Not in keeping with family tradition, he arrived early. We were ill-prepared. We veer more towards the tardy side of the tracks in our house. It was quite early, a whole five weeks too early in fact. He looked perfect, if a little frail and vulnerable. He was quickly whisked off for assessment, a brief cuddle and then he was gone. I was bereft, confused and exhausted. They kept me informed, they were considerate, kind and very caring. But still. NICU is not the best of places for a first date with your newborn. It's busy with zombie parents shuffling through dread. I went home to sleep, he stayed behind. I rang every hour. Then they rang me. My worst nightmare. High speed ambulance. Dublin. And did we want to baptise him before he left? Adrenalin pumped and has kept pumping ever since.
Dublin spelled doom. The news was not good. He was missing some vital organs. Not a simple case of 'they're malformed' you understand, no his kidneys were properly missing, gone, vanished without trace. But yet he was here. Did he lose them? Leave them behind? Forget to pack them in his haste to meet us? It's a mystery that still perplexes.
Dialysis. A new word entered our home. It became our normal nocturnal routine. I would sit by his cot as he slept. Listened to the machine whirr through an eleven-hour cycle. I quietly watched the fill, dwell and drain of the diuretic ritual while silently battling the dread. Tides of worries, hopes and dreams would fill, dwell and drain the chambers of my heart.
There are over eighty children in Ireland with End Stage Kidney Disease. All those mammies sitting beside whirring dialysis machines. All those milestones missed. I am a lucky one, his dad had a kidney to spare. My boy has a fully functioning, perfectly formed, second-hand peeing machine. The worry has drained. The hopes and dreams can simply fill and dwell.
I wish those other mammies could get the same. Have the conversation. Get a donor card Text DONOR to 50050 today, don't put it off, these kids have already waited too long.