Saturday, December 29, 2007

My early Christmas delivery ...a miracle baby

Father Christmas delivered early to me this year.

Clad in surgical green scrubs instead of his usual red attire, and leading a team of medical staff instead of elves, he bundled a plump and screaming baby on to my breast at 2.16pm on Friday, December 14, and changed my life for ever.

Millie Rae Janson pressed her blood-smeared cheek against mine as she screamed blue murder in Theatre One of St Thomas's birthing centre in South London and stole my heart clean away. She'd been a long time coming.

Four years, five cycles of IVF, three positive pregnancy tests, two sets of identical twins and one singleton implantation, one termination and two miscarriages, eight general anaesthetics, countless blood draws, innumerable pills and pessaries, injections, nasal sprays, nausea and migraines, rivers of tears and £42,000 of savings, re-mortgaged property and personal loans all bound up in 7lb and 2oz of wriggling, peachy flesh, button nose and rosebud mouth.

I'm 42 and a mum at last - and it feels like heaven. A year ago the situation could not have been more different.

Last December I wrote in Femail that I was reluctantly giving up on motherhood, that after so many years of disappointment and excruciating heartache I simply couldn't put myself through any more, emotionally or physically.

Instead, I was turning my attentions to romance. I was going to find The One: a soul mate to settle down with.

Yet, instead of a having a man by my side this Christmas, there's a tiny baby girl in my arms. How could so much have changed in 12 months?

In the spring, I decided to give motherhood one final chance, and over the past year I have chronicled, in Femail, the ups and downs of my last, successful attempt - from the joy of the positive pregnancy test to the terror of scans where I fully expected to be told I had miscarried again.

At the moment, I have to admit I'm existing in a perpetual state of disbelief. Even though she's in my arms, and sleeping with me and feeding from me, I still can't quite believe that Millie's real, that she's mine and, more importantly, that she's here to stay.

After so much heartbreak and so many false starts, throughout a pregnancy spent mostly in denial and terror - waiting for something to go wrong, for yet more bad news from a grave-faced consultant, for confirmation that yet again there's no heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor - Millie Rae is alive and kicking, with ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes, a strapping pair of lungs and a twilight-blue-eyed gaze.

I never thought I'd see the words "blissful" and "Caesarean" in the same sentence, let alone be the one to utter it, but the entire birthing procedure (advised by my obstetrician in the light of my complicated pregnancy history) was so smooth and swift, so pain and stressfree, that it ushered in a state of euphoria in which I'm still wrapped, like a comforting blanket, today.

I clearly remember sailing out of the theatre, babe in my arms, being wheeled into the recovery room where my mum and sister were waiting for me, and their rapt, tear-strewn faces rushing towards me, shocked and incredulous and full of wonder that finally everything seemed to have turned out OK.

People talk of that fierce, protective surge of love that overwhelms a new mother for her precious, helpless newborn, and although elated to have finally achieved my dream of motherhood, I can pinpoint exactly when that extraordinary and very particular welling-up of emotion kicked in for me.

It was late on the first night in hospital. The midwife on duty had taken my daughter for a walk, slung over her shoulder, to try and wind her after the post-midnight feed.

The ward was quiet, the night was pitch black outside my window overlooking the Houses of Parliament, and my iPod, in shuffle mode, began to play Leona Lewis's cover version of Roberta Flack's The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, one of my all-time favourite songs.

I'd first heard it as a teenager, and used to fantasise about how one day, when I'd met The Love Of My Life (note the presumptive "when" rather than "if") I'd be wracked full of those heart-trembling sentiments expressed in the lyric "I thought the sun rose in your eyes, and the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave."

That night, tired and high on morphine, abdomen stitched many layers deep over the wound from which my dearly desired first child had just emerged, I listened to the song with a new intensity. This time, I heard differently the line "And I knew our love would last till the end of time."

Suddenly, I was awash with tears, body shaking against the dampening sheets, as a profound and despairing love for this new little person spilled out of every pore of my body.

Millie's face, her perfect oval shape, creamy skin and puckering bow of a mouth, swam before my eyes, and I thought my heart would burst through breast with the power of feeling I had for her precious little life.

Disaster scenarios flashed through my mind and like every mother in the land, I knew then that I was capable of murder most foul should anyone or anything dare threaten that priceless bundle of flesh and blood of mine, so hard fought for, so painstakingly won.

I pressed the alarm bell on the bedside console with abandon, overwrought with a desperation I'd never experienced before to have my daughter next to me again; to hear her choking hiccoughed breaths and gasping for air, craving her smell and weight in my arms.

The poor midwife raced back in with her to find me sodden and sobbing, arms reaching out to grasp my baby, mumbling apologies with the only explanation I could muster: "I missed her. I just missed her. I'm sorry."

Two days later, the tears and despair were of a different sort.

Utter exhaustion, limbs aching, wound throbbing despite strong painkillers, I succumbed to the Day Three Syndrome experienced by all new mothers.

Deflated and lethargic after 72 hours of minimal sleep, struggling to contend with a restless babe who was unsatisfied by the previous days' meagre colostrum (first milk) output and hungry for more substantial fare, I became convinced of my utter uselessness at the mothering job, failed to see how I was ever going to cope and sunk into a black hole of self-doubt.

Day three was also the day my milk arrived with a vengeance, transforming my breasts into gargantuan, bellshaped, rock-hard protuberances bearing no resemblance to their original form (but every indication that, if need be, they could provide an effective alternative to weapons of mass destruction).

It was also the day I left the security of the hospital, its warmth and safety, its experienced and soothing staff, for home and life as a single mum — a riot of change, adjustment and hormonal mayhem.

As my parents drove us north of the Thames, I looked down into the car seat at Millie's face, deep in slumber, bundled up against the frosty December day in her furry zip-up bunny suit, and prayed I wouldn't let her down.

For Millie had entered this world in circumstances far removed from her mother's expectations and hopes: she doesn't have a father.

She has a biological father, of course, but not the bedtime story-reading kind of dad, the sort who'll buy her icecreams and teach her to swim; the sort who will rush home from work every night, cursing the traffic, dipping into bus lanes and breaking speed limits just to catch those few, precious, post-bath moments of cuddles, to bury his tired face in her milky neck and remember what the daily grind of life is really all for.

Millie Rae is the daughter of a "single mum," that much derided and stigmatised segment of modern society.

Selfish? Stupid? Irresponsible? No, not in my opinion — just not ideal. Like a lot of things in life.

I didn't "plan" to be a single mum, and I don't "want" to be a single mum - but the inescapable, insurmountable, nonnegotiable fact of my life is that I've always wanted to be a mum.

And in the absence of Mr Right, or even Mr He'll Have To Do For Right Now, I've felt I had no choice but to follow the single mum route, stressful, demoralising and devastating though it's been at times, because to miss out on this experience feels like denying my very identity.

More than sex, gender, race or religion, I feel defined by the maternal instinct that has coursed through me my entire life.

My decision to "go it alone" sprang from my own secure family circumstances.

I'm one of a large brood of children born to happily married parents, and the notion of "family" has been at the core of our upbringing.

I knew that any child I was lucky enough to bear would join a sprawling band of close-knit relatives, and while always being different in one aspect, would at least know it was loved and protected by a host of aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

We're staying with my parents for the festive season so I can recuperate from the surgery. Millie's already enjoying her grandmother's undivided attention and and her grandfather's rapt adoration.

Acutely aware of the importance of a consistent male, as well as female, role model in the life of a child, my lovely dad declared early on in my pregnancy his intention of being closely involved in my baby's life in as many ways as possible. I couldn't be more delighted or grateful, and I revel in the new lease of life my circumstances have offered this 75-year-old man.

Of course, I'm aware that nothing can replace a real, fulltime, hands-on father. Looking down at my not-quite-two-week- old daughter now, slipping off my breast mid-feed, drunk on milk, her eyes rolling upwards, a secretive smile on her lips (wind, apparently) and smelling of sweet, yeasty shortbread, my heart lurches at the thought that perhaps, one day, she may resent my decision to deny her a parent.

It's impossible to guess how she'll react to her situation five, ten or 15 years from now, so I can only do my best, which is to provide her with the safe, comfortable, loving environment that I know is within my means. And in the meantime, hope I can find Mr Thank Goodness I Waited For This One very, very soon.

This has been a Christmas of joy like no other I've known.

Bouncing my first-born on one knee and balancing a plate of turkey and trimmings on the other, I look around at the mass of cousins and toys and leftover lunch littering the lounge floor and feel the first real sense of peace I've known for the past decade.

Surrounded by my siblings and their partners, my mum and dad, and what feels like a sea of love for our most special arrival, a part of me feels sure everything will work out fine in the end. (Tiring, sure - but fine.)

And while statistically I bear the grim-sounding tag of "single mother," imbued with its woeful connotations of struggle and deprivation, I don't feel single at all. I belong to a family; a large and fantastic group of people who have welcomed my Millie with open arms and hearts.

What a great end to the year, and a fabulous start to a new life.

Of course, I'll never forget the five, little, nearly-babes whose heartbeats flashed for such a short time inside me.

My first pregnancy - identical twins - ended reluctantly and heartbreakingly with a termination after the foetuses were diagnosed with a rare but fatal condition. My second was when when the foetus died at around nine weeks, and my third - identical twins again - was destined to end in miscarriage, again at around nine weeks.

It's a strange, somewhat surreal experience to have carried so many hearts in one body, and yet never encounter their souls. I'll always wonder why they didn't make it and why this little treasure did, and why I had to embark on such a heartbreaking journey to achieve something so fundamentally basic to human existence.

But I guess I just have to accept and rejoice the fact that Millie Rae Janson was "meant to be." And was one hundred per cent meant for me.


Stories of Pregnancy & Birth over 44y
- Daily blog of hope & inspiration!

4,250 Stories of Pregnancy & Birth - 43-56+yrs old!
- all the stories & divided by age

You Can Get Pregnant in Your 40's
- Sharing articles, discussing options & suggestions.

No comments: