Excuse me while I try and unravel my yesterday.
I don't expect you to read it. It's going to be wittery, a splurge of thoughts that have kept me awake most of the night.
Yesterday was bittersweet. Agonisingly bitter coupled with beautiful, sweet joy. I was emotional on so many levels, so happy for my darling friends, so sad for my husband and my boy.
Utterly privileged and so very honoured to be invited into the most special day of our friends' lives while staring disappointment in the face of an experience I know we will never have.
On Friday morning while we were 4 hours away at my parents house my lovely friend S went into labour 2 weeks early. We quickly chucked a few things in the car and made our way back to London so that we could be at their disposal, especially knowing they have no house(!) and things still to buy. We picked up their moses basket and delivered some snacks to the birthing centre and then awaited exciting news.
2am a text arrived with the most precious photo of mother and baby. Looking into each others eyes, having skin to skin, wrapped in a sheet and an hour old. Perfect. Happily, I wasn't jealous, I was just excited for them and so relieved for her that labour was over. Not that I've ever been in labour, I've just heard that it's hard work! I couldn't sleep for ages just being so thankful and so excited. I sent a few more texts and prayed they'd get some sleep. Then the tears came, we didn't have that moment.
Come the morning we popped to boots to get some supplies they needed and with the intention of merely dropping them at reception of the birth centre, we headed over. But they wanted visitors, I double checked, not wanting to intrude upon their momentous first day of parenthood, but they really did and it was a complete pleasure to oblige. It was a pleasure to bless them, be there for them, support them, encourage them, uphold them, share with them and smile with them. There's nowhere I would have rather been than accompanying this brand new family on their first day. It was a delight to rejoice with those who rejoice and shine a spotlight on their awesomeness.
I brimmed with pride over them, my lovely S was so awesome, showered and looking fresh and wandering about and so at ease with her adorable baby boy snoozing in the cot. She and her husband had had such little sleep but were running well on joy.
The best thing about visiting them and the thing that made it possible was that they were at a birth centre. As relaxed and un-hospitally as possible. Had they been on a ward I think I would have really struggled to bare it. But thankfully they were in a lovely room with a double bed and pretty bedspread. A world away from our ITU centred beginnings. It would have been impossible to compare our first day of parenting and their first day, they were polar opposites, at extreme ends of the spectrum. And that made it so much easier. The sheer level of difference actually helped.
But the disappointment still welled up and crushed me a little. I whispered "sorry baby" in my boy's ear many times over the course of our visit as I watched everything he'd missed out on in the early hours. I was no help to them when they were concerned about their little one coughing up some mucus, I didn't see baby for over 24 hours, he had a tube down his throat I doubt he coughed anything up. Or when they were changing a pooey nappy that was black and tarry I thought I have no idea what Skittle's first poo looked like. Tears filled my eyes as S relayed what happened when her husband cut the cord and I chastised myself for depriving hubs of such a big moment. And the old inferiority reared it's head again as I reminded myself that I didn't give birth, Skittle was delivered without me, S is the proper mum her body did what it was supposed to do.
"Oh sweet, how old is he?" asked her midwife.
"6 months" said I.
"Where did you have him? How was your birth experience?"
"Oh gosh" remarked S as the enormity of her innocent question landed in the room.
The most horrendous and traumatic experience of my life I thought and gently said "oh well it was a bit unusual because he was 10 weeks early and born by c section"
"Oh I see" the midwife muttered.
Privileged, I stood on the sidelines while she helped S with her second breastfeed. It was peaceful, comfortable, quiet, special and calm. A million miles away from my initial negotiations with an og tube and a severely anaemic 4lb-er, behind a screen surrounded by machines, wires, beeps and medical discussions 5 weeks after birth.
"Oh well done babe," cheered S's hubby. "Well done for persevering."
Persevering I thought. Persevering?? I'll give you persevering Mr, persevering is waiting 10 days for your milk to come in, getting up every night to express while your baby lies alone in hospital, rushing to get to the unit in time just to be able to try breastfeeding 3 times a day for more than 3 weeks, coming home with an ng tube and still trying. Grr. But honestly, she did do brilliantly, even if it was just the 2nd attempt and not on the same scale of perseverance as our experience. It's still one of the most difficult skills to master and S was doing super well, putting my stressy feeding endeavors to shame.
We helped them get everything organised and into the car and left them to be discharged and leave together, I think that moment might have been too much for me to manage and certainly too private and personal to them for it to be appropriate to observe. I'm so thrilled for them that they could go home less than 24 hours after the birth and have uninterrupted togetherness, it was just such a sore and painful reminder that we didn't and that we missed out on so much.
I was so deeply grateful to them for allowing us to be such a part of the day. And we chose to be there, they didn't force us to come, we offered. It might sound really odd but it was actually such an incredible honour to get to see what the first hours of parenthood are supposed to look like even if it was excruciating for my soul in places.
So very bitter. But still very sweet.
Welcome to the world little boy, you have a wonderful Mummy and Daddy.