An unexpected journey into motherhood.
A little note: Victoria’s story includes the stillborn birth of her first son, Brooklyn. If that’s difficult for you to read right now, please save it for later.
My journey into motherhood is something I never could have planned for. I was 27, had just finished my degree in social work, and was a year into my new grad job when we decided – hey, we should totally grow our family!
We fell pregnant almost immediately, after years of doctors telling me that because of my PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), it would take a long time and might not even happen at all. Brooklyn was our miracle baby. And after seven beautiful months of getting to know him in my belly, he was taken from us too soon. I found out Brooklyn had no heartbeat at almost 29 weeks pregnant. I had just hit the third trimester and was on the “home run”.
My first year of being a mother without a baby to hold, was a journey I wouldn’t wish for anyone, although I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Being Brooklyn’s mum is an honour. I vowed to myself that when the time came that we had another child, I would never take for granted any moment. I longed for all of it. The tears, the tantrums, the poop, the vomit and all the cuddles.
Our second baby was due exactly a year and a week after our first son. Our ‘rainbow baby’. It was a frightening and full-on experience. We had double the number of scans, OB appointments, and blood tests. And we found out there was a 99% chance our daughter was going to have Down Syndrome. I was 27 and I’d never heard of anyone my age having a baby with Down Syndrome. (I now know there are so many mummas who have babies with Down Syndrome under the age of 30!)
After our sweet Ella Faith was born, we spent the first three months in hospital. Ella was two days old when her paediatrician came into our room to explain she had the kind of blood cells that are seen in a type of childhood leukemia, common in babies with Down Syndrome. I just about died. Ella was in heart failure by two months old and soon after, at almost three months, had heart surgery. Our ‘newborn life’ was filled with hospital stays, blood tests, doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments and travelling an hour to and from the hospital.
Throughout this, I managed to keep a sense of calm and patience, which I think came mainly from Ella’s nature (Ella is one chilled out baby – she fell asleep during a bone marrow biopsy!), but also from the fact that I could appreciate every moment having a baby earthside with me, after losing her big brother a year before. There were difficult moments (like tube feeds and trying to navigate a pram and an oxygen tank, without getting cables tangled!), but there were also lots of cuddles and kisses, and soaking up every milestone she made that the doctors had told us she wouldn’t.
In 2020, in the height of the global pandemic, our little lion Hudson decided that after a perfectly uneventful pregnancy, he would throw a little chaos into our lives and arrive five weeks early, via emergency C-section. We were in the middle of a routine scan when his heart rate plummeted – I’m not sure if he was just yanking on his cord to tell us, “Get me out now please, I’m bored!” Or if something was wrong. We’ll never know. But my incredible obstetrician wasn’t taking any chances.
We spent the next month in the NICU and special care nursery as Hudson learned to breathe, eat and be a newborn baby. Because of the pandemic, no one was able to meet him, not even his big sister Ella. Covid meant that there were no mother’s groups, baby play time, trips to the park or socialising outside of the house for Hudson’s first eight months of life. Myself and some other mums from the NICU and special care nursery made a pact that, despite the pandemic separating us physically, we would support each other and stay in contact. That was what our mother’s group looked like: exchanging photos online and lots of chats. There were Zoom sessions with family who couldn’t meet Hudson in person. It was a bittersweet experience.
My life as a mother is one that I couldn’t have pictured in a thousand years, but it’s one I wouldn’t change. Ella and Hudson are best friends now and they get to learn about their big brother in the stars every day, sharing his clothes, toys and looking at photos of him. I am filled with an incredible sense of gratitude for my children and the joy they bring into my life every single day. My three babies have given me purpose and so much love, whether from far away on near, I feel like I am the luckiest mum in the world.
It is not easy being a mum of three under three, grieving our son, navigating Ella’s medical and therapy needs, and keeping up with Hudson. It is crazy, chaotic, happy, sad and all the things in between, but I love every single moment. I wake up every morning at 6.30am to two happy, beautiful children, chatting and giggling at each other in their cots, and that to me is everything.
Victoria Olsson is a mum of three, a social worker, and an advocate for stillbirth, mental health and Down Syndrome. Her daughter Ella is one of the very cute faces in our most recent Gro-To campaign!