Another day and Jay has still not gone into labour. It is Easter Sunday. She sends me a text to say that she is well and that, in fact, her contractions have largely subsided. She really wants to come home and wonders if the doctors will allow it. I don’t think that is a good idea. I am convinced that Baby C has only made it this far because Jay has been forced to remain in bed. I know she won’t have the same resolve at home.
I make my way to the hospital. As soon as I arrive, Jay says “Have you heard, Mum?”
“Have I heard what?”
“About that woman you saw in the NICU? The Olympian?”
“Who? Brooke Hanson? What about her?”
“Mum, her baby died last Tuesday.”
I feel like someone has taken a club and just knocked all of the wind out of me. I had read the newspaper story pinned up downstairs in the hospital lobby. It had said that her baby had been born at 28 weeks in July last year.
“I-it died?” My voice faltered.
“It was on the news. Apparently her baby had a severe lung disease and a heart condition.”
I cannot believe it. I had passed Ms Hanson on the way into the NICU this past Monday that we had our tour. She was with a man whom I now know to be her husband. I distinctly remember she was smiling (was that the smile of hope?). I had seen the newspaper article in the lobby and had assumed that her baby was fine and that she was visiting now an ambassador or something for the NICU. I had no idea her baby was still there. I feel sick with sadness for her loss – a loss that occurred the day after I saw her.
The reality of the situation Jay is in has hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I want to run out of the ward, and find somewhere quiet to let out the enormous scream welling up deep inside my belly. I don’t leave Jay. Dee arrives with her Easter eggs and we laugh and joke for the morning. The nausea resides permanently in my stomach, though, all day.
Tee arrives before her shift in ED. I tell her about Ms Hanson’s baby. “It just goes to show that even at 28 weeks the baby is still very sick.” I say.
“Mum, don’t.” Jay says, shaking her head.
“No, I’m not saying anything bad will happen, Jay. After all, Baby C is double the weight that Brooke’s baby was when he was born. I’m just saying I think it is important we remember that at 28 weeks the baby still has a long way to go.”
Jay just shakes her head resolutely. I know just the thought of it is too much to bear and I drop the subject.
Eventually, I make it home at around 4pm. I have left the hospital earlier than usual and I know Jay isn’t happy about it. I have to leave – I feel oppressed in the hospital, I need to get home. I feel guilty for not being strong.
I walk indoors and Dee is in the garden, marking out the lines for the new beds. He immediately sees I am upset. “I’m so frightened. Brooke Hanson’s news has really shaken me.” I say.
“So, what are you saying, it’s going to die? You can’t think like that.”
“Dee I am not saying that, I just have this stuff inside, this fear, and I just need to let it out.” I start getting anxious.
“No, Sarah, we just cannot think like this, we have to be positive.”
I glare at Dee. I feel oppressed and frustrated. God, men can be so obtuse at times. I walk away to the bedroom, fall onto the bed and bury my head into the pillow. I allow myself to let the tears flow. My eyes sting and the tears are hot, but I don’t care. I cry and cry. I cry for the loss that may never occur, the loss of the normal joy of pregnancy my daughter is mean to have, the loss of the happy expectation a grandmother is meant to feel, the loss of my mom who should be here to support me whilst I am trying desperately to remain strong for my own daughter. I just cry for all the loss I feel I have ever felt and will ever feel.
After 15 minutes, the tears stop coming. I lie on my bed for a while. I know I need to be strong for Jay, but I don’t want to be strong right now. I keep thinking about Brooke and her loss. It has really touched me in a way that I never thought a stranger’s loss would. It is too close to home. The reality is that pregnancies are meant to be nine months long, not 27 or 28 weeks long. It takes that long to grow a healthy baby.
Eventually, I get up. Dee is in the lounge watching TV. I sit down next to him. He has no idea that I have been crying. I don’t care and I certainly don’t want to talk about it.
I look on the internet for more information on preemie babies. I find a lovely site www.miraclebabies.org.au. It is packed with great advice and information. I text the link to Jay. We are going to need all the support we can get.
I decide that I need to do something constructive with the time I am with the Jay. I think about knitting preemie baby beanies. I look for some websites for knitting patterns. There are a few around but it is ages since I have knitted and my skill level is basic at best. I make a mental note to pop into a knitting place to get some needles and wool. I find one close to the hospital.
JC wants to watch back-to-back movies. It will make it a very late night, but it is school holidays and it is a ritual with him during the holidays. Dee and I both agree to stay up. I, for one, am far too tired to put up a fight.
After watching Real Steal with Hugh Jackman (gotta love Hugh!), Dee asks me if I am okay. “Not really, no. The Brooke Hanson thing has really shaken me, Dee. It has made me realise just how serious this all is. They fought for nine months to save her little boy and she still lost him. Even if Jay makes it to 28 weeks, it is no guarantee. I know we need to be positive, and take one day at a time, but I can’t help it, I am scared.” Tears are streaming down my face and I am burying my head in his chest. I can’t help the snot escaping from my nose.
Dee strokes my head. “Let me tell you something. We are a strong family that has always stuck together. No matter what shit is thrown at this family, we will hit it head on and we WILL deal with it and make it through the other end. We have no idea what is around the corner, but I do know that somehow, together, we will get through it.”
I am sobbing and nodding. I am tired, afraid and worn down. I am frightened for what might be and I am so guilty for allowing the weakness of doubt to enter my mind. But I also know that fear is natural, and I know for myself that I have to allow this to surface so that I can wake up tomorrow, ready to face another day and to be there for Jay.
The time is 1am and JC has finally finished his movie marathon. I am ready for bed. I am emotionally and physically exhausted. I have eaten way too much so I am feeling bloated to boot. Bloody emotional eating! As I fall asleep, I wonder if there is a support group at the NICU for the family of the parents of the preemie babies. If not, I wonder if I might start one. It would be good to connect with people who know what it is like to go through this emotional rollercoaster – and our preemie hasn’t even been born yet!
My eyes are swollen and heavy and it isn’t long before the sweetness of sleep overtakes my body. I shall be ready to fight another day.