“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.
I suppose this phrase could usefully sum up the journey that lies ahead for Thomas and Mia. By the time they reach adult life they may easily be a hundred times heavier than their birth weights. As they grow bigger and stronger they will increase their shadow on the world. From such a fragile beginning they will grow more substantial, more important and the world may come to wonder how it ever functioned properly without them in it.
I think though that the phrase may be more aptly suited to a relationship and by that I am thinking of the bond that exists me and Jo. When we first met via the interweb it was for a series of dates that mainly revolved around drinking dark rum and coke, dancing to Northern soul and indulging in romantic episodes. We didn’t row in the first six months, something we would make up for later. Considering ourselves to be well suited, we married, bought property and gave birth all within 3 short years. At no point in our courtship do I remember discussing how we would deal with having premature twins.
Last Tuesday, I remembered that I had forgotten our anniversary. I forgot to buy a card, a present, some flowers or chocolates. I had forgotten to make a special meal or do any of the other textbook romantic gestures which are expected on these occasions. Fortunately I got away with this year as Jo had forgotten too. We had both forgotten because on Friday 19th October, our 5 year wedding anniversary, we were busy visiting our two tiny children in two separate Hospitals, 16.5 mile apart.
I was cross with ourselves for overlooking our wooden anniversary so in an effort to make amends I arranged for some lovely neonatal nurses to look after Mia, Grandma & Grandad no 6 to look after Lilly and throwing caution to the wind I had a top class neonatal surgical team take Thomas on a trip to the operating theatre at St Marys for emergency bowel surgery. We said our goodbyes to Thomas at quarter past four and then headed into town for our date.
We have always loved the Cornerhouse but usually an evening meal there meant me putting in a shift at Sumners first. This evening, having missed lunch we reserved our table for five. For starters we took a punt on a couple of vegetarian tarts before settling down to a main course of pizza. Conversation flowed, looks were exchanged and desserts ordered then devoured. Almost as soon as it had started our date was over.
We took coffee in the parents room at St Mary’s and fell asleep in each others arms. Sometime later we were awoken by a nurse.
Tommy’s surgery had been a success. The join from last weeks surgery had failed which was unfortunate although not entirely unpredicted. He now had a stoma which means his bowel has a gap in it and this gap is managed outside of his body. If all goes well in the future this will be repaired when he is bigger and stronger and returned inside him where it belongs. Yet another little twist in our incredible journey so far. Hopefully this will be the last excitement for a long while.
If this whole experience has been hard for me then it has been a hundred times harder for Jo. She is a new mother but her children are not at home keeping her awake at night. They sleep 22 hours a day in incubators in distant hospitals. The last thing we do before our heads hit our pillows is ring both hospitals. When we awake we repeat this routine before preparing for the day. Jo’s day is an endless cycle of driving, visiting and milking. If she times her visits well and traffic is favourable then an hour cuddling Mia in kangaroo care is the highlight of her day. Mia’s visits are good, she is doing really well and the atmosphere at Bolton is designed around parents wellbeing. It is relaxed, welcoming and rewarding.
St Marys on the other hand is a clinical place. If you have a poorly child like Tommy then you want them there. It is a centre of excellence, the staff are professional and friendly but it is a hard place to visit. As a parent you are in the way of the medical teams but as they are keeping your child alive this is a price worth paying. The visits are short and perfunctory.
There are wobbles and moments and we take each day as it comes but as I write, 26 days have passed since Thomas & Mia were born which is 26 wonderful if somewhat heartbreaking days we have been able to share in their tiny lives.
The messages, cards, gifts, help and support we have had from Jo’s friends and colleagues show the shadow which her big heart casts over the lives of all those who meet and work with her. With every unsolicited gesture we receive, my pride in her accepting me as her husband grows and grows. I have always considered us a strong and formidable partnership but the fire testing this situation has forced upon our relationship has found us not wanting so far. I would not wish anyone to undertake this journey we are on but with Jo by my side I know I will not falter along the way.
Happy belated wooden anniversary Princess x x x x x