Precisely one year ago, after a gruelling uphill struggle, Tilda was finally well enough to come home from NICU. Today, we revisited the unit to take part in a Q&A session with some parents of newborn preemies. If we were able to bring them even a sliver of hope, then it was a morning well spent.
We also encountered many of the doctors and nurses who saved Tilda’s life – it was an emotional reunion and it felt wonderful to share her progress with them. Mercifully, Tilda won’t remember a moment of her time in hospital but in their words, she was in there for so long she became somewhat of a celebrity!
It’s the little things that spark memories of last summer for me – the scent of pears, now forever synonymous with the shower gel I used in the patient hotel. The same three songs on incessant repeat as the radio blared in the milk expressing room. Even now, when my phone rings unexpectedly my heart flies into my mouth, expecting one of the many 4am calls I received urging me to come to Tilda’s bedside immediately … only for me to realise she is safe in my arms, beaming and trying to stick her finger up my nose.
As a mum to a wriggly rambunctious one-year-old it’s rare to have time to sit and reflect, but doing so today has made me appreciate just how bloody lucky I am.
It’s 107 days since I was admitted to hospital with contractions five minutes apart and 96 days since Matilda was born 14 weeks prematurely. On three occasions we were told to prepare ourselves for the worst, but each time emergency surgery brought her back from the brink.
Today, one day after her due date, John and I finally took our courageous daughter home! It’s the day we’ve dreamed about for what felt has like forever and which seemed intangible for so long, but as I write this, sitting in my armchair with Matilda lying contentedly beside me in her Moses basket, everything about being at home together feels wholly right.
I feel so fortunate to have such a happy, vibrant girl against the odds and to be married to such an amazing man who stayed level-headed and provided love and comfort to Matilda and me through all the ups and downs while somehow managing to hold down a demanding full-time job at the same time.
Thank you also to our friends and family who have provided overwhelming moral support and help with practicalities, the fellow mums on the neonatal unit who preserved my sanity when I was at breaking point and the innumerable NHS staff who went above and beyond to do everything in their power to save Matilda’s life and help her thrive. Farewell NICU and hello to what should have been the first chapter of our journey with Matilda, but which actually feels like the zillionth. Whatever the future holds, the Cotton family is ready to face it together …