Some of the funds raised in celebration of Hugo’s first birthday have enabled First Touch to buy some beautiful box sets of books for families to enjoy reading to their babies.
First Touch is the charity for sick and premature babies at St George’s Hospital, where my son was cared for.
Martin and I loved reading to Hugo in his incubator. Hugo loved it, too. Our son was comforted by the familiar sound of his parents’ voices in such an alien environment.
Reading to our boy gave us something constructive to do. As a parent of a premature baby, many hours were spent by our baby’s incubator, mostly feeling rather helpless. Reading stories to Hugo was something useful that we could do.
We learnt that research had suggested that reading to your premature baby helps aid their brain development. So, with all these benefits to be gained from reading to Hugo, we read to him a lot.
Despite being told the reading material didn’t matter – it could be the newspaper, or the phone directory for all Hugo cared (his parents’ voices were more important to him than the content) – we preferred to read children’s books to him. It felt right, and to be able to do such a ‘normal’ task as a parent felt comforting in a world that had been turned upside down.
Both Martin and I are bookworms, and we’d bought some beautiful boxed sets of classic children’s stories for the baby we were expecting. The trouble was, they were at home two hours away (I’d been transferred from my local hospital in Bedford to St George’s in south London, a specialist hospital better equipped for how sick both Hugo and I were).
A lovely friend had sent us a copy of Guess How Much I Love You. It’s a beautiful story, and absolutely perfect for Hugo and me. I read it again and again and again. Improvisations were made, the pictures were described, and comments made about them. There were a few children’s books in the parents’ room for visiting siblings, and we read them until we were well and truly bored of them, too.
We especially enjoyed reading the couple of Mr Men books from the parents’ room, though.
One of my fondest memories is, ironically, from the day that Hugo died. After we had received the news that there was no more hope for Hugo, I had an epic three hour cuddle with him, skin-to-skin. Daddy sat close by, and read to us. One of Martin’s favourites was the Animal Bop, which is a numbers and counting book made fun through rhyme (Daddy loves numbers; Mummy, not so much). On that day, Martin somehow managed to make reading the book sound very silly, which made me laugh. Hugo liked that, too, and I remember him boogying and kicking his feet against me. It made us feel like we were a proper family, for a few precious moments.
Hugo was buried with a selection of favourite Mr Men books: Mr Strong, Mr Brave, Mr Happy, and Mr Tickle. Martin and I read them to Hugo before leaving them with him.
The amount of money that was raised on the occasion of Hugo’s birthday exceeded our wildest expectations. There was lots of money over and above the original fundraising purpose (DVD players and headsets for information DVDs). While thinking about how the excess funds could be used in Hugo’s memory, I had a brainwave: to buy some box sets of classic children’s books for other parents to read to their babies. Hugo’s legacy could help other families enjoy such precious moments.
First Touch agreed. They ordered a box of Mr Men books, and the complete works of Beatrix Potter. There is a box each for the neonatal intensive care unit, which is where Hugo lived, and for the special care baby unit (they are part of the same ward, but in different units a short distance apart).
I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to everyone who has so generously donated to Hugo’s Legacy. The Just Giving page remains open. The money will continue to help sick and premature babies and their families, and we shall continue to keep you all up-to-date about how the funds raised are spent.