I had this picture of Archie being born, my Mum and Dad bringing Charlotte in and me blissfully cuddling my two babies in my arms. I think I was slightly naive about how I would feel after giving birth.
After being sick while being stitched up from my second degree tear, I felt less than glamorous and exhaustion began to settle over me. I was unable to shake off the dizziness and constantly felt I was going to faint. Even the magnificent tea and toast didn’t cut it. With my feet up in the air, stars in front of my eyes, a constant feeling of nausea and back on the drip, my little Chazzy rocked up in the outfit I had carefully packed for her. I just about managed to kiss her “hello” but that was about it.
As well as feeling completely out of it and unable to string a sentence together, everything was rather surreal. I had just given birth and was watching my parents cuddle the most beautiful, healthy baby boy, who hadn’t been whisked to the neonatal unit, had no wires attached and was breathing by himself. Charlotte seemed to like her baby brother and gave him a cute kiss on the top of his head before continuing to explore the room.
After an hour or so, I said goodbye to Charlotte and my parents and felt quite upset and deflated that I was too weak and dizzy to be able to hold either of my babes.
As the midwives changed over, I was filled with gratitude for how amazing our midwife had been. I felt I had made a new friend. She had been there every step of the way and was just incredible.
The midwife kindly fetched me a mountain of toast, a bowl of rice krispies and a very sugary cup of tea. After demolishing this, I soon began to feel better and the dizziness started to fade. I was absolutely delighted that Archie successfully managed to latch on and I was able to feed him.
Everything seemed so normal, so easy, so as it should be. I was in the land of happiness.
At about 8pm, Archie was wrapped in blankets and we were wheeled down to the postnatal ward. I felt like royalty being wheeled through the hospital corridors with my son swaddled in blankets and nestled into me.
It was busy and hotter than the sun in the postnatal ward. It didn’t bother me too much, the hot, sweaty, noisy bubble of normality made anything bearable. I was in the bed at the end of the ward, so more than grateful for the slight breeze from the window. After settling in and getting all my food supplies ready for the night, I kissed goodbye to Connor. It was just me and Archie. I was in love.
I got very little sleep that night. I woke regularly to feed Archie and just looked at my son in awe. I listened to the mums around me, worrying about their milk supply, unsure about whether to bottle or breastfeed their baby and upset their baby wouldn’t settle. I felt a bit anxious they were going to wake Archie but he slept solidly, except when the ward went quiet and the other babies went to sleep, then he decided it was his turn to scream the ward down! Oh Archie!
In the early hours of the morning my epidural began to wear off. Whilst I was mentally on cloud nine, my body felt as if it had been to war. I could have done with another epidural. At about 3am, I had my first trip on my feet out of bed. On the way, I walked past all the mums with their newborns, all awake. Some were feeding, others were nursing and others just peering into the tubs checking in on their babies. I felt like going around and high fiving each and everyone of them. I loved that I was one of them, with my baby by my side. I felt so proud of all these mums who were trying their best to mother their newborns whilst recovering from giving birth.
I was happy to see the morning and it wasn’t long before I shuffled to find the kitchen for my beloved bowl of cereals.
By the time Connor arrived I was more than ready for a shower. I found it difficult to believe that we would soon have the go ahead to take Archie home.
In just shy of twenty four hours we were leaving the hospital with our son. A walk I will never forget.
Mother of three
This was the moment I held Charlotte and Archie in my arms for the first time. The moment my arms and heart had craved for since saying goodbye to Esme. It was a very different feeling from what I had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good different, just different.
My heart sank at first when I didn’t get the same feeling I did when I held Charlotte and Esme.
I got the chance to hold Charlotte and Esme together when we found out how poorly Esme was and that she was left with no quality of life. Even though I knew my cuddles were going to be short lived, the times when I held them together, my world felt complete.
I was expecting to experience this feeling again when I held Charlotte and Archie for the first time. Thinking about it, I was probably longing to hold Esme, to hold my twin girls in my arms just one more time. But Archie is not Esme.
One of my biggest anxieties about becoming pregnant again was that I was doing it to replace Esme, even though deep down I knew she could never be replaced.
Whilst visiting Esme’s grave, I explained to close friends that I would sometimes look at Archie when he was sleeping and it was as if I was looking at Esme. This also happened once when I was feeding him. During these times I struggled and could barely bring myself to look at him.
For some, this might be a blessing and a lovely thing but for me it brought me nothing but heartache and filled me with guilt that I wasn’t able to look at my son because of the memory of the daughter I had lost.
My friend replied, “It’s Charlotte’s and Archie’s job to be Esme’s brother and sister and not to be Esme.” This made so much sense and within that moment I was able to let go of those pregnancy anxieties and the harsh guilt I had during those times when I looked at Archie.
The enormous weight and guilt I had been carrying since losing Esme and wanting another baby had lifted. It was a very significant revelation of my feelings at that moment and in the future, for Archie as much as for Esme.
I’m now pleased the cuddle with Charlotte and Archie wasn’t what I expected. It feels very special knowing that holding my twin girls and the feeling of Esme in my arms will never be replaced.
Holding Charlotte and Archie together, my surviving twin and my son, felt like the beautiful start of a new chapter.
The wonderful feeling of normality
They describe surviving the neonatal unit as being like surviving a battlefield. Until Archie was born I had no idea how many wounds I had left to heal, the main one being the achievement of carrying a baby to full term and not blaming myself for the girls’ prematurity.
I have many deep scars from my three months in the neonatal unit, each scar with a story of its own. Without these scars, I doubt I would be the person I am proud to be today.
During my time in the neonatal unit, I found it difficult not only living each day in fear but simultaneously feeling at a loss and robbed of many things I wanted to do so desperately with my newborn twin girls.
Archie has not only brought me hope and comfort after losing Esme but he has also given me the chance to do everything I longed to do with my girls in the comfort of my own home.
Everything has felt so normal and so right this time. Whoever said that “normal is boring” has clearly never spent time on a neonatal unit.
It’s all the little things that feel incredible. All the little things that I wish I could have been doing rather than living my motherhood dream in fear. I felt that they were stolen from me, leaving me feeling empty and at a loss.
Here are my little but ever so BIG things:
– Not being bothered about the noisy, cramped, hot maternity ward but to just lie in the hospital bed in an anxiety free world of bliss with my baby next to me in a ‘plastic tub’
– That I could look, touch, kiss, dress, cuddle, pick Archie up, feed and be 1:1 with him
– Not being frightened of any alarms sounding because there weren’t any wires attached to Archie
– Being able to look at each tiny feature of Archie’s face without trying to put it together like a jigsaw whenever the tubes, eye or face masks or head position were changed
– Using my ‘posh’ and carefully packed hospital bag
– Taking Archie home when he was a day old
– Cuddling, having skin to skin and feeding Archie whilst* watching TV in the comfort of my home
– Having friends and family around for cuddles
– Never being apart from him
– Bathing Archie in the sink
– Feeding him without hiding behind screens
– Being able to go to bed without fear of the phone ringing
He certainly is one special baby, and I’m a lucky girl.