Singer-songwriter Lily Allen has confessed that she was terrified when her eldest daughter, 2-year-old Ethel, was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
Lily and husband Sam Cooper discovered that Ethel was born with laryngomalacia – an illness that makes it hard for a baby to be fed and even to breathe. Ethel ended up having to be fed through a tube for the first 7 months of her life.
The condition affects the baby’s larynx and throat, and can lead to blockage of the airways.
Speaking on the Desert Island Discs show on Radio 4, the mum-of-2 described with a lot of emotion the nature of her daughter’s condition.
“She was working so hard to breathe, just to exist, really. She just wasn’t gaining any weight at all because all of the food she was taking on, she was just expending the energy on this breathing process,” she told presenter Kirsty Young.
The ‘Hard Out Here’ singer revealed that Ethel had two operations, had lost a lot of weight and as a result, she’d become “neurotic” about her growth.
“I was practically force-feeding her, because every time the doctor came over they would say ‘oh she’s lost another 50g’. I couldn’t really see it because I was with her the whole time.”
Little Ethel didn’t fully recover until she was around 8 months. The 2-year-old is now, in her mum’s words, “absolutely fine”, but her illness is still a difficult subject for Lily. She revealed how she’d found the situation particularly difficult as she’d previously had a late miscarriage, causing her to lose her unborn baby son.
“I was so scared of losing her. I think that was the toughest thing because all I wanted to do was to breastfeed her, sit there in my chair with her and spend those precious hours into the night looking after your child,” she said.
“Because of what had happened before, with my previous [baby], it was just a really tough time.”