Yesterday was surreal. But for the first time in a year, it was surreal in the most wonderful way. The day before I was standing in the bedroom of my filthy new house, wondering how on earth we could get it clean enough for our tiny, poorly baby to come home to; and today I’m standing in my sparkling new home, absolutely blown away by how kind and generous people can be to a total stranger.
To back up a bit – our son, Nate, was diagnosed with a serious heart defect while I was pregnant. Serious, but fixable. Things became suddenly much more complicated when he was born by emergency caesarian at 31 weeks, weighing just 2lbs 7.5oz. He spent seven weeks in hospital before we could bring him home, and although he was being closely monitored his heart was doing well and it was just a matter of getting him as big as possible before surgery. Shortly after Christmas it became clear that his heart was slowly failing – his weight gain was faltering, he was too tired to feed properly, and he started to go blue if he cried too much. He was admitted to hospital in early February to have an NG tube fitted so we could feed him directly into his stomach when he was too tired to eat, and his heart surgery was scheduled for the end of the month.
In the meantime, we were moving! We’d sold our flat and put in an offer on a house the week before Nate was born, but delays meant the processed stalled for months – at the beginning of February (before knowing Nate’s surgery date) we moved out of our flat and in with my Mum, putting all our belongings in storage and anticipating being into our new home within a few weeks.
As it was, it all happened at once. Nate had his op on the Monday, and we got the keys on the Friday – with our furniture scheduled to arrive just a few days later. The only catch? It was filthy. Really, really dirty. The previous owners had kept birds and there were droppings on the walls. There was thick dust on the skirting boards, mouldy curtains, house stunk of dog, and everywhere just felt grim.
Usually, we’d just get stuck in and sort it out as we went – but Nate’s health was precarious and he was just too vulnerable to come home to a place like this. Ian & I were taking it in turns to stay at the hospital with Nate, and I thought if we could just get a bedroom, the kitchen & the bathroom clean enough then we could live in one room and work on the rest – so I came over with my Mum’s carpet shampooer to get started.
I figured I’d do the stairs too, but didn’t have the right attachments – so I posted in MGF’s Facebook group asking if anyone local had the right fittings. I mentioned Nate because I needed a child link to post it there – and I really was feeling incredibly worried & stressed about how we could get this house clean enough.
Some people made useful suggestions – using a steam cleaner, or hiring a proper machine cheaply – but then Helen saw my post and things started snowballing! Chris Cloke had offered to clean her carpets for free and she asked if he would clean mine instead. Then she posted herself asking for people to help me – offers started flooding in; Mums volunteering to clean, professionals offering their services for free, people even wanting to give money! Within hours there was an army poised to descend on our house to scrub it from top to bottom. Just then I got a phone call from Ian – Nate was ready to come home after just a week in hospital. Rather than despairing, I was now standing in my filthy house in floods of happy tears at how kind people are and how wonderful the world is!
Nate came home to my Mum’s, and it was magical to have him back. Then yesterday morning I got up bright & early to open up for the MGF Army – and it was just staggering! Mums who couldn’t stay dropped off cakes & cleaning supplies, some brought their kids to help, several Mums were even getting stuck in with their babies in slings on their chests. Chris had already done the carpets and Matt from HG Oven Clean made short work of the range.
Many hands really do make light work – within six hours the grime was gone and our home was transformed. No more bird poo! We’d emptied the hoover six times of dog hair just from downstairs, and countless cloths & wipes had been sacrificed to make our house safe for Nate to live in.
I was really shocked when this story started going viral – we were fielding calls from the evening news and The One Show as well as Good Morning Britain; my phone was going bananas with all the messages & notifications – I’ve never been so popular!
I was overcome with how generous and kind everyone has been – and what could’ve been an even more stressful & difficult time has become a wonderful new start for us.
And now; now I’m standing in the dining room listening to Helen being interviewed on live TV while even more Mums do even more cleaning, and I’m waiting to talk to Piers Morgan live on Good Morning Britain about this amazing occurrence. The power of the Gin Fund really is astonishing!!
UPDATE: a week on and we’re beginning to get settled in – there’s still a lot of boxes around and we’ve yet to begin the task of rectifying some of the truly terrible DIY, but it feels like home now and we’re so incredibly grateful to the MGF members who came to our rescue. The story was in the Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Mirror as well as the local paper; and national magazines have shown interest in covering it too – it all seemed rather over the top for little us and our grubby house! Having said that, I can understand why – there’s not often a lot of good news in this world and the kindness shown to us was certainly something worth shouting about!
We’ve still got offers we’ve yet to take up – baby massage for Nate, carpentry, decorating – people have been amazing generous! Nate is doing wonderfully as well, his development has skyrocketed since the op and he’s a very happy little boy. MGF has given us such an amazing start to this chapter in our lives – I can’t thank people enough!