My daughter Marnie entered the world with barely a squeak. Barely a whimper.
One minute everything was going marvelously. I was lying in bed feeling utterly relaxed, delighting in the little green light that flashed every 15 minutes indicating I could top up my epidural.
The next, there were suddenly too many people in the room. Too many furrowed brows. Hardly a sound but for the slowing beep of the baby heart monitor. I held my breath. I may have prayed.
Marnie was not having a particularly good time of it, thanks to an entangled umbilical that had strapped her in like a seatbelt. And for all my red-cheeked, vein-popping, labour-intense pushing, she was not going anywhere fast.
The kind-faced obstetrician wielded the forceps. Don’t worry, just the small forceps, he told me. He could have been using giant salad servers for all I cared – I was blissfully oblivious to whatever contortions my nether regions were performing, thanks to the spectacular spell of anaesthesia. All I wanted was to expel my little baby from her womb with(out) a view and for her to be okay.
And then, finally, she arrived; sweet and squashed, foaming at the mouth. Silent.
She was placed on my chest for all of two seconds, then whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to have life rubbed briskly into her pale pink body; to be oxygenated and aspirated and hooked up to monitors and tube fed.
Matty was no longer in the room since he’d followed Marnie to the NICU (quietly plutzing over his dramatic start to fatherhood). I lay in bed feeling shell-shocked and amazed that a human being had just been squeezed out of me.
I didn’t get to hold my baby properly for a couple of days. The first time I met her, a good few hours after her delivery, I peered down at her in her plastic crib and stood awkwardly, unsure of what to do with someone so small and vulnerable – with her toothpick limbs and bobble head. I almost felt I should extend my hand with a formal ‘pleased to meet you.’ After all, we had only just met, even if she had lived inside me for the most part of a year.
There were no sudden explosions of overwhelming love, or fireworks or thunderbolts. Rather, my adoration grew slowly, over days, over weeks; stretching, unfurling like a lazy dog in the sun.
And now, six weeks on, I’m amazed at how I’ve adapted. At how I’m able to leap out of bed at 3am and 6am – with a smile on my face because my baby needs me and she’s incredibly cute. I’ve become a morning person and a night owl and everything in between. I’m exhausted and jet-lagged and I don’t mind at all.
To see Matty with his daughter is incredibly special. He’s a wonderful father, as I knew he would be. And there’s no more devoted a big sister than Tiggy the dog, who looks concerned when Marnie cries, lies by her cot, gently nuzzles her ear and watches on adoringly with big, brown eyes. We’re a family now, and it’s inexplicably lovely.
I’m mesmerised by Marnie’s every sound (perhaps not the pterodactyl screech that breaks through the sound barrier of acceptable decibels and could probably shatter glass – but still.) I could stare at her face all day. Her expressions are hilarious. I guess no kid of mine had a choice but to be at least a little bit funny looking.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself – to think that I’m a mother, with a blue-eyed, red-haired daughter. An impossibly sweet one, who fits perfectly inside a fine-china teacup.