This post has been sitting either here, or in that space of my brain that gets cluttered up and now feels the need to spit out its musings here, for well over a week. I’m guessing that’s what two kids does to you?! I simultaneously feel like I straddle two time zones. One where I’m so very busy I don’t know what time it is or if I have two matching shoes on, the other pinned beneath a slumbering mass of gorgeous crackles and pops where I don’t care what time it is, because this is bliss. Actually, there’s a third time zone, the twilight hours. But I get a bit ratty and pissed off then because I like my sleep. And both children invade that in a tag team formation until around 6am when they both decide to kick off.
I found a new blog this week, and a particular post chimed with me. Writing about his son’s stay in the PICU, and dealing with his complex medical needs he wrote Not Harder, Just Different. It’s something I’ve often felt about Rufus. This is our ‘normal’. Pity isn’t required, it just involves a different strategy. A new way of thinking- not that I’m clever enough to know what that is, because like any parent its homogenous. You find your way in the blinding darkness. But, here’s the thing. And I promised myself she didn’t need to be anything other than her. But Dulcie’s done it. She’s put an elastoplast on some of the cracks in my heart. It hasn’t been as hard. I know I shouldn’t say it, because Rufus has done nothing wrong. And I love him as fiercely as ever, if not a little more, from where I don’t now. My cup overflows at the moment.
I took some time to think more broadly, hence the title of this post. There is something that bonds the females of my family together- a difficult first birth experience. Objectively one could seem more difficult than an another, but subjectively they are all different and unique, and all left their mark.
Take my mum. It was the late 70s, she was a mere 25 years old. She grew whoppers of babies. She was attempting to give birth to my 8lb 10oz brother. He, like all of us, fancied facing the wrong way round for a lot of his journey into this world. So she agreed to have pethidine, but it was late, and she laboured quickly. She felt pressured, unsure of her decisions. And he was born floppy, and unresponsive. And she thought the worst. But he was absolutely fine (well, you know, I could get a dig in here about my brother, but seems a little inappropriate. Maybe later.) But then came her period of hospital confinement- 10 days, on a ward. She managed to discharge herself after 7. She knew she wanted to breastfeed, but my brother, like all babies at the time, was kept in a nursery. She would be taken through to feed him, and offered a hard wooden chair to establish his feeding. She was told he was jaundiced as her milk was ‘too rich’. But breastfeed she did because what unites us is all is a stubborn need to be In Control.
When it came to her second pregnancy, the one that I was lucky enough to be involved in, she knew it had to be different. So I was born at home, with no pain relief (this part seems like madness considering I was even more of a whopper). My parents still talk about it; champagne as the sun came up, bringing my brother through to meet the new addition straight away (once he’d been distracted from his new train set), burying the placenta under a rose bush in the front garden. This photo says it all, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that its all fuzzy and blurred…
And then there’s my little sister, having her first child at the same age. Again, not keen on pain relief. Gas and air making her sick. Her labour was long and arduous, HP wasn’t in a hurry. Another one not facing the right way for a long time. It culminated in an epidural and forceps. He was slow to come round (certainly makes up for this now). So when it came to her recent arrival, she knew what she wanted. No hanging around. But TP wasn’t waiting around either and popped out in a timely 9 hours.
HP is not only Rufus’s cousin, but part of his reflux brethren. She knew well of the gang I wrote about in Re:Re:Reflux. He wouldn’t be put down, no rest for the refluxy. Or their management team. But TP, he’s a completely different kettle of fish. So relaxed he’s horizontal. A sleeping accessory. Again, she’s completely in love with both her boys. But this time round, well, it’s just papered over some of the past.
And me. Well, I’ve given you both birth stories. Thing 1 and Thing 2. But here I am, over two weeks later and its not just the birth that’s been so much better. Apparently I have been writing something else in my mind. A mental ticklist, subconsciously, of Things I Didn’t Get To Do First Time Round. Things that I assumed would be magical, Disney-esque. And this is where Dulcie has done her duty.
It starts off simply this list. Holding her straight after she was born. Tick. Spending our first night together. Tick. Taking her home the next day. Nobody taking her away again. Sleeping in our bed. Going out after a few days. People admiring her. Congratulating me. 24 hour Dulcie and I time, Dulcie and the Ds time. Holding her head so well. Tick, tick, tickety tick.
There’s been a big milestone though, something quite controversial though. A divider. I’ve been quite flippant about it, but it’s a bluff. This thing feels huge. I’ve bluffed because I didn’t want to make too bigger deal of it, just in case. But I feel the need to explain. I am naturally lazy. Sure, I can give the illusion of working my arse off, but generally I search for the easiest possible route to greatest maximum return. So I had very little intention of sterilising two sets of feeding equipment. But it runs deeper than that. I think the choice to feed is so controversial because it’s the most emotional, base thing for a mother to do. And I knew what I really wanted.
Those hours spent in a small room divided from the NICU, time away from my boy, serenaded by the gwom, gwom, gwooom of the breast pump. My
cup bottles overfloweth again. I was so determined to make my boy better I bruised myself trying to establish flow. I set alarms in the middle of the night just to fill my freezer full. The hospital freezers full. Family freezers full. It was a lonely place, but I thought it would bring maximum return, so I threw my all into it. It didn’t. Freezers were emptied and discarded. He may never be coming home, how could I fail to be despondent? My body had failed me again. I stopped, my weight dropping too low, my heart fallen even lower.
So my choice this time came from that broken heart, and Dulcie has taken to it like a fish to water. I’m not claiming its easy. When you’re used to feeding by gastrostomy, with a child still suffering from fairly severe reflux, it’s all strict timings and amounts. Three daytime boluses split two thirds and a third, and an 11 hour overnight slow feed. I’ve had to retrain part of my brain, stop the worry about when and how much. But it’s not as hard. So I may sound like an advocate, but I never judge. And I may be nauseating in my joy of breastfeeding her, but it’s because it has come as a glorious surprise. And yes, it is easier.