When I prepared for the birth of my second child, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a natural birth, no pain medication. I wanted to be supported by my husband. I wanted to catch him in my own hands. I had a perfectly documented and detailed birth plan. I knew exactly how I wanted my son’s first moment on earth to be.
Despite some complications, he arrived into the world an early morning in April: a beautiful, fat, perfect baby with a head full of dark hair and captivating brown eyes. I caught him in my hands and I felt on top of the world. I’d been the first person to touch him as he arrived into the world. I felt so in control. I didn’t sleep for days, I was so high on the adrenaline of delivering my son nothing could have brought me down.
Aside from a bit of jaundice everything was according to plan. I felt so powerful. Navigating motherhood for the second time took getting used to, but I managed, and I had never felt more capable and self assured. He was a happy, healthy boy. So peaceful I often referred to him as a little Buddha.
When he was three and a half weeks old, we noticed his tear ducts which had been blocked since birth seemed to be red and inflamed. A quick trip to the doctor assured us it was nothing serious. But that night my precious boy didn’t wake to feed. He stayed asleep, nestled in bed beside me. In the morning he was sluggish and tired—I thought he might have a bit of his big brother’s cold. How wrong I was. That evening I found myself in the ER with a very, very sick baby. Sepsis was the best guess of any doctor there. I watched my tiny baby held screaming as they performed the necessary tests. Needles, swabs. Spinal taps. I watched as the life flight team shaved his beautiful black hair to insert an IV line into his head for the fluids and antibiotics that would hopefully save his life.
I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t know what to do. My perfect boy, who came into the world following my perfect plan, was struggling for survival. This was not according to plan. Hours turned into days, and when you are alone in a hospital room, sitting in the same chair day in and day out, hugging your sick newborn to your chest, one day just fades into another. It is the most isolating, terrifying experience to just wait, watching a clock. Analyzing every test result, every bandage, every breath your child takes. Analyzing every choice and moment leading up to the moment your life went from perfectly planned to chaos, wondering where you went wrong.
Some people seemed unsure of what to say, didn’t want to visit. I wanted someone to say something. I felt alone, scared, and for the first time since I’d given birth, uncertain.
But I was not alone.
An online village of mothers I had connected with, most whom I’d never met reached out, slowly at first. Then, it was a flood of support. Did I need company? Did I need someone to bring food, magazines, just themselves to talk to? I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was failing my son, failing my perfect plans. I was drowning and here women who had never met me, mothers, reached out with every kind of support. Moral support. To cheer when we got good news, to stress alongside me while I waited for endless test results, to listen in the middle of the night when I would break down and feel like nothing would ever be okay. They would listen, and then tell me it would be okay. Maybe not right now, but it would be. No matter what.
For eleven days I was paralyzed with fear and doubt. For eleven days while I watched a literal lifeline pump life saving medications into my son’s chest, a group of mothers stood by me, a lifeline keeping me grounded when I had never felt more out of control in my life. “Thank you” seemed inadequate, as I held my tiny boy in my arms and took him home with me to stay. I wanted to find the right words, but I couldn’t. The doctors saved my son, but those women had saved me from breaking. I didn’t have to ask. They just did it, because they saw a mother who was afraid and needed someone.
To all the mothers out there that offered their time, positivity, heart and soul to me and my son: “Thank you” will never be enough.
Ashlee Turner lives in rural Nova Scotia, with her husband and two sons, aged two and four months. A full time mother, part time library technician, she is passionate about attachment parenting. She enjoys spending time with her family, and is a breastfeeding, bedsharing and babywearing advocate.
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