FEW things in life render me speechless, but our new-born son Richard Timothy Helen can, and has made me lose my words on many occasions in his very short existence.
I can get so enthralled in his deep blue eyes, which almost appear black, and I could swear he is looking into my soul with greater love and trust than any other human being has ever done before.
This little man is only just three weeks old and he has entirely changed our world. He has completed changed me, he turned me into a new person, gave me a new title, made me a Mom, made David a Dad, transformed my incredible parents into doting grandparents and made Dave’s parents grandparents for the third time.
He made my three brothers into uncles and made David’s sister Lorna an auntie for the first time. Lorna already has two gorgeous little boys, Tom and Daniel, so now our Ricky has two cousins to grow up with. My two future sisters in law are also besotted with the new addition.
Watching everyone meet Ricky and instantly fall head over heels for him has been one of the greatest joys of my life. We have experienced so many special moments in the last three weeks that I could write a large book, and you’ll have to forgive me if my ramblings aren’t extremely coherent! There are a few things at play. I’m still recovering from major abdominal surgery, I’m only sleeping in two-hour bursts and the whole country came to visit our son over Christmas. It’s been wonderful and intense in equal measure but I wouldn’t change it in a million years. I’ve wanted this for a long time and it’s more incredible and mind-blowing than I could ever have imagined.
The first night I met my husband David, he looked me straight in the eyes, and for me it was an electrifying bolt of lightning. Most new people surveyed my sticks, posture or wheelchair first. David, from the very first minute, was delightfully different and made it exceptionally easy for me to fall in love with him.
Early in our relationship, I began to hope we would last and that he would be the father of our children, that we would embark on that journey together. When Tom, Dave’s first nephew, was born in June, 2015, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my husband would be a wonderful father. The love just exploded in his eyes and has only grown for both Tom and Daniel since!
The day I took a pregnancy test in April, 2019, it was 5.30am. I couldn’t wait any longer. We had been wishing and hoping and I was suspicious. I laid the fateful stick on the corner of the bath to await the result, as I’m sure so many women do. I held my breath. Dave was in bed asleep. The positive result made me take a sharp intake of breath. Could this really be happening? Was it our time? Oh my goodness, dare I hope?!
I perched for a few moments, staring at two lines that could mean dreams come true. I didn’t have another test so I just had to trust it was accurate for the time being. I’d done tests before but this one felt different. With a pounding heart, I made my way back to the bedroom and paused inside the door. I wasn’t sure if Dave was awake or not. He stirred with purpose, he knew what I had been doing. Dave always says if I stand bolt upright it either means very good or very bad news. He said he knew without even looking that I was standing that way.
“I’m pregnant,” I said. In that gorgeous moment, Dave punched the air in triumph. I’ll never forget it as long as I live, it was just gorgeous.
Bizarrely, after that we both fell soundly asleep for a few hours, we were delighted and relieved.
As is usual with pregnancy, we kept our news under our hat for a few weeks. I saw two little legs kicking at the 12 week scan and I couldn’t have been more proud! Our obstetrician Moya McMenamin, was laughing at our reaction to the movement, but also understood where we were coming from. Even in the womb, Ricky could kick harder than I can and every time he did it made me smile.
Both David and I were premature so although we were overjoyed at starting our family, we were also nervous about what could happen. We received superb care all along and Moya was constantly cautious and reassuring.
Nobody really knew what pregnancy added to cerebral palsy would mean for me. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is unique so we just had to go with the flow. I was very nauseous from the beginning and had awful heartburn throughout. At 20 weeks my pelvis moved out of line but I was already under the care of physiotherapist Liz Barry in CUMH, she set me right and supported me for the whole 38 weeks.
Being prepared was key and having good support was vital to the success of the whole venture.
We’d moved back home in June so the family backup was so valuable. I don’t think we could have done it any other way and we are so grateful.
I was admitted to hospital just shy of 38 weeks. With the medical team, it was decided that nothing should be an emergency, we had come too far for that.
I walked into the hospital on my sticks. Nobody thought I’d stay on my feet that long.
Sitting was harder than standing and the nausea was debilitating. I had to finish work early but I’ve no regrets. I prioritised our child and, as his mum, that’s my job now forevermore.
I have a new found respect for my own mum for the times she got extra emotional throughout our lives. I understand now!
I was in hospital for a week before having a caesarean section. It was lucky I was because there’s no fully wheelchair accessible room in all of CUMH and a lot of negotiating, juggling and jostling had to be done before I was ready for surgery.
Honestly, there’s a whole story to be told about my hospital stay. It wasn’t perfect, there needs to be more awareness for some staff around mothers with disabilities, but that’s a story for another day.
Today’s important message is that our gorgeous son, Richard Timothy Helen was born on December 16, 2019 at 12.23pm. I am really well and he is beyond perfect. We call him Ricky and he’s already a real little character.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw him, or how David immediately switched to dad mode, advocating for me and for Ricky. I fell in love twice in one day. Since then, we’ve introduced our son to his great grandmother Lil and his great grandfather John and many other relatives and friends.
The goodwill of everyone has bowled us over.
Ricky is one very lucky and loved little dude and I can’t wait to see what his life and adventures have in store for us all.
* Read Julie's weekly column in the WoW! supplement in The Echo every Wednesday.