First night of your life, curled up on your own

Hubby’s cousin had a little boy on Wednesday. I have been eagerly awaiting the birth, as the fate of several hundred tons of Harry’s clothes depended upon this new family member having a willy. Score! We waved the incipient parents off gleefully a couple of weeks ago, having cheerfully – and mercilessly – shoehorned a baby gym, baby bouncer, baby bath, baby play arch, baby playring, baby toys and baby books into their boot. Presented with the glad news on Wednesday, I started washing and ironing like a woman demented. (I actually passed waaaaay beyond demented last night when, despite a major, fundamental house search ransack, I could not find a bag of tiny-baby size outfits. New baby boy would fit them beautifully for 2 or 3 weeks; they were expensive and deserved another airing. They are still, bewilderingly, missing. Demented is now a dot to me, and I am thinking of ripping up floorboards to look underneath, just in case. If YOU have hidden them, it’s not fucking funny anymore. Tell me where to find them and no-one else needs to get hurt.)

I also had pots of girly fun making a nappy cake. I have made pink ones before

but never a blue one. Squeee!

I really get my creative rocks off messing about with netting and ribbon. I was a happy bunny.

So it’s odd that I’ve spent the last two days crying. I did when another friend had her little girl, too. It’s not that I’m jealous of their actual baby. Dear me, no. I’m already up half the night shoving a boob into a wailing child as it is.

Births are generally intensely joyful things for families, but before Harry’s arrival, I couldn’t participate in anyone’s Happy Family vibes at all – the pain of not having my own was so dreadful. But now Harry is here, I have swung violently in the other emotional direction, and a new baby sends me into paroxyms of excitement. Stupidly so. The memories of my own labour come rushing back, and I feel a heady, wonderful exhilaration in recalling the profoundly awesome experience that is giving birth to a child. All my emotions start running close to the surface.

But of course, it’s at that point that my reminiscences all go a bit Pete Tong. I hear about episiotomy stitches and I wince in sympathy, before I start brooding on the fact that my own second degree tear was completely neglected, as I had no spare capacity to think about it. I hear about the first painful attempts to breastfeed, and I’m all ‘OMG, Yes!’ until I remember that I pumped, agonisingly, blisteringly, for days before Harry even got near a nipple. I am sent the first photo of a tiny, blissfully sleeping face, and I coo, before I remember the horror of ventilator-violation that was my first picture – now waterstained –  of my son.

I have texts from the proud new Mum and Dad who are sat holding their new son, the staff having quietly melted away, and I’m aching with happiness for them – and aching with sadness for myself, and the hell that awaited us when we left the delivery suite to see our child.  I’ll never have the joy they’ve just had. Never. I’ll never carry a baby to term.

I should be over this. My son helped me – in his very own, unhelpful fashion – load the dishwasher today. Life has moved on so astoundingly far from where we were. And what’s more, our hell was a tiny one. It could have been so very, very much worse.

But I’m obviously the easily-traumatised type. Because I’m still damaged. I’m still so totally fucking damaged and crying and all I can remember is the plastic box they put you in and the needles they stuck in you and the noise of the alarms when your oxygen sats and BP dropped to nothing and the machine that breathed for you when you stopped and the doctor’s face when he said he was concerned you might be brain damaged and the hole in your heart showing on the ultrasound screen and the horror when the baby next to you died, and the guilt of letting you down, and the bowel-shattering fear when I wondered whether you would live or not.

If I want another child, I have to face the nightmare that is premature life, or death. Don’t know if I can.

9 Responses

  1. I knew the video would be Wires. Such a touching song.

    Though P was born at 36w, I didn’t have the same experiences as you. HOWEVER, I spent the first week after her birth in the hospital and it was the worst time of my life. I reached levels of desperation I never thought possible, and I’ve been very, very depressed in the past. This haunts me each time I think about a second, so I know where you’re coming from.

  2. Yes,

    Mine were 36 weekers, but a bit slow to crack on, and even with the healthcare background it is traumatic when it is your own child.

    I’ve assisted in lumbar punctures before for other people’s children, without an issue. But my own baby? Blubbering wreck.



  3. I’m crying for you and Harry. I’d never be “over it”, and I’ll never be “over” infertility.

  4. Oh yes, yes to everything you said. Ours was a totally different experience but the scars that remain…remain. I don’t know if the feeling of being robbed ever goes away. We all of us have paid a steep price to have what we most wanted. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s broken us. I don’t know if there’s mending for that.

    The picture of Harry made me gasp and then cry. I get it. I haven’t been there so I know I don’t totally get it but as much as anyone can, I get it. I’m grieving with you.

  5. You and Day have a lot to say to each other – see her post here if you haven’t already

    It sounds awful and I totally don’t think it means you are easily traumatised. Like having a child, it’s one of those things our body is just supposed to do, and it is mythologised and held up as a key part of being a whole woman. Not to mention the bit about how you instantly bond with your perfect baby and then the sky rains rosepetals on the happy family. Of course you feel terrible, please don’t feel bad about that. It’s an awful thing to have happen to you, and to know that it will happen again must be even harder.

  6. One of my many, many cousins was born very premature with spina bifida. Back in April I was talking to his mum (my aunt), and someone near us mentioned some other acquaintance going into hospital with suspected premature labour, and 30 years later, with her handsome lad large as life and twice as noisy in front of her, arm around his fiancee and grinning his head off, my poor aunt still looked stricken to the heart. I don’t think its one of those things you get over. How could you?

    I can’t see that photo of Harry without wanting to loosen those appalling straps. And I’ve seen him trundling cutely about, taking his first steps, and looking as delightful and snot-nosed as any other seriously cute toddler in Britain. It really is genuinely unbearable, what you had to live through. Having a healthy Harry now doesn’t change the terror then.

    There’s no reason why your joy for others shouldn’t be shot through with sorrow and regret. You have good cause. Only selfish morons expect the world to revolve around their own happy triumphs. And knowing what you’ve been through, I’d’ve thought a baby-gift from you, and your happiness and congratulations, would be worth a thousand-fold more.

    And now I seem to have babled myself to a flush-faced standstill.

  7. Oh girl I saw that Thalia linked me here and now I found you and all I can say is I know. I KNOW. Can we hug?

    I’m learning (through therapy) that just because my children are now okay and we overcame infertility that that doesn’t mean I can’t rage at the universe for what happened at delivery. The first pics, for all three of my guys, looked just like your sweet Harry. When I read your post the tears came, just like they always do whenever I think back on how they all got here.

    I’ll be thinking of you and wishing good thoughts.

  8. The battle between fear and longing is endless, isn’t it? I can’t imagine the trauma you and Husband endured, and the terror that the thought of another pregnancy brings. I’m sure it’s easy for many people, looking at thriving toddling sturdy Harry today, to assume that the struggle is all in the past, that no scars were left, no ghosts endure. I know my own (perfectly ordinary) C-section, and minor but horrid pregnancy complications running from nine-month super-nausea to eyelid chalazions, have left me with many fears about having another kid. But you seem plenty strong enough to weigh the factors and wrangle the decision.

    On a lighter note, the nappy cake is a thing of wonder to behold and I DESPERATELY want to know how you make such concoctions, whether of cloth or of sugar, with a toddler at your knees. Seriously, how? The logistics are boggling.

  9. What a gut wrenching post. I can never begin to imagine what you and John went through with Harry. The first day I found your blog I read your full account of it and I cried buckets for you all. My heart goes out to you.

    I’m also in awe of your creativity. The nappy cake is just gorgeous. You are one talented lady.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: