my womb 17 weeks too early and subjected to such pain and suffering.
I kept the photos and placed them round the room of our accommodation in the new hospital. I loved the shots, that the tubing was all hidden (though those who are familiar will easily spot the vent and ng tube just out of focus), that he looked such a normal but tiny baby, that you couldn’t see his broken insides.
The photo is proudly displayed in our living room and mostly I glance at it occasionally and smile, but some days it is a trigger which brings a lump to my throat on remembering the terror of those 5 hospital months.
Today it made me cry for a different reason. It had been moved whilst cleaning and my daughter picked it up, trying on her wobbly legs to carry it off. “Oodat?!” She asked and was most confused to be told it was Josh as a tiny baby. She looked back and forth between the photo and her brother before exclaiming “Baybeee!” and picking up the frame and hugging it. I cried for what had happened, what was still to come and the residual ache that never quite shifts.