Like many first-time parents, we were full of optimism, apprehension and excitement for the new chapter of our lives that was just about to start. We hoped and prayed that everything was going to be fine and that we would have a healthy baby in our arms come delivery day, but nothing could have prepared us for what really lay ahead.
The day Layla arrived into the world, we were overcome with love. This little bundle had come into our lives and stolen our hearts completely. From the outset, she seemed to be a perfectly healthy baby, but as a mother I had a sense that something wasn't right and as the days rolled by, she began to show signs that this beautiful baby was hiding a deadly secret from us.
The weeks that followed were turbulent and became a blur of hospital admissions, tests and waiting, but all the time we remained hopeful for some good news. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in February when the consultant gave us the news that was going to destroy our lives.
''Your baby is going to die and there is nothing that can be done to save her.''
In that one devastating moment, time seemed to stand still. All the hope that we were holding onto was ripped away in an instant and we were left with nothing, apart from the certainty that we were going to bury our daughter. It's a hell that we wouldn't wish on anyone. Ever.
You find yourself desperately searching for solutions, wishing to take her place and all the time looking at this perfect baby asking ''Why? Why is this happening?''.
As parents you are tasked with protecting your children, caring and loving them without compromise. When you get news that you are going to watch your child die, that all hope is lost, the guilt and the sorrow is overwhelming. The only thing left is to simply love them even more. We thought it was impossible to love her more, but we did. Something magical happens - love grows stronger and faster than you thought imaginable to flood the gaps that hope has left behind. We loved and still love with such intensity because that is all we can do. When all you want to do is run away, love draws you closer still and you try to prepare for what is to come but the truth is that nothing can prepare you for life after that news.
Layla didn't make her first birthday like the doctors suggested she might, but died 6 days after we received the diagnosis that Gaucher Disease II was going to steal her away from us. It was as if she waited for us to know the truth and then she could just let go.
Layla Mae Cotter was 70 days, 3 hours and 1 minute old when she fell asleep in our arms.
Her part in our lives has changed us completely and for such a small lifetime, she had such an impact on us and everyone around us. Knowing her and loving her is a cruel blessing. We miss her totally. We carry the heartache with us every day, everywhere, all the time.
The charity is Layla's legacy, to help others who need it. We can't change things for families who suffer the same fate, but we can help with the mundane things such as financial aid, or providing a place to sleep whilst they deal with the most important thing - their child.
In memory of Layla - 19.12.2010 - 27.02.2011