I started researching everything to do with babies, reading up on being a first-time mum and filling the cupboards with adorable babygrows.
One night, Jesse and I were eating dinner.
‘Before our baby is born, I want us to be a real family,’ he said.
‘What do you mean?’ I said.
‘Will you marry me?’ he asked nervously.
‘Of course, I will!’ I squealed.
We planned to get married as soon as possible, before the little one was born.
Our 20-week scan was coming up too, and I couldn’t wait to find out the gender.
As the appointment was a week before Jesse’s birthday, I wanted to tell him then as a surprise.
‘We’re about to find out the sex,’ the sonographer said.
‘Out you go,’ I winked at Jesse.
Once he’d left, she looked closely at the screen.
‘So, what are we having?’ I grinned with excitement.
‘The legs are crossed,’ she frowned. ‘I’ll need to check again later.’
Jesse came back into the room and she scanned again.
‘It’s a girl,’ she mouthed at me.
My head filled with thoughts of a daughter and I just wanted to take in everything about her, but when I looked, I noticed something I’d never seen before.
‘What’s that?’ I gasped, pointing to her stomach.
It looked like a huge sea urchin pouring from my little girl’s tummy.
‘I was hoping you wouldn’t see that,’ the sonographer admitted. ‘I’m not really supposed to say anything, but those are your baby’s intestines.’
Jesse burst into tears and I started to hyperventilate with the shock.
‘Don’t worry, her heart is fine and her brain looks great,’ she said.
‘You’ve given away the gender!’ I cried.
I didn’t really care but I was feeling overwhelmed.
‘What will we do?’ I cried on the journey home.
‘Everything is healthy, she’ll pull through,’ Jesse comforted me.
We immediately put our wedding plans on hold as our lives became a string of nervous hospital appointments.
The name of the condition our precious girl had is gastroschisis.
It meant her intestines were forming outside her body – she was inside out.
‘Can it be treated?’ I asked.
‘Usually, yes, but she has a rare form that means her body is too small, she will need a lot of operations,’ the doctor said.
I spent the rest of the pregnancy worrying and researching everything I could about the condition.
In April 2018, little Clarke arrived.
‘Is she alright?’ I cried as she was taken to intensive care.
Later that day, we were allowed to see her.
‘She’s been born with 90 per cent of her intestines and partial stomach outside,’ the nurse warned me.
Our tiny girl was attached to machines, but there was one thing I noticed above all else.
‘She’s beautiful!’ I breathed.
I hardly even saw the organs hanging from her body!
Clarke was kept in hospital as she had to have six surgeries.
Two of them resulted in a lot of complications and we almost lost her.
But our little fighter pulled through and with each operation, Clarke was successfully getting stitched back together.
After five months in hospital, we were transferred to a children’s hospital for her last surgery.
‘They have the best care unit for her condition,’ we were assured.
Just before she turned six months old, we were finally given some good news.
‘Clarke is doing great and we’re ready to discharge her,’ the doctor smiled.
‘She’s coming home!’ I cried.
As I showed her around, she giggled and gurgled.
‘This is where you live now,’ I cooed.
Her big sister, Kloe, was so happy and enjoyed lots of cuddles.
Going forward, Clarke will need monitoring and more operations, but she should be able to hit all the milestones like other kids her age.
She recently celebrated her first birthday and I call her my warrior.
She loves swimming and can get through two bowls of spaghetti in one sitting!
Clarke is the healthiest and happiest little girl and we are so lucky to have her in our lives.