What doesn’t kill us…

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I’m thinking if this blog is about my journey through the mummy land then I should start with my first born child. What follows has been a long time coming. Something that I’ve needed to talk about and get off my chest for 2.5 years…so here goes…

My husband, let’s call him Mr. C, and I got married about 3 and a half years ago. We had been living together for a few years and owned our own home. We had decent jobs and let’s face it we weren’t getting any younger so we decided that we weren’t going to wait to start trying to have kids, we were going to start trying right away.

I stopped taking my BC pills on our honeymoon. This was in November. At the end of December I took a home pregnancy test. I really didn’t think anything was going to happen so quickly but lo and behold I got a positive.

After seeing the two pink lines show up I walked out of the bathroom and into the spare room where my husband was on the computer. He said “So..what does it say” my response was ” I don’t know”. He then replied “what do you mean you don’t know” and looked at it. He then looked at the box and said ” This says we’re pregnant” To say we were excited would be an understatement.

I have to admit I was really nervous. This was the first time I’d ever been pregnant. It all felt so new and scary and huge! I had a super easy pregnancy. I exercised right up until the end. I didn’t feel sick and never felt most of the aches and pains that other women complained of.

Even with all that I had this weird unsettled feeling throughout my entire pregnancy. I remember calling my Dad in tears somewhere before that magical third month. The third month is supposed to be the time where you breathe a sigh of relief. Your chances of miscarriage drop significantly so you can start telling people and you become used to the idea of being pregnant. I cried on the phone with my Dad before that third month hit. I thought maybe this weird unsettled feeling was because I was destined to lose this baby. Like most Dad’s do, he had some words of wisdom for me. He said “N. you come from a long line of women who have had many children with no complications, don’t worry, everything is going to be all right”

That unsettled feeling never went away.

One Wednesday afternoon about 2 weeks before my due date I was sitting at home having a bowl of soup and watching “The Hills” when my water broke. I was home alone. I called everyone and everyone was pretty far away. So, without thinking, I got in the car and drove myself to the hospital. Little did I know that I actually had 26 hours to go before Mr. T would make his grand entrance to the world!

My labour was long and painful! I really wanted to go au naturel but after 22 hours of horrendous pain I opted for the epi.

Mr. T. finally arrived into this world at 5:24 pm, he looked so perfect. Beautiful and tiny and amazing. I couldn’t believe that he came out of me!!! It still shocks me to be honest that I was capable of pushing a life into this world, well with the assistance of a little vacuum that tore me to shreds!!

He looked tiny but to me all newborns looked tiny. I had never seen a baby that new to the world before so I didn’t know how he was supposed to look. I did, however, know that he was supposed to cry…and he didn’t. Not right away. I asked if it was a boy or a girl, because no one had told me before they whisked him off to the examining table. They said, in a slightly too cheery voice, it’s a boy, congratulations. I then asked “why isn’t he crying?” As if in response to my question, at that exact moment he let out a mewww…I say a mew because his cry didn’t sound like that of a newborn baby. All loud and angry as though they are demanding to be put back in. He sounded more like a teeny meek little kitten that was asking for help. It made me feel better to hear him cry but that unsettled feeling returned because somewhere deep inside I knew that cry was a sign that something wasn’t right.

He was beautiful. 5 pounds 4 ounces of sheer perfection.Words can not even describe how elated we were. They put him on my chest and I just held him and didn’t ever want to let go. I kissed him and stroked him and marvelled at his beauty. There was nothing more beautiful in this entire world. My exhaustion disappeared. I felt so strong and powerful. I know that billions of women do this around the world every day but I felt like I was a machine! I just brought life into this world! What a super human I was!!!

Through all of the tears of joy,  well wishes, smiled and pride that unsettled feeling..well it still never went away.

The doctor came in and checked him, they said because he was a little small. They said he was ok, a little mucousy but many babies were like that the first few hours.

They wheeled me into my recovery room. My little man wrapped tightly in my arms. My husband carrying all of our bags. The nurse pushing my wheelchair and right alongside us…that unsettled feeling.

A few hours went by and I tried to feed him. He didn’t take too well but “don’t worry” they said “he’ll get the hang of it”. 

They came in to test his blood sugars and that is when my nightmare began.

Mr. T. didn’t like the pokes and prods and started screeching. His little screech sounded more mouse than man. As he screamed he began to choke. I looked at Mr. C and saw the same look in his eyes that I had in mine. Panic. Even our inexperienced selves knew this wasn’t normal.

Nurses rushed in, doctors came by and crowded our little room. Eventually they took Mr. T. to the special care nursery for observation. Still no one ever said, something is wrong. “Just for observation” they said.

There it is again, that unsettled feeling.

Throughout the night and into the next day Mr. C and I alternated between sleeping and sitting with Mr. T in the special care nursery.

They told me I couldn’t nurse him. They told me to hold him skin to skin, kangaroo care they said. “It helps sick babies heal quicker”. Inside I screamed, “what is wrong?? He’s perfect!” I didn’t understand. No one was telling in words there was a problem.

The worst moment of the whole ordeal, or perhaps the worst moment of my entire life, was when Mr. T; all cozy inside my hospital gown against my chest started rooting for my breast. He looked up at me and looked me right in the eye. His eyes held pain. They held confusion. “Why won’t you feed me”, it felt like he was saying. “I’m starving and you are my mummy. You are supposed to feed me, why won’t  you let me eat?”. He cried and looked at me with pleading eyes. I cried and looked at him begging him to forgive me. I tried to explain to him; “I”m so sorry they wont’ let me feed you” I said to him through tears, as if he could understand me. Eventually he grew weak and tired and stopped trying to eat. My heart broke. That was the first time I ever felt like a failure as a mother. Since then I’ve had that feeling a few more times and I’m sure as life goes on I will feel like that again, but that was the very first time.

The next day they took Mr. T. for some tests to see if there were any issues. Funny enough, I awoke that morning feeling wonderful. Thinking, I’m a mummy! I can’t believe it! I have waited my whole life to be a mummy and here I am with a beautiful little baby boy. That unsettled feeling was there but I was pushing it away. While Mr. C went with our boy to do the tests I sat in bed thinking all was going to be normal and we would get to go home soon. I received phone calls from friends and happily told my the birth story.

About 45 minutes later Mr. C. walked in the room. His face didn’t show any signs. I saw his lips moving but I didn’t hear anything after he said “N. he has to have surgery.”

Turns out Mr. T. had tracheoesophageal fistula. Basically he had a connection between his esophagus and his trachea. THis means when he swallows the fluid goes into his lungs. Without surgery he will die. He will drown as he tries eating or he will starve to death.

The next few days were just a blur. He was transferred to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children the following day. A Saturday. By Sunday he was in an operating room at the hospital having his H type fistula repaired. I listened to the doctors explain that they could fix it. I tried to understand their medical jargon. I tried to make sense of what my little man was going through. But I just kind of walked through those days in a fog. Doing what I had to do. I pumped my breast milk so that when he could finally eat we’d be ready. I sat beside his incubator and sang to him. I ate, only because I was told that I had to eat to keep up my strength. I tried to sleep but that didn’t come very easily.

I cried with Mr. C.  I cried with my parents and my in-laws. I cried on my own in the shower where I thought no one would hear me. I tried asking God what I did? Why this was happening to me. I went into denial thinking, he’ll be home in a few days. Don’t worry this will all be over with shortly.

Throughout the 6 weeks that Mr. T was in the hospital I went through a whole range of emotions. As I said before I went through denial. I got angry. I wondered how it was fair that there were women out there who had babies and didn’t want them. Who got pregnant without even trying and never really wanted their kids. How there were parents who neglected and abused their children. Who exploited them and treated them badly. All of these things were happening out there and here we were, watching our baby suffer.

I then felt sadness. Sadness for myself and for the other parents who were going through agonizing pain. Suffering alongside their babies. Whose lives were now a whirlwind of doctors and medicines and machines that were keeping their babies alive, if even just for now.

Then finally I came out of the fog. I looked around me and saw that while it may not seem like it, I was actually truly blessed. I had family who was there to support me. I had parents and in-laws who were alternating days at the hospital bringing us home cooked food. THis was so that not only would we not be alone but we would also eat well and healthy.  I saw cousins and friends and siblings who sat beside us during Mr. T’s surgery awaiting the news. THey held our hands and allowed us to cry on their shoulder and most cried along with us. They felt our pain.

Sadly I saw other mummy’s and daddy’s whose little ones were also in the NICU and who didn’t have such a positive prognosis. I saw mummy’s and daddy’s who were about to or had already lost their little angels and I couldn’t even begin to imagine their suffering. I felt a bond with these other parents who were here. No one else could understand what we were going through but them. I felt a connection to them and every day we began to hear a little more of their stories. We looked forward to hearing how their babies were doing and we were there when they needed to vent if something was going as well as planned.

It felt like we were in a whole new universe. A world we never knew existed before. A place I hope you never have to visit. Life was going on outside of these walls but for those of us in that hospital it felt like that was all there was for that particular moment in time.

 It was a make it or break it moment and for us, at the time, it made us. It brought Mr. C and I together. Closer than ever. We were a team fighting the same battle together and we were going to make it to the other side no matter what it took. We picked each other up when the other fell and we drew on each other’s strengths when we needed to.

When life gets a little too tough to handle I try to remember that time of my life. I try to remember how insignificant all my little trivial worries were. Money..who cares how much we have? Our house..who cares if it’s not huge and not always tidy? My job…what does it matter? I’m not saving anyone’s life at work so at the end of it all it’s not worth the amount of stress that I used to assign to it all of the time. I don’t care how much I get paid and I don’t care if I live in a teeny tiny house as long as I have my family by my side that’s all that matters.

I feel better now. It’s been 2.5 years and I still cry about it sometimes. I think I really needed to get that all out. This was sort of therapy for me if you will.

Mr. T is doing wonderful. He’s a perfectly normal, healthy, defiant 2.5 year old! He’s so smart and still just as beautiful as ever. I guess with this blog you will hear more about him and about my new addition Ms. J. who is just as perfect as Mr. T.

We made it to other side. Thanks to the support of our family and friends, thanks to wonderful doctors who do amazing things on such teeny tiny little people and thanks to the strength of a wonderful little boy who has put more joy into my life than I ever thought possible.

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