Emma.

[An introduction]

You’ve probably clicked on this post for one of three reasons:

  1. You’re thinking this blog is going to be about the Jane Austen favourite “Emma”. Well it isn’t, sorry about that.
  2. Your name is Emma and you’re curious to know why I’m writing a blog post entitled with your name.
  3. You’re genuinely wondering why this post is named Emma and you have nothing better to do except roam this website reading random blog posts made by strangers.

Well, never mind the reason why you’re reading this post, and allow me to explain why I am writing it.

When I was 11 I found out that my favourite Uncle and his wife were having a baby. I was so excited because I’m an only child and I wasn’t brought up around babies, and so this was going to be the very first baby I was fully aware to hold and love.

For the full 9 months of my Aunt’s pregnancy my parents and I bought gifts of every kind for the unborn child – completely excited beyond belief that my Uncle was finally having the child he’d always dreamed about. They found out they were having a baby girl and began rifling through the mass of names to choose from.

So you can say that for the entire pregnancy everyone was pretty damn buzzing for this baby Princess to arrive.

I can’t remember exactly when I found out; but I remember there being a huge hush around when my Uncle called my mum to explain his baby daughter had been born.

I’m not even sure how they broke the news to me, it feels as though it’s always just been a given with my baby cousin, and I’ve never really had some “ordeal” to get over or some “trauma” to accept.

My mum still talks about the phone call she had with her younger brother when he called to tell her the good news. He said to her,
“Nette, the baby is here. She’s only got three toes on one foot but she’s still perfect.”

Basically, my Uncle’s beautiful baby girl was born with a condition which they named at the time to be Talipes (AKA: Club Foot). If you haven’t heard of this condition; just like I hadn’t; then I’ll explain it for you. Basically Talipes can occur in one or both feet, and is usually when the ankle is violently twisted toward the body, making the person look as though they are walking on their ankle.

So, here was this beautiful baby girl who had done no harm to man nor beast, who had been long awaited and wished for, who was born with this visually alarming and physically disabling condition; for no apparent rhyme nor reason.

Of course her parents were devastated, as were mine. I, however, didn’t really think of the devastation or the upset. I just thought of this beautiful baby girl, who didn’t appear to be in any pain or torture, who simply curled in my arms peacefully asleep; and I vowed that I would always love and protect her; no matter what happened.

It’s a bit like in that movie; “The Santa Clause” where Saint Nick’s brother, Fred, makes a promise to always be the best big brother ever, and still carries it out centuries later. I know, a completely random comparison, nevertheless it’s the truth.

Whenever I looked at Emma, I’d remember that first time in the hospital when I held her, and I wouldn’t see her deformity, I wouldn’t see her plaster cast in latter years or feel the splint under her cute little tights. Nope, instead I’d see this beautiful little miracle who turned me into a better person; who made me into a big Sister.

As I got older and Emma grew alongside me; her condition proving to be more and more complicated the taller and broader she became; the more I learned about her condition, and the more I learned of her circumstances.

When my Aunt was in labour; there was a lot of complications. It wasn’t an easy birth, and she had to have an Epidural to help. Finally, when she did give birth; the midwife wrapped Emma up in a little blanket and grinned excitedly, passing her to my Auntie while saying, “There you go, a healthy baby girl. Ten fingers, ten toes, absolutely perfect.”

Of course as soon as my Aunt took her baby into her arms she felt something wasn’t quite right under the blanket. As soon as she looked at her daughter; her deformity wasn’t only visible; but completely and utterly terrifying. She began to panic, wanting to do anything to help her baby with ten fingers and eight toes. Yes, she would always be perfect to us, but seven toes and a severe deformity wasn’t what was defined as “a perfect baby”.

And that’s when questions began to occur.

How did this happen? Was it hereditary? Did it happen in the womb? Can it be healed? Can it be detected? Could there have been a way to prevent it? Why wasn’t it found in one of the umpteen ultrasound scans? Why didn’t the midwife spot it at birth?

And so it was; the seemingly endless list of questions started as soon as Emma’s miracle of a life began. Which is quite sad really, how an innocent little girl can have so many questions without even the knowledge that something wasn’t quite right.

  1. How did it happen? 
    The short answer? We still don’t know.
  2. Is it hereditary?
    It could be. Because of my Aunt’s adopted background, we can’t trace the condition on her side, but there appears to be an absence on my Uncle’s side.
  3. Did it happen in the womb?
    It’s unlikely, but because of my Aunt’s stressful pregnancy; that can’t be entirely ruled out.
  4. Can it be healed?
    No. Emma’s condition will worsen as she gets older.
  5. Can it be detected?
    In the womb? Yes. At birth? Yes. In person? Sometimes. This depends on several factors.
  6. Could there have been a way to prevent it?
    Because we don’t know how it happened; this question can’t really be answered.
  7. Why wasn’t it found on one of the umpteen ultrasound scans? 
    This is a question we’ve been asking for eight years now; a question we still haven’t had answered; and a question which then leads to so many others.
  8. Why didn’t the midwife spot it at birth?
    This, we really have no answer to. Why she claimed my Aunt had a “perfect baby with ten fingers and ten toes” when even a person without the blessing of sight would be able to detect little newborn baby Emma’s condition.

The hospital in which Emma was born has been known for many years by it’s lack of efficiency, security, safety, and severe lack of procedure. However, because it had been several years since a member of the family had a baby at that hospital, my Aunt and Uncle gave it the benefit of the doubt. That and the fact they weren’t able to travel to any of the other maternity hospitals Glasgow – or the surrounding areas – has to offer.

So, with the knowledge of the hospital’s history in mind; it really is heart-wrenching whenever you look at Emma when she’s struggling on her bad days; knowing she’d give anything to have “a normal leg” (as she calls it). Emma always has been, and always will be perfect to me; as long as she’s happy, so am I. I hate to see her suffering, and she really is like a little sister to me.

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