Stories are our way of sharing, of building community, of friendships... In the first of a series of stories about motherhood, here Miriam shares her heartfelt words.
“You are the baby who saved my life
I realise there are many ways to tell a story; there are the things seen and unseen, the things remembered and misremembered, and the way we choose to hold and maintain our memories. This is how I choose to tell our story, little one to whom I owe perhaps more than I can ever really express.
At eleven weeks pregnant I was told I had cervical cancer; and had I not been pregnant, I would never have found out. The results of a routine test had been lost at the bottom of someone’s inbox; and the hospital’s ‘fail-safes’ had failed. The only reason I found out at all was because the midwife at the first appointment we met her, went out of her way to chase the results from the hospital.
Five days after finding out about the cancer, your daddy and I went for your 12 week scan. The hospital wanted to know if you were healthy - if you were worth saving, that is. We just wanted to see you, our baby, not knowing if we would be able to keep you. It remains the saddest and most magical moment of my life. You were perfect - small and wriggly; we saw your little face and arms and legs as you spun round and round; and we didn’t know if this would be the only chance we would get to meet you.
I remember trying to log every single one of the little movements into my memory; just in case. It is the tiny details I remember now - it seems odd, the images I can recall. I remember the red of the head nurse’s dress, her face full of apology. I remember the grey corner of the computer screen against the frosted window, and the beige walls. I remember the exact shade of the blue of the nurse’s seat. I remember the kindness in the sonographer’s voice, but I couldn’t tell you anything else about her. I remember so vividly the grainy image of a tiny thigh as you spun upside down. I remember not wanting to leave. I cried the whole way through; I still cry now thinking about it. We were given a little print out of the image of you. I remember how kind I thought the sonographer for giving us the pictures for free.
For two months following my diagnosis, my life became a blur of hospital visits, trips to the doctor’s surgery and so many questions; life fitted in around the edges. You and I, we were poked, prodded, tested, scanned, biopsied and operated on to find out what the doctors would do next.
My pregnant belly was already beginning to show by the time I had the operation to remove a ‘generous’ section of my cervix. They so rarely do this operation on pregnant women. Your daddy and I were warned to prepare ourselves that the chances were not good for you, baby. And to prepare ourselves that if the tumour were not entirely removed I would have a choice: between saving my life by having an abortion and a hysterectomy; or by saving you by not - and risking my life to the cancer. The chances of us both making it were slim at best.
But, somehow my dear, we did.
Not any little girl, but you - of all the possible babies who could have been, only you could have saved me. You, who arrived in my womb at just the right moment to mean I saw that particular midwife, on that particular day, mean that my cancer was caught just in time. You, without a doubt, saved my ability to carry children of my own, and you most probably saved my life. I carried you in my belly, I carry you still, and I will carry you in my heart always. My body gave you life and, in turn, your body gave me my life.
Of course I know that the lives of mothers and children are always intertwined and interdependent, but you and I, I feel that we are perhaps more indebted to one another than most, and for that I will always be grateful.”