When I look back on my pregnancy and my son’s birth, I don’t have memories of it being a particularly difficult or traumatic time, yet I have been told repeatedly that my son’s birth was nothing short of a miracle, and that my son and I are lucky to be alive.
The short story is that I went into portal hypertension at 12 weeks pregnant with esophageal varices, resulting in a loss of a third of blood in my body followed by a blood transfusion and liver surgery. There was a strong risk that one or both of us may not make it. Despite this, it was probably harder on my family to witness it than for me to go through it, and I have fond memories of being pregnant in the wintertime, snuggling up to a movie with my bottle of gingerale over ice (my big craving) being doted on.
When I did give birth, my son came at thirty-three and a half weeks. I had developed shingles and edema at the time of birth, because of this, I was put into isolation for 5 days and was unable to see my son. That remains the one aspect of the whole process that left me heart broken. I was unable to see the silver lining at that moment and thought that our bond may be broken forever because of this, so I started expressing milk as if it were my sole purpose in the world (our bond, of course, was not broken).
Louis remained in the hospital for a month, and I stayed with him for a part of the time in the neonatal ward. Yesterday we returned for the first time in over two and a half years, and it was fascinating to watch my son’s face as we were introduced to the nurses and looked around. There is no way he could remember anything factual as he was so young, but I’m sure there is something deep within him that knew where we were, his face was one of fascination and he held on to me tightly. There were two nurses there that I remembered, though any recollection on their part must have been minor at best – we were one of hundreds of cases, and by comparison, our stay and existence within the ward was rather benign. It very nice to go back and revisit the place that was so infused with emotion, exhaustion and joy, and when we returned home Louis was eager to see photos from the time of his birth. I happened to find one taken with one of the two nurses we saw on the ward who were absolute life savers. i learned more from them about nappies, breast feeding and swaddling than I could have ever hoped. Louis pointed to them in the photograph in recognition.
Motherhood has been the biggest blessing in my life and when I look back on the journey, revisiting the places such as the neonatal ward – where real life happens twenty-four hours a day, where devastation meets joy, when sometimes it is a matter of life and death – certainly puts all of the other bits back of life into perspective.