Monday, July 19, 2010

The road to Dempsey.....and joy!

It's three days until Dempsey's birthday.........three days before she was born, eight years ago, was a life changing day for us. One of the most important days in my life.

It's painful to go back to that, but if I could jump into a time machine and travel back to July 2002....Id like to take you there. To give you hope if you are suffering heartache that as days turn into months and years, you can learn a new kind of 'normal' and find happiness again, smile again and oh my God, even laugh again after loss. There really is nothing that compares to joy, and joy will always trump grief if you allow it to.

Looking back, I wouldn't have believed I would've survived that day......three days before Demps entered our lives and changed everything. When everything seemed lost.......

July 19 2002, we were patiently, gut wrenchingly waiting on tender hooks for three test results that would shape not only our world but hers too. Because of an amniocentesis, we were to find out if Dempsey was a tissue match for her sister Savannah. If she could save Savannah's life with her rich stem cells and a bone marrow transplant. And, if Dempsey had the same genetic fingerprint as her sister, and would therefore have the same horrid terminal disease Metachromatic Leukodystrophy. It was all a bunch of IF's....and it was torture.

For two months prior to her birth I'd been carrying a hideous small blue cooler with me everywhere. Inside, was a stem cell kit, with glass vials and syringes and paper work in case I went into pre-term labor. So Dempsey's precious cord blood, could be collected from her umbilical cord at birth, to maybe save Savannah.  It was like something out of a movie, or a fiction novel, not my perfect life!  Oh how I hated that blue plastic cooler!



Dempsey at 6 weeks old and Savannah




Our future was so uncertain back then, our lives hanging by a thin thread of hope.  Yes, three days before Dempsey blessed our lives we learnt we couldn't save our precious first born daughter Savannah.....it was the most painful thing I've ever had to face in my life.

To sit in a suffocating consulting room, where the air was thick with anticipation to a point where I couldn't breathe, on the edge of a cheap plastic chair, waiting to be told by a doctor what fate your children would be doomed to.  And you beg God or whoever that you'll do anything if you can get what you want....you offer to sell your soul, just, anything to be able to save the life of the most precious thing in your world. I would've given anything!

We learnt in under a minute that Dempsey wasn't a tissue match for her sister so there would be no saving Savannah. No first day of school, no wedding, no watching her grow up, just nothing......we were offered nothing!

However we learned in the next minute that thankfully, Dempsey only carried the faulty gene for the disease that would take Savannah's life. She would never develop it. So that day was bittersweet, cruel and hopeless. I cried so many tears I couldn't see, couldn't breathe. Nothing mattered to me anymore. The pain was unbearable, like someone was squeezing my heart. It's still there, a physical pain, that still aches as I write this.

And I've learned through living through that hell, no-one, not just me, has control over their destiny. So we shouldn't dwell on the the ifs and learn lessons to cherish what we are in control of, like our attitude and gratitude for simply having the privilege of the little things in life.....and today mine is watching Dempsey counting down the hours until she turns eight...that in itself is a miracle....how things could've been different.

In those few days before Dempsey's birth I had to decide whether it was going to be 'flight or fight'...whether I was going to run and hide from the world and give up...or if I was going to fight to make Savannah's short life a full and happy one. It was like I was hanging off the edge of a cliff, clinging to the rocks. But I had to let go of my old life and accept whatever was next to reach the other new life that was waiting, even if it would mean falling .......or failing!

And even though it was freezing that morning Dempsey was born, with frost covering the lawn outside the hospital in Australia, she managed to warm my soul and threw me a life line the minute she was born.


                                                            Dempsey Hope...a few days old!


The second my eyes met hers, with her innocence and fragility, wondering what was to come for her and if she would ever know her sister made me sob bittersweet tears that day. When everything else in my world had gone insane and I felt there was no more hope, Dempsey....wrinkled and red, with her beautiful screaming voice changed our world into one with optimism.....and joy!





                                  Savannah giving her sister a hug......love this photo!



And one of my joys that day, was to watch her big sister Savannah slowly crawl up my hospital bed and plant a sloppy kiss on her tiny sisters forehead. Wrapped inside the pink bunny rug that morning was a tiny bundle of arms and legs, hope and joy, and nothing could take that away.

It's only a memory now, but its a joyful one, and in three days I'll have some new memories to store away that will bring me happiness. Even though Savannah isn't here to celebrate Dempsey's eighth birthday, she was....for a while, both my girls were in the same world and that has brought me to here...

On Thursday, I know I will smile, I will laugh and I will be present to enjoy the many moments that Dempsey will gift me with on her birthday...I will celebrate the simple things like seeing her eight candles ablaze, mirrored in her eyes. And listen to the laughter that will be coming from a bunch of cheerful girls, innocently enjoying the little things in life that will fill my blue cup with sunshine and bring me joy! :)


                                                       Dempsey and Savannah!

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