By KATE WALTHER
The night my daughter was born I couldn’t look at her. I heard her tiny cry, like a lost kitten, and saw her miniature 1 kg frame and turned my head away, shocked at how fragile she was. How my body had failed her at just 26 weeks gestation. Luckily, she was born fighting.
So many times in her 4 month stay in the NICU we would hear the mantra from her doctors and nurses – 2 steps forward, 1 step back. It was a warning to expect turbulence, even when things seemed good, but it was also a source of comfort when things were bad. I knew what it meant before – intellectually at least – but I didn’t understand what it was like to live it day by day. Hour by hour. Beep by mechanised beep on those damn monitors.
As we watched the screens, mesmerised by the blue line, (oxygen saturation), life quickly became about seconds. It seemed as though we lived in a cocoon where time slowed to the sound of those alarms. Life continued around us at breakneck speed, but we remained so focussed on the numbers on her monitor that we barely noticed. When you live your life by seconds, something goes numb inside. You live on the edge of your seat, waiting for that breathtaking step backwards. Dreading it.
Lucy’s first month went by slowly, but without a backwards step. She was strong, and amazed her doctors, who like us waited with baited breath for what was inevitably to come. And then it came. Infection. And even though we saw it coming – even though we were warned, and the signs were there – it changed me. I felt vulnerable in a way I could never have comprehended. Desperate. Exposed. I bargained with the universe to take my life instead of hers so many times.