How expecting a healthy baby after a medically fragile one is as scary as it is awesome

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” – Stephen King

Recently, two close friends each had wonderfully healthy baby boys. I did wonder if I would be resentful  – of their labour, of their quick return home, of their baby’s easy weight gains. I found myself instead very relieved for their beautiful normality and very hopeful for us. Seeing their experience, so close to our turn to do it all again, generates new, wonderfully fresh, thoughts in me about how it could possibly be.  

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A fair few weeks ago, I said to Marcus tearfully that I just wanted to jump from being happily pregnant now to having a healthy Happy Zoosee in our arms. There was a great chasm in my mind around what happens between these two places – a chasm that was filled with fear and sadness.

I think it was because I was also happily pregnant with Albie and then in his birth and the days afterwards it all went westward too fast. Despite the reassuring scans, the idea of a healthy baby coming home with us still seems rather fanciful to me.

When I think of starting on motherhood round two, my logical mind can understand that it will all be different this time. And that is so exciting. So, so exciting!

But my body and my soul, only knows an experience of motherhood that I really don’t want to go back to. Of course, we knew great joy and love with Albie, as all new parents do. But there was also so much terror wrapped around that love. My memories of Albie’s infanthood are very much tainted with the 1.5 metre long cord that attached him almost continuously to his oxygen saturation machine, daily weigh-ins, endless pumping, and a tired, unwell baby. I was so fearful Albie would die, for so long.

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I am a natural optimist.  I do see this world as beautiful – and our lives within it a gift. I have become more and more conscious though of what a protective coat Pollyanna has been for me. Looking back at Albie’s baby days, these days  and these days and even these days were all so hard and yet, I presented it to the world with such lightness. I know how important it is to laugh in the face of great sorrow – but to not recognise the sorrow’s existence at all?  I’m not sure that is so healthy for anyone. Perhaps I was trying to convince myself, as much as anyone, that despite appearances to the contrary, all was okay. I can forgive myself for that.

 

But now that we come to go back to the start again, there is no ignoring the truth in me.  They weren’t happy and easy days with Albie, and I have felt such resistance in me about this pregnancy.

There. I said it.

Sometimes, when the truth isn’t exactly pretty, it is a tricky beast to share. Hence the silence on this blog – I’ve been clammed up, trying to conjure a more palatable way to say that I’ve been scared to become a mother again.

I do know it is a selfish thing to write. I know I have a lot to be grateful for. You all ride along with us here – in friendship and companionship no doubt – but without the same set of experiences as me. And I am worried you’ll misunderstand what I am trying to say. I know I am absolutely lucky, and I do love this child. It has just been much more complicated than I ever would have envisaged.

Thankfully, I can write of this all here, a little easier now, because I have moved on a little from it. For the first time in my life, I’ve been going to weekly psychotherapy and it has been fantastic. A not-so-slow reveal of myself to myself that has been letting in a little more acceptance and a lot more peace. And, if I look at this post too, perhaps just a little more honesty as well. 

We have just under ten weeks to go. I set up Happy Zoosee’s bed beside ours. A little early, perhaps, but it was heart-filling all the same.

 

13 comments

  1. Thank you for your honesty, it’s beautiful. I understand how you’re feeling – you’re not alone. I’d have loved to have had a third after our second (a heart child) was born, but that wasn’t to be. The trauma of having an unwell child can’t be understated, even when you want so desperately to gloss it over and forget at least the worst of it. But to go back again, to choose to hope for “normality” (whatever that is!), to finally arrive in Italy after that detour to Holland – that shows incredible strength. Positivity is an awesome thing, but to be able to keep that positivity going even with the reality of what you’ve been through before is HUGE. Your beautiful, joyful little Albie and Happy Zoosee are incredibly lucky to have parents like you. Hugs!

  2. I am so happy for you all. It’s lovely to see Albie so happy and healthy and going to Kindy! I know exactly how you are feeling and it won’t go away until that beautiful little baby is in your arms. Marcus can tell you my story, but what Marcus doesn’t know is we have had a beautiful healthy little boy born in February this year. I LOVE to read your blog. You are an amazing writer and I love how honest you are. I hope to meet you and Albie someday. Please tell Marcus hello from Hayley. Blessings and sunshine to all of you!!!

  3. My firstborn was much easier than yours, essentially just a few weeks of NICU after an emergency cesarean… but boy do I relate to you saying, “When I think of starting on motherhood round two, my logical mind can understand that it will all be different this time. And that is so exciting. So, so exciting! But my body and my soul, only knows an experience of motherhood that I really don’t want to go back to.”

    I keep telling myself, “I am strong and I am healthy,” picturing what natural labour would feel like, picturing what it would be like to birth a baby and then go home with it in a few days’ time – but for me, it’s quite a step because I’m picturing something I haven’t experienced yet. What I know instead is hospital walls, saturation monitors, beeping machines and oh-so-many expression machines.

    And then my mother says to me, “You’ll have a cesarean again this time and it’s going to be hard,” and I say back, “Mom, it was hard the last time already,” and she goes, “Oh but this one will be harder,” and I’m, like… just wanting to say “Well fuck you.”

    But I didn’t, say it to her.

    And instead, I keep on stubbornly picturing this healthy baby and going home within days and breastfeeding straight from the beginning and saying, “I am strong and I am healthy.” (And ignoring my mother =P.)

  4. Dear Sarah, I can only try to imagine how you feel *hugs* I hope that the experience with your new baby will help to heal a little more of your heart.

  5. Kia kaha my lovely friend. Thanks so much for sharing in such an heartfelt eloquent way. We love you and you look incredibly gorgeous in those pics – what a super hot mama-to-be!

    xxx

    PS> I adored yesterday’s crown posting. Keep them coming!!!!

  6. A beautiful heartfelt post Sarah. NO ONE could ever even begin to think that how you feel is selfish in any way. After being through such a traumatic time you are bound to feel anxious. You all deserve every happiness though and this baby is going to be one of the luckiest kids around, along with King Albie! So excited that you are hopping to move back to the UK next year, will be great to be able to hang out with you all in the same continent! Much love xx

  7. I would venture to say not uncommon in the unfortunate group we find ourselves part of. And, thank you for validating fears and thoughts that I had, but didn’t have the courage to say out loud for fear of sounding ridiculous, crazy, ‘why would you think that?’ or just negative in general when I really wasn’t. I just knew what the reality could be, even if it was a very slim chance. It tempers the way you look at everything. Much love and positive vibes. I’ve been a little worried about you all, but hoped that it was just the busyness of pregnancy and a three year old and the season.

  8. You look lovely Sarah, in full bloom. Such great pics. I missed the first announcement on here in September (thank you Marcus and Facebook for today’s announcement!) so it is quite amazing to hear this and to see these pics all at once. And to read your mix of feelings coming up, so beautifully expressed… I don’t think your fear is a selfish thing to write, or to feel, but a brave one, and in fact I think it gives others, mums especially, permission to feel and process similarly difficult things that they may not have been able to acknowledge yet.
    Btw, Love the name! I’m sure Happy Zoosee will be as full of life as Albie’s name for him suggests.

  9. Oh Sarah, I’m so glad you can say that things “weren’t happy and easy”, too!
    While I can’t really know how bad it was for you, I can relate to having to “silver line” and “Pollyanna” things because otherwise you simply cannot bear it. (I had 5 years of debilitating back pain, where most of the time I felt like 80, not 30.) It’s a useful coping strategy for when you HAVE to keep going, and when dealing with the whole mess emotionally on top of the daily life requirements is simply too much.

    You can be so proud of yourself that you’ve had the sense and courage to move to where you can hold both the sad, scary, terrible AND the happy, proud, wonderful in your heart without it breaking again!

    Please keep softening to yourself as you do. After all, if any other mum told you what you’ve just said now, you’d totally understand and not think this was strange in any way (I certainly don’t). So be kind to yourself – you’ve all been through so much, and it does leave emotional scars. And much like physical scars, emotional scars are to mend things, and function, and some may have a changed sensitivity for a long time.

    Also, what an amazing role model you are for dealing with these huge, scary emotions. You rock. You really do. Much love.

  10. It is only natural that, if your last journey felt like a plane crash, you will be very nervous about getting on that plane again – no matter how much you want to arrive at your destination! You have shown amazing courage, honesty and optimism throughout the journey so far and that will get you over this next challenge I’m sure. I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was watching Albie watching “Make Em Laugh”. It’s kept me going all week!

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