Today as I write here in Australia, it is AFL Grand Final day – a huge day for Melbourne. For us, personally, it is 6 months to the day since our beautiful baby girl, Lily, passed away. Yesterday, I took the day off and had a fantastic day at the Reach Foundation Ladies Lunch – a special pre-Grand Final lunch to celebrate women. It was fantastic to support a great charity that helps young people get the most out of life. It was a huge amount of fun and an inspiration for our own fund raising activities.
In my last post I spoke about the day my waters unexpectedly broke. As Pete left the hospital that night, to prepare for Ironman Melbourne (3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, 42.2km run) the next day, I was left to try and make sense of the most draining, and emotional day of our lives. Lily and I were stable and receiving the best care possible – every few hours I was given antibiotics to prevent infection, as Lily was no longer protected by the amniotic fluid. I continued taking antibiotics every few hours through the night.
My Mum was booked on a flight to Melbourne, arriving on Monday (24th) morning. They live in Wanganui in the North Island of New Zealand, but when my waters broke they were in the South Island on their way to the Maadi Cup (NZ Secondary School Rowing Championships) – the biggest rowing regatta in the Southern Hemisphere (My Dad is a Head Coach of a Nga Tawa Diocesan School and Wanganui High School).
Of course travelling internally in your own country, you don’t take your passport. So when Pete made the incredibly difficult call to them to let them know my waters had broken, they were unable to hop straight on a plane. My Mum was in Ashburton (an hour below Christchurch) and my Dad was in Twizel (around 3.5 hours below Christchurch). Fortunately with the help of some amazing friends, Mum was booked on a flight from Christchurch to Melbourne on Monday morning. Another family friend was able to break into Mum and Dads house, get her passport and ride on his motorbike from Wanganui to Christchurch and hand deliver it to her. Dad had to make an extremely difficult decision – travel back to Christchurch and get on a flight, or continue with his job and be there for his students, in the most important week of the rowing season. He knew Mum would be with me, so stayed with his athletes, in what must have been one of the hardest decisions he has had to make.
Pete stayed the night at Pat’s, where he was well fed and managed to get a few hours sleep. The race started shortly after 7am in Frankston so Pete was awake at about 4:30am. We spoke and I let him know Lily and I were OK, and I could tell he was more motivated, emotionally charged and ready to race than ever before. During the race whenever he had a low point or was in pain, he thought of Lily, and she helped him through the low points. During the bike leg, our friends visited me in hospital and we were all able to track Pete’s, and their husbands progress during the race. They brought incredibly thoughtful gifts for my hospital stay: books, gossip magazines, food, dry shampoo, and even some sparkling purple slippers (thank you Jess). During the run Pete had constant feedback from those friends who had been to see me and were now back on the course telling him about how I was doing, and they in turn relayed his progress back to me.
It had been very difficult for Pete to keep his emotions in check during the day, and as he ran down the finish chute, he was finally able to let them out, crossing the line in tears in 9hrs 37mins, a 21 minute personal best.
Once he had recovered, eaten and showered, he drove to the hospital that evening with his finisher’s medal, holding it aloft and clenching his fist in triumph as I watched him walk into the hospital from the window. I was smiling from ear to ear, and after what had been the single worst day of our lives, Sunday was one of the best – an incredibly positive experience for both of us, and one we will never forget. I’m so glad we decided Pete should race. Whilst the battle Lily and I were having was inspiration for him, the way he never gave up, raced in incredibly difficult circumstances and managed to set a huge personal best was, and continues to be incredibly inspirational to me.
Pete left his finishers medal with me that night, not only so I could show all the midwives, but as symbol of what you can achieve when you never give up.