If you read my last post then you know that my daughter didn’t have the easiest start and had to spend almost two weeks in the Neonatal ICU. What this meant was that a lot of my fantasies and planning around her birth went completely out the window.
On the day that we had our embryo transfer, we took a photo of my husband and I in hospital scrubs minutes before the transfer, for the first time ever. The day before, my sister and her husband gave birth to my beautiful neice and they had sent a (quite standard), Caesar photo… You know the one, with mom horizontal on the table, baby on chest and dad looking proudly on? Well, on the day of our embryo transfer, this image was very much in my mind, which it had never been before. I felt so sure that we would have the opportunity to take this photo and I wanted a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo. We never got to take that birth photo but we did get our precious child so that doesn’t matter….but perhaps illustrates the specificity of my fantasies.
Prior to her birth I was very concerned about skin to skin and delayed cord clamping, and had, had two conversations with my gynae to ensure that these would happen for us. Fate had other plans. What ended up happening was that our daughter was born and was almost immediately in distress and so had to be assisted with oxygen. I had given my husband strict instructions that whatever happened he was to remain with baby and so he immediately went over to her whilst the doctors were working on me. It was surreal and scary as I couldn’t see anything, but kept asking questions as they were evaluating her. Eventually a nurse brought her over to me so that I could see her for literally two seconds, saying ‘be quick mommy because she can’t breathe’. I was horrified, like ‘please God if she can’t breathe don’t bring her to me just make sure that she can breathe!’. I gave her a quick kiss on her forehead and she was shipped away to NICU and my husband went with her. The longest part of a Caesar is definitely the stitching up afterwards and I felt like I was alone on the table forever. I felt so overwhelmed, my mind was racing and I was desperate to know how my daughter was doing. Eventually I was wheeled back to my room and my husband finished with our daughter and came to check on me and give me an update. By the end of that evening he was physically exhausted from running up and down between my daughter and I. He said she was fine and beautiful and in good hands and told me that she was going to be great but that she needed a bit of support and time. Whilst I believed him, I desperately wanted to see her myself and to find some reassurance from experiencing her personally. Of course I couldn’t move and I would only get to see her the next day. That night was the most bizarre night of my life. I didn’t sleep one wink, despite all the drugs and the fact that I had just had major surgery. I literally lay awake all night in increasing amounts of pain, almost meditating on my daughter and holding her in my mind. The weird part was that I wasn’t highly anxious… I would say that I was more anxious during the first trimester than I was that night, but it was almost as if the only way I could be with her was in my mind and so I stayed awake to make sure she wasn’t alone.
The next day I was in a huge amount of pain but I was desperate to see her so as soon as we were allowed to go up to the NICU, we went. And this is where perhaps the donor egg conception played a role. When I first saw her there was a strange feeling of disconnect. Not that I didn’t love her, because I did, but a sense of ‘where did she come from’? She looked so strange. Because she had difficulty breathing, she had a CPAP mask on, which was secured with a hat on her head. The mask and the hat had distorted her features and she looked like a little Martian heading off to space. I looked at her and felt such a sense of surprise at how she looked that the only way I could make sense of it is that she obviously looked a lot like our donor. This didn’t make me love her less but it brought our donor very forcefully into my mind in a way that I really wasn’t anticipating and wasn’t altogether welcome. I didn’t want to be thinking about our donor as much as I was on such an important day. Fortunately, there was also a big part of me that knew that this feeling was no doubt very natural and trusted that I would love my daughter regardless. I didn’t fear that it would interfere with bonding but rather that it was a phase that I would need to work through. And I have done this and in the process I have renewed my gratitude to the donor for helping me make this beautiful child. I have also found beauty in the parts of her that are so unlike me. For example, I’m lilly white… I often joke that I get sunburnt just sitting at a robot for too long. Our daughter has the most beautiful olive skin (our donor is Portugese in origin and my husband is Italian), and she is definitely a Mediterranean child. So different to me but in a good and beautiful way. In doing this I feel like I have found a way to position the donor in my life in such a way that she plays a small, but positive role for which I am truly grateful.
Anyway, for the first couple of days our daughter needed to be in an incubator and couldn’t be moved due to tubes and oxygen etc. On about day 4 she was able to be moved from the incubator and we were finally able to hold her for the first time. On an emotional level, this was the moment that I had pictured on that day we had our embryo transfer. It didn’t go according to plan, but the day did arrive when I was able to hold my precious daughter in my arms. I tear up remembering it because when I finally held her I sobbed and sobbed. Tears of utter relief, joy and gratitude. Neither my husband nor I said a word, we just sat quietly together for the first time as a family of three. That moment will always be so very special to me…and her donor egg origins didn’t matter at all.