I’m feeling particularly emotional for a Thursday night. You see, my baby girl turns three tomorrow. I’m sure many parents feel this way as another year passes and we all wonder where the time has gone, but aside from worrying life is passing by too quickly, it's the time of year I find myself looking back at photos of when she was born and reliving the experience.
On this eve three years ago, I was being rushed for an emergency Caesarean resulting in our little girl arriving 10 weeks early, weighing just 2 lbs. 4 oz. the following morning. She was whisked away from us and taken to the Special Care Baby Unit where she was kept alive by breathing apparatus.
I was recovering from severe early onset preeclampsia – on an I.V. and unable to leave my bed – so for two days, I didn’t meet my baby girl. I didn’t hold her, I didn’t touch her, I didn’t feed her, or marvel in the magical experience of birth. Instead I was taken to a maternity ward where I lay in bed listening to screaming babies, wondering if I would ever be lucky enough to hear my baby cry through the night.
When the time finally came that we could meet our precious daughter, our first cuddles were hindered by wires and needles. We were able to hold her once a day, tucked into our tops for skin-to-skin contact, and we could change her diaper every four hours. Whilst this felt incredible, I don’t think I have ever quite come to terms with not being able to hold my baby girl and bond with her as we all expect to be able to do.
At night, going home and leaving her behind was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Every night I would call the unit to make sure she was okay before going to sleep myself, never knowing for sure that I would see her again in the morning.
After six weeks in SCBU, the day finally came when we could take her home. It was such an emotional day, putting our now 4 lb. baby in her car seat and carefully driving her home. At six weeks old, she was still half the weight of the average newborn and still wasn’t supposed to have entered the world for another month.
I’ll never forget our time in SCBU. Actually, that’s not true. From day to day, I don’t think about it. I can talk about my little girl being premature, but I don’t remember our time there. I think I’ve largely blocked out the details, but when I look at the photos, or a tiny hat, the teddy she had in her incubator, I’m transported back there. I can feel the uncertainty, smell the clinically clean wards, hear the beeping monitors warning of tiny hearts stopping. I'm filled with mixed emotions – the excitement of becoming a parent and the sick feeling that I may never BE a parent.
But this experience has shaped us as a family and changed my outlook on life. I can honestly say that every day I feel grateful. Not all day, I do have a three-nager you understand! But at some point in each day, I count my blessings. There was a chance that either she or I may not have made it through that night three years ago, but we are both here now.
We didn't get to hold our daughter straight away when she was born, but now I take pleasure in holding her every day and really savoring it. I didn't get to feed her straight away but now we spend hours cooking together or making play picnics. There were days when I didn't know whether I was going to take my baby home, but I did. And now she's here and about to turn three.
I have found happiness in every day that I’ve had her with me and I'm grateful for that. Our time in the SCBU made us appreciate life and what we have. So although looking back is painful, I wouldn’t change it.