This post is a bit different to my usual ones. This is mostly for me, to help me come to terms with recent events.
By the third trimester, I couldn’t wait to meet my son. Partly, it was the lack of sleep, constant aches, needing to pee every time I stood up. Mostly, it was wanting to finally hold the life that had been wiggling inside me for what felt like a lifetime already. He was always kicking (unless someone else put their hands on me to feel him, little troll), and I longed for the point where he’d be big enough to show when he kicked on my belly. That felt like the magical precursor; the sign he was almost ready.
I wasn’t very big when pregnant. Each time I’d get measured, they’d tell me I was too small and send me for a growth scan, and each time I was told ‘the baby is fine, don’t worry about it.’ My blood pressure had gone up, but that was being controlled by drugs, and my feet were so swollen even my partner’s socks didn’t fit, but I wasn’t worried. I went to the antenatal classes and kept checking my bump for a chance to see his fists or feet through my skin.
I never did get to see it. Instead, I ended up in A&E, a month before my due date, hooked to a ECG, suffering terrible tight pain across my chest. It scared me, because I’d never felt anything like that before, but at least it didn’t seem to be anything connected to my pregnancy. At around 4am, after various tests showed nothing amiss, they sent me down to the birthing suit to get that side checked out. The midwife told my partner it was likely nothing serious and to get some sleep, they’d call him with an update. They put the foetal monitor on me, and that’s when I knew something was wrong.
It was written all over the midwife’s face. She called in her colleagues and within minutes I heard the phrase ‘We need to get the baby out, now.’ It terrified me, because he wasn’t ready yet. He was only thirty-six weeks. But I didn’t have time to panic as they rushed me into theatre and stuck a needle in my spine.
A caesarean feels like this – someone doing washing up in your abdominal cavity. .it’s the single most uncomfortable experience I have ever had. There’s no pain, but you can feel everything else. And you can’t see anything, because there’s a screen in the way. When they wheeled the baby round, I didn’t have any real way to be sure he was mine. I couldn’t hold him, couldn’t even see him very well without glasses. Then they took him away.
I sleepwalked through the first few days. I didn’t realise it at the time, but reading my notes I was in pretty bad shape – at one point, my kidneys weren’t working well, I had two out of three red flags for liver failure and my platelet count dropped from over 150 to 30. Physically, I recovered quite quickly. Mentally, it was a much harder trek.
I was caught in limbo. On the one hand, I knew I had a baby, even if I could only see him briefly each day. On the other, I still looked pregnant, I still felt pregnant. There were times I’d swear I’d feel the baby kick. I’d built up childbirth so much that not going through it meant I couldn’t feel like a mummy yet. Like my son, I wasn’t done yet. I was mum and I wasn’t. I was an unfinished mummy.
It didn’t help listening to other babies nearby, or hearing other mummies make jokes about poopy nappies when I’d only held my baby twice, let alone changed him. and then there was the guilt, every time I looked at my son in the incubator, knowing it was my failing body that put him there.
It’s been a month, but I can’t shift that guilt. My son is so small. He’s beautiful, but so small. He should have spent the moments after his birth in his parents’ arms, not being rushed into an incubator. He should have been born, not ripped out of me. And I know there was nothing I could have done, but it doesn’t make the guilt fade any.
Things are getting better now he’s home, though. I feel like I thought I would – a little stressed, tired, filled with wonder, showered by more bodily fluids than I should be comfortable with. I hold my son and he’s perfect, even when he’s screaming at me for having the audacity to change his nappy or give him a bath. I don’t feel complete yet, but I do know that slowly, he’ll fill in the missing pieces.