"A very special first Christmas"

Guest blogger: Lauren (Mum) 

On 23 December 2015 my son entered the world. We knew Sebastian would need a little extra care before he was born, so we had travelled three hours from our Somerset home to The Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton for his special day. When he was born, he was taken away pretty quickly and placed in neonatal care; the following evening he was transferred across the road to Southampton Hospital. We followed him there and finally got to hold our little lad the next day.

"It's Christmas Eve", I whispered into his ear. "I know you don't know what that is yet, but I promise you will love it one day".

We had already known that Sebastian had a long road ahead of him before we had even entered our third trimester. At the 20 week scan we had been given the unexpected and earth-shattering news: "There is something wrong with your baby’s heart". In the following months we would learn that our baby boy would undergo multiple open heart surgeries just to survive, with no promise that there wouldn't be further complications. We felt pretty low to say the least.

That evening, after saying goodbye to Sebastian on Ocean Ward, we found our way down to the Ronald McDonald House. We had hastily shoved our bags into our room earlier in the day in our rush to go and see our son. Now we had time to appreciate how lucky we were. "This place is like a hotel!" I exclaimed, feeling incredibly grateful as we entered. We found our way up to our room after being greeted at the desk by smiling staff.

I do believe at this moment I swiftly collapsed onto a bed and breathed a sigh of relief at being alone... away from prying eyes, questions and medical jargon. A moment to breathe.

Later that night I found myself unable to sleep and decided to wander around, hoping to find the communal kitchen I had been shown earlier. Right outside our door was a little present addressed to our little Sebastian. How lovely, I thought, trying to hold back the never ending tears. I looked up to see a staff member sneaking his way down the hall, popping presents outside of each door. Thank you 'Santa!'

I found the kitchen, had a drink and went back to bed smiling.

The next day a large donation of food items were in place on the kitchen tables along with the offer of a turkey if anyone wanted it, reminding us that Christmas is indeed a time for giving.

I took up a tiny Christmas tree for Sebastian, along with his present from 'Santa' which turned out to be a teddy bear. We held our son on a very special first Christmas, happy in the knowledge that when our son fell asleep and it all became too much for us... we could retreat to the Ronald McDonald House where we would always be welcomed. After so many months, we started to call it 'home'.

This year we will be coming back to Southampton on 5 December and our little lad will undergo his third open heart surgery. I had hoped we would spend this Christmas at home, but I know in my heart that if we do spend our second Christmas in this amazing house, the staff will make it feel as much like home as they possibly can. I have never been more sure of something in my life. Have a Merry Christmas.

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