Sofia came into the world at 8.30pm on 11th February 2008. I have sometimes wondered if her lateness in entering the world was because she knew her life in the outside world was going to be very short.
She spent her first night in the Special Baby Care Unit of Homerton Hospital, hooked up to various machines and monitors. She was surrounded by other babies, all of whom had been born prematurely. They were all tiny, fragile bundles, fighting to stay alive. I’d never seen babies so small in real life before. Sofia was 3.5kgs; she looked like a healthy, chubby newborn baby ready to begin life. Yet, of all the babies in the room, it was she who had no hope of living.
The next morning we talked to the doctor who was taking care of Sofia. All the previous night I searched for any scrap of hope while, at the same time, being unable to take in what had happened (normal shock and denial, I guess). As the doctor talked us through the results of the tests and monitoring they’d carried out, my brain was really only listening for positive things, waiting to hear some tiny message of hope I could cling on to. But I wasn’t hearing any. The one phrase the doctor said that’s still engraved in my memory is, “When she dies…”. Not ‘if’, but ‘WHEN’.
We decided to take Sofia off life support that afternoon. There was no way of knowing how long she’d live… minutes, hours or days. We started taking photos, lots of photos, most of which I still haven’t looked at.
After it became evident that Sofia wasn’t going to stop breathing immediately, we were able to all move into a private area just off the ward which had a bedroom, small kitchenette and sitting area. This is where the three of us lived for the next three days, with the wonderful nurses and doctors coming to check on all of us there. In the bedroom we were able to take care of Sofia. We changed her nappy, we changed her clothes, we did some of the things all parents have to do. As her heart beat slower and slower, and her breathing became more shallow, we talked to her, sang to her and played her music.
Sofia died at 4.30pm on 14th February 2008.