Like a lot of people, I have a brilliant knack of putting on a brave front. I am well versed in smiling through upset and am the first person to crack a joke to alleviate the tears and plum stone sized lump that well up in the eyes and throat. As a result, not many people know that (as I prepare to have our second son in a matter of a few weeks time) I am plagued by a couple of really horrible memories. Memories of a not so nice feeling and circumstance that I am desperately hoping will not be repeated.
BB's labour and birth were fine, despite the fact they were taking place 5 weeks earlier than planned. I handled it. I had an epidural, brilliant midwives and a great supporter in PB who didn't leave my side for an instant. Literally... at one point he was asleep on my arm. Ha!
The first horrible memory was from when BB came out and was placed on my chest. Everyone was cheering, congratulating and cleaning up the abattoir that was my nether regions. But I knew something was wrong. He wasn't able to cry properly, was visibly struggling and hadn't turned pink. So I pleaded with my midwife Chloe to help him and actually threw him into her arms, partly with urgency, partly through panic. That's when I noticed there were a whole team of serious looking doctors and nurses waiting by a crash trolley in the corner of the room. They place BB onto it, and wheeled him next to my bedside so I could hold his hand with my little finger.
That little hand was so perfect. And it gripped onto my finger so tightly, sending little electric shock waves of pure joy alongside pure fear through my body like tiny thunder bolts. I focussed on that hand wrapped around my finger whilst the doctors and nurses worked on him with breathing apparatus and suction machines. I made note of each little fold and crevice, lingering on the shape and curve of each fingernail because I was so worried that I would lose who they belonged to and atleast this way I would know what his hands looked like. Then I heard a voice say that they were taking him upstairs to neonatal to give him a helping hand and suddenly, he was being wheeled away and his grip on my finger was gone. That is my second bad memory.
My third happened a full five days on from the second. Some would think that sitting on a neonatal unit would bring about many more than three bad memories, but truthfully I can't say any others are particularly prevalent in my mind's eye. Of course, there were the sad moments after each visit when I had to leave the unit and trudge back to my bed on the maternity ward alone. Or the times I woke up to other babies crying in the night and wished it was my own calling for me. A baby's cry is such a poignant thing. Once so much so that upon the third day, hearing one caused my milk to flood in and it was desperately sad to have no little mouth to latch on to. But those were mere moments. The third memory is more than that. It is an experience that will haunt and that has shaped me into the mother I am now.
It was the fifth day after BB's birth. The hospital could no longer admit me and I was being discharged. Nice in a way as it meant I could go home to home comforts and see the cats and have a bath etc. But horrible because someone wouldn't be coming with us that day. Because he wasn't quite fixed enough.
That day I felt pretty good. We packed everything up and the hospital staff made sure not to rush me. I spent all morning with BB and had a sleep around lunchtime before then spending the best part of the afternoon with him. He was stable. He was safe. But he wasn't coming home. The more I lingered on the last thought, the more it hurt so I pushed it away and focussed on his care. We cuddled and changed his clothes. Held feeding tubes and dabbed at his runny nose that was irritated by the breathing tubes. All was manageable. But then it was time to go.
I made it to the lift ok. I even walked into the lift quite nonchalantly. So what I'm leaving my baby behind in hospital across town?! I'm fine!!
No. No. Not fine. At all. As I watched the number of floors descend on the lift's display, I suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe. The doors opened and we started to walk, but it suddenly felt like I was wading through cement. PB was a little ahead of me with all the luggage, stopping every now and again to turn around and wait for me with an encouraging look despite his own pain at leaving. I was slow and glassy eyed, looking about me like a startled rabbit as people bustled past, frustrated by my slow pace and oblivious to my sadness.
I wanted to turn around and run back upstairs to my baby. All I could feel was guilt at the fact we were going home without him. I missed his face and his hands and feet. I missed his sighs and snuffles as he breathed in his sleep. I missed that addictive and amazing newborn baby smell that all us women melt at with just the slightest whiff. That delicious newness. I craved it. Like my own personal heroin. And I was having to go cold turkey. I wanted to scream.
And soon, I was. We'd reached the car park and at that moment the cement I was wading through hardened and I couldn't move another step. If I couldn't go back to the cot side, then the cold and oil smeared concrete of the hospital car park looked like a very good compromise. Just as I was contemplating lying down upon it and weeping, PB caught me before I fell to my knees and in his firm but gentle tone said 'You can lose your shit in the car. Cry, scream, whatever. But you need to get into the car ok?'.
So I did. I got into the car and whilst PB paid for our ticket I screamed and wailed. I pounded the dashboard with my fists and I curled up into a ball in the front seat before sitting up again to put on my seatbelt as we left the car park. I looked in the rear view mirror and caught sight of the empty car seat in the back seat. Pain. Ouch.
I looked onto the pavement and a lady was walking a brand new buggy. Pain. Ouch.
We stopped at traffic lights and I peered through a ground floor window to witness a mother raising her baby into the air and both of them smiling in their happy moment. Pain. Ouch.
We were finally out of town and driving past fields. I could see the hospital in the distance, the very top floor being the neonatal unit was visible and I counted along the windows to the one that was directly opposite his cot. And I wished I could fly. Fly over the fields and roads and threw that window to be with him.
But I couldn't. So I resolved to look at the fields instead. And there they were. Ewes... some pregnant and fit to burst whilst others stood nursing their lambs. Such a sight would have ordinarily had me smiling with warmth and fuzziness. Not that day. That day. I felt rage. And indignation. I needed to yell and so I did. Not at the Ewes or the lambs but at poor PB.
'Look... LOOK! EVEN THE BLOODY EWES HAVE THEIR BLOODY LAMBS WITH THEM?! HOW CAN YOU BE SO BLOODY CALM?!' I raged. 'OUR SON HAS BEEN LEFT BEHIND AND HE SHOULD BE HERE IN HIS CAR SEAT AND HE'S NOT AND YOU DON'T GIVE A SHIT AT ALL!'.
*Note: I was extremely hormonal and grief stricken with ptsd. I love PB and in no way did I mean to be so harsh. I think I was just a little bit... crazy I guess?!
I ranted and raved in the above vain for around 15 minutes until PB himself finally blew up and pointed out that not all of us show our emotions on the outside, that said point doesn't mean emotions are not felt and how dare I accuse him of not caring or knowing how it felt when he had been required to go home every single day and leave not only BB behind but also me as well. At this revelation I became mute. And ashamed. The one person who was sharing the burden of worry and pain in all of this and I had decided to attack him. Nice one me!
We parked up in silence and got inside the house. And PB marched me into the bedroom and tucked me into bed. The last thing I wanted was sleep but he insisted it was what I needed. And I'm so glad that he did. That nap switched me off from all the hurt and when I awoke a few hours later, the world felt less dreary and sad, plus I was able to see the perks to being home... such as a comfy bed and sofa with catch up tv!
We kept going. Three days later BB was discharged and we finally got to drive him home in his carseat. But that third memory highlights to me how it must be to exist without your baby. A brief insight into the pain that must come from going into hospital with a baby and coming out without them. It roused separation anxiety in myself, that to this day I grapple with because I don't want either of my boys to experience it for themselves whilst they are meant to be playing and enjoying life.
It taught me just how instinctive we are when it comes to Being Mummy. That we truly need our babies with us.
Like the air we breathe.
Update: Just like my last post, this one was drafted back when I was nearing my due date with our second and I had all sorts of fears in my head. Of course, little did I know then that we would have another turbulent time ahead of us but that is a story for another day. In the meantime, it's actually been therapeutic writing this all down. As the words flowed out of my head, the bad memories eased their grip on me and I feel more at peace with them now.