The day we met started too early. I couldn’t eat or drink, so I just got dressed and tried to calm my nerves by obsessively reading the Guardian news app. I spent a long time hugging Tristan before we left and I shed a few tears on the way to the hospital because no hug, kiss or giggle could last long enough that day. I’d never been away from him for so long before, it was entirely unthinkable. How would I cope without my sparkly little boy to get me through the scary bits?
We arrived at the hospital, early enough that we found a parking space right outside the main entrance. Part of me wanted to run. I had to remind myself with every step towards the ward that this was a different story and a different child and I’d changed so much myself; I had to believe that I wasn’t throwing myself to the lions.
We got inside and there were bright lights and kind voices, deep breaths and butterflies. My space on the ward was exactly the same as two years previously, near the same window with the same view of the dental school. I changed into a hospital gown and waited to be escorted down for surgery.
More bright lights, more kind voices. “Pop yourself up here. Lean forward so your back is nice and curved. This won’t hurt too much but if it’s too uncomfortable tell me and I’ll stop. You’re doing brilliantly!” The midwife’s hands firmly grasping my own, my head resting against her shoulder as the needle squirmed in my spine, my thoughts all about the baby I was about to meet to distract me from the pain.
I’ve got this, I’ve got this, I’ve got this.
The consultant and anaesthetist read my birth plan and respected all of it. They would explain everything they were doing, they would be completely silent as our baby was born, and the curtain would be lowered so I could see him or her being lifted out of me.
“I’m just cutting through the final layer of tissue.”
“I can see your baby’s head. There’s a lot of hair!”
“I’m about to pull your baby out now so I’ll lower the screen.”
The room fell quiet, the curtain fell, and there he was, still attached to me. Small and curled up, face swollen and scrunched like his brother’s, an angry squawk coming from his tiny body. He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I wept glorious, perfect, happy tears. Thom kissed me, and I remember his eyes were shiny.
The cord was cut and the midwife attached the rainbow cord tie we’d brought with us, and he was placed on my chest against my bare skin. He stopped crying immediately and I kissed his soft, wet hair and told him I loved him. I told him how proud he’d already made me. I told him I’d keep him as safe as I could for as long as I lived.
I also said, “I told you we’d have a boy!” to my husband, who rolled his eyes and smiled at me.
“We have sons!”
“We do. They’re perfect.”
He left my arms for the first time to be weighed, a good half an hour after he was born. He weighed 7lb 8oz. He fed for the first time in recovery, sunlight pouring all over us from the open window. It was a truly gorgeous spring day and a wonderful moment. My heart was completely full.
We spent the rest of the day falling in love harder and faster than ever before. It wasn’t stronger or deeper than with Tristan, just easier. All those parts of myself had been opened up before so letting a tiny new human in was as simple as looking at him and knowing he belonged in our little family.
He was born at 10.27am and remained nameless until 9pm that night.
The name we agreed on was Leo.
So in a way I did throw myself to the lions – or at least one very small and very beautiful lion.
His birth was joyous and memorable, in all the ways his brother’s wasn’t. I confronted my last experience and made peace with it, plastered over the old wounds with the happiness I found with Leo. My stay in hospital wasn’t necessarily easy but it was overwhelmingly positive. I felt strong and optimistic and left after two days with determination and a belief that the story really would be different. And so far it has been different, but also desperately familiar, in good ways and bad.
But this isn’t the place for the bad. This is the place for me to be thankful and inspired and healed. A mother to two incredible little boys who I love and treasure completely. I have hair to smell, tiny hands to hold, noses to kiss.
The rest can wait. 🙂