Our amazing daughter Annie was born by emergency caesarean 11 weeks early, weighing 2 pounds and 12 ounces and looking like a tiny doll. My husband Jon and I spent 3 months in hospital watching her slowly growing strong enough to come home with us. Annie’s big sister Grace held her hand through the window of her incubator and I remember feeling anxious about what the future may hold for Annie and wondering how life would be for us as a family.
We first heard about PSDS when we were in hospital. A lovely nurse that looked after Annie told us about the charity and I actually contacted them before we left hospital. I had been struggling to breastfeed Annie and phoned to see if anyone had been through similar problems. After a lovely chat with one of the trustees, I was put in touch with another mum who was really supportive.
We attended our first family meeting when Annie was 4 months old. I remember how great it was to see so many children of all different ages and their siblings, running around, eating biscuits and generally having a great time. We felt really welcome and instantly relaxed and knew that we wanted to be part of this amazing charity.
Fast forward almost 5 years and our little whirlwind graduated from Digbies in July and has just started school! She is feisty, independent, determined, loving and hilarious in equal measure. Over the summer I have lost count of the times that she has surprised me and made me feel proud. I watched her first sports day, running down the track with a beaming smile, egg in one hand and spoon in the other. I watched her sail through her first solo swimming lesson without us in the water, quietly terrified as she teetered on the edge of the pool, threatening to jump in when the teacher’s back was turned. If someone had told me she would be doing all these things a year ago, I’m not sure I would have believed it.
Annie attended pre-school for the past year and in that time she made friends with pretty much every child and parent in the playground of her new school. She says “hello, good morning” to everyone we meet and hands out high fives and fist pumps to all her fans. She has a great cohort of friends that have moved up with her into reception in her mainstream school. I would say I naturally tend towards the more introvert end of the personality spectrum but Annie’s outgoing and bubbly nature and tendency to talk to everyone we meet has meant that we rarely go anywhere now without making ourselves known to everyone and gaining lots of new friends!
When Annie was 18 months old, she started to have formal therapy sessions at Digbies. She has gained so much from going to Digbies and developed lovely relationships with both the therapists and the other children. I really believe Digbies offers something very unique and special to children and parents and we have been so lucky to have had the opportunity to benefit from it. This past (pre-school) year has been a bit of a challenge, trying to make sense of the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plan) and ensure that Annie gets the support she needs starting in reception at school. It all seemed pretty daunting at the start but as a cohort of parents at Digbies we really supported and encouraged each other. Parents of children that have been through Digbies and are now in school have also offered support, coming along to share their wisdom and giving us the confidence to fight for what our children need.
Annie has made huge progress with her speech and language, social and general life skills at Digbies and it has been a brilliant preparation for her transition into school. Seeing Annie and her friends progress from week to week, celebrating every new achievement with their therapists and with other parents has been really wonderful. Our cohort of Digbies parents has been particularly busy this year welcoming 5 new babies. I’m not sure what they’ve been putting in our cake! We had a new addition to our family in November, baby Daisy, and she has been a big hit with her sisters so far. I will really miss seeing the other mums and dads at Digbies, sharing our ideas, tips, funny stories and pregnancy and new parenthood joys and struggles.
Digbies and PSDS have given so much to our family and we have tried to find ways to raise money to help the charity continue its fantastic work. When I say we, I really mean Jon who completed the Great North Run in 2013 and has signed himself up for a Tough Mudder this month too. My role has mainly been to nag him into training and pop the cork at the finish line.
We are excited to see what the future holds for Annie as she moves up to “big school”, knowing that we have the support of PSDS and of all the lovely friends we have made through being part of it.