Skin to skin 

First meetings
C section mum’s with babies in neonatal always recover quickly.
That’s what the midwife told me as I heaved myself off the bed and into the wheel-chair. Some people think having a c section is the easier way of giving birth. I can assure you that is doesn’t feel it when you have to lever yourself up without the use of your stomach muscles because they have been hacked open! But when you have an amazing little warrior in the neonatal unit, that you’ve yet to meet, you’ll do anything to be by their side.
The trip down the corridor seemed to take forever. I just wanted to be with him. I felt sick with anticipation, I just didn’t know what to expect. I’d already seen him briefly wrapped in his blanket before he was whisked away. I knew he was going to be small, but I had no idea what else to expect. 
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw as the doors to nursery 7 were opened. It was dark, the lights were off because it was nighttime. There were many staff in the room, too many faces for me to pick just one of them. I scanned them quickly they all smiled, but it didn’t touch their eyes. I picked up an air of concern and sympathy almost. It was only there for a second and I wasn’t able to hold onto it or focus on it, but I felt it. Another reason I didn’t hold onto it is, in the incubator in front of us was our boy. Everything else blurred into insignificance. This was a sight I truly thought I would never see. Our Arlo. Alive. 
It was was a moment the doctors told us we would never experience. We had prepared ourselves for so long never to meet him while he was alive that this moment was overwhelming. I wish I could remember it more vividly, I was still woozy from the epidural and loss of the red stuff. 
I do remember seeing a blue glow and him having his shades on, looking like his was on a sun-bed. I was sharply whisked away to wash and disinfect my hands, but I struggled to draw my eyes away. It had been a long, painful 7 weeks since that fateful scan and I didn’t want to take my eyes off him. 
I was just overcome with emotion and in awe of this tiny fighter in across the room from me. As I was wheeled close to him, I could see how poorly he looked. His skin was bright red, dry and tender-looking like he had been sunbathing too long. (Like his daddy every time the sun breaks through the cloud.) My instinct was to pick him up and holding him close to me. To take him away from everything to hold him and make him safe in my arms. The realisation that I couldn’t make him safe winded me like a punch to the stomach. And the tears overflowed once again. The giddiness was gone. I hadn’t even touched him because I was too scared I would hurt him. Silent tears flowed down my cheeks splashing onto whatever I was wearing, I don’t even remember. The doctors began talking things at Day and I. I say talking ‘at’ because I cannot remember a single word of what they said. The only thing on my mind was wanting to pick up our little miracle and feel him close to me. I heard Day speaking to the doctor, but again, I couldn’t focus on anything that that was being said. It was all too much, and I was using all my strength to be next to our boy. The lights, the machines, the nurses and doctors didn’t matter right now. They were there in the background, but not my priority. 
Until the doctor addressed me directly, this is one of the only things I remember clearly from that night, he asked me if I was going to express to feed Arlo. I don’t remember which doctor it was, I don’t remember his voice, but I remember his words.

 “A mother’s milk is medicine tailored to your baby, do you think you will express for Arlo?” We both answered at he same time, Day saying, ‘no, I don’t think…’ and me interjecting with, ‘ yes, definitely…’ 

I knew I had to feel I was doing something and I because fiercely protective, I wasn’t going to have anyone else feed my baby, if it was the only thing I could do for him and I’d be doing it! (Unless I couldn’t express as I didn’t know if I could yet and in that case I’d already decided I would do what I could and use milk donations from amazing mummies on the unit.) 
This may well have been exaggerated in my fuzzy, post-operation blur, but as I answered yes, Day swooped his head in an over-the-top manner around as if he was scooby-doo! In my head he also made the, “huh?” noise as he spun round, but that could well be fabricated as I’ve replayed it in my head! 
You see, the reason Day said no is because I didn’t breastfeed Alfie and I was almost against it. I’m not making excuses, now I look back at my younger self and ask myself, why the hell didn’t I?
The answer is I really don’t know, it’s not an excuse, but to be honest I felt a bit railroaded by the whole breastfeeding malarkey. I know they are to push breast feeding, but I felt there was far too much pressure from everyone. Even Day was extremely pro breast feeding. I’m sure I told him repeatedly that they weren’t his breast and if he had his own he could make the decision. Now, being more informed to make my own decision, the whole expressing talk coming at me from a different angle and not being made to feel I was a disappointment if I didn’t, I made my own decision to express for Arlo. I think when you’re pregnant so many things are out of your control that you want a bit of breathing space and no pressure. And this time I had that. It was best for our baby and that is what I would do. I would also go back and slap my younger self round the face, but I’d also tell the medical professionals to take the heat off their patients a little. 

(There are other factors too, but that’s for another day.) 

I put some disinfectant on my hands and rubbed it on well and I leant forward, opened the circular door that sprung out towards me. I hovered my hand over the teeny boy in his teeny nappy lying there. It was then, when I went to touch him, that I realised he was shaking all over. I turned to the doctor who was still hovering around us, he saw the confusion in my eyes and explained that Arlo was on an oscillator, it was gently vibrating him to help his lungs open to their full capacity. He was also on nitric oxide to help him too. Basically, he was maxed out on everything. 
I tried to block that out, I wanted quality time to say a proper hello to our baby. With my hand still hovering I looked for a space on his tiny body where I could touch him. I wanted to feel my skin on his, but there was hardly any room. Wires covered his entire body. It was truly overwhelming. I briefly glanced at the multitude of machines that surrounded him and connected to all the different coloured wires, but I didn’t feel I needed to know about them at this very moment. I needed that connection with my boy, 7 hours without having him with me was too much. I settled for placing my finger into the palm of his hand. Day told his turn too. So many emotions swirled around in my heart at that money. I picked up on the vibes of the room around me, they were all on pins. They were unsure if we knew how sick our baby was. If Arlo took a turn, they had nowhere to go. He was on maximum everything just to remain stable. What I don’t think the staff understood is that we had been prepared for the very, very worst for 7 weeks, so far Arlo had exceeded all expectations just by being stable. By being here, grasping our fingers right now. Sometimes the blur that surrounds you makes way for moments of clarity. 
That connection with your baby, touching their skin with yours is skin-to-skin contact, no matter how minimal the contact is. The tip of my finger was grasped by his palm, but we were connected.

Skin to skin. Mother and father to son.  


2 thoughts on “Skin to skin 

  1. Helen Tansley

    As heart breaking as it is I love to read yours and Arlos journey. Some of which I can relate to. Your wry brave Sarah xx


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