As you may know, I have recently started offering free of charge photoshoot sessions to parents of those with babies currently in the neonatal units across Bristol. These mums have also been telling their NICU stories to me for this blog, so, I figured if I was going to tell all of their stories, I should start by being brave and finally telling my story. (Well, Jess's story... well, my family's story.) This post is about Jess's arrival and I will eventually post about her whole NICU stay.
Without delving into too much detail, I had a bit of a tough pregnancy. Jess was a rainbow baby and so I spent much of the pregnancy worried about if I would get the chance to meet her. (You can read more about my pregnancy with Jessica here.) I was also very ill with a bad tooth infection. I was unable to receive a CT scan to get the tooth removed due to the pregnancy, and the infection cause me to have a lockjaw. I was therefore unable to eat anything solid at all and unable to sustainably eat anything that wasn't very fine liquid (no lumpy soup, porridge etc).
There were a few scares with 'false' contractions from about 20 weeks. I had around six scans in those first weeks. I ended up in the hospital with the contractions right down to three minutes apart twice before 33 weeks and so when I really was in labour at 33+5 weeks, I didn't really believe it. I think that would sum up the whole labour, birth and NICU experience. I just didn't really believe any of it.
After many tests, a drip to try and stop the contractions, false alarms, steroids, pethidine, more false alarms and a lot of nitrous oxide, Jess was finally here. I say finally but even after 30 hours of labour, it felt far too soon. I was lucky enough to be able to hold my baby after she was born. I then passed out from exhaustion.
When I awoke, I was alone. No husband. No baby. I'm sure I'd been told a million times that my baby was very little and would have to be taken to the neonatal unit. I'm sure my family had told me they were going to take my son home. I'm sure I'd been given all the correct information. However, that was not how I had felt. I felt panic stricken - where was my baby?
I was told that Jess would be in the special care unit and I was taken, in a wheelchair, to meet her. (After 30 hours of labour apparently weak legs and fainting are a given!) She was not in the 'special care' room. I was left in the corridor, waiting to see my baby. It turned out she had been moved to the high dependancy unit with some 'grunting', which apparently meant breathing problems.
When I finally got to see her, she was not in a little cot, like the one I remember my son being in. She was in a see through glass box. An incubator. She was attached to lots of wires with tubes up her nose and in her mouth. I would find out what these were all for, but at the time, they just seemed scary. She was so tiny. She was so fragile. But she was alive. I could finally breathe.
It was a long journey from that moment to finally coming home for good, but it was a battle I was willing to face. Perhaps not one I was ready for, but I knew I would do whatever it took to take care this tiny human being. At least that was a feeling that felt familiar - it's called being a parent!
Thanks for reading - I will post about Jess's recovery and journey soon!
For those of you that haven't read about my project so far (Part 1), I just thought I would recap...
A rainbow baby is a baby that comes after a loss. I was absolutely over the moon when I discovered that we were expecting our rainbow baby and I decided to start this Rainbow Pregnancy Project soon after. To be perfectly honest, it gave me something to look forward to and hold onto in a time of uncertainty.
Of course, I wanted to do an announcement photo that was still linked in with the project but slightly different as I'd already done the first two photoshoots by the time we announced that we were expecting.
By the time we got around to green, my husband was much better trained!! He no longer moved around while the picture was being taken, meaning there was less motion blur.
As my little boy was getting older and starting to run around a lot more, it became a lot more difficult to keep him entertained and reasonably still to get a photograph out of him. Lots of singing about tractors was required to achieve this image!
I took these two images when the boys had decided they had had enough of modelling - which was about five minutes after I started shooting!
This blue shoot was much more relaxed, as my son was napping for a while and there was no pressure to get the photos done as quickly as possible!
Our son was finally catching on to the fact that there was a baby in there and loved to kiss and point at the belly to tell me! He also learnt that the baby had 'head, shoulders, knees and toes' from the song. Every so often he'd give me a cheeky grin and joke that the baby had a 'hat' or a 'coat'. He found it hilarious. As I got further along, the items that she supposedly had became more and more extravagant and he was eagerly awaiting to see the slide and the motorbike that were clearly hiding inside mama's belly!
We were very lucky to get this last shoot in. It was the morning I went into labour and it had actually been a while since the last shoot as we kept putting it off because we didn't have time! Our son lasted a grand total of two minutes before he decided he was too overtired and needed a nap. We literally managed one photo with him. I took the picture of me while my husband carried him off to bed.
As much of a challenge as this project has been, I am extremely glad I did it. Progressing through each colour made me feel more confident in the pregnancy and gave me a better connection with my baby. At the start of the project I found myself creating moments that i wanted to capture, and by the end of the project, I was enjoying moments that were worth capturing. Not only has this changed the way I view photography, but also the way I value each moment.
There was a long wait between going into labour and actually taking Jessica home. I will go into more detail about that journey at some point, but for now, I hope you enjoy the photographs I managed to take when we arrived home.