The 20th football World Cup starts on 12th June in Brasil (I prefer the proper spelling) and I’m already incredibly sad. Yes, I’m an England fan, so you might think I’m jumping the gun but it isn’t the football that is causing the upset.
My son and first child is due to be born on 8th June, four days before the tournament’s opening game. The birth of my son is something I looked forward to so much. It took two and a bit years of practice!
As a first-time parent you project forwards in your mind and see yourself spending time with your child. My partner Leigh, mum to our little one talked about taking our baby to the nearby park in the summer sun. She could see herself reading stories and singing songs to our child. Drawing and colouring were definitely in her mind – I wonder whether our boy would mimic Leigh in sticking out his tongue when concentrating. Leigh reminds me that Michael Jordan did this and it must be a sign of his and her greatness!
I had a tougher time visualising exactly what it was that we would do together apart from the mundane day-to-day activities. I will add that I think newborns are boring with their cycle of sleep, eat, pee and poo on endless repeat. I know – tell me off, fellow parents.
One thing that was clear in my mind was he was going to be born before the World Cup began. None of this staying in mum for an extra two weeks and having to be induced’ nonsense.
He would be with me in time for the first game of competition. I would sit on the sofa in front of the television with him sleeping or being winded in my arms. As the games started I would explain what the fuss was about: the beauty of the game, the flowing movements, the skill and panache, the art of the tackle, the colour of the kits, a bit of Brasil’s history, why we hate the Germans every two years (don’t forget the European Championships), why England ultimately fail, how to shout at the referee, how to do big eyes to get Mummy to go to the fridge for you for vital supplies, why ITV’s commentary team are so bad, and the offside rule. Lofty aspirations indeed.
However, none of this is possible. Our son Hugo was born on 20th February, 2014, 15 weeks and 3 days prior to his due date. Leigh had developed HELLP Syndrome and become critically poorly a couple of days before his birth. Hugo had to delivered to ensure Mum survived and that he had the best possible chance to live, too.
Hugo fought and fought as hard as he could, but succumbed to Chronic Lung Disease five weeks to the day after he was born. He was so small at birth, partly because the HELLP Syndrome had slowed his growth and partly because he was delivered so early. His lungs didn’t get ample time to develop and ultimately were his kryptonite.
I’m glad that in his five weeks in the Neonatal Unit (NNU) I got to explain to him what football was, as it has been important in my life. I would regale him in Liverpool’s (I’m a fan) exceptional run towards a possible first PL title. Hugo seemed to wiggle and move when I told him about the day’s results. I feel he was starting to get football from the excitement in his daddy’s voice. However, it wasn’t the same as my visions. Having a premature baby in a NNU is tough as I explained in my earlier blog. You don’t get to hold your baby very often or for very long as this can impact their chances of survival. And no, there aren’t any television screens in the units.
I’m upset that Hugo never got the chance to share the experience of a major football tournament with his daddy – four weeks of mummy rolling her eyes and saying “not more football?” Tears flow freely down my cheeks now as I finish this blog. Daddy will still sit on his sofa to watch the games, they just won’t be the same anymore without you Hugo, my special boy.
We hope England do well!
Thank you to Jessica Willcocks of the Liverpool FC Foundation Team for the kind letter of condolence that you forwarded to us. This was a very special touch on the club’s behalf. Thank you also to my friend (I think I know who you are but you can reveal yourself) who passed Hugo’s details to LFC.
HUGO – YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE