Stories

Greatest prezzie of all

I could never thank Grandad enough...


Published by: Jean Jollands and Sue Hardy
Published on: 13 December 2012


The tree was up and the living room was decked with Christmas cards. I was round my beloved grandad Tom's house, curled up on the sofa next to my nan, Frances, 80. But I wasn't feeling festive.
‘This time of year can't be easy for you,' Grandad said.
The past year had been horrific. I'd lost my dad Bob, 73, to septicemia then, just months later, my mother-in-law Lily, also 73, passed on. Just when me and my husband Dave, 46, thought it couldn't get any worse, he'd lost his dad Reg, 75, to lung cancer. Then two days later his brother, Brian, 50, died suddenly.
Instead of enjoying the festive season, we'd attended a double funeral. ‘I know you don't feel like celebrating,' grandad said. ‘But they'd want you to get on with life.'
‘You always know what to say,' I smiled.
He was my mum's dad and we'd always been close. When I was little, him and Nan would take me on holiday to Cornwall. They were like second parents. ‘Any news on the baby front yet?' he asked, gently. The look on my face must've said it all. ‘It'll all work out,' he hushed. Then he pointed at his newspaper. ‘Now, please help me with this damned crossword! It's so difficult!'
But the truth was, I was starting to doubt I'd ever be a mum.
Me and Dave, 13 years my senior, had been together four years when I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and told I'd find it difficult to conceive naturally. But it didn't dent Dave's love for me and we married. I'd started taking the fertility drug Clomid. But after five years of no success, doctors said there was nothing more they could do. ‘We can't start you on IVF because in this borough, it's not available on the NHS,' a doctor admitted. If we'd lived five miles away, we'd have been eligible for treatment. At £5,000 a go, we couldn't afford it on our call centre salaries. While I didn't go into details with Grandad, he knew my heart was breaking.
After leaving his place that evening, Dave held me as I cried. ‘Why don't you leave me and find a proper woman?' I wept. ‘Don't be so daft,' he said. ‘You're all I need.'
Dave had a daughter Suzanne, 29, from his previous marriage and she spent Boxing Day with us. ‘Remember those treasure hunts you used to do for me?' she grinned. Watching her growing up had been a precious taste of what being a mum might feel like.
‘Everyone else gets pregnant at the drop of a hat. Why can't I?' I sobbed to my mum Linda a few days on.
‘Life isn't fair,' she sighed. Still, I had my mind taken off my problems when nan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Devastated, I visited as often as I could. ‘Why don't you have a nap?' I asked grandad one afternoon. ‘I'll keep an eye on nan.' But he wouldn't leave her side. ‘No,' he said. ‘But there is something you can help me with.' Their 60th wedding anniversary was approaching. ‘Will you help me choose a pressie for your nan?' he asked. I felt honoured and helped him pick out a gorgeous trilogy necklace with three diamonds. 
It looked stunning on her, just weeks later at their anniversary bash. ‘We even got a congratulations telegram from the Queen!' Grandad announced, proudly. Despite everything he was going through, Grandad always checked I was alright. ‘You'll be a mum one day. I know it.'
‘Thanks,' I smiled. ‘You always say the right things.'
Sadly, just a month later, Nan, 82, died. We were devastated, but nobody was more so than Grandad. ‘I don't know what I'll do without her,' he sighed when
I popped round. We all did our best for him, but it was no real surprise when he passed away aged 85 just 18 months later. ‘He died of a broken heart,' I sobbed to Dave. A short while later, we heard that grandad had left me some of his life-savings in his will. ‘That was him all over,' I sighed to Dave. ‘Too generous. I just don't know what to do with the money.'
We were lying in bed and there was a short pause before Dave spoke. ‘Why don't we try using some of it on IVF?' he blurted, finally. After all these years, we finally had enough money to try it.
But, by now, we'd been trying for a baby for 16 years. I was 37 now and thought I'd lost all the fight to keep trying.
Only now, this seemed like a sign from grandad - his blessing to do this. ‘Let's give it one last try,'
I agreed. ‘But this is the last time - I really just can't take any more disappointment. '
So, in February last year, we made an appointment at a private hospital. ‘Let's try you on ICSI treatment,' the doctor suggested. ‘It's where the sperm is injected directly into the egg and increases the chances of conceiving through IVF.' It cost £7,000. Over those next weeks, I had daily hormone injections and doctors managed to retrieve 12 eggs from me. But only two survived long enough to be implanted. There was a nerve-racking wait before I could do
a home pregnancy test. That night, I could hardly sleep and woke at 5am. Hands trembling, I scooped up the pregnancy test from my bedside drawer and went into the bathroom. But, when
I did the test, I couldn't bear to look at the result without Dave, so I shoved it back into the box. Then, I spent the next two hours staring at him and willing him to wake up.
‘You still haven't looked at it?' he murmured, eventually. ‘No,' I groaned.
So, curled up together, I finally tore open the box and read the test stick. ‘Pregnant!' I cried. ‘I can't believe it!' Dave sobbed.
I still felt like I was dreaming at my first scan when the consultant confirmed the baby was due on Christmas eve! ‘That'll be the best Christmas pressie ever!' Dave chuckled.
At my next scan, doctors confirmed I was expecting a girl!
‘I've already got a name for our little girl,' I grinned. ‘Lily after your mum and Frances after Nan. If it was a boy, I would've called it Tom after grandad.'
‘That's lovely, sweetheart,' Dave grinned. But, minutes later, he suggested her full name should be Lily-Frances Christine. Her initials would be LFC! ‘You can't blame me for trying!' grinned Dave, a mad Liverpool fan!
On Christmas Eve, my waters broke and Dave rushed me to hospital. ‘We think the umbilical cord's round her neck,' a doctor said. ‘Please, no...' I croaked. At one minute past midnight, on Christmas Day,
I finally gave birth to Lily-Frances Christine, a 6lb 2oz bundle.
But, instead of that telltale cry, there was only silence. ‘She's not breathing,' a nurse admitted as medics battled frantically to save her. Those next moments seemed to last forever. But, finally, the sound of a newborn baby crying filled the air.
‘I think it's time Mummy had a cuddle,' a nurse smiled, handing me my daughter.
In that moment, 16 years of pain melted away. ‘Thank you, grandad,' I whispered. Without him, I wouldn't have my precious little girl.
I thought back to a holiday in Cornwall as a kid, remembered him treating me with sugary sticks of rock. ‘Just don't tell your mum!' he winked. But this was his greatest gift of all.
This year will be her first Christmas, and we're going to spoil Lily-Frances rotten. Mum's already given her the trilogy necklace grandad gave nan.
And, when she's old enough, I'll tell her all about her special great-grandad and that she was literally heaven-sent.
My story is proof that you should never give up on what you want...
Chris Findlay, 38, Langley, Berkshire