My 1st Letter to My Warrior Princess

Flicking through my phone earlier as I tried to settle Siena, I found the 1st blog I ever wrote (but didn’t publish). It’s always seemed too raw to share before. Eventually, I feel ready.
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Tonight, I’ve sat by your side until 4am. I don’t think you even know I’m there.

The nurses keep telling me that you do, that you can smell my scent and that it will comfort you. So I’ve sat until 4 am and even now I can’t sleep.

I thought sitting beside you would make me feel worth something. I thought it would make me feel as though I’ve actually contributed to your wellbeing. Truth is, I don’t know how I feel.

I’m numb.

You’ll be Seven days old today (or is that now 32 weeks corrected? I don’t even know how old you are. I can’t even work out your age. That’s how fucking useless I am). Seven days old and still tiny. In the last six days, you’ve overcome more than most people do in a lifetime. You’re over the worst of it and for that I should feel grateful. With luck, your chest drain will come out today. I’m praying for this step forward.

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I’ve prayed a lot recently, I’m not quite sure how hypocritical that makes me feel. I mean, I’ve always believed in God but is it selfish of me to need him so much now when I’ve never paid him much attention before? You were blessed at only a day old – my decision was to get you baptised, the reverent talked me out of being so rash. I wonder if he would have stuck by that decision when your lung collapsed. Would a blessing have been enough had you not survived? Would God have accepted you? I can’t bear to think about it. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it.

In case I ever forget to tell you, you broke our heart last week. There was a moment when you couldn’t be stabilised, you were very close to death and there was nothing we could do.
I’ve never seen your Daddy cry before. Well, not the way he sobbed for you last week. I saw the fear in his eyes, I felt it in his touch. We were all so lucky. If North Tees hadn’t accepted you (no other hospital in the North East did), this could be a completely different story. I can’t bear to think about it. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it.

This week has been surreal. I really can’t tell you what I’m feeling. My body is honestly numb.

I’ve washed my hands and sanitised them so many times that my knuckles are cracked and bleeding. It hurts so much. The pain makes me feel something. It makes me feel as though I’m doing something for you. My pain is to help you, to protect you and for that, it’s worth it. It also reminds me that the pain I’m feeling is only a fraction of the pain you’re in. I want to take your pain away, I want to inflict it on myself and make you feel all better. If only there was something I could do.

But there’s nothing I can do. I’m physically useless.

The nurses keep telling me that you can sense me. That my touch makes your sats improve. But what use is that if I can only hold you for half an hour each day? I can’t even keep the windows in your isolette open for too long. I’ve been there to attend to your cares most opportunities. The only times I’ve missed have been when I’ve been with your brother instead.

He misses me so much, I’ve watched his heart break this week too. He doesn’t understand what has happened but he feels it. He knows we’re all hurting. I hurt for him, I hurt for you.

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I’m hurting because I genuinely don’t know what to do with myself, I just want to do something worthwhile.

I’ve been expressing – the Doctor says that breast milk is better than any medicine. So, like clockwork, I’ve collected milk for you. Once again, the pain makes me feel better. It makes me feel as though it must be worth it.

It’s close to 5 am now and I want to be up for your cares at 8 so I’m going to try and sleep. I don’t even know why I’ve written this, you don’t even know who I am. It’s made me feel better though, maybe I’ll sleep now that I’ve processed some of my thoughts.

Sweet dreams baby girl, my warrior princess. Let’s take on the world together later. Let’s make today one to remember.

Holding Siena in my arms, nearly a full year on from this, I wish I could say it was hard to remember feeling that way. My warrior princess has been quite the fighter. She’s stronger and more determined than ever but those feelings won’t disappear anytime soon. I’m coming to terms with the turmoil we experienced last year. It’s my time to be determined – I’m determined to move on from the past and make Siena’s 2nd year completely drama free.

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I Won’t Rush You to Grow

  

We were lucky that you were a good size for your gestation. For 31 weeks, I’d done well to get you to 3lb 14. Plenty of people told me that I had ‘a big one’ and, although the phrase itself made me boil with anger, I saw how I was meant to take comfort in it. 
Still, you were the tiniest baby I’d ever seen. The 1st time I saw you, you were lying flat on your tummy. Your legs and arms hadn’t yet uncoiled and you reminded me of a frog getting ready to leap. You were beautiful. Your eyes were closed but I could see from the start that your features were perfection. You had the cutest button nose, your lips were perfectly poised, your ears were so flimsy that they had folded over (this, in itself, drove me wild with love). Your legs were long and so were your fingers. We’d expected the legs, your 20 week anomaly scan had shown that they were ‘abnormally’ long. We’d laughed about it ‘she’ll be a model with those pins’ we joked. ‘She’ll make us rich with those stick’ we said. They lived up to expectation. Slender and sleek, they made you ever more gorgeous. The fingers were also a talking point. Your Grandpa, a wannabe musician, took pride in them the most. ‘She’s going to be a pianist’ he beamed. 
We had big dreams for you from the start. 
You were exactly one week old when the doctors performed the brain scan. It was routine and we were confident that everything would go smoothly. In the seven days you’d lived, we’d never known a more ‘clued up’ baby. You’d had complications with your lungs and had been placed on a ventilator as you couldn’t breathe on your own but we’d seen a side of you that showed how bright you were. When you were awake, you engaged with us. You stared at us and seemed to take in your whole surroundings. We never expected to hear the term ‘brain damage’. 
The results from the scan showed that you’d had a bleed to the brain. The doctors sat us down and explained exactly what this could mean. ‘The excess fluid could drain and leave no everlasting side effects’ or ‘Your daughter could have a level of brain damage’. They explained that your bleed was known as a stage I, the smallest kind of bleed. Once again, we were lucky to know that the chances of you having permanent damage were small…but yet still possible. 
We were told that the most likely effect of the bleed would be learning difficulties.  In this moment, I felt split. The shallow side of me (one that I’m not proud of) worried insanely. I’m a Secondary School Teacher of English, what would my colleagues think if my child wasn’t clever? I felt disgusted in myself then and even still now, confessing it to others.
 The other side of me didn’t care.  You were my child and you’d already done me proud. Whatever obstacles were thrown in our direction, we’d conquer them together. You were strong, stubborn and determined. This was clear from the very beginning. I knew those qualities would see you  right through life.
As a parent, I believe that a certain level of ‘pushiness’ is healthy. After all, no-one wants to raise a lazy kid. All parents want the best for their children and, being a child ourselves once upon a time, we’re aware that sometimes it takes a little bit of nagging and drive to motivate. I certainly wasn’t going to sit back and accept that you might not fulfil your dreams.  
However, here’s my second confession, another moment I’m hugely not proud of. When you were 1st born, I struggled with guilt and envy. It’s the envy that now makes my stomach turn. I envied the women in ward 10 with their fully grown newborns. I envied my friends, still pregnant with sprouting bumps and growing foetuses. I envied babies bigger than you, more advanced than you. I envied those who gave birth and took their babies straight home. I knew of four people who delivered in the time you spent in NICU. Although pleased for them, I wanted it to be us. I put pressure on myself and inadvertently you, to get you home, to get you bigger. 
My emotions were massively conflicted. Partly, I knew you needed time and patience. Partly, I knew I shouldn’t pressure you. I thought to myself ‘I won’t rush you to grow’.
You’re 5 months old now and make me proud every minute of the day. You don’t look like a 5 month old baby (in fact, you’re still in newborn territory). You’re not as advanced as a 5 month old baby either but that’s fine. After all, you’re not meant to be 5 month old yet. The 1st time you smiled, at 13 weeks actual, will remain in my heart forever. It proved that you were on track with your corrected age. Today, you smile on demand. You babble when I look at you (in fact, you’re quite the chatterbox). You seem to know your name and you’ve started to cut your 1st tooth. You’ve started weaning and handled the spoon better than your brother did. You can’t roll over yet or hold your neck perfectly on your own but so what?! I remember a time when you couldn’t breathe for yourself and now you’re living, growing and developing with ease. You’ll do things in your own time and I’ll be proud of you forever.