Just like any expectant mum, I would think of all the fun we would have once our bundle of joy entered the world, trips to the park, family holiday, visits to the local zoo and play days at the local playgroup.
Little did I know for the first year of our daughter’s life, we would hardly be able to do any of that and I would end up feeling like a freak.
She was born with a birthmark that grew out of control and she had to be put on a very strong aggressive steroid treatment.
We were warned about some of the worrying side effects that could be a possibility, increased appetite and early weaning, developing diabetes, osteoporosis, weak/damaged immune system and the scariest of all chickenpox could kill my daughter.
We had no other option, we had to consent.
She began the treatment at just 3 months old, 4 times a day I would have to force feed this poison to my daughter, eventually to her it became just part of her everyday routine.
I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of these mothers that were over cautious of germs, I would let her explore and get messy, but I had become just the opposite. I felt a freak but there was no other way.
Her immune system became weaker by the day, we were house bound.
She wasn’t allowed around other children, anyone who came to see us had to wash and sterilise their hands and anyone with even the slightest snuffle was not allowed near her.
We were prisoners in our own home.
Each day I felt guilty, other kids were playing together, interacting and learning to socialise and my daughter had only ever seen another child from a distance or from behind a pane of glass.
A trip to the shops was made with military precision; I was on constant granny dodging patrol. Her swollen cheeks made for a very attractive target from hands; I had to keep my distance.
I had my antiseptic hand pump that I applied after each door handle or visit to a shop, it was at this point I realised I had been consumed, I felt a freak and was convinced others were laughing at me.
I had what seemed like OCD, I was scared of germs, I over cleaned everything. I felt like a freak and thought people were laughing at me, but I had to make sure that my daughter was safe.
At 9 months old, my worst nightmare came true, she became ill.
It was the Sunday afternoon and she had had a few runny nappies and vomited a couple of times, I decided I would take her doctors the next day just for a check-up.
As we woke that morning, she looked really sorry for herself so I took her in. As we waited in the waiting room for our turn she became really tired. Finally we were called in.
Within 10 minutes of being in the doctor’s room she went downhill very fast, she wouldn’t open her eyes, she wouldn’t respond to me.
She had slipped unconscious.
The doctor rang for an ambulance, the room filled with worried doctors, I felt sure they were going to tell me she was dying and it was meningitis, at that moment the paramedics came in and took my lifeless baby in their arms.
That moment will stick with me forever at that moment it became all too real and I broke down. We were rushed to the ambulance and she was put on oxygen, it seemed to bring her round slightly. She has only been ill for less than 24 hours, how could this be happening so fast, it had to be serious surely?
When we arrived at the hospital they performed all sorts of tests, bingo, her blood sugar was dangerously low at 0.9 it was the steroids.
She had simple gastroenteritis, but the steroids had damaged her immune system so much her frail body couldn’t cope with it.
We were kept in the hospital for a week and she was given fluid therapy, once again we were prisoners, unable to leave the isolation room and no one but doctors and nurses could enter, it was a long journey to recovery but we got home just in time for her first Christmas.
The decision was made to get her off these steroids, we gradually started to wean her off them, the withdrawals were tough but she coped really well. Come her first birthday she had her very last dose, within weeks the difference was incredible, her face was becoming less bloated, she finally started to grow again after only growing 3cm’s in 7 months and the constant colds stopped.
At 15 months we finally left the house worry free and off we went to our first playgroup session. She struggled at first, she had no idea how to socialise or interact, she was a fish out of water.. But, as the weeks passed, she become more confident, she started to blossom.
It has been a very long and lonely process, I lost those who I used to call ‘friends’ that didn’t want to know once I had to give up what little social life I had.
I had to give up my job that I loved and had trained hard for but it was all worth it, to watch her play with her first friend.
Luckily she has no lasting problems, she has finally caught up with her weight and height and looks like any normal 2 year old and I couldn’t be prouder of how well she plays and shares with others. I can’t wait until the moment when she gets a friend for life in her new little brother or sister when they arrive.
We are no social butterflies, but we sure have learned to spread our wings this last year. I felt like a freak with the way I behaved but I was just a mum trying to protect my little girl.