11 days in hospital, 10 nights alone
4 nights without my newborn,
Somewhere in a hospital on the other side of London being nursed by strangers
10 days without food or drink
I never felt so hungry or thirsty with only tubes to keep me nourished,
after the physical exhaustion of birth
Scare after scare, the colour drained out of my face
My baby weight dramatically lost, as if you were never inside me.
It started so calm
The excitement despite the pain, the dawning of a new life.
Things took too long and I didn’t think to question
Walking up and down the hospital corridors and car park
Pausing to breathe through the earthquake sensation of the contractions
A natural labour became an emergency when it turned out you were sideways
Rushed voices talking over one another
Surgeons, doctors, you all came to investigate
Thrusting forms for me to sign whilst reeling off the risks
My labour no longer my own
The first cry which brought me out of the shock of the operation
My partner reached out to hold you and bring you to me
The first meeting of eyes, we knew instantly who each other were.
The pain the next day when I couldn’t sit up
My stomach swollen back to full pregnancy size but rock solid,
The sound of a drum as they tap tap tapped
The scared faces of the midwife who quickly moved me off the maternity ward
The misdiagnosis of a blood clot after being taken for a CT scan
I looked at you with saddened eyes, as if to say I am sorry I might be leaving you
So exhausted I didn’t know you had been taken away when I awoke
We were both so unwell with matching infections.
Like mother, like daughter.
The kind midwife who later told me she had a feeling something was wrong with you,
when I was too weak and tired to notice, and rushed you to SCBU.
Sharing a hospital room with a lady pregnant with twins,
I heard the voice of the senior nurse from SCBU say to her outside the door
“Could you wait outside a moment as I need to talk with the Mum on her own”
My world stopped.
I didn’t want to receive the next piece of devastating news, I honestly thought I had lost you.
The nurse came over to me
“We’ve done everything we can for her here, she needs to be taken to Kings.”
I was rushed down to SCBU in a wheelchair with my tubes and catheter bag trailing behind me,
the tube still scraping the back of my throat.
I felt so weak as if I was being beaten down by every new frightening development.
Seeing you in your incubator, so tiny, helpless
with wires in your nose and mouth and curled around your toes.
‘That’s not my baby’ I sobbed as I didn’t recognise you curled up in a ball,
before you were rushed away in an ambulance with my partner who arrived to more bad news.
I watched you both leave from my window, helpless
Five minutes to say goodbye to my daughter
I didn’t know when we would see each other again
My heart broke and I howled like an animal.
A night back on the maternity ward
This time with an empty bed beside me
An imposter taking up space with newborn babies and lovestruck parents all around me.
I was so lonely but exhausted I slept through the crying for the only night in hospital.
Comforted by the caring staff working on the ward, the kind surgeon that came over to hug me and said
“I am so glad to see you sitting up. When I went home that night I called my team
and asked them to be on the case with you”
My blood pressure rose and rose and rose
The constant worry of the midwives. that it wasn’t coming down.
The constant beeps of the machines and being checked every hour through the night
I didn’t start to recover until you were brought back to me
The missing piece of me.
Pumping pumping pumping
Determined to breastfeed you despite being told it would be difficult after a long separation
The small drops of colostrum was all I had to feel like I was a mother when I didn’t have you
So I pumped and pumped and pumped even though sometimes I only got 10 mil.
I wanted to nourish you to replace the lost cuddles
Walking slowly back and forth to the hospital fridge with syringes of milk
I passed the long hours indistinguishable between day and night, except for the tortuous ring of the bell to mark breakfast, lunch and dinner
But not for me, fed only by the IV.
Hours spent in a dark room
White noise cackling
Singing ‘You are my sunshine’
Over and over
The skilful dance to place you in your cot
You startle and look at me with your big blue eyes and I crumble
I pick you up
We start again
I lose track of the time but I know dinner time has come and gone
The flashing light of the monitor as you stir
My head’s just touched the pillow so I sleep walk to your room
I count to sixty, a meaningless number to rock you back to sleep
The losing battle after the fifth time of padding across the hallway
To bring you into our bed where two become three
Half sleeping trying not to roll onto you in the night
Waking up to the tug of my bra strap or the pull of my hair
‘I am here Mum,’ and somehow it doesn’t matter it’s 5am because every day is a new adventure with you.
The daily walks to get you to nap,
Clocking up the miles and trying to keep my brain alive by listening to podcast after podcast
The joy of bumping into a friendly face on a walk and secretly agreeing to do it again during lockdown,
the isolation getting to us all.
No coffee dates, play dates, classes to keep me sane.
Moving from room to room looking for new things to play with whilst trying to keep the noise down
or avoid making a cameo appearance on a business zoom call.
The sinking feeling of falling behind,
The worry you will never sleep through the night
The worry I will never sleep through the night
The feeling that somehow I am never doing it right.
The clock ticking on when I must return to work
No matter how tough this time has been, the daunting realisation that one day this time will be over
and we won’t have these long cuddles, spending every hour together, just us.
My little best friend.
I want to start it all again even though I know it’s been the hardest journey of all.
Motherhood in lockdown
It’s never what I planned or imagined for my year of leave,
my first year as a mother
It’s tested me beyond what I thought I was capable of
My body pummelled and pricked and poked and sewed up again
My sleep stolen
My identity lost but not forgotten
Separated from friends and family, no helping hands these last few months to give us some brief respite
The daily schedule; the walks, naps, nappies, the zooms repeat.
But I have you and we made it.
We made it through the excitement, the fear, the sickness, the pain,
the long hours spent cluster feeding, the crying, the reflux, the anxiety,
the googling, the undiagnosed PTSD
We made it through the long months of isolation with each day blurring into the next
Punctuated by the joy of your giggle, your first sounds, your first tastes,
the way your arms flap like a bird when Bobby the cat saunters past flicking his tail.
The amazing kindness of friends, family and neighbours that helped us through
Conversations held over the fence,
The reassurance from a mother of grown up daughters, sharing her memories of nights spent
dangling her hair over a cot
Every motherhood tale reminding me, we do what works as crazy as it may seem at the time
The night I climbed into your new cot to get you to sleep
The morning cups of tea brought to me in bed, the spilt tea and coffee on the covers
My partner working from home keeps me fed and watered
I can’t imagine how I would have managed this alone
The constant mountain of laundry, the merry go round of chores
The morning walks so I can steal some extra sleep,
The quick 6pm transition as he finishes in time for bath time
The undisturbed hours we have spent as a family, just the three of us.
The new normal.
I can’t remember not having you in my life
Waking up to your eager smile, falling asleep holding your hand
The outside world a lost friend.
One day we will meet again
But just for now I am content to be locked in with you, my little fighter.
This article was written by susie