Sunday, 17 March 2013

Loss and Life

Death is a part of life.  There's no getting away from it, it happens to us all eventually.  We expect to loose our grandparents, and though we dread it and don't like to think about it, we know we will eventually loose our parents.  But we really don't expect to loose a partner when we are young.  Robin was only 33 when he was taken away from us.  I was over 8 months pregnant.  We were about to make the final preparations for the baby.  I was just about to begin my maternity leave - time to rest and prepare for the birth and the early days of motherhood.  Instead I was taken by a young policeman - blue-lighted (I think he thought I might go into labour) up to St Thomas' to say goodbye to my baby's father. 

I was hyperventilating by the time we reached the hospital.  A lovely nurse looked after me and my parents arrived a little later by cab.  I think there was paperwork, and a fair bit of time passed before I was taken through to see Robin.  He still had a tube in his mouth, but otherwise looked peaceful.  I was totally in pieces.  I couldn't imagine having a baby without him.  I sat with him for some long time.  Someone came in to ask a few questions.  The nurse came and went.  Eventually she gently suggested I leave.  I kissed Robin one last time - on the forehead due to the tube.  He felt cool.  And that was that.  My life was changed forever.  He was gone.  Our baby had no father - just me, and I was somehow going to have to bring this new life into my devastated world on my own.

I didn't sleep what was left of that night.  Just lay and listened to the very loud beating of my heart.  I was in shock.  I know that now, but at the time I just wanted sleep to take me.  I didn't want the next day to come because I had no idea what I would do or say to anyone.  But the days did come, things happened.  Friends came.  The funeral was arranged - we had to ask for a close date so that I could actually be there before baby arrived.  Robin's mum Angela was a huge help in those days - she was so strong, and Chloe, his sister too - who offered to be my birth partner.

The funeral went well.  It was a very difficult thing to get through, but it was such a comfort to have many of our friends and family there too.  Choosing the music had been hard, but it seemed to work, and there were even a few laughs at the choices.  Rob's best friend Matt had written a lovely piece too.  I had bought a book for people to write in - but wish I'd circulated it further now really as it looks quite empty where people wrote on a few pages only!

Sophie came into the world 5 days later.  Life followed the loss - though not in a totally straightforward way of course.  She had a bleed into her scalp due to the foreceps (she was back to back for those who know about these things, and that had made pushing her out very tough).  She stopped breathing from the shock, but luckily the staff at Kingston were very good and managed to revive her.  That was very hard though - after 17 hours of labour to not have her with me.  And because I'd had a spinal block at the end, I couldn't walk, so had to wait for a nurse to bring me to her in the neonatal ward.  It was 3am, 24 hours after I went into labour.

I think I was in shock.  I certainly felt in a daze.  Chloe had been with me all day while I was in labour, but now it was just me.  I felt disconnected from everything - even my daughter.  I had lost Robin, and gained Sophie (though she didn't have a name at that point).  But even the baby was not in my arms.  I was numb. 

The next morning I finally got to hold my baby - though she was still connected to tubes.  I had my first attempt at feeding her, and a lady who helps women with babies in neonatal took a photo.  I had needed a lot of stitches and was on plenty drugs, which added to the feeling of disconnection I think, but it all seemed so unreal.  I was kind of floating.  Of course I hadn't had much sleep either in the last few weeks - and only a few hours since going into labour the day before.  Soon feeling began to return.  Family and a few friends visited.  We both began to heal.  Sophie was out of neonatal, but I had to take her there for medication regularly for that first week. 

On my last day in hospital I was shown how to bath her - this hadn't been possible with the cannula.  Finally leaving the safety of that closed environment and bringing my daughter home was very emotional.  The world seemed so big and overwhelming, but back in my flat I felt safe and happy to be gazing into the smile of this new life.  I was devastated that she would never meet her daddy, nor he her, but she was so perfect I never wanted to put her down.

One life had ended, but a new one had begun and that was what I had to focus on now.  My life would never be the same again - it was virtually unrecognisable to me.  But I had to make it something good - for Sophie - for this new life.

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