Why?

When trying to think how to begin, the first thing I wrote was why, planning on some sort of snappy follow up like why blog? why write? but that instantly became a train of thought of my mind that quickly pulled into the stations of why bother? and why us? Well, why not?

Maybe it’s because;

I am a middle child. I suffer from middle child syndrome. Therefore I am creative in writing this, but also extremely middle child-esque for writing this melancholy piece.

But it’s not about me, or us, it’s about him. Rufus. Up until he arrived I didn’t realise how cushy our life was. A fairly ordinary upbringing, lifted by a great family, blighted by the usual reverse snobbery bullying that affects middle class children. A degree from art school. Meeting and marrying the lovely and sensitive wolf. A great job. A few months of trying to conceive and then success. In short, nothing to complain about.

But I will have done, because that’s what we do. And I’ve not developed some super human powers that exclude me from a good old whinge, Rufus hasn’t made me a better person. He likes a good whinge too! But when you’ve been really shocked, scared and then coped with the aftermath some of the small shit that you could moan about just falls into insignificance.

But this isn’t a post about moaning, there will be plenty where I rant and wail under the ‘why us?’ banner, particularly as I’ve chosen to take to the keys whilst expecting our second child. As the lovely sonographer and I agreed on Thursday, you can’t take anything for granted once you’ve known the taste of an unexpected trauma. I didn’t think it was the time to mention that it also rears a bitter, cynical occasionally psychotic side that one day won’t be responsible for the actions over the pregnant women smoking outside the hospital doors. Plus the hormones…

So, why Rufus? I was pregnant, I was really excited, I was googling pushchairs and baby things at 6 weeks. My sister was also pregnant, we were going to be able to spend part of our maternity leave together with the big, chubby, overdue babies that were a feature of my family. She had HP, he was perfect. That’s what I was getting, why wouldn’t I? The bump was little, but that’s because I was tall/muscular/just carrying him that way. Everyone’s always got a tale of how such and such had a small bump and their baby was huge. I had the 20 week scan, on the lower range of amniotic fluid, slight dilation in left kidney. But not to worry, such and such was told such and such from a scan and it was false. You know, don’t panic. Come back for a growth scan in 10 weeks.

We moved from London, we changed hospitals. The bump was still very small, but we were busy, and happy. I didn’t notice he didn’t move much. It was painful though, pains down my legs, I started to feel sick. The scan’s soon, don’t worry. Book your antenatal classes, carry on at work. It’s your first pregnancy. You feel like you’re wetting yourself a lot? That’s normal. It happened to me all the time.

The scan was coming up that day, I was watching This Morning. Myleene Klass in a neonatal unit. My heart ached for the families. Can you imagine that? Let’s go to the scan, excited to see our incubus again. Everything was running late, in with the consultant. Oh, you’re very small! How pregnant are you again? Hmm, can’t work out which way the baby’s lying. I’ll see you after the scan.

Another hour before the scan, a cheese toastie. We chatted about baby names again, convinced it was a girl because that’s what my bump looked like. Chatter, happy, together. In for the scan. The screen gets turned away. But its ok, I can hear the heart beat. Whispering, worried faces. Please go and wait outside Mrs D, we’d like to get the consultant to look at this scan. More waiting. Tears this time. Things aren’t right but what? The consultant walks past without eye contact.

Another half an hour passes. In with the consultant again. OK, so this time the amniotic fluid is barely present. The baby is breech. We’ll need to monitor you for a few days. The heartbeat is very fast. We relax a bit. Monitoring, that’s OK. They’re in no rush. I can go home after steroid injections just in case we need to deliver baby early. This was Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Tears on Friday, we wouldn’t be sending you home if we were really worried. See you Monday, you have the number if there’s any concerns.

Sunday. Something gross. Gunky. Don’t worry Mrs D, we’re seeing you tomorrow. Can you feel baby? A bit. See you tomorrow.

Monday. Driving in listening to Radio 4. Giles Brandreth. We’re laughing at families of 10, had a bit of an falling out in the morning, barely concealed stress. But pick me up in an hour or so- we’ll go and look at cots in Ikea this afternoon. Nervous chit chat with the nurses, they keep furrowing their brows every time they look at the heart trace. Baby isn’t moving. Where’s your husband? we’re going to need to deliver this baby today. Naturally? No, no time, baby is breech. When? In half an hour.

Call Dad, he won’t panic. Call husband. Worried that he might crash the car. Shaking. Trying not to cry. Yoga breathing. Mantra, it’ll be alright, this is my journey to meeting my baby. Baby might be 4lbs and only have to spend a few weeks in neonatal. My first operation, bar teeth being pulled. No hospital bag. Full face of make up for going out in the afternoon.

Lying on the gurney. Lots of people in the room. We’re laughing at the polystyrene ceiling tile that pops in and out of the ceiling as the room is sealed. Baby out. No cries. The room is noisy but I can’t hear it. I just want to hear my baby. It’s a boy. We look at each other. Rufus it is then. Still no cry. Then, a cat’s mew, a tiny specimen is whisked in front of us before being taken away. More pushing, pulling and doing the dishes in my tummy. We’re just stitching you up. Stop leaning on me. We’re not Mrs D.

Out of the room, the pace slows down. The midwife comes to talk, my Mum and Dad have arrived, overjoyed that it’s a boy, a playmate for HP. We’re happy that the baby seems OK, he’s only 2lb 10oz though. The family can all go and see him soon, whilst we take you to the ward Mrs D. He’s breathing well, just needed some rescue breaths, we’re laughing at the lack of hospital bag and my face of make up. My first proper operation and I go in so unprepared.

And that’s where the journey starts. This isn’t the post to go into all the ins and outs of the ensuing weeks and months that past. Time slowed down immeasurably. Various ideas of a diagnosis, lots of testing, failure to thrive. That weekend.

But why today? Because after all the diagnosis and prognosis, we have Rufus who is doing literally everything he can to defy expectation, good and in someways bad. Health wise, he’s knocking the prognoses on the head but his development is hard to define. And he’s still on lots of medicines, and tube fed, and looks, in the words of the community paediatrician “a little dysmorphic but its hard to tell with him being so small”. We have teams of people watching him. He has the diagnosis of congenital nephrotic syndrome, with no known genetic cause, hanging over him. He has an uncertain future. But I’ve been given the opportunity to afford him a lot more of a normal life than was predicted. So I’m taking some of that time to write, to deal with a lot that’s buried and troubling. And when I’m not at work, allow me to focus on something else to now go completely loopy or over anxious now I’m carrying again.

Is that enough? If not, here’s the eye candy. The boy. Gorgeous in his dysmorphia, in our eyes.

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