Today I get to hold you for the first time ever. You have grabbed my hand with your tiny fingers and it feels like I am your mother for just a little moment. But tomorrow, amongst the chaos and craziness of the NICU I will for the first time hold you in my arms. I’m not sure I will ever want to let you go.
Dad is staring into your cot with a soft smile on his face, (it’s generally what he does when he’s here) and you are grasping firmly at his finger. I am waiting for the nurse to come and organise a gown for our kangaroo cuddle, which allows you to have your skin against mine. There is some amazing research about kangaroo cuddles. Not only reporting the statistics of how much they help the odds of premature babies, but some studies offer information that is much more tangible. A human mother’s skin is able to regulate to the temperature that her baby needs. That’s right – my skin can actually regulate to be exactly what you need it to be. No one else can do it but me. The thought of that is so overpowering, I tear up when I think about it. There are so few ways for me to be your mother right now. The fact that no one can ever do that for you but me makes me feel as though I am supposed to be your mum.
When I was in hospital I had a visit from my Ma, (Lachie calls her Little Ma, but she is my grandmother). She is a pretty amazing woman, and has the rare combination of strength and vulnerability. I can be either, but I can never be both at once. I have always felt a special closeness to her and her visit the day after I was put on bed rest was pivotal for me. At the time, the news was particularly dire. No one knew how to comfort me because there was no comfort. No one wanted to be positive because the news was so negative and they didn’t want to get my hopes up. But Ma managed to lift my spirits. When everyone left the room for a sliver of a second, she looked me square in the eye as if she were delivering a secret message and said “She is tough because you are tough. She will be fine.”
I know she didn’t know the likely outcome as well as the doctors did. I know she was probably just trying to make me feel better. But she was so self-assured and steady when she said it I couldn’t help but believe her. In amongst all the stats and gut wrenchingly horrible news she was a voice of clarity. She was saying to me – you can do this. No one else but you. Funnily enough the very next day I had a call from my other grandma that lives interstate and she said something to the same effect – “You’re strong. You will both be okay.”
We did well getting this far. I know you have a long way to go and I know something is coming up that will be challenging. Maybe that underestimates how difficult it will be. But in this place we live beep by beep and I am slowly learning to live in the moment because sometimes the thought of the next moment is too terrifying to imagine. Right now, in this very moment, I am about to meet you and hold you and nurture you for the very first time. I am exhilarated, and I know that only I can do it.
While you were both at pre-school I visited Little Ma. She has been moved up to Erina about an hour north of here and I have lost the opportunity to see her for our usual weekly Friday lunch. Since I was a teenager we met rain hail or shine excluding a few weeks here and there for her fabulous travel adventures around the globe. A few months ago the family decided she was struggling too much to live on her own and found a lovely hospice for her. She’s very happy there, but I miss her terribly.
Intermittently her mind wanders to another time or another place and she asks me about things that happened decades ago as if it were yesterday. “How do you like being in back Sydney after living abroad for a few years? Has much changed?” I lived in Boston when I was 14 but moved back before my 16th birthday. But I’ve learned to go with it – she’s earned her memory decline over her 98 years. No one has had as full a life as she has, at least no one I know.
I divert her attention and a minute later we are talking about one of her favourite topics – you and your brother. Little Ma has 11 great grandchildren and hearing stories about them seems to bring her right back to the present, back to lucidity.
I told her about your party and your tutus and ballet, and about your brother’s rugby. She sighed and smiled at me. “Well. She’s a little marvel isn’t she.”
Indeed you are.