Saturday 7 January 2017

Goodbye, 2016

Another year over. They pass so quickly now. One year merges into another almost seamlessly if it wasn't for the stress of Christmas I don't even think I'd notice it all coming to an end. 2016 was a weird year for me. It started so beautifully but everything sort of slumped somewhere near the middle.

At the start of the year, we were slowly starting to tell people about the pregnancy. I was hugely excited about the future and spent hours talking to Ebony about what life might be like when the new baby arrived. You think it will be less exciting the second time, but the magic of seeing your only child become a big sibling adds a whole new level of wonder to the experience. 

I couldn't wait to give birth again, to have newborn snuggles on the sofa and to see Ebony flourish as a big sister. The pregnancy, which I'd expected to be terrible after the nine months of misery I endured with Ebony, turned out to be amazing. I felt great. I wasn't horrified by my changing body this time around, instead, I loved seeing the bump grow every week. 

We spent the spring desperately trying to get the house ready before my parents disappeared on holiday. Once my dad has left the country, so has most of our DIY know-how. I learnt how to tile, Laurie installed a toilet and sink all by himself and managed to fix the wiring in our bedroom whilst only getting electrocuted once. Floors were sanded, rooms were painted and everything felt a little bit nicer. And I promised everybody that I wouldn't insist on anymore decorating for at least a couple of years. 

I turned 30 and discovered it is no fun having a birthday party when you are sober and pregnant. We went on holiday to Portugal with my sister and Ebony spent the entire holiday saying "Auntie Rosie, look at me! Look at me, Rosie!" Also, it rained a lot. My bump was starting to balloon and I spent most of the holiday feeling like my skin might be about to tear open. 

I spent a lot of the first half of the year napping. I napped when I should have been working. I napped when I should have been looking after Ebony. I can't tell you how many times I woke up to find Ebony playing really quietly next to me. She always let me sleep when I was tired, my caring, sweet little girl. We read bedtimes stories about babies and birth and being a big sister. Hello, Baby was a firm favourite and we read it over and over again. I cried pretty much every time, my heart felt so full of love. 

Ebony finished nursery and I bought her school uniform ready for her starting school full-time. We spent the summer holidays close to home, not wanting to stray too far away from the safety of these four walls. We went for walks, we saw friends, we watched a lot of movies. I felt on edge constantly, I cried in the evenings because I just wanted it all to be over. Laurie sat by helplessly, ordering curry after curry from the Indian restaurant down the road. 

My due date came, we baked cupcakes. Every couple of days for the next two weeks we baked cupcakes. The baby's birthday cake, perhaps? Ebony got bored of waiting, she didn't think the baby was ever coming out. 40 weeks of counting down and now we were counting up. 12 days late. My mum came over to look after Ebony whilst I went for monitoring at the hospital. Too much fluid. Home birth wasn't a safe option. They wanted to induce. Laurie shielded me while I cried. 

I agreed to stay in hospital. Fiona declined induction at this time. Fiona declined induction. Fiona declined induction. My hospital notes were long and repetitive. Couldn't find Fiona on the ward, again. I walked miles along the short path from the maternity ward to the ambulance bay. If my waters went and the cord prolapsed, at least I'd be in the right place. 40 + 17. She was finally born. She forced her way out into the world, taking her time during the birth as she had in the pregnancy. She was big and beautiful and perfect. I felt like my heart would burst because I was so happy to finally meet her. 

I spent the first night in a hospital bed, sleeping soundly next to my new daughter in the plastic bedside crib. I wanted to be at home, hidden away from the world. Instead, I listened to the cries of other people's babies, I smiled at the nurses coming to do obs and I counted down the hours until I could leave. Ebony came to the hospital with my mum. She'd woken up early, been told the baby had been born and run straight to get dressed. She chose her favourite dress, too short, and a glittery headband for her unbrushed hair. She sat on the sofa at the end of the ward with my mum. She looked so big, so old, all of a sudden. I carried Ember, dressed in a pink romper, in my arms. Ebony looked so proud when she saw her. "I love you," she whispered as she had her first cuddle with her new sister. 

We went home later that day. Everything hurt. I hurt. My heart hurt. I felt in love and proud and raw and devastated and traumatised all at the same time. Every minute was an emotional rollercoaster. I grieved for the home birth I didn't have. I grieved for the safety and support I felt at Ebony's birth. I wished things could have been different this time. I felt angry and alone and heartbroken. I replayed it over and over and over again. I spent hours reading studies and anecdotes online, thinking of things I should have done differently. I was angry at everybody. I didn't want to see anybody. I just wanted to be alone and forget it all. 

Caring for a new baby was easy. It felt natural. It was better this time. The worries, the anxieties, the fear, none of that was there. I knew what I was doing. I soaked in those sleepy newborn cuddles on the sofa because I knew they wouldn't last forever. Everything felt familiar. It was the pain that was unknown. The physical pain of healing after birth, it was so much worse this time. And the emotional pain of healing after a traumatic birth. I thought back to how I felt after Ebony's birth, the pride, the elation, I didn't feel any of that this time. 

It took a long time to stop feeling like that. People made comments that helped. Not the ones who pointed out baby was fine, that didn't help. But the people who said I was being too hard on myself, the people who told me I was high-risk so it wasn't ever going to be the same as last time, the people who listened and said they were proud of me. Their words replayed in my head at night and helped to soothe me when my mind was in overdrive. And, before long, I wasn't thinking about the birth every day. Just every few days. Then maybe once a week. Then every couple of weeks. Now, it's probably once a month. On that day I cry a lot, I feel angry and sad and I don't want to see anyone, but it's getting easier and I'm trying my best.

Ebony started school and loved it. The first few weeks were tough, she was tired and emotional and so was I after the birth. We clashed and Laurie was there as the voice of reason, making sure we all felt loved and cared for. She missed us when she was at school but she enjoyed her new friendships and learning things. I missed her too, but I enjoyed the quiet time with Ember. We spent most of those first few weeks cuddled up on the sofa while Ebony was at school. 

I started walking, putting Ember in the wrap and walking for miles around my neighbourhood. I love where I live, surrounded by canals and country walks. Ember grew bigger and stronger. She started pushing herself up and leaning out of the wrap as I walked, desperate to see the world around her. The newborn days of her cuddled up on my chest disappeared so quickly. Everything seems to be over sooner this time around. The newborn days, the cluster feeds, the grumpy nights, they don't seem to last so long the second time around. 

Ebony grew up so much in 2016. Our family grew bigger. My heart grew a little bigger. 2016 was a year of change. Ember joining the family has been the most amazing, wonderful thing to happen and I truly couldn't love her more if I tried. But I will always feel sad about she made her entrance into the world, I hope one day I can think of it without crying, but I'm not there yet. I know I am lucky that the difficult start didn't affect bonding, that I was able to fall fast and hard and end up well and truly in love with her in spite of how broken I felt in those early days. 

2016 was mostly amazing, but I'm glad it's behind us now. Here's to 2017. 

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