Excitedly, I flipped the pages of the baby manual until I reached the chapter on breastfeeding.
‘I’m really looking forward to it,’ I said happily to my partner, Connor Smith, 23.
‘It’s such a special thing to do.’ I’d fallen pregnant again just three months after I’d had a miscarriage.
Now me and Connor, a welding engineer, were brimming with hope after the heartbreak of losing our baby at just six weeks.
‘Everything’s fine,’ said the sonographer at the 12-week scan.
But when we returned for the 20-week scan, there was a long silence as she moved the probe over my belly. ‘It’s a girl,’ she said, finally. But then the words which followed brought our world crashing down.
The scan had showed our daughter had a hole near the bottom of her spine.
Tears coursed down my cheeks as I learnt she had spina bifida and would be paralysed from the waist down.
‘We’ve got a decision to make,’ I said in a small voice to Connor.
Back home, for two weeks, I scrolled websites to find out about the consequences of spina bifida.
I’d already named our girl Oakley Felicity and started to prepare our nursery for her.
But with a heavy heart,
I turned to Connor and spoke. He nodded sadly in agreement. In August 2016, my pregnancy was terminated at 22 weeks.
As we recovered from the ordeal, we decided to relax and step back from trying for a baby straight away again.
‘If it happens, it happens,’ I said to Connor. ‘Let’s not put pressure on ourselves.’
But six months later, my heart rose when I saw a blue line appear. Please let this baby be OK!
A scan at 16 weeks showed no problems.
Relief flooded through me. And this time it was a boy. ‘We’ll call him Theodore,’
I said to Connor.
The name means a ‘gift from God’. And that’s how we viewed him – after everything we’d been through.
I still thought of Oakley every day and my heart would break.
But Theodore thrived. He was two days overdue when I had a stretch and sweep at York Hospital in October last year.
Back at home, contractions intensified and we set off for the hospital again.
I was already 8cm dilated when we arrived and, just four hours later, I pushed him out. He weighed 7lb 10oz and had lots of dark brown hair.
Two hours later, I cradled him to my breast. Here was the moment I’d been looking forward to for so long.
My eyes took in his little button nose and gorgeous mouth and watched as he contentedly began to suck.
A lovely feeling of calm and contentment flooded over me. Breastfeeding can be hard, but not for Theodore and me.
Twelve hours after giving birth, we were allowed home.
Walking through the door, I headed straight for a chair.
Theodore started rooting for the nipple. Our little man was ready for another feed!
Soon we were enjoying the closeness of our bodies.
I shifted Theodore on to the other breast and he latched on and began to suck away again.
Fifteen minutes later, full as a duck, his eye lids began to fall and soon he was fast asleep.
‘I’m so glad I could breastfeed,’ I said to Connor.
We had a few visitors the next day – I discreetly breastfed Theodore up in my bedroom. But by 6pm he wouldn’t feed. ‘Maybe he’s full already,’ said Connor, as I moved Theodore to my other breast.
But a couple of hours later, he started crying and arching his back.
He seemed to want to sleep, but something was stopping him.
Frantically, I tried everything I could think of.
Putting him to the breast again… laying him down in his cot… rocking him… walking and rocking at the same time.
But still he wouldn’t settle or feed, all the while crying.
‘Should I try powdered milk?’ I wondered.
I didn’t want to – I thought the breastfeeding had been going well. But when we tried him on powdered milk, he wasn’t interested.
By 9am on Sunday, Theodore was still crying and refusing
Our tiny boy was fighting for his life
For my beautiful baby boy, breast could have been death... Theodore is now 10 months old and thriving