It’s taken me a little while to work out how I wanted this post to go. The post where I announce how stunned I am that a whole year has gone by since you joined us on this planet. How the time has flown and how I can’t ever imagine a day when you weren’t here, a part of our family. But it all just feels too twee, too clichéd. And it doesn’t even come close to explaining it.
Because actually, there was life. There was me and Daddy and your wonderful brother Artie.
And then there was you.
You entered this world a little earlier than we were expecting. I was having regular scans in the latter stages of my pregnancy because Artie had been so small when he was born and because of the sudden onset of oligohydramnios at 40 weeks, without my waters having broken and after monitoring of reduced movement. We knew that his size was likely to have been caused by the issues I had when I was carrying him but I was only too happy to have some extra monitoring in the plan because it helped to avoid me becoming too anxious this time around. I was absolutely huge Phoebe, HUGE. But at every appointment the relevant measurements seemed fine and my fluid levels were normal. At the 35 week scan, you were head down and engaged so low in my pelvis the ultrasound was a pretty awkward pants off affair.
I was all but immobile as I hauled myself into the hospital at 37 weeks. We know now that my abdominal muscles were beyond redemption and my bump was so large and so low it was physically impossible for me to do pretty much anything at all. But you were fine and at that time, that was all that really mattered. Into the scan I lumbered and on the 4th attempt I made it up onto the bed. We were chatting away as the measurements were taken and suddenly my head whipped round as I realised the scan was being done much higher up my tummy than a couple of weeks earlier. “I’m just going to check those fluid measurements again” the ultrasonographer announced, before she typed everything up and we went to wait for the consultant. A few minutes later everything changed. It was a registrar who entered the room and frankly, she could have done with a bit of remedial training on how to treat patients as people and not emotionless pieces of meat. Here’s how it went:
Her: Hi, I’m Dr X. You can’t go home.
Her: You’ve got polyhydramnios and your baby has moved into a transverse/instable lie
Somebody send me a nomination form for the Rising Star Customer Care awards because this girl is top of the list.
I burst into tears. I’d waved Artie off to nursery that morning with promises of seeing him at his Mother’s Day concert later that afternoon and now it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. I had always promised that you arriving in this world wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on my relationship with your brother and now here I was, failing at the very first hurdle. I was inconsolable. But then I didn’t understand in any way the gravity of what the world’s least charming doctor had just said.
I was admitted to the ward an hour later and told not to move without telling someone where I was going. Which was funny really, considering I couldn’t move without help anymore anyway. Daddy was dispatched to the Mother’s Day concert. The midwife came and explained in more detail what the doctor had outlined in a horribly functional way. You were swimming around in so much fluid by that point that you had bounced out of my pelvis and you were lying sideways above your umbilical cord. This had made my pregnancy high risk. Excess waters can trigger an early labour and with nothing blocking the passage of the cord out of my body, the worry was that your cord could prolapse and your lifeline would be cut off. I was told the risk of stillbirth increases by 10 times in situations like that and I was taken through the emergency procedure should I feel at any point like something was starting to happen. It went along the lines of emergency bell, get on all fours on the bed with bum in air, midwife gets on bed and shoves hand in position to try to maintain the cord and we all rush to theatre for an emergency section. An ideal situation for anyone to be in, let alone someone who has suffered from anxiety.
It was a worrying, exhausting couple of days. I was checked every few hours and saw four billion different doctors and midwives who all had a slightly different opinion on what should be done. I endured the snoring and moaning of various hugely pregnant women who came and went from the ward I was on. I moved wards 4 times in 3 days. Yes, 4 times. We were given the choice of trying to turn you around (ECV) and then being induced, or electing to have a Caesarian section. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. With so much excess fluid, there was no guarantee the ECV would work, or that you would stay the right way round and there was a risk of you becoming distressed. Then the induction process would have to take place and could take days by which time you could have moved again so the cord could prolapse or I could just become so bloody anxious again that labour ended up like it did with your brother and nobody wants to face nearly dying in childbirth twice. In the end we opted for a c-section but to this day I can only bring myself to say it was semi-elective as I would never elect to put myself through that recovery again (oh…she says as she recovers from another bout of major abdominal surgery less than a year later…) but the only thing I cared about at that point was having you here safely. It was a balance between allowing your lungs to develop as much as possible (when a baby comes out that way, the excess fluid is not squeezed out of the lungs in the same way as a natural delivery so the closer to term the baby, the better) and getting you out before it became an emergency situation (said in my best Station Officer Steele voice – if you know, you know!).
And so it came to be that, after a couple of false starts, on Saturday 10th March 2018 at 11.27am, you were delivered into this world at 38+2 weeks gestation by the same surgeon who had confirmed my previous miscarriage and subsequently confirmed that you had started your journey into life. It was a detail which touched your daddy and I very much as we felt we had come full circle in our dream to add you to our little family. He was a fantastic surgeon and did an amazing job as you will not be surprised to hear the Caesarian was not a straightforward one – but I’d better leave that for another time! Your lungs were indeed a bit gurgly and I was desperate to hear you screaming loud and clear. It took a few minutes and felt like a lifetime but then I heard you at last. When daddy told me you were a little girl I was lost for words. We had been so sure we were having another boy, probably for no reason other than we were used to having a little boy. All we had wanted was a healthy baby and it felt like we had hit the jackpot to have got the chance to experience life with a little girl. To this day, the thought of how lucky we are to have you both makes me catch my breath.
A few more checks (7lb 9oz, strong apgar score, vitamin K injection) whilst I was stitched back together.
And then there was you.
I find myself saying regularly that this year has been the very best of my entire life. The reality is that it’s actually also been one of the hardest. Along with your reflux and two rounds of abdominal surgery a whole host of things have happened which, in a world before you, I might not have got through unscathed. People often joke that the move from one to two children feels more like a move to ten. You finally feel like you have your act together just a little bit and then WHAM. You somehow have to juggle two little people with different needs whilst recovering from growing and birthing an actual human with your hormones running riot. I’ve made no secret of the fact that the first 14 weeks of your life felt like I was drowning in the deepest ocean. We battled so hard to get a handle on your reflux and I struggled with having to get to know (and like) somebody who did nothing but scream 23 hours a day when I already had such a strong bond with your brother. I thought I was losing the fight.
Then on day 1 of week 15, someone threw me a lifeline. And that someone was you.
We have never looked back.
You, Phoebe, took the bull by the horns and chose giggles and smiles over the obvious excruciating discomfort that you sometimes have to deal with from this hideous affliction. You are an absolute delight to be around and I haven’t met anyone yet who has failed to be taken in by you. You have a wonderful sense of humour, you are as bright as a button, cheeky, bonkers and you give the best hugs ever. You swoon over your big brother. The feeling is reciprocated and when you are together you shine like the brightest stars in the sky – and simultaneously drive me half mad. You adore your cat and could say his name “Ivan” by the time you were 9 months old. You track his every move when he’s in the room and you scream when he walks away. You live for food, which makes your foodie daddy’s heart sing and you eat twice as much as your brother in half the time, with a fraction of the teeth. You think walking’s rather a bore so you’re happy being lumped around like Lady Muck and you definitely know your own mind and shout VERY loudly if you don’t get your own way (I simply cannot imagine where you get that from, must be your father…). Duggee is your one true love, the Omelette song sends you into a frenzy and don’t even start me on your HAIR. You had to wear a hair band to keep it out of your eyes at 3 months old and you’re the only baby girl at nursery who sports a fashionable pineapple head whatever the weather.
You are, quite simply, a joy and my time with you has changed me beyond all recognition. My little boy got his mummy back, my husband got back his wife. In the last 6 weeks I have had the confidence to go through major surgery, to take part in a huge personal challenge with one of my oldest friends and to get a new job – with people who value me for what I’m worth, not what I had begun to believe I was worth. These weeks have been gruelling and full on. You’ve struggled with bug after bug from starting nursery and I’ve been worried sick about you. An earlier version of me would have found it too hard. I probably wouldn’t have tried. But this me, the me who has you, has found it almost entirely uplifting.
Happy birthday my sweet, precious girl. Thank you for coming into our lives and for bringing the sunshine flooding in with you. We had a wonderful, challenging, love-filled life – me, daddy and Artie.
And then there was you ❤️