When it came to the second child in my family, I was even a little happy, somewhere deep in my heart I did dream of experiencing normal motherhood. Of normal pregnancy without calling an ambulance, of childbirth, during which I would consciously experience the birth of my child, of hearing the first cry and feeling the first warmth, and of leaving the hospital through the front door with the baby in my hands.
I didn’t have this experience with the first child. I had: intimidated pregnancy, night ambulances, and the risk of not surviving. Then I held my child for the first time in a week after her birth. And it’s terrible. Imagine hormonal bombs exploding in your body after the childbirth, and having empty hands with no one to hold because you and your newborn are in different reanimations. Or even as I had it, in two farthest ends of Kyiv. When you shake the void with your hands when you get the first milk out with your hands when every second you survive for two. Other people’s children are crying around you, medical staff is walking around, and they ask in surprise: “And where is your child?” And they ask till you shout back in hysterics.
I was so envious of those happy, confused mothers who looked at the world terrified from the first sleepless nights, they were holding their children. And while getting my milk at night, I was swaying a jar. Then they didn’t even let me in the reanimation to see my child, a doctor came only once a day to the grieving and frightened parents and retold the dynamics. He would snap some with bad news, and elate others with good ones in the middle of the crowd.
I’ve been probably having this empty hands syndrome for about 5 years after the birth of Nadiia, and even now when I sometimes go in the night to hold her hand.
I desperately needed another experience of motherhood. Calm, natural, with full hands. So that all the energy from the hormones could go somewhere. I kept reassuring myself that the bomb doesn’t hit the same funnel twice. The medical literature did not describe stories with repetitions. That is, this happened to all only once. I even went to a psychologist to minimize anxiety. And even these night ambulance calls during my pregnancy did not affect my belief that history will not repeat.
As it turned out, the bomb does know the way to the former funnel – it all has repeated with terrible precision. The same day of the week. Same symptoms. All the same as last time. And here it was my previous experience that gave us and my baby bigger chances to survive. Just like the first time, I freaked out when I came out of the anesthesia and yelled: “Where’s my baby?” At least I thought I was yelling, my husband says I was barely speaking.
But this time in a few hours I’ve already learnt to feed my son in the children’s intensive care, I read positive stories of kids surviving and listened to detailed explanations of the doctor. Medicine has changed significantly in 7 years. Praise be to all those people who have won the right of access to the intensive care for parents. Praise be to those doctors who calmly and patiently explain all these complex terms. Praise be to those who have introduced “kangaroo” mother care when the baby is put on parents. This is incredibly therapeutic for both parents and the child.
Even in spite of reanimation and numerous tubes and sensors, I took my son in my arms the next day. From the first day I had the opportunity to be with him as much as possible in the walls of intensive care, we were taught to take care of such kids, talk to them, caress them, we were explained what tubes are for what. But I was discharged on my own. And while other mothers were carrying out their precious little ones with upturned noses, I was only taking hope out of the hospital in my empty hands.
Empty hands, that’s what got me the most. Maybe that’s why I rocked myself and the breast pump this time at night.
I was saved by like-minded people and happy stories about “early birds”. The people who understood my empty hands and realized the desperation of the first days gave me the most power to survive all this staunchly. They understood my fear and knew the words of support.
Apparently, I was able to go all the way to discharge much faster than others thanks to them. For the syndrome of empty hands can be cured only by love and a mad desire to survive for two.
Sleep is the most valuable currency of parenthood. It was with the jokes about the lack of sleep that I began my recovery in a new traumatic but so priceless motherhood. And I even like to talk about my insomnia. And a month and a half after the birth of my baby, I finally learned to tell people “I had a son”. And even now, at 4:48 in the night I am writing this column and rocking my son. And it is priceless, despite insomnia, although I will not stop complaining about it.