Long time, no blog. I’ve been debating whether to post this one. But here goes:
She was due on Christmas Day, but I knew she wouldn’t come until my mind was at peace. I was worried about who would take care of J and D while I was in hospital and made the mistake of asking my mum if she could come. It was a no, of course.
I arranged for my sister to come up from Wales instead. And I knew then that my body would release the baby. We spent a final day as a family of four, walking on the common, in a rare burst of sunshine.
The following morning, secure in the knowledge my sister was only hours away, the contractions started. I ran a hot bath and D insisted on getting in too. J hung over the side, laughing at my ‘boobies’ and instinctively pouring water on my stomach when the pains came. ‘Let the baby out, so your tummy stops hurting,’ he said, while D mimicked my breathing.
Unhusband was worried. ‘Lasciare la mamma,’ (‘leave Mummy alone’) he said, trying to prize them away. But their love and humour was all the analgesia I needed. Eventually, they went downstairs to eat fish fingers. By the time my sister arrived, it was time to go.
In hospital, the contractions came in unstoppable waves. I was like a piece of debris; tossed around, crashed against the shore, by this merciless force, trying to hold faith in the promise of new life after the storm.
Somewhere on the horizon, the midwife’s voice filtered through. ‘You need to get her out.’ And suddenly, there she was. Purple, silent, limp.
The screech of an alarm, a troop of doctors, then silence again. As quick as she’d been born, my baby was gone. Minutes ticked by like days. The midwife tried to assure me she was just shocked, needed help to breathe. Eventually they brought her back. Still a little grey, but so beautifully perfect. How could I ever have doubted if it would feel the same third time round?
I spent the first night gazing at her, overwhelmed by the love something so tiny could inspire.
The next morning J and D came bounding in to meet their new sister. I couldn’t wait to begin life as a family of five. But then the paediatrician spotted something. Two more paediatricians were called. And instead of strapping our newborn into the car seat, we were shunted to Special Care, then cardiology, then x ray. J and D weren’t allowed to come, which meant Unhusband couldn’t either.
I was wheeled away by a porter who stank of fags, down corridors that stank of piss. I clung to my precious newborn, like a lioness guarding her cub, shielding her from the threat of norovirus, and the nosiness of strangers.
I watched helplessly as they lay her under a menacing piece of machinery. It just felt wrong. So wrong. Everything inside me was screaming at me to pick her up. But I didn’t. I watched as they radiated her tiny body. I will worry about that forever.
I don’t want to focus on the first day of our daughter’s existence. But at the end of it, we were told she had a hole in the heart. And my own heart splintered with shock and sadness and fear.
We hope it’s nothing more complicated or significant than that. We have to wait. We hope it will heal. We hope she won’t need surgery. I hope it wasn’t my fault. We hope she will grow up strong and healthy. We hope she will fill our lives with joy and love and laughter. She does already.