A decade ago Cristina’s son was unexpectedly, born too soon. She reflects on her experience and the impact it had after she took her son home.
Ten years ago we brought home this premature, still jaundiced, four-pound baby boy, born at 35 weeks.
The days and weeks that followed are a blur. I know I was there, because there are pictures to prove it, but I have almost no memory of that time.
I do remember however, in vivid detail…
The moment my waters suddenly broke as I was walking up the stairs on a quiet Saturday evening, my first weekend of maternity leave.
The arrival at the hospital in excruciating pain and the midwife’s verdict – premature labour, 8 cm dilated.
The room full of doctors and nurses, the incubator, the tiny body of this baby I was only able to hold for seconds.
The 3am consultants’ visit informing me my baby’s left lung had collapsed.
The blue ambulance lights taking him to another hospital with an intensive care unit.
The sound of the ventilators and the constant beeping of the alarms in the NICU.
The moment a tiny two-pound baby died in the incubator next to my son’s.
The smell of the milk bank.
The noise of the breast pumps hanging off my breasts, squeezing out a meagre 20ml every few hours.
“The conversation with the counselling midwife – ‘no clear reason why you had gone into labour so suddenly’ is all I heard.“
The routine of our daily commute on the M25 to be with our baby in the NICU.
The empty, eerily silent home we came back to every night without a baby.
I remember it all.
And then… nothing.
That journey home after two weeks in the NICU was like going into a tunnel. I stayed in that tunnel for 12 weeks.
I existed for this tiny baby but I didn’t let love in. My brain was telling me he nearly died and he could still die. He could still stop breathing.
“Love wasn’t safe.“
So I just existed. We both put one step in front of the other as best we could, even on the days when that seemed ridiculously ambitious.
And then one night, there was a crack in the darkness, as Leonard Cohen would put it, and the light got into the tunnel.
We were sitting together, after a feed, in the 3am stillness of the house.
He was staring at me in wonder, not crying, not smiling, just staring. He was there, patiently waiting.
And just like that, I saw him. I truly saw him.
And the love I had resisted for so long just burst out of my chest.
It had always been there.
In hindsight, I probably trusted, no, hoped, that I would feel it some day.
I held on. And on some level, I didn’t just hold on for my son but for me, too.
For the person I would be some day. Perhaps today.
If you’re going through your own journey with a premature baby, remember that the crack is there. Light WILL get in. Just hold on. For the happy child your baby will be some day and for you. Hold on for you. For who you’ll become.