Welcome Willow Kitty
Well, you probably all gathered that I didn’t really believe we’d get to where we are today. On the 5th May at 9.37am, Willow Kitty Hadland was born – healthy and happy at 8lbs 4oz. It still feels a little bit like a dream, over two weeks later.
It’s been such an insane journey and having documented it this far, it would be bizarre not to continue. I’m pleased to have a positive rainbow birth story, and a positive c-section birth story. Willow has had such an unusual start to life because of circumstances out of all of our control.
The night before
I remember now the night before my elective caesarean. Heading to the hospital for my pre-op blood tests and my Covid-19 test. Back at home, bathing with the sanitising body wash I had been given and nasal drops to try and make my body as clean as possible to reduce the risk of infection from the operation. Rubbing my undulating stomach, with our little girl kicking and squirming, anxious to make her appearance into our lives. It was all a blur, because I was quietly shaking, with my stomach doing somersaults every time I thought about what was coming. I was still terrified that something was going to go wrong. I was making myself feel sick with the worry that once again we would get so far, only for our baby not to make the final hurdle, like her brother Pixie.
I remember bursting into tears when the midwife who took my blood was talking me through the procedure that I would face the next day. I wasn’t particularly worried about the realities of the surgery, but my brain couldn’t handle it when she talked about “baby’s first cry” in the operating theatre. The memory of the dead silence at my last c-section still loomed large in my brain.
Then, somehow, we were there. The pre-op waiting room, with two other ladies waiting for their operations too – all sat at a 2 metre distance of course. My observations were done and I was given a theatre gown to change into. I felt properly sick. Waking up that morning and feeling the baby pulse and kick had been phenomenal, I knew we had got through our last night together safely, but it still felt such a huge hurdle was left before she was safely in our arms. Every moment of my pregnancy had been drawn out – time stretched and warped like a blob of spent chewing gum ground under the unseeing rubber heel of a sneaker passing hurriedly by.
In the operating theatre
And before I knew it, I was walking into theatre while The Boy was left behind to change into his scrubs. The team of friendly theatre staff, smiles and gentle reassurances covered with face masks and PPE, both welcomed and crowded me as I waddled uncomfortably to the bed, huge stomach blocking my view of the step to help me up to the operating table. As the local anaesthetic, and then the spinal was administered I suddenly became conscious of the scale and potential risk of the procedure I was about to have perhaps for the first time in my distracted brain. Luckily my rational mind was able to fight the wave of panic and a few deep breaths as the warm feeling spread across my legs where the epidural took hold was all it took to recognise it was far too late for second thoughts now.
The Boy was brought in and held my hand as the now strangely familiar ritual of muted tugging and pulls took place behind the raised theatre curtain. We had arrived at the hospital at 7am, and then at 9.37am she was born. Apparently she started crying before she was even fully born, so eager was she to take her first breath and mark her place in the world. I am aware now that my jaw had quite literally dropped behind my face mask upon hearing that first cry. The Boy and I both stared at each other’s eyes, above the masks, listening intently to the cry. We squeezed a hand. She was here!
It took a surprisingly long time before I got to hold my new daughter. The Boy trimmed her cord and photographed her being weighed, then there was a delay in getting an appropriate first blood sugar reading so it felt like forever before we had our first skin to skin – and it was certainly some minutes. And that was it. Willow Kitty was born and our lives became just about her in a moment. And all the months of anxiety and stress immediately disappeared. It’s hard to explain the weight that lifted on my mind when Willow was safely in my arms and we both made our first fumbling efforts in trying to get her to nurse.
She is a sugar baby. My gestational diabetes has been something I have shared with you. It was uncomfortable and inconvenient. It was anxiety inducing, even when you were doing the very best you could to manage your diet. And then, as quickly as it seemingly appeared, it was gone. The placenta removed, I was diabetes free. Now we live in the hope that my increased chance of getting Type 2 Diabetes is mitigated by breastfeeding. Willow’s blood sugars were monitored over 24 hours and happily she suffered no ill effects.
She is a Quaranteenie. A slightly trite turn of phrase, but one that is incredibly impactful on our experience, and more importantly, on Willows. She is 17 days old as I write, and has left the house only for a few short walks as I try to recover, and for various hospital appointments. She hasn’t met her grandparents, or aunty or all of the friends and family that are so desperate to hold her. She has never had a cuddle from anyone but me or Poppa! And of course we were in face masks in theatre, which was very strange. The Boy was also not allowed to stay after the birth. I was supposed to be in recovery for an hour after which time the Boy had to go home, but happily the midwives, knowing our history, bent the rules a little for us and allowed him to stay a bit longer by keeping me in recovery.
But then it was just Willow and I on the ward. As another twist in the tale, it transpired that on the day before, when I had visited for my pre-op bloods, the maternity ward’s first Covid positive lady had also come in for testing. She was asymptomatic, so this was only discovered after Willow had been born and myself and one other lady had been brought to the ward.
This potential ‘contact’ (being in the same room that had been used for her blood test and Covid swabs) made me and the other lady ‘grey ladies’ – potential contamination risks. We were given private rooms, and only certain ‘clean’ staff were able to attend to us. It was nice to have my own room, but I certainly felt like a burden as all I could really do for myself was to use the allocated bathroom – there was no shower available for us because there were only two on the ward – one for Covid negative, one for Covid tested but awaiting results. Our new, unexpected category meant that a third set of facilities were needed, but just weren’t available.
Luckily as there were no complications, I could go home the next day, but the pressure on staff in attending to us meant that it wasn’t until about 5pm and not lunchtime as I had hoped. But none of these bumps in the road really meant a thing to me. We had our beautiful daughter, and I was endlessly sending The Boy little videos and pictures as we discovered the things she could do together over that first 24 hours. It also means that we are back on lockdown, despite no longer being high risk due to pregnancy, but this time as a possible infection risk. Of course with a precious newborn we will not be taking any risks for some weeks yet. We are a while from a ‘normal’ life yet – but who isn’t?!
And of course Willow Kitty is a very precious rainbow, coming after the storm we weathered when her brother Pixie passed away last year. She will be wearing lots of rainbows and bright colours, and hopefully tie dye if I can get my hands on any… but that’s more because her mummy is a bit made on bright colours than anything else. It’s important that she is a rainbow, because she really is a beacon of hope and joy in our lives. But she is those things in her own right, not just because of her relationship with her brother. I will not have Willow’s life being defined by what happened to Pixie, she is on her own path and so we will forge that way now together. But we will take time to remember her brother, not least because we have his first birthday to get through in two weeks.
But although we love and miss Pixie, we are feeling upbeat and ready to face the future. I was pregnant for 19 out of the last 21 months. I can hardly believe that I have grown and birthed two children. It feels like a dream and was certainly not something that ever came into my life plan. I am looking forward to watching Willow grow and develop, and also secretly not a little pleased that I might get my body back now. I am very hopeful about being able to soon move around without pain, and excited for my stomach to go down, at least a little. I am looking forward to getting back on the bike – along with Willow – and getting our independence back. I am looking forward to getting back to swimming, and having Willow enjoy that with me. All being well, by the time my recovery from my operation is complete, perhaps the world will be settling back into some kind of order and Willow can get out to experience it in all its glory – the world full of friends and family and fun that she hasn’t had chance to see yet.
And meanwhile, we’re all quite happy in our little bubble of three.