At 35 weeks I questioned how I could possibly get any bigger. I felt huge, everything was so uncomfortable and it actually terrifies me to have another child as I can't imagine how HUGE I would be if the next baby went full term. I still had 5 weeks until full term and even then I could've gone two weeks over - I would have been so uncomfortable and absolutely enormous. I remember reading 'The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy' which was a really good book, although it was American so the terms and the hospital system were a little different, but I loved how the woman referred to pregnancy being 10 months throughout the entire book. I had fully prepared myself to be in this situation for 10 months and I was only in it 8! What a cheeky little shit I am. I completely dodged the horrible end bit and am sometimes a right smug bastard about it all. No labour, no contractions, no 'ring of fire' or fourth degree tears. I got off the train a few stops early. Sorry, not sorry.
Although my situation was far from ideal in terms of 'the perfect birth' - I've made peace with it. I didn't get a single wish on my birth plan. I didn't get the amazing moment of birthing him and him being laid on my chest straight away and breastfeeding, as I had hoped. I didn't get the moment of holding him in my arms and crying, not believe he's here and to be so relieved the pain is all over. Luke didn't get to cut the cord or be very involved and didn't get a cuddle straight away either. We didn't get any photos of his first moments that don't have wires or incubators in. We didn't get to put him in his 'going home' outfit or any outfit for that matter for about a week. We didn't get to take him home with us for a long, long time - what felt like eternity.
Having said that, there are many pros and cons about my situation. Oscar was in the best place possible if anything went wrong with him for ten whole days. As a new Mum it's pretty nerve-wracking taking a newborn home, whereas we had 10 days to get used to each other, get into a routine and ask any questions. We had round the clock advice and support from the experts, which was especially amazing regarding breastfeeding. I had so much hands on advice and a midwife right next to me helping me guide Oscar onto the breast and check the latch was right and help me with positioning him. I was able to heal from my c-section without having to pick up a baby. (Although this did break my heart, I can't imagine how difficult it is to have had major surgery and look after a newborn. I thought getting in and out of a wheelchair was difficult let alone try and change, feed or hold a baby!) I was also in the best place possible, I could ask Midwives about my c-section if I needed to or if I was feeling faint or overwhelmed there was someone there at all times to help with Oscar. I had CPR and choking First Aid through the hospital for free - invaluable knowledge.
Despite all this, I still had to feed my baby through a tube in his nose. Aspirate his stomach acid to check the PH before feeding him, every time. Lean over an incubator what felt like 24 hours a day giving me the worst back pains. Not be able to hold him whenever I wanted at the start and would have to ask Midwives if it was okay to see/touch him - my own baby. Only eat foods brought to me from visitors or the hospital foods (I can't complain as the food was delicious and visitors did bend over backwards for me when it came to bringing me food/necessities but I missed grazing the cupboards at home). Use a breast pump every 3 hours leaving me feeling like a mighty fine Dairy Cow and no dignity while every midwife walked in during said milking.
I could go on and on, for every pro, there is a con. But the bottom line is Oscar was in the world, a beautiful baby boy with his whole life ahead of him. I feel like I can focus solely on the pros because Oscar is so healthy and happy. We were purely kept in NICU to establish breastfeeding and for him to gain weight. He had a few hiccups along the way such as being jaundice and having low phosphate levels (still to this day no-one has properly explained to me what phosphate even is - something to do with his bones!) but all were quickly discovered and he had both treated. I saw so many babies much worse off than Oscar and it really did break my heart for the parents, the babies and felt so incredibly lucky to be able to walk up the hospital steps and look forward to seeing my baby, instead of thinking 'What next? Is he ok? He's so sick, it breaks me to see him'
Although I didn't get 'my perfect birth' and I've always heard and seen how amazing it is to have those first moments. It's euphoric. It without a doubt makes me cry everytime I see a baby being born (on TV- I don't regularly attend live births) and pictured myself having the most natural water birth in a pool bringing him up onto my chest and holding him tightly. Having said that, I have had so many special moments and memories with Oscar since he was born, I don't feel like I have missed out at all. In fact, I actually prefer our memories at an age where Oscar can respond, recognise and is smiling or laughing. I feel like it's a shared memory, like he's aware enough to participate in us communicating and that he loves me (or maybe just my boobs ha!)
My first and favourite memory of Oscar in the NICU was one night when Luke had gone home to get some sleep and check on the dogs, it was my second night in hospital. I couldn't sleep so got out of bed for the first time by myself and so incredibly slowly, lowered myself into my wheelchair beside my bed (taking my piss bag with me because I had a catheter in and placing it on my foot rest - sexy!) and wheeled myself down the empty, dark corridors at 2am. The hospital felt so empty as everyone was sleeping and there were a few night-shift midwives working. I wheeled myself slower than I have ever moved in my life, taking what felt like an hour to open the doors between the different wards. I was glad it was night as I didn't want to make a fuss and have midwives help me. I just wanted to sneak up by myself and be alone with my baby. I got up to the NICU and pressed the buzzer to be let in. (They have a webcam to check who you are before letting anyone in.) and they were all surprised to see me. I went in and went to the bay where Oscar was. He was 2 days old and still sleeping on his stomach. Up until now he had had breathing equipment over his face which meant his eyes were covered. As I got to his incubator, it was deadly silent in the ward and a few nurses were doing paperwork and checking on the other babies but smiled and nodded as me as I got to him. I looked inside the incubator and his breathing equipment had been changed to a smaller strap that didn't cover his eyes. It was the first time I had ever seen his face. This alone was so special and I couldn't believe it. I opened the latch on the incubator and put my hand in and stroked his leg. I spoke so quietly and softly said his name. Unbelievably, he opened his eyes. It was like everything I'd heard and not believed, that a baby knows his Mum's touch, their voice from inside the womb, was all true. I could not stop crying. I sat with him as he stared back at me, just the two of us, in the middle of the night. Until he drifted off again, and then a nurse helped push me back to the end of the corridor and off I went back to bed.
Maybe this moment was our 'look of love' but, instead of having it as he was passed onto my chest straight from birth - we had it a few days later. I like to think of it as even more special. We weren't covered in blood and gunk, no one had just had a traumatic ordeal; be it having been in excruciating labour for 24 hours or having had their head violently shoved through a vagina (the latter is Oscar, I don't and never had any plans to shove my head through a vagina), we were alone with no doctors or nurses, in perfect stillness. They say the blind have heightened senses and maybe in the same sense, the fact I couldn't hold him made him just looking at me, all that more powerful.
I can without a doubt vouch that your birth does not correlate to the bond with your baby. I am besotted with Oscar and he with I. He doesn't know I had pain relief, he doesn't know how he came into this world, he doesn't know he wasn't meant to start his life in anything but an incubator, nor will he ever remember it. He is the happiest, most content little baby and we have fought together from day 1 and leaving NICU felt like we had both worked so hard to get to that point.
I think it's really important to find the good in every bad situation. I have found so much good from everything that happened with Oscar and I. When I tell people what happened they look so sympathetic and feel so sorry for me to have gone through what I did. I choose to be happy with the way Oscar came into the world, yes it was tough, yes it was emotional and no, it wasn't at all how I pictured it, but my beautiful baby boy is here and he is everything I could possibly ask for.