Everything began on April 27th, 2016 in the afternoon. I was home, as usual, Yaw was still at work and then planned to go with colleagues for one quick beer (in this case it was supposed to be really a quick one:). He called me something after six to assure I was ok. He told me the bar they were going to had no signal, but that he would be at home around eight.
A few minutes after his call I went to the toilet and immediately felt that something was flowing in streams out of me. But it was not a broken water, it was blood! (I am sorry, I’d tried to describe it less explicitly, but no compromise euphemism exists here:).
Since I’d happened to find myself in a similar situation on a New Year’s Eve, I did not freak out as you do when something like this happens for the first time. Taken the circumstances, I tried to keep a cool head and get Yaw. However, his phone was no longer available… I laughed at the irony in my mind. Any other day he goes home straight after work, and this must happen just when he went out for a while… I quickly sent him a text and asked him to hurry to the hospital and hoped he’d find it in time. I confusedly began to browse through the hospital papers and searched for the ‘right’ number. Then it was all a blur how quickly the process went.
Within a minute I found myself in the hospital where, of course, they were immediately checking if the children were okay. Something within assured me that everything was ok. Partly, it was because I constantly felt the babies’ movements in my belly. Besides, the maternal instinct (perhaps) prevented me from panicking. I knew the boys were okay. And they were. Our little fighters!
However, the bleeding would not slow down and a woman in a white coat told me that they would probably have to take the boys out immediately by a c-section. “But you can’t do that, my husband is not here yet…” I heard my astonished voice speaking. What do they think, deliver our boys without Yaw…? This idea seemed absurd at first. The nurses tried to call him, but he was still unavailable. I knew he was going to go home any minute, so I asked them to keep trying.
I was lying there and watching number of staff walking around me, exchanging information, consulting, monitoring the heartbeats… I saw faces smiling at me, talking to me and giving me strength and courage.
“I am sorry, we won’t be able to wait for him,” I heard after a while a decisive voice that belonged to a nice lady. She was standing by me and ensuring me with a look that it was necessary for the safety of the children. I wasn’t sure whether she was a doctor or a midwife, but I trusted her. Common sense told me that I had to ignore every inner defiance and focus only on children and their safety.
I had turned my brain over to autopilot
We sent Yaw a quick text saying that I was going to have a c-section and then I had turned my brain over to autopilot.
Never before could I imagine the process of a c-section when a woman is fully conscious. It seemed absurd to me. I thought it must be very difficult for a woman not to panic.
In fact, a woman is not fully conscious. It’s different as if someone told you now they are going to cut you. That would definitely be an appropriate moment for panic. But I, for example, was incredibly dopey after the epidural. As if someone had given gave some light drugs. The whole world was spinning around and I felt nauseous in irregular intervals. I remember having my head turned on a side and looking at some midwives standing nearby in the hallway. I know I was looking directly at them the whole time, but I didn’t sense them. It was interesting, though a little scary. As if my brain was frozen.
I just know that a couple of minutes later, someone from the operating staff said, “Aaa, here comes ‘Twin 1!'” and right after him came ‘Twin 2’. It was beautiful to perceive it all but at the same time a little distant too as I was still too dopey to fully sense it.
The twins came into this world 6 weeks early so they were taken to the incubators right after the birth. I didn’t even have a chance to see them… But what was even worse, I didn’t even hear them! However, a midwife assured me that it is normal and that sometimes it takes a while for children to cry. So it was in our case. It took a few seconds for the children’s cry to start spreading across the hall and it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. The cry of my boys.
Yaw came when everything was over. Of course, as soon as he found my texts, he ran to the hospital, but even the fastest route from central London took him over an hour. They were just taking me out of the surgery room when I saw him in the corridor. When our eyes met, I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh…
I didn’t feel anything spectacular
They directed us to a nearby room where we had at least some privacy. I cannot find the words that would describe the moment you experience with your partner when your child is born… One of the most powerful moments in my life.
It took about three hours until they connected boys to the incubators and we could see them. Perhaps I was looking forward to the first meeting with them the most throughout the pregnancy. Everyone was telling me that once I’d see my children, my whole world would change. That it is the most amazing feeling in the world. Maybe I set my expectations too high and maybe I just thought about it too much… But the truth is that when I first saw them I didn’t feel what I was expecting to feel. No fountain of love, no inner reversal, no reconsideration of my life… I was looking at them, I knew they were mine, I was happy to have them….. but I didn’t feel anything spectacular. That took me by surprise. What’s wrong with me? Why am I not feeling what I should?
The boys were tiny as palms and lots of hoses were connecting them to a number of different devices. I looked at them with love and tenderness, but That feeling did not come. Come on, what are you asleep? Start feeling what you are supposed to! I had been encouraging my heart in my mind.
I was ashamed and felt a deep sense of guilt. What’s wrong with me? What kind of mother am I? Outwardly, I tried to look happy, but inside I was screaming. I was angry that I could not even touch or rub them. That would definitely help .. Yes! Once I have them in my arms, that feeling will surely come!
I didn’t sleep that night. The epidural stopped working and the surgical wound began to hurt me madly. Every second I was asking for a painkiller and I was desperate when a midwife told me that it was too early for a pill. It was a hell of a night. Even the minimal movement was torturous. I could not move, nor sneeze, nor a cough, nor yawn, nor cry,… nothing.
A very thin edge
The next day they moved me over to a maternity room. At that time I suffered like a caged animal. The wound hurt me even more than it did at night. I cried and begged for drugs. When a midwife told me I should try and walk, I almost tapped her forehead thinking ‘are you out of your mind?!’… However, later on, I understood that walking is paradoxically the way to heal after a c-section. Slowly, with Yaw’s help, I, therefore, started to get up on my feet and tried to do at least one step. But every time I moved, it felt like a sharp knife was cutting my insides. I could not move even an inch. It was an insane pain. I remember that when I called family with the announcement the boys were born, I couldn’t even talk… Every emotion cut me like a dagger.
After a few minutes, the doctor and some midwives came to see me. One of them had patiently explained to me how to start the lactating process. The hospital staff came to see and check on me regularly. When a midwife with drugs came over, I even sincerely smiled :).
Right next to us a young mother was laying with a newborn baby. There was just a curtain between us and the baby was constantly crying. At first, I sensed it only like a necessary noise in the background. However, after a while, it was like the salt had been poured into an open wound. Imagine you’re physically suffering and on top of that a child’s cry is drilling into your brain… In addition, it’s not even your own child’s crying.
I managed to endure it for a while, but after a few hours, I was mentally on the edge. Very thin edge. I have to leave this place, else I’ll shoot myself! I knew if I hadn’t gotten out of there, I would have gone insane. In a weak moment, I almost went to the child’s parents and told them to leave. However, my common sense had stopped me. Some bits were still there…
“We have to get a private room!” I cried and strongly squeezed Yaw’s hand who sensed in my tone that it was not a request… “I don’t care how much it is… I have to go now, I can’t listen to that baby anymore…!” I cried and cried.
Fortunately, one private room was available. The problem was that it was located in a separate section of the department where staff did not visit so often. The midwife wanted, therefore, to ensure first that I was so-so mobile. In other words, if I wanted to leave I had to be able to walk at least around the bed. With the support, of course.
“But I can walk, look!” I cried and began to get out of bed. Yaw caught me quickly so I wouldn’t fall. I had no strength, the wound hurt me, the pain was not getting any better, but the idea of having a private room made me stand up and really walk around the bed!
In the new room, I finally exhaled. No people, no cry, no baby… Wait a minute, no baby! It was a strange feeling… The second day I was a mother and my children were in a different department than me (a special care and baby unit) and I had only seen them through a glass.
The next day we could finally touch them and even get some skin-to-skin cuddles. That’s when it first came. Feeling of maternal love. First I held Henry. I can still see the midwife handing him to me, I can see him crying and moving slowly towards me… As soon as I put him on my body, I sensed a strong flood of love in my chest. It came! It was something wonderful. New and spectacular.
What’s wrong with me?
However, when we returned to the room, I felt that feeling began to fade away. Literally like a drug effect. Slowly, but distinctly. What’s wrong with me?
This is how it varied inside of me during the next couple of days. Feelings of the greatest love with feelings of emptiness.
The surgical wound still hurt me like crazy. The worst was getting to the loo. I will never forget how I was struggling when getting out of the bed. Yaw was helping me to slowly move inch by inch while I was screaming from the pain. Outside the room, Yaw was pushing me in the wheelchair. It took me about a week to be able to walk with any confidence alone.
After a few days they released me to go home, but the boys had to stay in the hospital, so we had been travelling to them every single day. It was strange to return home without them, but on the other hand, it gave me the space to adapt to the new situation gradually.
The biggest problem I had was breastfeeding. Every time I came to see the boys, I tried with a midwife’s help to breastfeed them, but with no success. Neither of them wanted to suck. I’d never have thought breastfeeding could be this difficult and frustrating. As a future mother, everyone asks you whether you want to breastfeed, but no one tells you that it’s a skill you need to practice. Often even for months!
Despite the lack of success, I didn’t give up and kept trying. At home, I always expressed milk and took it to the hospital the next day. How many times did I feel guilty when I looked at my boys because only a couple of minutes before I hadn’t even been sure whether I was actually looking forward to seeing them. What’s wrong with me? Some days I cried that I hadn’t had them at home, some days I didn’t even know if I wanted to go and visit them. As if I was afraid of my own emotions. I felt ashamed and kept convincing myself that I was only weakened by the new situation. However, deep inside I knew (sensed) something was wrong.
After a couple of days of travelling there and back, the head midwife in the special care unit told us they had a free room where we could stay with our children and didn’t have to travel like this. She said it would also be good for us if I wanted to breastfeed. Apparently, for the boys to start sacking I had to be available whenever they were hungry.
She also informed us that boys had to stay in the hospital until they were able to eat. At that time they were already breathing without any help, so it was only the question of eating that was decisive. The boys were tiny, but not too tiny, so there was a good chance it would only take a week, two tops.
This idea seemed acceptable to me, however, when a midwife took me to have a look at the rooms, I stiffened. They were cozy but small. Too small. I have always suffered from claustrophobia, so the idea of all four of us living in that space gave a cold sweat.
However, the desire to breastfeed and to do things the way I believed a “good mother” should, was very strong, so in the end, I agreed.
If only I knew it would be one of the most difficult days of my life…
To be continued in the next post… Soon x