Tuesday, June 23, 2015

India's birth story - 12th July 2014

It has been nearly a year and in my mind I have told her birth story a thousand times and I have typed it, edited it and saved it in drafts a hundred times more.  She was never supposed to have a story.  She was simply the baby I had quietly resigned myself to stop thinking about.  She was a blink of a baby when I began to self medicate for a urinary infection and then an amoeba based stomach bug.  I had no reason to believe that these symptoms were because of a pregnancy.  But when the symptoms remained long after the drugs had finished I allowed myself to glance at the watery blue-line on a pregnancy test that blew the promise of a baby and gasped a perfect O.

She is no longer the delicate crumpled flower that arrived with such force over 11 months ago.  She's strong, alert, healthy - three simple words that I was too afraid to think about in the early days when all that mattered was keeping our 34.5 week old baby alive.  And now, as the warm tropical days fall away, these three simple words remain a testimony to how far we've come as a family since India became part of our world.


She was hiccuping.  I lay in the warm bath and watched in wonder as my rounded stomach moved with every tiny pulse that shook her small body.  I placed my hand on my taught skin and smiled deeply, thinking that I would tell her father of this experience in a message before bed.   Chris was still in Uganda and not due back to the UK for another 2 weeks.  I stepped from the bath and wrapped myself in a towel, checking in on our son Leo of 3 years who was sleeping heavily, his limbs a tangled knot of chubby vines.  I padded down the hallway and flicked off the light.  I was 34.5 weeks pregnant.

Eight hours later I was in a hospital bed on the maternity ward with two monitors strapped to my stomach. One was taking my readings, the other focused on my baby.  Next to the bed a needle scritch-scratched across a sheet of paper and a midwife studied the lines.  She asked when I had last felt my baby move and I realised with spiking fear that it had been last night, when I had bathed, just hours before my waters had unexpectedly broken.  I sat further up the bed and shifted my weight to the left, to the right, willing the body encased within mine to move.  The baby eventually wriggled and the monitor reading peaked up and down.  The midwife told me we needed more of that and then hurried towards the door.  I tried to breathe.

Twenty minutes later the consultant on duty entered the room and I felt the trapdoor in my memory drop open and my throat tighten.  Accompanied by a group of nursing staff this man with a harsh haircut peeled back my notes and roughly asked me about my pregnancy plan.  I told him I didn’t have one other than getting us safely to 38 weeks.  I have a tragic pregnancy history; a stillbirth at 26 weeks pregnant and 2 further miscarriages, so to consider the wheels falling off any earlier would have driven me mad.  Ella’s premature birth had been natural, yet fatal, and due to my weakened uterus Leo’s birth was an elective c-section at 38 weeks.  I had been medically advised that I would never naturally conceive again, but against the odds I did, and now our treasured soul was starting her journey south.  

The consultant was the same man whose care I fell under when I lost Ella.  What were the odds I silently mouthed?  Here was a man I had personal grievances about and someone I had studiously managed to avoid with both my future pregnancies.  With barely a glance he outlined the birth options available; emergency c-section or natural.  I closed my eyes and leant against the pillow and gently rubbed my stomach, only for him to tell me that by doing so would encourage the contractions, so to stop.  Memories circled like vultures and questions fell like hail.  What if my body crushed her, what if she died silently in the birth canal?  Will she breathe, cry, live?  Will she be pulled silently from the cut of my stomach?  What if either decision results in the wrong decision?  I absolutely CANNOT do this again....

My wonderful mother, who had driven me to the hospital and remained with me throughout the morning, read my fear and leant across the bed and spoke the words I so desperately needed to hear, ‘no two births are the same Georgie, you must believe that’.  I exhaled and moments later I quietly let the midwife know that I would birth my baby naturally.  She agreed that it was the safest choice as my baby was still relatively small and the birth was likely to be quick.  She gathered towels and began to prepare.  I was moved into another room where my cervical stitch was quickly removed and moments later my body began the descent into strong and powerful contractions.  I held fast to an image of Leo and felt myself let go from the ledge of fear as I dropped into the swell of labour.

From the corner of my eye I noticed my sister.  She had arrived with a basket of treasures and came to stand next to me as I sucked on the gas and air.  I rasped that I didn’t want anyone to touch me unless absolutely necessary, so could she get mum to stop stroking my arm! She laughed softly and motioned for her to stop.  Fifty minutes later and with two of the strongest women I know by my side I bore into the world on the 4th contraction my beautiful daughter, India.  Our mother cut the cord and we wept tears of joy as I held my precious baby. We had all travelled full circle - both women came to the hospital on the night Chris and I lost Ella; Abby was there within the hour as I drifted in and out of pure despair and later in the dark, as I was wheeled from surgery bleeding tears of sadness, I was held in our mother’s arms as she spoke quietly into my hair before toxic sleep dragged me under.  For them both to have held Ella and now to have been present at India’s birth was like a balm across my heart.

India Fleur, our treasured baby.  She spent her first 11 days in the NCU where I pumped milk for her, cradled her and nuzzled her.  At 6lbs 3oz she was strong enough not to require oxygen, but small enough to be monitored.  I was emotionally broken, but she gently gave me the strength to heal after the years of wild heartache.  Chris arrived on the morning of day 4 and was spell bound.  Leo adored on his baby sister and when I eventually left the hospital and stepped out into the July sunshine to drive my daughter home, I was full of unconditional and unwavering love for my entire family. 

I was finally home.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Where the wild things play

They stand on the edge of our land in Murchison, overlooking the river Nile.  In the distance the Blue Mountains of the Congo rise into the setting sun. 

There are some moments in life that you dare not to dream. This was one of them.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

And suddenly he was 4

"Mummy, you're an old bugger"....

Because when you're ALL of 4 years old you say it like it is!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The look of love & laughter

Two separate moments.  Their love and laughter for each other breaks me.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

India turns six months

She's made six months.  We've made six months.  What a ride it has been.

Leo and Chris are in Murchison for the weekend so I've got her all to myself.

We love you India, you are pure magic.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Toilet humour

This is one of those days that will come back to haunt me.

First thing this morning I was feeding India when Leo woke up and came into the bedroom.  He was wearing his pj's and asked me to help take off his wet nappy, so whilst juggling the baby at my chest I leant down to peel back the sides of his pamper.  Suddenly we both twitched our noses and he said, 'Oh, I think there's a poo in there too'.  WHICH THERE WAS and I keeled over.

Later this afternoon I clunk/clicked both children into their car seats, rummaged around for keys, slung the baby bag into the car footwell and drove off to see friends at their place on the Nile.  Loads of kids were in the swimming pool, adults were drinking cups of coffee or chilled bottles of soda and the hot humid air was sticky with laugher.  I was sat on a bench feeding India when Leo climbed out of the water and stood on the stone pool steps and shouted, 'mummy I need to have a poo'.  JEEEEEEEZUS CHRIST!!

I thought I might have a couple of minutes up my sleeve but when I looked again he was pulling a straining face of terrifying proportion.  I roughly pulled the baby off my boob, handed her to a friend and ran poolside.  I lifted Leo from the steps and took him to the grass (he was wearing a lifejacket and his friend's borrowed swimsuit. I'd not packed a stitch of pool clothing as it had been raining furiously when we left town).  I unclipped the jacket and told him to follow me to the toilet, but he couldn't as THE POO WAS THERE, p-o-k-i-n-g through the swimsuit.  GAHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I picked him up and ran towards the kitchen at the back of the house.  Only I ran into a kitchen FULL OF BLOODY PEOPLE who proceeded to comment on the horrendous smell following us as we hurriedly made our way to the bathroom.  I peeled off the swimsuit, chucked the poo down the loo and placed Leo firmly on the seat telling him to push any more that might be hiding up his bum OUT.  He told me to leave so I went in search of a bucket and a bottle of bleach to kill the swimsuit with.  Ten minutes later he called out that he'd finished.  Indeed he had!  I put him in his shorts and t-shirt and told him to in no uncertain terms to keep away from the pool.  I spent the next twenty minutes scrubbing my hands

THEN just before we left for home Leo and our host's daughter were whacking giant sized flip flops against the floor.  I didn't think anything of it until an older girl called out to me that they were smacking a huge frog.  OH YOU'RE SHI**ING ME. I placed India on a sofa and marched over to the pair of them who were laughing like mad people.  I took the flip flop from Leo's hand and asked him what he thought he was doing?  He said, 'we don't like frogs so we wanted to beat it.'  I hauled him off to a corner and told him that it was wrong to do anything like that to an animal.  That it was terrible to hurt something/anything and then made him go over to the motionless frog to say sorry.  He did, kind of.

The frog was as flat as a pancake but as the host's visiting mother from England tried to scoop it up with a shoe the thing croaked and hopped the hell off.  I NEARLY FAINTED.  I couldn't stand it a moment longer, so with two sweaty and grubby (and one very smelly) children I grabbed our bags along with other bits of paraphernalia and made for the exit. And then as we were passing the host's visiting mother Leo looked up and told her that her granddaughter was 'really naughty.'  ARGGGGH.  I cuffed his ear and looking frazzled and grubby myself crawled into the car and swore that when Chris returns from Murchison (apparently tomorrow night) I'm locking myself away for a few days with a bottle of gin and a hundred bars of chocolate.