A poignant picnic

We woke up to some very sad news on Saturday morning. My sister-in-law had gone into labour at just 18 weeks pregnant. They had a baby boy, but lost him two hours later. My brother-in-law said he was a ‘good looking bugger’. Tiny, perfect, but very much not ready to be born.

The only thing we could think of to do that might help in any way was to travel to Salisbury, where they had been staying with my in-laws, and take our nearly-three-year-old niece out for the day so her mummy and daddy could get on with the rather horrific job of registering their son’s birth and death. So we picked her up and took her, DD and DS – who all adore each other, DD being bang on a year older than her cousin, and DS a year younger – to Old Sarum for a picnic.

I hadn’t been there for years, but both DH and I grew up in Salisbury and spent much of our childhood there, running around the ruins of the 1,000 year old castle on the hill and the original cathedral, climbing piles of stones , watching microlights take off from the airfield over the road, and looking over the amazing views of Salisbury and its cathedral spire. We also spent much of our young adulthood up there, getting up to rather less innocent pursuits.  

It was a terribly poignant day, watching those three small, funny, clever, lively, beautiful children dash around, while thinking of the brother and cousin they would never know, who would never kick a ball with them in the sunshine. DH and I were in or close to tears for much of the day, while being very much aware that all that mattered, all we could do, was make sure that our niece had a happy day.

I think we called it right. Her dad called after we’d dropped her back at her Grandma’s house, exhausted and grinning, and said that it was the best thing we could have done. He’s being terribly philosophical at the moment, and I know he’s right that some things just aren’t meant to be, or happen for a reason, but I really don’t know how anyone deals with something like that. As I get older, I know more and more couples who have been through terrible tragedy with born and unborn babies, or are dealing with children who need a lot of medical support. I have held my two healthy little ones extra tight this weekend, appreciating how precious they are and how much of a bloody miracle it is that they are here.

Hospitals and memories

I’ve been to the hospital twice in the past two days. Very fortunately, nothing to do with our generally robust little family. My gorgeous godson’s in again with his dodgy wee ticker and I’ve been running a few errands for his knackered mummy.

The funny thing is, each one of the thankfully few times I’ve been there since DD was born nearly four years ago, I feel quite emotional. Every time I step into the main corridor that leads to all the wards and see all the paintings by the mouth and foot artists on the walls (or ‘foot and mouth’ as I heard a visitor say yesterday), I am transported straight back to the early evening of 1 August 2006, when me and DH walked very slowly walked to the maternity ward, stopping every couple of minutes for another contraction. I’d made it to 7cm on TENS at home, unbelievably, so I was in the throws of that bit where you are weeping ‘I can’t do this!’ before they give you The Good Drugs.

Just a couple of noisy hours later, there she was, our first baby, perfect in every way. And pretty much bang on two years later, DS was born, in the Home from Home unit like his sister, but the room next door. I remember their births so vividly in every respect. A little different, both good, as far as the experience of forcing a watermelon through a hosepipe can be considered good.

DD, one day old

So the place of their births is sort of a holy place to me, where these two little miracles occurred. I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been blessed with two such healthy little people, and the hospital has not become somewhere where we are very often. Even though the few times I’ve been back since DD was born have been for more prosaic though no less urgent reasons for me or the kiddies, I always feel myself welling up a  little. And not just because of the outrageous car park charges.

Love my babies, hated being pregnant…

I’m accompanying someone to their 12 week scan on Thursday. Very exciting as I’ve only ever seen my own babies in my tummy and that’s always a bit fraught with worry. The 3D scan we had of DD was especially cool, definitely one of the highlights of being pregnant for the first time.

Broadly, though, I have to admit I hated being pregnant both times.  When I first found out I was pregnant with DD, me and DH were so over the moon we took photos of me all excited, holding the little digital stick saying ‘pregnant’. She’d been a very long time coming.

A week later, the morning sickness kicked in. This wasn’t so good. It’s a very badly named condition that makes you think that you might be mildly nauseous when you wake up and you’ll be fine after a bit of tea and toast. Oh no. Not me. All-day projective vomming was more like it.

 Then when I was expecting my little boy, who made me violently sick for four months, the little sod, my neighbour commented that I was ‘blooming’. I know this was not true, and I’m not being modest, because I had just liberally and uncontrollably sprayed myself and the inside of my car with ‘morning sickness’ while driving home. I was blooming only in the manner of that tropical plant whose very rare flowers smell like vomit. Or do I mean rotting flesh?

 Another crap thing about being pregnant is the inverse relationship between how frisky you feel and the extent to which your partner finds you attractive. In the early weeks, daddy-to-be is feeling all virile and is hoping for old-style shagging again now that you don’t have to do the special baby-making version which involves specific times of the month, week and day and lying there with your legs in the air for 20 minutes afterwards. But no, mummy-to-be is feeling rubbish, exhausted and pukey, and although her newly swollen boobs look enticing, her entire upper body is a no-go area: ‘Don’t touch my f***ing painful tits!’ They felt like they were going to explode, like I had some integral suicide bomber kit.

 Then as the pregnancy progresses – this is measured in weeks, by the way, not months: everyone knows human gestation lasts nine months until you are involved in a pregnancy and then it’s suddenly a rather more annoying 40 weeks – so the bump gets bigger and you start looking like there’s a baby in your tummy rather than a large undigested portion of lasagne. And gradually mum really does start blooming like a great ripe fruit and feeling really quite sexy. And at that exact point, dad realises he really doesn’t fancy her anymore.

I’ve heard some of my friend’s partners claim this is something soulful to do with their missus becoming a sacred vessel and temporarily having a more important and awesome job than being their lover. My own DH, bless his lack of GCSE biology, thought his thing might somehow hit the baby on the head. God only knows how big he thinks it is.

 The honest answer is that the more pregnant you get, the more like a badly animated slow-moving herbivorous dinosaur you look. So your partner usually passes up his only chance since the very early days of the relationship of having sex every night because you look extraordinarily fat and pasty, having craved nothing but White Foods like tinned macaroni cheese for months.

And don’t get me started on the sciatica, the ‘bladder weakness’, the stretchmarks,  and the weird stuff that happens to your hair (greasy, then glossy and thick, then falls out).

So I’m looking forward to going along with someone else to see the little bean wriggling, safe in the knowledge that now my two precious little people are here, my baby-making days are over.