Saturday, 11 May 2013

11 May 1996 (or why I only had one child)

For many, many years I never wanted children.  I didn't play mummies and babies as a child and it was never my ambition to 'get married and have babies'.  I didn't hate kids, I simply wasn't interested.

As it turned out, I did get married.  My husband already had an 11-year-old son from his first marriage and didn't want any more. Fine by me.   For four or so years this state of affairs was acceptable and to be honest, I didn't actually give it much thought.

Then, one morning when I was 31, I woke up quite literally on biological fire.  I can't explain it any better than that.  It was as if every cell in my body was on fire and screaming "GIVE ME A BABY. NOWWWWWWW".  I was shocked.  And I tried to ignore it. But I learned that these things will not be ignored. I nervously told my husband. If he said no way, then there'd be no baby. I am not the type of person who would deliberately fall pregnant and I vowed I would stay on the Pill if he said no. But to my surprise he said "oh alright then".  This was so significant that I actually remember the date I went off the Pill (I had been on it for 16 years).  8 December 1994.

And I promptly forgot all about it.  Until August 1995.  I was doing a play and had been feeling terribly tired and a little bit weird.  I thought I was just over-tired, working full-time and doing a long production.  The last thing I thought of was pregnant.  But I was.  What a surprise! And I had to remind myself of my past biologal urge which had actually subsided.  But I did want this baby so I decided to proceed with the pregnancy.

Being pregnant sucked harder than a Dyson for me.  There was only a brief window of time when I felt good.  And lots of things went wrong.  My waters broke at 15 weeks. I was rushed to hospital, expecting to lose my baby.  Amazingly a strong heartbeat was found, despite my losing so much amniotic fluid.  I remained in hospital for two weeks.  I had to have an anti-D injection because I have O Rh negative blood and that's when I learned all about Rh disease. Terrific.

When they sent me home I was told to stay in bed, with my feet up, for four weeks and to attend hospital once a week for a foetal heart check.  I was desperate to get back to work.  The day I was due to start back, I started to bleed.  Off to hospital again.  Placenta praevia! Yay. More time in bed, off work.  I was also diagnosed with borderline pre-eclampsia.  I constantly had some but not all of the symptoms so I had to have weekly blood tests.  My husband was starting to get cranky.  I didn't blame him.  This pregnancy caper was a joke!

I crept around for weeks, convinced I'd never complete this pregnancy and vowing never to try again.  I have always been prone to fluid retention so I didn't think too much about my increasingly swollen ankles and hands. But the swelling continued.  I had very serious oedema.  And I got bigger and bigger until eventually I couldn't walk. I was wheelchair bound or hobbled with a stick.  I had to have a heparin (an anticoagulant) injection once a week to prevent deep vein thrombosis. The baby couldn't be palpated as the oedema had crept up over my belly and almost to my armpits.  And I still had five weeks to go! It was an agonising and miserable time. Eventually, with three-and-a-half weeks left, my ob/gyn took pity on me and said he'd induce me on the Friday. I felt like I had won Tattslotto.

I was induced at 6 am on 10 May 1996.  I lay like a beached whale on the bed waiting for something to happen but nothing did.  They sent me back to the ward to wait.  Almost as soon as they left me alone I heard/felt a "pop" as my waters broke.  And off we went back to the delivery suite.

I won't bore you with the details of the next 19 hours but suffice it to say that the phrase "failure to progress" still rankles.  I went straight into Stage 2 labour but I never dilated beyond 6 cm.  My epidural failed and I had the intereresting (and by interesting I mean vile) experience of feeling labour on my right side but not on my left.  I begged for a Caesarean section but they wanted me "to keep trying".  At 22 hours the midwives were arguing with the obstetrician to take me to theatre.  All I wanted to do was die.  Eventually, at 23 hours the obstetrician relented and off to theatre we went.

Finally, at 5.45 am on Saturday, 11 May 1996, my son was born.  Tipping the scales at 8 lb 8½ oz (and three weeks early!), with all the right bits and pieces.  Absolutely perfect.  I passed out shortly afterwards and came round on 12 May, Mother's Day.  That was a nice day to meet my baby.

My son was an awesome baby.  Placid and happy from the start.  Very relaxed.  And breastfeeding was a breeze! Something I hadn't expected or even given much thought to (I still don't give a crap about the breast vs. bottle debate - a baby needs to eat. Feed it. I don't care how you do it and neither should anyone else).
3 months old.
He had such sticky-up hair!

And despite my mum's and my nanna's misgivings (which they cheerfully confided to me), and probably my own if I'm honest, I actually proved to be quite a capable mum.  And I never again experienced that overwhelming biological urge.  Odd, that.

And today he turns 17.  Tall, handsome, funny as hell, quirky and with a strong sense of social justice, I couldn't be prouder of him.

Beautiful young man
He was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when he was 9 and he's grown into his individuality and has a healthy self-esteem and doesn't suffer fools gladly.  He's got some very good mates, which is so good as for a long time he didn't have any and it broke my heart.

He makes me laugh.  And oh, how he's made me cry over the years.  But not too much really. Not in comparison to what some people go through.

The teenage years have had their moments for sure, but when I look objectively at his continuum I know we have all escaped fairly easily.

Happy birthday my darling boy.  The time has flown by.  You're growing up so beautifully and I can't wait to see the good man you are well on your way to becoming.  I love you more than you'll ever know and I'll keep telling you forever.

With all my love,