It was the beginning of Spring and the early spring flowers and blossoms were already filling the garden, which I admired through the bedroom window as I rested, tired and heavy at the end of what had felt like a long and challenging pregnancy. It was also one week into the first national Lockdown, as Covid-19 was spreading exponentially across the globe. The streets had already fallen silent for seven days, and the fine weather had set in, when your birthing day arrived. Covid had already wielded it’s power in changing your arrival date- originally you were due to be born on 27th March, but as Covid began impacting the hospital policies, your delivery was moved to three days later. I felt happy with that though, once the anxiety of another change had settled. Three more days for you to grow and stay tucked inside. You were already being born a little early- you were 39 weeks +3 days. I am sorry that you weren’t able to choose when you were ready to come- I am so aware of that.
We decided that you would be born via a planned C-section. There had been complications, and issues with the position of my placenta which made it the safest delivery for you. You had also been breech until 38 weeks, when you amazingly turned, when I was planting tulip bulbs in the garden! You were amazing to turn so late, with no help!
We dropped your brother and sister with friends very early that morning. I had barely slept the night before. There was such emotion saying goodbye to them, and hoping and praying, the next time I would see them, we would be bringing you home to join our family.
It had been such a hard journey my little one. I am also sorry that I wasn’t able to protect you from my anxiety and fear as you grew. Such a lot had happened before you came in, and every day felt like a marathon of courage and hope. We wanted you so desperately, but I also had to protect myself from the fear of losing you too. I would imagine you inside my womb surrounded by a golden orb and swimming in golden light, like the light of the sun shining on you; and I hoped and prayed that you could know peace and protection from the storm of feelings I battled daily.
We had seen you on ultrasound so many times during the pregnancy- one time the sonographer caught you sticking your tongue out! I felt like you were strong and determined, and everything we were told seemed hopeful, but it felt so hard arriving at hospital on the day of your birth. There was still a very real part of me that looked at the cradle by the side of my hospital bed and wondered if in the next few hours our baby girl would actually be here and placed there, safely beside me.
We had already been told the devasting news three days earlier that Daddy wouldn’t be able to be present at your birth. That news had felt like a final blow, that had knocked out the remaining energy and fight left in me. I felt very alone and despondent and afraid.
One thing I have learnt over the years, is that I needed to summon as much support as I can get when times get tough. So we spent the weekend before you were born summoning our troops to stand with us and support us. Our friends and family were amazing. Everyone wanted you- everyone was behind us. We had so much special support from special people- I will tell you about them all one day. A dear friend Louise, sent me a picture that she had had painted for me, the morning of your delivery as I sat in hospital, in the waiting area while Daddy parked the car. It was of me lying on a bed of feathers and being surrounded by love. It felt like a picture I could take into your birth with me, that while I was physically alone, I knew so many people who love our family, were with me in thought and spirit. It was so comforting and filled me with hope. I had a peace come in, alongside the fear, knowing that it was just you and me now, and I needed to do everything I could to bring you safely into the world.
The light was beautiful, as it always has been when we have been up on the 13th floor of that hospital. The sun was rising in the sky- it was going to be a beautiful day.
Claire our midwife gently and competently cared for us as she prepared us for birth. I felt like she just knew how hard it was and how much was at stake. I trusted her and she made me feel safe. When it was time to leave Daddy and walk the short few steps next door into the operating theatre, she gently took hold of my arm while I cried. Leaving Daddy behind was so hard for us both.
All of the doctors and midwives looking after us were in PPE, but I could still feel their warmth and care shining through. The anaesthetist Phil made me laugh as the team prepared for your birth. He really took care to listen to me and understand my fears, and that meant so much. We found we were both from Yorkshire, and I felt a connection to him, as he carefully inserted my spinal. We laughed as all the hand sanitizer I had used that morning, made my canula keep slipping out of my hand! When he helped me lie down on the operating table, I remembered the painting and imagined laying back on the arms of angels and feeling feathers surrounding me. I swear to this day that the table was warm- I even asked them if it was heated! The sun was also warm and shining through the windows. The surgeon was a wonderful woman whose name I don’t remember, but I can still see her smiling at me. There was music on, but I don’t remember what. Daddy wasn’t with me, but I could feel him, behind the wall in the next room.The next part blurs slightly- it was so fast from them starting your birth, to you being here, but Dr Phil put my ear phones in my ears and I whispered to you, that it was time for you to come now, and that I was here waiting for you.
I was listening to a few lines from a recorded relaxation and imagining myself on the beach in Mexico, when the Surgeon said, "Your baby is coming. Here she comes! She is quite big and very cute!" And then I heard your cry, and my heart broke and I remember saying, "is she really here? Is she really ok?" And I began to cry and you came to me and I put you on my chest and you screamed and I cried and cried, and I am sure I heard tears from others in the operating theatre. It was a sacred moment and Dr Phil said, "it has been a really hard journey for you," and I wept with relief and grief all jumbled together.
You cried for a long time my beautiful one, and through the tears I watched your little perfect face contorted in screams, and I marvelled at your strength and determination and I felt you were telling me all about it. I felt that anger. I am sorry that it could not have been different- that you could have come in your own time, and in a more peaceful way. But this was the best way I could birth you, and it was so beautiful. I held you while they stitched me, and it felt like we were in a blue cocoon- a blue clinical sheet in front of my face shielding us from the things we did not need to see in that moment. It was just you and me. And as they got ready to return me to the recovery suite, Claire took you through to meet Daddy. He was ready for you and he placed you straight against his chest. He had heard your first cries through the wall, and had heralded your birth through texts and phonecalls, firstly to your brother and sister, and to all who had been keeping vigil. When they wheeled me through to you and Daddy, the look of love on his face said everything.
We had a few hours together before Daddy had to leave. I was fed tea and toast, with butter and strawberry jam. You began feeding too, and approached this with the same energy and determination that you have gone on to show in every new pursuit! You had wrinkly hands and soft wavy wet hair. They had needed to bring you out with a sunction cap on your head as you were high up in my womb, and you had a mark on your forehead for 24 hours.You opened your eyes straight away and I remember gazing into your blue eyes- you seemed so alert for a newborn! We dressed you in snuggly sleepsuit which me and your big sister had carefully picked out for you, but was too big for you! We spend some precious hours together, before Daddy had to leave and collect your brother and sister.
There were more tears when it was time to say goodbye, but we promised there would be plenty of video calls, to keep us feeling close as a family, until we could all be reunited.
You and I went to the postnatal ward, and the staff settled us in a bay by the window. A room with a view! The midwife Eva laughed at how much I had in my suitcase, but emptied it of what I needed and settled me in. Midwives were on hand to help me change you- they really were there for us. I was so afraid of how it would be recovering from a C-section without Daddy there. There was another new mum in the ward for a while, and we chatted and you fed and slept.
That first night you fed until 4.30am and we had the ward just to ourselves. There was such a kind maternity assistant called Rana who came and changed you, and brought us extra blankets and tucked us in that night. The light was just starting to come up when we both fell asleep and were woken at 6am by a midwife called Lauren. I was exhausted and a bit wobbly, so she took you off with her for a little while, while you slept, and I tried to sleep.
That day I was determined to try and get us home, but my pain was too intense still, and by the end of the day, we decided to stay in for an extra night. Amazingly, during that day, we were visited by two of the midwives who cared for us when we lost your brother Jesse. It was so special to see them both- having been with us in such pain, and then for them to see the joy you had brought us in your arrival.
On the Wednesday, it had become hard to be away from home now, and I spent the day fighting to get home. You had jaundice and they had to do more tests, but a doctor eventually agreed to let us go home if we promised to come back if the jaundice got worse. I am so glad she trusted me to do that.
Leaving the hospital and waiting for Daddy and your brother and sister to arrive was one of the most precious moments, which I will never forget. The look of love on their faces as they ran up to us has been imprinted in a memory which I will never forget. Together at last- we all headed home.