Wednesday, 28 March 2012

i just wasn't ready

And I'm still not. How could I ever be?

Having spent a month and a half leaving him with other people, letting nurses hold him, watching different people care for him and seeing nursery nurses pick him up and carry him just because he's cute. Feeling secondary and not good enough for him.

So when the family arrived to see Skittle for the first time at home, I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready for them to cuddle him, I didn't like them holding him and passing him around. I was just about ok with my Mum and sisters visit, I knew my Mum understood and they each had one cuddle, no playing pass-the-baby. But I found it really hard when he cried and at one point just took him off my sister-in-law because he was upset and I needed to comfort him. Not her. Not anyone else. It's my turn. Me and hubby have spent long enough watching other people do it and now I can't bring myself to allow others to join in.  I'm aware it sounds selfish and it's not attractive, but right now Skittle is more important.

And I'm sure it sounds extreme too. Over protective. Unnecessary. Mean. Unfair even, to deprive other lovely people of a little baby cuddle. But I'm just not ready to hand him over. And I don't know when I'm going to be. That first month and half was so horrendous I'm not sure when this feeling will fade.

The strange thing is, having other people here holding him evoked two polar opposite reactions. Firstly deprivation, thinking others are keeping me from holding my baby close. I don't think its jealousy. I'm not jealous of others cuddling him, I just literally can't stand the separation, no matter how minor a relative holding him in our own home may seem. But the other reaction is fear and shut down.

When my family members were cuddling Skittle I just felt terrible, like I should just go and hide in the other room because clearly whoever was holding him would do a better job of looking after him anyway. I fought this withdrawal hard. I know it's just the effects of him needing hospital care. I know its a result of feeling helpless for so long. I know it's not the case now. I know they've let him home because they think we're capable of looking after him ourselves now. I know the family just think it's nice to cuddle their new nephew/grandson/great-grandson. But it fills me with fear. Probably irrational, but so much fear. This is one of the reasons why I'm reluctant to go out anywhere or see people, what if they take him off me. I can't cope yet.

I'm not ready.


I feel so useless. I am useless. I didn't give birth to my son. You couldn't even say that I had him. He was just taken out of me one day because I was so useless at being pregnant. So useless in fact that they had to put me to sleep in order to have him for me.

No incredible birth story. No beautiful experience. No indescribable moment shared between hubby and I. No hearing his first cry. No cutting the cord. No kissing his head as he entered the world. No chance to feel his slimy newborn skin. No tearful moment of wonder at what we'd accomplished.

I won't be watching 'One Born Every Minute' again that's for sure. I used to like trawling through baby websites reading birth stories before Skittle was born. It's not like I had great expectations ready to be destroyed. No wonderful birth plan to be cancelled. Didn't imagine it would necessarily be a natural birth, with my history they'd be keeping a close eye. I wasn't being unrealistic, I had thought a c-section might be in order. But I'd always said "a c-section under general anaesthetic, that would just be my worst nightmare".

My worst nightmare came true.

My gorgeous boy didn't hear our voices, he wasn't hugged and kissed, he didn't feel warm skin. I couldn't feel more guilty even if I tried. Nothing could be worse. Oh have I tried to make up for it. In NICU I stroked him, held him, kissed him, sang to him, talked to him. Had as much skin-to-skin as the nurses would allow and only ceased my entourage of contact when his temperature wasn't regulating and I was told to shut the incubator doors. Now he's home I talk and talk every time he's awake and the little love has barely been put down, I'm desperate for him to feel secure. For those early experiences not to have hurt him.

Look at that little eye open a crack, wondering what on earth is going on. Where has that warm, watery place gone that I was comfortably sat in earlier? The amazing thing is that Skittle really was fine, the whole time. No blips in heartrate, no distress on the monitor, he was ok. And much as that is fantastically brilliant, it really does mean it was my fault he came out too soon. If I could have been stronger he could still be in me now. For another 2 whole weeks.  

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I'm sure he's fine. I've just given him half a dose of gripe mixture. It says it's ok from 1 month, but then he technically isn't term, but then I only gave half a dose, and they were going to give him gaviscon in hospital for reflux and surely boots gripe water is weaker than that. Surely?

I just wanted to take the pain away and make him more comfortable. And give him some sleep and rest. To help his little body. I just wanted to help. So why do I feel like I've done something terrible. I bet I'll have a nightmare tonight about giving him a lethal injection. What is wrong with me? Why can't I chill out? Its gripe water for goodness sake.

We've been worried about him all day. He had a mammoth feed at 5.30am and then didn't wake up for 4 and a half hours. But technically that's ok too.

I wasn't going to do this. My Mum has slight over-protective tendencies(!) and much as we've all turned out fine I was keen to be a little more chilled in my own parenting. Safe to say everything I'd thought about, which wasn't much seeing as we though there were 10 weeks to go, has gone out the window now.

Other Mum's are so lucky. They don't know how good they've got it. I wonder what it's like not to worry. Or at least to worry a normal amount, about rational things. I don't know how I'll ever have a normal conversation with a normal Mum. I feel so different.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

my mothers day

I really wanted Skittle home for Mother's Day. For some reason the thought of being home without my baby for my 1st Mother's Day just seemed like more than I could take. I was pretty sure God had told me he'd be home in time for 18th March but I couldn't be certain and I didn't want to get my hopes up. But he did get home in time! And it felt good. Not over the top just quietly wonderful. I was excited during the 3am feed and seeing as it was technically Mother's Day hubby let me have my presents there and then.

I got 2 lovely cards, one from my boys and one from my mum. Some gorgeous flowers and a personalised phone case with a photo of Mummy's boy.

And most excitingly, we went out. For the first time, we left the flat! We went to Trent Country Park and walked all of about 200m. But hey we can say we went for our first walk on our first Mother's Day and that's pretty special. That's a memory that'll last forever. Always to be cherished.

It was a bonus day seeing as Skittle wasn't even supposed to be around this year. And what an incredibly precious bonus it was.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

little patch of life.


I'm scared to go to sleep tonight.

Silly really now baby is home and lying right next to me in his crib, touching the bed. I can slip my arm through the little wooden bars and stroke his head any hour of the night.

Hubby is here too. Snoring like a trooper but managing to wake up when baby cries loud enough and springing into action like a nappy changing machine.

So really I should be sleeping soundly at every opportunity. In fact, as I type, my boys are in the nursery having a cuddle and I've come to bed a little early so as to get as much shut eye as possible. But now that I'm here, its not going to happen. I just know it.

I'm not settled.

It's a lot better than it was actually. When I first got discharged night time was like some kind of horror movie. At least an 18. And I don't even watch 15s. My mind is easily troubled by the things my eyes see and those early nights were some kind of hideous torment.

It sounds dramatic I know. But I'm not kidding, it was horrendous. It's not so bad now 2 months on but it's still awful.

I say flashback. They're not all flashbacks. I mean, I can't remember when I was under general anaesthetic, can I? And I was out of it for almost 48 hours. So they can't all be flashbacks. My mind's been playing tricks on me. I've always liked my imagination. Not at the moment, it's imagining things I could do without. And dreaming is so the wrong word, dreams are supposed to be nice, when I think of dreaming I think of pondering the good things, elaborating on the future, making happy plans. No I've not been dreaming. I've been concocting. I'm pretty sure I didn't give myself permission to do so.

I wish I could tell me to stop.

I concoct images of the moment baby was taken out of me, I subconsciously visualise his resuscitation and ventilation. He dies over and over again, I die over and over again in all sorts of terrible, freak scenarios and then I wake up. Paralysed for a few moments and dripping with sweat. I thought I was going completely mad, but apparently it's a really normal response to trauma.

The worst night was when hubby had gone back to work. He was working 3 night shifts. Thankfully my precious muma came to stay for the weekend and she rescued me. The night was going badly, it had taken hours to get to sleep and then the alarm had gone off shortly after for the dreaded expressing.

I'd experienced harrowing things in my sleep that night and just couldn't stop crying. Couldn't bring myself to close my eyes again or put my head on the pillow. I rang hubby but he was with a patient, he did eventually call me back and spoke comforting, re-assuring things. But I just needed a hug, I needed someone to tell me it would all be ok. So I text my Mum. She was sleeping on the sofa bed with my littlest sister. She came through to the bedroom and got under the covers in hubby's place and hugged my sweaty, sobbing body. I felt like I was 5 again. She listened to my fears about going crazy and thinking I was mad. She stroked my moist, furrowed brow and wiped away my tears.

It was as if I was her little girl again, not her grown up friend. She told me it would all be ok and it would end and that it was normal and that it was just my body's response to trauma and that I wasn't going mad. She held my hand and stroked my skin and whispered gentle prayers in my ear until I fell asleep again.

Flashbacks are dire. This whole prem baby season of life has been bitter. But I'm so thankful to a God who promises to work for good. I'm so blessed to have a precious family, inspiring mother, and a whole host of moments to cherish from a dark time in life.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

we are family

He was only 3 days old. I wasn't expecting to be allowed to hold him for a while longer. So when she said I could cuddle him I was overcome. 

She was called Rose. 

"I'm so excited for you" she said.

She carefully put on her gloves and her plastic apron. She opened the side of his incubator and took what seemed like forever carefully untangling his wires, twisting cables around his feet and releasing him from various machines. I opened my gown as she turned his tiny, fragile body towards mine. 

After 3 long days my baby was in my arms. His head was on my chest. His heart was near my heart. His skin was on my skin.

I cried.

"Hello my darling" I whimpered through my tears.

I gently stroked his cheek with my thumb. The CPAP machine meant I couldn't kiss his head. It huffed and puffed on his face as I sat there soaking up every minute detail of the moment. I can still smell it now, a strange chemically smell unlike anything I'd ever smelt before.

It would be a long time before I'd be allowed to pick him up myself, a while before I could kiss his head. We both needed this moment. His heart rate liked mine and the monitors told us so. He relaxed, he liked my skin. Throughout his time in NICU we constantly walked the tightrope of giving him comfort and causing too much stress on his body because of unnecessary handling. It was a balancing act, one I almost always misread. What muma wouldn't want to give their baby comfort and feel his warmth.

When it comes to feelings, everything seems delayed with prematurity. Things you're typically told you'll feel or notice when your little one arrives. Things like feeling like a family, not a couple. This is seriously effected by separation, but we began today.

This was our starting point. My incredible husband, standing, protecting us from behind. His strong hands holding my shoulders, shielding us all in this precious moment. Our little, delicate baby pressed against my hurting body, holding him as tightly as I could. Never wanting this cherished 3-way embrace to come to an end. We are family.

We really are.


And finally, even superheroes need to sleep.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

sweet baby boy

We've been so lucky to have such great cameras on our phones. The last 6 weeks we've taken more photos than ever before and they're pretty good quality and I'll be able to have them printed at good sizes if I want to. Still, I've been looking forward to getting the Canon out, putting baby next to the window, and getting some beauty shots. You know, the ones that show you moments in life in more depth, more detail.  One such moment came after an impromptu post nappy change bath. Looking cute and cuddly in a towel. Although clearly this muma didn't wash baby's mouth. Last day of photos with the feeding tube too. Hurrah.

Today was the first day we could take photos of his whole face. Capturing each and every expression, uninterrupted. Oh my, he's gorgeous.

Look at those sweet little cheeks with nothing stuck to them. And that sweet little nose with no tube stuck in it. Sweet baby boy.

Baby loves to lie on his tummy. I'm pretty sad that childcare guidelines say you shouldn't let babies sleep on their tummy, because this baby would sleep better I'm sure of it. In NICU he was almost always placed on his tummy because it helped his chest recession and supported his breathing.

He's already pretty strong. Strains to lift his head all the time.

This one's my favourite. So sweet. So much life. Totally overwhelmed by the fact that he's mine.

And this is where he fell asleep this morning, snuggled into my chest. I took a minute just to breathe him in, put my nose right down to his ear and let my face stroke against his and took some long, deep, melting breaths. Overwhelmed. That's me. Still. I really feel like I should be feeling stronger than I am. Don't want to waste any of Adam's paternity leave feeling this fragile. But you can't rush recovery and right now I'm just savouring every baby breath on my chest.


And finally, this boy has a super squint just like his muma.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012



Hi Mum, how are you?

Morning Mum.

Did you sleep Mum?

They called everyone Mum. Well, all the Mums that is. It took me by surprise to start with. The 'Mum chorus' that would greet me every time I walked into NICU. A few things went through my feeble mind when the staff called me Mum.

First and foremost, I don't feel like a Mum.

I can't care for him. I can't make decisions. I can't pick him up. I can't be here with him all the time. I don't know when he needs feeding. I don't know when he's crying.

Stop calling me Mum, you're just rubbing it in.

On better days I'd think it was nice. I might not feel like a Mum but actually they were helping. In calling me Mum I could gradually become accustomed to the term. To my new life changing role. 

And then sometimes I just thought, this makes life easier for them, they never have to put any effort in to learning our names, they just call us all Mum and Dad and don't have to worry about getting it wrong. (Although actually I did over hear one nurse call the Grandfather of a baby 'Dad' when he was visiting with his daughter, all rather embarrassing for those involved but I was amused.)

But what troubled me, and still does to be honest, is when will I feel like a Mum? I remember having to sit outside one particular day during the doctors ward round and hearing a baby cry. But I didn't know which baby. He was at least 3 weeks old and I still didn't know my own baby's cry. 

NICU has it's own unwritten set of expectations for parents. They're not put up on a poster anywhere and no one talks you through them. But it became quite clear after a little while that we were expected to do things. Or at least we were allowed to do things if we wanted to. And we should want to. And of course we wanted to. I wanted to do anything that would bring me closer to 'Mum' status, anything that would connect me to my baby, anything that would make me feel like his mum. It was so frustrating to have to sit down all the time, to be in pain and unable to change his nappy or collect the milk from the fridge. My husband could though and I liked watching him do the cares until I was able to stand for long enough to do some myself. 

The thing was the boundaries were flexible. The nurses kept shifting the goal posts. To be fair they were always just doing their job I suppose and making sure things were being done properly.

What I found really hard was the way one day I'd just be building my confidence. Just starting to feel like I was getting somewhere, doing something, growing into motherhood. Even if it was under close supervision, checked, charted and observed at least I was doing it. One day I'd be allowed to collect the milk, draw up the syringes for a feed, aspirate, check the ph, set up the feed, add medications, change the probe sight, give him a new blanket and change his nappy. I'd be in a little hourly routine and the nurses were satisfied I was capable.

The next day I'd offer to get some milk out the fridge and I'd be met with a confused expression from a nurse who wasn't decided on my adequacy as a mother and would barely let me raise the incubator level let alone let me loose on a syringe.

I'd be crushed.

I wasn't strong enough for change. No matter how small. I'd burrow into a pit of worry and distress, telling myself that this meant I wasn't good enough and confirmed to me that I wasn't enough of a Mum to my baby.

Despite this I'm glad they called me 'Mum'. Most days I needed it. Even if my mind wasn't convinced, it helped my ears to hear it and my brain required the frequent confirmation of my new title.

Is still need help, it's a good job hubby is calling me mummy, my mind is still confused. Still feeble.

i needed this

A hard day followed by a post-feed snuggle, 
gentle breaths tickling my ear.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

little patch of life

Hi. I'm Toby.

I wanted to announce our little man's birth. It was one of the first things I wanted to do when we got home, when I had time again. I wanted to let people know he was here. He was finally here. We'd waited so long for him to arrive. In actual fact, he was suddenly here. Saying 'finally' sounds wrong because he was so early. The thing is is the journey in getting to his birth day was so hard, so twisty, so tough. I wanted people to be able to read our story. 

Our story needed to be told in my opinion. It's up to the receivers whether or not they read it. But I've done my bit, the bit I needed to do. I've been vulnerable. I've admitted we struggled. I've shown weakness. I've told people our foundations shook for a while, if we're really honest. 
There's something about telling this story to so many people that has changed the way I feel about it all. I hope the honesty supports some people on the difficult road they may be travelling. It's only because of some very special people that we even managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other while walking this path. And the grace of God. The strong right arm of the Father, gripping us firmly and holding us in the pain even when I didn't feel it. Even when I didn't feel it one tiny bit.

It's over now. We've got him. I know there will be other journeys, other roads to travel. Routes that will push us, hurt us, challenge us, shape us. But this one, this 'we want a baby' one, it's all over.