Hannah: On Finding Strength To Fight For Her Daughter
Meet Hannah, mum to Vienna, a strong woman, fearless woman (and our CEO at Francesca), who fought the doubts of her doctors, overcame fear of adversity and found inner strength to fight for the daughter that she so knew would go on to be born healthy, resilient, courageous and so loved.
Q: Can you share a bit about your journey into motherhood?
“My journey into motherhood has been a wild ride. I was one of those people who always thought, ‘Children don’t change your life that much, she’ll just come along with me everywhere,’ then from the day I found out I was pregnant, my life changed forever.”
“In terms of pregnancy, I didn’t have the best pregnancy. I had morning sickness and struggled with not being my normal self and not being able to do everything I normally could. Then, along the journey we found out Vienna was going to be born special (in our eyes and everyone else’s) discovering she had an arm amputation from her elbow down on her right side, it was a huge transformation for me in terms of knowing I was going to have a baby that looked different to other people’s and how I would navigate that.”
Q: Talk us through what it was like when the doctor gave you news?
“Well we were going in for the 12 week scan, something I went into pretty naive about. We were sitting there in all our pregnancy bliss and as the lady was scanning me she hesitated a little bit, scanning back over an area again before she left the room. At that moment, my heart sank.”
“She came back in with a doctor and said we’re just a bit worried about the little one’s arm. It’s one of those moments you never ever forget, walking into that appointment I thought it wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary. So when they went to have a closer look, she said her arm was caught up around her shoulder, from the amniotic band, something I had never heard of. The band had wrapped around the arm, so the doctor said they were not sure what’s going to happen but that it may amputate her arm. You can imagine our world came crashing down, I was beside myself.”
Q: What emotions came up for you as a newly pregnant soon-to-be mum?
“I had a lot of emotions about what people were going to think initially in that moment, which makes me sad to reflect on now. I also went through the whole ‘Why me? Why can’t I have a normal pregnancy.’
I sat in the car and made the mistake of googling this syndrome. It can be a life threatening situation, so I ended up so distraught I was in bed for two days, feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t until my husband came to me one day and said, ‘Get up, you have to be strong for this little girl, she chose us for a reason, she’s going to be amazing.’ And the rest is history.”
Q: What was your journey like from that point of the pregnancy onwards?
“We didn’t know how bad her banding was, so we were referred to a place in Melbourne, the Foetal Management Unit, which sounds horrible. By then at 16 weeks her arm was amputated and they couldn’t find any bones in her arm. So a guy sat us down and asked, ‘Do you want to terminate this baby?’
I asked him, ‘Hang on, can you just clarify, is it just her arm? Is she going to be healthy and perfect otherwise?’ He said, ‘Well we can’t guarantee, but yes.’ In that moment, it broke my heart knowing society would deem someone with one arm not worthy of living. So, I said ‘100 per cent this baby chose us for a reason and we haven’t looked back!’’”
Q: Since then, what does being a mum to Vienna mean to you?
“Honestly, she is so special. Becoming a mum even at the best of times you’re in awe with the fact you grew a human and you are seeing them grow day by day and watching their brains explode with how much they learn. But for me, being Vienna’s mum, she makes me laugh all the time. She has so much determination and I think she has that for a reason. She doesn’t give up, she wants to try everything. Being her mum is amazing, I have got to see her adapt and see how anything is possible. She can pull her pants up with one arm, she can build lego, maneuver things around like crazy and she just shows me when you set your mind to something you can do anything.”
Q: What else has Vienna taught you as a mum?
“When she was a baby we took her to the physio and they said it might take her until she is two to walk because she’s missing an arm, it will be harder for her to balance. And yet there she was up and walking at one. So I guess one thing she has taught me is to not pressure her to do anything, she is so keen to figure out her own way to do stuff and to let her feel like she can do anything.”
“I am now looking at getting her a little attachment for a bike from a cool foundation called the Limbo Foundation that makes them for kids with limb differences. So I guess yeah, knowing she feels normal and that it’s usually us adults or others that carry judgement or are shocked seeing her arm.
It’s more me who gets sad, but I try to get her excited about what her little arm can do and love on it pretty damn hard.”
Q: What does Mother’s Day mean to you now?
“It means so much more to me these past few years than it ever did. I never realised what a sacrifice it is to be a mum, even though it’s the best feeling in the world, you do lose the part of your independence you had before babies and I feel like that should be celebrated. The sacrifices mum’s make all over the world every day for their children and the upcoming generation is insane - we really need a Mother’s Day week!”