As we approach the milestone of the first birthday I find myself consumed with so many thoughts, memories and emotions. On my son’s birthday we will of course be celebrating him turning one and our incredible love for him. There will, however, be another celebration taking place within our home, a celebration of survival. We have survived the first 12 months, which as it turns out, is quite the feat.
Surviving pregnancy was a struggle in itself. Despite getting to the age where my body quite literally ached for a baby, I soon discovered I was not going to be one of those women who are made to carry babies. My body seemed to fight me every step of the way. I was sick, all the time. Multiple trips to emergency for fluids and weekly visits to my amazingly wonderful GP who spent time researching ways to try and combat the Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Made famous by Princess Kate) that was terrorising my body. I experienced insomnia, excruciating pelvic pain, an emergency appendectomy at 26 weeks, heartburn, restless leg syndrome, back pain and the daunting prospect of a large baby needing to vacate my lady parts. There were so many moments where I wanted to give up; I didn’t believe that I could get through another day let alone months.
I will never forget my husband saying to me “I miss my wife.” I knew exactly what he meant; I had become an incubator and nothing more for months. I lay helpless on a mattress in our lounge room, unable to function beyond the safety of our home and a nearby bathroom. There are so many vivid memories from my pregnancy that will never leave me but one that grips me right in the throat and coils its way down to my heart is when my brother came to visit me in hospital. He is my older brother and while we are close and love each other dearly, we don’t necessarily share all the feels. The day after I had my appendix out, he made a surprise trip down to see me. I had never really seen him cry before. He walked into the room, saw me lying on the hospital bed and choked up immediately. The look that flooded his face was a mash of fear, protectiveness, concern and fragility that I’m presuming mirrored my own. It was almost like his reaction gave me permission to release all of the emotions that I saw in his sunken demeanour. It was ok to be scared, fragile and quite frankly a little bit miffed that this is how pregnancy had turned out for me.
My labour was uneventful. I was induced at 39 weeks, we had a healthy 9lb beautiful boy. As my placenta vacated the premises, the months of sickness seeped out of my body and were replaced with bucketfuls of love for our son. We had some general feeding issues to begin with and my vagina felt like it had gone ten rounds with a heavyweight boxer but all in all we were doing well. We even made it to a wedding in Noosa when our son was four weeks old. We lapped up the compliments about how well we were doing, how relaxed we were, how perfect our baby was.
Listen: Monique Bowley and Bec Judd deep dive on the beautiful act of labour, speaking to mums and experts. Post continues after audio.
We got through the first three months relatively unscathed. Upon reflection, there were signs that things weren’t perfect, but are they ever really? I mean, he cried a bit, he went on nursing strikes, he wriggled and writhed around pretty frequently but he was big and healthy and we loved him to bits. Somewhere around the four month mark it all fell to pieces. We had somehow broken our baby. He stopped sleeping, like at all really. It started with a very normal regression to waking every two hours and progressed (or regressed?) to entire nights of feeding and screaming. Nights where my husband and I would fall into bed at 5am, only for his alarm to go off at 6 for work. Nights where we cried in desperation as our baby cried in pain. Nights where we took it in turns to sit up with him so the other could try and get a half hour of sleep. Nights where I googled “ why does my baby hate me?” when nothing we did could soothe his pained little body. We felt helpless.