Behind the Seams - The Design of our latest print range
Come rain or Come Shine - Getting through the hard times
This is a deeply personal blog post, one that I really swithered over writing. Was it relevant? Was I over-sharing? Would it open up the very tearful can of worms that I carried with me for the whole of the summer of 2019, and then COVID 19 happened and I decided to write it.
On the 27th of April 2007 our 3rd baby was born, a whopping 10lb 1 oz healthy boy, or so we thought. Overnight he deteriorated and was rushed up to Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow for emergency heart surgery. The tube that connected his little walnut sized heart to his lungs was missing and he had a hole in it too. It was truly horrific and was the first time I fully understood what having a broken heart feels like. Oops, memories are flooding back and the tears are pricking…better move on.
Last May he had what we thought was a virus. It started with a temperature, then he seemed to have a cold, then he got better, then he got worse so we took him to the docs who reassured us it was just a virus, but it wasn’t. It was endocarditis, an infection in the heart that is fatal if untreated.
He was immediately transferred by ambulance to Royal Hospital for Children Glasgow and started a 6-week course of IV antibiotics. We expected him to get better fairly quickly but it wasn't at all straightforward. After 2 weeks of daily temperature spikes, blood tests, blocked cannulas, heart scans and ECGs the docs broke the news to us that the bacteria were gathering little clumps in one of his heart vessels causing it to narrow resulting his heart beginning to enlarge. He was going to have to have open-heart surgery to repair it. I absolutely fell to bits. He has had open-heart surgery before and you would think I was used to it but it doesn't work that way for me though, it meant I knew what was coming and that made it all the worse. Plus the fact that he had endocarditis made the risks from surgery so much higher. We were all terrified.
There are many advantages of owning your own business but having to still be responsible and steer the ship when one of your kids is seriously ill isn't one of them. The brief deadline for TotsBots Spring 2020 Elements was looming and usually I would spend a bit of time contemplating my ideas before preparing the brief for the designer, but being creative is hard when your head is full of stress, and it’s actually impossible when you are terrified your child might die. I was barely functioning; staying overnight on the ward with him then going into work was really taking its toll. I cried every day and lay awake every night willing my mind to shut up showing me all the bad stuff.
I remember sitting one very dreary day looking out of the window, knot in stomach, jumble in head, watching the raindrops run down the pane, it wasn't lost on me that they were just like my tears, big, fat and never-ending. My cruel mind was momentarily mesmerized and it let in enough light for a tiny spark of inspiration to grow…”That would make a nice print” it said and a glimmer of an idea for the Elements range was born.
I still had fears that it was a bit of a negative theme, cue cruel mind stepping in again “Why are you planning three prints about rain? What are you thinking? We should be shouting about the joyful arrival of spring blah blah “ but our boy’s open heart surgery was looming and I didn't have any more time “Oh go on then, just add some rainbows and be done with it!” I was off the hook. Little could I have known how relevant a range based on rain would become.
Back to COVID 19. We lived with a very real threat to health for a member of our family for the whole of summer 2019. Our boy spent a total of 9 weeks in hospital and our lives were on hold for all of that time. There were a lot of very dark and worrying days. He spent 3 of those weeks in isolation; he didn't go to school; he never saw any of his friends; we kept people who had any sign of illness away; WFH usually means work from home, for us it meant Work From Hospital; our family holiday was cancelled, there were no visits to the cinema, no family walks or family meals out, no spending time with friends, we were on our own mini lockdown. People keep telling us we were so strong, we weren’t, we didn't have a choice, we just had to get on with it and in the end the simple things got us through, they always do.
It’s the friend who sends a box of home made chocolate brownies and tablet to the ward; the friend who facetimes from a beach in Barcelona to share the lunar eclipse; your team at work having a whip round and donating to the hospital charity; the teacher who WhatsApp you on a daily basis and sends you a movie of the kids saying goodbye on the last day of school. More than anything it's the hug from the staff nurse as you wander around the ward at 4 am on surgery day unable to sleep. We owe our son’s life to the team at Royal Hospital for Children, many more people will owe their lives to the amazing NHS staff in the coming weeks. They are truly amazing human beings and we can never quite find the words to communicate fully our gratitude to them.
Like everyone else during these uncertain times, we are focusing on staying safe, slowing down and looking forward to the days when our kids can play together in the park without fear of getting too close, when we can grab our wellies, run outside on a whim and splash in the rain. The fact is good health or bad, we never know when our time on this earth will be over, in the meantime we just need to keep looking for the rainbows, appreciate the simple things in life, and be kind to ourselves, it really is the best way through.
This print range, created when my heart was full of love, fear and rain celebrates all of these things and is dedicated to our boy Darach, who when he was 3 used to call raindrops, rainplops and rainbows, rainboats. We will never cease to be grateful for your presence, tolerance and ever-enduring smile, come rain or come shine.
Love you with all our hearts
Mum and Dad