This day. A day that passed in a blur of emotions, nerves and adrenaline but yet one that I can remember every detail leading up to the moment time stood still and my whole world changed. There is not a single book, blog post or conversation that could ever have prepared me for the overwhelming tidelwave love that hit me the moment I met my tiny human for the first time. I don’t think I will ever forget how soft his little forehead was beneath my lips as I kissed him for the first time, how tiny his little hand was wrapped around my finger. Now nearly 13 weeks later, I sit here writing this post with one hand while he sleeps so peacefully in my arms. Where the weeks have gone, I couldn’t tell you but as I look back on those first few newborn weeks, I can feel the tears as I think about the rough start my tiny premie had but at the same time, I’m blown away by how far he’s come.
Oliver William Matthews made a rather hasty arrival at 35 weeks on Thursday, 19 October 2017 at 1.29pm. I had been put on bed rest at 34 weeks as my amniotic fluid was low with the aim of trying to keep baby baking until 37 weeks. Oh but did he have other ideas! My husband picked me up from work and we arrived for my weekly appointment at 10am to be told baby would be delivered on Monday as my fluid had dropped and he hadn’t grown in the last week. That was the first surprise and we quickly thought about the weekend away that we needed to cancel and what nursery things we still needed to get! That lasted all of 5 minutes when my doctor then told me I was actually already in labour so my ceaser would be scheduled for 6am the next morning. So much for Braxton Hicks – I’d actually been having contractions (little did I know that I had been making my husband rather nervous the night before when I casually commented that they were a lot stronger than they had been!) Before going home, we went across to the labour ward with the hope of having a steroid injection to help baby’s lungs as he was so early. After about half an hour on the monitors with my husband and I debating where we should go for dinner (and me Googling what time Sorbet was open until so I could get my nails done…) the nurse came in to say baby’s heart rate was decelerating and we had 15 minutes. My head still spins when I think about how fast the doctors and nurses all worked to make sure our little boy arrived safely in this world. Before I knew it, I was laying in theatre and my husband was placing this tiny blue bundle in my arms. Nothing in this world could have prepared me for that moment. A moment that literally took my breath away and time stood still. I became a mommy.
When it comes to babies and your birth plan, everyone always has a plan or a vision of how they see themselves giving birth and I was no exception but natural, ceaser, drug-free, waterbirth, at the end of the day there is only so much planning you can do. I had a ceaser scheduled for 39 weeks and I thought I would stroll into the hospital on the morning I was due and calmly deliver my baby. Oh how wrong I was! I could have managed the chaotic, adrenaline filled arrival because babies do have their own agendas but I was not mentally prepared what followed. Not getting to hold my baby (other than the few seconds in the delivery room) and then only getting to see him again the following day in NICU was exceptionally difficult. Then, seeing this tiny little human hooked up to so many machines and on oxygen broke my heart. I kept thinking to myself that this was just not how it was meant to be. Finally, after three long days, countless trips from the ward to the NICU and an insurmountable number of tears, he was off oxygen and I was able to hold my baby. Before he could go home though, he needed to learn how to feed which meant leaving him behind while I went home and I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I cried and cried and cried some more. It didn’t matter that I would be spending most of my days back in the NICU or that I only lived 10 minutes away from the hospital. What mattered was that he wasn’t coming home with me in his cute little outfit I’d packed so many weeks before, he wasn’t going to be with me after having his heart beat alngside mine for almost 8 months… But, before I knew it, I was back at the hospital and with a week filled with scheduled feeds, expressing, trips up and down to the hospital and so many firsts, the week passed by in a blur and after 10 days, just in time for my husband’s birthday, we were able to bring Oliver home.
When I look at him now, my cubby, long-eyelashed, smiling little baby, it’s hard to believe he’s the same tiny bundle who arrived in such a hurry. I have always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and looking back now, I’ve definitely found a few silver linings. How lucky were we to get so much bonus time with our beautiful baby boy! He couldn’t wait to meet us and blessed us with 5 extra weeks to love and cuddle him. The support and care the neonatal ICU staff gave not only to Oliver but us as new parents, was nothing short of amazing and those 10 days helped us to find our feet and learn a few tricks that made going home with our newborn a little less daunting. My special roomie in hospital who had her premie on the same day as me, was such an incredible support and a much needed hand to hold while we walked the corridors up and down to the NICU every day – we’ve now progressed to coffee dates and sun-downers! And the wonderful group of fellow-NICU mommies – I love that we are all on a WhatsApp group together to ask advice, offer support and schedule coffee dates! And lastly, but the most important, is how close this experience brought my husband and I. I always knew I had a gem but I couldn’t have wished for a better teammate to do life with.