Often, what we imagine, our hopes, aspirations, fears and woes aren’t exactly what we expected. We have to deal with the unexpected, adjust and adapt to what life hands us.
Mini Me Time had the pleasure of providing entertainment at the Leeds General Infirmary Neo Natal Units 1yrs party – this was a party organised for all babies that had been through the unit over the past year or … so those who had turned one or would be being turning one.
It was a fabulous event, and we had the chance to meet some fantastic and amazing babies and families. As usual, we were shaking our sillies, jiggling our scarves and generally having a great time.
One mum in particular I want to give a mention, mainly because I am in total awe of her. She was what she referred to as an older mum (to me, she looked late 30’s at most), well dressed, everything co-ordinated, make up on, a general calm and happy demeanour. She was friendly, chatty, didn’t seem frazzled, sleep deprived or anything. Around her ankles were her boys – all three of them, all under 1, all identical, and through natural conception. As we chatted about how she survived life, sleep deprivation, the wonder of triplets, she casually slipped in, its ok, its manageable, especially as the twins help out alot. TWINS – as I picked my jaw off the floor, she explained she also had twin girls, who were older, who were also identical at naturally conceived. Right there and then, I made a mental note to think of this amazing mum, every time I felt like juggling the needs of my own family overwhelming – it surely can’t begin to compare to the life of this one busy (total understatement) mum of 5!
As I looked around the room, it struck me that I don’t suppose any of the families ‘imagined’ their little ones lives would start in the Neo Natal Unit. Being back in the Neo Natal Until reminded me of my own pregnancy and birth. Watching the families chatting with them, I realised how important it is for them to be able to share their experiences. I think not only it gives them a release, a chance to reflect, but can offer reassurance and comfort to others. So with this in mind, I decided to share my own experience in this blog post.
Writing this brought back to the surface many feelings that I had thought buried, shelved way up high in my emotional brain somewhere. Honestly – in writing this a few tears have been shed – what I felt then, came back as strong and as real as if was happening today.
I remember my first pregnancy vividly.. from the day I found out (we had been trying for 3 months or so) I had this little buzz of constant excitement inside me. I remember walking to work in the morning, hardly able to believe that I had this little new life growing inside of me. I would put my hand on my tummy and try to imagine what the next 9 months of carrying this precious baby inside me would be like.
Those first few weeks of pregnancy were so special, something only I knew about (and Daddy of course), I had this amazing secret that put a permanent smile on my face. But also within those first few weeks I also developed a heightened sense of anxiety, every twinge, every stomach pain was a worry that perhaps things might not work out. But the weeks passed, and before I knew it I was staring at the screen at my 12 week scan at the most perfect, the most awe inspiring fuzzy black and white image of my baby. What totally blew me away (and did every time through the whole 9 months) was listening to her heart beat. It made it so real, she was there, alive, growing and developing inside me.
I wanted a girl, when I say that, I mean it… I REALLY wanted a girl. I only ever planned on having one baby (although ended up with two!), and being a tad girlie myself, I wanted to have a princess, she would be called Jessica, so having a boy simply wasn’t an option. At my 20 week scan I was overjoyed with the news that yes, baby was a girl .. huge sigh of relief.. don’t get me wrong, I know that if the news had been a boy, it may have taken a while to accept, the pink stripey tights would’ve been returned to the shop but I would’ve eventually come to terms with it! But – it was a GIRL!
Preparations began, I was convinced that baby’s were simply the muckiest things, and I would be far too exhausted for laundry, so I had 30 vests, 30 baby grows – in my mind, that would get me through a week! Ebay was my best friend! I read books, I read magazines, I watched programmes. I suppose the stuff that all first time expectant mums do (was deffo different 2nd time round, didn’t read a thing!)
Due to a pre-existing medical condition I had to have monthly scans. A great pleasure for me as it meant I got to see my baby regularly, watch her move, hear and watch her heart beat.
You go through the nine months of pregnancy preparing as much as you can for the birth, for life immediately after the birth and the first few months beyond. You imagine what life is going to be like, what this little life inside you will become in the months and years ahead. Pretty mind blowing to say the least. One of my biggest fears was just how badly I might screw up! Thankfully, as many screw ups as I made and continually make, my children have survived so far.
In all honesty, I sailed through my pregnancy – the first 3 months I had incredible tiredness, if the urge to sleep came upon me – it was an immediate urgent need for sleep that could not be ignored, but that passed. I didn’t have sickness, I felt great, skin was radiant, hair and nails amazing.. what was all the fuss about. I gained only 1 stone in weight, and was still tottering around in my high heels just a few days before she was due. I finished work on the Friday and she was due on the Sunday.
Labour started on the Monday – 13hours later she was born. I’m not going to go on about the labour – mostly because I can’t actually remember most of it! I do remember having a room full of doctors, midwives and trainees at one point. I do remember leaving my dignity of the hospital door as they all got far too close for comfort for a closer look!
When I reflect on my pregnancy, think back and recall all the things I worried about, things that concerned me, that made me anxious.. I never ever, even once worried about the actual birth. I just assumed I would survive labour somehow.. (I had planned on taking every drug on offer, but ended up with only gas and air), and there at the end of it would be my beautiful baby girl, plonked on my chest for that all important immediate skin to skin contact.
What I hadn’t imagined, would be for her to be whisked away immediately after birth, not to have had a chance to see her, not even a glimpse, to be advised she was having a bit of a struggle breathing, to be then advised they were trying to resuscitate her, and then what seemed like a lifetime of a wait to be told, that whilst poorly, she was stable. My life turned upside down in an instant. The fear gripped me like a vice, what was happening had never even been a consideration. I can honestly say that it had never ever entered my head that I would give birth to anything other than a healthy, bouncing baby girl.
I was told that the next 48hrs was crucial, and she was in the Neonatal Unit where I could go and see her. Despite just giving birth, being stitched within an inch of my life, exhausted and emotional I would have moved mountains to get to the Neonatal until that night. As I sat beside her, holding her tiny hand, watching machines breathe for her, covered in wires.. all I can describe is a feeling of numbness, of everything being surreal. Nothing going on around me registered, all I could focus on was watching her chest rise and fall.
Life which had been so certain, suddenly became unimaginable, I couldn’t think past the next minute, I couldn’t contemplate what might happen. Due to uncertainty of the outcome, my church leaders came to give her a blessing, to give her a name. I recall being stood, listening to their prayers for her, not believing that any of it was real, this was all one big mistake, how could this possibly be happening. She was perfect, she was mine, and it was simply uncomprehensible that anything bad was going to happen. We were urged to take photo’s which we did, these were not what I had expected the first photo’s to be like. I had imagined her swaddled in a crochet blanket, with a little hat on, pink screwed up face, laid in my arms. What I had was a baby in a crib, covered in more wires that you could count, a machine breathing for her. Unable to hold her in my arms as I had taken for granted that I would.
Despite the pleas of medics and family saying I needed to rest.. how could I possibly rest, I had a tiny hand to hold, I needed her to feel my constant touch, to know I was there with her every single moment. I didn’t know how many moments I was going to have, and I wasn’t going to waste a single one of them. On the insistence of nurses and doctors I would go for a lie down, but only to return 10 minutes later to be sat back next to her.
The next 2 days in all honesty were a complete blur. A mix of fitfull naps, of wandering the corridors between the ward and the Neo Natal Unit, of trying to express milk so she could be tube fed. But she was getting stronger, the doctors told me that the fluttering I could see in her chest was her attempt to breathe on her own and fighting against the ventilator – these were good signs. They eventually wanted to attempt to take her off the ventilator to see if she could maintain her own breathing – SUCCESS – she could breathe on her own.
The joy of that moment was indescribable, a future beyond the next hour became a possibility I could start to consider. She was soon transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit where a day later I got to hold her for the first time – the most special moment of my life
A few days later saw us transferred to the Transitional Care Unit – the experience of the Transitional Care Ward is a whole different blog post! A week or so later we were allowed home…
So I feel a great affinity with the LGI Neo Natal Unit – its where my first born had her rather rocky start to life. Looking around at the families attending the party, it was clear that many had their own rocky roads – but here they were, celebrating the last year. I am certain that like me, what they had imagined their babies start in lives would be , turned out to be very different.
What ever we imagine for ourselves, our children, our lives in general can often turn out to be not quite what we expect, but I for one am truly grateful for all that I have, we have blessed lives and I give thanks for that daily every time I plant a kiss on my girls (usually a kiss that nowadays is quickly wiped away – especially if its in the school playground!)