When any new baby is born, life changes and you change to adapt accordingly. When you were 1st born, I’d no idea just how much I’d change. I changed because I had to, because your survival depended on it.
It’s not to say I was a bad Mother beforehand, it’s not to say that I was a bad person. I was me, love me or hate me. I tried my best at everything but I had one utter weakness, one huge flaw in my personality. I was a self loather, I took pleasure out of wallowing in my own self pity.
It was to an extent that sometimes I think I actually enjoyed when things went wrong ‘it always happens to me’ I’d bellow. ‘I’m the most unluckiest person around’ I’d state. It seemed as though, sometimes, my pity parties hindered me from actually seeing what was in front of me. It seemed as though, they stopped me from appreciating the luck that I had.
Then you came along. 9 weeks earlier than expected. I had no time to indulge in self pity.
Of course there was the expected feelings of ‘why me?’ But they were feelings I knew I had to let go of immediately. After all, why not me? Having a premature baby is such a daunting and anxious experience. It hardly seemed fair that I wished it on someone different instead.
The way you suffered shortly after birth was gut wrenching to witness. I was your Mother, it was my job to keep you safe…both inside and outside of my womb. And there you were, suffering as a result of my incompetencies. There’s never been a moment when I’ve needed to be strong. The day you were born was my ultimate test. Instinctively, I pushed my terror, pain and anguish aside and stepped up to the mark. I may have failed you once but I’d be damned if I’d do it again. You needed my strength more than ever, you needed my resilience.
The love I felt for you was immediate and intense. I knew from the second I went into early labour that losing you couldn’t happen. You were already apart of me, you had already captured my heart. In order for you to survive, you needed someone you could rely on. I made sure I was that person.
I stayed with you for the first 10 days, made sure you were out of harms way before I could rest. I reacquainted myself with faith and prayed for you each night. Not only for your survival but also for your future. I focused my attention on channelling my emotions positively. There was simply no room for negative thoughts, they’d only eat away at my ability to care for you in the way that you needed.
You see, another flaw of mine is that I am completely emotional. It takes nothing to make me cry. I’m 29 now and it’s still a long term joke with your grandparents that I need to cry each day. When you were born, nobody expected I’d cope. Everyone expected me to be a mess, a wreck. I surprised them all and made them proud. I kept my tears hidden, I wore my smile like armour.
Don’t get me wrong, the time you spent in the hospital is by far the hardest period of my life. I fought with many emotions from fear to guilt, from envy to heartache. You were my little girl and watching you suffer killed me inside. It also meant that moments spent with you were moments I was forced to neglect your brother. I ached to have you both together, to not have to choose between you. I wanted you well and healthy. I craved your future, obsessed about getting you home, seeing you grow and building your strength. But all of those emotions were no good to you, they weren’t going to make you better. I needed you to see my strength and model your behaviour on it. I needed you to hear my laughter and want to come home to it.
Although I managed to mask my feelings from you, I needed some outlet. Each evening, I would take a long shower and cry my heart out. I’d let the water wash away my tear and camouflage the surge of emotions. Then, I’d dry my face and return ready for battle. I even hid the tears from your Father (as much as I could). I’ve always viewed him as tough but even I sensed that the whole experience was too much for him to handle. I think he would have crashed if he’d had me to carry as well. Sometimes, once he and your brother were sleeping, I’d cry into my pillow.
Yet, each day I spent with you, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry in front of you. I sat at your side and spoke to you, read to you, I even sang. I made jokes and talked aloud. There were 6 other families sharing your ward but it was often eerily quiet. I couldn’t handle the silence, I wanted my time spent with you to be full of joy and celebration. I made friends with the nurses, gossiped with them about the latest celebrity news, tried desperately to normalise the situation. After all, you were here and there was nothing else to do but let life go on.
You’re 6 months old now and your NICU journey ended 5 months ago. Some days it feels as though it never happened. Other days, I spend my time fighting off the anxiety I kept bottled for so long. You don’t remember the journey you’ve taken, you aren’t even aware of the hardships you’ve already overcome. Me and your father are now trying to adopt the same mentality and move past it forever. For all it was trying, there are a few things I’ll be eternally grateful for.
Your birth didn’t just change my life, it changed me. It opened my eyes and made me realise that I can be strong. The strength I showed in the early days is still with me now. I know that I’ll always show it when needed and I know that you and your brother will never need to see the weaker side of me. I’ll be there for you to lean on and when you need me the most, I’ll carry you both for as long as necessary. Even when you’re both no longer babies, you’ll never need to see me cry. You’re my Warrior Princess and I’m your Warrior Mother, ready to conquer.