She stopped breathing twice. Relied on a nebuliser to make it through most days. Saw numerous specialists, had countless invasive tests, and endured endless emergency hospitalizations.
All the while, "Here we go again" playing punchbag with my heart.
By then, although Sweet Sam, her older brother, was still largely undiagnosed, the common consensus with the experts favoured faulty genes for his mental and physical "delays". (Of course, this genetic speculation only came two months after Beccy's conception. With hindsight I'm glad, as had we known prior I doubt we would've been brave enough to try for a third child - but back then our entire world caved in.)
See, with Sam it was only beginning to dawn on us these weren't delays, not really. "Delay" infers arriving late, doesn't it? Just an interruption, a longer than expected journey between the start to the finish line. 'Twas bloody callous holding out such hope, implying as it did to me I could actually make it all better, if only I could be a good enough, focused enough, intense enough, loving enough, worthy mother to him.
So when Beccy developed serious health issues, and also began to miss those critical milestones, I guess t'was only a natural assumption for us to fear for the worst, that it was happening all over again. I asked if Beccy would have a shortened life-span, the doctors shrugged and scratched their heads. It took four long, agonizing days before the results of the sweat tests came back clear. She didn't, thank God, have Cystic Fibrosis after all, and neither did Sam. Check another one of their so many terrifying stabs-in-the-dark off the list.
It's hard to laugh and play, with a permanent rattle in your chest, when you're always short of breath and too tired to eat. Especially if most foods hurt your tummy, and usually make you puke up. Minor things such as toileting and speech do tend to be placed on hold, to the back burner.
(Don't please DON'T lecture or advise me on food allergies and intolerances; aside from having a qualified dietician for an irritatingly knowledgeable big sister, I have completely lost patience over time with all the well meaning Numpties who think I haven't already written the book, designed and modeled the t-shirt, as well as stocked the whole buggerin' gluten/lactose/additive-free bakery with all that stuff!)
So yes, she was VERY ill.
But a fighter.
With her frequent absences, she struggled with missing out on so much at school, and had to run just to barely keep pace with her class. She didn't have many friends, as she wasn't as able or as energetic as her peer group to be socially interactive with them. Thank goodness Abby had arrived (hubby having foolishly postponed his scheduled vasectomy until AFTER running the London marathon one particular year, and YES, upon receiving the news 'tis true, all our friends and family thought we were stark raving bonkers, and nothing short of certifiably insane - which probably wasn't too far from the truth. At that point, my dad, with terminal lung cancer, had just moved in).
The foundation educational stepping stones Beccy had missed out on, were soon, via Abby, able to be re-visited again. They BOTH read to me from the self same books, tallied their numbers, and learned Abby's homework together.
Ever so slowly Beccy began to catch up. Miraculously, she also strengthened. The hospital trips lessened, her tummy became more tolerant, and her breathing difficulties not only gradually improved, eventually, over time they inexplicably near vanished clean away.
Far from overnight, and sure, she had her set backs, even to this day she still often needs her inhalers, but overall, each passing year proved a blessing.
Now here's the thing - Beccy not only moved forward, she actually began to scholastically over-take some of her class mates.
Better still, she also took to sports like a cheetah does to running - and eventually excelled to become a key member of virtually every "A" team at school. She currently holds her sporting "colours", one of only four girls in her year awarded such an honor.
Academically, she is brighter than her sib's, though Matt, the eldest, is much more competitive, works far harder, and usually achieves the better grades. Beccy coasts, doing enough to gain merit, but not anywhere near enough to break out in a sweat. She's "Miss Popularity", a constant chatter-box, and the elected Head Girl of her school House.
I can't even find fault with her boyfriend (hard as I've tried). He's a dream - polite, easy-going, set for university next term; a tall, handsome rugby-playing Adonis, who obviously worships the ground he believes she floats above - and the feeling appears mutual, they have known each other for years, went to the same school, share the same friends, and, as far as I can tell, haven't exchanged so much as a cross word between them, not in the entire 18 months they've been together.
Oh, don't get me wrong, she knows better than any how to push all my buttons, and often drives me to complete and demented distraction like as in when the boyfriend was stuck last month, in a Vietnam hospital with his exploded appendix, and she blithely gave herself permission to run us up a nice phone bill totaling over £300).
But all that aside, just look at her - she's happy, she's healthy, and appears nothing short of positively thriving. What parent in their right mind could ask more?
(From a spoof fabric conditioner ad she recently shot)
Yes, I am stunned, proud and often utterly amazed at how far my fearless eldest daughter has managed to travel, especially considering the awful start she had to life.
And as sweet coincidence would have it, it just so happens to be her lovely birthday come the morn..
Happy 17th, Dearest, Beautiful Beccy