I wrote a post, about a year a go actually about how we all need to take our time to heal. To heal from whatever difficulty we feel is worthy of recovery. For me that was the premature birth of my son. I didn’t realise the effect it had on me until I started writing about it. My blog was never meant to be a form of ‘therapy’ but it has turned out to be just that. I am not sorry.
Writing about his early arrival and the following difficulties really helped me process and move on from something that was actually incredible tough. I thought I was done. I thought I had moved on once and for all. However in the last 12 months there has been one more thing on my mind. One of those things that keep you awake at 3am. I have held off writing about it as I have been unsure of it’s reception and the judgment that may ensue. That said 3am is a shite time to be awake so perhaps you’ll humour me one more time in my bid to put this time in our life behind me once and for all.
When my daughter was born she was placed on me and there she stayed, for the next 11 months. She fed from me, she was next to me in her cot in the hospital for the three days we stayed and then at home, she was in my bed, she was always there. Always. You couldn’t separate us.
Conversely when my boy was born, he was waived in front of me for what seemed like 0.01 seconds and whisked away for medical attention. Make no mistake, I am forever glad that he was. Had he not there is no doubt he would not be here today. It is a price I would pay every time. Every time.
I do believe though we paid a price for this.
There was no skin to skin, no trying to feed from me, no togetherness, no closeness. I couldn’t sit in my bed staring at this beautiful being I’d made. He wasn’t there.
I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t cuddle him. I couldn’t smell his fresh baby smell and neither could he get to know me.
I watched nurses drip millilitres of colostrum into his feeding tube. I watched nurses do his ‘daily cares’. I could just about touch him.
There is no bed for mum in the NICU. I had a hospital bed the other end of the maternity unit on a ward with expectant mothers. My baby’s cot was not there. The hospital staff were good, they didn’t put me on the ward with the new mothers but they were in the next room and I could hear them. They also allowed me to stay for 2 nights so I could be close to him even though medically I should have gone home the same day.
But go home I must. I had an 11 month old at home. Mr Tammy had a business to run and for 1 of the 5 weeks my boy was in hospital my girl and Mr T both had a sick bug. Getting to spend time with my newborn boy was a very real challenge over the following weeks. It was a case of beg, borrow or steal peoples’ time and help to look after my daughter or come with me to the hospital so that I would get a few precious hours with my son a day. Just to be with him, to try to feed. I went into a sheer panic on my daughter’s first birthday when I didn’t think I would make it to the hospital before the 8 o’clock kick out rule kicked in.
In those first 5 weeks of his life, after my discharge I stayed over night at the hospital on 2 occasions. They were the only nights I spent with my son. Now I don’t know about you but I did most of my bonding with my daughter during the nights. The first 5 weeks of her life she was up every 2 hours, as was I. We were together. To this day certain TV theme tunes, suits, take me back to sitting on my nursing chair eating sympathy minstrels at 4am because we were still awake.
Those first five weeks of having at most 4 hours a day with my boy and at worst 1.5 hours felt like a heavy price to pay. I didn’t know my son that came home. He had been on this earth a whole 5 weeks and our time together had been so limited.
Even once home, he was so poorly, he slept lots. He was picked up for feeds, and to change his clothes from the vomit that inevitably followed and he was put back down until the next cycle. There was no sitting on my chest for hours on end as I watched Gossip Girl, I had a newly walking one year old to contend with. He did not, as we say, ‘wake up’ until he was a good 4 months old, at which point he still only weighed 8lbs. I didn’t realise it then but I do now, we lost so much time together. As the time has passed since his birth I have realised the price we paid. My parental instinct of utter devotion was always there, my love for him absolutely never in question but something was missing. We took a lot longer to get to know one another, to really bond. I had a conversation with someone recently and she suggested it may have been a self preservation thing. Keeping myself slightly at arms length out of fear, fear over the health of something so precious, given how poorly he was and started out. Perhaps there is something in this too, I remember just how worried I was about him. I remember the day he stopped breathing at home and was rushed into hospital. I spent a long time hating myself. I had all the guilt. Truth be told, at 3am I believe I still do.
I know it is no ones fault, it is a product of circumstance but as a parent it is a truly awful feeling to harbour, to bury until the small hours. I love my son, more than anything, I am a proud and unbelievably lucky mother. I would do absolutely anything for my little man. May nobody, or more importantly may he never question or doubt that. Just because our start was a little less conventional and we took a little longer than some, we got there.