I’m lying in bed listening to my baby breathe softly. It’s 7.30pm and she is lying in a next-to-me crib that we’ve borrowed along with many other useful baby things from my sister. This crib goes (unsurprisingly) next to my bed and is designed so that I can see her as I fall asleep and I can place my hand on her tummy and rub it gently when she stirs without getting up. On some magical occasions a little paw will find mine and grip a finger, and we hold hands for a while until she falls back into a deep asleep.
Last night we were up at 12am, 2am and 4am, and 4am was apparently a reasonable time to wake up and peer at her dad and me with wide eyes that haven’t decided if they are hazel or brown, through long sweeping eyelashes that she definitely didn’t inherit from me. She is without question her daddy’s baby (what a relief o ho ho I joke here, to nobody’s amusement but my own). Her features are all his, except for her smile. That, according to my family is mine; I’m not sure myself but I love it regardless. She is a smiley little baby, mostly content unless she’s tired or hungry, and who can’t relate to that? Shes desperate to walk already, her strong little legs can bear her weight for a while and she can even sit unassisted for a minute or two (at four months! Child prodigy!). So we got her a bouncer a bit earlier than we should have done but she loves it. Sometimes she’ll be in her bouncer and I’ll feel her eyes on me; as soon as I look up her whole face breaks into a huge gummy grin. “You can see her eyes twinkling just before she smiles,” my mum insists. “Her nose crinkles up with fun.”
At the time of writing I’ve made her laugh twice. Once blowing raspberries on her round tum and once by asking “whyyyy are you, sooooo CHEEKY?!” I have done both these things repeatedly since and never got more than a grin. “Ah mummy this was funny at first, but when will you come up with new material?”
I’ve written about her birth, which was on balance probably no better and no worse than the average birth. But I haven’t yet written down the days following her arrival, so I’ll try to do that now.
There’s a really unflattering picture of me holding Thea, perhaps the first one of us together, and I look awful. I’m high as a kite, one eye is off doing it’s own thing, but I love it. I’d just been handed my baby, and I was discovering that I really quite liked her. I always thought there couldn’t be much worse than going though labour and discovering the love you’re supposed to have for your child didn’t kick in on the other side. When they took her out of me I had a mild panic as I couldn’t feel anything but relief that it was over. “Oh god,” I thought as they took her away to check her over. “I’ve got to look after her for the rest of my life. What if I don’t love her? I’ll have to pretend I do.” Then they sewed me up and wheeled me through and placed her on my chest and I realised I had never loved anything as much as this weird scrunchy pink thing that kept trying to raise its head to eye me suspiciously. I loved it. I loved her.
They gave me a few minutes and then wheeled us both out of the delivery wards into maternity. It was a wonderful, surreal feeling. Half an hour ago, as far as I was concerned, I was in rather a lot of pain and nowhere near giving birth. Suddenly I was lying down comfortably, cuddling my baby. I saw my mum trotting anxiously towards us and gave her a wave. She didn’t even realise the new mum on the stretcher was me, as Ian had only called her half an hour ago to tell her I was about to go into theatre. We hadn’t even told them we’d gone into hospital, so it must have been a bit of a shock. She realised it was me and that I was holding a baby all at the same time, and cried. Then I cried because she was crying. It was only the second time throughout the whole thing that I cried, which is weird as crying had been my go to place for the last nine months.
Brain: hey this advert is sad.
Me: no it isn’t.
Brain: yep. Better cry.
Me: it’s not sad! It’s about someone choosing paint colours!
Brain: yep. Sad. Tears arriving in 3, 2, 1.
Thanks weird pregnancy brain.
Anyway. The next thing I remember is trying to hold a conversation whilst drifting in and out of consciousness as Ian tried to figure out how to change a nappy. At one point someone tried to make me sit in a chair and I told them they could forget it. So they did and I lay there like a queen with a catheter in all day, cuddling my baby and handing her to Ian to change then getting her back so I could fold her under my top as though she was still in my tum. My mum said “you can’t just hold her the whole time, you have to put her down.” But I just held her the whole time and it was magic.
The next day was not quite as magic. I’d got away without having to move the day before but the midwives were quite intent on the whole me getting out of bed thing. So I gingerly shuffled my way to the edge of the bed and put my feet on the floor and then someone dragged a red hot razorblade through my insides. I was taken aback by how much it hurt. This can’t be normal, I thought. This is far too much pain. Something’s gone wrong. But it was normal. Turns out getting sliced open and sewn back up again is no picnic. It HURTS. A LOT.
Throughout the day our ward slowly emptied until we were the only ones left. You’d think it would be nice, like having a private room, but it wasnt. It was eerie, not hearing other people going through the same thing you are. The midwives kept forgetting about us. That night a huge thunderstorm rattled the windows and lit up the walls, and Thea threw up over us both so I stripped us and huddled under our thin hospital sheet as Ian somehow snored through the whole thing.
I didn’t sleep that night and was determined to leave the next day. When they discharged us I couldn’t quite believe they were letting us go, letting us take the baby even though we had no idea what to do with her once we got home.
We were back in hospital about three days later, after Thea got an infection and her blood sugar dropped. She wouldn’t wake up and I broke down, so my sister had to call the ambulance, which took us back up to William Harvey where Thea was poked and prodded and put on a drip. That’s a story for another day, as I’m still not quite okay with telling it.
Since then, in a turn of events that will shock no one, I am an anxious mummy. I have managed to get to the point where I can leave her sleeping upstairs and watch tv downstairs with Ian – so long as the under mattress heart monitor is on, and the video monitor too. I’m not entirely comfortable with this arrangement and often run upstairs to check she is breathing. It’s literally the best sound in the world.