My beautiful cousin, Gemma and her partner, Dane, were recently faced with one of those moments in life that tests us in ways we never imagined we’d be able to survive until we find ourselves surviving it. Just over 2 months ago, their first child, Tallulah, was born at only 27 weeks old. Thankfully, Tallulah is now finally home with mum and dad, and new mum Gemma has composed this moving piece about their tumultuous time in the hope that it might help other families navigate the overwhelming and sometimes conflicting emotions that such events expose us to.
This photo was captured the day before the day that changed the course of our lives forever.
In the early hours of the following morning, I would start to feel what I now know were labour pains. I thought the pain was my lower back playing up with the weight of a growing baby and belly and so fell back to sleep.
It wasn’t until the sun was up and I felt the pain presenting more like what I imagined contractions would feel like, that we called the midwife and arranged to meet her at the hospital – still not concerned and still not thinking I was in labour. It wasn’t until we were halfway to the hospital that I knew something was wrong.
I was already 5cm dilated when we arrived at the hospital and an hour and a half later, at 10.11am, our darling Tallulah was born.
Nothing prepared me for the sight of a baby so tiny and frail and frog-like. Nothing prepared me for the sense of fight and resilience and strength a human so young, so not done with growing could emanate. And nothing prepared me for the well-meaning ‘at leasts’ that were soon to follow.
There’s no “at least” on this journey.
“At least you didn’t get a saggy belly”
“At least you didn’t get stretch marks”
“At least you didn’t have to give birth to a heavier baby”
“At least you never became uncomfortable”
I both WANTED and WELCOMED those things and more. I loved being pregnant, loved watching my belly grow, I loved showing off my belly. That was cut short. I didn’t get my nine months of feeling all of the pregnant things. I didn’t get to wear cute maternity clothes for months, Calm birthing classes, antenatal classes, a water birth. I didn’t get to feel the strong kicks and movements for a whole nine months.
I know all births don’t go according to “plan” however, I didn’t even get close.
There’s a strong dichotomy in all of this.
On one hand I’m so angry. I want to stamp my feet, clench my fists and yell and curse at the Universe for taking away the experience I’ve dreamt of for so long.
On the other hand I want to bow down and thank the Universe with grace and humility that we have had the experience we have had. It has brought us so much love and kindness we could only imagine existed. It has brought us strength. It brought us our daughter.
On one hand I’m desperately grieving the pregnancy I didn’t get. The time to feel my baby grow, kick, get all up in my ribs, on my bladder. All of the things.
On the other hand I’m so damn happy that my baby was born alive and that she survived.
On one hand I feel a sense of frustration that my body couldn’t keep our baby safe.
On the other hand I’m so relieved my body knew it had to get our baby out to keep her safe.
On one hand I’m annoyed I didn’t get to celebrate the upcoming birth of our baby with a baby shower. To relish in that anticipation and joy with my family and my friends.
On the other hand I’m so blessed to have met amazing women who have also welcomed babies too soon. These women have enriched my life just by sharing a part of themselves with me. I’m blessed to have received so much love from people close to me and those I’ve not spoken with for a very long time. I’m blessed to have received kindness from strangers. I’m blessed to know people care about me, about us.
One emotion I’ve not felt is guilt. I know I did everything I possibly could to give our baby the best start to life. Even before I was pregnant, I was doing my best to give the little soul we were waiting for the best home in which to grow. And I got her there. I got our baby 27 weeks and 6 days along, I got her to 1120g. I got her fit and fierce for her upcoming fight for life.
Above all of this, I feel honoured.
Honoured that my wish to become a mother has come true.
Honoured that I am walking beside a man who has flowed with this journey with his whole being.
Honoured that I have felt all of these emotions for it means I have love in my life to be able to feel them and still feel joy.
Honoured that I am the mother to a fierce and wonderful girl.
A girl I’m so excited and overjoyed to spend the rest of my life guiding and loving with the whole of my heart.
My hope in sharing my story is to show that it’s ok to feel many emotions all at once and that even the dimmest light can brighten by the time you get to the end of that tunnel.