From Mamma to Mia

You filled my heart with joy until cruel fate broke it

Published by: Amy Thompson
Published on: 10th February 2011

Dear Mia,
Yet again I was laying in a hospital bed, staring at your fuzzy image on a screen and praying you would turn around. The midwife looked up at me apologetically.
‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘The baby keeps moving. I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl.’
Disappointed, I sighed. I was almost eight months pregnant with you, and itching to know what colour babygrows to buy.
When I’d found out I was having your big brother Alfie, two years earlier, I’d been over the moon. But I’d always longed for a little girl to complete our family.
Of course, we weren’t your average family.
My relationship with your dad Kevin had been difficult. And two months before your due date, he’d walked out on us.
Being a single mum didn’t worry me, though. As long as I had you and Alfie, we’d get through anything. Nanny and Granddad – my mum and dad – were always around to lend a hand, too.
‘So?’ my mum Olivia, 63, asked when I got home from my scan. ‘Boy or girl?’
‘Who knows?’ I shrugged. ‘This little one wriggles about so much, they can’t tell.’
‘Must be a girl,’ she laughed. ‘Acting all mysterious.’
She was right – nine days before your due date, you were born – the daughter I’d longed for.
While Nanny looked after Alfie, my friend Jenny was in the delivery room with me. ‘It’s a girl,’ she beamed, squeezing my hand, as the midwife cleaned you up.
I was so happy. But, seconds later, panic set in as doctors whisked you away.
‘Where are you taking her?’ I asked.
‘Your daughter’s having convulsions,’ a nurse told me. ‘Have you been taking anything?’
‘W-what?’ I stammered.
‘Are you on any drugs?’
Was she seriously suggesting I’d risk any harm coming to you?
‘No!’ I fumed.
‘Well, she’s showing withdrawal symptoms,’ she replied, sternly.
It wasn’t until they carried out tests that they finally believed me.
But if I thought the worst was over, I was wrong.
The doctors hooked you up to monitors, and had to feed you through a tube.
When I finally got to cuddle you, your tiny body trembled in my arms.
‘It’s okay Mia,’ I soothed. ‘Mummy’s here now.’
You were kept in the neonatal unit at Basildon Hospital, Essex, for three weeks while doctors ran more tests to find out what was wrong with you.
Alfie, two, didn’t mind all the tubes and wires. He was just thrilled to have a sister at last. ‘Mia Moo,’ he beamed.
You’d give him a friendly gurgle and curl your tiny hand around his outstretched finger. I loved seeing you together. You were so alike with your big blue eyes and delicate lips.
But the doctors still weren’t sure what was wrong. When you were a month old, they referred you to Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, for a brain scan.
‘I’m afraid your daughter has a condition called pontocerebellar hypoplasia. The part of her brain that controls movement hasn’t developed properly.’
‘So… what are you saying to me?’ I gulped.
‘Everyone’s different. We can’t be sure how badly she’s affected,’ he explained. ‘But most sufferers don’t live beyond the age of 10.’
Ten years?! Was that all the time we’d have together?
You were barely a month old, but already I couldn’t imagine life without you. And already I could feel precious minutes ticking away.
I shook my head, unable to take it in, and rushed home to tell Nanny.
‘Don’t think about the future,’ she said. ‘Make the most of the time you do have with her.’
It was the only way any of us would cope. I couldn’t do it alone though, so we moved to Basingstoke, Hampshire, to be nearer Nanny and Granddad, and you were transferred to Southampton Hospital.
There was good news on the horizon – they were going to let you come home with me and Alfie.
By November, when you were four-months-old, I was working tirelessly to get your bedroom ready. Alfie had already decided your favourite colour was pink. That’s why he bought you a pink toy elephant from the hospital gift shop.
‘For Mia Moo,’ he’d said proudly to the nurses, as we’d walked in to see you.
Your blue eyes lit up when he placed it beside you, kissing you gently on the cheek.
He was so proud of you, and didn’t hesitate to show off the cards he’d been given congratulating him on becoming a brother.
‘I’m a big brother,’ he’d tell anyone who’d listen, holding out his cards like award certificates.
Each time we said goodbye, his face fell. ‘It’s okay,’ I told him. ‘Mia will be coming home soon.’
He’d nod happily, skipping along beside me.
A week before you were due to come home, though, I got a call from the hospital. You’d been suffering from a tummy bug and had had trouble breathing, so they’d put you on a ventilator.
‘I’ll be there as soon as possible,’ I told the doctor.
Only, when I arrived, things were far worse than I’d thought.
‘We’ve run some tests,’ the doctor started. ‘Mia’s kidneys and liver are failing…’
‘She’s going to be okay, though?’ I asked, that familiar knot of panic forming in the pit of my stomach. ‘I mean… she can still come home next week?’
His eyes filled with pity. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing we can do.’
My world crumbled, Mia. I’d hardly got my head around only having 10 years with you.
Now, I was being told it would be no longer than the five months we’d already had.
You’d never come home and play in the pink bedroom me and Alfie had decorated for you, and filled with toys, away from the bleeping machines in the hospital.
I’d never read to you and Alfie in bed, or see your first day at school.
A nurse interrupted my thoughts. ‘Would you like to hold her?’
I nodded silently.
Taking out your feeding tube, she passed you over to me. It was one of the rare moments I got to see you as a normal little baby, no machines, no wires. Beautiful.
You looked up at me with those big blue eyes for the briefest moment… then they closed, and you took one, deep breath….
It was the last you ever took. As your body relaxed in my arms, mine shook with sobs.
‘I love you so much Mia Moo,’ I whispered, kissing the top of your head. I hope you heard me.
I couldn’t bear to tell your brother you were gone. Granddad tried explaining it, but Alfie didn’t really understand. When we buried you at St Michael and All Angels Church, Andover, he insisted you have the pink elephant he’d bought for you. But even then he couldn’t understand why I was so sad, bless him.
‘It’s okay Mummy,’ he said, touching my face gently. ‘Mia Moo will be home soon.’
If only…
It’s been two years since you died, but your bedroom is still as it was. I have a picture of you on the wall which Alfie, now four, kisses every morning.
I might have only been your mummy for five short months, Mia, but you’ll always be the little girl I longed for, and the daughter I’ll never forget.
All my love, Mummy xxxx
Sarah Costar, 37, Basingstoke, Hampshire