Old Friends and Cheese


Was a poem a cop out last night?

It’s my favourite and short enough to remember. I find it really profound for some reason. Like a haiku, it’s brief but packed with meaning. I think it’s about those quiet, inexpressible, deep wishes you have for yourself and those you love. The ones that you only dare to share or admit to yourself in the middle of the night when your conscious mind is off duty. The second half about Earth stirring in her winter sleep suggests to me the inevitability of it all. You live scared of being loved, and of loving, of not being loved, being rejected, let down, hurt, disappointed, but the world carries on and makes it all new again and again. It’s relentless and fearless and happens in spite of you.

I’m trying to exist in a space where I surrender myself to fate but take charge of myself, my actions and what happens to the extent that I can. Basic stuff. In here it’s about telling people what you need and not letting the institution run your timetable, whilst putting yourself second to the greater needs of the babies and the unit itself. Today I was trying to get a grip on the twins’ busy schedule of being on/off the ventilation, having their ‘cares’ done (tiny nappies changed, mouths washed with cotton buds, breast milk fed through a syringe. You can get involved but you have to tell the nurses what you want around this. I try to find one hour a day for each when either their dad or I can do kangaroo care. We’d held off till 3pm to coordinate with various needs but when the time came two new babies were admitted to the ward and it swung into ER mode. Amazingly they let you stick around but prefer not to have other babies out of their incubators in case anything goes wrong. So we didn’t get our cuddle. I will try again this evening. Apart from expressing milk it seems to be the most important thing to do to let us get to know each other and let them know they are loved.

The unit was really short staffed today which made me want to hang around just to keep an eye. Don’t get me wrong, the unit is truly awesome and most of the time there is 1-1 care. I trust them absolutely. But today there were two emergencies and the staff attend deliveries leaving them a bit short of pairs of hands so anything you can do like hold a syringe for ten minutes is a help. At one point I left the unit at 12.30 as Alexander was about to have his nappy changed and when I returned at 2.15 his pulse alarm was going off because it was a huge 220bpm (85-199 is the safe range). He was crying and stressing himself and it turned out there had been no time to change him and, like a normal baby, he was crying and unhappy because he was unhappy with a poo in his pants. I am able to calm them when no one else can. I see that already. We may have only just met on the outside but they know my voice and my smell (unmistakeable!) and when I sing to them their breathing and pulse rates slow down.

It makes me feel like their mother.

By big breakthrough today was learning to use the hospital grade double breast pump. I’d been so intimidated by it I’ve been pumping away on a small handheld electric pump in my room for a week. I saved myself hours today. I’ve hired one for when I get home so this gives me hope.

I discovered that the nurse on yesterday’s shift had been at my delivery. ‘You sang the whole way through your caesarean. We haven’t had that before.’ They must have thought I was bonkers. Or a total attention seeking prima donna. The latter is probably more true. Actually I just resort to singing when I’m really really scared. I did it during Lucas’s birth (Don’t Worry Baby), when I was stupid enough to do a parachute jump (Stormy Weather ho ho), and whenever I used to walk home late at night and thought someone was about to jump me in a dark alleyway. It’s a life resource having a catalogue of cheesy songs you know the words to and coming in handy now. Lucas still stops and listens when I sing anything I used to sing to him in the womb. A friend on Facebook who had her babies here for a few weeks tells me the same is true of her twins and the songs she used to sing them in the incubator. I find it fascinating that songs can imprint on early memory.

I had two wonderful visits today from friends, the first outside family I’ve felt up to. Andy and Leanne whose daughter was in a NICU when she was born two years ago. I feel bad as I cut their very kind visit a bit short to get my hour’s skin to skin in with Bea which never happened. Andy had even left work early. But, if you’re reading this, please know that it meant so much just to talk for a short time to people who really understood. The other was my old friend Helen from college. We’ve hardly seen each other since she got back from the States and it lifted my spirits to talk to someone a) who knows me well and b) about something else. Thank you. You took my mind off things and made me laugh and put up with me running at the mouth. I’m so very grateful to all the friends (and family of course) who’ve emailed and texted and stuck with the minutiae of these challenging weeks. It even cheers me up when I wake up and see from my stats that 7 of you read it between midnight and 6am every day. Who are you? Foreign friends and insomniacs I salute you! But you must have something better to do.

Oh and thanks Debbie and Dickon for the cheese delivery. Only old friends know what you need most in times of real desperation! It moved me profoundly.

I go home tomorrow. On to the next phase. I’m a bit scared of being away from the babies. And of having to get public transport a week after a Caesarean. But we’ll manage.

I’m mainly going home, of course, so that no one eats my cheese but also to see my son who has probably forgotten me. He has been refusing to speak to me on the phone. Tonight he deigned to say ‘hello pillow’ but that’s all I’ve had out of him for four days. He and his dad went to the pub tonight. They have been staying up watching the Tour de France these past few nights and apparently Lucas lifts both arms aloft when they cross the finish line like a champion cyclist. I need to get home before the brainwashing goes too far.



3 responses to “Old Friends and Cheese

  1. “It even cheers me up when I wake up and see from my stats that 7 of you read it between midnight and 6am every day. Who are you?”

    who else but your mummy of course :). Last thing I do before I go to bed, then if I wake in the wee small hours I reach for my ipad. You are my last thought and night & my first thought when I wake – plus two little peas.

  2. I wish I were in England still. I’d be round the corner and able to pop in all the time with cheese and pesto sandwiches.

  3. Pretty sure I fall into that category too. I check before I go to bed. So thankful the Internet exists so I can see how things are going and wishing I was close enough to drop in for a visit.

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