Falling in love

Having a baby, I’ve discovered, is a lot like falling in love. Other parents told me about the intense love you feel for your children, but I couldn’t imagine it. Until now. Now, I miss Raphaela when I’m not with her. I think of her constantly. I imagine what she’s doing just at that moment. I long for her in the way that a soul longs for a missing piece of itself.

 

She doesn’t have to do anything beyond eating and sleeping (and since she’s fed by a tube so she can do both at the same time). She simply has to be. On those brief occasions when she opens her eyes I marvel.

 

When I first saw her in the incubator, I was struck by how alien she seemed, a tiny sea creature in another world. Her fingers waved like tentacles in an aquarium. Now she is more like a person. She is still very small but she’s growing into herself. Already she is 1.47kg and over 40cm – a big change from the 26cm she measured at birth.

 

I can’t wait to see what she becomes, and I am going to love watching her as she grows.

 

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Kindness

“There’s a lady outside with something for you,” the nurse said to me yesterday. I wasn’t expecting anyone. Who could this be?

A few minutes later a woman appeared. “You don’t know me,” she said. “But my daughter in Israel does.” At that moment I instantly saw the family resemblance and guessed.
“Gina Jacobson!” I said.

Gina and I have met in person at social media events, but we know each other largely thanks to Twitter. I see Gina in my timeline almost every day. We might be in different countries but she is one of those people who are a regular presence in my life.

Gina had seen my blog posts about hospital and breastfeeding  and decided to send me a gift – via her mother, Lindy who works upstairs from the maternity ward. It was such a lovely, kind thing to do and it made my day.

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Raphaela slept through the whole conversation. We talked about her and how big she was when she was born. Lindy  mentioned that she missed her children who were overseas. A moment of sadness passed, and then we spoke of other things.

Thank you Gina. So many people have been so kind to me over this past couple of weeks – sharing stories, reassurance and experiences. All of you are helping in your own way, and it does make a big difference. Thank you to everyone for your kindness. It counts.

The Voice

The Voice is a popular show on TV currently getting tweets on Sundays, and also a presence in my head. A lot of the time it stays in the shadows, hidden, but the moment there’s an opening it’s there, whispering seductively to my thoughts.

 

She’d be better off without you, the voice says softly. This is all your fault. She wouldn’t be in this situation if it weren’t for you and your physical problems. You must have done something wrong.

 

You’re wrong, I say to the voice. I’m going to ignore you. I know what you’re trying to do and it’s not going to work.

 

But that’s bravado. Secretly – not so secretly – I’m afraid that the voice is right. Why wouldn’t it be? It says all the things I don’t want to hear and which make me uncomfortable. That’s a sign that the voice is onto something.

 

This voice comes with a red flag. If it’s whispering to me, I know something is up. After the weird sporadic elation of the past ten days or so – something, I suspect, to do with the Eglonyl – I’m beginning to wobble. I have not taken my antidepressants since I was admitted to hospital. Could the effects of the Eglonyl be wearing off? Will I be found out? Is this the beginning of postpartum depression? I was afraid of this from the moment I found out I was pregnant; I just never imagined experiencing it in this particular set of circumstances.

 

What to do? Now is not a good time to be falling apart. I can try and talk myself out of it. I can take my pills again. I can carry on with writing and hope that it helps. But the voice is out, and enjoying its freedom, and it won’t be easy to persuade it to slink back to the shadows from which it came.

Panic and inadequacy

Parenthood, I am discovering, involves mostly panic and a gnawing sense of inadequacy. I’m sitting in the expressing room in Sunninghill hospital – more of an alcove off the nursery really, with a curtain for ostensible privacy. At 7pm a senior nurse chased me out of the ward for being there during the shift change, and her bedside manner could have used a bit of work. I felt like a piece of shit and immediately slunk out to go and cry in the toilets downstairs. (I apologized to a woman waiting outside when I emerged, who was probably knyping while I was bawling my eyes out.)

 

I’m too scared to venture back in there.

 

Now I’m sitting here weighing up two choices: either I do dare to show my face in there again and spend the required 3 hours with the baby (assuming I am even allowed to), which means staying here until 11pm, or I go home at the time I said I would. One choice means stressing out my parents-in-law, who are worried about me and the fact that I haven’t eaten dinner; the other means stabbing, wrenching guilt for being a bad mother.

 

All told, it has been a long, hard day. This morning just after 7 the nurses cornered me to tell me that I had to order from the SA Breastmilk Reserve. I filled in my details and paid R500 for two weeks of deliveries, feeling defeated. I frantically pumped out the 11am and 2pm feeds, then dashed to the office, where some people were pleased to see me and others pretended I hadn’t been gone for nearly two weeks to have a baby two months early. But it was refreshing to be surrounded by sounds that didn’t involve medical equipment, and to feel vaguely in control of one aspect of my life.

 

After two new business meetings, I left the office just before 4. When I got here, I organized a weekly parking voucher, then went to check on the baby. “Where have you been? You’ve been gone the whole day,” the nurse wanted to know. “She misses Mummy’s arms.” “You’re very good at guilt,” I said. We agreed that I’d come back to hold the baby after the 7pm shift change.

(I need to hold the baby because it will help her grow, and I’ve been told I need to hold her for at least three hours a day or not bother.)

 

After that, I pumped solidly for 2 hours, managing to squeeze four feeds out of my long-suffering but somewhat recalcitrant mammary glands. Then I took the milk to the NICU fridge and encountered the old bag of a nurse.

 

A baby, a full size one, is hiccupping under UV lights in the nursery just beyond the expressing room (which is more of an alcove with a curtain for privacy); a sound like a squeaky toy. I’m sitting here thinking: I have weeks and weeks more of this and I’m lonely – and feeling stupid because I should be able to handle this on my own – and tired and wracked by guilt and this sucks. It really sucks.