Eight days later, after carrying both Eva and the baby we had lost, I woke up bleeding in the middle of the night and we headed to the hospital. Turned out my body was starting to have contractions (this was news to me….I had fallen asleep in a delivery room and woken up to four doctors staring at me, pointing to a machine which was going haywire. Note to self : I can take a contractions like a boss).
Eva was taken straight to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after the C-section. The other baby, who we named Georgia, was taken away, where a bereavement midwife began arrangements for our wishes to be met. We chose not to hold Georgia, take away any photos (though they exist if we want them) or have a service, and her ashes are scattered in a memorial garden. After 24 weeks, a loss is legally considered a stillbirth. I hated that fact, because it wasn’t how we wanted to see things. It was like getting told the right way to grieve. Many will disagree with how we did things, but to this day we are at peace with what we chose to do - which was grieve in our own way, and out all out energy into Eva and healing as a family.
Eva did well on the unit, getting stronger all the time. There were countless wires attached to her, machines to monitor her, constant blood tests (plus one blood transfusion) brain scans, and a course of antibiotics, to name just a few things that happened over those weeks. These were all normal for preemie babies, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying when it’s YOUR preemie baby. There were regular sightings of twins on the unit, with them being often premature and needing care before going home. That was particularly awful, and to be honest is one of my biggest battles still today. You also convince yourself every other mother out there has had a better experience than you. Despite being surrounded by parents on the unit in as much of a personal hell as you are, Its hard to appreciate that when you’re in it.
I can’t describe the feeling of that neo natal unit being your life. You wake up, get ready, go to the hospital, drag yourself down that corridor, and exist there until you go home, without your baby, who you are convinced you will lose too, no matter what the nurses say. But, sure enough, on December the 23rd 2017…..Eva came home after nine weeks on the unit. Husband somehow cooked a Chrsitmas dinner 2 days later! With his parents and brother round the table. I ate roast turkey emotionally and physically battered and bruised….with a baby who hadn’t been fully mine for nine weeks now next to me in a moses basket. Not your average Christmas.
I didn’t enjoy having a baby at first. I didn’t sleep and was a walking milk machine, and I just couldn’t feel happy despite getting Eva home. There were not only challenges of caring for not only a newborn, but a newborn who had been extremely premature, who had been through an enormous battle. Eva needed weekly blood tests to check she was still ok at the hospital we had only just managed to escape. She had numerous vitamins and medicines administered for months afterwards. She was, and still is, the smallest baby of her age at any baby group, where you experience the inner turmoil of whether to tell a complete stranger why you baby is so small or just lie about how old they are.
I thought I wasn’t ok initially because of the grief….as if a successful pregnancy and birth would have meant I’d be floating round like Snow White with bluebirds singing, fresh bread in the oven, cradling my bundle of joy, high off the wonders of motherhood. Yes the grief was there, in its incredibly raw form, but as I look back I realise the lack of enjoyment was due to looking after a newborn and being a new mum having few moments that are actually bloody enjoyable! But, here’s the amazing thing - you get through it. You survive the grueling feeding routine and extreme sleep deprivation. You start to recognize yourself in the mirror. You make new friends. You find ways to enjoy life and remember who you are. You watch your baby grow and learn, and you sit in amazement of what you’ve come through. You take the joy and the love that has come from something so awful. And you write a blog about it.,