When you deliver your babies early, or experience the loss of a child you farewell a whole raft of experiences, emotions and plans. I’ve written about this a lot over the last year but today I felt something for the very first time since I became pregnant. I felt normal.
As much as people try to comfort you, and make you feel welcome and comfortable there is this constant feeling of detachment, of just not quite fitting in. The sense of belonging that you had hoped for in a multitude of groups has sadly been completely destroyed.
I didn’t feel like I fit in with the pregnant women, they seemed happy, comfortable. They moved quickly, continued their normal everyday tasks; they walked and baked and worked and socialised. I didn’t feel any of that, I was miserable and in pain, I was ill and if I’m being completely honest there was more than one time that I wished it would be over, so I didn’t have to feel this anymore. I don’t fit in with the mums in my friends and family, we have lived through different experiences, and I will be forever envious of that. I can’t manage the breastfeeders very well, I’m sad and jealous and angry. I don’t hang with the solids eaters either, I’m sad and jealous and angry again. I’m a world apart from the twin mums because I was so very nearly part of your gang and then it all got torn away. There’s no coffee group when you missed half of your antenatal classes and then watched them all start the life you had dreamed of. There are no infant group activities because it’s simply not worth the infection risk. The normal things that had seemed so sure now seem like something everyone else gets to be a part of, but not us.
But today was different.
We got up early and we packed the bags, the feeding pump and syringes, bottles and medications, the flannels and multiple clothing changes for the inevitable vomit that would follow us. We thought about the timings and the practicalities, and we made sure that our destination had the things we needed that we couldn’t bring. We packed it all into the car and we drove north.
We arrived and we unpacked it all. We spread everything over coffee tables and dining tables and we set up camp for the day. But we were not alone.
We were with two other families that we had met in the NICU and who had travelled similar, but not exactly the same, journey’s to ours.
We sat. We talked. We ate (we undid our trouser buttons…just me?). We laughed and we played with our miracle boys. We drew up calogen and gabapentin, we rinsed giving sets and changed pump doses. We watched in awe as one of our three crawled on the floor, and as another clapped his hands, while the third babbled aloud. We breathed together.
We breathed together and we finally, even if only a little bit, felt our shoulders relax and our chins rise up a little higher. I watched as smiles increased over the day, as the laughter became more frequent and the tension just melted away. Three exhausted, sad, lost families who are constantly trying to find some driftwood to hold tight to in this churning sea of preemie parenting. And today we found it. We found a place where we truly belong.
This is a place where words don’t need to be said aloud, and nothing needs to be explained because all three families have been there, done that. I find there’s a tiredness that comes from being with people, from the talking and the thinking and the reacting. I find it exhausting the vast majority of the time. I was tired today, from getting up early, and after the long drive, but I was so astonishingly energised from spending time with these people. As we packed the car to head home and we held each other tight, we cried for each other, for the complete and utter injustice of it all, but we also cried for the sheer joy of having found our place, the place where we fit in.
This doesn’t mean we don’t want or need the other groups around us, because we do. But it means that every once in a while (hopefully more often) we need to just be together, to remind ourselves that there is a place for us in this world after our earth has been torn open and our hearts have been broken. There is a group to which we belong.
These three boys have changed our lives. Their parents are courageous and fierce. And, you’re right, I think these actually could be the top three most gorgeous boys in the whole wide world.