“I’m only up to Chapter Six in What to Expect When You’re Expecting!”, I told the midwife in the ambulance on the way to the closest hospital that was equipped to deliver a baby so premature.
We both laughed – her with genuine mirth, me in sheer terror.
I was 30.5 weeks pregnant. Vomiting all night – with suspected listeria. Now suddenly in labour. Being whizzed from the small hospital where I’d hoped to give birth (at least eight weeks later) to the ginormous hospital that was equipped to save what would be an infant of unknown fragility.
Suffice it to say, I did not know what was going on.
My mother, father, and two of my sisters had left the country the day before to attend my grandmother’s funeral in India. I became ill six hours later.
So much for any birthing plan I’d wanted to write. Lol to that.
LISTEN: TV Presenter Bec Judd speaks about the first six weeks she had with her baby, on our pregnancy podcast Hello Bump. Post continues after.
So the first six weeks of becoming a mother were different to that experienced by most mums I know. But then again, mine is also the story of so many mums out there. Thousands of babies are born prematurely across Australia every year, so I know my experience isn’t unique.
I know I’m not the only mum who didn’t have a baby bag packed to take to hospital. (I might not even be the only mum whose brother-in-law had to rifle through her underwear drawer to find any suitable post-op, aka huge, undies.)
I’m not the only new mum who’s stood by a humidicrib in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with tears in her eyes, wondering why her premmie baby was in there and not still inside her. Not the only mum who felt totally robbed of the amazing experience of being pregnant, which I’d endured three rounds of IVF to achieve.
I’m not the only mum who was discharged from hospital and had to go home without her baby, leaving him to be cared for by extremely excellent medical staff who were nonetheless not his mother.
I know many other mums have also vigilantly sat by a humidicrib’s side, day after day, week after week, hoping their child would grow stronger, hoping no further medical issues would materialise.
Today, on Mother's Day, is the tenth anniversary of me becoming a mum! Oh, which also means this kid is now…
And it was that precisely – that omnipresent fear – which defined the first six weeks of motherhood for me.
My son had been born so early – so much of him wasn’t fully developed – and I was forced to witness him fight for it. It was scary as hell.
I was so lucky. My boy grew and grew and became healthier and stronger and I finally got to take him home.
Do not ask me what happened to my body in that time. It’s all a blur – and I wasn’t aware of it anyway. I’m sure there was a lot of stuff happening, but because of the overwhelming responsibility of monitoring my son – when he came off the machines, how many millilitres he was drinking, what his poo looked like, how much he weighed every day – I can’t recall anything about my body specifically.
But I do distinctly remember the judgement. So. Much. Judgement. From other women.
For example, there was the wife of a friend who worked as a midwife at the hospital. She had the audacity to ask me one day why I didn’t have a natural delivery – because she had looked on my son’s hospital chart and decided that nothing warranted a “medical intervention.”
I was also judged for making the decision, after advice from my neonatologist and obstetrician, to formula feed my pre-term son after he was removed from the special formula he’d had from birth.
I was even judged for putting him in tiny ‘dresses’, because I couldn’t find pants/jumpsuits small enough to fit him.
That, I remember. The effect on my body – that happened without me fully noticing. But the effect on my mind of not being supported when I needed it – that I will never forget.
It’s also something I rarely take the time to remember. More than anything, those first six weeks were about a new mother’s fear, and then, increasingly, about her relief. And, dare I say it, an overwhelming feeling of being #blessed.
Bit by bit, I saw light at the end of the tunnel; the light being the day I got to take my son home. The light is different for every new mum: the first time they sleep for more than three hours at a time, the first time you sleep for more than two hours at a time. Whatever it is, the light will come.
And that’s something all new mums need to know – the first six weeks of becoming a mother are hard, because there’s so much that’s unknown, there’s so much we’re working out doing this amazing and terrifying job. But the light will come for most of us.
And you don’t need to finish What to Expect When You’re Expecting to see it.
Listen to the full episode of our pregnancy podcast, all about the first six weeks with your baby below.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Westpac.
Good financial habits, when started early, can make a lifelong impact which is why Westpac has partnered with Mamamia to develop a new podcast series. "Hello, Bump" aims to help mums-to-be prepare physically, emotionally and financially for a child. As part of its 200th anniversary celebrations, Westpac is offering every baby born in 2017 $200 in a Bump Savings account which they can withdraw when they turn 16, if their parent or guardian opens the account in their name between 8 April 2017 and 31 May 2018. Conditions apply. Click here to find out more.