The day my daughter was born will always be an emotional day. It’s a mixture of delight and happiness, anxiety and dread. Having a son already meant that I had settled into the role as ‘mother’ earnestly. It wasn’t s role I’d always wanted but it was a role I’d thoroughly cherished for 9 months previous. I wasn’t scared of her arrival.
I was used to nappy changing (I was already a pro of doing this on a standing child, sitting child, crawling child and one in the depts of an almighty tantrum), my sterilising kit was ready, I was prepared for all nighters and was set for battle. I was organised.
That was, until, she arrived 9 full weeks earlier than anticipated.
Labour is always a daunting experience, for any expecting parent but early labour is, quite simply, terrifying. This time round, I thought I’d know what to expect. My 1st labour (although by no means easy) had been fine. Adrenaline was in control for the entire 15 hours and once my son arrived, the pain was immediately forgotten. I wasn’t nervous. I knew that when the time arrived, I’d own it. All of my plans were completely scuppered on the day Siena decided she was coming. I was a mess.
My 1st real memory of Siena’s birth occurred 6 hours after she was born. The midwife in charge had kindly administered diamorphine to me only minutes before my daughter’s arrival. I still think that this was more to help me after her birth than during the labour…and it did. The moments after Siena made an appearance are confused but I’m told I had a lovely sense of calm. I made several phone calls, casually dropped it into conversation that I’d just delivered my second child. Told everyone that she was perfect and completely great. At the time, I believed it. It was 6 hours later when I made my first trip the the NICU.
For those who know me well, this next part won’t surprise you at all. By this time, it was 1 in the morning. I opened my room door and timidly asked if someone could show me my daughter. The nurses were gentle with me as the guided me to her. As I peered into her isolette, I never expected the intense surge of emotions that beheld me. She was breathtaking (this had been my first chance to see her. I’d held her for 30 seconds but something had stopped me from opening my eyes. I don’t know if it was panic, relief or shock). Her perfectly formed body lay still, sleeping. She wore a mask over her face, helping her to breathe. She was cluttered with wires. It was too much for me to bear and I started crying hysterically. I cried so much that I was eventually escorted back to my room, banned from NICU until I’d calmed and slept. The second time I saw her, the doctors were trying to stabilise her condition.
I ached from labour and I ached with guilt. I was solely responsible for her. It was my job to protect her and keep her safe. I’d already failed. The reason why she was under duress was because I already wasn’t good enough. In the time it had taken me to calm my nerves, my daughter had suffered a severe pneumothorax and nearly died. I wasn’t even there for her. I hadn’t even been there to comfort her. I knew from that moment that I needed to sort my head out. I needed to be strong, for her, for me, especially for her Father.
I’ve been with my husband for 7 years and in that time, He’s always been the ‘strong one’. I’ve been allowed to express emotions freely, always depended on him to be my strength but this day was different. I looked at him, cowering in the corner, too scared to face me or his daughter in case he couldn’t be strong. He wanted to cry, he couldn’t around me but I saw him, secretly grieving to my friends. He needed me the most right then. He needed me to stop with the hysterics and take control. I never cried again in front of him. I kept my emotions hidden from him, from family, from friends and even the hospital staff. Inside, Siena’s NICU stay was heart wrenching but I kept smiling, would sit telling jokes to the nurses and joined in with ‘banter’. It was my way of coping, I wanted to be positive. I wanted her to remember my strength and listen to my laughter.
It was harder to stay so cheery when I wasn’t with her. When I wasn’t at the hospital, I tore myself apart with guilt. On the rare occasions that I ventured out, I told everyone who crossed my path about her. From shop assistant to window cleaners, I showed them photos and told them her tale. I branded her on Facebook, every update was Siena related. I had to! Otherwise, she felt like my dirty little secret. I hated that she seemed hidden from the world.
Her birth had been bitter sweet, in those few moments after, I couldn’t bring myself to announce it. I didn’t want congratulating, it didn’t feel like I deserved it. However, a day later and I knew I did. Siena was so strong from the start. Her journey was miraculous.
Having Siena has definitely changed my life. She’s changed my outlook and perspective. I LIVE with a miracle. She’s restored my faith, she’s made me realise that I am stronger than I would have ever thought. Unbelievably (and I know some won’t see this) I’m less dramatic than I ever thought. I’m trying hard not to overreact to every slight cough or wheeze. I look to her with amazement. I beam with pride. She may be small, she may not develop as quickly as others but she is strong, determined and charismatic. She inspires me to be the very best I ever can – for her and her beautiful brother.