baby

'To my one-year-old, you'll never know it, but you got me through my darkest days.'

Dear Oliver,

“This isn’t how my life is supposed to go…”

I muttered, stunned, as two bright pink lines on the pregnancy stick stared back at me.

I was only 25. A career woman. I’d just landed my dream gig with a metropolitan TV network after spending 2 years interstate chasing my television reporting dreams. Your dad was overseas. I’d simply taken a pregnancy test to alleviate what I was sure were unfounded concerns.

I mean, after all, I was only a day late. There was no way I was pregnant.

Except, I was.

“I’m pregnant. I’m having a baby,” I said out loud to no one in particular.

I know you’ll roll your eyes at this, but I’d visited a psychic a few weeks earlier who emphatically told me as I sat down, “right so you’re pregnant.”

Despite my protests that I was absolutely not, she was adamant.

I laughed about it with everyone I came across, “how ridiculous!” I would say… while downing a glass of wine/a margarita/anything alcoholic (sorry!).

A week later, I experienced strange cramps and I knew this was the beginning of you.

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I called your dad straight away. He’d just returned from a night out with his friends.

“So, I’m pregnant….”

“… are you sure?”

“Pretty certain…”

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A heavy silence clogged the line between Melbourne and Hong Kong.

“Wow, okay… I’ll be home tomorrow. Let’s talk more then. I love you and I miss you.”

As the shock died down, your dad and I realised you were exactly what we wanted.

Sure, the timing wasn’t ideal. But your dad and I were in love, and the rock on my finger proved we were committed to spend the rest of our lives together. We’d been blessed. You were our shining light.

A few months of morning sickness later, we were told you were a boy. I will never forget the phone call I made to your dad when I found out the news.

He sobbed down the end of the phone. “A boy!” he wailed… “we’re having a boy!” A tiny, beautiful, baby boy. We couldn’t be more excited. I’m not sure how it was possible, but we somehow fell even more in love with you.

From that night, we started to picture you. Would you have my lips? Dad’s eyes? Mum’s colour hair? Dad’s nose?

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We’d select the qualities in each of us we wanted you to inherit, as if there was a buffet of traits we could pick and choose from to create our perfect child.

You’d be sporty like your dad. A writer like your mum.

You’d have a cheeky, wicked sense of humour like your dad. You’d be compassionate, an animal-lover like your mum.

I visited my obstetrician every few weeks for a check up. That’s where we’d see your beautiful face beamed on the ultrasound screen. Dad would insist on joining me every time, even when I said he didn’t have to. He was desperate to see your fingers, your toes. He’s a worry wart, your dad. He would confirm at least 9 times the pregnancy was progressing as normal, and you were healthy.

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“He’s the best looking kid I’ve seen all day,” our obstetrician would shoot back with a smile.

“I’m sure he says that to everyone,” dad would say as we walk out.

“But with us, he really means it,” I would reply.

Over the months, you grew bigger, healthier, stronger. You were such a wriggle worm, it’s like you always had something to do in there.

Each night dad would come home from work and place a hand on mum’s belly. This was my favourite time of the day. We’d feel you move, and when there was an exceptionally big kick, dad’s eyes would light up. My heart would swell with love. We’d created this little human. I couldn’t be more excited for our little family. Our future was so bright.

It was seven weeks before your due date when I started to feel uncomfortable. I complained to the hospital, the obstetrician, the midwives, but I think everyone thought I was overreacting. I was, after all, on the final stretch. Pregnancy in the third trimester is never a walk in the park.

But a week later, six weeks before your due date, you were ready to meet mum and dad.

The problem was, we weren’t ready for you. Your nursery was in boxes. I hadn’t even packed my hospital bag. In fact, dad was due to fly out the following week for an overseas work trip!

When we arrived at the hospital, my waters broke.

“You’ve officially gone into labour,” the midwife told me. I cried.

Listen to Monique Bowley and Bec Judd discuss the moment that bump turns to baby, on Hello Bump, Mamamia's pregnancy podcast. Post continues after audio.

Dad stayed with me the entire time. He dabbed a cold face washer on my head to cool me down. He cuddled me in between contractions. He repeatedly told me how amazingly I was doing, all the while sneaking glimpses of the Geelong v Bulldogs game playing on the delivery suite’s TV screen.

Before we knew it, it was time to push, and there you were.

You were perfect in every possible way. But you were supposed to keep cooking. So after a very quick cuddle with mum, you were gone, rushed to the special care nursery, a place you would call home for the next 2.5 weeks.

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Dad was by your side for those first few hours. He would eventually come back to check on me, armed with 93 photos of you in your incubator.

I was thankful he did this, because I had hardly seen you. I couldn’t picture your face.

“He looks exactly like you,” I told your dad as he scrolled through the photos on his phone, tears streaming down my face. This was never how I imagined I would give birth to my first child. We were supposed to be bonding, cuddling, getting to know one another. But you were gone. It still breaks my heart to this day we didn’t get to have the start to our lives together we deserved.

For the next few weeks, dad and I dedicated our lives to getting you big and strong so we could take you home.

That day finally came.

Our family of two was now officially three. I was complete. My heart was whole.

Now you are one year old. Where did that time go?

Such a milestone calls for reflection though many memories have morphed into a drowsy blur. From battling the dreaded four-month sleep regression, when you decided nighttime rest was overrated, to cradling you at 3am as you battled a fever, to frantically speeding to Byron Bay hospital when you fell off the bed and bumped your head.

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The last year has been the most challenging in my life. But its also been the most magical, electrifying, life-changing. I wouldn’t take back a second of it for the world. I watched you grow from a small, smushed, premature baby who was taken off me moments after he was born, to this beautiful, strong-willed, sensitive soul who looks at me like I’m magic, loves me unconditionally, and forces me to look up and see the rainbow on a rainy day. Nothing can take away from that experience. You are my world. You’re a piece of my soul.

You might not understand my words, yet, but when you’re old enough I can’t wait to explain your significance to me. Not just as a mother and son. But as soul mates. You will never know it, but you got me through my darkest days. You encouraged me to smile when my heart was breaking. You forced me to keep on going, when all I wanted to do was wallow in bed all day with the doona over my face.

So even though your mum and dad are no longer together, my darling boy, I wrote this letter on your first birthday so you know you were the product of two parents who loved one another more than anything in the world. I’m so sorry we couldn’t have stayed that way forever.

You were a symbol of our love. We wanted you and loved you from the moment we found out you existed. We dreamt about you. We talked about you. We played with you as you kicked your tiny feet against dad’s hands on mum’s stomach. Not a day goes by where I don’t reflect on the moment I found out I was pregnant with you.

I’m thankful for your dad, because we gave one another the greatest gift in the world. And for that, I count my blessings.

Happy birthday my angel. You’re my greatest achievement.

Mum.

This post originally appeared on Bambi and Baby and has been republished with full permission. You can read the original post here.

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