People have said to me since ‘She shouldn’t have done that, it wasn’t fair to you’, but I disagree.
What happened taught me something valuable; and I do not think that the ‘act’ was deliberate in any way, and it cost the other person involved a measure of personal pain.
No, it was a random act of circumstance that brought us together.
It happened in the small side-room on the maternity ward where Freddie and I were taken soon after he was born, on that first, emotional and bewildering night.
We already knew the doctor’s were sure he had Down’s syndrome, we were sure ourselves, and the karyotype would be just a formality as far as any of us were concerned.
It was the middle of the night. I was awake, Freddie was dozing in the little fish-tank crib next to my bed.
A midwife came in to do my observations: routine but necessary for all new mums, especially for one who, like me, has to be on two kinds of blood thinning medication throughout pregnancy – the hours immediately post-birth bring a real risk of potentially catastrophic bleeding.
She checked my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, asked me how I was.
Then she went to the foot of the tank and looked at Freddie. She gazed at him in silence for a long time.
There was nothing offensive in the way she did this; at no time did I get the sense that she was gawping at him as a medical curiosity.
She almost seemed to be miles away, lost in a day-dream. Then, slowly, fat tears welled up in her eyes and spilled over.
‘You’re so lucky you got to meet your little boy,’ she said.
From her face I could see that she was struggling against her tears and losing the fight. ‘I had a little boy with Down’s,’ she went on, ‘but he didn’t make it, he was stillborn.’
I don’t recall what I said back to her, probably muttered ‘I’m so sorry’, or something like that.
‘You’re so lucky,’ she repeated.
In that moment, I felt lucky. I still do.
Her unstoppable grief showed me what the depth of my love for Freddie would be – exactly the same as the love I have for my other children.
I hope to God nobody has ever said to her ‘It was for the best, he had Down’s,’ because, quite clearly, it was NOT for the best as far as she was concerned.
So now, whenever we’re having a bad day, I mentally put myself back in that room with her, look at the situation through her eyes, and see how very lucky I am to have been given the chance not just to meet my little boy, but to get to know him.