Sure, I knew giving birth was going to be tough. I was aware that it would hurt. A lot. I was so excited to meet our baby whom I already loved beyond measure. What I was not prepared for was quite how vulnerable I would feel, yet how very strong I would need to be.
Without going into too much detail about the birth itself, I was induced the day before my due date because I had Gestational Diabetes, opted for an epidural and was hooked up to IV antibiotics as I had tested positive for Step B a few weeks before. I’d been in pre-labour for 10 days so was exhausted already. I was in active labour for 8 hours before I needed to push, at which point the baby turned herself sunny side up and got stuck! She was extracted by ventouse and I was left, to put it bluntly, in agony. That said, as soon as Beth was placed on my stomach, I felt a sense of peace and such love as I’d never felt before. Our baby had arrived safely.
The first 24 hours were a blur of feeding, cuddling, messaging, half-snoozing and full-on loving. My husband and I could not get enough of our beautiful baby Beth. We were relieved because everything had appeared to go so well and she was, to our inexperienced eyes, healthy. However, exactly 24 hours after she arrived, Beth started to throw up bile, her stomach was distended and she turned grey. In a heartbeat she was whisked away from us and into an incubator, hooked up to IVs, monitors and tubes, and had to endure a spinal tap at all of a day old. To be fair, the support we received was amazing, but the sheer cold fear was overwhelming. There were concerns about Strep B, a deadly illness that requires intensive treatment fast. She had signs of sepsis and the doctors were worried.
As it turns out, after three nights in NICU and intensive antibiotic treatment, all Beth’s test results came back sterile and the problem had been a blockage in her lower intestine which was resolved thanks to the paediatrician’s swift actions before she even reached NICU. She was released and we all went home together.
What struck me most upon reflection on that time is that never in my life had I needed to be stronger than those three days when Beth was in NICU and, as far as we knew at the time, fighting for her life. From the second she was born I was her mother. And that meant I had a job to do. I couldn’t just fall to pieces. And yet, I had never been more vulnerable. I was exhausted, in pain, a hot hormonal mess and absolutely terrified. Thankfully, because of testing during my pregnancy, raised antennae following her birth as a result of my positive Strep B test and extremely swift intervention as soon as things started to go wrong, our three month old daughter is now thriving.
So where did that strength come from? It came from deep within, where from the minute of conception the instinct to protect my child grew and prepared me for just such circumstances. It came from my husband, who was a rock – he kept his head when I felt like I might lose mine, he helped me to see reason and logic when nothing made sense, he loved Beth with a tenderness that broke my heart and his own vulnerability reminded me that I was never alone. It came from our families who wanted to get on the first plane out but understood when we said it would be too much; they were quietly there for us when we needed them, never pushing or pressuring but praying and loving. It came from our “village” which extends from Barbados to London to Mexico to Australia to South Africa and beyond. And it came from a renewed faith in the God who created our beautiful baby girl and who knew her before she was conceived.