We are frequently about how we are enjoying parenthood. For the most part I suspect that not everyone fully comprehends the situation in which we find ourselves. There is nothing normal about where we are. In some warped sense however, this is our normal.
Tomorrow our magic bean is 28 weeks old and instead of being nestled safely in her mothers’ womb, she is nestled inside a state of the art incubator named ‘Giraffe’. I miss the feel of her moving and kicking inside me, I’d only just started to feel her before she was so suddenly taken out. It’s an immense loss I cannot explain. We’d spent weeks trying to get dad to feel her wriggling around inside, that connection between them was so important to me. The day before our caesarean was the first and only time that dad got to feel our magic bean wriggling around in my belly.
In the four weeks leading up to her birth I spent most of my time as a permanent resident of the maternity ward. Daily I lay and meditated, hoping to buy us more time. From a medical point of view, before 26 weeks gestation, our baby didn’t count as a life, I had to get to 26 weeks and beyond if she had any hope of surviving. Daily we had blood drawn to check for the signs that would indicate that we had reached the end of the road. Daily I meditated, prayed and hoped that by some miracle we’d make it past at least 30 weeks. Daily I got to see the joy of birth and the connection between new moms, dads and their beautiful babies. Daily I got to see a happy families head home for the first time, huge proud smiles on their faces, eyes filled with wonder at the sight of their little bundle of joy. The stress of trying to fake a smile for visitors and trying to explain our situation became too much and I blocked visitors, I basically shunned my family and friends.
When admitted I was told that our chances were slim and that my childs’ life came second to mine as she wasn’t 26 weeks in gestation yet. That, if shit hit the fan, that I would be the priority, not her. You can imagine the terror at hearing this. I’ll be honest, I gave up and broke down after being told that. I was informed that my doctor was going on leave for a few weeks and it was doubtful that we would meet again when they returned as my situation ‘really doesn’t look great’. Trust me on this, when you see not a single ounce of hope in your doctors eyes, it becomes near impossible to even fake positivity yourself. I was wished the best of luck in a not-so-optimistic voice and was handed over to a replacement doctor. I wept that night, I felt powerless, like a complete and utter failure. By some miracle, the replacement doctor happened to be an expert of our condition and was someone who believed in us and that we had a fighting chance, someone who gave us hope, someone who undoubtedly saved our lives and got us further down the path than we ever could have done without her. We owe her so very much and I cannot fathom how to thank her for all she has done.
The night before the caesarean I was placed on a special drip that was prescribed to protect both my and the magic beans brains for the trauma that lay ahead. I was placed in a cardiac ward for constant observation as there was a 1/1000 chance that I’d develop a reaction to the treatment. I was placed next to an old senile woman who had it in her head that I was having an abortion and who spent all evening telling me how disgusted she was with my life choices. I don’t think I slept a wink that night between the fear of what lay ahead, the sensory overload of noises inside that room (spend a month in a quiet ward meditating and someone scrunching a piece of paper becomes deafening) and Granny Craycray beside me.
Thankfully the caesarean itself went relatively smoothly, better than anyone anticipated, well, except for the fact that the first epidural didn’t work and I had to endure a second one, one of my biggest fears of the procedure that came true. We were warned that bean would be too small to cry and that we should not panic about that, but by God did she do her best to let us know she was there with the tiniest of cries that you’ve ever heard. With my arms tied down she was brought over for a brief second for me to kiss her before she was wheeled off by a specialist team. With my husband supporting me on one side and a mystery assistant on my other side keeping me calm, I made it through with relative calm, I apparently joked and told my doctor and her assistant that if any jewellery was discovered at a later stage, that I laid claim to it.
After the op my kidneys shutdown and I was placed under 24 hour observation to keep an eye on them and make sure that they rebooted, thankfully they did so on their own. I was not allowed to do more than stare at the ceiling and wait for someone to tell me what was happening with our baby. I got to spend another 24 hours with Granny Craycray, berating me for murdering our baby. No amount of explanation would sway her assessment of me. I begged and pleaded to be moved, but due to my condition I was too high of a risk to be moved to a different ward. Nothing to do but wait until I was safe to be moved back to maternity.
The moment that I was wheeled into my own private, quiet room in the maternity ward was overwhelming, I recall having a bit of a meltdown in front of everyone who had come to welcome me back, friends, family and staff. I think I even chased everyone out to give me a moment to have a good old fashioned weep fest. Getting back into that ward was a massive victory for me.
I can carry on with stories of this experience, and in later posts I will likely share other snippets and moments but through all of this so far I am painfully aware that we were robbed of the idyllic pregnancy that was promised to us. My councillor has told me that I have a right to grieve and be angry about what’s happened, that I’m allowed to grieve for the experiences that we’ve been robbed of, and I do, daily. It’s part of the healing process. But as much as I grieve for lost experiences, I have so much to be thankful for.
My husband, I would not have made it through this without him, coming home finally and being able to sleep beside him, to hear and feel him breathing and being able to touch him, there are no words to put into perspective how I feel about him. Our tiny, beautiful, wilful magic bean who has shown us levels of strength and determination that nobody expected to see in her. Every single day is a miracle and a blessing and every time I look at her I cannot believe that such a thing of beauty is our creation. We’ve a long road ahead to heal, both physically and psychologically and we take it one day at a time. Every two steps forward for our bean has one step back and we’re in this fight for a while still, but we tackle things one day at a time.
Our story is one of many, but it’s the story that is seldom told and I can completely understand why, there are still emotions that I am unable to comprehend, understand or control, some I doubt I’ll ever fully get a grasp of. It’s okay to feel cheated and robbed of an experience that we’d come to expect and look forward to. While we’ve lost out on many ‘standard’ experiences and moments of pregnancy, we’ve also experienced an influx of love, support and strength that we never knew was possible.