Here, Danielle Hockley, 37, from the Sunshine Coast, Qld, tells the story in her own words...
S￼cooping up the food, I turned to my two boys Cooper, three, and Alex, two.
‘Here comes the airplane,’ I smiled, feeding Cooper.
After he’d gobbled it up, I put the spoon in my mouth.
‘Yummy, some for you too Alex,’ I said, scraping up another mouthful for him.
If our hands weren’t full enough already, my hubby Jack and I were also expecting a baby girl.
Between home and my job in family daycare, I felt like I was constantly cleaning sticky-fingered toddlers and wiping snotty noses!
But I loved it and we were so excited about our third little addition.
At 37 weeks, we went in for a routine check-up, but when the doctor wrapped the measuring tape around my belly, her face dropped.
‘Your bump should be a lot bigger,’ she said.
That doesn’t sound good, I worried.
When the doctor referred me to a specialist, I remained hopeful that our baby was just a tiny princess and there was nothing more to it.
But when the results came back it was bad news.
‘We have found calcification on the baby’s brain,’ the specialist said. ‘We need to bring her out now.’
Then they’d do more tests to confirm what it meant.
I was booked in for an induction in two days’ time, then I phoned Jack.
‘I’m sure it’s nothing,’ I said to him.
But Jack jumped straight online to research the condition.
‘Don’t tell me!’ I said, not wanting to know.
When Keira was born, she weighed just 2.02 kilos.
‘You are my tiny princess,’ I cooed.
Two days later, the doctors shared the results of her brain tests.
‘Keira has congenital cytomegalovirus,’ the doctor told us.
CMV is a common virus spread by bodily fluids, but if caught while pregnant, it can cause huge impacts on brain development in the baby in the womb.
The doctor explained that I could have caught CMV from anything like sharing food and spoons with my boys or cleaning up snotty tissues at work.
It could even have been passed on by kissing the kids.
Because the virus affects everyone differently, doctors weren’t sure what it meant for our girl.
‘She might never walk,’ they told us.
Is this my fault? I broke down.
The doctor was still talking, saying that Keira might also be deaf, lose her sight, have cerebral palsy and be intellectually disabled.
But cradling her, I tuned out their prediction for my daughter’s future.
For the next few weeks, she had lots of tests.
Then Jack and I took her for yet another hearing exam.
‘We will start loud and turn the noise softer to see where her hearing diminishes,’ the specialist explained.
A loud beep filled the room and I gazed down at my sleeping girl in my arms.
She didn’t even stir as the piercing sound echoed around the walls.
She’s deaf, I realised, my heart tearing in two.
‘There’s nothing we can’t tackle together,’ Jack said, squeezing my hand.
Keira had a hearing aid and a cochlear implant fitted and at nine months, we returned to the specialist to have it turned on.
‘Hi, pretty girl,’ I said to my little angel.
Suddenly, Keira’s head turned and she gazed into my eyes, a gummy grin stretching across her face.
‘Her first smile!’ I said, tears filling my eyes.
As Keira grew, she was a little delayed in hitting her milestones, but she was such a happy bub we never questioned it too much.
She loved zooming around in her baby walker, her little legs kicking underneath.
When she outgrew it, Jack got busy in his shed sticking together PVC pipes and slathering on hot pink paint.
Giggling, Keira adored her new wheels that Daddy built.
When we went camping Jack got busy again adding thick tyres on her frame.
‘So you can go off road!’ he joked to our girl.
It was all worth it to see Keira’s big smile.
She couldn’t speak, but she had regular physio.
Then, just before her third birthday, Keira and I were getting home from shopping.
I was fumbling with my keys in one hand, while holding her up with the other.
Just then, she pushed away my hand and waddled through the door.
‘Grab the camera!’ I screamed to Cooper.
Our brave girl was walking – unassisted! Bursting into tears, I was so proud.
Cooper, now six, and Alex, five, cheered too.
Once Keira started walking, we couldn’t stop her either! A few weeks later, we took her to a shopping centre and she ran about, laughing.
‘Look how proud she is,’ I beamed. ‘You can see it in her eyes.’
Keira is non-verbal at the moment and we aren’t sure whether our girl will ever be able to speak.
But we aren’t giving up yet.
Now I’m sharing our story to raise awareness.
Please, when you are pregnant, stop sharing your children’s food and utensils or popping their dummies in your mouth.
For us, the future is so uncertain. But what is certain is how much we love our little girl.
WHAT IS CMV?
CMV is a strain of herpes which can be spread by bodily fluids. It affects everyone differently but often impacts hearing, sight, movement and mental development. Pregnant women are recommended to take steps to reduce their risk of exposure to CMV:
• Wash hands often with soap, especially after changing nappies, blowing noses, feeding a young child, and handling toys and dummies.
• Don’t share food, drinks, toothbrushes or eating utensils with young children.
• Use detergent and water to clean toys and any surfaces that come into contact with any child’s secretion.