I apologise for the delay in posting this. I found it very difficult to relive some of the memories in this post and you may pick up on my mood spiralling downwards. While I love writing about Oli's birth I still feel that the time we spent in the NICU was extremely traumatic.
There it was, that weird feeling of being asleep but awake. Its when you can hear something in your dreams but you recognise it as reality. I squint my eyes open and look around the room, my alarm buzzing on my bedside table. Placing my hand on my tummy, a thousand thoughts rush into my mind. It wasn't a nightmare - I'm not pregnant, I gave birth...but I haven't got my baby. I'm in pain and I need to sit up and pump. I hadn't been dreaming, this was the cold hard reality.
As I get up out of bed Ian reaches out to me. Asking if I need help I refuse and shuffle out of the room. I know he wants to go to the hospital early to see Oli and he needs his rest. Oli, I wonder how he is..should I call and ask? They insisted we call if we have any queries. No I wont call...I would be interfering, theres no point. I fumble in the dark kitchen collecting all my pumping equipment and grab an ice pad from the freezer. I go by the bathroom on the way back to my room and do a wee, I do not feel well at all. Remembering my episode at the hospital and not being able to walk I feel a panic start rising over me....maybe I should have stayed in the hospital. I push it to the back of my mind and head back to bed. Im so exhausted I can hardly keep my eyes open, I pump for 15 minutes and don't get a drop. What a waste of time! Ian gets up and washes my pumping gear and climbs back into bed. I cry myself to sleep as he hugs me and reassures me everything will be okay. How could things be okay? This is the most unnatural thing in the world, I NEED my baby. Its hard to describe the feeling...I didn't want Oli there, every part of my being NEEDED him there with me. To hold him, cuddle him, protect him and to protect me too.
The buzzing again...that noise! Its 6am and time to pump, I feel like I only just shut my eyes. I reach up and turn off my alarm, I need to sleep. I'm woken awhile later by Ian who gets up for a shower, he comes back in the room with my pumping things. My brother and his girlfriend pop their heads in our room before they both leave for work, "...say hello to Oli for us today!" I smile just thinking about him and promise to say hello. Ian is itching to get to the hospital to be with Oli I can tell, he makes me tea and toast and rinses my pumping equipment after yet another pumping session resulting in no milk! Maybe I wont be able to breastfeed either...another plan down the drain.
Ian leaves for the hospital and I lay in bed. Im too exhausted and feel that its physically impossible for me to go to the hospital again so early this morning. I keep looking at my pictures of Oli from yesterday and thinking about him just makes me cry. I made Ian promise to take a photo of Oli and send it to me as soon as he got to the NICU. I put an update on facebook and let everyone know Oli has arrived. The messages of congratulations come in thick and fast. For a moment I forget how complicated and traumatic the situation is and take in all of the joy. As I'm laying there a message comes through and its Ian with a picture of my baby! I start howling as soon as I see him. Like I've said before its so unnatural to be away from your own baby... and for someone to be sending you a photo to your mobile! It's just a bizarre feeling.
Baby Oli, about 24 hrs old.
Before I know it, its time to pump again and this time I'm in luck! I have some milk!! Under 1ml but I remind myself that its colostrum and its liquid gold! Ian phones to chat about how Oli is going and went through the night. I can tell a change in his voice and he talks about Oli, he sounds the most excited that he's been this whole time. I feel relieved. There's a knock at the door and I manage to get out of bed to answer it. It's my midwife who has come to check up on me. I keep on talking to Ian as she buzzes around the kitchen, making me a cup of tea and crackers with fruit. When I get off the phone I tell her everything, I cry and cry. This is not what I had planned at all. I feel so incredibly miserable, tired, heartbroken. She says all the right things and reassures me that everything I'm feeling is completely normal. My mum and dad arrive with bags of shopping and lots of food. My mum sits down and talks with us, she asks when I want to go into the hospital. I don't want to go in, I just want to stay here in my bed and hide. I feel terrible but tell them the truth. I dont feel like hes my baby, I have no control over him or the situation. He belongs in the hospital to the nurses and doctors who know more about him than I do. This makes me feel horrible inside, more horrible than I'm already feeling. What a terrible mother not wanting to go and see her own newborn. After Mel leaves my parents encourage me to get in the shower so they can drop me off to the hospital. I drag my feet the whole way there and stay under the hot water for so long that my mum comes to check that I'm ok. I think back to two nights ago when I was standing in this very spot in early labour. What I would give to be back there now. Maybe I could change things...well probably not. All of this is completely out of my control.
I sit in the car on the way to the hospital feeling down in the dumps. Making excuses for me not to go in. My outfit isnt right, I haven't pumped enough milk, I don't feel well, I'll come back later instead. In the end my Mum tells me to be quiet and that I'm going. My parents drop me at the front entrance and go to find a park. I slowly make my way up to the NICU, as fast as my sutured peri will let me! What a different person I was years ago bursting in these front doors running up 7 flights of stairs to work. Fit, healthy, happy, loving my job and life. Why did I have to go get pregnant and put myself in this mess. That's what this was, a huge mess and it was all my fault. The lift doors open at level 6 and I shuffle out, my situation must be obvious as I walk towards the NICU because I'm getting sympathetic looks from every direction. I see people I use to work with, this is completely the wrong time for a catch up. I keep my head down and walk a little faster.
As I approach Oli's cot I see Ian sitting there chatting away to the nurse. He spots me and jumps to his feet, pulling up a chair. I see Oli and start crying again. This is why I didn't want to come. I stand at the side of the cot and look at my baby. Ian puts his hands on my shoulders and comments on how much better he looks today. I agree, the nurse passes me a box of tissues and I grab a handful. I sit down and am reminded of how bloody sore I am. The nurse tells me the surgeon had reviewed Oli and was happy with his progress and would be around to chat with us later.
Oli continued on the ventilator, morphine infusion, IV fluids, catheter, orogastric aspirates..antibiotics...medications....monitoring...machines...tubes...a huge wound on his belly & a colostomy. He looked a far cry from the little bub I had dreamed about over the past 7 months. We couldnt hold his hands because he had things inserted and attached to each. Yet I could see him under there...all of his hair, his little limbs. Ian and I sat there talking, I must have looked like shit because he insisted we go downstairs to get a drink and have a break. On the way out he said said hi and waved to the cleaner, the receptionist and a few doctors. Ian was in his element, he had befriended every man and his dog in this place. I didn't want to be near the hospital and here he was socialising! How the tables had turned!
We returned to the NICU and sat watching our new baby for hours. I bought in some blankets that my mum had made for Oli and when the nurse was doing his cares (turn, change nappy, change cords around) I put his home made blanket under him and popped on a beanie. Just after we had finished the surgeon caught sight of us and came over to chat. He pulled up a chair and started to talk about Oli's surgery. The entire time that Oli had been alive I just knew he was in the best hands possible. In some parts of my mind I knew he would be okay because he was in the best place he could be. I knew the doctors, surgeons and nurses were the most specialised in the field and the best at their jobs. In a way this took a lot of worry out of my mind. As the surgeon talked us through the delicate surgery he had performed he said something that gives me shivers up my spine to this day. "...I was worried, I was really worried for a while there that we couldn't save Oli" he went on to explain that the damage to his bowel was extensive and that the procedure had been touch and go. I felt my stomach drop. It was okay for me to think Oli was perhaps not going to make it but to hear it from one of the leading paediatric surgeons in the state, well...that scared the shit out of me.
I couldn't stop looking at this picture when I got home, his little eyes.
Picture this. The most precious gift you have ever been given. Damaged in the most horrible way possible,and then the possibility that you will never get it back. This was how I was feeling. Absolutely crushed. We left not long after his visit. The car ride home I cried and cried, like yesterday I repeated just how cute he was. It was good to be home. Meg & Mum in the kitchen cooking, Dad, Ian. and Phil having a drink, Katie arriving home from work and me sitting in my rocking chair in the corner of the kitchen pumping milk like miss daisy. I remember feeling like this was the most amazing time, being spoilt and the feeling of joy bouncing between us all then a split second later I would feel devastated. How could I possibly be feeling happy when I was told my baby was so close to death yesterday. I should be in that hospital by his side. But then when I was in the hospital there was no use for me, what could I offer him? I couldn't hold him, cuddle him, feed him. No things that a normal mum would be doing. The only thing I could do was love him and to do that I needed to look after myself. Well thats what everyone kept telling me.
Look after myself? HA! Does that mean giving birth, being discharged 5 hours later, walking my ass off, not sleeping, hardly eating, crying 23 hours of the day and continually pumping milk means? Well in that case I fit the mold. Looking back now I wish I had chilled out, I wish I had slept, not pumped every 4 hours to the MINUTE, took longer showers, had more time out. However at the time, I was completely torn between my baby and myself. I didn't matter, my own body was at the bottom of my priority list. This began to show as it started to fail me, I began to crack physically, mentally, and emotionally.