WHERE DO I BEGIN?
I’ve spoken before about our difficulties in getting pregnant and I had no immediate intention of delving into the deep and dark NICU days, but I’ve recently been inspired by one of the lovely ladies I follow, to share our story. It’s a long and arduous one, that’ll take a few posts to cover but here goes.
On the morning of Wednesday the 19th of August 2015 at 10:54, after a difficult and tumultuous 4 day labour, my son Matthew was born. He weighed 1 pound and 9 ounces. He could quite literally fit in my hand. His skin, red and angry, was so thin and transparent that I could see the deep blue veins running throughout his tiny body.
Our first encounter was one of panic and fear. This fragile little being , resting on my hip, still attached to his cord. I watched, wide eyed, as his little heart pulsated rapidly out from his bony chest. His tiny legs kicking as if uncontrollably against my thigh. Those same kicks, I felt mere hours ago inside me. He lay there for 1 minute exactly, as the Neo-Natal team watched intently, before cutting the cord and carrying him to the heated Cot on the opposite side of the room. I didn’t see him again until 10pm that night. Almost 12 hours later. My husband and mum were able to see him once he was settled in the Neo-Natal unit but because I had a Haemorrhage and Retained Placenta, I had to go to Theatre.
After being in Recovery for a few hours I was taken back to my room and waited anxiously and impatiently until they were able to take me over. Too weak to walk and with a catheter still inserted I had to be wheeled over in my hospital bed. The NICU was foreign territory for me. I had no idea what to expect, other than what my husband had already told me. The first thing I remember was the beeping noises. Little did I know after hearing them for the first time, that they would become the soundtrack to that entire experience.
IS THAT MY BABY?
So, I was positioned next to Matthew, who was tucked away inside what looked like a mammoth sized Incubator. His tiny face was covered, showing only his closed eyes and the smallest of openings for his mouth, which had a long tube coming out of it in order to help him breathe. I could hear the noise from the ventilator as it pumped tiny breaths into his lungs, and with every breath his chest rose up and down.
He was heavily sedated so wasn’t moving much and he had several wires attached to his body via minuscule needles injected into his limbs. It was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen. My beautiful, helpless little baby, kept alive by machines and an abundance of drugs that were pumping through the inky blue veins that protruded his wafer-thin skin. I’m ashamed to admit that in that moment I didn’t feel a maternal connection to my son. He didn’t look like the the blonde haired, blue eyed little boy I had dreamed of and envisioned when I felt him move about inside me. He didn’t resemble the chubby little squidgy baby I had hoped to hold in my arms after giving birth. He was alien looking. I was frightened of him. He looked so delicate that I feared my very touch would be cause him pain. But reluctantly, and after being encouraged by his nurse, I put my hand inside the incubator and stroked his back.
He barely moved.
The guilt I felt just watching him was unbearable. All I could think of was that I’d failed. I am a woman. My job as a woman is to carry a child, and bring that child safely into the world.
What kind of a woman am I that I can’t even do that… something that my body was made solely for?
All I could see when I looked at my son was how much I had failed him. That I had brought this baby into the world and subjected him to all of this pain and trauma, and all because I couldn’t do my job as a woman. And now I didn’t even feel a connection to him. That instant moment of love and pure joy was missing.
What kind of mother doesn’t feel a connection to their own child? Still I smiled and posed for the camera when my husband took our first photograph together… My son and I.
Smiling on the outside, and torn apart on the inside, I felt completely alone and full of shame. What’s should have been the happiest day of my life, was one of my darkest.