New baby love

One of my closest friends had a baby a couple of days ago, and another is ready to drop any day now, and I’m feeling pretty emotional about it. For both of them it’s their first child and it’s bringing back all the memories of the heady, exciting (scary, despairing) first days I had with Millie.

In fact when I was putting Millie to bed last night she drifted off as we had a little cuddle and I got a bit weepy thinking about her as a newborn, and the many hours I spent with her on my chest, just feeling the warmth of her and watching her sleep.

It’s unbelievable to think that was 15 months ago already, and how our daily routines have changed so much – what I need to prepare for each day now is very different!

I’ve been trying to decide what I might want to get as a little ‘welcome to the world’ gift for my friend, and I’d like it to be something useful. In trying to remember what we found vital with a tiny baby to care for, I’ve made a list of my newborn essentials:

  • All-in-one baby grows – Millie lived in these for months. We had bought or were given some other clothes but I found it so much more practical to have her in a baby grow, especially when you have to undress them so often. They’re warm, comfy and somehow babies just look extra cute in a onesie.
  • Bottle warmer – it was a couple of months before we got one of these. I breastfed initially but used to express too, and quite soon had to move to combination feeding because I couldn’t produce enough, so warming a bottle while out was a daily requirement. In M&S cafe one day they provided a Tommy Tippee one for us and it was brilliant so we bought one right away and used it constantly, it was so easy!
  • Dummy – this is a contentious one and I know not every one supports use of a dummy, but for us it was a game changer. When Millie wouldn’t sleep for longer than an hour at a time we began to go mad, and a midwife suggested using a dummy. I was always against them (I don’t know why!) but advice from a healthcare professional was like a green light, and Millie loved it. It’s helped with sleeping, teething, and is her all round comforter really. She still has it now and removing it is something we need to think about, but maybe not today…
  • Jelly babies – or any sugary sweets really. Millie spent her first 17 hours (or so) of life in the neonatal unit, and though I was hand expressing colostrum for her it wasn’t much, so she was fed with formula. She then struggled with a nipple and used to fall asleep immediately on the breast. I ended up using nipple shields to get her to latch on, but the process of figuring it out was over a good week or so and in hospital we developed a routine where I would try and feed, then get her down, express, clean everything and sleep myself, and it was about 30 minutes before it all started again. I’d bought jelly babies for the labour but used them for the night of breastfeeding to keep myself awake, and I recommend them to everyone now, fab for while you’re trying to adjust to waking up so often!
  • Electric breast pump – I expressed from fairly early on to allow my husband to get in on the feeding action (and give me some extra sleep!), and we bought a hand pump that proved itself redundant almost immediately – I needed hand muscles of steel and a good hour or so to get any decent amount out, and we needed an alternative. During my stay in hospital we’d been lucky to have use of an electric pump that sounded awful but expressed a full bottle in minutes, so we invested in one at home and never regretted it!
  • Friends! – I know some people spend days on end at home with their babies, but I am not one of them. I needed to get out and do something pretty much every day because a) having a goal of getting out of the house gave me something to work towards and b) it kept me sane! I had six weeks without driving after my c-section and the restriction I felt was enormous.What’s app chats, Facebook  groups and seeing friends or going to baby groups made such a difference for me. I needed the interaction, reassurance and change of scenery, and can’t stress the importance of getting out and about enough to new parents.

And here’s the most useful bit of advice that you eventually learn, but no one tells you: sometimes babies just want to cry. We seem to be programmed to want to stop the crying and take away whatever’s bothering them, but sometimes they just need to get it all out, and that’s ok. If they’re fed, watered, burped, clean and warm then there’s little else you can practically do but be there. Hold them, talk to them, and be there. If you’re knackered and it’s a long crying session it can be so wearing, but the world is so overwhelming for babies, and crying is the only outlet they have! We all have shit days, and babies are no exception. Sounds pretty obvious reading it back now but it wasn’t at the time!

All this thinking of what we did or used in the early days has led me on to a list of what wasn’t essential at all, but that’s for another day!

 

Post natal depression 

October 10, 2016, is World Mental Health Day, and though people are talking about this whole subject much more now than in previous years, it’s still far too much of a taboo, so I’m sharing my story so far. If any of this identifies with you or someone you know, please talk about it xxx

I finally realised I had post natal depression when Millie was about four months old. I was out for a drink with a friend and she commented on what a great job I was doing with my daughter, and I tried to say thank you but burst into tears instead. I was so embarrassed, but I just couldn’t hear it. A great job was the total opposite of what I felt like I was doing.

I thought I knew all about PND. I work for an NHS trust that provides both mental health care and health visiting services, so I’d read the blurb, written the advice, and as a mum I’d sat through the appointments, checks and been asked the questions. I knew the signs, but I’d just been ignoring them. I thought it wasn’t going to happen to me.

I knew something wasn’t right, but I found it incredibly hard to face up to that, or speak to someone. I’d gotten through the ‘baby blues’ stage, where the most attention is paid to the risk of PND, and was getting more sleep, had a good routine with Millie, I’d built confidence in knowing what she needed and when, and I had lots of family and friends to support me. So why was it so bloody hard?

At the time I was not only managing a small person, but also doing quite a lot to help care for my husband’s grandmother, who suffers with dementia and had some time in respite before moving to a care home, and we also have a dog. The dog is a minor point to many but she was my tipping point. At the end of every marathon day juggling feeds, naps, changes, appointments, phone calls and whatever else, I’d get through the door exhausted to see a hopeful little furry face. She was someone else who needed something from me and it was just too much.

When I got to the point of saturation, I got angry. Not necessarily at anyone, but just lashed out. I did a lot of shouting and crying in the car, which Millie was often audience to. Sometimes she was the source of my exasperation and I lost count of how often I’d raise my voice at her and say ‘I don’t know what you want!’. Sorry pumpkin.

My other outlet was the shower. I’ve spent a lot of time crying in the shower, telling Millie how sorry I was, how much I’d failed her, and that she deserved far better than me. Millions are bringing up children every day and doing an amazing job, and yet after only four months I thought I’d fucked it all up, and should probably just leave.

I know I’m lucky to have been blessed with a child, and I know there are people fighting much greater battles than me. But in the midst of all this I’m afraid that knowledge meant jack shit and didn’t change how I felt every day, it just made me feel more guilty for feeling it at all.

There’s an analogy I read that really hit home for how I was feeling; pouring from an empty cup.  When you always trying to give yourself to others and fill their cups until yours is empty and you’ve nothing left to give, and no one’s giving anything to you either.

There was too much going on so my brain just clocked off for a bit. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, or be bothered to speak to anyone, and became very withdrawn. I’d feel incredibly low and couldn’t see how I was helping anyone.
I eventually went to see a GP, was prescribed anti depressants, which I didn’t take. Even as she was printing the prescription I knew I wouldn’t. I felt like taking them was giving in somehow, which I know is bloody ridiculous. I also still didn’t talk to anyone, which is even more ridiculous, and just pushed on.

Christmas came and went, and then in the New Year my cloud began to lift. The festive season brings such disruption to routine that I was distracted, and as things around me began to settle I felt much brighter, and was able to enjoy life more. I can’t say there was anything I did really, but things just felt easier after a while.

I think depression skews your coping mechanisms long term, and I’m definitely still dealing with that. I’ve always considered myself to be pretty strong emotionally, and in almost every job interview I’ve had I’ve confidently told people that I thrive on crisis, and perform best under pressure. I know now that the opposite is true after having a baby!

My job can be pretty full on, and has certainly been stressful since I went back to work six months ago, as well coordinating childcare and home, friends, family etc. The treadmill of life has been whacked up a few notches and I do struggle to keep up! Now I’ve felt depression I sometimes can tell that I’m dancing around it again, which I suppose is good as a warning sign, and I know I need to act rather than just ignore it now.

With hindsight I think my case was pretty mild, but I don’t really know, and it definitely didn’t feel mild at the time. I’ve heard and read stories from people who suffered far worse experiences than me, and it can be devastating to deal with. What I do know is that you can’t face it alone. Now when I’m feeling low I try and talk to people more, and it really does help, and in fact just hearing from others online and feeing less alone is a huge support. Not letting anyone in just isolates you further, which is the last thing you need. I also love long hot baths and finding time to read. You have to make it about you sometimes!

Although those crappy inspirational quotes that flood social media are annoying, some of them really are true. You can only take life a day at a time, and sometimes you just have to let things go and focus on what’s important. And actually, I’m pretty bloody important. ❤️

Ready made meals

I’m making a confession (and a recommendation) – I’ve started using ready meals for Millie. Occasionally. And not the nice Ella’s or Cow and Gate kind, but the Morrison’s own kind.

They are healthy ones and there’s nothing weird in the ingredients, but still they’re supermarket ready meals, which makes me have an extra helping of mum guilt.

When Millie first started weaning I was all about the DIY. I spent hours making all the different purees myself, dedicating a whole freezer drawer of well labelled bags to her nutritional needs. And I was smug about it.

I also made different meals as she got older and began expanding her tastes…and then I went back to work.

Now I find that I have either no time or energy to keep up the variety of home made meals for Millie, and particularly not since a lot of it goes on the floor! If Dave and I eat something she can have I’ll put a bowl by for the next day, but my planning for what we eat is pretty rubbish anyway so that doesn’t always work.

So a few weeks ago I was trying to get some different meals for Millie so she wasn’t always eating the same stuff (like we so often do) and there was a nice paella in the fresh section. I checked what was in it and just tried it, and the little peanut loves it! Not only is it tasty, a good mix of meat, rice and vegetables, but easy to practice spoon feeding herself or eating with her fingers. Winner!

So tonight I bought another one, and a carbonara too. Six meals in the freezer, meals I don’t normally make at home, saving me time and effort and keeping Millie happy. She still gets a few Ella’s pouches, and some fresh or frozen things I’ve made, so at least we have a mix. I do feel bad about not doing it all myself, but I think that’s an expectation I’ve created in my own head, and it’s not realistic for me. Though social media might make you think all the other mums are doing it themselves, they really aren’t.

If you’re popping into Morrisons soon take a look at the fresh ready meals. You’ve got to try these things and find out what works!

By the way – I know these are low fat versions and Millie’s definitely getting a balance in her diet, just so you know!

Disturbed sleep

I’ve developed a pretty odd problem of late, and it’s starting to really upset the Mr.

It’s not every night, but a number of times recently when he rolls over in bed at night, I wake up, reach out and grab him. I can’t control it, and though I’m awake I wake quite suddenly and move before I know it, apparently it’s getting a bit annoying.

When I wake up I’m consumed by a fear that he’s rolling off the side of the bed, and I’m trying to stop him by grabbing him. We’ve theorised that it might come from a fear of Millie falling off the bed, but she’s not slept with me for a long while now (sob!) so I’m not so sure.

Although it’s irritating I’ve started to find it quite funny, but when I did it last night Mr P got pretty cross and is apparently losing his patience. I really am convinced he’s falling and somehow I must stop him. In reality if he did fall it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I really wouldn’t be able to stop him just by grabbing an arm, but it seems I’m trying in any case.

With a one year old who’s been ill this week we need all the shut eye we can get, and this isn’t helping but I’m arguing that it’s not my fault. The feeling that he’s falling is quite overwhelming and not in my control, so I take no responsibility.
Let’s hope it resolves itself soon or I could be at risk of retaliation!

Lessons in patience 

Lately the husband and I have been commenting on how much we’ve been enjoying our little family. We were living in a bubble where our teamwork seemed to be in sync, Millie was a dream every day and loving every moment of her little life, and I dared to think we might have cracked it.

I had forgotten/ignored the fact that with every peak comes a trough. Two weeks ago was Millie’s birthday, and the following day we allowed the NHS to attack her tiny limbs (and deliver life saving drugs) for her 12 month jabs. Ever since that day we’ve been in a definite trough.

She had the predictable lethargy, fever and irritability that comes after jabs, and seemingly the irritability just never left. We get pockets of smiles, giggles and playfulness, but we’re also getting loads more crying, whinging and unhappiness, and it’s hard for all of us. We’ve gone backwards with weaning off the dummy, which is almost permanently in at the minute, and our improving sleep situation has gone way off kilter.

She’s also getting teeth through so that’s likely to be to blame, I’ve been ill which she may have had a bit of, and we’ve been away for a few days with disrupted routines, new people and places so she’s no doubt overwhelmed, but realistically I’m guessing. I’d love to say that a year in it’s educated guessing but I’m not so sure! I find this gets really tiring, because you never know if you’re doing the right thing, and even if you are for that moment it could all change again tomorrow.

I hate that my contented little girl is so troubled and I’m struggling to help ease her discomfort, and I hate questioning myself so much. I know this is normal but that’s not the answer either. I cherish so many moments with Millie but right now they’re few and far between!

So essentially I’m having my turn for a whinge. Sometimes you do everything you can think of and its not enough. Here’s hoping the next peak isn’t too far off!

A letter to my daughter 

Dearest Millie,

Well we made it, today is your first birthday, and it feels a bit surreal to be honest. This past year has been the fastest of my life, and yet there have been many times when I thought the end of the day would never come.

Having a baby was not a decision I took lightly. I waited and agonised for years, and though I was in a place in my life where I was ready, as soon as you arrived I questioned what I had been waiting for. Until it happens, you just can’t grasp what a change it is, and I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I quickly realised we are a little team, taking on the world, and we can work it out together.

There is not a single part of my life that has not had to change or flex to adapt to your arrival. I have become adept at showering in mere seconds, living without ever getting enough sleep, and missing meals. I’ve also been completely and utterly overwhelmed every day by your mere existence.

I have never known emotions like I do with you. It’s a life full of extremes; of happiness so great my heart wants to burst, of giddy excitement at seemingly tiny milestones (like today when I saw you sign ‘listen’ for the first time), of crying in the shower out of utter despair. It’s been such a roller coaster and it’s taught me so much about myself; I have a strength, a purpose and an identity I never knew before, because of you. I’m a mum ❤️.

I’ve been so very proud of how you’ve developed, because being a baby is tough and you take it in your stride. The first night you spent in your own room at 12 weeks old, when you’re poked and prodded by doctors and nurses and you watch with quiet curiosity, and when you flatly refuse to do anything you don’t want to do. My heart swells and I love it, I feel so privileged to watch this tiny personality taking shape in front of me.

I wonder and worry about your future sometimes. You have so much ahead of you, a lifetime of possibility, and having seen the scale of change in the world since I was a child, I can only imagine what your adulthood will look like and the opportunities you’ll have. As a woman your choices, aspirations and ideals will be so different to mine, my mum’s or grandmother’s, and it’s very exciting. On the flip side I don’t know what threats you’ll face, and the knowledge that I can’t protect you is frightening. Parenting gives you such a lot to think about!

I can’t pretend to you that it’s all been wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever faced challenges like those I have this past year, especially in the early months. The physical, mental and psychological strain is immense, doubting every decision and feeling completely inadequate. I went through a period where I was convinced I simply wasn’t good enough for you, and thankfully you won’t remember but I apologised endlessly. Throughout it all you’ve provided so many highs that I’ve learnt I can overcome the lows, and you’ve given me the perspective to see that it’s all part of the experience, we’re incredibly lucky to have our time together, and tomorrow is another day.

I know the first year is only the beginning, but it’s a big achievement for us both and I feel like we’ve come such a long way. You’re no longer so dependent and tiny, but growing into a proper little person at an alarming rate. I promise to try and make good decisions, but I’m going to have bad days too. Sometimes you’ll get a lazy dinner, or I’ll snap in frustration, but please know I’m always doing my best. I want to model patience, kindness, honesty and strength, I want to show you how to have fun, enjoy a meaningful career, see the value in the little moments and always believe in yourself. Having said this, I can be moody, argumentative and lazy (to mention just three of my less desirable traits!) so I’m never going to be this image of parental perfection all the time, but I’m trying darling, and you make me want to be better at it every day.

I love you so fiercely it overwhelms me, and whatever our future might hold, you are all I really need.

Happy birthday, little Millie xxxx

Post party reflections

This afternoon (note how timely this post is? Go me!) we held a little first birthday party for Millie. A few weeks ago I was still planning to do nothing so it was quite last minute but I’m very pleased we managed it.

I absolutely love cooking or baking for people, and I’m always quite determined to have everything homemade, which is wonderful in theory, but never fails to cause me stress. I spent all of yesterday and this morning frantically baking, icing, making sarnies, checking lists, getting mad at how little time I had, and being generally very late. But I made it.

I should also point out that I only made it, and only ever make it, thanks to having lots of help. Some people made delicious goodies to bring along, looked after Millie or walked the dog, helped set up the community hall we’d booked because they arrived before me to an empty room (oops) and then tidied up afterwards too. They are all very lovely, and understand my poor time perception and how disorganised I can be despite my best efforts.

So we all had cake and sandwiches and a bit of chopped fruit and veg (eases the conscience when you’re feeding children) and generally just had a wonderful time. Millie woke up with a gunky, puffy eye that might be a bit of conjunctivitis so she looked a bit like she’d had a row at nursery or something but she perked up considerably seeing all the people and toys and food. Easily swayed with food, just like her mother!

Now in the quiet when I’ve tidied up, Millie’s recovering with a nap and I’ve stopped for five minutes, I feel a little bit overwhelmed. My little tiny baby is about to turn one, and she’s definitely not a little tiny baby anymore, but she certainly is a very lucky girl. She had family and friends all turn up on their days off just to see her today, some travelling considerable distance. It’s just so heartwarming, I feel very thankful.

So I’ve shed a few tears today and will most certainly not have finished before the end of her birthday later this week. This year has gone so fast, and I need to hang on to every second I can and keep building our memories. She’ll definitely be getting a party every year.

The sleep issue

Millie loves sleeping in our bed. What baby doesn’t like the big, warm, smells-like-my-parent bed?! Except I think I’ve allowed her in so much it’s now expected, and it may* be an issue.

* I’ll come back to that later

So how did I get here? There’s a list:

  • Millie’s room is tiny and there’s no room for a chair, so on the nights when she needs long cuddles or doesn’t want to go back to sleep, my back will only hold out so long without support so I’ve ended up nipping next door to sit on my bed, then it would be easy just to lay her down 
  • I quickly realised that when I was struggling to stay awake for night feeds/cries/whatever and just needed to get some sleep, she would settle very quickly laid next to me (she’s even mastered a cheeky grin that definitely says ‘I won!’ When I lay her in my bed). Sleep always wins so this has become my answer to getting a little more shut eye
  • For daytime sleep particularly, I absolutely love laying next to her and playing or cuddling a bit until she drifts off, and you can’t really do that in her cot

So now, she goes down at night in her room, and if she wakes for a feed it’s very hard getting her back into her cot so she often ends up in with us til morning. Also, literally all her naps at home are on our bed. 

So is this actually an issue? On one hand I think no, it’s not what most other parents I know do but if we’re happy isn’t that enough? She’s sleeping well so that’s fine really. But she’s getting bigger and I would like my bed back during the night sometimes, and it would be good if she were more comfortable staying in her own room after a night feed. 

The naps could pose more of a problem, because she never naps at home without one of us there laid next to her. This feels like an issue because it’s drilled into us that they should be able to self settle but I don’t know if I agree. It’s more inconvenient sometimes, and there’s a pretty serious risk I will end up asleep too, but for the most part it’s just how we do it. What is definitely an issue is that she doesn’t crawl yet but she’s trying, and when she does there’s no protection around our bed. Though it’s going to be hard moving her to sleeping alone during the day it’s a necessity for her safety (plus she does it at nursery without a problem, which means it’s not impossible and I guess also means it’s me being too indulgent 😁).

Part of me thinks I should fall in line, do what my friends do and get her in her cot all the time. It would definitely be easier. But there’s also a foot stamping part of me that thinks ‘no!’. Co-sleeping is wonderful, good for bonding, means we’re both getting better quality sleep (OK, she is at least), and really I’m just enjoying it. She’s so beautiful when she sleeps, and she’s growing too fast already, I should enjoy this shouldn’t I?! 

So there you go, I don’t have an answer but at least I’ve been honest as a lazy parent who defaults to the easy option. She’s napping on my bed right now actually, with pillow bumpers just in case. I might stop typing and sneak a cuddle, while I can. Here’s a bed selfie as a sign off 😍

The birth story

We’ve all got them, and every one is different, so here’s mine…just make a cup of tea before you start because it’s pretty long! I want to tell Millie this story one day so I needed to get every detail down.

I was due on July 14, 2015, and for weeks had been convinced I would give birth early, but the day came and went with no action. I walked every day, ate pineapple and spicy foods, bounced on the yoga ball, tried all the things people tell you will bring on your baby, but she was far too comfy in there. Eventually Dave and I found ourselves in the induction ward at 7.30am on July 26.

I was given my pessary and waited six hours. I was then two centimetres dilates which was positive, so the midwife broke my waters with the scary knitting needle thing. A very uncomfortable experience that led to no liquid leaving my body, immediately or in the hours that followed. Go figure.

Eventually, at 4pm I was moved into a room on labour ward and hooked up to two drips to begin receiving the hormones that would begin contractions. Here are two things they did not tell me; that once the drip began I could not eat or drink anything except water (I hadn’t eaten for 5 hours before this, thank goodness for the jaffa cakes we had packed in our hospital bag!), and that the hormone drip is designed to bring on your contractions hard and fast to encourage your body to get involved. I wasn’t really prepared for this.

I started off bouncing on a birthing ball but very quickly I was unable to concentrate on staying steady during contractions and had to move to the bed. Within an hour or so I felt like they were coming every minute and I couldn’t manage to speak to Dave at all. I was given gas and air because I didn’t feel I was coping well with the pain and that really helped to focus my breathing but very quickly I felt panicked because they were too much for me. The midwife said I was having four contractions in ten minutes and that I needed to maintain that for a number of hours. I simply replied ‘No’.

At this point I’d had enough and asked for more pain relief. I must have looked pretty pissed off because they went straight for an epidural – despite the nine months of insisting I didn’t want one I almost called the anaesthetist myself I was so desperate! The lady putting the giant needle in my back was so lovely, she was gentle and calming and stopped working as promised during the many contractions that came while she got the line in.

Within a short time the effect kicked in and I was ecstatic. I think must have said about a hundred timed ‘this is bloody wonderful’. It meant a catheter, plus they attached a heart rate monitor to the baby’s head, and I had an odd side effect in that I was shivering badly from head to toe, but to be honest I really didn’t give a monkeys, I was just so happy not to feel the pain anymore.

It was around this time that the staff began to notice the baby’s heart rate dropping during some of my contractions, to worrying low levels. She wasn’t consistent and would pick it back up again for ten or twenty minutes, but it still kept happening periodically. This is when we began to worry, because although the midwives were very reassuring and offered various ‘normal’ reasons for it happening, there were more people coming in to check us, including senior doctors.

So this carried on for a while as baby seemed to pick back up and then her heartrate would drop again on and off, and eventually someone suggested I may have to be prepared for a caesarean. Now we never really had a birth plan, but a caesarean was something I had genuinely, and somewhat naively, never considered, and it scared me. I said ‘ok’ a lot to the surgeon when he came in to speak to me briefly, but in my head I was saying ‘no thank you’.

So this all carried on for some time longer until a doctor came and asked to examine me. I told her she could do what she liked because I couldn’t feel it anyway. We all had a little polite laugh. While she was down there, and I had my leg in the air on a stirrup, I noticed my pants in the corner of the room and I was horrified. I whispered to Dave to remove my pants to save my embarrassment – I’m not sure my drug addled brain really grasped my current situation.

One other side effect of the epidural was that I became desperately thirsty, and my lovely husband had been continually providing me water, which never seemed to hydrate me at all. I decided I needed to clean my teeth instead to try and stop the horrid feeling in my mouth and sent Dave out to get me a cup to spit my water into. All this still while the doctor was doing whatever she needed to inside me. Apparently they’d never seen anyone clean their teeth during labour so at least I was memorable!

This was where our journey took a turn. The doctor announced I was 8cm dilated and could be in a position to push soon, which we were delighted about. She wanted to take a small sample of blood from the baby’s head to test her oxygen levels and see how she was coping with the dropping heart rates, which was very quick, and within minutes someone looked round the door to give the result, which was a number I can’t remember, but we immediately realised it wasn’t good.

Still very calm, the doctor pressed a button somewhere and said we were getting the baby out now. I then felt a bit like I was in an episode of casualty – within seconds there were about eight people in the room and I was swiftly unhooked from the two monitors on my tummy, the one in the baby’s head, the two drips in one arm and the pulse monitor on the other hand, and the epidural line in my back, before being wheeled out of the room.

Dave was given a set of scrubs so I expected him to follow me down the corridor but he was quickly told he couldn’t join me – if I was unconscious there was no reason to have him sat in for support, so he simply got left behind, and was very alone after so much activity.

I was then in a theatre with so many people, and I was asked by a man to move myself onto the operating table. I told him I couldn’t feel my legs, much less move them, so he asked me again and I told him again. This all felt very weird considering we were in such a rush.

My lovely epidural anaesthetist lady was back and explained the two people in the corner of the room were baby doctors and would look after my daughter, and she then put a mask on my face and asked me to count to ten. The mask was very small and I felt suffocated, but I knew I had to keep it on, and my last thoughts were these; ‘if a teeny tiny baby needs two doctors things aren’t good’, ‘I might not wake up, and I never said goodbye to David’, and ‘what if that big light up there is the last thing I ever see?’.

My daughter was born at 1.20am on July 27. By the time she finally came out she had no heartbeat and did not breathe by herself so those two baby doctors had to help her get started, but apparently she very quickly took over from them. By the time I woke up at around 3am she was settled in a little plastic box in the neonatal unit, and David was at my bedside with my mum. I tried to ask a few questions, established she was ok and drank some liquid morphine before drifting off again for a bit.

David got to visit our little daughter while I was still out for the count, and give her a tiny feed of milk from a cup. We have a video of that, it’s lovely.

I was able to finally meet her myself around 7am after I’d woken up properly. I was still numb from the waist down so my entire bed was wheeled into the neonatal unit so I could meet this tiny, squeaky little being. I’ve read about these huge rushes of love when meeting your baby for the first time but I was a bit stunned by it all and kind of in awe really, and we just held hands and looked at each other, both not really sure what was going on, I think.

I had a day then away from my baby back in my labour room, with compressors on my legs to stop any clots. It was bizarre really, knowing I had a baby but not being with her, and didn’t feel real. I was the most thirsty I’ve ever been in my life. I was told it was still too early to drink for a while so Dave was sneaking me small glasses of water against his will until I was allowed to drink properly. It felt like every mouthful of water just evaporated immediately and my whole mouth was just sticking together. I ate nothing all day and just had litres of water instead, filling three or four catheter bags as the anaesthetic wore off.

We decide to call our absent baby Millie, and after we were eventually reunited later that day, the pair of us spent another five days in hospital, enjoying the support of medical professionals and getting to know each other. If you’ve read this far, good work for sticking with me. It’s a fairly long story, but a very personal and emotional one. Thank goodness for the NHS!

Caesarean ‘vs’ vaginal births

I gave blood today, and during the preliminary questions I had to declare my caesarean section operation from giving birth to Millie. The nurse and I bonded briefly over having had c-sections and she asked me, “Do you feel cheated? Not having had a normal birth?”

My reply was an immediate (and emphatic) no, but I was pretty taken aback by the question. I’ve never been asked that before, or even considered it.

I feel…very guilty I think, because Millie’s birth story was basically me being induced, a rush to an emergency caesarean, around 17 hours in neonatal and then five days in hospital. Those initial 17 hours are some of the essential ones you anticipate for nine months of pregnancy and however long you dream beforehand, enhanced by all the magazines and films. Seeing each other moments after birth, holding your baby for the first time, powerful skin to skin, the first feed, and Millie got none of that from me.

No one’s actually responsible, but for whatever reason our bodies were not working together that day and we took a slightly different route. But do it feel cheated? No.

I told my husband about this and he said he feels cheated, because he got nothing. I was unconscious for a decent chunk of it but he was left with an empty labour room for hours. No wife, no baby, just a whole lot of fear for both. An awful situation, bless him.

The same way that every baby is different (if you need a mantra as a new parent, that’s a good one!) every birth is too. Millie’s had a bit more drama but was still just as valid as everyone else’s. There’s some debate over different births but aren’t they all still births? Women producing actual tiny humans using their bodies? It’s a bloody miracle however they come out!

Frankly I’m grateful for our experience, because without the medical magic of an emergency caesarean, I’m not sure Millie would even have made it. And sadly many don’t. So when you think about it, I’m actually just very lucky.