I would describe my son’s birth as one of, if not THE, most traumatic experiences of my life. He came into this world, all 9lb 1oz of him, by emergency c-section. My antenatal class has frightened us all to death about emergency sections and here I was, exhausted, confused, clutching tightly to an oxygen mask that was no longer connected, giving birth on the operating table. This was not in my birth plan! Birth plan – we can all laugh about that now!

I fought hard to be allowed a natural birth in a midwife led unit. I have been taking antidepressants for years, and as it is not known if baby will suffer any withdrawal symptoms, they like you to be in hospital where little one can be monitored. When the day finally arrived, 8 days overdue, we called the midwife unit but their lift was broken, we had to go into hospital after all, and not one day goes by that I am not thankful that that lift had broken when it did! If we had proceeded with the unit, it is very likely that my beautiful boy would not be here now.

 

So, here I was, 19hrs of active labour and 1 c-section later, with a baby, we knew he was a boy, we could not wait for it to be a surprise, we had already picked out his name. I had nursed and cooed over my bump, bonded with him in utero, taken every care to keep him safe, waited and waited to meet the child that we had excitedly planned a life for. Here he was, I think, they said he was mine. My husband all teary eyed was sat one side of me and there was a midwife squeezing at my boob talking about babies first feed and latching on. I just wanted to sleep.

The ward I was on was full, full of grizzly babies. The people in the cubicle next to us had spread all their belongings out so they were encroaching on our space. I was beginning to feel sore and really needed a shower. My son was in the fishbowl crib next to me. I looked at him, where was the overwhelming love that I was supposed to feel? I asked my husband to sort the nappies and the clothing from the change bag that I had chosen and carefully packed months ago, eager for my son’s arrival. Tiny nappies, tiny clothes, tiny hats. I did not want to touch any of it.

 

I was discharged after 3 days and really looking forward to being home. My parents and in laws live close by and were all too happy to help, and I took it, all the help! To the point I did not have to touch him at all. They would take him out for long walks so I could sleep, and I dreaded the moment they returned. Even more, the moment they would leave, and I was alone again, with ‘my’ son.

I cannot remember when I found the massage class, I must have been able to drive again as it was in a neighbouring town. I cannot remember signing up, just that I did, I signed up to a lot of things to try to fill my days. I went alone, as my antenatal group were not nearby. It took forever to get out the house and I nearly gave up trying.

I got there, and the group were clearly all friends. There was one other lady that seemed to be alone, so I sat next to her and tried and failed to strike up a conversation. So, I focused on my son. It felt weird at first, like I was touching him for the very first time. With each stroke I mapped out his tiny body in my hands. How fragile he was, but also how strong. I could feel his little heart beating, see his chest rising with every breath. We were meeting for the first time, not quite strangers, but this is something we knew. From the moment he came to be, we were part of each other, moving in rhythm, hearts beating together. We just needed a little reminder. The end of that first session was like a rebirth. This was my baby; my son and we were back on the right path.

I built massage into our bedtime routine. Every night I would spend time getting to know him. Watching his expressions and finding out which strokes he enjoyed, what relaxed him, what made him giggle. I began to add in little songs and rhymes and really, truly enjoyed this one on one time we had together.

I no longer called in the cavalry each day to take him off my hands. I wanted him with me. Typing that now still feels odd, that there was a time I had to dig deep to feel love my son. Roll in 4.5yrs later and he still enjoys a massage from time to time. It is a way we reconnect if we have had an awful day. And it still sends him to sleep!

 Cassie Kalma Baby North Somerset