Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Premature Births

The first time round, when my twin girls were born, I think, I was quite a tormented mother. I wanted to do a good job; I had high expectations of myself. And their needs, in my mind, came doggedly before mine. I was distraught and felt like a failure that they had been born eight weeks early. The cause, so it says on my notes, was a premature rupture of the placental membrane. It’s the word rupture that feels apt, as indeed, that’s how it felt. It felt like a brutal and untimely rupture of the relative safety of being pregnant, of being special, of carrying these two little ones under my heart, inside of me, of me feeling gloriously beautiful and important. I wasn’t ready, nothing was ready, my husband injured his back whilst hastily assembling two cots. He was lying on the floor groaning with pain, unable to move, whilst I was helplessly distraught that my little babies were in special care and not with me. The staff at the hospital were being praised for their helpfulness, even heroism in keeping premature babies alive. To me, they were my enemies, they were looking after my children, not me. I was convinced that they were hiding or forgetting about my milk I obsessively pumped out of my breasts every day, religiously keeping to an exhausting two to four hourly routine. They were leaving a trail of blood behind when piercing the babies’ soft heels with their pointy needles. The image that stuck in my mind was;  the room lined with cots, blood splattered, crying babies with dirty nappies. Circling in my head. I never felt so outraged and at the same time so powerless. Pumping out my milk, which was bountiful, was the only thing I could do for my babies. The milkmaid. In the 'milking room' I had two electric pumps stuck onto me, their rhythmic rasping sound only accompanied by the sound of turning pages of inane women’s magazines. Mostly I was alone, sometimes there was another mother in there but we sat in utter silence, the one of the painful kind. She was a teenage mum, her baby had arrived at 23 weeks, far too early, and she was hovering in the uncertain twilight zone of life and death. Her milk would not come easily, in little droplets, and she looked permanently shell shocked. It was an utterly horrible room, and it was utterly wrong having to store one’s goodness in little bottles, label them and put them in the freezer. Apparently my milk alone was not potent enough to make these little ones grow quickly, grow out of the danger zone. On all levels, I took this as the one and only message; that I had failed as a mother. This, so it seemed to me, was mirrored on the faces of all the other mothers, anxiously roaming the unit and we were unable to tell each other something, anything, to the contrary.

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