There are many things I don’t wish to talk about on my blog but one thing I have never shied away from here and that is the birth of my son. He was born bang on 33 weeks, he was 33 weeks by a matter of hours.
We had moved into our new home a week earlier and my nesting instinct had been in over drive – I really should have known. I spent the week unpacking, tidying and sorting with an over whelming urge to buy a steam cleaner. All this with my 11 month old in tow. Our house was still very much unfinished after this week – we still had a duvet on the living room floor instead of a rug to try to protect our wobbly on her feet baby from the hard flooring, boxes remained unpacked, furniture unbuilt.
When I went into Labour with Toby I didn’t panic and I wasn’t particularly scared despite his gestation. Perhaps I was in shock. My last labour was a grand total of two hours and we made it to the hospital with minutes, literally, to spare so I think my key concern was just getting there. If he was there he would be OK. Fortunately we did, the ambulance got us there, again with minutes to spare. His father had to stay home with our daughter until his sister could arrive (it was 3 in the morning after all).
He needed a lot of medical attention after birth and he was quickly taken away from me. I was sat having just given birth, alone, waiting for news on my son and waiting for my partner. What I didn’t know at this time was that they did not make it to special care unit as Toby was unable to breathe and he needed to be intubated in a room just outside the assessment unit where I had given birth. This was the sight that met his father on arrival.
Once stable they took Toby to the Neo Natal unit where he was given the medicine and care he needed. I didn’t really know what had taken place at this point and to my mind everything was OK. Well it wasn’t great – I was alone and without my baby next to me in a plastic cot but he was here and safe and that was all that mattered.
I didn’t absorb just quite how serious this situation was for months after. I didn’t want to.
There was a moment when we sat waiting for news and my partner looked at me and said ‘he’s going to be alright isn’t he?’
‘Yes of course he is’ I replied immediately shaking my head as though he had just said something preposterous.
However Mr Tammy had a look in his eyes that I have rarely seen, it will stay with me forever. He genuinely wasn’t sure his son was going to be ok. He had seen the doctors battling to get raise Toby’s oxygen levels and the urgency in which they worked. For the most fleeting of moments his look sent went me somewhere dark.
Our journey over the following months was hard. Spending weeks visiting your baby in hospital for a few hours a day, not being able to take them home yet watching people take their baby’s home everyday. Splitting your time between your baby in the hospital and the baby you have at home was unimaginably hard.
Having a premature baby was so different to anything I ever thought it would be. My first child was born at 36 weeks but she needed nothing more than a few days in hospital to establish feeding and wait for the jaundice to subside. Whilst she was technically premature, she did not have the same needs that Toby did.
A premature baby shouldn’t be here, not yet, they cannot do many things on their own or that a term baby does. Toby needed help breathing. His lungs didn’t work. Then he couldn’t suck/swallow. When he did start to suck/swallow he would often forget to breath and would send the machine, and me, into melt down. Sometimes he would just stop breathing for no known reason at all, this was the case for some 6 weeks after his birth and he often required oxygen during this time. My nerves were shot to shit by this point. I have already written a post detailing when this happened the day after we brought him home and he had to go back into hospital for a week. He simply stopped breathing – I was alone and I have never been more scared than when I was waiting for the ambulance.
Feeding was slow and laborious, he had horrendous reflux which would see 40 minutes of feeding plastered over the walls. I would often wake up to see he had been sick in the night and his moses basket was wet. Thank god he was my second child for I would never have slept out of paranoia he would choke had I not already had a baby. His reflux saw us back in the hospital on occasions. We were advised to try lactose free milk over breast milk then high energy milk to aid his growth as he was ‘failing to thrive’.
One of the hardest things about his journey however was that he was effectively a newborn for months. You know that crazy first few weeks with a newborn when you are feeding every two hours and it is all eat, sleep, feed repeat. This was our life for months and months.
Mentally it was exhausting too. I was convinced there would be something ‘wrong’ with Toby. My brother was diagnosed with newborn asphyxia and has been severely brain-damaged since. Toby wasn’t intubated until 12 minutes of life. I worried when he didn’t smile for months, when he wouldn’t interact, sit, or do anything. I was repeatedly told I need to correct his age to allow for his prematurity but I struggled with this concept – my baby is six months, what do you mean he is really only 4? Whilst I never wanted to wish his life away it felt like a really long and hard experience trying to get his weight up, get him stronger, improve his health and get him on a par with babies his age.
Most of my worries have now subsided, I am generally not worried about his development or his health. Occasionally there is a slight niggle at the back of my head but I think that is just called being mum.
However the other day I read a post by Life Motherhood and Everything. The post described an experience where her daughter was ill, needed to be taken to the hospital and she was on her own and scared. I found myself crying at this post. I could feel all the emotions Angela was describing. I had been there and knew them well. I wondered if perhaps I haven’t yet fully healed from the trauma that came with Toby’s birth and the first very difficult six months.
I know there are babies born a lot earlier and a lot sicker than Toby and I know there are people who have had it a lot harder than us, but what we did have, was hard for us. It was emotionally and physically draining on our whole family. People ask me if I want another child and I am frightening quick to respond with a firm ‘NO!’ So much so people often look a bit shocked. What they don’t know is why. I don’t think I could go through it again. I know I might not, but I might. I have had two babies and both have been premature. 15 months after Toby’s birth I am finally starting to heal and I make no apology for the time it has taken or the way in which I have dealt with it. So I guess my point is this, it doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is to others, what is important is how it affects you. Allow yourself the time that you need to heal, not the time people expect of you.