Theas Birth Story

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It happened at 7.10pm on Friday 26th July 2013. 4 years ago today. Under bright lights, in a bustling room, with morphine coursing through my veins and Mark’s cheek pressed hard against mine. I became a mum. Even writing that sentence brings a lump to my throat. It’s a big deal becoming a parent. Your life is no longer your own, as the wellbeing of a tiny human becomes the centre of your universe. And Thea was tiny. 576g. That’s a little over two blocks of butter. As a cook, I always I think of it that way.

Tears were rolling down my face and my heart was sinking in my chest as Thea entered the world. Momentarily she was revealed to us, delicately cupped in latex covered hands, before being taken to the resuss team. 29 weeks was too early to be born, and at just over a pound she was incredibly small, even for her gestation. Yet, she cried out with reassuring kitten like screams. Mum, dad, I’m ok. I’m itty-bitty, but I’m ok.

Having a premature baby is an odd experience. Instead of holding my new bundle of joy on my chest, feeling delirious and exhausted, gazing at her with utter love and amazement as I had always imagined I would, I was able to have a fleeting glimpse of her propped on a little nest of carefully arranged turquoise sheets, inside a warm perspex box. Mark had cut her umbilical cord and told me how she had tightly gripped his little finger with all of hers. He had said that she was perfect. Absolutely beautiful. All I could see was a tiny, fragile looking creature whom I didn’t know how to care for. All of my motherly instincts were useless.

After a few hours sleep, breakfast arrived on a tray, as it had done for the duration of my stay in hospital, an occurrence I remember now with fondness. Who doesn’t love breakfast in bed. Under a brown plastic cloche were scrambled eggs. A bland, solidified, pale yellow mound, swimming in a little pool of liquid on a white plate. I ate them, but without much gusto. I still wasn’t quite sure how to feel about having become a mother, but I stoically kept my smile in place. Everything would work out for the best. Two days later, I left hospital after my three and a bit week stay, relieved to be going home where I felt safe and away from all the constant monitoring. I was leaving my brand new daughter behind though and all of the careful preparations that I had made for her arrival; washed and folded newborn onesies, cot sheets with little blue clouds, a giraffe painted on the wall overlooking her cot, were redundant. A reminder of her absence. (Yes, I had made all these preparations, even so early on. I was so excited be having a baby and organising was a joy).

For 12 weeks until Thea came home, I diligently returned to the hospital every day. To say it was easy would be a lie. I cried, I laughed, I hurt, I got angry, I was impatient and confused. The traffic to and fro drove me crazy. But I wouldn’t change the experience. Not for anything. In fact I’m thankful for it. I had the privilege of meeting Thea early. I was able to watch as her eyelashes and finger and toe nails grew (she was born without any). She reached a kilo in weight and I baked all the nurses a Chez Panisse chocolate cake to celebrate the milestone. She started to fit into tiny clothes that friends and family bought for her. We persevered together to master breastfeeding. Her wires and tubes became less. She became more and more beautiful every day. And she was alive. She wasn’t sick or injured. She was just small and growing, ready to come home. She gave me perspective and strength and a view on life that I would not otherwise have. I am grateful, humble and oh so proud to be her mum.

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