The arrival of a new baby is a joyous occasion, a special moment to be treasured. A scroll down Facebook and I see pictures of proud parents ‘showing off’ their new little bundles. We ‘like’ and share the pictures, post congratulatory messages and send cards of celebration. When our baby was born suddenly at 30 weeks we didn’t really know the etiquette and nor did others. How do you celebrate a birth of a baby so small and fragile? How do you share pictures of a child who looks ‘different’?
For us it took a number of weeks before cards and messages of congratulations began to trickle through as for us the celebration and joy of a new baby was replaced by worry and anxiety.
In those first few days I was left with a surreal feeling of loss and emptiness. Shattered and lost we spent just a short while with our new baby; holding his hand through the portholes in his incubator, taking hazy pictures through the perspex box. The evening came and we called a cab home. I was without my baby for the first time in 6 and half months and felt ’empty’. I was plagued with guilt for feeling like this, like I had lost my baby. I berated myself for being so selfish when other mothers do lose their babies, I should be thankful.
The emptiness was quickly filled with 3 hourly expressing, endless trips to and from the hospital, hours spent sat in the coffee shop waiting, waiting for that precious moment when you can hold your baby for the first time. You hold your baby for the first time and instinct of wanting to hold them so close, to kiss and cuddle them takes over, but wires, tubes and masks are in the way. You hold them at a distance, so small and fragile and wonder when you’ll next have a chance to hold them again. Then the waiting and watching starts over again.
At some point the jealously creeps in; mothers cradling their new babies as they leave the maternity unit, followed by proud dad’s with balloons, flowers and teddies in tow. Of mothers who had had that extra time with their baby; for me I’d lost the last two and a half months of my pregnancy. I’d missed time to prepare, to shop and buy new born baby grows, blankets, cribs and mobiles. Our family were brilliant, rallying round to buy everything that we needed, but such a personal and special time to prepare became a necessity of what we needed. And of course where did all those heavily pregnant women suddenly come from – I saw them everywhere!
About now you start to relax a little, everything is going to be okay, you’re just taking a different route. I’d told myself that other people had their special day when their baby was born, our special day was going to be the day we took Sam home and the wait would make that day even more special. Work colleagues asked to see pictures, until now only reserved for close family. My husband and I discussed sharing pictures, what would people make of them. We were so amazingly proud of our little boy taking everything life was throwing at him in his stride. We wanted to do what other proud parents do and share our pictures. We sent in our picture; it didn’t get shared round.
We didn’t post new born pictures on Facebook; instead we added vague updates. You don’t want to worry people, but it’s not all okay so you can’t sound too casual. You’re too tired to go into all the details, particularly when the details change day-to-day. We shared information via my mum and to my husband’s family in emails copied to all. Not long ago my mum mentioned a diary she had kept of Sam’s time in hospital. It was based on the text messages, phone call and emails I had sent to her during the eight weeks. She remarked what a difficult time it was and how incredible it is now to look back at how tough it all was. Reading the diary I realised how limited the information we’d given out was. It only skimmed the surface of what was happening day to day. Was this because we were protecting other people from what was happening? Or more likely we were too tired to give up-to-date information knowing it would be different come the morning.
Then it’s back to waiting. You can now hold your baby, but you wait again for a nurse to be free to help you with all the wires and tubes or wait for the doctors to finish their rounds. By the time you can have those precious moments to hold them to your chest it’s time to express again. Expressing. A three hourly routine of pumping to give your baby the only thing you can really give them, and when you can’t it can be devastating. A nurse asked me if I wanted to try and express next to the incubator, the theory being that feeling closer to my baby might help. Seriously! Sitting watching your baby while they sleep in a perspex box, curtains pulled round you listening to the beeping of machines and suction of tubes is not an environment conducive to bringing in your milk in! So back to the small, cramped, sterile expressing room. And to all those men who made comments about women sitting in a room with their boobs out…. I have nothing polite to say to you.
You’ve made it, you’re special day is just around the corner and you can start to believe your baby will be coming home…………..