Did my birth affect my baby?
Posted Tuesday 2nd June 2015 By Ericka Waller
So my middle-child did not have the easiest start in life. Fourteen overdue days, cramped inside me, in the hot summer sun preceded a long and drawn out induction. Her heartbeat dropped, my tears mingled with sweat as I pushed against nothing to get her out. “Come baby, cry for me” the midwife ordered as she briskly rubbed her down with a towel. My girl never cried that first night, but she did breathe, and blue turned to pink in my arms.
I feel her hardships are my fault. I had an incredibly stressful pregnancy and I will carry guilt for that, and find reinforcement for it in every challenge and disadvantage she has.
Although ‘late’, she was taken out of me too soon. She wasn’t ready for the world. She curled up in my arms and turned her face away from others. Everything was a sensory overload.
She cried when she wet her nappy, or when the air hit her skin. I went back to basics with her, laying her naked against my own naked chest, breastfeeding in the bath. I parented instinctively, but then I fell pregnant again.
Oh my girl, what did this do to you? My milk changed and you gagged on it, pulling away as if I’d let you down. I guess I did. You forgot how to sleep, waking each hour inconsolable and feverish in your distress.
Around you, friend’s babies gnawed on carrot sticks and pointed out shoes and dogs. You watched from under your charlie cloth blanket. The tiniest lump in porridge made you sick.
When thing-three arrived you calmed down. Your bond with your sister was instant and seemed to sooth you, but I could not be sure how you were feeling, because my darling, you never said a word.
I fretted. Healthcare visitors tried their best to console me that ‘there is no such thing as normal’ but I fretted all the more.
I remember with absolute clarity the day you said your first word. We were in the car headed up the hill. You were ‘Mmmmm-ing’ in the back of the car under your Charlie Cloth, and then from nowhere came ‘Mummy‘, clear as a bell. I’d been called the name a million times, but from you it was like being gifted the label for the first time.
It took a while for more words to come, and when they did they had an odd Irish lilt to them. I don’t know when it happened, but now you never stop. You fire words at me like a machine gun. Information, explanations, questions. We bat conversation like a game of tennis. I cherish every single one.
I will lie awake on the eve of your birthday, I will watch you turn from four to five. I will play the song that you were born to and I will cry my bloody eyes out. I would not change a second of you.