With my eyes tightly squeezed shut all I could hear was the bleeping of the machine next to my bed that was tracing my baby’s heartbeat. I felt like was staring death in the face, I had been given a few extra days, extra time with my family and my tiny first daughter. My letters of goodbye lay in the pocket of my pink hospital bag for when I was gone. It’s hard to write to those so precious to you, to put into words how much you love them.

My blood pressure was on the rise again so the doctor had decided it was best to induce me to make sure it didn’t progress to pre-eclampsia like last time. So here it was, deed day, the day I had been dreading for nine long months. Lucky to cheat death once I believed fate wouldn’t be so kind this time. Would I have hours, maybe days? I had kissed my daughter that morning as we had dropped her off at her nannies and realised it could be the last time I saw her. Her tiny hand had struggled to leave mine and her smile had gripped my heart like a vice when I whispered ‘I love you’ and said goodbye. Panic, and terror, gripped me, familiar feelings like every time I left her just like the first time she was taken away. On the sombre ride to the hospital, I tried to focus my mind it was two weeks to Christmas but the lights everywhere were off and the morning was cold and bleak, I wasn’t waiting for Christmas, I felt like I was waiting for death.

“Won’t be long till your baby’s here now”, the voice of my Midwife reached my ears. The induction was working well and the contractions were strong and fast. In the daze of the gas and air, my head was fighting, pushing away thoughts of despair, struggling to accept that soon I would be gone, but at the same time wanting the pain to be over.

One final push and a cry pierced the room, my second daughter entered the world.

Held aloft for me to see, she was big, beautiful, crying and making her presence very much known. She was dark-haired and darker skinned and nothing like my other daughter, with cubby little arms and legs, and she was perfect!

Then she was handed to me, straight onto my skin, her tiny body wet and still covered in the residue of birth. Snuggling into me, smelling, searching for my breast, my heart was exploding with such love, such ferocious desire to protect her. I stroked her head and counted every finger, every toe, she was so alert and strong, her hands grabbing at me and her feet pushing against my stomach. Another pain seared through me and then there it was, a full intact placenta, lying in a dish, the amazing tissue that had kept my baby nourished and safe but had the last time nearly killed me. This time it hadn’t got stuck but had left my body just as it was supposed to, its job done.

With no need for stitches, I was done, it was over. I was here, I was alive, holding my baby skin on skin, no taking her away, no theatre, no panic, all was calm. Hot tea and warm toast were handed to me while my baby was snuggled to me, this is how birth is supposed to be. My beautiful baby weighed 6lbs 11oz, latched on to my breast still unwashed the tears began falling in disbelief. Could I have cheated death again? I felt shocked, numb and frightened that this could be false security.

After what was almost two hours the midwives said I could shower and they would clean my baby for me. Pried from my arms they took my new daughter and it felt like they were removing a limb.

In the shower, the hot water eased the aches of my body. The ravages of labour starting to reveal themselves. A baby’s cry brought me back to the here and now, my baby was here she hadn’t been taken from me and she needed me.

Back in the room my daughter was clean and wrapped but I needed to feel her skin, her warmth, so I unwrapped her towel and snuggled her again skin to skin. That was how she stayed despite everyone’s protests on her journey up to the ward and for the next 12 hours. I didn’t dress her except for a nappy and only put her down to go to the bathroom. I managed to eat and drink and even unpack my hospital bag much to the amusement of the other moms on the ward. The midwives would come and say to dress her and put her in her cot, “she’s not still feeding is she” they questioned. You see this time no one was taking my baby away and I would be there for her every precious second, every precious minute of every precious hour.  She was mine my beautiful baby and I was here despite everything I felt possessed, like she had taken hold of my soul and I loved her.

You’re a big sister now

In the night across from me was a young mom who was struggling to feed her baby and I could hear her crying, so my baby snuggled close I went over to her and hugged her tight. I explained that it was early days for her and she along with her baby would learn their new skill, but for now cuddle and enjoy these moments. Surprised to see my baby nestled to my chest, she asked me to help her to do the same. So I helped her undress her baby and snuggle down, skin on skin, mother and baby. The next morning her baby was feeding well and she thanked me with tears in her eyes.

That afternoon at visiting time I heard the tiny footsteps and knew who it was before I saw her beautiful face. Through the doors came my golden-haired fairy, arms out wide to hug me. “You’re a big sister now” I said and her eyes grew big, full of wonder and awe as she looked at her new baby sister.

As I looked at them both I realised I was so very lucky. Lucky to have two beautiful daughters, lucky to be here to hold them, love them and care for them. I was also lucky to have the chance to have a birth as it should be. To deliver your baby and have that baby handed to you, to never leave you and to have those special moments is beyond words. I now realised all that I had lost with my first birth, first touches, first looks, first feeds and first skin-to-skin.  To be able to care for your own baby with no wires, no glass between you, no machines and to be able to put her to my breast was intoxicating and I felt drunk on love. I never believed that it could be this way, that birth could be without trauma.

I stayed in till the next day and still couldn’t believe I was going home. As I placed my new daughter in her car seat it all felt like a dream. I felt I was floating but at the same time in my stomach, I was anxious that it was too good to be true.

As we drove home dusk was falling and the twinkle of lights was everywhere and it felt magical, as we pulled up at my mom’s my golden-haired fairy ran to the car and on tiptoes pushed her nose on the car window, “Mummy” she shouted “I’m a big sister now” and my heart danced and twinkled like the lights that warmed that cold winter night.

For more support around pregnancy and birth after trauma click HERE

Birth After Trauma – Alisha’s birth story

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